Did you miss any crime and court news from last month? Here's a collection of the crime reports, notable arrests and important court hearings to make sure you know what's going on.
Report: Driver in fatal Oakley crash crossed into deputy's lane
OAKLEY — An Idaho State Police report shows a Gooding driver who was killed June 6 in a crash involving a Cassia County Sheriff deputy, drove into the deputy’s lane prior to the crash.
The driver, Lawrence Steel, 72, was killed in the head-on crash, along with his front seat passenger, Nadine Steel, 69, of Gooding. Both died at the scene. Both were wearing seatbelts.
Deputy Kenny Emery, 37, was driving north on Idaho Highway 27 about 2 miles north of Oakley in his 2017 Dodge Ram 2500 patrol vehicle, when Steel, driving a 2008 Chevrolet Uplander, crossed over into his lane, the report said.
Emery tried to avoid the crash by moving into the southbound lane but Lawrence also moved back into the southbound lane and the two vehicles collided.
Emery was not wearing a seatbelt and suffered injuries his right leg, ribs and shoulder. He was taken by ambulance to Cassia Regional Hospital and then flown to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello.
Emery was not cited.
Idaho Supreme Court rejects age-related death row appeal
BOISE — The Idaho Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a man who says he was too young to be sent to death row after he was convicted of killing two people at the age of 19.
James Harvey Hairston was sentenced to death in the killing of an elderly couple during a robbery in 1996. At the time, the sentence made him the youngest inmate on Idaho’s death row.
In his appeal, Hairston contended his sentence was unconstitutional because he was under 21 at the time of the conviction. He also said the court should have considered the fact that he was immature for for his age when deciding what sentence would be appropriate.
The Idaho Supreme Court unanimously rejected Hairston’s claims on Monday, noting that while people under 18 can’t be sentenced to capital punishment, the U.S. has no such prohibition for older defendants.
Justice Richard Bevan, writing for the unanimous court, said Hairston failed to show that evolving standards of decency prohibited imposing the death penalty for people younger than 21.
“While we are not blind to the national and international trends, and even those Idaho-centric cases which arguably show that offenders who were under the age of twenty-one at the time of the offense are rarely given the death penalty, Hairston has provided no evidence that a consensus exists among those states that continue to exercise the death penalty about this issue,” Bevan wrote.
During Hairston’s sentencing, the trial court judge said the murders of William and Dalma Fuhriman amounted to executions for money. According to court documents, Hairston and a friend, Richard Kilpfel, were driving from Colorado to Washington state when they stopped at the Fuhrimans’ ranch because they ran out of money.
The couple, both 72, invited them in and offered to help the men find jobs. While William Fuhriman was looking at a phone book, Hairston shot him in the head and then shot Dalma, authorities said.
Hairston and Klipfel stole credit cards, a little cash and some other items from the home before continuing on their way.
The two were caught near Clarkston, Washington, three days after the killings. Klipfel was sentenced to life in prison.
2 arrested after stabbing in Murtaugh
MURTAUGH — Three men were sent to hospitals and two men were arrested after a stabbing Sunday in Murtaugh, the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
Sheriff’s deputies were sent to a Murtaugh home at 1:24 a.m. Sunday, sheriff’s office spokesman Lori Stewart said in a statement.
There were three adult men on scene with wounds; one was flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, and the other two were taken to St. Luke’s Magic Valley.
Jose Alfredo Chulin-Mendez, 33, of Murtaugh, and Fredy A. Perez-Ruiz, 20, of Murtaugh, have each been charged with two counts of aggravated battery.
Vandals light Shoshone park bathroom on fire, reward offered
SHOSHONE — City leaders are offering a reward for information about a Tuesday fire in the Shoshone City Park bathrooms that was apparently set by vandals.
Police officers were called to the Mary L Gooding Park, also known as the Shoshone City Park, for a report of a structure fire at 2:40 p.m., the police department said in a Facebook post.
The Shoshone Police Department with the assistance of the Lincoln County Sheriffs Office and the Shoshone City and Rural Fire Department determined that the fire was intentionally set.
“Mayor (Dan) Pierson, Shoshone City Council members, and (Police) Chief (Austin) Smith have decided to reach into their own pockets, and put a several hundred dollar reward out there for the information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for damaging the park,” the post said.
“If you have any information on those who did this, whether it’s rumor you’ve heard, witnessed something out of the ordinary, or have first hand knowledge of those responsible, we ask that you come forward. You can remain anonymous.”
The police department also said that there are plans to install cameras throughout the park.
Fish and Game: Idaho man illegally trapped bobcats
BLACKFOOT — Gage Allen of Blackfoot, after reaching a plea agreement with the Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, was sentenced June 24 for various wildlife crimes dating back to 2007.
In January 2019, Allen was charged with numerous wildlife violations, including four felony charges related to illegally trapping and selling bobcats and illegally killing mule deer near Blackfoot.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game investigators determined that Gage Allen was using illegal bait, often game birds like whole pheasants, placed next to his traps to illegally catch bobcats. He then profited by selling the unlawfully taken bobcats for as much as $1,000. Investigators said that Allen admittedly knew what he was doing was wrong, but added that apparently the thrill of catching the cats and selling them for thousands of dollars led him to intentionally break the law.
In addition to illegal trapping activity and unlawful take of bobcats, Allen was charged with the possession of three unlawfully taken mule deer dating back to 2007. These deer had been killed by Allen after legal hours, in closed seasons and using another person’s deer tag after already killing a deer and using his own.
According to the plea agreement, Allen pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor charges: unlawful take of a furbearer (bobcat), illegal use of game animals or game birds as bait, unlawful possession of unlawfully taken game (mule deer), trapping without a valid license and trapping within 30 feet of visible bait. The remaining 25 counts were dropped as part of the agreement.
For his crimes, Allen was ordered to pay $1,825 in fines, restitution, processing fees and court costs and provide 100 hours of community service.
His hunting and trapping licenses were both revoked by the court for a period of 9 and 15 years, respectively. While revoked, Allen may not accompany any others into the field who are engaged in hunting or trapping activities.
Cassia County prosecutor argues against moving murder trial to another courthouse
BURLEY — Prosecutors say media coverage of a 25-year-old Burley murder case shouldn’t require the case to be moved to Ada County. In court documents, Cassia County Prosecutor McCord Larsen said pretrial publicity about Gilberto Flores Rodriguez’s arrest last year in the 1995 murder of a Burley teen will not obstruct seating a 14-person jury in Cassia County for the trial.
The prosecutor also filed documents asking that the jury trial date be reset.
Rodriguez’s attorney Keith Roark previously filed a motion to move the venue to Ada County, citing extensive pretrial publicity and social media commentary along with COVID-19 screening concerns. Rodriguez was charged last year with first-degree murder in the death of Regina Krieger, 14, who was found dead on a Snake River bank, after she disappeared from her Burley home.
Roark also commissioned an opinion poll through Research Strategies that was submitted to the court. The poll asked 247 Cassia County residents about how much they knew about the case, if they knew the victim or Rodriguez, if they presumed that Rodriguez was guilty, what papers they read and how often and if they watched or listened to other media reports, along with their age, ethnicity and race.
In a brief filed with the Cassia County District Court on Tuesday, the prosecutor said that pretrial publicity alone does not require a change of venue.
The bulk of the media pretrial publicity consists of accurate representations of the investigations and accurate allegations leading to the charge in the case, the document say.
Most of the pretrial articles occurred in the first years following Krieger’s death, with occasional anniversary stories following and articles on the current procedural stages of the case.
“Social media effects should not be given much weight,” the brief states, because it is difficult to ascertain whether they would sway jurors.
The opinion poll submitted “Seemed to push for answers that were conclusory,” the state’s brief said.
There is no way to know if the opinions shared by the 247 participants on the opinion poll will be shared by the 569 residents in a potential jury pool, the document says. The prosecutor also argued against moving the trial to Ada County due to the pandemic because the virus is not localized.
The prosecutor also objected to impaneling a jury from another county unless the court makes findings consistent with state statutes and asked the court not to grant the motion to move the venue unless an attempt is first made to seat a jury.
UPDATE: Suspect in custody after Ada sheriff’s deputy shot
STAR — An Emmett man has been arrested and charged with five felonies after he allegedly fled police on a stolen motorcycle and shot at an Eagle police officer, according to an Ada County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Matthew S. Kelly, 21, is charged with aggravated battery, assault or battery on certain personnel, two counts of burglary and eluding arrest, according to his Ada County Jail roster page. The police officer he allegedly shot twice on Monday morning is expected to survive, according to Ada County Sheriff Stephen Bartlett. The city of Eagle contracts its police force through the Sheriff’s Office.
Around 7:30 a.m. Monday, the Eagle police officer, who has not been publicly identified, was shot during an incident near the intersection of Beacon Light Road and Idaho 16 north of Star, according to the Sheriff’s Office news release. Police were able to apprehend the suspect at roughly 11 a.m., sheriff’s officials said.
In a press conference Monday morning, Bartlett told reporters that his deputies helped respond to a call that originated in Canyon County, following a burglary in which a yellow motorcycle was stolen.
Ada County’s Star and Eagle units were called to help look for the suspect and the motorcycle, and the Eagle officer tried to stop an individual — later identified as Kelly — driving a yellow motorcycle, Bartlett said.
After a short vehicle chase, Kelly got off the motorcycle and the officer tried to get out of his car to follow on foot.
“Initial information indicates it was when the officer stopped his patrol car to investigate that Kelly opened fire, shooting into the officer’s car, hitting and injuring him,” the Sheriff’s Office said in its Monday evening news releae. “The officer then returned fire.”
Kelly reportedly then ran into a nearby neighborhood near the River Birch Golf Course, which sits along Beacon Light Road and Pollard Lane.
Officials said the injured officer put a tourniquet on himself to stop the bleeding from the injuries to his arm and shoulder area. A Star police officer found the Eagle officer and drove him to meet paramedics on Floating Feather Road, the release said.
The injured officer was taken to a Boise hospital, where he underwent surgery Monday afternoon. During the initial news conference Monday, Bartlett said the man was listed in critical condition. During a second press conference Monday afternoon, Bartlett said the officer was upgraded to stable condition prior to his surgery.
Multiple law enforcement agencies were dispatched to the scene to help search for Kelly, including the Ada Metro SWAT team. Kelly had been identified as a suspect after his father was found riding a motorcycle in the same area, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
“An Ada County Sheriff’s Office deputy patrolling nearby identified Kelly’s father riding a motorcycle near the same area and pulled him over,” the release said. “Investigators were eventually able to use information from that stop to contact Matthew Kelly by cellphone.”
Police used drones and police K9s to scan the cornfield where Kelly was hiding. Kelly later turned himself in and surrendered peacefully, according to Bartlett.
“A K9 dog later found the backpack Kelly had on earlier and two handguns nearby,” officials said in the news release Monday evening.
An investigation into the shooting will be conducted by the Critical Incident Task Force, a group made up of members from law enforcement bodies throughout Ada County. The Boise Police Department will lead the investigation, Bartlett said.
Kelly’s father, Kevin Kelly, was arrested on two unrelated felony burglary charges. Both Matthew and Kevin Kelly are scheduled for arraignment on Tuesday afternoon, Ada County officials said.
Bartlett thanked fellow law enforcement officials for assisting them in the search for the suspect, as well as medics and hospital staff for providing care to his deputy. He also thanked members of the public for reaching out and providing tips to law enforcement. Bartlett said the tips helped with the search.
Cassia judge denies requests to change murder trial venue, date
BURLEY — A Cassia County district judge ruled Monday that Gilberto Flores Rodriguez’s trial on murder charges will proceed as scheduled after requests from both the defense and prosecution to make changes.
Rodriguez is charged with first-degree murder in the 1995 death of 14-year-old Regina Krieger.
His attorney requested the trial be moved to Ada County and the prosecutor requested the trial be moved to a later date.
The five-week jury trial is set to begin on Sept. 9 in Cassia County District Court.
“The court does not find a reasonable likelihood that the defendant’s right to an impartial jury will be infringed. The court will not grant a change of venue before an attempt is made through the use of jury questionnaires to find an impartial Cassia County jury,” the order signed by Cassia County District Judge Michael Tribe said.
Tribe also said some publicity in the case consists of “accurate representations of various procedural stages of the case,” and some publicity, “especially the emboldening of semi-anonymous social media has had an inflammatory tone.”
However, the traditional media reports have not been inflammatory, the order says.
The order also addresses a book written by Krieger’s mother, which uses the name Gilbert as her daughter’s murderer.
The book provides insight into the mind and feelings of the mother, but there is no evidence her writings were widely read or distributed in Cassia County or that the “depiction of events are unassailably accurate.”
The order also talks about the Cassia County survey completed by 247 Cassia County residents, which was submitted by Rodriguez’s attorney, Keith Roark, as evidence of widespread bias.
The process of selecting jurors will address the opinions of potential jurors and they can then be examined by the attorneys, Tribe said.
The order said the court inquired whether it would be possible to move the trial due to the COVID-19 pandemic to the Fourth or Fifth district courts and was told it would simply be impossible for them to accommodate a visiting court in the near future.
The order also denied the state’s request to continue the trial to a later date, stating that the defense had not complied with supplemental discovery requests. The defense filed the supplemental discovery response with the court on Monday.
The court is sending the questionnaires to the attorneys and any objections from them will be submitted by July 24.
The 569 potential jurors will be called into the courthouse during four daily sessions on July 29-31 to complete the questionnaires. They will be separated into two courtrooms, which will be cleaned after each session.
Kimberly man pleads guilty to mailing threatening letter to Twin Falls deputy prosecutor
BOISE — A Kimberly man faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to threatening to kill a witness and a Twin Falls County deputy prosecutor.
Nathaniel Michael West, 23, pleaded guilty to mailing threatening communications, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis said in a Tuesday statement. West was indicted by a federal grand jury in Boise on Jan. 14. Sentencing is set for October 7 before U.S. District Judge Winmill at the federal courthouse in Boise.
According to court records, West admitted that on Aug. 22, 2019, he sent a threatening letter through the United States Postal Service to a Twin Falls County deputy prosecutor. This prosecutor had previously prosecuted West for crimes he committed. West stated in the letter that he was going to get out of prison and the kill the prosecutor and her family. West also threatened to kill a witness from a prior prosecution.
After the prosecutor received the letter, law enforcement officers interviewed West. During the interview, West confessed to sending the letter. West claimed he sent it out of anger and that he wanted scare the prosecutor and witness. West sent the letter from an Idaho Department of Correction facility, where he is currently housed for other crimes.
The charge of mailing threatening communications is punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release.
This case was investigated by the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.
FBI, Idaho agencies investigating death of DUI suspect in Owyhee County near Nevada
DUCK VALLEY RESERVATION — The FBI and the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office are among the agencies investigating an incident in southern Owyhee County that left a man dead last week and an Idaho State Police trooper on administrative leave.
On July 9, a 911 call was made reporting a possible DUI case involving a man driving an RV near the Idaho-Nevada state line on Idaho 51 on the Duck Valley Reservation, according to a news release from ISP.
An ISP trooper was called to help federal agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs with the call. The driver — a 57-year-old Nevada resident whose name was not released by authorities — was pulled over and given field sobriety tests, which he reportedly failed. Because the alleged DUI was taking place on a state highway with a nontribal person, the Bureau of Indian Affairs contacted ISP to help.
When the trooper arrived, the DUI investigation continued, according to the release. Officers found “additional evidence” that led to the driver being taken into custody.
According to ISP, the man was allowed to re-enter the RV because he said he needed to care for his dog — the only other occupant of the RV — before being taken to jail. It’s not clear whether he had been officially arrested or handcuffed at that point.
Once inside the RV, the man accessed a handgun, which he fired once, shooting himself, according to the release. The man died at the scene.
The trooper witnessed the shot, and a BIA agent was just outside the RV when the shot was fired. Neither the trooper nor the agent fired their service weapons, according to the release, and neither was injured during the incident.
It was not immediately clear why the man was allowed back into the RV.
In an email Wednesday, Idaho State Police spokesperson Lynn Hightower said an internal review will be conducted to determine whether or not the trooper followed department protocols and procedures during the incident. Hightower did not provide any further information regarding the case, saying the matter is still under investigation.
ISP said the event began its critical incident protocols, with an inquiry into the shooting underway. As per those protocols, the trooper was placed on administrative leave. ISP, the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI are all investigating, the release said.
Once the investigation is complete, the case will be screened by the Owyhee County prosecutor for review.
Private prison in Texas holding Idaho offenders again loses running water in pandemic
BOISE — The Eagle Pass Correctional Facility in Eagle Pass, Texas, which holds 610 Idaho offenders, again lost access to running water and communication services during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Idaho Department of Correction contracts with the private prison to hold some inmates because Idaho does not have enough beds to house them in-state. Water pressure has been restored, but communication lines were still down on Wednesday afternoon.
As of Wednesday, there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus among the inmate population in Eagle Pass.
The county water main that supplies water to the prison was damaged on July 5. That damage occurred when a Maverick County, Texas, firetruck parked on top of the line while firefighters were putting out a vehicle blaze about a mile away, according to IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray.
“The Eagle Pass Correctional Facility lost water service for a few hours while the main was repaired,” Ray said in an email. “During that time, water from a water tower was available to flush toilets at the facility. A water truck was brought to the facility as a back-up measure.”
But again, on Tuesday, the facility lost water pressure and Maverick County investigated.
“The crew found the line was leaking at the location where repairs were made as a result of the damage that occurred on July 5,” Ray said.
Again, the water tower was used to flush toilets and the men were supplied with bottled water.
“While repairing the water line, the county repair crew cut the internet and telephone lines to the facility that run just above the water line,” Ray said. “As of yesterday afternoon, the water main had been repaired, and a crew was working to restore communication services.”
The facility lost water pressure in April as well, after a nearby water main broke.
The Texas prison is owned and operated by a private corporation, the GEO Group.
Visitation and volunteer groups have been suspended at the facility because of the pandemic. Eagle Pass continues to comply with all orders from the Texas governor related to COVID-19 measures for jails and correctional facilities.
As of Tuesday, Maverick County, Texas, where the prison is located, was reporting 497 active cases of coronavirus.
Police thought a man in Boise was killing pets. The FBI just arrested a woman in Indiana
BOISE — Last month, the Idaho Humane Society and Boise Police Department asked for the public’s help in identifying a man believed to be getting animals from Craiglist and posting photos and videos on social media after he maimed or killed them. On Tuesday, the FBI arrested a suspect in the case.
But it wasn’t a man, and the alleged culprit was never in Idaho.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had arrested 19-year-old Krystal Scott, of Kokomo, Indiana, on two felony charges of making and distributing animal crush videos. Animal crushing is a form of abuse that has sometimes been filmed and posted online as pornography for individuals with a “crushing fetish.” It’s a federal crime.
According to the news release, Scott “began posting images and videos over various social media platforms, that depicted Scott torturing and graphically killing cats and dogs by hanging, skinning and other means” beginning in early May and continuing to July 8.
The videos caught the attention of concerned citizens who began their own investigation into Scott’s identity, using clues from the videos, as well as other publicly available data. Those individuals contacted the Boise Police Department and Idaho Humane Society when they believed they had identified the perpetrator to be in the Treasure Valley.
The Boise Police Department classified Scott’s posts as “animal crush videos” and contacted the FBI. Boise police, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI were able to track the videos to Scott in Kokomo.
Though the details of the case ended up being quite different from the initial information that sparked the investigation, one aspect appears to have been accurate: Officials said they believe Scott obtained the animals she allegedly tortured “by responding to online ads from individuals who were seeking to give away their unwanted pets for adoption.”
Scott posted images of dead and dismembered animals on Instagram and TikTok up until July 8, officials said. The next day, a federal judge approved a search warrant, which the FBI executed on Tuesday.
“During the search, the FBI recovered numerous animal parts and skulls that were consistent with the size of cats and dogs,” the news release said. “Agents also discovered approximately three live dogs, 12 live cats and several lizards.”
The FBI also recovered the phone used to create and post the crush videos, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Scott had previously been investigated in May and June by the Kokomo Police Department for animal cruelty complaints, but the department was unable to find cause to bring charges.
“The Boise Police Department is thankful to have played a role in the investigation into this disturbing crime,” said Boise Police Department Deputy Chief Ron Winegar in the news release. “We had concerned people from all over the world contact us about the terrible images they were seeing on social media. Our officers and detectives worked hard to investigate leads here in Boise and partnered with the FBI as the investigation grew and moved out of state.”
Scott could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Eagle police officer shot twice on-duty is identified, released from the hospital
EAGLE — Ada County Sheriff Stephen Bartlett said Thursday that the Eagle police officer shot on-duty Monday is expected to recover and has been released from the hospital.
Brandon Austin has been identified as the officer who was shot twice during an incident near the intersection of Beacon Light Road and Idaho 16, north of Star. The city of Eagle contracts its police force through the Sheriff’s Office.
In a statement, Bartlett called the incident “a brutal and unprovoked attack.”
Matthew S. Kelly, 21, is accused of shooting Austin when police were trying to stop Kelly on what they said was a stolen motorcycle.
After a short vehicle chase, Kelly got off the motorcycle and the officer tried to get out of his car to follow on foot. Authorities believe Kelly opened fire, shooting into the officer’s car, hitting and injuring him. The officer returned fire, but Kelly was not injured.
“Brandon was released from the hospital Wednesday and is now safely at home, surrounded by loved ones,” Bartlett said in the statement. “I am so proud of Brandon, who paid a huge price for his dedication to our community. It is no surprise to me the first thoughts and concerns Brandon had after another officer found him injured was to direct the officer to where he last saw the man who attacked him. “
Kelly, of Emmett, remains in custody with bond set at $2 million. He is charged with felony aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with an enhancement of using a deadly weapon, grand theft and eluding a peace officer. He also was charged with two felony counts of burglary in a separate case from earlier in July.
“When people ask me what the Ada County Sheriff’s Office is about, I say everything we do is to help to make our community a safer place to live, work, and play,” Bartlett wrote. “Brandon Austin took two bullets as he was doing that Monday morning, without hesitation, as he worked to keep a violent man from hurting anyone else.”
Bartlett said his office has received overwhelming support and he thanked the community and his neighboring police departments. He also thanked Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for the medical care received by Austin.
“It’s an honor to be able to serve the citizens of Ada County,” Bartlett said. “Horrible events, like what happened on Monday, only encourage our resolve to do the best job we can to keep you all as safe as possible. We will not be deterred.”
Abandoned casino voucher leads to grand larceny charge for Twin Falls man
ELKO — Finding money at an unoccupied slot machine may sound like a stroke of luck, but it really isn’t.
A Twin Falls man was booked into Elko County Jail this week after police said he cashed in a voucher that a woman left at a slot machine in West Wendover.
Larry Lashchuk, 25, of Twin Falls, was arrested on a warrant for grand larceny in the May 2019 incident.
A woman told West Wendover police that she had been playing a slot machine at the Montego Bay Casino and won more than $800. She took her player’s card out of the machine but forgot to collect the money voucher. When she returned to the machine it was gone.
Lashchuk was identified from casino surveillance as the man who cashed the voucher.
He was also booked on a charge of failure to appear after bail on a felony crime. Jail records show that Lashchuk was arrested in December 2018 at Cactus Pete’s Casino in Jackpot on felony drug charges.
His bail on the current charges was listed at $20,000.
Prosecutor requests no video at Vallow and Daybell hearings
Prosecutor Rob Wood has filed a motion asking Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins to disallow video coverage of Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow’s preliminary hearing, citing concerns about tainting the potential jury pool.
In the court documents filed Friday, Wood acknowledged the right of a defendant to a public hearing and the right of the public to know what takes place in a criminal trial. However, he feared the video coverage would infringe upon the defendants right to a fair trial.
Wood said video coverage would “make it more difficult to pick an un-biased jury in Fremont County.”
“Picking jury in this case will be difficult and time consuming due to the already existing media coverage. If the preliminary hearings are broadcast/live streamed, voir dire will become even more difficult,” Wood wrote.
Voir dire is the process in which a judge or lawyer questions potential jurors to see if they are suitable to sit on a jury for a particular case. Wood said those who watched the live coverage of the preliminary hearing may be too prejudiced to serve as a juror.
“Every potential juror who viewed the preliminary hearing will require extra voir dire, and those questions may elicit answers which prejudice other potential jurors. Potential jurors who viewed the preliminary hearing will more likely be struck for cause,” Wood wrote.
Eddins issued an order on July 7 to allow live media video broadcasting at these hearings. Should he agree to Wood’s request, it would reverse his previous order.
“Whereas the Court has the absolute and sole authority to decide if video cameras are allowed in the Courtroom, the State urges the Court to reconsider its Order Governing Courtroom Conduct and disallow video cameras during the preliminary hearing,” Wood said.
Daybell and Vallow both face two felony counts of concealment of evidence and involve the cover up of up the deaths of Vallow’s two minor children, J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan. Vallow also has misdemeanor charges involving resisting or obstructing an officer, soliciting another to commit a crime and contempt of court.
The maximum punishment for each felony includes up to “five years imprisonment and/or up to (a) $10,000 fine.”
Daybell’s preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 3 and 4. Vallow’s preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 10 and 11.
Utah prosecutors to pursue death penalty against subject of 2-day Cassia County manhunt
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah prosecutors will pursue the death penalty against a California man accused of shooting and killing a motorist last year.
Jonathan Llana, 46, is accused of fatally shooting Dennis Gwyther and injuring his passenger in May 2019 as the two were driving on Interstate 84 in northern Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday.
Llana’s case was delayed after he was declared not competent to stand trial in October 2019. But in March, he was found to be competent after receiving treatment at the Utah State Hospital.
Gwyther, 50, was a well-known LGBTQ activist in Utah. He was commuting to his job in Boise, Idaho when he was killed.
The last time a person was sentenced to death in Utah was in 2008. Floyd Maestas was given the sentence after stomping a woman to death during a robbery but died of natural causes in 2018.
Llana’s attorney Craig Chlarson declined to comment.
Rodriguez murder trial postponed due to COVID-19
BURLEY — Cassia County District Court canceled a Sept. 9 jury trial for Gilberto Rodriguez after the Idaho Supreme Court said jury trials can’t resume because of COVID-19.
Rodriguez is accused of first degree murder of 14-year-old Regina Krieger in 1995, according to court records.
Krieger, who had disappeared from her basement bedroom, was later found dead on the banks of the nearby Snake River. Rodriguez was charged with her death in 2019.
His trial was vacated after the district court received an order from the Idaho Supreme Court, which said that due to the continuing rise in positive COVID-19 cases in Idaho, jurors can not be required to appear in court until at least Sept. 14 for criminal cases and Dec. 1 for civil cases.
The Cassia court planed to call 569 potential jurors to the courthouse this week to complete jury questionnaires.
The order also says people age 65 or older will be excused from jury service if the person indicates they wish to be excused on the COVID-19 questionnaire.
The order, dated July 24, also states that when trials resume, all people entering the courtroom will be screened with a temperature check and questions regarding known exposure to the virus and recent symptoms.
Anyone exhibiting risk will be denied entrance to the courtroom.
The order also outlines other safety precautions that will be taken by the court.
A status hearing in the Rodriguez case is set at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in Cassia County District Court.
Idaho inmate becomes 2nd in US to receive gender surgery
NAMPA (AP) — An Idaho inmate became the second incarcerated person in the U.S. to undergo gender confirmation surgery while in prison following a legal dispute that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Adree Edmo, 32, filed a lawsuit in 2017 against the state of Idaho and the Idaho Department of Correction’s health care provider, Corizon Health Inc., saying they violated her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by not providing the surgery, The Idaho Press reported Monday.
Deborah Ferguson, Edmo’s attorney, confirmed the surgery took place July 10.
Jeff Ray, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Correction, confirmed Edmo is at the Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino for post-surgical medical care and will be transferred to the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center at a time determined by her medical condition.
Edmo is scheduled to complete a prison sentence in 2021 for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.
Edmo identifies as female. Prison doctors diagnosed her in 2012 with gender dysphoria, a condition in which the dissonance between a person’s birth gender and the gender with which they identify is significant and hurtful.
A dispute between medical professionals about whether Edmo needed the surgery led to the lawsuit.
Federal district and appellate courts ruled in Edmo’s favor, but Republican Gov. Brad Little followed through on a promise to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court in May refused a request by Idaho state attorneys to postpone the surgery to argue the case, effectively enabling the operation to take place.
A California inmate became the first U.S. prisoner to receive gender confirmation surgery in 2017. Shiloh Heavenly Quine was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery for ransom and was sentenced to life with no possibility of parole.
California prison officials agreed in August 2015 to fund Quine’s surgery after years of opposition to paying for gender confirmation surgeries. The case led the state to become the first to set standards for transgender inmates to apply for state-funded gender confirmation surgeries.
Officials: 123 inmates, 8 staff now positive for COVID-19 in Twin Falls jail
TWIN FALLS — More than 100 people at Twin Falls County Jail have now tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.
Twin Falls County Sheriff spokeswoman Lori Stewart told the Times-News that 123 inmates and eight jail staff tested positive for the virus. Of those, three inmates have shown symptoms.
Tests were ordered for all inmates and staff after the first positive case was found. The results from about 200 of the tests have been returned so far, and jail officials are still waiting on 100 more. Those who test negative will be retested in a week.
Stewart said inmates with symptoms are being held in isolation away from the rest of the jail population. She said they are waiting for more results before moving around those without symptoms. All jail staff are wearing masks and they are available for inmates. Everyone at the facility is being monitored for symptoms, including daily temperature checks.
Stewart said officers are still arresting people, but the outbreak is being considered when deciding if someone needs to go to jail. New detainees are held and monitored until staff figures out how to safely introduce them into the rest of the population, she said.
The jail is meant for 194 people but usually houses between 260 and 280, with those overcapacity sleeping on the ground. Voters rejected a bond in November to expand the jail.
Idaho resident found dead in Mountain Home, ‘estranged husband’ arrested in Texas
MOUNTAIN HOME — Police in Mountain Home are investigating a “suspicious death” after a body was found inside a home in the southwest area of the city.
On Tuesday, officers were sent to a home while investigating a missing persons case, according to a news release from the Mountain Home Police Department. When they arrived, officers found a deceased person in the home.
Investigators believe the person’s death could be “a result of domestic violence involving an estranged husband,” the news release says. The name of the deceased was not released as of Tuesday evening.
The alleged suspect, who was also not named by police as of Tuesday, is reportedly in police custody in Pecos, Texas.
In addition, police say the man was arrested with children, and the children are safe.
The reported suspect is being held in lieu of a $500,000 bond for one count of failing to report a deceased person.
Idaho State Police and the ISP’s Criminal Investigations Division and Crime Scene Processing Unit were called to the scene of the death to assist in the investigation.
Little other information was released by police Tuesday, as the investigation is still ongoing.
If you or someone you know has information regarding this case, contact Detective Corley at the Mountain Home Police Department at 208-587-2101.
Idaho inmate with COVID-19 dies in hospital
BOISE — The Idaho Department of Correction announced Wednesday that a man with coronovirus in its custody died.
In a news release, IDOC said 66-year-old Frank Dawson Conover was taken to a Bose hospital last week for “emergency treatment.” Conover was being held at the Idaho State Correctional Center, a men’s prison in Kuna.
While in the hospital, Conover tested positive for COVID-19 while receiving treatment for “other serious underlying health conditions,” the news release says.
Early Wednesday morning at 4:49 a.m., Conover was pronounced dead.
This is the first coronavirus-related death among people in IDOC custody.
ISCC, the Kuna prison where Conover was previously housed, was the first Idaho prison with a confirmed case among inmates. The first confirmed inmate case was made public in late June.
Since then, IDOC has conducted regular mass testing of those incarcerated in the prison, and numerous inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus. As of Wednesday evening, 48 staff members at the prison have tested positive for COVID-19.
At the Twin Falls County Jail, which is overseen by the local sheriff's office, 123 inmates and eight jail staff tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday. Of those, three inmates have shown symptoms.
Woman with Twin Falls, Minidoka convictions walks away from prison
BOISE — A woman with convictions in Minidoka and Twin Falls counties walked away from the South Boise Women’s Correctional Center, the Idaho Department of Correction said.
Michelle Rene Descharme was last seen about 6 p.m. Wednesday near a truck stop at Broadway and Interstate 84 in Boise.
She was last seen wearing gray sweatpants and blue T-shirt.
Descharme, 49, is white with brown hair, hazel eyes and an olive complexion. She is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 250 pounds.
Descharme’s record includes convictions for possession of a controlled substance, grand theft and forgery in Minidoka, Twin Falls, Bannock, Bingham and Ada Counties, an IDOC statement said.
Descharrme was scheduled to be eligible for parole on June 1, 2025. Her sentence was scheduled to be discharged on May 31, 2031.
Anyone with information about Descharme’s whereabouts should contact their local law enforcement agency.
Idaho suspect in pursuit, shootout appears in court
LEWISTON (AP) — A former participant in an armed occupation in 2016 at an Oregon wildlife refuge appeared in court this week after he was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer during a shootout in northern Idaho earlier this month.
Sean L. Anderson, 52, appeared at his initial hearing online through the Idaho Supreme Court website from the New Perce County Jail on Wednesday before Magistrate Judge Jeff P. Payne, The Lewiston Tribune reported.
Anderson was arrested July 23 after a police pursuit and shootout July 18 following an attempted traffic stop for an apparent equipment violation.
Police said he led authorities on a pursuit lasting about 30 miles (48 kilometers), from Kamiah to Ferdinand, Idaho. The pursuit ended when the vehicle stopped in a residential area and shots were fired.
An Idaho State Police investigation revealed that Anderson called the Idaho County sheriff’s office before being stopped and allegedly threatened to shoot officers if they tried to stop him. Authorities say Anderson then opened fire and four officers returned fire, hitting him. No officers were injured.
Anderson was taken to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston and later moved to Providence Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. He was arrested by Spokane City Police after being released from the hospital, and waived extradition to be returned to Idaho on Tuesday.
A public defender law firm was appointed to represent Anderson, who said he could not afford an attorney and currently has no job.
He faces a maximum 25 years in prison if convicted.
The criminal information revealed that the Lewis County deputy who Anderson allegedly threatened was Walter Wilkinson. None of the other officers involved have been identified.
Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings said a deputy from his department had been placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete.
Giddings confirmed Anderson was one of the last four holdouts during the 41-day armed occupation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, along with Ammon Bundy of Emmett, Idaho.
Anderson joined occupiers who were protesting what they said was the federal government taking over private land in the area.
He pleaded guilty to trespass and was sentenced to a year of probation and fined $1,000 in restitution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Woman who walked away from prison arrested in Rupert
BOISE — A woman who walked away from the South Boise Women’s Correctional Center was arrested in Rupert on July 30, the Idaho Department of Correction said.
Michelle Rene Descharme was left the prison without permission at about 6 p.m. Wednesday.
She was captured at 3:15 p.m. Thursday in Rupert by the Department of Correction’s Special Investigations Union and the Mini-Cassia Drug Task Force.
Descharme is being held at the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center in Burley.
Descharme’s record includes convictions for possession of a controlled substance, grand theft and forgery in Minidoka, Twin Falls, Bannock, Bingham and Ada Counties, an IDOC statement said.
Descharrme was scheduled to be eligible for parole on June 1, 2025. Her sentence was scheduled to be discharged on May 31, 2031.
Women who passed fake $100 bills in Twin Falls sentenced to prison
BOISE — Two people who pleaded guilty to passing counterfeit money in Twin Falls were sentenced this week to federal prison.
Nicole Perez, and Equallette Ballesteros, both 34, and from California, were sentenced to two years and nine months in federal prison for their role in the scheme. Both defendants sentenced this week will serve three years of supervised release upon their release from custody.
According to court records, on Jan. 4 and 5, Perez and Ballesteros knowingly passed counterfeit $100 bills at retailers in the Twin Falls area with the intent to defraud the retailers.
The remaining co-defendants, Richard Hernandez, 27, and Matthew Rodriguez-Islas, 22, both of California, are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 22, and Sept. 23, 2020, respectively in front of U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill at the federal courthouse in Boise.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service and Twin Falls Police Department.
Dietrich man sentenced for illegally possessing firearms
BOISE — A Dietrich man was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for illegally possessing firearms after previous convictions for felony sex and stalking offenses.
Jeremy Dale Sortor, 48, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis announced Friday.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill also ordered Sortor pay a $750 fine and to serve three years of supervised release following his prison sentence. Sortor pleaded guilty to illegally possessing the firearms on Dec. 2.
According to court records, Sortor was seen July 30, 2018, with a firearm. At the time, Sortor was on parole for a felony stalking conviction. On Aug. 14, 2018, Idaho Department of Correction parole officers found two firearms in Sortor’s residence and six rounds of ammunition in his pocket.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Idaho Department of Correction and was prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program.