KRTV News KRTV News en-us Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Thu, 18 Dec 2014 03:12:40 GMT Synapse CMS 10 144 25 One person dead in Wednesday morning crash KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 6:02:59 PM DaVonté McKenith ( One person dead in Wednesday morning crash

GREAT FALLS -- An early-morning crash on Interstate 15 killed one person on Wednesday.

The crash happened shortly before 4 a.m. and involved only one vehicle and the driver.

Initial reports indicate the vehicle veered off an interstate ramp near mile marker 279, rolled, and landed on the freeway below.

Traffic in the northbound lanes of I-15 were blocked from the 10th Avenue South exit to the Central Avenue exit throughout the morning.

Several agencies responded to the crash including the Montana Highway Patrol and Gore Hill Fire.

The Montana Highway Patrol has not yet released the identity of the victim.

The MHP has not yet determined whether excessive speed or alcohol were factors in the crash.

We will update you when we get more information.

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KRTV Evening Top News - Wed Dec 17 KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 5:58:24 PM KRTV Evening Top News - Wed Dec 17

GREAT FALLS -- Top news on KRTV for the evening of Wednesday, December 17, 2014:

- The jury returned a verdict of guilty of deliberate homicide in the trial of Markus Kaarma, who shot and killed 17-year-old German exchange student Diren Dede. Click here for details.

- Casey Carlos was sentenced on Wednesday for the January 2013 stabbing that killed 21-year old Fletcher Courtnage-McKinsey. Click here to read more.

- An early-morning crash on Interstate 15 killed one person on Wednesday. Click here to read more.

- Austin Hodgins has been arrested after allegedly robbing a Loaf 'N Jug convenience store. Click here for details.

- Could legal marijuana be coming to Montana's Indian reservations? A recent memo from the U.S. Department of Justice suggests that could be possible, but so far no Montana tribes have publicly expressed any interest in legalizing marijuana on their reservations. Click here to read more.

- The Montana Health Foundation recently announced a $1.3 million dollar grant, most of which will go to county, city, and tribal health departments. The rest will go to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services for technical assistance, training, and data analysis.

- The Montana Community Foundation is awarding more than 50 college scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year. Click here for details.


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Famous Alcatraz prison escapees could have lived, study says KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 5:26:49 PM Todd Leopold -- CNN Famous Alcatraz prison escapees could have lived, study says

(CNN) -- On June 11, 1962, three Alcatraz inmates -- John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris -- attempted to leave the infamous San Francisco Bay island prison in a bold escape attempt involving dummy heads, chipped-through walls and a raft made of raincoats.

They were never seen again.

For years, Alcatraz aficionados -- not to mention the authorities -- have wondered whether the trio could have survived the attempt and made it to freedom. Now a Dutch study has shown that, if their timing was right, the inmates just might have done so.

Based on models of tidal currents in the bay -- and inspired by an episode of the Discovery Channel's "MythBusters" -- the team of researchers showed that if the Anglin brothers and Morris left Alcatraz at midnight and headed north, they could have reached land.

"If they hit it exactly at midnight, the beautiful thing is that we see that they would have been sucked out towards the Golden Gate Bridge," Rolf Hut, one of the researchers, told the BBC, which first reported on the study.

"But the moment they were close to the Golden Gate would have been the moment the tide reverses. And that would give them a moment of slack tide, in which they could have reached marine headlands in the northern site of the Golden Gate Bridge," he said.

The window, however, was narrow, Hut observed.

If the three left before midnight, the tides would have pushed them toward the ocean, where they would have died of hypothermia, Hut said. And if they left after 1 a.m., the tides would have pushed them toward the East Bay, and they also would have probably died of hypothermia in the cold waters. Hut allows that they could have survived the latter departure, though they were likely to have been picked up by police since they would have made landfall after sunrise.

Only one person, John Paul Scott, is known to have survived an Alcatraz escape attempt, and he was captured the next day. However, Scott's successful swim across the channel to San Francisco -- six months after the attempt by the Anglins and Morris -- made it feasible that others could have done so as well.

It's unlikely, though possible, that the Anglin brothers and Morris are alive today if they survived. Clarence and John Anglin, who were bank robbers, would be 83 and 84, respectively. Morris, who had an extensive record, would be 88.

Still, the case has remained open. At the time of a 2009 NPR report, the U.S. Marshals Service was still investigating the case, and though the FBI ended its investigation in 1979, a note on an archived FBI web page devoted to the case says that any leads can still be called in.

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was closed on March 21, 1963. It's now a National Historic Landmark and is open to visitors.

-- The-CNN-Wire™ & ©Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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Victory Church lights up Great Falls with Christmas lights display KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 5:23:57 PM Margaret DeMarco ( Victory Church lights up Great Falls with Christmas lights display

GREAT FALLS -- Victory Church is lighting up the skies of Great Falls with a unique Christmas light display.

This is the first year the church has hosted the light show.

The show is set on rotation and comes on every night at 6 p.m. and runs through midnight.

Production director Nick Hall says the idea started several months ago and it has grown from there.

"The planning stages took from August but we've been working pretty consistently for the last month, assembling everything and stringing extension cords," Hall said.

Facilities engineer Tim Rhoden says there are around 12,000 lights hung up outside of the church.

"As the nights go on, we're going to be adding more and more songs, especially the 19, 20,21 (of December) we have a couple special effects that we're not showing now just so we can make that night that our church is out there extra special," Rhoden said.

This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, church members will be handing out chocolate and cookies to whoever stops by to watch the show.

Victory Church is hoping to make this a tradition in Great Falls.

It's located at 3220 11th Avenue South

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Kids get to "Shop With A Sheriff" KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 5:15:54 PM Margaret DeMarco ( Kids get to

GREAT FALLS -- On Wednesday morning, Chouteau County Sheriff's deputies were able to play Santa Claus for several kids as they took them on a shopping trip to Walmart in Great Falls.

Chouteau County Sheriff Vern Burdick says his department has been playing Santa for about a decade.

"Oh, they have a great time along with us, too. I can't be selfish and just say the kids have fun because we have fun too," Burdick said.

This year they were able to bring nine kids to Walmart to spread some Christmas cheer.

Chouteau County Justice of the Peace and her Court Clerk were also there to help the girls shop.

Brian Burdeau was very excited to be able to shop with the deputies.

"This is my first time," Burdeau said. But when asked what he was shopping for he said: "Just toys."

Not only do the kids get to pick out a toy but they also get shoes, clothes, and anything else they might need.

"The parents have sent a list of clothing needs that they have so we'll be shopping for clothes first," Burdick said.

This is Cody Kirby's fourth year participating in Shop with a Sheriff.

"I get to spend time with the police officers," Kirby said. He was looking forward to the toy-buying portion of the trip and being able to get a griffin horse.

"It's like a horse with fury white stuff at the end of its hooves and it's big," Kirby said.

Kirby ended up getting a Lincoln Log set that he was ready to play with on the trip back home.

"When we get to the toy buying portion of shopping with the sheriff their eyes really light up," Burdick said.

This is also Baily Heptner's first year shopping with a sheriff; she was putting anything that had to do with the movie "Frozen" in her cart, and she was able to find her doll along with a princess crown for herself.

"It's a really fun time. The kids have a good time. And after we're done shopping here we bring them back to Fort Benton and we have a little pizza party," Burdick said.

Shop with a Sheriff is based off of donations from the community.

If you would like to donate you can call Chouteau County Sheriff Department at 406-622-5451.


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$100K bond set for Dill after standoff with Billings police KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 5:07:12 PM MTN News - Billings $100K bond set for Dill after standoff with Billings police

BILLINGS -- Bond was set at $100,000 Wednesday for James Robert Dill, who was arrested by a police SWAT unit after barricading himself in a house in Billings and hiding in the attic for four hours.

The bond was set in Yellowstone County Justice Court for Dill, 31 years old, at the request of a probation officer.

Dill was arrested Monday at about 6:15 p.m., four hours after running into a house on South 35th Street to avoid arrest by a probation officer.

A Billings Police Department SWAT unit entered the house to end the standoff after numerous failed attempts to contact Dill.

The officers found Dill, who they believed was armed, hiding in the attic. The standoff ended without any injuries.

According to a probation officer's report, Dill was sentenced in 2007 in Broadwater County for the felony offenses of criminal endangerment and criminal mischief.

State prison records show he also has a 2004 conviction in Cascade County for felony theft.

Dill was currently serving a 10-year suspended sentence, and he also has pending charges in Yellowstone County for aggravated burglary, the probation officer's report states.

"Mr. Dill has been actively using illegal drugs, absconding supervision and failing to comply with a court ordered condition/release to attend and complete treatment at the Montana Chemical Dependency Center," the report states.

The report described Dill as an "extreme" risk to himself and the community.

Dill has not yet been charged in connection with the standoff.

$100K bond set for Dill after standoff with Billings police

$100K bond set for Dill after standoff with Billings police

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Carlos sentenced for fatal Fort Benton stabbing KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 4:43:49 PM Joe Huisinga ( Carlos sentenced for fatal Fort Benton stabbing

FORT BENTON -- Casey Carlos was sentenced on Wednesday for the January 2013 stabbing that killed 21-year old Fletcher Courtnage-McKinsey in Fort Benton.

Carlos will likely spend at least the next 20 years behind bars after being sentenced to 30 years in the Montana State Prison for causing the death, with 12 of the years suspended, plus another 10 years for the use of a weapon, with eight of those years suspended.

During the sentencing, the judge made it clear that the victim's family had been consulted in the plea agreement.

Carlos will not be eligible for parole for 12 years.

(January 29, 2013) Court documents filed in Chouteau County indicate that Fletcher Courtnage-McKinsey was fighting with another man when he was fatally stabbed by Casey Carlos on January 19th.

The affidavit provides witness accounts of the fight inside the Pastime Bar.

One witness claims that while Courtnage-McKinsey and another man were fighting, Carlos approached the victim and struck him on the left side.

The witness says Courtnage-McKinsey started bleeding immediately after being hit.

Emergency personnel provided medical care to Courtnage-McKinsey at the bar; he was then taken to Missouri River Medical Center and then transferred to Benefis hospital in Great Falls, where he was pronounced dead.

When questioned by authorities, Carlos admitted to stabbing Courtnage-McKinsey two to three times.

He also gave a description of the knife, which was found by authorities near a street corner.

A medical examination of Courtnage-McKinsey revealed he suffered four wounds from the knife, two below the left armpit, one in the spleen area, and one in the left tricep.

Carlos, 25, will be arraigned on Friday in Fort Benton on charges of deliberate homicide, assault with a weapon, and tampering with evidence.


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Justice Department: legal marijuana could be OK on Indian reservations KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 3:30:43 PM Sanjay Talwani ( Justice Department: legal marijuana could be OK on Indian reservations

GREAT FALLS -- Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington and soon, in Oregon. But could legal marijuana be coming to Montana's Indian reservations?

A recent memo from the U.S. Department of Justice suggests that could be possible, but so far no Montana tribes have publicly expressed any interest in legalizing marijuana on their reservations.

The Justice Department issued the memo in response to inquiries from some tribes.

The Daily Caller reports: "The memorandum appears to stem from an inquiry by Oregon U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, who was curious about DOJ policy on tribal pot bans in states which legalized marijuana. The DOJ's response is an extension of its August 2013 policy, in which the federal government stated it would not interfere with legalization if states maintain a few tight regulations."

Dan Skye, the editor in chief of High Times, a pro-marijuana media outlet, said, "Finally, Native Americans are really beginning to experience true sovereignty. Cannabis -- whether it's industrial hemp, medical or recreational marijuana -- can provide employment and economic stimulus on Indian reservations which is so desperately needed."

The memo, says the federal ban on marijuana still applies, but federal authorities will focus its "limited investigative and prosecutorial resources" on the prevention of eight circumstances:

* distribution of marijuana to minors;
* revenue from marijuana from going to criminal enterprises;
* diversion of marijuana to states where it is not legal;
* marijuana activity being used as a pretext for trafficking of other illegal drugs, or engagement in other illegal activity;
* violence or use of firearms in marijuana cultivation or distribution;
* growing marijuana on public lands;
* marijuana use or possession on federal property

The memo also says nothing in it precludes investigation or prosecution of marijuana crimes, even without one of the eight factors listed.

Overall, the language is similar to the Justice Department's statements in 2009 regarding medical marijuana in the states. Then, Attorney General Eric Holder said it would not be a federal priority to prosecute medical marijuana users who comply with laws in their states. But he also the government would not tolerate illegal activity by those hiding behind the medical marijuana laws.

That led to an explosion in the use of medical marijuana in Montana, but also to the eventual prosecution of many growers and providers on federal charges.

So far no Montana tribes have publicly expressed interest in legalizing marijuana on their reservations and the director of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council said that group has heard virtually no discussion among its members on the subject.

Saturday, members of the Keweena Bay Indian Community in Michigan voted to allow that tribe to manufacture and/or sell marijuana to adults 21 and over, subject to tribal licensing, taxation, and regulation, although it's not clear how or when the tribe would implement that directive.

Click here to read the DOJ memo (PDF).

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Weather Rookie: Benjamin Hodson KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 3:12:52 PM Meteorologist Ross Giarratana Weather Rookie: Benjamin Hodson

GREAT FALLS - Benjamin Hodson, a fourth-grade student at Sacajawea Elementary School in Great Falls, visited KRTV as our latest "Weather Rookie."

Benjamin took his place in front of the "green screen" and told Montana This Morning viewers about recent weather conditions in our area, and also explained how freezing fog is formed.

He received a gift certificate from Taco John's, the sponsor of the Weather Rookie program.

Click the image above to watch the video of his forecast.

Click here to watch previous Weather Rookie segments.

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Obama will start normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 2:44:16 PM Stephanie Condon - CBS News Obama will start normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba

President Obama announced Wednesday that the United States is taking steps to restore full diplomacy with Cuba, a historic move that will end 50 years of frozen relations the communist nation.

"I believe we can do more to support the Cuban people and our values through engagement," Mr. Obama said from the White House. "These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It's time for a new approach."

Since entering the White House, President Obama had expressed interest in normalizing relations with Cuba. The breakthrough announced Wednesday came after Cuba agreed to release American prisoner Alan Gross.

Mr. Obama called Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday -- the first engagement at the presidential level between Cuba and the United States since the Cuban revolution -- to discuss the release of Gross and one other man characterized as a U.S. intelligence asset, as well as the United States' release of three Cuban intelligence officers. They also discussed areas of potential cooperation between the two nations, including counter-terrorism efforts.

The U.S. and Cuba will now immediately begin discussions to re-establish diplomatic relations, including plans to establish an embassy in Havana. Mr. Obama has also directed Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba's designation of a state sponsor of terrorism. Additionally, the U.S. is taking a number of steps to significantly increase the flow of travel and commerce between the two countries. Cuba, meanwhile, is releasing 53 additional prisoners at the United States' recommendation.

"We intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas," the president said.

Mr. Obama acknowledged that the U.S. and Cuba have a "complicated history," with ideological and economic barriers that developed against the backdrop of the Cold War and have hardened over time. Still, he noted that the two nations are physically separated by just 90 miles of water, and that Cuban-Americans have made substantial contributions to politics, business, culture and sports in the U.S.

The United States and Cuba, he said, are "at once family and foe."

"Todos somos Americanos," Mr. Obama said. "Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, so as to reach for a better future for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world."

Senior administration officials stressed Wednesday that differences remain between the U.S. and Cuba on issues such as democracy and human rights, and the U.S. will continue to press Cuba on those issues.

"Our emphasis on human rights will be just as strong and we believe more effective under this policy," one senior administration official told reporters.

The Obama administration is not at this time calling on Congress to reverse laws on the books that have kept relations with Cuba frozen, though Mr. Obama said he looks forward to eventually "engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo." Meanwhile, he and other administration officials have briefed leaders in Congress on its discussions with the Cuban government.

Some lawmakers were quick to express their disappointment in Mr. Obama's moves.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, charged that "the White House has conceded everything but gained little," with no commitment from Cuba to "even begin the semblance of a transition to democracy."

He called Mr. Obama "the single worst negotiator we have had in the White House in my lifetime."

Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey who is the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that "trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent."

The administration has pushed back against that specific critique, noting that the unnamed intelligence "asset" who was also released from Cuba provided the U.S. with critically important information, including intelligence that led to the capture of the three Cubans now being sent back there. Mr. Obama called him "one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba."

Mr. Obama on Wednesday spoke directly to the critics of his policy decision.

"I respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and democracy," he said. "The question is how we uphold that commitment. I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result."

Mr. Obama noted that no other nation imposes sanctions on Cuba as the U.S. does, making those efforts fruitless. He also pointed out the U.S. now has productive relations with China, a far larger communist country, as well as Vietnam.

While U.S.-Cuban relations has been a politically charged issue for decades, views have begun to shift. Younger Cuban-Americans have expressed more interest in thawing relations between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Cuba and the United States have quietly worked together on various diplomatic fronts in recent years. For instance, Cuba was one of the first nations along with the United States to send doctors to Africa to fight the ongoing Ebola outbreak.

Perhaps even more critically, opening up relations with Cuba "substantially opens the door for the United States in the hemisphere," according to one senior administration official.

The United States' prior policy of isolation had been a "huge burden, if not an albatross" on U.S. relations in the Western hemisphere, the official said. "This could be transformative event for the United States in Latin America."

Mr. Obama authorized his administration in the spring of 2013 to begin exploring the possibility of opening up relations with Cuba. In June 2013, Cuban and U.S. officials met in Canada for their first face-to-face meetings on the issue. Canada hosted the meeting but did not participate in the diplomatic talks.

The Vatican, however, did play a role. Pope Francis sent Mr. Obama and Castro a letter, urging them to resolve the Alan Gross situation. The Vatican also hosted U.S. and Cuban delegations over the fall to review the final diplomatic terms that were announced Wednesday. When Mr. Obama spoke in person with Pope Francis earlier this year, according to administration officials, they talked about Cuba more than anything else.

Mr. Obama on Wednesday thanked the Canadians, the bipartisan lawmakers who helped facilitate Gross' release, and the pope. "In particular, I want to thank His Holiness, Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is," he said.

Administration officials on Wednesday said there is no clear timeline for establishing its new relationship with Cuba, but they noted that both the U.S. and Cuban government are interested in doing so as soon as possible.

Practically speaking, the reforms will make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. Additionally, Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island, and U.S. financial institutions will be able to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions. The U.S. is also significantly increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba and removing limits on remittances. Mr. Obama has also authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba. And in April, the U.S. will welcome Cuba at the Summit of the Americas.

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Hodgins charged with robbing Great Falls convenience store KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 1:58:41 PM Joe Huisinga ( Hodgins charged with robbing Great Falls convenience store

GREAT FALLS -- Austin Hodgins has been arrested after allegedly robbing the Loaf 'N Jug convenience store on Smelter Avenue NE.

It happened at about 2:40 a.m. on Wednesday.

According to court documents, Hodgins put a pack of beer under his jacket and approached the clerk with his hands in his pockets.

Hodgins allegedly pointed his hand to look like a gun in his pocket and demanded money from the clerk.

Hodgins left the store with an 18-pack of beer and $100 from the register.

Witnesses followed Hodgins, who walked to Walmart before getting in a taxi and being driven away as a passenger.

Officers eventually caught up with the taxi, and Hodgins was arrested and charged with robbery.

Prosecutors have requested that bond for Hodgins be set at $75,000.

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Former UGF student sentenced for student aid fraud KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 1:26:46 PM MTN News - Great Falls Former UGF student sentenced for student aid fraud

GREAT FALLS - Former University of Great Falls student Brenden James Leischner has been sentenced to six months in federal custody for Federal Student Financial Aid Fraud.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office says that sentence also includes five years' probation, payment of $82,237 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education, and $2,500 in payment for court-appointed counsel to the U.S. District Court.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, federal prosecutors told the court that Leischner, son of Mark and Tammy Leischner, who have also pleaded guilty to several felonies involving embezzlement of federal funds, bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice, and federal student financial aid fraud, applied for admission and was accepted to the University of Great Falls in the Fall of 2009.

While enrolled at UGF, Leischner and his parents completed multiple Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applications in which they concealed significant income that would have disqualified them for student and parental loans and grants.

On August 29, 2012, Mark Leischner applied for a PLUS Loan (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Student) which was declined due to lack of credit-worthiness. A week later, on September 8, 2012, Mark Leischner filed an Endorser Addendum for Federal Direct PLUS Loan and listed his son-in-law, as a co-signer for the $17,500 loan. The son-in-law had sufficient credit worthiness so the loan was approved, obligating the son-in-law to pay the debt.

Brenden's sister told law enforcement that Brenden stayed with them for a portion of that summer and had a bedroom downstairs where the family file cabinet was kept and had access to her husband's social security number. The son-in-law later filed an identity theft complaint with Yellowstone County for his father-in-law's use of his name and social security account number to obtain the loan and harm his credit. The son-in-law had discovered the theft of his identity when he had attempted to get new mortgage financing and had been denied because of the PLUS loan.

This loan was processed through the University of Great Falls. When the money arrived Brenden went to the Financial Aid office and asked for the entire amount-less what the college retained to pay his bills to them-and they wrote him a check for $13,374 which Brenden took to his bank and converted all but $1000 into cash; of which, according to Brenden, he gave $6000 to Mark Leischner to pay on a past due mortgage payment and other bills, all unassociated with Brenden's educational expenses. After becoming aware of the federal student aid fraud investigation, Mark Leischner called the Financial Aid office and said something to the effect of "I think Brenden may have made off with the money from that loan."

By 2013, Brenden Leischner was an emancipated adult and filed his own FAFSA-without having to disclose any income or assets but his own, on May 2, 2013, for aid in the 2013-2014 academic year. He claimed to be married and may have or not had a legally recognizable marriage under common law. There is no evidence that he and his girlfriend were ever married by license or ceremony. On her FAFSA, his then girlfriend indicated they were married as well. Independent married students get more federal aid than unmarried students.

Brenden Leischner failed to disclose that he had received a $105,000 medical malpractice insurance payment two months earlier, in February 2013. Leischner deposited $50,000 of his medical settlement with the investment company Waddell and Reed and then made withdrawals totaling $16,000 from the investment in the form of checks issued payable to him in April ($3,500), May ($7,500) and June 2013 ($5,000). After reviewing these check disbursements, Brenden admitted he had cash funds available in May 2013. Investigation disclosed that after receiving the $105,000, Brenden Leischner bought himself a Hummer and took an extended vacation to Hawaii with his girlfriend.

Mark and Tammy Leischner, and Brendon Leischner's uncle, James Eastlick, Jr. are scheduled for sentencing in federal court in March 2015. Brenden's grandfather, James Eastlick, Sr., was sentenced to a year in federal prison in September 2014 for his role in the embezzlement of $311,000 of federal funds.

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Kaarma found guilty in murder of German teen KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 1:14:31 PM MTN News - Missoula Kaarma found guilty in murder of German teen

MISSOULA -- The jury has returned a verdict of guilty of deliberate homicide in the trial of Markus Kaarma, who shot and killed 17-year-old German exchange student Diren Dede on April 27.

Dede was in Kaarma's garage when he was shot. Prosecutors had argued that Dede was "pleading for his life," but defense attorneys maintained that Kaarma was scared by earlier break-ins when he peppered the inside of his garage with several shotgun blasts.

The jury began deliberating late Monday, and returned its verdict on Wednesday afternoon.

During closing arguments, prosecutors told the jury that Dede may have made a mistake breaking into Karma's garage, but didn't deserve to be "executed" for a poor decision.

But defense attorneys told the jury their client isn't the "monster" that prosecutors have made him out to be during the trial.

Following Monday's unexpectedly quick end to testimony in the case, it was up to the attorneys for both sides to make their final efforts to convince the jury of Karma's guilt or innocence.

The state asked the jury to not be "distracted" by issues like the "Castle Doctrine" and gun laws, or whether Dede's error was the most important point to consider.

"Even if there was a sub-par investigation, that does not give the defendant free range to execute an unarmed child," Missoula County Deputy Attorney Karla Painter said. "Was he considering taking something that didn't belong to him? Probably. Did he deserve to die for his transgressions? No."

"Instead," Painter continued, "Diren was violently and senselessly executed. Please tell the defendant that while we live in a state with a strong gun culture, it is not one of lawlessness, or vigilante justice. Please tell the defendant and Mr. and Mrs. Dede that Diren's life meant more than a couple of cans of beer."

In his closing arguments, defense attorney Paul Ryan portrayed the shooting as a classic case of home defense.

"He wasn't lured into there. He made the move. That was one of the dangers he chose and one of the risks when he decided to burglarize this family," Ryan said. "Now he's (Kaarma) in protection mode. This a father of a 10-month old. There's no decision-making process that can go on where we have to be right or wrong. It's 'we've got to protect'."

"I think it's just so interesting what's happening in the big picture of this," Ryan continued, "And how much criticism a homeowner is getting in his decision on how he chose to defend his property."

Missoula County Deputy Attorney Andrew Paul argued that Kaarma acted too hastily in shooting Dede to reasonably size him up as a threat.

"In two seconds he goes from standing at the front door, to coming around that corner and 'boom-boom-boom-boom!' Firing," Paul said. "How does he have time to perceive a threat?"

The state argued there was "nothing in the garage worth stealing" saying this was just a case of Kaarma "defending his pride."


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Victim identified in small-plane crash near Pablo KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 1:08:02 PM MTN News - Missoula Victim identified in small-plane crash near Pablo

MISSOULA -- The Lake County Sheriff's Office has identified Brett Thoft, 33 years old, as the man who died in a small-plane crash Tuesday afternoon west of Pablo.

The passenger on the plane, Tim Schauss, was taken by helicopter to Kalispell Regional Medical Center and is reported to be in stable condition.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash to determine the cause.

(December 16, 2014) Emergency responders are on the way to a reported crash of a small plane west of Pablo.

Lake County emergency responders are rushing to the scene.

We're told that it happened at about 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Residents are reporting they saw a small white plane crash into the side of a hill.

An ALERT rescue helicopter is on the way from Kalispell to the scene as are deputies and rescue teams from Lake county.

Several sources say that there were two people on board, and that at least one person has been injured.


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GFHS Wrestling, CMR Basketball KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:43:14 PM GFHS Wrestling, CMR Basketball

GFHS Bison top Bozeman in wrestling; Lady Rustlers basketball fall to Missoula Sentinel

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Santa comes early for students at Sunnyside Elementary School KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:28:14 PM Zack Green Santa comes early for students at Sunnyside Elementary School

GREAT FALLS -- Some first-grade students at Sunnyside Elementary School in Great Falls got an early visit from Santa Claus on Wednesday.

Through a charity committee from Sletten Construction, Sunnyside was chosen as this year's recipient of new backpacks.

The students were surprised by Santa, who also packed the bags with presents and goodies for the kids to bring home.

Sunnyside has a program through the Great Falls Community Food Bank as well that allows students to receive food for the weekend, and Sletten Construction provided these donations in hopes of bringing these students a brighter holiday.

Michelle Cohens of Sletten explained, "We filled backpacks with hats, gloves, scarves, toys, snacks, from granola to fruit snacks. So each kid will have a backpack that they get to take home for the holidays."

Sletten Construction is just one of a few corporations putting together similar drives this holiday season.

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Phone troubles hit Great Falls Public Schools KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 9:59:20 AM David Sherman ( Phone troubles hit Great Falls Public Schools

GREAT FALLS -- The Great Falls Public School district says that it is experiencing intermittent phone issues district-wide.

The phones will not accept calls or dial calls outside the district phone network.

GFPS says that the phone company is working on a solution.

The GFPS Facebook page says that for situations requiring immediate communication, an email to your school's secretary or principal will work the best.

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Fund created to help victims of house fire near Simms KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 9:34:02 AM Joe Huisinga ( Fund created to help victims of house fire near Simms

GREAT FALLS -- The Mott family lost everything in a fire that destroyed their house west of Great Falls on Tuesday.

Their daughter Kate, who lives in New York, has created a GoFundMe page where people can donate to help the Motts.

Kate writes: 

Friends. Nothing remains of my parents' home. We don't yet know how the fire started. The most important thing is that mom and dad are safe and unharmed. However, they have nothing. My mom got out of the house with the clothes on her back (no coat and no shoes). We need your help.

Click here to visit the donation page.

(Tuesday, December 16, 2014) Emergency crews spent much of Tuesday fighting a house fire at 284 Simms-Cascade Road.

The fire was reported just after 11:30 a.m. When Fort Shaw fire crews arrived just 20 minutes later the entire home was engulfed in flames.

According to Fairfield Fire Chief Ben Rhodes there was one woman inside the home when the fire started, but she was able to escape without injury, and no injuries have been reported.

About 40 firefighters responded from eight area departments. Water tender trucks were on a constant rotation between pumping and filling up in Simms and Fort Shaw to keep the water flowing.

Rhodes said, "When we first got on scene, getting the natural gas turned off, finding where the location was to get that shut off. Big structure area, there's been a lot of ammunition and stuff going off in the house itself, cold, the fog has been horrible for us out here, as you can tell it's really cold out here and we are starting to see some stuff ice up."

Firefighters have been having a very difficult time putting out flames in the basement.

Later in the day, crews brought in heavy machinery to begin pulling chunks of debris out of the way to help put out the remaining flames. Rhodes said that expects to remain at the scene for several more hours.

Firefighters responded from Fairfield, Vaughn, Fort Shaw, Teton County Fire, Black Eagle, Sun River, Simms, and Sun Prairie; also at the scene was the Salvation Army's "Sally One" mobile food truck to provide refreshments for the firefighters.

There is no word yet on what may have caused the fire.

If we find out how people can help the family, we will post an update.

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Battle brewing over Montana airspace in the Powder River Training Complex KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 9:00:53 AM Jay Kohn - MTN News, Billings Battle brewing over Montana airspace in the Powder River Training Complex

BILLINGS -- You would think in a state known as "Big Sky Country" there would be plenty of airspace for everyone -- but think again.

By next spring, the U.S. Air Force hopes it will have the clearance needed to conduct expanded training and war games in an enormous military training area called the Powder River Training Complex.

The complex spans 20 million acres in the four states of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and affects 39 airports.

The Air Force proposal has sparked concern from the states and communities involved, with those concerns focused on public safety and the local economic impact.

"This is going to create a huge inconvenience for any corporate airplanes that transition in and out of the airspace," said Roger Meggers, manager of the airport in Baker in southeast Montana.

Fallon County Commissioner Steve Baldwin agrees: "We're not adverse to our military, but the impacts to our community and on our neighbors in North Dakota, it's going to be devastating economically."

Leading the fight for the general aviation industry is the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA).

"We very much respect the military's need to train, but we also recognise the potential economic impact and the importance of keeping civil aviation safe, especially in the heavily impacted airspace of Montana," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA Vice President of Government Affairs.

Rudinger said AOPA is very concerned that the Air Force has chosen not to make accommodations for general aviation operators in its final environmental impact statement.

One of the big concerns is that the Air Force plans to use the complex to conduct full scale war-games.

"The Air Force has proposed large force exercises for this area, and in that situation they will close the entire airspace for up to 10 days a year," Meggers said. "When that's in place, they'll be bringing in airplanes from all over the U.S., and possibly the world. It will be full-scale war-games going on 10 days a year."

Baldwin and Meggers met with Montana Governor Steve Bullock in Helena on Monday to outline their concerns over the Air Force proposal.

Bullock told MTN News that he is also concerned about the proposal.

"You could be shutting down rural airports just because they're doing this," said Bullock. "Sometimes things sound real good from somewhere else, but folks don't always recognize the on-the-ground implications."

Montana's Congressional delegation is also now involved.

Last week, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Walsh (D-MT) and U.S. Senator-elect Steve Daines (R-MT) sent a joint letter to the Secretary of the Air Force and head of the Federal Aviation Administration expressing frustration that the Air Force has failed to address economic and safety concerns.

"We remain extremely troubled that the proposal, as currently written, will hinder economic development and threaten safety in the region," the delegation wrote.

AOPA officials in Washington D.C. said the Air Force wants the expanded training complex in place by mid-spring 2015.

Click here to read more about the Powder River Training Complex at the Ellsworth Air Force Base website.


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Crash kills one, closes I-15 near Great Falls KRTV News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 4:06:59 AM DaVonté McKenith, Jennifer Walter Crash kills one, closes I-15 near Great Falls

GREAT FALLS -- Drivers headed north on Interstate 15 out of Great Falls will need to find an alternate route this morning.

Emergency crews have shut down the northbound lanes near mile marker 279 following a crash that killed at least one person. 

The crash happened shortly before 4 a.m. on Wednesday. Initial reports indicate a vehicle veered off the interstate ramp and flipped onto its side, landing on the interstate

The MHP has not yet released any other details of crash, and has not yet identified the victim.

According to the Montana Department of Transportation, the northbound lanes of the interstate are closed from 10th Avenue South to the Central Avenue exit, and drivers will need to find an alternate route to reach their destination.

The southbound lanes remain open at this time.

There is no word on how long the interstate closure will last. (UPDATE: the interstate was re-opened just before 10 a.m.)

We will post an update when we get more information.

Fatal crash on I-15

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