Oct. 14 Montana News Briefs

Monday, October 14, 2019

Banned mussels found on boat in Montana after initial checks

MISSOULA (AP) — Montana officials say a boat infested with an invasive species of mussels passed two watercraft checkpoints before they were discovered. The Missoulian reported that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the zebra mussels were found on a boat bound for Seattle. Officials say zebra and quagga mussels can clog water intake pipes, disrupt the fishing tourism industry and cost industries, businesses and communities billions of dollars. Officials say the aquatic invasive species on the vessel that originated in Lake Michigan could have spread in the Columbia River basin without the discovery. Montana Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau chief Tom Wolfe says the state has protocols to prevent the spread of the mussels. Wolfe says the initial missed checks were due to errors by seasonal staff.

Alpine areas of Going-to-the-Sun Road closed for the season

WEST GLACIER (AP) — Glacier National Park in Montana has decided to close the alpine section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to vehicles for the season because of winter weather conditions. The road typically closes between Avalanche Creek and Jackson Glacier Overlook on or before the third Monday in October, weather and road condition dependent. The Going-to-the-Sun Road between Avalanche Creek and Logan Pass was closed on Sept. 16 for road maintenance. The park intended to reopen the alpine section of the road after Sept. 29, but snowstorms and avalanches hampered efforts to plow the alpine section. Road crews reopened Many Glacier Road, the Camas Road, and the portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road between the foot of St. Mary Lake and Rising Sun. The Two Medicine Road remains closed due to ice and snow.

6 grizzly bears killed in single week in northwest Montana

MISSOULA (AP) — Early snowstorms in northwest Montana have contributed to the deaths of five grizzly bears in one week on the Rocky Mountain Front. The Missoulian reports that a sixth grizzly was put down east of Rogers Pass for killing cattle, pushing the one-week death toll to six and the unofficial annual mortality count to 38 in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Last year, a record 46 grizzly bears died in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex and surrounding areas. Grizzly bear specialist Mike Madel of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says five grizzly deaths last week all involved bears that were feeding on cattle killed by snowstorms. Two bears were hit by a train and three were hit on a nearby highway.

Manhunt underway after inmate escapes western Montana jail

HELENA (AP) — Authorities are looking for an inmate who escaped from a county jail in western Montana. The Helena Independent Record reports 27-year-old Tory Gee, of Sheridan, escaped in Boulder late Friday and is suspected of stealing a pickup to flee the area. Jefferson County Undersheriff Mike Johnson said without elaborating that Gee was able to “compromise” a jail cell to escape. Gee was arrested Aug. 17 on suspicion of assault with a weapon, is currently on probation and has previous convictions for assault with a weapon and burglary. He is registered as a violent offender in Montana. Authorities don’t believe Gee is armed but warn his behavior could be unpredictable. Boulder residents were initially told to stay inside with their doors locked but have since been allowed to leave their homes.

Billings man charged with homicide in infant’s death

BILLINGS (AP) — A Billings man has been charged in the death of an infant nearly a year ago. The Billings Gazette reports James Maurice Palmer was arrested Wednesday on a charge of negligent homicide and is being held on $200,000 bail. According to court documents, he was watching the infant on Oct. 31, 2018, when her mother was at work. He gave the girl a bottle and changed her diaper before putting her down for a nap. Investigators say the infant was face-down, under a blanket and unresponsive when Palmer checked on her about two hours later. An autopsy revealed she died of asphyxia due to airway obstruction, and she had methamphetamine and amphetamine in her system. Jail records do not indicate if Palmer has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

Man charged in Laurel woman’s strangulation death

BILLINGS (AP) — Montana authorities say a 57-year-old Laurel woman whose body was found in a wooded ravine was strangled to death. The cause of Lori Bray’s Oct. 1 death was included in charging documents against 22-year-old Diego Thomas Hernandez, who has been charged with deliberate homicide. The Billings Gazette reports Hernandez appeared Thursday before a justice of the peace, who set bond at $500,000. James Siegman, Hernandez’s public defender at the hearing, declined to comment, saying Hernandez would be represented by another attorney. Prosecutors say additional charges are possible as investigators receive test results from evidence. Surveillance video shows Hernandez leaving with Bray in her car after she finished her shift at a casino. Investigators who met Hernandez say he had scratches and bruises to his face, neck and hand that he explained as the result of a fight with a male friend.