Author Archives: williamsimonsen

Mary’s Story

 
Mary’s Story 10/5/92
 
By William Simonsen
Kalispell, Mont. —  (Editor’s Note: The following are women’s stories, taken from investigative records filed in Flathead County. Experts say public awareness of these problems is needed to protect other children from being sexually molested.)
For Mary (not her real name), childhood holidays weren’t filled with hope, joy and innocence.
It was during holidays — Christmas, Thanksgiving and her birthdays — that she was most often targeted by her father for sexual molestation.
Thoughts of Thanksgiving, she said, filled her with dread.
She said her father forced her to pretend she was ill on Thanksgiving, and stay home alone with him. While the rest of the family went to a relative’s house for the traditional turkey feast, she was forced to engage in seven to eight hours of continuous sex acts.
“I hated Christmas and my birthday. He would make me have sex several times a day prior to these holidays because he said he bought me really nice things and I had to earn them,” she said.
Mom was no help.
Mary said her mother once discovered her naked in bed performing sex acts with her father. Her mother asked what was going on. Her father said he was helping the girl warm up because it was a cold night.
Her mother turned and walked out of the room, Mary said.
When the family traveled, her father made her ride in the car topless so he could fondle her as her drove, she said.
She was trained by her father to say “I’m your little whore. You can do anything to me,” while having sex with him, said Mary.
Other childhood memories Mary told investigators about:
Posing for photographs nude with her father; performing sex acts with her sister while her father photographed them with an instant camera; playing strip poker with him at an age when other girls played with dolls; and being forced to perform sex on him while he was driving the family car on vacation trips.
“I would disappear inside myself and pray to the Lord” while being forced to have sexual relations with her father, Mary said.
Two abortions and 15 years after the incest began, Mary moved out of the family home.
The father of the two aborted fetuses was her own father, she said.
Medical records show she was only 13 at the time of the first abortion, 17 at the time of the second.
The father of the girl, and of the growing fetus within her, wasn’t much comfort to her.
“I remember that my dad used to tell me that he wanted to drink my milk after I had children. After I had my abortions he would suck on my breasts extra long to try to make the milk start,” she said.
Mary said her brothers probably already knew what was going on between their father and sisters. She said her father would take all five children to X-rated movies at the drive-in.
He told lthe girls to pay close attention to what the women in the movies were doing. The movies would “show us what to do to him,” she said.
The woman said she shared a bedroom with her sister. On nights when she wasn’t being forced to have sex with her father, she said she could hear her father and sister having sex in the bed across the room.
There was never any respite from the constant unwanted attentions of her father.
When the family went to the her brother’s funeral in North Dakota, her father made her have sex with him several times per day. “I remember being extra upset because I felt like now my brother could look down on us and watch what was going on. It made me feel extra dirty,” she said.
Her father was a very religious church-going man. “I always thought church was a good cover-up for dad,” she said
When her marriage became troubled several years ago, Mary sought marriage counselling.
The memories came flooding back during her psychological therapy, the woman said.
Her sister is also currently in psychological therapy in an attempt to deal with her childhood sexual abuse.
The memories haunted her until she finally told authorities about the incidents.
When the abuse was reported, a tragic chain of events was unleashed which eventually led to arrest and suicide.
Her father was charged and arrested on a number of charges of sex crimes.
Her father was following a family pattern. Mary does not know how far back in family history the pattern of abuse stretches.
Her father came from a family of four brothers.
Three of the four brothers molested Mary and her sister.
One of the brothers who molsested Mary and her sister died several years ago.
Another of the brothers is currently serving a prison sentence for unnatural and perverted sexual practice in another state.
The third brother committed suicide rather than go to prison on similar charges.
The brothers molested each others daughters, the woman said.
The fourth brother would have nothing to do with the sexual abuse, Mary told authorities.
One of Mary’s brothers is currently facing charges on sex crimes against children.
The path of sexual abuse of children, and criminal behavior, has moved from generation to generation in her family.
The family history of child sexual abuse came to light when Mary and her sister found out their father’s new wife had a teenage daughter from a previous marriage, and was filing for custody. The daughters couldn’t live with the thought of another young girl being molested.
They told their father to either drop the custody action, or they would inform authorities of his actions.
He wouldn’t drop the action so the daughters went to the sheriff with their story.
Mary said she felt she had to come forward to keep another child from being molested, officials said.
Medical records of the abortions and photographs of the father nude with the children became part of the case against him.
The sheriff turned the case over to one of the detectives to investigate.
The detective said the biggest problem with the case was the length of time which had passed between the crimes and the reporting of the crimes.
Local authorities notified the FBI and attempted to get an federal investigation started suspecting violations of the Mann Act, which forbids the transportation of minors across state lines for sexual purposes.
Federal law was no use in the case because the statute of limitations has expired by the time the crimes were reported.
Eventually, Mary’s father was charged and arrested on a number of charges of sex crimes. 
Even after being charged by authorities, the pressure on Mary to keep quiet didn’t stop.
She received telephone calls from her mother and grandmotehr asking her to just let the case drop and not testify against her father. Mary even got telephone calls from him asking her not to testify against him.
But Mary remained firm in her belief that she was acting to save another young girl from enduring the torture she had known as a child. She stood by her accusations.
Her father pleaded guilty in exchange for a reduction of the charges against him even though it meant he might spend time in prison.
The story of Tanya (not her real name) starts when she was 7 years old in the mid-1980s.
She had recently moved to Kalispell with her family and was living in an apartment next to a single man who was in his mid-forties at the time.
Tanya and her sister went for long rides in the country with the neighbor. The man had a job that entailed driving long distances in the rural areas of the county. The girls were riding along with the man “to keep him company.”
Several years after the rides in the country, Tanya remembered what had happened and told her mother.
Her mother took her to Flathead County authorities who filed sexual assault charges against the man.
Tanya and her sister testified against the man at his preliminary hearing.
He pleaded guilty, so the girls did not have to testify again.
At the sentencing hearing for the man both Tanya and her sister testified they had been molested by the man.
He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
But Tanya’s story does not end there.
Two years after the trial, she was overcome by depression and committed sucide.
One of Tanya’s friends, Laurie (not her real name), claimed she was molested by her father when she was 9 years old, in the mid-1980s.
Sexual assault charges were filed against the father when Laurie was 12 years old.
Her father pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was released on his own recognizance while awaiting trial.
The jury found him not guilty after hearing Laurie’s testimony and the testimony of her mother. Her mother testified on behalf of her father at the trial.
Four years after the trial, she attempted suicide shortly after her friend Tanya.
Laurie was unsuccessful in her attempt and is currently receiving professional counseling.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
Mother Attempts To Burn Family 4/06
 
By William Simonsen
Sequim, Wash. — Charged with attempting to burn her two sons and her husband to death, Sheree Clemons appeared in District Court gagged and strapped to a chair. She did not respond to any to the judge’s questions.
She is currently back in jail awaiting her arraignment. 
Police reports allege she admitted setting fire to a room in the Sequim West where she was staying with her family.
She allegedly told officers she was trying to kill her husband Bryan Clemons, 26, and sons Shay Sullivan, 8, and Nathan Clemons, 2.
The family was staying at the motel after she had allegedly set their house on Bell Street on fire.
Clemons appeared to be semi-conscious while attorneys argued her future. The judge must now decide when, or if, she should have a mental evaluation,
Prosecutor Jill Landes argued for an immediate evaluation at a state hospital. Landes said Clemons “didn’t know who she was or where she was” shortly after her arrest.
Landes said, “We don’t know if (her condition) was the methamphetamine she was taking, or a nervous breakdown.”
But defense attorney Terry Mulligan argued that removing her from the Clallam County jail would interfere with his ability to prepare the case for trial.
“But we may want to do an evaluation later,” said Mulligan.
Judge Ken Williams said he was not ready to rule on the evaluation.
“She is in a safe place at this point,” he said..
Without a ruling, she was taken back to jail. She is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
It was her third appearance in court in five days.
No visitors, except her lawyers, are allowed to visit her in the jail.
The investigation of the house and motel fires that landed her in jail continues while she waits.
The motel fire was investigated immediately as a possible arson. Sequim Fire Department personnel initially said the Bell Street house fire was accidental, but were examining the house again.
Members of Clemons family claim she was never in legal trouble before. A search of legal cases in Clallam County yielded no previous record.
Her husband, Bryan Clemons, was arrested for alleged methamphetamine possession at the house on Bell Street the day before the first fire.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved. 
 

Elmer trail

Elmer trail 10/16/96
 
By William Simonsen
Condon, Mont. —  State foresters are attempting to take revenge on Bigfork Eagle political cartoonist Elmer Sprunger.
Officials from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation last week said they would not include Sprunger’s name on an educational nature trail in the Swan Valley.
Ted Giesey of the Kalispell DNRC office said Sprunger’s name was taken off the trail because, “Elmer had misrepresented state land management practices through his political cartoons.”
Due to Sprunger’s criticism Giesey said he and Swan River state forester Glen Gray decided that, “To put his name on a trail on Dept. of Natural Resources land was not acceptable.”
But other state officials disagree with Giesey.
Lt. Gov. Dennis Rehberg said, “They can’t do that,” when told that DNRC was attempting to punish Sprunger for his political comments. Rehberg said he would be calling DNRC Director Bud Clinch in an attempt to get the decision overturned.
State Sen. Larry Baer, R-Bigfork, wrote Clinch, “Not only does your behavior exhibit a political discriminatory mentality by a government agency, but it has a chilling effect upon Mr. Sprunger’s rights of free speech and expression.
“…I have seen DNRC abuse its discretion before, and I don’t like it,” he wrote.
Baer demanded DNRC apologize to “Mr. Sprunger and the people of Montana…”
Dale Burk of Stoneydale Press in Stevensville, publisher of Sprunger’s Book “The Eagle’s Eye”, wrote Gov. Marc Racicot and said, in part: “Giesy’s action is unconscionable and you, Governor, for whom Giesy works and who is ultimately responsible for this incredibily vindictive and punitive action by an aent of state governfment, should immediately ovverride and censure this stupid and outrageous action…”
The Eagle called Racicot’s office Friday and Tuesday, but received no response from the governor by press time.
Clinch, reached by telephone Tuesday, said he didn’t have enough information yet to “give you a position the dispute…As director of the department I will be reviewing the situation.”
Clinch said he was out of the office Friday and Monday and hadn’t had time to talk to the parties involved in the dispute, but planned to do so later this week.
The trail, commonly known as the Whitney-Sprunger Trail since it’s inception, is on land leased from DNRC by the conservation group Friends of the Wild Swan.
In addition to Sprunger it was to have been named after Bigfork area conservationist Jack Whitney.
Sprunger said he thought the cartoon DNRC found especially objectionable is a 1994 drawing of a logger holding a chainsaw standing in the midst of a field of stumps labeled “Montana School Trust Lands.” Another showed a logger dropping a few coins into the hands of a student and saying “Sorry kid — that’s it! That’s all you get — zilch — keput!”
Giesey said the state has final approval of the trail name under “a formal license agreement” between the state and Friends of the Wild Sway.
Giesey said he suggested a number of alternate names for the trial. He said the department preferred “one (name) from their side and one (name) from our side.”
He suggested naming the trail the Whitney-Moon trail after Whitney and former state forester Gareth Moon.
Giesey said he also suggested naming the trail after a geographic feature in the vicinity, or after Gov. Marc Racicot.
Giesey said the creation of the trail “has been a cooperative effort — I’m sure we’ll reach an agreement on a name.”
Giesey said although he would not approve the use of Sprunger’s name on the trail, he agreed to allow Sprunger to be mentioned in the brochure explaining the trail.
The trail, seven miles south of Swan Lake just off Montana 83, was scheduled for a formal opening Oct. 15 (yesterday). The opening ceremony was not held.
The trail was built through a stand of old growth timber near Point Pleasant by volunteers with help from the Montana Conservation Corps. Parts of the trail follow and ancient Salish tribal trail and the first wagon road down the Swan Valley, said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. 
Funding assistance for the trail construction came from the Foley-Frischkorn Wildlife and Conservation Fund, and the Montana Audubon Council, said Montgomery.
 

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Racism On The Reservation

Racism On The Reservation 4/10/06
 
by William Simonsen
Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation, Wash. — “Why don’t you guys want to be friends with us?
“Why don’t you want to share with us, when we gave you everything?
“We always welcomed people. I don’t think we ever turned anyone away,” said Janet Charles Francis, a tribal member.
Francis was speaking at a meeting of countywide Multi-Cultural Task Force called to address racism against Native Americans. The task force is an ad hoc committee created three years ago to address racial problems Coast Guard personnel encountered in Clallam County.
The meeting last week was held at the tribal center on the Lower Elwha Reservation. It was called when overt, organized signs of racism in the community surfaced after the state dry dock project on Ediz Hook was halted.
The project was located over a 2,700 year-old Klallam Village. The excavations were unearthing hundreds of tribal burials.
“I don’t think there is any time in history that a people have been asked to dig in the dirt with their hands for bits and pieces of their ancestors,” said tribal representative on the task Monica Charles.
She said the tribe called for work to stop at the construction site because it was “like an open wound for us.”
“That’s what the elders told us from the beginning, we shouldn’t dig up our ancestors,” she said.
Many speakers said racism in the area condoned continuing the excavation because the corpses unearthed were Native Americans.
But when the construction stopped, people in the county reacted with racially motivated anger thinking it hurt the local economy, several speakers said.
Tribal chairman Francis Charles said a backlash over the closing was most evident in some of the retail stores and schools in the county. 
“We don’t like to admit to it, but racism does take place in Port Angeles and Clallam County. We feel it.”
“We’ve been verbally attacked,” she said. “Pushing and shoving” confrontations have broken out over the closing.
About 100 tribal and community members attended the meeting.
She said tribal members are being hustled out of local stores so other customers don’t have the chance to confront them.
Jamie Valadez said there is racial profiling in stores in the area. She said children from the reservation are taught not to go into stores alone because they could so easily be accused of a crime.
Valadez said, “We are not here to tolerate each other, we should be here to celebrate each other.”
Alfred Charles Sr., a local businessman and tribal member said the government has always shut down any profitable enterprise owned by a Native American. “You can’t have Indians making money,” he said.
He said when the tribal remains were being exhumed, “I would lie awake at night, tossing and turning, thinking, ‘Why is this happening’.
“My grandparents could be buried there.”
He said the task force lacked representation of minorities. 
“I see one Indian. Where is the Negro, where is the Mexican, where are people who know something about racism?” he said.
Alfred Charles son, Lonnie Charles said he worked at the site for 15 months. He said the only way racism can be stopped is one family at a time.
“It all starts at the top and works its way down,” he said. “We are all able to stop it.”
Monica Charles said, “There has been public racism here since 1990.” She described her experiences in public schools in the county as institutional racism carried out by racist students and faculty.
Charles said she was the first Lower Elwha Klallam to graduate from college.
Her experiences in the public educational system were similar to those of Francis Charles.
Francis Charles said attended Peninsula College and WSU even though her high school counselor told her she was not “college material.”
She said the graves on the construction site were violated  in 1910, 1920, 1950, and again in 1950 before the current excavation.  She said, “Over 300 cedar boxes have stood looking for reburial” from the state dig.
“Let us dig up your family members then ask you, ‘Okay, now where do you want us to put them,'” she said.
Janet Charles Francis described her emotional turmoil from working at the site. She said every night she went home and “cried in front of my altar.”
Theresa Hammer said when the tribe was moved from the village on Ediz Hook, “All of the old ways were lost.”
“This is our last chance.
“This is one chance for people who have hurt us so much to help us get our culture back,” said Hammer.
The meeting, scheduled for two-hours, was extended to over three hours so more people would have an opportunity to speak.
Task force members said another meeting would be held on the reservation.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Left In The Trunk To Die

Left In The Trunk To Die 2/1/99
 
By William Simonsen
The Missoulian
Denver, Colo. — He told his victim he could kill her immediately, or leave her in the trunk of her car to die.
Laura DeVaan’s family said her life was forever changed the night she was brutally raped and left to die by Joshua Boll in the Echo Lake area.
DeVaan performed the final act of her dying when she shot herself to death Jan. 20 in a lonely apartment in suburban Denver.
A DeVaan family member (who did not want to be identified by name) said Laura DeVaan had heard a rumor that Boll was about to be released from prison.
She said that DeVaan had also become the subject of a smear campaign – with those spreading a rumor questioning the validity of the rape charge.
But court records leave no doubt.
Boll testified he asked DeVaan for a ride home from a Kalispell party the evening of Oct.  25, 1995. Boll then held a knife to her throat and forced her to drive to the Echo Lake area.
On the witness stand Boll admitted to brutally raping DeVaan multiple times before he tired of her and gave her a life or death choice. Boll told DeVaan he could kill her immediately, or leave her in the trunk of her car to die. DeVaan chose the latter. Boll then hog-tied her and locked her semi-naked in the trunk of her car in the middle of a Christmas tree field to die.
Somehow DeVaan managed to work free of the wires Boll used to tie her, then pry her way out of the trunk, and walk and crawl to a nearby store for help.
Six months after she married and moved to Bigfork, DeVaan found herself nearly dead, victimized and far from her South Dakota home.
Ironically, the rumor of Boll’s release was just another vicious rumor.
He is currently being held in the high security section of the new prison in Shelby. Boll will not become eligible for early release or parole until April 22, 2036.
Flathead County Attorney Tom Esch said he was impressed with DeVaan’s strength during Boll’s hearings. With an iron will she testified against him, describing the terrible things he had done to her. Unfortunately that iron will would contribute to her demise, said a relative.
Boll, 17 at the time of the attack, was unrepentant on the witness stand. But by then he was an experienced criminal and used to being in trouble with the law. Testimony at the sentencing hearing brought out a history of violent crime and anti-social behavior – some involving threatening people with guns – dating back several years.
After the criminal trial, DeVaan sued Flathead County and the state for dereliction of duty because Boll was allowed to remain at large rather than in a prison. She won the case and a moderate cash settlement.
But by last December the ongoing pain and suffering of her ordeal had begun to catch up with her, said a relative. “She had so much pain she couldn’t deal with it,” the relative said.
She said DeVaan was “so strong she couldn’t ask anyone for help” so her attempts to get counseling did not come to much.  “She fell through the cracks in the mental health system,” said the relative. “We knew she was going down hill, but there was nothing we could do to stop it.”
DeVaan and her husband began moving their things to the Denver suburb of Edgewater in mid-December. By the second week in January the move was completed – her husband was at his new job and she was trying to make a new life. She had no family or friends in Edgewater, but she also had no one to spread ugly rumors about her either.
None of her relatives, or the law enforcement officials who investigated the suicide knows why it happened when it did.  A relative said, “I think it all just caught up with her. The rape changed her forever. Before it happened she was very loving and very caring.
“Afterwards it hardened her. She was a completely different person.”
She was buried near her home town of Leola, in central South Dakota.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Woman Attacked At Youth Prison

Woman Attacked At Youth Prison 2/95
 
By William Simonsen
Condon, Mont. — Sunday evening a trusty who was serving time on a previous murder conviction attacked an employee at the Swan River minimum security prison severely injuring her.
Donna Weeks, 47, was severely beaten and strangled in the room in the administration building on the prison campus where she lived.
As of press time, Weeks had not regained consciousness and was listed in critical condition at Kalispell Regional Hospital.
Sally Johnson, deputy director of the state Department of Corrections and Human Services said Weeks was allegedly attacked in her quarters by Rodney Sattler, 27.
Sattler was serving a sentence of 55 years, with 25 years suspended, for a 1987 conviction on deliberate homicide charges, court records said.
Court records in Sanders County show Sattler pleaded guilty to strangling 25-year-old Diane Stout to death in Thompson Falls July 6, 1986.
During sentencing in 1987 District Judge C.B. McNeil designated Sattler a dangerous offender. The sentence included a provision placing Sattler under control of the court until he is 70 years of age.
Sattler was assigned to the minimum security facility in the Swan Valley in September, 1993.
Johnson said 10 trustys are currently assigned to the boot camp facility to do menial tasks like cooking and maintenance.
Currently 24 inmates are in the boot camp training program at the prison.
Twenty department employees oversee operations at the prison.
Lake County Sheriff Joe Geldrich said a call came into his office at 7:40 p.m. reporting the attack,
Geldrich said Weeks’ screams attracted the attention of another trusty who interrupted the beating, then notified prison authorities.
Officials said Sattler wrote obsenities on the walls of Weeks’ room with her blood during the attack.
Sattler then ran through the prison yard and across Montana 83 to Swan River State Forest headquarters, where he gave himself up, said Geldrich.
No security fence surrounds the minimum security facility.
Geldrich said Sattler was detained by state forest employee Glenn Gray until Missoula County Deputy Sheriff Bob Parcell arrived on the scene.
Sattler was taken into custody by Parcell and held until a Lake County deputy could travel to the scene.
He was transported to the Lake County Jail where he is being held without bond.
Sattler was charged with one count of attempted deliberate homicide Monday afternoon in Justice Court in Polson.
A preliminary hearing in the case was set for Feb. 9.
Lake County officials said attempted deliberate homicide carries the same maximum sentence as deliberate homicide — death, life in prison, or not less than 10 or more than 100 years in prison — if convicted.
Johnson said Sattler will probably be returned to Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge to await trial, rather than be held in the county jail.
She said Sattler will likely be housed in the maximum security unit at the prison.
She said Weeks was employed as a staff administrative assistant at the camp since 1987.
She said rooms are provided for temporary housing for employees in the administration building due to a chronic shortage of housing near the prison.
Weeks was living in one of the rooms in the administration building since “losing her house” shortly before Christmas, Johnson said.
She said Weeks was scheduled to move into a new house next week.
Johnson said Mike Ferriter, warden of community corrections for the department, traveled to the prison Monday morning to investigate the attack.
She said Ferriter was also directed to investigate security at the prison.
The Alert helicopter was dispatched to the scene from Kalispell but was turned back by icing conditions.
Condon QRU  members were the first medical personnel on the scene, where they were joined by members of the Bigfork QRU.
The Bigfork QRU ambulance transported Weeks to the helicopter where it waited in Swan Lake.
But medical personnel opted to transport Weeks to Kalispell Regional Hospital  by ground ambulance due to her unstable condition.
A press release from the department said trusties selected for support services at the prison are screened by an interview team of staff members.
“It is not contemplated that any other trusties will be returned to Montana State Prison,” the press release said.
The prison has housed a military-style boot camp since July, 1993.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.
 
 
Youth Prison Attack  Follow-up 3/8/95
 
By William Simonsen 
Condon, Mont. — The victim of a brutal attack by a trusty at the minimum security prison in the Swan Valley identified her attacker during questioning by investigators Monday.
Donna Weeks, who was attacked in her quarters at the prison was questioned in her hospital room by Lake County Attorney Kim Christopher and Sheriff Joe Geldrich.
It was the first time Weeks was able to make a statement to officials about the attack.
Rodney Sattler, a trusty at the prison near Condon, was charged with attempted deliberate homicide in connection with the Jan. 29 attack.
Sattler, 27, who was arrested the night of the attack is being held in the Lake County jail without bond. He pleaded not guilty to the charge at his arraignment Feb. 15.
Christopher said Weeks “has recovered sufficiently to provide details about Sattler’s attempt on her life.”
Weeks, 47, has been hospitalized since the attack.
Her neck was broken and she was severely beaten and strangled during the attack in the bathroom of her quarters in the administration building at the prison.
Because Weeks remained in a coma for about one month after the attack, officials speculated she suffered brain damage as a result of the attack because oxygen was cut off from her brain during the strangulation.
Tuesday Christopher said, “I have every expectation (Weeks) will recover satisfactorily.”
Christopher said she is confident Weeks will be able to testify against Sattler during a trial.
Christopher said her investigation will continue “as Weeks’ condition continues to improve.”
Weeks’ children want her moved to a rehabilitation facility in California. Christopher said the move would not hinder her prosecution of Sattler.
Allegations contained in court records said Weeks life was spared because the attack was interrupted by another trusty at the prison who heard her screams.
The official complaint against Sattler also alleges he fled the scene of the attack, running across the highway to state forest headquarters where he was arrested.
Sattler was moved to the Swan Valley prison and assigned to duty as a trusty in 1993 after serving about six years of a 55 year sentence at Montana State Prison for a previous murder.
Sattler pleaded guilty to strangling 25-year-old Diane Stout to death and abandoning her body near the railroad tracks in downtown Thompson Falls on July 6, 1986.
He was designated a dangerous offender by District Judge C.B. McNeil when sentenced in 1987.
McNeil is also assigned to preside in the Weeks case
Court records show a search warrant was issued to obtain head and pubic hair samples, and finger and palm prints from Sattler as part of the investigation.
Sattler allegedly wrote obscenities on the walls of the bathroom with Weeks’ blood during the attack.
The records also show the court has given permission for Sattler’s attorney, public defender Ben Anciaux, to hire a private investigator to conduct a separate investigation of the case.
An omnibus hearing in the case in scheduled for March 22.
If Sattler is convicted on the charge he could be sentenced to the death penalty, life in prison, or not less than 10 or more than 100 years in prison.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.
 
 Youth Prison Staffed With Murderers 4/5/96
 
By William Simonsen 
Condon, Mont. — Three trusties at the minimum security prison in the Swan Valley were in trouble with authorities before the Jan. 29 near-fatal beating of a prison employee by a fourth trusty.
Between September, 1993 and July, 1994 three administrative hearings were held for the trusties for infractions of rules while working as support personnel for the boot camp program based at the camp, said a letter from Rick Day, director of the Department of Corrections and Human Services.
Day’s letter was written to Lake County Attorney Kim Christopher in response to allegations made in a letter to her and Lake County Sheriff Joe Geldrich from Richard Syverson and Elton Brendsel, former employees at the Swan Valley prison.
Syverson and Brendsel alleged possible criminal acts dating back several years at the prison.
Christopher forwarded the letter from Syverson and Brendsel to John Connor, assistant state attorney general.
Ward McKay of the state Criminal Investigation Bureau investigated the allegations but found them to be personnel matters, said a letter from Connor to Day.
After the attack on employee Donna Weeks, it was discovered that nine of the 10 trusties at the camp were convicted of killing.
Two of the trusties killed infants.
Five killed women.
Day said the first incident involving a trusty at the camp occurred shortly after the boot camp program was initiated.
On Sept. 21, 1993, trusty Ernest Beavers “left his assigned duties in the lodge and was located in the car port area adjacent to the lodge,” wrote Day.
Beavers returned to his assigned duty “within minutes of his departure…” said the letter.
The next day Beavers “pleaded guilty to a charge of being in an unauthorized area,” wrote Day.
Beavers signed a “waiver of due process” and was returned to Montana State Prison.
On May 17, 1994, trusty William Sigler, 34, who was serving time for murdering an infant boy in 1982, “was issued a major misconduct violation” for allegedly being in an unauthorized area and conduct which disrupts, wrote Day.
Sigler was found not guilty of the violation because the area in question was not clearly marked and identified in prison policy, he wrote.
The hearing panel recommended a change in prison policy.
Sigler reportedly helped in first aid efforts to revive Weeks after the attack in January.
The third incident involving a trusty at the prison occurred on July 7, 1994, six months before Weeks’ beating.
Trusty Mark DeMeres was issued a major misconduct violation “for walking in an unauthorized area” on the prison property.
He was returned to Montana State Prison on July 18.
He was found guilty of the violation on July 22 and ws kept at the prison, wrote Day.
Last month Weeks identified her attacker as trusty Rodney Sattler who was charged with attempted deliberate homicide.
Sattler, 27, was arrested the night of the attack. He  is being held in the Lake County jail without bond. He pleaded not guilty to the charge at his arraignment Feb. 15.
Weeks, 47, was in a coma for several weeks after the attack. She is currently at a specialized rehabilitation center in California.
Her neck was broken and she was severely beaten and strangled during the attack in the bathroom of her quarters in the administration building at the prison.
Sattler was moved to the Swan Valley prison and assigned to duty as a trusty in 1993 after serving about six years of a 55 year sentence at Montana State Prison for a previous murder.
Sattler pleaded guilty to strangling 25-year-old Diane Stout to death and abandoning her body near the railroad tracks in downtown Thompson Falls on July 6, 1986.
He was designated a dangerous offender by District Judge C.B. McNeil when sentenced in 1987.
Concerning trusties, Day wrote, “During the investigation if the facts suport a criminal charge of escape, the department refers the case for prosecution.
“In our opinion, these infractions were more appropriate for administrative action.”
Day wrote that “approximately one year ago the department toughened its administrative reactioin to escape. In addition to criminal prosecutio, we now rescind all accumulated good time and upon return to the prison, the inmate goes to the maximum security unit.”
Accumulated good time for inmates is used in determining when they are eligible for parole.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Arrest In Christmas Night Murder

Arrest In Christmas Night Murder 5/20/98
By William Simonsen
 
Bigfork, Mont. — Two Bigfork area brothers were arrested Monday afternoon and charged with the Christmas night murder of Bigfork businessman Larry Streeter.
Ted Ernst, a computer technician and wheelchair athlete, was arrested along with his brother, Jesse. Both face felony charges of burglary and deliberate homicide.
Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont said detectives picked up Jesse, 18, for questioning after receiving a tip. When Jesse was taken into custody at the home of his parents, he was wearing boots whose soles allegedly matched plaster cast impressions made at the murder scene, the sheriff said. He was formally arrested after questioning.
Detectives then obtained a warrant for Ted’s arrest. He was taken into custody Monday afternoon in Bigfork by sheriff’s deputies. Ted was also arrested after questioning by detectives. Dupont said the snow tires on Ted’s car allegedly matched plaster casts of tire treads from the crime scene.
Both the Ernst brothers were being held Monday night in the Flathead County jail.  Bond was set at $750,000 each.
Flathead County Attorney Tom Esch said both brothers were charged with the crimes, due to the way state law is written.
“If while committing a felony somebody dies, then it is a felony murder charge for all involved with the initial felony. It doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger, all are culpable,” he said.
Streeter, 51, was slain late last Dec. 25 or early Dec. 26 after something prompted him to check a neighbor’s home while he was returning from work at a Columbia Falls motel he owned.
Authorities had believed he interrupted a burglary in progress at the home. 
Dupont said Streeter apparently caught the brothers red-handed when he stopped to check on the house of his neighbor, John Bradshaw, a famous psychologist from Houston, Texas, who was out of the area at the time.
Streeter’s family became concerned and mounted a late-night search when he did not return home from his Columbia Falls business. His body was discovered very early the next morning by a son-in-law.
Streeter had built Bradshaw’s house and acted as informal caretaker while Bradshaw was out of town. Bradshaw later offered a $10,000 reward for information on the murder.
Streeter was shot several times execution style from close range, according to Dupont.
The motive was burglary, “just like we thought all along,” the sheriff said on Monday.
Guards were posted on the Ernst house and at least one storage unit in the Bigfork area Monday night while sheriff’s officers obtained search warrants.
Early in the investigation, sheriff’s detectives had said the burglary of Bradshaw’s home could be linked to other burglaries in the area.
Neither brother had any previous criminal history, authorities said.
Jesse was home schooled and did not attend Bigfork schools.
Ted, 20, has been confined to a wheelchair since he fell some 60 feet from a tree in a tragic childhood accident.
He began wheelchair racing about eight years ago. Ted training in his custom-made racing wheelchair was a common sight on the highways in the Bigfork area.
He had competed for eight years in Wheelchair Championships, and he went to Phoenix, Ariz., last summer for the Junior Nationals Wheelchair Championships, returning with three gold medals, four silvers and one bronze.
He had planned to train for the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia.
A computer expert, Ted worked for the International News Network, an Internet service provider for newspapers located in Bigfork. Co-workers expressed shock and disbelief and said they didn’t even realize Ernst had been arrested on Monday.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.
 
Sentenced For Murder 2/10/99
By William Simonsen
 
Bigfork, Mont. — Testimony about guns, thrills and bloody corpses came alive in the courtroom last Thursday evening, 14 months after the Christmas Night 1997 crime.
During a long and nightmarish afternoon for the families of both the murder victim and his murderers — many questions about the death of Larry Streeter were answered. Streeter was discovered shot to death in the driveway of his neighbor’s home. He was caretaking the place while its owners were out of town for the holidays.
Because murderers Ted and Jesse Ernst confessed to the crime and pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide charges, no trial was held. So evidence that would normally have been brought out was not introduced until Thursday’s sentencing hearing.
The level of planning for the crimes done by Ted and Jesse Ernst became apparent for the first time. It was revealed that while the brothers were enjoying Christmas Night dinner with their family, Ted Ernst’s car sat in his parents driveway loaded with five guns, sophisticated radio communication gear, laser lights and other burglary tools — carefully prepared for the evening’s crime.
Large color photographs brought into evidence by his widow Serena, showed Larry Streeter’s shot-to-pieces corpse crumpled on the snow in the driveway of neighbor’s house.
“This is the way my husband looked the last time I saw him and held his head in my lap,” Serena Streeter told the court. Larry Streeter was shot in the chest six times from close range with a .22 caliber pistol. Then as he lay squirming on the snow in his death throes, Ted Ernst executed him with one final shot from a .357 caliber pistol.
After bringing the photographs to the court’s attention, Serena played a recording of Larry Streeter’s voice — his Christmas greeting from a telephone answering machine.
Both Serena Streeter and her daughter, Teresa Streeter Little, told District Judge Ted Lympus about the terrible effects Larry Streeter’s death had wrought on their family.
Serena Streeter said because Larry had several business deals pending, which he was unable to consummate due to his untimely death, facts corroborated by Probate Court records of his estate. Consequently she lost the family home, her car and is currently living in rooms at the Super 8 motel in Columbia Heights — one of the family’s few remaining assets. She said all of the family’s possessions — and all of the memories linked to those possessions — are scattered all over the valley in storage units. Ironically, some of the Ernst brothers first burglaries were from storage units.
Ted and Jesse Ernst’s father Ed Ernst was called upon to testify for both of his sons — guilty of the same crime — on the same afternoon. Ted Ernst sat emotionless in his wheelchair and his brother Jesse sat staring tearfully at the floor while their father testified and begged the judge for mercy during Ted’s portion of the sentencing. Ed Ernst claimed his son Ted was a deeply religious boy who had overcome huge obstacles with his faith in God. Ed Ernst claimed Ted lost his faith and fell into sin dragging his younger brother with him. He told the court he still loves Ted in spite of what he has done. Ed Ernst — an assistant pastor at a Bigfork church — described Ted’s troubled childhood, especially his adjustment to being a paraplegic after falling from a tree. He said Ted responded to the tragedy by taking up the challenge and becoming a nationally-ranked wheelchair racer. Ed Ernst described his efforts to help in his son’s rehabilitation by running alongside Ted as he trained in his wheelchair on local roads.
Ted had adjustment problems in school Ed Ernst said, especially after his accident. Ed said that due to Ted’s injuries, it was necessary for him to wear diapers. “And he smelled bad.”
Ed Ernst also related two stories indicative of the family life of the adolescent future murderer. Ed said during a trip to Miami he and Ted spent time examining the sins of the people in the big city around them, then reading from the Bible.
The second story was about a much older Ted who had moved out of the family home into his own townhouse apartment. Ed Ernst said during one vision to the apartment he saw video tape movies and music CDs he did not approve. Ed said he informed his son that his younger sister would not be allowed to visit the apartment until the offensive material was removed.
Ted Ernst read a short statement apologizing to the Streeter family — he had previously written a letter to Serena Streeter — a letter she described as self-serving.
In his statement to the court Ted Ernst said, “Please don’t punish my brother for something I did.”
In his closing statement Esch described Larry Streeter as “an innocent victim doing a good deed” and asked the judge to give him a 100-year sentence.
Lympus obliged, and added a caveat that he not be paroled before serving the entire sentence. (See related story)
The next portion of the hearing took up the sentencing of Jesse Ernst. His attorney, David Ortley, attempted to portray Jesse as a guilt-ridden, not-too-bright victim of his manipulative brother. Jesse Ernst has blamed himself for the past decade for the crippling fall his brother took from the top of a tree where both were playing. The brothers were high in the tree breaking off branches to build a tree fort when Ted fell to the ground, his back broken, paralyzed from the waist down.
Since the accident Jesse has always tried to serve Ted by doing whatever Ted wanted him to do said Ortley. He painted a picture of a Jesse dependent on his brother for happiness — and a picture of Ted as a manipulative brother perfectly willing to withhold  his caring if Jesse did not carry out his wishes.
Ed Ernst described Jesse as having a severe learning disability, but the more religious of the two boys. Because Jesse was slow at his studies and teased by his fellow students, his parents pulled him out of public school to teach him in a home school setting.
Although Jesse claimed to be an unwilling participant in the killing of Larry Streeter, he rolled Streeter’s body around to take his wallet, then returned to the crime scene twice that night.
After the brothers left Streeter dead on the snow-covered driveway, Ted Ernst realized he had left his wallet behind in the possession of Larry Streeter. Streeter asked for Ernst identification when he stumbled on the crime in progress.
Then, wearing Ted’s shoes, Jesse returned a second time to the crime scene to gather potentially incriminating evidence. The second set of footprints led detectives to look for a team of burglars, not one  burglar in a wheelchair with an assistant.
Lympus said it was difficult for Jesse to claim a lessened responsibility for the murder because he carried a .357 magnum pistol in a shoulder holster.
Jesse Ernst was sentenced to 100 years in prison, but in his sentence, Lympus did not forbid parole.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Five killed in New Years Eve Avalanche

Five killed in New Years Eve Avalanche  1/1/95

By William Simonsen

Bigfork, Mont. — Five people died after noon Friday when an avalanche hit a party of snowmobilers about 10 miles northeast of Bigfork. Two snowmobile riders were also injured by the avalanche.

“I never saw nothing until that big wall of snow,” said Jim Pierce of Bigfork, who was riding his snowmobile at the front of the group.

“I went first. I turned around and looked and saw all this snow coming down the mountain,” said Pierce.

“I yelled at everybody and the went back across the top of the avalanche and there was no one there,” he said.

The first few snowmobiles in the group were the ones who made it out.

Killed in the avalanche  were Pat Buls, 46, Kalispell; Kendall Smith, 41, Hill Spring, Alberta; Miles Merrill, 7, Cardston, Alberta; and Bart Nelson, 35, and Gordon Sherman, 46, both of Jefferson, Alberta, said Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont. The two injured were Jamie Merrill and Sandra Sherman, both of Cardston.

Sandra Sherman was rescued after being buried to her waist in the snow, she had several broken ribs, but was otherwise unhurt, said Dupont.

ˇShe was stopped on her snowmobile only about three feet from her husband when the avalanche hit the group.

Gordon Sherman, was found dead about 4 p.m. several hundred feet downslope from the area where she was found. Efforts to revive him failed.

Jamie Merrill was found by searchers using probe poles after being buried for about two hours. Dupont said Jamie Merrill was able to survive so long buried in the snow because he was trapped between two snowmobiles which created an airspace allowing him to breathe. He was buried under about three feet of snow. He was treated for hypothermia by rescue personnel and remained at the scene throughout the night to help search for his son, Miles. Miles Merrill was standing next to his father when the avalanche hit. His body was not found for almost 24 hours after he was trapped under the snow. Miles Merrill’s mother was at the family home in Cardston at the time of the avalanche. Dupont said he was buried under twelve feet of snow about 30 feet away from his father.

Buls was a fireman with the Kalispell Fire Dept.

Gordon Sherman and Smith were ranchers. Nelson ran a salt business in his hometown.

Larry Brazda of Kalispell, said he and several others had joined Pierce’s party of snowmobilers, making a total of 14 people in the group.

Dupont said there were 13 snowmobiles in the group.

Brazda said he was the first person over a ridge after they stopped for a break. Brazda said the group had been riding in the area where the avalanche occurred, in one to two feet of new snow, for several hours before the tragedy struck. Advisories issued for Friday said avalanche danger was moderate in the area, said Dupont.

Brazda said the snow showed no signs of the imminent danger that was present.

Pierce said he has ridden in the area for years and had never seen an avalanche where the party was struck.

Some of the riders in the ill-fated group with larger, more powerful machines had been taking turns breaking a trail over the top of a ridge shortly before the snow broke loose, said Brazda. He said the avalanche covered an area about 75 feet wide and 400-500 feet long. Avalanches can move at speeds of up to 200 mph.

Brazda said he and several other members of the party immediately tried to rescue those trapped in the snow. But because the snow was so deep and packed so hard by the avalanche they had no luck with their attempted rescues. Brazda said he dug in the snow with his bare hands to uncover one snowmobile, but could not find it’s rider.

Brazda said he and Pierce then rode down the mountain to Pierce’s truck, then used his cellular phone to call for help. Brazda said he and others in the party broke branches off nearby tress and attempted to probe in the snow for the others, but the snow was too deep and they couldn’t find branches long enough to reach through it

Dupont later said the digging through the snow was like “shoveling wet concrete.”

The call from Pierce came into the Flathead County Sheriffs Office at 12:52 p.m.

Initial reports to the search crews said eight people were feared buried in the avalanche.

The sheriff’s office immediately dispatched members and equipment from  Bigfork QRU, East Valley QRU, Creston Fire Dept., Flathead Search and Rescue, and the ALERT helicopter to the scene.

The biggest problem encountered by rescuers was simply getting personnel to the site of the avalanche, said Dupont. The snowmobilers were buried at an elevation of 5,600 feet about five miles off the nearest plowed road. A command post was set up at the intersection of Peters Ridge Road and Foothills Road. A county road department snow plow was sent to Peters Ridge Road. It cleared more than two miles of road so Flathead Search and Rescue, Bigfork QRU and other four wheel drive vehicles could get to an upper staging area at the end of the road. Snow was several feet deep at the staging area. From the staging area, searchers were ferried to the site of the avalanche by snowmobiles, or walked.

Undersheriff Chuck Curry said it took searchers about one hour to get from the staging area to the scene of the avalanche. Searchers used long metal poles to probe the avalanche area in a grid pattern. Metal detectors were also used during the search.

Pierce said two of the people buried in the avalanche had “peepers”, small radio transmitters designed to help searchers locate people buried in the snow. But one of the units was left in the car by its owner, and the other unit was turned off when the avalanche hit, he said.

During the afternoon other volunteer groups were called to the scene to help in the search and rescue operation. Trained dogs were brought into the search – two from the Kalispell Police Dept. and one from a private citizen.

Two Kalispell Ambulance units stood by at the command post to ferry victims to area hospitals.

The Nordic Ski Patrol, South Kalispell Fire Dept. and North Valley Search and Rescue also joined in the rescue effort.

A private helicopter also joined the rescue party, but was unable to help ferry rescuers to the site due to inclement weather conditions.

By mid-afternoon, more than 100 people had joined the search. As temperatures dropped Friday afternoon, the site of the avalanche was “in a cloud,” said Dupont. He said the weather conditions hampered the rescue of the remaining victims.

At 4:45 p.m., while Sandra Sherman was being transported down the mountain, Dupont said three additional people had been found and CPR was being administered to them.

By 10 p.m. another body had been found by rescuers. All of the victims found Friday were found by searchers using probe poles.

Dupont said four of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene at 1:49 a.m. Saturday.

Dupont temporarily called off the rescue at 4 a.m. Saturday without having found Miles Merrill.

Dupont said he asked for assistance from search and rescue teams in Missoula, Lincoln and Lake counties in the early hours of Saturday morning because the local rescue teams were worn out. He also asked for assistance from the Swan Search and Rescue team.

Searchers were back on the scene as soon as it got light.  Heavy snow fell and weather conditions deteriorated Saturday morning. Dupont said 14 inches of new snow fell at the site from 8 a.m. to noon when he met with two avalanche experts from the U.S. Forest Service who advised him conditions were becoming hazardous to the searchers. He stopped the search at 1 p.m.. Minutes before the end, the body of Miles Merrill was found by searchers. His body was found under about 12 feet of snow in an area previously probed by searchers. A trained dog from the Missoula County Search and Rescue team kept returning again and again to the area above the boy. Dupont said one of the probe poles had passed within inches of the boy, apparantly providing enough scent for the dog to pinpoint the area. Miles Merrill’s body was dug out of the snow and he was rpomounced dead at 1:56 p.m. Dupont said searchers were relieved that the family could take the boy’s body home with them. He said all six of the snowmobiles had been recovered from the scene by Monday morning.

About one hour after the avalanche on Peters Ridge was reported, a report was made to the sheriffs office of a snowmobiler buried in an avalanche in the Lost Johnny area of the South Fork drainage, just over the ridge from Peters Ridge. Glen Flaget, 32, Kalispell, was hit by an avalanche, but managed to free one arm and raise it above the snow. His companions dug him out within about 30 minutes. Flaget said he suffered only bruises from the experience.

The tragedy on Peters Ridge is the worst avalanche related accident in Northwest Montana since Dec. 1969 when five mountain climbers were killed during a winter ascent of Mt. Cleveland in Glacier National Park, said Steve Frye, chief park ranger. James Anderson, 18, Bigfork, was one of the victims in the Mt. Cleveland avalanche.

 

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

 

Unauthorized Trails Cause Avalanche Deaths 1/19/96

By William Simonsen

Bigfork, Mont. — An unauthorized system of trails leading into the Peters Ridge and  Krause Basin areas where an avalanche killed five people New Years Eve, was reported to Forest Service employees more than one year ago, said a representative of the Montana Wilderness Association. The Forest Service is currently conducting an investigation of the avalanche and the trails which led snowmobile riders into danger.

Steve Thompson, Kalispell field representative for MWA said Friday that members of his organization gave photographs of unauthorized trails Iin the area of the avalanche to Forest Service employees late last summer. He said concerned members discovered a blazed and cleared trail system on Peters Ridge and in Krause Basin and photographed damage done by motorcycles and other off-road vehicles in the area.

ˇReports about the unauthorized trails were made to the Forest Service more than one year ago, he said.

Thompson said he never got any response from the Forest Service.

Chuck Harris, Bigfork district ranger for the Flathead National Forest, said the trail construction in the area was never authorized by the Forest Service.

“We would not have put a trail into an avalanche area,” said Harris.

“The (unauthorized) trails lead people into an unsafe area,” he said.

A permit is required to build a trail on its lands, he said. No permit was issued.

“To go build a trail (without a permit) is illegal,” he said. But the entire area around Peters Ridge and Krause Basin is laced with old skid roads and trails, said Harris. The blazes on trees marking the trails were not made by the Forest Service, he said.

Harris said fallen trees and brush were removed when the unauthorized trail was cleared, but that no grading of the ground was done. An investigation of the fatalities was started immediately after the accident. Under Forest Service policy, a routine investigation is conducted whenever a fatal accident occurs on its land. When the blazes were discovered the investigation was expanded to cover the construction of the unauthorized trail, Harris said.

Results of the investigation will be available in about two weeks.

Harris said he suspects that the blazes were made by off-road vehicle riders who use the area. He said the same people probably cleared trees and brush from the trails to provide better access for their vehicles. Harris said Forest Service employees made an initial investigation of the report from MWA last summer which found some damage caused by motorcycles riding around snow banks during the summer. But there was no way to determine exactly when the tracks were made, he said.

The entire area, not just the trails, is closed to motor vehicle use for two periods each year. Harris said under a 1988 Forest Service decision the area is closed between April 1 and July 1 because it is prime spring grizzly bear habitat. It is closed again from Sept. 1 until Nov. 30 to protect big game animals.

The remainder of the year the area is open to motor vehicle use. The trails leading to the avalanche area are inside the closure area, he said. Keith Hammer of Swan View Coalition, another conservation organization, said there are two separate issues at stake when unauthorized trails are allowed on public land. One is the issue of public safety. He said Forest Service regulations do not allow trails to be built in unsafe areas. The second issue is that of unauthorized trails.

Thompson said the Forest Service needs to take strong action against people who build unauthorized trails or violate trail closures. “The Forest Service has always winked and nodded at these things (unauthorized trails),” he said.

“This is serious. This led to five people’s deaths.” He said the photographs showed evidence of “rogue off-road vehicle riders turning alpine meadows into a motocross track.”

Motocross races were held in the area during the 1970s and some new trails were cut at that time, Harris said.

Hammer said he was told about the blazes on trees and the unauthorized trail by a Forest Service employee more than one year ago.

Thompson said a proposal to use the basin as an off-road vehicle area was made by some local groups last week.

The Krause Basin and Peters Ridge areas were included in the proposed Jewel Basin Wilderness Area as part of the Montana wilderness bill which was introduced in Congress last year. Thompson said he wrote Rep. Pat Wiliiams, D-Mont., last fall to warn him of the incursion by off-road vehicle users into the wilderness. A group of local snowmobile clubs, Montanans for Multiple Use and groups of off-road motorcycle riders proposed last week that the area be removed from the list of proposed wilderness areas. The groups wrote Williams and asked him to sponsor the change for the area. They suggested that the recreation area be named after Pat Buls of Kalispell, who was killed in the New Years Eve avalanche.

Thompson said he feels the request by the groups is “inappropriate.”

He said, “We deeply regret that Montanans for Multiple Use is trying to use this tragedy for political gain.”

But Harris said if the classification of the area is changed to a recreation area, the current motor vehicle closures will still be in effect. If it becomes designated as wilderness area, motor vehicles would be ­prohibited completely.

Harris said the Forest Service is reluctant to close areas due to the possibility of avalanches. “If we close one then we start the perception that we are looking out for avalanches. If we miss one then our liability is increased.”

“If people find their way in there, then they are accepting the risk of their sport.”

 

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Deputy’s Suicide

Deputy Kills Self Before Sentencing 5/26/93

By William Simonsen

Annapolis, Md. — Former Flathead County deputy sheriff Ed Marriott shot and killed himself Tuesday just hours before he was to be sentenced on incest charges.

Marriott, 50, of Bigfork, was due in court in at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to be sentenced for sex crimes. He faced a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Marriott walked into the bathroom in the emergency room of the North Arundel Hospital in Annapolis, Md., at 8:50 a.m., eastern time, and shot himself once in the heart with a .38-caliber pistol, said Det. Sgt. Bob Jashik of the Anne Arundel County Police.

Jashik said Marriott died immediately from the wound.

“He made statements to several people that he wouldn’t go to jail. Apparently he was right,” said Jashik.

Jashik said Marriott stopped at a gas station about two blocks from the hospital about 7 a.m. Jashik said Marriott gave the attendant at the station a letter addressed to Circuit Court Judge Raymond Thieme who was assigned to sentence him. Contents of the letter weren’t immediately disclosed.

Marriott feigned an inability to speak while at the gas station, said Jashik.

Jashik said that Marriott’s whereabouts between his stop at the gas station until he went to the hospital are unknown.

Florence Steffin, spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County, said authorities did not know where Marriott got the weapon he used to shoot himself.

Steffin said the department would not release the contents of the note to Thieme because it is part of an ongoing police investigation. She said authorities may decide to release the note when the investigation is complete.

Steffin said no formal inquest is planned in the death because foul play is not suspected.

Marriott was staying with his with his mother, Eve Ruth, in Glen Burnie, Md., while awaiting sentencing.

Marriott entered an Alford plea — in effect, a guilty plea —  April 6 to one count of unnatural and perverted sexual practice for each of two victims in Thieme’s court.

Last week his attorney, Gary Mandel, said Marriott had completed a psychological evaluation required by the judge before sentencing. Mandel said the evaluation was done by state psychologists.

Mandel’s office said he was enroute to Annapolis when an Eagle reporter attempted to reach him for comment Tuesday morning.

Marriott was arrested by at his home in Ferndale last Oct. 15 after a six-hour standoff with Flathead County Sheriffs officers during which he threatened to shoot himself. He had earlier been hospitalized after threatening to commit suicide.

He was arrested on a warrant from Maryland.

Maryland authorities said the arrest followed investigations in Montana, Maryland, Pennsylvania abd Mississippi.

Marriott was charged in a 24-count indictment handed down by a Maryland grand jury in December. The crimes in the indicment allegedly occurred in Glen Burnie, Md., prior to 1980.

The charges ranged from rape to incest. He could have been sentenced to two life sentences and up to an additional 200 years in prison if he had been found guilty on all the charges.

Marriott and his attorney reached a plea bargain agreement with the prosecutor in the case in early April.

April 6 he entered an Alford plea — tantamount to an admission of guilt — to one count of unnatural and perverted sexual practice for each of the two victims listed in the indictment, in exchange for the remainder of the charges being dropped.

Cynthia Ferris, a prosecutor with the State’s Attorney in Anne Arundel County, Md. said no bargain was reached concerning the length of the sentence to be given to Marriott.

Ferris said Marriott admitted to the abuse of his daughters in Montana, Alaska, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. She said Marriott denied the allegations of crimes in Maryland.

Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont said his office received a call from Marriott’s wife, Tammy, early Tuesday morning. Dupont said she blamed him and other deputies for Marriott’s suicide. “But she was hysterical,” Dupont said.

Monday, Ed Marriott’s brother Norman, 52, was sentenced on one count of unnatural and perverted sexual practice for each of two victims.

Norman Marriott was given a four-year jail sentence with all but two years suspended, said Cindy Haworth, a victim’s advocate with the State’s Attorneys Office in Anne Arundel County, Md.

Haworth said Norman Marriott was sentenced to spend one year in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, then a second year under house arrest.

Haworth said he will be required to complete five years of supervised probation after he completes the house arrest portion of his sentence.

Norman Marriott was arrested in late October at his home in Pennsylvania and charged with a 24-count grand jury indictment.

Norman also pleaded guilty to reduced charges in early April.

Marriott took a disability retirement from the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department in September after suffering a back injury when he fell off a horse. He was a deputy in Flathead County for 11 years. He was a law enforcement officer in North Dakota before moving to Montana.

Tammy Marriott told the Eagle that funeral services were incomplete, but will be held in Maryland.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Mary’s Story 10/5/92

By William Simonsen

Kalispell, Mont. —  (Editor’s Note: The following are women’s stories, taken from investigative records filed in Flathead County. Experts say public awareness of these problems is needed to protect other children from being sexually molested.)

For Mary (not her real name), childhood holidays weren’t filled with hope, joy and innocence.

It was during holidays — Christmas, Thanksgiving and her birthdays — that she was most often targeted by her father for sexual molestation.

Thoughts of Thanksgiving, she said, filled her with dread.

She said her father forced her to pretend she was ill on Thanksgiving, and stay home alone with him. While the rest of the family went to a relative’s house for the traditional turkey feast, she was forced to engage in seven to eight hours of continuous sex acts.

“I hated Christmas and my birthday. He would make me have sex several times a day prior to these holidays because he said he bought me really nice things and I had to earn them,” she said.

Mom was no help.

Mary said her mother once discovered her naked in bed performing sex acts with her father. Her mother asked what was going on. Her father said he was helping the girl warm up because it was a cold night.

Her mother turned and walked out of the room, Mary said.

When the family traveled, her father made her ride in the car topless so he could fondle her as her drove, she said.

She was trained by her father to say “I’m your little whore. You can do anything to me,” while having sex with him, said Mary.

Other childhood memories Mary told investigators about:

Posing for photographs nude with her father; performing sex acts with her sister while her father photographed them with an instant camera; playing strip poker with him at an age when other girls played with dolls; and being forced to perform sex on him while he was driving the family car on vacation trips.

“I would disappear inside myself and pray to the Lord” while being forced to have sexual relations with her father, Mary said.

Two abortions and 15 years after the incest began, Mary moved out of the family home.

The father of the two aborted fetuses was her own father, she said.

Medical records show she was only 13 at the time of the first abortion, 17 at the time of the second.

The father of the girl, and of the growing fetus within her, wasn’t much comfort to her.

“I remember that my dad used to tell me that he wanted to drink my milk after I had children. After I had my abortions he would suck on my breasts extra long to try to make the milk start,” she said.

Mary said her brothers probably already knew what was going on between their father and sisters. She said her father would take all five children to X-rated movies at the drive-in.

He told lthe girls to pay close attention to what the women in the movies were doing. The movies would “show us what to do to him,” she said.

The woman said she shared a bedroom with her sister. On nights when she wasn’t being forced to have sex with her father, she said she could hear her father and sister having sex in the bed across the room.

There was never any respite from the constant unwanted attentions of her father.

When the family went to the her brother’s funeral in North Dakota, her father made her have sex with him several times per day. “I remember being extra upset because I felt like now my brother could look down on us and watch what was going on. It made me feel extra dirty,” she said.

Her father was a very religious church-going man. “I always thought church was a good cover-up for dad,” she said

When her marriage became troubled several years ago, Mary sought marriage counselling.

The memories came flooding back during her psychological therapy, the woman said.

Her sister is also currently in psychological therapy in an attempt to deal with her childhood sexual abuse.

The memories haunted her until she finally told authorities about the incidents.

When the abuse was reported, a tragic chain of events was unleashed which eventually led to arrest and suicide.

Her father was charged and arrested on a number of charges of sex crimes.

Her father was following a family pattern. Mary does not know how far back in family history the pattern of abuse stretches.

Her father came from a family of four brothers.

Three of the four brothers molested Mary and her sister.

One of the brothers who molsested Mary and her sister died several years ago.

Another of the brothers is currently serving a prison sentence for unnatural and perverted sexual practice in another state.

The third brother committed suicide rather than go to prison on similar charges.

The brothers molested each others daughters, the woman said.

The fourth brother would have nothing to do with the sexual abuse, Mary told authorities.

One of Mary’s brothers is currently facing charges on sex crimes against children.

The path of sexual abuse of children, and criminal behavior, has moved from generation to generation in her family.

The family history of child sexual abuse came to light when Mary and her sister found out their father’s new wife had a teenage daughter from a previous marriage, and was filing for custody. The daughters couldn’t live with the thought of another young girl being molested.

They told their father to either drop the custody action, or they would inform authorities of his actions.

He wouldn’t drop the action so the daughters went to the sheriff with their story.

Mary said she felt she had to come forward to keep another child from being molested, officials said.

Medical records of the abortions and photographs of the father nude with the children became part of the case against him.

The sheriff turned the case over to one of the detectives to investigate.

The detective said the biggest problem with the case was the length of time which had passed between the crimes and the reporting of the crimes.

Local authorities notified the FBI and attempted to get an federal investigation started suspecting violations of the Mann Act, which forbids the transportation of minors across state lines for sexual purposes.

Federal law was no use in the case because the statute of limitations has expired by the time the crimes were reported.

Eventually, Mary’s father was charged and arrested on a number of charges of sex crimes.

Even after being charged by authorities, the pressure on Mary to keep quiet didn’t stop.

She received telephone calls from her mother and grandmotehr asking her to just let the case drop and not testify against her father. Mary even got telephone calls from him asking her not to testify against him.

But Mary remained firm in her belief that she was acting to save another young girl from enduring the torture she had known as a child. She stood by her accusations.

Her father pleaded guilty in exchange for a reduction of the charges against him even though it meant he might spend time in prison.

The story of Tanya (not her real name) starts when she was 7 years old in the mid-1980s.

She had recently moved to Kalispell with her family and was living in an apartment next to a single man who was in his mid-forties at the time.

Tanya and her sister went for long rides in the country with the neighbor. The man had a job that entailed driving long distances in the rural areas of the county. The girls were riding along with the man “to keep him company.”

Several years after the rides in the country, Tanya remembered what had happened and told her mother.

Her mother took her to Flathead County authorities who filed sexual assault charges against the man.

Tanya and her sister testified against the man at his preliminary hearing.

He pleaded guilty, so the girls did not have to testify again.

At the sentencing hearing for the man both Tanya and her sister testified they had been molested by the man.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

But Tanya’s story does not end there.

Two years after the trial, she was overcome by depression and committed sucide.

One of Tanya’s friends, Laurie (not her real name), claimed she was molested by her father when she was 9 years old, in the mid-1980s.

Sexual assault charges were filed against the father when Laurie was 12 years old.

Her father pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was released on his own recognizance while awaiting trial.

The jury found him not guilty after hearing Laurie’s testimony and the testimony of her mother. Her mother testified on behalf of her father at the trial.

Four years after the trial, she attempted suicide shortly after her friend Tanya.

Laurie was unsuccessful in her attempt and is currently receiving professional counseling.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Ancient Burial Ground Found And Dug Up

Ancient Burial Ground Found, Dug Up

12/07/05

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — There are tombs and graves in Rome and Athens, some are 1.700 years old. They are preserved and venerated.

There are graves 1,700 years old in Clallam County and corpses are being dug up to make way for a construction yard. And no arrangements are being made to preserve the corpses.*

Here, state and federal officials plan to pave over corpses that aren’t disinterred.

This week officials from WSDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe plan to meet to try to reach yet another compromise so a huge bridge replacement project can continue at a site on Ediz Hook.

The trouble began shortly after a 22.5-acre parcel in the harbor was chosen for construction of large drydocks to build components to rebuild the Hood Canal Bridge.

When construction started in the summer of 2003, ancient corpses were found. It soon became evident a tribal village was on the site for hundreds of years.

Work was stopped and archeological excavations were started.

Less than one year into the project it is two years behind schedule, and there is still a lot of excavating to be done.

WSDOT Communications Manager Lloyd Brown said under normal circumstances all of the excavation would take six weeks.

When the first skeletons were found, this project becamce anything but normal.

He said digging in the deepest parts of the drydock — almost 30 feet — is well underway. He said WSDOT does not plan to excavate deeper than 5 to 7 feet in areas planned for only concrete pavement. Almost all of the remains were found at depths of less than ten feet.

This policy leads to the disagreement between the tribes and WSDOT.

Tribal officials claim graves that have not yet been found will be sealed under concrete. Before concrete is poured on the surface those leaders want deeper excavations to unearth all possible corpses.

Last week the Federal Highway Administration ruled the construction of large drydocks can continue as planned.

“The FHWA ruled that the Memorandum of Agreement (with the Tribe) of March, 2004, is still in effect,” a press release said Wednesday afternoon.

Tribal requests for more excavation of the area were rejected under the ruling,

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe is asking for the same treatment for buried ancestors given to orderly, tree-lined modern graveyards with mowed lawns and granite headstones.

“We know that they’re there,” tribal council chair Francis Charles said. “Put your foot in our shoes and somebody you love, would you want them laying under a concrete floor under tons of water?”

So far, 265 fully intact corpses have been exhumed, as have more than 700 isolated pieces from an unknown number of bodies and thousands of historical objects. The site is the location of an ancient Klallam village, Tse-whit-zen, which dates back more than 1,700 years.

More than 70 burials were found in an ancient sand dune along the edge of the site. When digging was expanded to an adjacent area, seven more burials were discovered within 30 minutes and six more were later found, Charles said.

“It’s not like we’re asking them to go through the whole 22 and a half acres,” tribal chair Frances Charles said.

The tribe is primarily concerned with an area along the northern edge of the drydock site, along the 1896 beach line, where they suspect more tribal ancestors are buried.

She said the tribal elders and spiritual advisors determined the best course would be to remove all of the remains to be reburied together. She likened the situation to a family burial plot that relatives would not wish to disturb or separate spouses or children and parents.

She noted that archaeologists have discovered a mother and child buried together and a couple buried in an embrace.

“We do not want to separate them or others like them,” Charles said.

She said the tribe is in discussions with the Port of Port Angeles and Nippon paper mill, which own property on either side of the burial site, to acquire adjacent land for reburial.

Brown said if a construction project disturbed a modern cemetery, WSDOT “would follow the law to the letter,” when moving corpses.

All parties involved profess a desire to keep the project in Port Angeles.

Brown said WSDOT views negotiations as “bringing together two very different perspectives.”

The stakes driving a compromise are enormous.

If the tribes appeal the FHWA decision in court, it “would throw us into a situation where we’d have to consider looking somewhere else” to finish the project, Brown said.

Charles said she hoped to resolve differences during discussions in the process outlined in the original agreement signed by the state and tribe outlining the process and compensation for disturbing the village and burial site.

There are several avenues left for resolving the dispute and talk of filing an appeal in the court system is too early, Charles said.

Either way, last week’s FHWA decision is not the final word.

So far, more than $65 million has been paid to Kiewit-General, the main contractor on the bridge reconstruction. The winning bid for the job came in at $243  million, money that will mostly be spent in Clallam County.

About the only thing all parties can agree upon is that the current bridge across the Hood Canal must be rebuilt. Traffic has increased from 1,500 cars per day when it opened in 1962, to 18,000 cars per day in 1997. Traffic is projected to reach 37,000 cars per day in 2020.

WSDOT engineers say the current structure is hard to maintain and unsafe for the projected traffic load.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

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Rebuilding Hood Canal Bridge

2/10/06

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Rebuilding the Hood Canal Bridge just got a lot more complicated.

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe asked the state to stop construction at its site in Port Angeles harbor in a letter Friday to WSDOT Secretary Doug MacDonald.

Tribal Chairman Frances Charles said the tribe wanted work stopped “because of the physical problems involved.”

Charles stopped well short of blaming WSDOT for the problems. “We know that you and your colleagues at WSDOT have made every effort, and are willing to continue to make efforts, to save our burials,” her letter said.

Charles wrote, “We have already suffered damage to ancestral remains and losses of historic properties, and it has become clear that — no matter how hard we all worked at it — the current construction cannot be sustained without additional destruction of burials and remains of our ancestors.”

Charles sent copies of her letter to Rep, Norm Dicks, (D-Wash.), Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Marla Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Gov. Gary Locke.

If WSDOT complies, a new location for construction of components for rebuilding the floating Hood Canal Bridge must be found.  The state Transportation Commissioners meet in Olympia Thursday.

Shortly after work was started 17 months ago, 1,700-year-old graves and artifacts were unearthed. From that time forward, archaeological excavations, and little else, have been in progress.

WSDOT planned to use the site to build huge pontoons and concrete anchors to replace the aging eastern half of the Hood Canal bridge, the longest floating bridge in saltwater in the world.

The 22.5-acre construction site is now known to be the site of the ancient village of Tse-whit-zen. It soon became evident a tribal village occupied the site for hundreds of years. So far, 265 fully intact corpses have been exhumed, along with more than 700 isolated pieces from a number of bodies.

Longhouse structures, cooking hearths, hunting and cooking tools, and articles of clothing have been discovered.

The area on Port Angeles harbor has turned out to be the largest archaeological site in the Pacific Northwest.

It has become evident the village boundary extends well beyond the boundary of the planned construction site.

When construction began, more than 70 burials were unearthed in an ancient sand dune along the waters edge. As digging expanded to an adjacent area, seven more burials were found within 30 minutes, then six more.

With these discoveries, heavy machinery was removed from the site. Since then, archeological excavation followed by the careful sifting of material has been the rule.

The crux of the disagreement between the tribe and the department concerns graves not yet discovered. Tribal officials claim unexcavated graves of their ancestors could be sealed under concrete.

Before concrete is poured on the surface those leaders want deeper excavations to unearth all possible corpses.

The tribe’s request to stop work is its response to a two-week-old Federal Highway Administration decision.

It was much less than the tribe wanted.

FHWA said work can continue and archaeological work will be done only in areas disturbed by construction, ignoring the tribe’s request.

WSDOT Communication Manager Lloyd Brown said department officials plan to meet with the tribes soon to discuss the future of the site.

He said the consensus of opinion is to move the construction of the bridge components elsewhere. Brown said WSDOT plans to address public safety concerns about the delay in bridge construction.

Engineers plan a new inspection of the 45-yeaer old bridge to determine if any immediate repairs are needed, or if it remains safe for public use.

Brown said the construction site shutdown would impact many workers, some of whom are tribal members.

To date, more than $65 million has been paid to Kiewit-General, the main contractor on the bridge reconstruction.

Brown said the cost of the delay has not been calculated.

Some of the expenses were incurred in work completed widening the western half of the bridge and on the eastern approach to the bridge.

The original bid for the bridge rebuild was $243 million, but that was long before the ancient cemetery was discovered.

Wherever the construction is moved, the department plans to use the same site to build components for the highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

Still in question is the disposition of the artifacts and corpses from the site.

Charles said she hopes WSDOT and federal officials will help find “an appropriate use for the site.”

Monday afternoon the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce released an opinion poll asking its members about the construction site dilemma.

The poll’s questions sum up the questions of the community of Port Angeles. It asks for opinions on alternatives from WSDOT pulling out completely, to stopping the archeological work and proceeding with construction, or removing dirt from the entire site to be sorted in a different location. Chamber Executive Director Russ Veenema said Tuesday several dozen responses had reached his office.

“They express pretty diverse opinions,” he said.

And a Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe member has put a petition online addressed to “All Government Officials.” It states signers of the petition believe no more work should be attempted at the site without consent of the tribes, It also demands complete funding for any archeological work needed to restore and repair the site, and fund emotional and spiritual healing.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

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Construction Yard To Be Moved, Along With Jobs

3/8/06

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — The state Department of Transportation has decided to move its construction site out of Port Angeles and there is no turning around, said Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald.

Monday, he said nothing would happen at the department’s 22-acre, $4.5 million site until the state, the city of Port Angeles and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe agreed on the action.

MacDonald said, “We need to convince people we are going to stop” using the site.

“We don’t want the tribe out there until there is a plan,” he said. “Federal laws require the department to cap the site to prevent looting.”

MacDonald said there are now “cosmic issues” involved in the future use of the land on the waterfront.

“There should be mediation and talks” about the future of the site, said MacDonald.

But no talks can be held now because “we are not hearing from the tribe,” he said.

Then Tuesday, tribal representatives met with department officials in Port Orchard to discuss the future of the waterfront land.

“The meeting is about getting both parties to the table to talk about what we do now,” said Lloyd Brown, communications manager for the department. “This is not about continuing work” at the Port Angeles site.

“Expecting any results from this meeting is too optimistic,” he said.

The meeting was set up at the last minute by Tim Thompson, a private consultant to the department, Brown said. It was closed to the public.

But at the very public meeting Monday MacDonald emphasized the state will do little to mitigate the impact of abandoning the site.

He said the department will not be involved in any further archaeological work at the site — with the exception of disposition of human remains. “We have boxes and boxes of the remains of souls,” said MacDonald.

Transportation funding comes from gas tax and is supposed to be used for building roads, not archaeological digs, he said.

There is currently a fence around the site. No one is allowed on the property, he said.

“The problem will have to be solved by people of good will in this community,” said MacDonald. The future of the Port Angeles site will be decided without the help of the department, he said.

MacDonald said his participation in rebuilding the bridge is, “the most interesting and difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

MacDonald said the groundbreaking ceremony at the site in 2003 “was the last good day on this project.”

“Within days, we found the first burial,” he said.

The corpses found at the site were not all buried in a traditional manner. Archaeologists said they were likely victims of a smallpox epidemic in 1786.

They said some of the remains dated back more than 1,700 years.

It is the largest archaeological site in the Pacific Northwest.

Longhouse structures, cooking hearths, hunting and cooking tools, and articles of clothing were discovered.

But the hundreds of corpses were not enough to stop the project.

However the combination of a request from the tribe to excavate the entire site and negative public opinion were the deciding factors, he said.  “Every mile you get from Port Angeles opinions shift because it becomes a larger issue of historic preservation.”

The department has spent over $65 million on the bridge project.

Now, the focus of work for the department is to find a different location to build the huge pontoons and anchors for the bridge rebuild. MacDonald said the department prefers to use a site on the Olympic Peninsula, but has received inquiries from all parts of the Puget Sound area.

When a new dry dock site is chosen, contracts will have to be renegotiated and plans changed. He said the department will “bring in a panel of national experts to help decide how to proceed.”

MacDonald said the decision to pull out of Port Angeles was several weeks in the making.

“Many government officials participated making the decision,” said MacDonald.

Gov. Gary Locke, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, participated in the decision to leave Port Angeles, said Linda Mullen, communications director for the department.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

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Ancient Burial Ground History 

1/19/06

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — The north Olympic Peninsula had its own Trail of Tears.

In 1912 Michael Earles offered to build a sawmill if the town of Port Angeles would furnish the land. Townspeople took him up on his offer. They collected over $35,000, an immense sum a century ago, and gave him land at the base of Ediz Hook. Land covering a an ancient tribal graveyard. Land already in use by Native Americans for their village.

Even after they were evicted from their village, Klallam tribal bands lived on the shore of Port Angeles harbor until 1933, an anthropologist writing in 1993 reported.

“Port Angeles city officials wrote to the Indian Agency to inform them that the city planned to move trhe Inddians off the beach…and was looking for a place to move them,” said a 1997 anthropological report from Larson Archaeology/Anthropology.

Anthropologists Robert Ruby and John Brown wrote the federal government bought 372 acres at the mouth of the Elwha River on Freshwater Bay. Fourteen Klallam families remaining from Tse-whit-sen village were moved on the land, which became the Lower Elwha Clallam Reservation.

The land seized from the tribe kept its secret hidden for almost a century. During construction excavations last year hundreds of burials were found, in addition to the human remains, large midden piles and relics of longhouses, tools and fire pits were found.

Scientists think they have found the largest archaeological site in the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps North America.

The graveyard was revered by the tribe. Tribal elders told children not to walk on the land above the graves, said tribal chairman Francis Charles. Areas of mass burial document the smallpox epidemic that decimated the Native American population.

Earles came through on his promise by building the largest sawmill on the continent at the time, the Puget Sound Mill and Timber Co. Archaeologist Lynn Larson said mill construction did not disturb most of the relics and remains at the site.

The mill was sold to Charles Nelson and Joe Irving. It was closed in 1933.

It was re-opened during World War II as Olympic Shipbuilders.

Larson said it was not surprising to find a village at the site.

Klallam tribes inhabited the southern end of Vancouver Island as well as the northern shore of the Olympic Peninsula, studies say. The tribes migrated to river and creek mouths during the winter months and built longhouses of cedar planks for shelter against the elements.

They took advantage of food resources from both fresh- and saltwater, especially salmon and steelhead, a report from Larson Archaeological Anthropological Services said.

Klallam settlements were established on almost every freshwater drainage or bay, the report said.

Fish were taken using weirs, traps, hook and line, spears and nets. “At least one trap was kept on each river and creek in Klallam territory,” said a 1927 anthropological study by Erma Gunther.

The site of the now defunct Rayonier mill at the mouth of Quinn Creek, east of downtown Port Angeles, is no exception. It was proposed by for the dry-dock construction site by Rayonier Properties LLC., owner of the property for several decades.

Historical records place an Native American village and graveyard on the site.

Archaeology confirms the written record. During construction near the creek in 1976 “at least two skulls were unearthed in addition to many blue trade beads, both rounded and square, circular coins, and at least one projectile point,” said a 1997 report to the state Department of Transportation.

The village of I-eh-nus, meaning good beach, was on the Rayonier site when white settlers arrived. Archaeologists think Native Americans have occupied the Ennis Creek area for 2,500 to 5,000 years.

The creek mouth was also the site of the Puget Sound Cooperative Colony, a utopian community in existence from 1887 until 1904. It was one of many utopian colonies to spring up on the Olympic Peninsula.

Colony records indicate the creek mouth was shared by both cultures for many years.

More than 400 people lived in the colony. They built a sawmill, meeting house, houses and the first hotel in the area. The colony settled on both sides of the creek and at the base of the bluff to the west.

Local historians agree the colony at its peak was larger than the town of Port Angeles.

Forms nominating the area for the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 said, “…the Clallam Indian burial ground was located near the mouth of Ennis Creek…the burial ground disappeared completely when the area was covered with 10 feet of earth to build an area for parking cars.”

Between the colony and Rayonier the sawmill went through several owners. In 1917 it was enlarged by the federal government to produce spruce to use in airplanes during World War I.  A Clallam County Historical Society document said 30,000 soldiers were assigned to the effort centering on the mill.

But the present proposal for use of the area is apparently for land created by dumping fill into the bay to build a 1,100-foot dock after the site was bought by Olympic Forest Products in 1929. Olympic merged with Rayonier, Inc., in 1937.

The mill was closed 10 years ago and shortly afterward became an EPA Superfund cleanup site. Health reports list petrochemicals in the ground as the main pollutants.

The proposed site at Twin Rivers has a history too.

Lafarge North America put forward its Twin River Clay Quarry to use for dry-dock construction.

Lafarge, based in Reston, Va., is one of the largest suppliers of cement for residential, commercial, institutional and public works construction, with 14 plants in the United States and Canada.

The Twin Rivers area is connected to the current site on Ediz Hook by both ancient and recent history.

Anthropologists think Native Americans inhabited the site long ago. They theorize it was one of a string of villages centering on Tse-whit-zen.

When sawmills were built, owners looked west for logs to feed their machinery. A short-line railroad was built to haul logs to the mills in Port Angeles and Port Townsend.

Twin Rivers, the terminus of the railroad became a logging town settlement home to the largest logging operation in the world at the time, say local historians.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

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The Cost Of Moving Construction Project

3/26/06

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Pulling out of its Port Angeles construction site will be painfully expensive for the state Department of Transportation.

It has spent more than $58.8 million, but produced no components for the Hood Canal bridge. Last week, the department released a Preliminary Summary of Costs itemizing its expenses at the site.

The original contract for the entire bridge rebuilding project was $243 million.

When the department paid the Port of Port Angeles $4.8 million for 22.5-acre site at the base of Ediz Hook it intended to excavate enormous trenches to be used as dry docks. Then huge concrete pontoons and anchors would be built to replace those parts failing on the 40-plus year old floating bridge.

The land purchase turned out to be one of the smallest expenses at the site. Shortly after breaking ground, Native American corpses and relics were unearthed. Work stopped, negotiations with the Lower Elwha Clallam Tribe were held.

As a result of the negotiations, $3.4 million in mitigation was paid to the tribe to allow work to continue. The negotiations resulted in archaeological work at the site.

Excavation by Larson Archaeological Services cost $2.8 million and Western Shores Historical Services cost the department $700,000.

The department’s estimate of additional archaeological work is incomplete. The report said completing excavation and lab work to comply with its agreement with the tribe will cost $5.1 million. No estimate is included for screening stockpiled  and new excavated material. 

The state spent $4.2 million on steel pilings driven at the edge of the construction site to allow excavation below water level.

Contractor mobilization cost $9 million. Keiwitt-General of Poulsbo is the general contractor of the bridge rebuilding project. No estimate was available for extra costs to Keiwitt for work not included in the original contract and change orders. The actual payment must be negotiated with Keiwitt.

The department spent $2.5 million on in-house engineering on the project.

An estimate of $4.5 million is included for additional construction cost attributable to abandoning the site. This cost includes capping the excavation with four feet of clean soil to protect archaeological material as required by federal law. It also includes security fencing the site, pulling  out some of the piling and contractor cost to remove its equipment.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

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Proposed New Construction Sites

3/25/06

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Municipal port authorities and waterfront industrial businesses from Tacoma to Grays Harbor to the Canadian border sent in proposals offering land to use building components for the Hood Canal bridge. Eighteen proposals were received by the deadline — 5 p.m. Jan. 10 at state Department of Transportation headquarters in Olympia.

One will be chosen within 45 days.

The department is pulling out of its current facility in Port Angeles. So it needs a new place to build huge dry-docks to be used for construction of Hood Canal bridge components. Four of the proposals are for locations in Clallam County, three from Jefferson County.

WSDOT Communication Manager Lloyd Brown said, “The bridge project design team will evaluate each submittal, gather additional site information, and summarize characteristics of each proposal.”

Brown said the summary should be ready for further consideration by department engineers and staff members this week.

“We are still on track to make a decision on where to build pontoons and anchors by March,” said Brown

The Makah Tribe proposed a site in Neah Bay. The Makah land is a component of its port development plan, department documents said.

A site was proposed by Lafarge North America owners of the Twin River Clay Quarry about 10 miles west of Port Angeles.

Lafarge home office is located in Reston, Va. It is one of the largest suppliers of cement for residential, commercial, institutional and public works construction, with 14 plants in the United States and Canada and annual sales of more than $1.6 billion, said its website.

The Port of Port Angeles sent in a proposal for Terminal 7, a parcel contiguous to the current site. Port Executive Director Robert McChesney said the land could be used without excavation. The paved site would require a special railway to transport the enormously heavy concrete components to the water, he said.

The site of the now defunct Rayonier mill at the mouth of Quinn Creek, east of downtown Port Angeles, was proposed by Rayonier Properties LLC.

Forms nominating the site for the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 said, “…the Clallam Indian burial ground was located near the mouth of Ennis Creek…the burial ground disappeared completely when the area was covered with 10 feet of earth to build an area for parking cars.”

But the proposal is apparently for land created by dumping fill into the harbor during the 1930s.

A site at Fort Discovery on Discovery Bay was proposed by its owner, Security Services NW, Brown said.      

The Port of Port Townsend and Townsend Paper Company jointly proposed a site. Port officials said the site is located on land created by landfill.

Olympic Property Group proposed a portion of its property in Port Gamble, said Brown.

The property group is a Pope Resources subsidiary. Pope is a huge real estate holding and development company. It owns the entire historic town of Port Gamble, its website said. It also owns timberland and real estate properties in the West Puget Sound.

Glacier Northwest, producers of sand, gravel and quarry rock, proposed its Mats Mats quarry property in Port Ludlow.

The former Scott Paper Mill in Anacortes currently owned by MJB Properties was proposed for dry-dock construction.

The Port of Grays Harbor proposed       property at the confluence of the Hoquiam and Chehalis Rivers.

FCB Facilities Team proposed property owned by Concrete Tech., AML / Duwamish Shipyard and Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle.

Property on Skokomish River was proposed by Gerald G. Richert.

Property on Thea Foss Waterway was proposed by J. M. Martinac.

The Port of Everett proposed use of 26 waterfront acres.

A proposal from KLB Construction in Everett was received.

Also in Everett, the Snohomish Delta Partners proposed its property, the former Weyerhaeuser mill.

Concrete Tech sent in a proposal for its       property on Blair Waterway.

The Port of Shelton proposed upland industrial property only, no waterfront.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

________

It Was An Eden

2/2/06

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — The extinction of the buffalo caused the near extinction of Native Americans living on the Great Plains.

On the Olympic Peninsula, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe was driven almost to extinction by more subtle means.

With treaties, starvation, disease and brute force the Klallam’s Eden was taken from them.

First, the tribe was weakened by disease contracted from its first encounter with European explorers and traders. Then, shortly after settlers began arriving in the area, the federal government forbade the tribe from fishing, its traditional source of food.

The same year the tribe was stopped from fishing and gathering shellfish, a dam went up on the Elwha River, forever altering the runs of anadromous fish.

Just as the buffalo disappeared, so went the salmon.

Bowing to pressure to allow fishing, the state said tribal members could fish if they had a license. But then it refused to issue licenses to tribal members because they were not citizens.

When citizenship was granted to Native Americans, the state still refused to issue licenses because the tribal members had no permanent address.

At its low point, only 325 members of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe were left, say tribal elders.

When settlers arrived, the Klallam found that all the rules of their existence were changed. They were no longer allowed to get food. They were forced to move to a foreign place — immediately — by invaders who did not speak their language and brandished guns. Being forcibly moved from one huge village stretching from Ediz Hook along the beach all the way to Green Point onto a 300 acre reservation was traumatic. It is a terrible scene as described by tribal elders.

Some individuals never moved. A few tribal members lived on Ediz Hook until the 1950s. But the majority of what became the Lower Elwha Tribe was relocated to the reservation by 1937, said tribal elder Adeline Smith.

While the total dislocation of an entire generation was occurring, federal authorities decided the Klallam tribe should be divided into three separate tribes. So the Lower Elwha Klallam, the Jamestown S’Klallam and the Port Gamble Clallam tribes were created.

Tribal members still scoff at the imposed political division, preferring to regard themselves as Klallam, merely living in different places.

The elders describe the land of the tribe as Eden — before the settlers brought civilization.

Bea Charles and Smith, women in their 80s, describe a time of grace, beauty and peace. A time when “the strong people”, the Lower Elwha Klallam’s name for themselves, lived in harmony with nature. It was a time when surpluses were given to each other, and other tribes, in elaborate ceremonies, and sharing was a way of life. Sometimes potlatches lasted three days, Smith said.

Charles said the people would follow their food sources from place to place on the northern end of the peninsula. Their migrations timed to maximize their hunting and gathering.

And romancing.

Smith married a member of the Makah Tribe. She said the main incursions, other than very occasional battles over whales, from the Makah were to steal away Klallam women.

“Of course the Klallam women were more beautiful,” she said with a smile.

Leaving little trace of their rich culture except graves, the Klallam lived for thousands of years along the coast. They knew when and where plants and medicinal herbs would ripen. They knew where the beargrass grew for basketmaking. And the strong people would be there for the harvest, said Charles.

In winter, families would congregate at river mouths on the Straits of Juan de Fuca to trap, spear and hook salmon. The fish were dried and smoked for consumption later.

Smith said villages were at every river mouth and bay along the strait.  She said there were 13 settlements along the Elwha River between Lake Crescent and the strait.

Hunters went into the hills after deer and elk, she said.

There was never a lack of food, no one ever starved.

Bee said there were times when the settlers, facing starvation from crop failure, would be fed by the Klallam.

Unable to catch fish to survive, some Klallam families turned to agriculture. Smith said five families homesteaded near the mouth of the Elwha River, but all eventually lost their land. They could not read notices or understand the ways of taxes, deeds and sheriff’s tax sales on the courthouse steps.

She said her father attended school through the eighth grade, then became an interpreter for other families.

Both Smith and Charles said they attended Dry Creek School near the reservation.

It was a one-room school with a wood stove for heat and 42 students in grades one through eight when Smith attended. Most students spoke English only at school. They spoke the tribal Salishan language at home.

Life on the reservation was hard. Charles said the main form of transportation was walking until 1929 when state highway 112 was completed to Twin Rivers and Seiku.

Still, most of their knowledge of the world came from their families and other tribal members.

Smith said the elders taught all the children not to go near the graveyard on Ediz Hook.

“The way I was raised, I believe it (the burial ground) should be left alone.

“Put them back where you found them. Their souls are never going to rest unless you do,” she said.

A monument should be put at the spot to mark the burials, she said.

Smith and Charles agreed no further excavations at the site on Ediz Hook should be allowed.

Neither woman is optimistic about the search for a new site for a dry dock along the strait. Smith said every waterfront place with a decent harbor or river mouth was the site of a village.

“They were good places to land a canoe,” she said

Smith said teaching their language in Port Angeles High School is a good start to reclaiming the tribe’s heritage. With the language the students begin to learn the parts of their culture that was lost when a the tribe was dislocated in the early 1900’s.

Some tribal members say the excavation of the site on Ediz Hook allowed them to re-discover their culture. The dry dock construction site turned out to be the largest archaeological site in the Pacific Northwest, possibly North America.

But most members are disturbed by digging up the bodies of their relatives that were at rest on the hook. Scientists estimate the site was in continuous use for 2,700 years.

Decisions will have to be made. There are hundreds of cedar boxes containing the remains of tribal members in storage. There are graves left exposed to the elements, half excavated.

Above all else, the members of the tribe want to be part of the decision of what happens to their graveyard next.

Smith said everyone in the tribe knew there was a graveyard at the site chosen for construction.

“But no one asked us,” she said.

She wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

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Where Should The Corpses Go? 

1/14/06

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — By the sheer number of laws, the Washington Legislature has said burials, graveyards and cemeteries are among the most sacred of all lands.

This is a sample of laws on the books, not even 5 percent of the laws on the books. The legal language of the laws is abridged for clarity.

Chapter 27 in the Revised Code of Washington (compiled state laws) protects Native American graves. It says, “Any person who knowingly removes, mutilates, defaces, injures, or destroys any cairn or grave of any native Indian… is guilty of a class C felony.”

Then lawmakers decided all graves should be protected from graverobbing. “Every person who mutilates, disinters, or removes from the place of interment any human remains without authority of law, is guilty of a class C felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in a state correctional facility for not more than three years, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by both,” RCW Chapter 68.

Legislators felt moving a corpse was to be taken very seriously.

Again Chapter 85.50 RCW makes it clear anyone moving a body from its resting place must follow certain specific legal procedures.

“The remains of a deceased person may be removed from a plot (with)… the written consent of one of the following in the order named: (1) The surviving spouse, (2) The surviving children of the decedent, (3) The surviving parents of the decedent, (4) The surviving brothers or sisters of the decedent.

“If the required consent cannot be obtained, permission by the superior court of the county where the cemetery is situated is sufficient…” the lawmakers wrote.

And once again, by law, the legislators sought to protect burials from any disturbance. They approved a law protecting the effects of the person buried, “Every person who in a cemetery unlawfully or without right willfully opens a grave; removes personal effects of the decedent…removes or damages caskets…is guilty of a class C felony punishable under (state law).”

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

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Tribal History Timeline

2/2/06

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — A timeline of Lower Elwha Klallam Tribes’ history since first contact with Europeans to the present.

Pre-1790 – About 2,000 Klallams lived in villages spread along ocean from Hoko River to Puget Sound, and on southern coast of Vancouver Island

1790 – Manuel Quimper lands at Freshwater Bay and Dungeness – first recorded contact of Klallam with Europeans

1791 – George Vancouver explores north Olympic Peninsula coastline

1800-1860 – Klallam population decimated by smallpox, measles, influenza and tuberculosis epidemics

1850 – Oregon Donation Act – allowed homesteading in Washington and Oregon

1852 – U.S. astronomical station established on Ediz Hook, near Klallam villages

1853 – U.S. Navy survey of Dungeness Spit and Ediz Hook – Klallam villages noted on map

1855 – Point No Point Treaty

1865 – Lighthouse built on Ediz Hook

1890s – Settlers arrive in Clallam County further displacing Klallam villages

1910 – Construction of first Elwha River dam

1910 – Fishing declared illegal for Native Americans

1914 – Construction of sawmill on Klallam graveyard site on Ediz Hook

1934 – Indian Reorganization Act – 14 families given 327 acres in Elwha Valley

1968 – Lower Elwha Reservation recognized by federal government – first funding from Bureau of Indian Affairs

1974 – Tribal right to fishing reinstated – Boldt Decision

1875 – Lower Elwha Fish Hatchery built

1977 – Three Klallam tribes were paid for 400,000 acres taken in 1855 treaty with federal government.

1994 – Court uphold tribal right to shellfish

2003 – Beginning of construction of dry docks on graveyard site on Ediz Hook

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Five killed in Avalanche

Five killed in Avalanche 1

1/5/96

By William Simonsen

Bigfork, Mont. — Five people died Friday afternoon when an avalanche hit a party of snowmobilers about 10 miles northeast of Bigfork. Two snowmobile riders were also injured by the avalanche.

“I never saw nothing until that big wall of snow,” said Jim Pierce of Bigfork, who was riding his snowmobile at the front of the group.

“I went first. I turned around and looked and saw all this snow coming down the mountain,” said Pierce.

“I yelled at everybody and the went back across the top of the avalanche and there was no one there,” he said. 

The first few snowmobiles in the group were the ones who made it out.

Killed in the avalanche  were Pat Buls, 46, Kalispell; Kendall Smith, 41, Hill Spring, Alberta; Miles Merrill, 7, Cardston, Alberta; and Bart Nelson, 35, and Gordon Sherman, 46, both of Jefferson, Alberta, said Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont. The two injured were Jamie Merrill and Sandra Sherman, both of Cardston.

Sandra Sherman was rescued after being buried to her waist in the snow, she had several broken ribs, but was otherwise unhurt, said Dupont.

ˇShe was stopped on her snowmobile only about three feet from her husband when the avalanche hit the group.

Gordon Sherman, was found dead about 4 p.m. several hundred feet downslope from the area where she was found. Efforts to revive him failed.

Jamie Merrill was found by searchers using probe poles after being buried for about two hours. Dupont said Jamie Merrill was able to survive so long buried in the snow because he was trapped between two snowmobiles which created an airspace allowing him to breathe. He was buried under about three feet of snow. He was treated for hypothermia by rescue personnel and remained at the scene throughout the night to help search for his son, Miles. Miles Merrill was standing next to his father when the avalanche hit. His body was not found for almost 24 hours after he was trapped under the snow. Miles Merrill’s mother was at the family home in Cardston at the time of the avalanche. Dupont said he was buried under twelve feet of snow about 30 feet away from his father.

Buls was a fireman with the Kalispell Fire Dept.

Gordon Sherman and Smith were ranchers. Nelson ran a salt business in his hometown.

Larry Brazda of Kalispell, said he and several others had joined Pierce’s party of snowmobilers, making a total of 14 people in the group.

Dupont said there were 13 snowmobiles in the group.

Brazda said he was the first person over a ridge after they stopped for a break. Brazda said the group had been riding in the area where the avalanche occurred, in one to two feet of new snow, for several hours before the tragedy struck. Advisories issued for Friday said avalanche danger was moderate in the area, said Dupont.

Brazda said the snow showed no signs of the imminent danger that was present.

Pierce said he has ridden in the area for years and had never seen an avalanche where the party was struck.

Some of the riders in the ill-fated group with larger, more powerful machines had been taking turns breaking a trail over the top of a ridge shortly before the snow broke loose, said Brazda. He said the avalanche covered an area about 75 feet wide and 400-500 feet long. Avalanches can move at speeds of up to 200 mph.

Brazda said he and several other members of the party immediately tried to rescue those trapped in the snow. But because the snow was so deep and packed so hard by the avalanche they had no luck with their attempted rescues. Brazda said he dug in the snow with his bare hands to uncover one snowmobile, but could not find it’s rider.

Brazda said he and Pierce then rode down the mountain to Pierce’s truck, then used his cellular phone to call for help. Brazda said he and others in the party broke branches off nearby tress and attempted to probe in the snow for the others, but the snow was too deep and they couldn’t find branches long enough to reach through it

Dupont later said the digging through the snow was like “shoveling wet concrete.”

The call from Pierce came into the Flathead County Sheriffs Office at 12:52 p.m.

Initial reports to the search crews said eight people were feared buried in the avalanche.

The sheriff’s office immediately dispatched members and equipment from  Bigfork QRU, East Valley QRU, Creston Fire Dept., Flathead Search and Rescue, and the ALERT helicopter to the scene.

The biggest problem encountered by rescuers was simply getting personnel to the site of the avalanche, said Dupont. The snowmobilers were buried at an elevation of 5,600 feet about five miles off the nearest plowed road. A command post was set up at the intersection of Peters Ridge Road and Foothills Road. A county road department snow plow was sent to Peters Ridge Road. It cleared more than two miles of road so Flathead Search and Rescue, Bigfork QRU and other four wheel drive vehicles could get to an upper staging area at the end of the road. Snow was several feet deep at the staging area. From the staging area, searchers were ferried to the site of the avalanche by snowmobiles, or walked.

Undersheriff Chuck Curry said it took searchers about one hour to get from the staging area to the scene of the avalanche. Searchers used long metal poles to probe the avalanche area in a grid pattern. Metal detectors were also used during the search.

Pierce said two of the people buried in the avalanche had “peepers”, small radio transmitters designed to help searchers locate people buried in the snow. But one of the units was left in the car by its owner, and the other unit was turned off when the avalanche hit, he said.

During the afternoon other volunteer groups were called to the scene to help in the search and rescue operation. Trained dogs were brought into the search – two from the Kalispell Police Dept. and one from a private citizen.

Two Kalispell Ambulance units stood by at the command post to ferry victims to area hospitals.

The Nordic Ski Patrol, South Kalispell Fire Dept. and North Valley Search and Rescue also joined in the rescue effort.

A private helicopter also joined the rescue party, but was unable to help ferry rescuers to the site due to inclement weather conditions.

By mid-afternoon, more than 100 people had joined the search. As temperatures dropped Friday afternoon, the site of the avalanche was “in a cloud,” said Dupont. He said the weather conditions hampered the rescue of the remaining victims.

At 4:45 p.m., while Sandra Sherman was being transported down the mountain, Dupont said three additional people had been found and CPR was being administered to them.

By 10 p.m. another body had been found by rescuers. All of the victims found Friday were found by searchers using probe poles.

Dupont said four of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene at 1:49 a.m. Saturday.

Dupont temporarily called off the rescue at 4 a.m. Saturday without having found Miles Merrill.

Dupont said he asked for assistance from search and rescue teams in Missoula, Lincoln and Lake counties in the early hours of Saturday morning because the local rescue teams were worn out. He also asked for assistance from the Swan Search and Rescue team.

Searchers were back on the scene as soon as it got light.  Heavy snow fell and weather conditions deteriorated Saturday morning. Dupont said 14 inches of new snow fell at the site from 8 a.m. to noon when he met with two avalanche experts from the U.S. Forest Service who advised him conditions were becoming hazardous to the searchers. He stopped the search at 1 p.m.. Minutes before the end, the body of Miles Merrill was found by searchers. His body was found under about 12 feet of snow in an area previously probed by searchers. A trained dog from the Missoula County Search and Rescue team kept returning again and again to the area above the boy. Dupont said one of the probe poles had passed within inches of the boy, apparantly providing enough scent for the dog to pinpoint the area. Miles Merrill’s body was dug out of the snow and he was rpomounced dead at 1:56 p.m. Dupont said searchers were relieved that the family could take the boy’s body home with them. He said all six of the snowmobiles had been recovered from the scene by Monday morning.

About one hour after the avalanche on Peters Ridge was reported, a report was made to the sheriffs office of a snowmobiler buried in an avalanche in the Lost Johnny area of the South Fork drainage, just over the ridge from Peters Ridge. Glen Flaget, 32, Kalispell, was hit by an avalanche, but managed to free one arm and raise it above the snow. His companions dug him out within about 30 minutes. Flaget said he suffered only bruises from the experience.

The tragedy on Peters Ridge is the worst avalanche related accident in Northwest Montana since Dec. 1969 when five mountain climbers were killed during a winter ascent of Mt. Cleveland in Glacier National Park, said Steve Frye, chief park ranger. James Anderson, 18, Bigfork, was one of the victims in the Mt. Cleveland avalanche.

Five Killed In Avalanche 2

1/19/96

 By William Simonsen

Bigfork, Mont. — An unauthorized system of trails leading into the Peters Ridge and  Krause Basin areas where an avalanche killed five people New Years Eve, was reported to Forest Service employees more than one year ago, said a representative of the Montana Wilderness Association. The Forest Service is currently conducting an investigation of the avalanche and the trails which led snowmobile riders into danger.

Steve Thompson, Kalispell field representative for MWA said Friday that members of his organization gave photographs of unauthorized trails Iin the area of the avalanche to Forest Service employees late last summer. He said concerned members discovered a blazed and cleared trail system on Peters Ridge and in Krause Basin and photographed damage done by motorcycles and other off-road vehicles in the area.

ˇReports about the unauthorized trails were made to the Forest Service more than one year ago, he said.

Thompson said he never got any response from the Forest Service.

Chuck Harris, Bigfork district ranger for the Flathead National Forest, said the trail construction in the area was never authorized by the Forest Service.

“We would not have put a trail into an avalanche area,” said Harris.

“The (unauthorized) trails lead people into an unsafe area,” he said.

A permit is required to build a trail on its lands, he said. No permit was issued.

“To go build a trail (without a permit) is illegal,” he said. But the entire area around Peters Ridge and Krause Basin is laced with old skid roads and trails, said Harris. The blazes on trees marking the trails were not made by the Forest Service, he said.

Harris said fallen trees and brush were removed when the unauthorized trail was cleared, but that no grading of the ground was done. An investigation of the fatalities was started immediately after the accident. Under Forest Service policy, a routine investigation is conducted whenever a fatal accident occurs on its land. When the blazes were discovered the investigation was expanded to cover the construction of the unauthorized trail, Harris said.

Results of the investigation will be available in about two weeks.

Harris said he suspects that the blazes were made by off-road vehicle riders who use the area. He said the same people probably cleared trees and brush from the trails to provide better access for their vehicles. Harris said Forest Service employees made an initial investigation of the report from MWA last summer which found some damage caused by motorcycles riding around snow banks during the summer. But there was no way to determine exactly when the tracks were made, he said.

The entire area, not just the trails, is closed to motor vehicle use for two periods each year. Harris said under a 1988 Forest Service decision the area is closed between April 1 and July 1 because it is prime spring grizzly bear habitat. It is closed again from Sept. 1 until Nov. 30 to protect big game animals.

The remainder of the year the area is open to motor vehicle use. The trails leading to the avalanche area are inside the closure area, he said. Keith Hammer of Swan View Coalition, another conservation organization, said there are two separate issues at stake when unauthorized trails are allowed on public land. One is the issue of public safety. He said Forest Service regulations do not allow trails to be built in unsafe areas. The second issue is that of unauthorized trails.

Thompson said the Forest Service needs to take strong action against people who build unauthorized trails or violate trail closures. “The Forest Service has always winked and nodded at these things (unauthorized trails),” he said.

“This is serious. This led to five people’s deaths.” He said the photographs showed evidence of “rogue off-road vehicle riders turning alpine meadows into a motocross track.”

Motocross races were held in the area during the 1970s and some new trails were cut at that time, Harris said.

Hammer said he was told about the blazes on trees and the unauthorized trail by a Forest Service employee more than one year ago.

Thompson said a proposal to use the basin as an off-road vehicle area was made by some local groups last week.

The Krause Basin and Peters Ridge areas were included in the proposed Jewel Basin Wilderness Area as part of the Montana wilderness bill which was introduced in Congress last year. Thompson said he wrote Rep. Pat Wiliiams, D-Mont., last fall to warn him of the incursion by off-road vehicle users into the wilderness. A group of local snowmobile clubs, Montanans for Multiple Use and groups of off-road motorcycle riders proposed last week that the area be removed from the list of proposed wilderness areas. The groups wrote Williams and asked him to sponsor the change for the area. They suggested that the recreation area be named after Pat Buls of Kalispell, who was killed in the New Years Eve avalanche.

Thompson said he feels the request by the groups is “inappropriate.”

He said, “We deeply regret that Montanans for Multiple Use is trying to use this tragedy for political gain.”

But Harris said if the classification of the area is changed to a recreation area, the current motor vehicle closures will still be in effect. If it becomes designated as wilderness area, motor vehicles would be ­prohibited completely.

Harris said the Forest Service is reluctant to close areas due to the possibility of avalanches. “If we close one then we start the perception that we are looking out for avalanches. If we miss one then our liability is increased.”

“If people find their way in there, then they are accepting the risk of their sport.”