Aug. 15 Regional News Briefs

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Missoula man pleads guilty in fatal hit-and-run

MISSOULA (AP) — A Missoula man has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide for the June 2018 hit-and-run death of a recent University of Montana graduate.

The Missoulian reports Wednesday’s plea agreement recommends Daniel Grady be sentenced to 10 years in prison for the death of 22-year-old Rebecca Romero. Her body was found in the road at 2:30 a.m. on June 17, 2018. Sentencing is set for October.

Grady, who is 27, also pleaded guilty Wednesday to failure to remain at the scene of the crash. He was arrested after police matched a broken piece of headlight at the scene to Grady’s pickup.

Attorney Paul Ryan says the plea agreement and sentencing recommendation is acceptable to Romero’s parents.

Federal agency purchases land with plans to buy more

MISSOULA (AP) — A federal land agency has purchased a large area of Montana land from a state conservation organization increasing the amount of public ownership in the region.

The Missoulian reported Tuesday that the Bureau of Land Management signed paperwork this week to purchase 20 square miles (52 square kilometers) in the Lower Blackfoot River corridor just east of Missoula.

Federal officials say money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund was used to purchase the land with future plans to acquire additional areas by the end of 2020.

Officials say the goal is to reach 94 square miles (243 square kilometers) in the Blackfoot drainage and return formerly public lands that were given away decades ago.

Officials say any additional purchases will have to go through a federal review process.

Officials ID man killed in truck crash, fire north of Malta

MALTA (AP) — Officials in Phillips County have released the name of a man who died when a semi hauling hay on a flatbed trailer overturned and caught fire in northern Montana.

The sheriff’s office says 37-year-old Justin Lucas of Loring was killed in the Aug. 8 crash on U.S. Highway 191 near his hometown. Loring is about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Malta and about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of the Canadian border.

The Montana Highway Patrol says the northbound semi fell on its side after taking a turn too fast. The Billings Gazette reports Lucas suffered burns in the fire but it’s not clear what killed him.

University of Montana expects new student enrollment to grow

MISSOULA (AP) — The University of Montana is expecting freshmen enrollment to increase this year, possibly marking a turning point away from years of decline.

The Missoulian reported Tuesday that the university is seeing higher registration numbers for new student orientation and housing this year, but it won’t have a full student count until mid-September.

Enrollment in the freshman class last increased by nearly 2% in fall 2017, but it dropped by more than 9% to 1,172 students the next fall.

The university’s overall enrollment has decreased by 32% since 2011. It recorded 9,565 students, including 6,909 undergraduates, last year.

University President Seth Bodnar says overall enrollment likely won’t increase this year, but that would change if freshman classes continue to grow each year.

North Dakota couple dies of CO poisoning during cycle rally

STURGIS, S.D. (AP) — A man and a woman from North Dakota have died of carbon monoxide poisoning while camping during the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota.

Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin identifies the pair as 55-year-old Daniel Baker of Arnegard, North Dakota, and 58-year-old Donna Cuccia of Turtle Lake, North Dakota.

Authorities discovered the bodies inside an enclosed trailer at a campground Monday. The Rapid City Journal reports a relative called after the couple failed to come home.

The couple had used the trailer to haul a motorcycle to the rally, then placed a mattress on the floor along with a gas-powered generator to power a cooling fan.

An Omaha, Nebraska, man also died from asphyxiation in his motor home and three motorcyclists died in crashes during the rally, which ended Sunday.

North Dakota fair board rejects tobacco-free day

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State Fair officials have decided against holding a tobacco-free day at next year’s event.

The state Health Department and Bismarck tobacco prevention coalition had asked the fair board to designate Family-Military Day as smoke free at the 2020 event.

Fair Board President Gary Knell says it would be difficult to make a fairgrounds ban work. The board decided to continue following state guidelines regarding tobacco in public places. State law prohibits smoking in enclosed public spaces, within 20 feet of doors, windows or ventilation systems of public buildings.

The Minot Daily News reports Knell says even though the board denied a tobacco-free day, advocacy groups could set up booths at the fair to encourage people to go tobacco-free on the grounds.