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DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS 

Valley takes on Oakley during the 1A DI state championship game Friday night, Nov. 16, 2018, at the Holt Arena in Pocatello.


Crime-and-courts
breaking
Reports: Twin Falls nurse suspected of disposing missing Colorado woman's cellphone

TWIN FALLS — A Magic Valley woman is being investigated in the alleged murder of a missing Colorado mom.

Kelsey Berreth’s fiance, Patrick Frazee, 32, has been charged in her apparent death. Berreth, the mother of Frazee’s 1-year-old daughter, disappeared from her home in Woodland Park, Colo., on Thanksgiving Day.

Police have not found her body.

Four days after Berreth went missing, her cellphone pinged a cell tower in Gooding County, the same day Berreth’s employer received a text from Berreth’s cellphone stating she wouldn’t be at work for a week.

ABC News reported Wednesday that a 32-year-old nurse from Twin Falls is being investigated for allegedly disposing of the missing woman’s cellphone in Idaho, according to two of the woman’s family members and a law enforcement source.

ABC’s Clayton Sandell reported that the Twin Falls woman has known Frazee for years and that the two worked together for a time in Colorado.

“For now, ABC News is withholding her name because she has not been publicly identified or charged,” Sandell tweeted Wednesday.

CNN also reported Thursday that a Twin Falls woman was involved in the investigation, citing “a source with knowledge of the investigation.”

The Times-News has received multiple anonymous tips that the case involves a 32-year-old registered nurse at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center whose Facebook account was recently closed.

St. Luke’s spokeswoman Michelle Bartlome confirmed that law enforcement has contacted the hospital. Bartlome, however, said she “wasn’t in a position to disclose” which agency made contact.

The Twin Falls Police Department and Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office both confirmed they assisted the FBI, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Woodland Park, Colo., Police Department in getting search warrants in the case.

Twin Falls Police Lt. Terry Thueson said Thursday his department had “assisted in obtaining search warrants” but said Twin Falls police are not actively investigating the case.

Lori Stewart, spokeswoman for the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office, told the Times-News the two departments have a joint special investigation unit but did not say if the property searched is in the city or county.

Gooding County Sheriff Shaun Gough said his office is not investigating the case and the FBI has not contacted him.

The Idaho State Police is also not involved in the investigation, ISP spokesman Tim Marsano said Thursday.

Woodland Park Police did not respond to a request for information about the Idaho woman.

Berreth’s and Frazee’s daughter is in the temporary custody of Berreth’s parents, the Colorado Springs, Colo., Gazette reported. Woodland Park is about 15 miles northwest of Colorado Springs.

Police arrested Frazee on Dec. 21 at his home in Florissant, Colo. He was charged with two first-degree murder counts — under two theories of how Berreth was allegedly murdered — and three counts of solicitation to commit murder.


National
AP
Pelosi sees 'new dawn' for 116th Congress

WASHINGTON — Cheering Democrats returned Nancy Pelosi to the House speaker’s post Thursday as the 116th Congress ushered in a historically diverse freshman class eager to confront President Donald Trump in a new era of divided government.

Pelosi, elected speaker 220-192, took the gavel saying U.S. voters “demanded a new dawn” in the November election that swept the Democrats to a House majority and are looking to “the beauty of our Constitution” to provide checks and balances on power.

Pelosi faced 15 dissenting votes from fellow Democrats. But for a few hours, smiles and backslapping were the order of the day. The new speaker invited scores of lawmakers’ kids to join her on the dais as she was sworn in, calling the House to order “on behalf of all of America’s children.”

Even Trump congratulated her during a rare appearance at the White House briefing room, saying her election by House colleagues was “a tremendous, tremendous achievement.” The president has tangled often with Pelosi and is sure to do so again with Democrats controlling the House, but he said, “I think it’ll be a little bit different than a lot of people are thinking.”

As night fell, the House quickly got to work on the partial government shutdown, which was winding up Day 13 with Trump demanding billions in Mexican border wall funding to bring it to an end. Democrats approved legislation to re-open the government — but without the $5.6 billion in wall money, which means it has no chance in the Republican Senate.

The new Congress is like none before. There are more women than ever, and a new generation of Muslims, Latinos, Native Americans and African-Americans is creating a House more aligned with the population of the United States. However, the Republican side in the House is still made up mostly of white men. In the Senate, Republicans bolstered their ranks in the majority.

In a nod to the moment, Pelosi, the first female speaker — who reclaimed the post she lost to the GOP in 2011 — broadly pledged to make Congress work for all Americans even as her party readies to challenge Trump with investigations and subpoena powers that threaten the White House agenda.

Pelosi promised to “restore integrity to government” and outlined an agenda “to lower health costs and prescription drug prices and protect people with pre-existing medical conditions; to increase paychecks by rebuilding America with green and modern infrastructure from sea to shining sea.”

The day unfolded as one of both celebration and impatience. Newly elected lawmakers arrived, often with friends and families in tow, to take the oath of office and pose for ceremonial photos. Then they swiftly turned to the shutdown.

Vice President Mike Pence swore in newly elected senators, but Senate Republicans under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had no plans to consider the House bills unless Trump agreed to sign them into law. That ensured the shutdown would continue, clouding the first days of the new session.

McConnell said Republicans have shown the Senate is “fertile soil for big, bipartisan accomplishments,” but the question is whether House Democrats will engage in “good governance or political performance art.”

It’s a time of stark national political division that some analysts say is on par with the Civil War era. Battle lines are drawn not just between Democrats and Republicans but within the parties themselves, splintered by their left and right flanks.

Pelosi defied history in returning to the speaker’s office after eight years in the minority, overcoming internal opposition from Democrats demanding a new generation of leaders. She will be the first to regain the gavel since Sam Rayburn of Texas in 1955.

Putting Pelosi’s name forward for nomination, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the incoming Democratic caucus chair, recounted her previous accomplishments — passing the Affordable Care Act, helping the country out of the Great Recession — as preludes to her next ones. He called her leadership “unparalleled in modern American history.”

One Democrat, Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, cast her vote for Pelosi “on the shoulders of women who marched 100 years ago” for women’s suffrage. Newly elected Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, an anti-gun violence advocate, dedicated hers to her slain teenage son, Jordan Davis.

As speaker, Pelosi will face challenges from the party’s robust wing of liberal newcomers, including 29-year-old New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has risen to such prominence she is already known around the Capitol — and on her prolific social media accounts — by the nickname “AOC.” California Rep. Brad Sherman was to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump.

Republicans face their own internal battles as they decide how closely to tie their political fortunes to Trump. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s name was put into nomination for speaker by his party’s caucus chair, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the daughter of the former vice president. He faced six “no” votes from his now-shrunken GOP minority.

As McCarthy passed the gavel to Pelosi he said voters wonder if Congress is “still capable” of solving problems, and said this period of divided government is “no excuse for gridlock.”


Local
Twin Falls Bridal Expo helps relieve the stress of wedding planning

TWIN FALLS — Future brides and grooms can get a head start on their wedding planning with the help of the upcoming Bridal Expo in Twin Falls.

The Twin Falls Bridal Expo will take place Friday and Saturday in Radio Rondevoo Event Center.

Sid Vanderpool and his wife, Paige Vanderpool, launched the Twin Falls Wedding Expo 24 years ago. The couple started the expo when they realized Twin Falls didn’t have a personal bridal show. The couple aimed to help take the stress out of wedding planning.

In the past, the event’s attendance has averaged about 1,500 people, with more than 250 brides coming in, Paige Vanderpool said.

“It’s like one-stop shopping for brides,” her husband said. “We try and make it convenient for everyone.”

Sid Vanderpool says about 60 vendors will be representing all aspects of wedding planning will be on-site. Everything from DJs, dresses, tuxedos and catering will be available for engaged couples to create their perfect wedding. The expo will also feature a drawing for $500 that can be spent on any vendors.

Despite the title of a Bridal Expo, grooms are encouraged to come to help in the wedding planning process, he said.

“Weddings are emotional and stressful,” he said. “Seeing so many people in a room trying to help make it less stressful feels pretty good.”

This is the biggest wedding-themed event in Twin Falls, said Christa Hannold, the owner of Christa’s Dress Shoppe.

For wedding-based businesses, this is the busiest time of year, Hannold said. Most couples get engaged between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve and start planning for a summer wedding.

Cari Estridge, the owner of “I Do” Idaho Weddings & Events, said April through October is the busiest time of year for weddings. Her business, which offers full-service wedding planning and officiating, is booked solid during those months, Estridge said.

“The expo gives businesses the chance to talk face to face with hundreds of brides,” Hannold said. “That’s a convenience that we don’t get when people plan everything online.”

PHOTOS: Bridal Expo

PAT SUTPHIN TIMES-NEWS 

Bride Allison Cole, left, and Bridesmaid Ashlee Scott browse through dresses Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, at Christa's Dress Shoppe & Tuxedo in Twin Falls. Christa's is one of dozens of vendors that will be featured at the Bridal Expo.


If you do one thing

If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.


Govt-and-politics
Adding local sales tax, dropping grocery tax appear unlikely as Legislature prepares to meet

BOISE — Health care, education, and criminal justice are expected to take up much of the 2019 legislative session, as Idaho lawmakers grapple with a new school funding formula proposal, statewide prison and jail crowding, and the question of how to pay for Medicaid expansion.

Whether certain other issues will receive significant attention remains to be seen, legislative leaders said at an Associated Press question and answer session with reporters Thursday.

A bill from Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, to let cities introduce local option taxes could face challenges in getting the support it needs to pass this session, leaders predicted. And reforms to the state’s trespassing law, passed amid controversy in the 2018 session, may or may not be revisited.

Meanwhile, questions remain surrounding a potential repeal of the state’s sales tax on groceries — and how such a repeal could interact with a law enacted this year requiring some internet retailers to collect Idaho’s sales tax on online purchases.

Local option sales tax

Heider said at a Twin Falls policy summit in September that he was prepared, if necessary, to carry a bill this session that would let cities and counties vote to implement a local option sales tax to fund community projects. Under current law, only resort cities, such as Ketchum and Hailey, are allowed to introduce such a tax.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, a Democrat from Ketchum who serves as senate minority leader, said she would like to see the bill considered in the statehouse this year.

“Knowing what a local option tax does for communities with the communities I have … I’m hoping that the Legislature would entertain it,” Stennett said.

But challenges may come from lawmakers in rural areas that depend on larger cities like Twin Falls for shopping and retail, House Minority Leader Rep. Matt Erpelding noted. Some legislators have opposed similar proposals in the past, arguing that people living in these rural communities do not directly benefit from the taxes they are paying when they shop in larger towns.

Ultimately, House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley said, he does not see a local option sales tax bill succeeding this session.

“I appreciate the efforts of Sen. Heider,” Bedke said. “But I just don’t think there’s going to be support in that committee to do that. That’s the cold hard facts.”

Grocery sales tax repeal

In 2017, the Legislature passed a bill that would have repealed its sales tax on groceries, but the legislation was ultimately vetoed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Gov.-elect Brad Little supported the bill at the time, but has said his support for such a bill this year would hinge on how it affects other parts of the budget, such as education funding.

AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger 

Idaho Gov.-elect Brad Little answers a reporter's question at the State Capitol building Thursday in Boise.

The repeal of the grocery sales tax could perhaps be offset by a law passed in 2018, brought by Rep. Lance Clow of Twin Falls, that requires some internet retailers to collect Idaho’s sales tax on online purchases, Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill suggested Thursday.

But Erpelding, who voted in favor of repealing the grocery tax in 2017, said he would prefer to see the Legislature wait until the state has a clearer idea of how much revenue will be brought in by the online sales tax law — and how that law could be affected by a recent Supreme Court ruling that retailers do not need to have a physical presence in a state to be required to collect its sales tax.

Bedke agreed that there is uncertainty when it comes to the revenue stream.

But “I think there are things we can do preparatory to the removal of the sales tax on food,” Bedke said, such as increasing the grocery tax credit.

Trespass law

A bill updating Idaho’s trespassing laws, altering private property posting requirements and strengthening the penalties for those caught on someone else’s land, proved to be one of the most controversial of the 2018 legislative session.

At the time of its passage, some lawmakers suggested that the Legislature take another look at the statute the following year to explore whether adjustments may be needed. But Bedke said Thursday he has not noticed a “groundswell” among legislators to revisit the law.

There was widespread agreement among lawmakers in 2018 that current trespassing laws could use a revamp, but critics of the bill cited concerns about potential unintended consequences. Opponents, including several outdoorsman groups, argued that the harsher penalties for trespassers, coupled with a more subjective standard for private property posting, could increase the chances that accidental trespassers face legal consequences.

In the six months since the law went into effect, Bedke said, he has “fielded way fewer calls from disgruntled land owners” than under the old statute.

“The number of complaints from trespassing has gone from a lot to very few,” Bedke said. “Something seems to be working.

“Are there issues?” he continued. “I’m sure there are, and we’ll take them up as they arise.”

Stennett, who voted against the bill in 2018, said she has had “a very different experience” in terms of feedback. Since the law went into effect, Stennett said, she has heard from some professionals concerned with how the law may affect their work, such as surveyors who need to cross boundary lines.

“They’re really uncomfortable with the lack of cover they have in existing legislation,” Stennett said. “I think it’s unfair for workers trying to do their job not to have clear language.”

Hill said he didn’t anticipate pushback to tightening up some of the language Stennett referenced.

“I don’t think people are in disagreement with that,” Hill said.