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THE LATEST REGIONAL NEWS

Suspect in Billings Apartment Fire Arrested
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Authorities in Oregon have arrested a woman suspected of starting a large fire at a Billings apartment complex.

The Billings Gazette reports the U.S. Marshals Service arrested 25-year-old Jesse Root in Portland on Wednesday. She is being held on charges of arson and criminal endangerment.

The June 2 blaze, which caused an estimated $1 million in damage, sent flames shooting from the attic and smoke billowing from the roof. Nine of the apartments were occupied.

An affidavit filed in Yellowstone County Justice Court says Root watched the fire from a park bench, laughing while clutching a cigarette lighter. She was arrested, and because of her abnormal behavior, was taken to Billings Clinic for a psychiatric evaluation.

The affidavit does not say why she was released from custody.

Investigators have not released a possible motive.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Billings Man Gets 10 Years for Bank Robbery
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A Billings man who said he robbed a bank because he was behind on his car payments has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Billings Gazette reports 43-year-old Robert Bruce Scollard was sentenced Tuesday by District Judge Russell Fagg to 15 years in prison with five suspended. The judge ordered Scollard to pay $1,300 in restitution and declared him a persistent felony offender.

Scollard pleaded guilty in July for the March 7 robbery of an American Federal Savings Bank branch in Billings.

He has been jailed since his arrest a short time after the robbery.

Prosecutors say Scollard's criminal record includes convictions for arson, forgery, theft in 2001 and the attempted robbery of a Billings casino in 2012.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Glendive Woman Pleads Guilty to Theft
GLENDIVE, Mont. (AP) - The former executive director of the Glendive Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture has pleaded guilty to stealing $33,000 from the organization.

KXGN-AM reports Kimberly Trangmoe entered her plea to felony theft Tuesday before District Judge Richard Simonton of Glendive. The plea agreement calls for prosecutors to recommend a six-year deferred sentence and restitution. She also would be barred from supervisory control over the money or assets of any business or organization.

Simonton is not bound by the sentencing recommendation.

Trangmoe told the court she took the money between February 2008 and September 2012 because she was having personal financial difficulties. She says she used chamber money to pay a debt collection agency and medical bills for her then-husband.

She remains free on a previously posted $10,000 bond. A sentencing date has not been set.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Judge Orders Reconsideration of Prairie Dog Ruling
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A judge has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its decision that the white-tailed prairie dog doesn't warrant federal protections.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said in Monday the federal agency was unable to explain its analysis and conclusions to satisfy the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

Molloy says the agency also ignored available data and failed to rely on the best available science in deciding whether the prairie dog should be protected.

The white-tailed prairie dog is found in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Montana. Federal wildlife officials said in 2010 that the species' population hadn't substantially changed and that the white-tailed prairie dog didn't face significant threats from urbanization or energy development.

Molloy sent the findings back to the agency for further consideration.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Man who Died in Motorcycle Crash in Billings ID'd
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Authorities have released the name of a 26-year-old man who died after he crashed his motorcycle into a repair shop in Billings.

The Yellowstone County Coroner's Office identified the victim Tuesday as Nicholas Card, of Billings.

Police Sgt. Scott Conrad tells The Billings Gazette that Card might have been racing another vehicle when he crashed into the shop on Sixth Avenue North at about 3:45 p.m. Monday. The motorcycle hit a curb, throwing the rider into the shop's wall.

Police are looking for the car reportedly racing the motorcycle - a blue or dark-blue early 2000s Honda Civic. The car is a two-door hatchback with chrome wheels, tinted windows and a loud muffler.

Conrad says he does not know if alcohol played a role in the crash.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Montana's Minimum Going up to $8.05 an Hour
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana's minimum wage is going up 15 cents an hour to $8.05 beginning in January.

A voter-passed initiative called for Montana's minimum wage to increase by the same percentage as the Consumer Price Index over a year. In this case, it increased by 1.7 percent between August 2013 and August 2014. The wage increase is rounded to the nearest 5 cents.

The Department of Labor and Industry estimates 12,850 Montana workers, or 2.9 percent of the workforce, received hourly wages less than $8.05 an hour last year.

With the increase, workers with a 40-hour-per-week job earning minimum wage would make $6 more per week.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Secret Judicial Misconduct Proceedings Challenged
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A federal judge says a former Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate may talk about a complaint he filed against a Montana judge last year without fear of punishment.

The Montana Judicial Standards Commission forbids the public disclosure of complaints against judges unless the commission finds they have merit.

Dan Cox says that rule is an unconstitutional violation of his free-speech rights.

Cox filed a judicial misconduct complaint against District Judge Jeffrey Langton of Hamilton that was dismissed by the commission last year. The commission warned Cox not to disclose the complaint or he would be found in contempt.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sided with Cox's argument the confidentiality rule infringed on his speech. Christensen issued an injunction Tuesday that allows Cox to publish his complaint and the commission's dismissal letter.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Secret Judicial Misconduct Proceedings Challenged
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A federal judge says a former Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate may talk about a complaint he filed against a Montana judge last year without fear of punishment.

The Montana Judicial Standards Commission forbids the public disclosure of complaints against judges unless the commission finds they have merit.

Dan Cox says that rule is an unconstitutional violation of his free-speech rights.

Cox filed a judicial misconduct complaint against District Judge Jeffrey Langton of Hamilton that was dismissed by the commission last year. The commission warned Cox not to disclose the complaint or he would be found in contempt.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen sided with Cox's argument the confidentiality rule infringed on his speech. Christensen issued an injunction Tuesday that allows Cox to publish his complaint and the commission's dismissal letter.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Suspect in 1999 Montana Killing Pleads Not Guilty
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A Colorado man has pleaded not guilty to killing his wife 15 years ago in Montana.

The Clerk of District Court's office in Big Horn County, Montana, said Brian David Laird entered his plea Wednesday during a hearing before Judge Blair Jones.

Laird was returned to custody on a $500,000 bond. A trial date was set for next March.

Laird is charged with deliberate homicide in the July 31, 1999, death of 28-year-old Kathryn Laird.

They couple had been married less than six months when the victim's badly-bruised body was found floating in a bay below Yellowtail Dam.

Neighbors of the couple were apparently not questioned until the FBI interviewed them two years ago. They reported a bitter argument on the night of Kathryn Laird's death.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Tribal Convictions May Not Stand in Federal Court
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - An appeals court says federal prosecutors can't always use past tribal court convictions as proof of a defendant's criminal history.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that two federal counts of domestic assault by a habitual offender filed against Michael Bryant Jr. in 2011 must be dismissed.

The judges said Bryant was convicted in tribal court and served time in custody, but didn't have an attorney. The judges said those convictions would not be considered legal under the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees a defendant the right to an attorney.

The U.S. attorney's office in Montana argued that tribal courts aren't governed by the U.S. Constitution, and that Bryant's convictions were legal under tribal law. The 8th and 10th circuits have agreed with similar arguments.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Trucker Convicted, Didn't Stay at Scene of Crash
BIG TIMBER, Mont. (AP) - A truck driver has been convicted of failing to report a crash on Interstate 90 in south-central Montana where an 81-year-old Alaska man was killed.

Officials in Sweet Grass County say 45-year-old David Welk was convicted Wednesday. District Judge Katherine Bidegaray ordered a presentence investigation and did not set a sentencing date.

Elgie Bedford of Wasilla, Alaska, died early on Sept. 30, 2013. Investigators believe several vehicles ran over his body before officers discovered it at about 7:30 a.m.

Welk was arrested in Iowa on Jan. 23 after his co-driver reported that the truck hit something in Montana.

Defense attorneys argued investigators couldn't determine how many time Bedford was struck.

A Washington state woman who drove through the area is charged with leaving the scene and tampering with evidence. Her trial is set for November.
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2 Killed, 1 Injured in Crash Near Billings
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Authorities say two people were killed and another was injured in a single-vehicle rollover crash near Billings.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Justin Moran tells The Billings Gazette the driver of the SUV was trying to pass a tractor trailer about 15 miles east of Billings when the crash happened just before 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. The SUV drifted into the median and off the road before rolling.

All three people in the vehicle were ejected. Their names and ages have not been released, and it's unclear if alcohol played a role in the crash.

UPDATE: 3RD PERSON DIES

KULR-TV reports a man and a woman died at the scene. A third person died at a nearby hospital.

Yellowstone County Coroner Bill Jones says the victims were from Lodge Grass.

UPDATE: VICTIMS' AGES, HOMETOWN RELEASED

A 26-year-old woman and a 51-year-old man, both from Lodge Grass, died at the scene. A 42-year-old man died at the hospital.

Authorities are still trying to determine who was driviving.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Man Dies in Laurel Crash, SUV Hit Tree
LAUREL, Mont. (AP) - A man has died after the sport utility vehicle he was driving struck a tree in Laurel.

Laurel police say the collision happened at about 7 p.m. Monday.

The man died before he could be flown to a hospital. His name, age and hometown haven't been released.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

UPDATE: VICTIM IDENTIFIED

Yellowstone County officials have released the name of a 47-year-old man who died when his sport utility vehicle struck a tree in Laurel.

Coroner Lt. Bill Jones tells The Billings Gazette that David E. Plattner of Billings died in the crash at about 7 p.m. Monday.

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused Plattner to veer off the road. Jones says an autopsy did not uncover any medical reasons. It could be up to two months before toxicology results are available.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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* KPQX Regional News *
KPQX regional and state news emphasizes quality and substance. Audio is utilized to ensure accurate reporting - no misquotes or misinterpretations because listeners hear the actual quote and audio from the people and events making the news. You interpret this significance of the report yourself.

Our regional news brings relevance to issues of importance - news coverage that relates to residents of North Central Montana. Accurate, timely information delivered in a prompt and cohesive manner. Regional and state news are developed through a working relationship with other radio stations throughout the region and state of Montana.

Expanded hourly updates are delivered at the top of each hour at 6, 7, 8 and 9 a.m. and every afternoon at 4 and 5 p.m. Headline news, breaking stories and updates available all other hours. "Montana at Noon" is a more in-depth review of the news starting daily at 12:15 p.m. daily.

Residents of North Central Montana have long recognized the quality and timeliness of our newscasts. Additional recognition of our news at the national, regional and state level comes from the Associated Press, Society for Professional Journalists, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Radio and Television News Director Association's prestigious Edward R. Murrow award.
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