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Update: Bethel alcohol treatment center fire

Just a few days after a fire demolished this 16,000 square foot building, residents are now left to figure out what comes next

In this story:

- While the building was covered by insurance, it's not yet known when the rebuilding process will begin.

- All that's left of what was supposed to be an alcohol treatment center, is a pile of charred wood and metal. The structure burned down Monday night and investigators are trying to understand what caused it. Local firefighters say they aren't ruling out any possible causes.

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Congressional candidates debate for the final time

Three men vying for Alaska’s lone seat in congress debated Thursday night live on Alaska Public Media. Libertarian Jim McDermott and Democrat Forrest Dunbar are trying to unseat Republican incumbent Don Young. The moderator asked the candidates if they would support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, which is pending in congress. The law would bar employment discrimination based on perceived or actual sexual orientation. "I see no problem with, regardless of two people that love each other, across the board, we discuss in our circles is why is government so involved,” said McDermott, a UAF Professor. "I support adding sexual orientation as a protected category, as we have with race, and religion,” added Dunbar, a former Capitol Hill staffer. “We have a group that has been historically discriminated against." Young said he would probably support the bill. "I have hired people of a different orientation, I have never looked upon a person as long as they can do a job, be whatever gender, but I think everyone at this table is on the same wavelength." Young says he still believes marriages is between a man and a woman. McDermott is a relative newcomer on the campaign trail who leans socially liberal. "You know what I'm going to do? For every law that we think of putting in place, we should take two off the books." Dunbar says long term cuts to programs will have to be made in order to rein in federal spending. Young touted his record in congress, claiming more than 4 percent of his bills were signed into law by the president.

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Governor Race Fundraising

The contest between incumbent Governor Sean Parnell and his Independent challenger Bill Walker has seen a flood of $1.7 million from Political Action Committees.

In this story:

- The Alaskans Opposing Parnell Political Action Committee is focused on getting Parnell out of office. That PAC is mostly funded by union-related groups that have raised nearly half a million dollars so far.

- On the other side, the group called "Citizens Against Walker" has pulled in about $1.3 million. According to the non partisan research group, the Center for Responsive Politics, more than a million of that money is from the Republican Governors Association.

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Investigators return to Kenai-area woods in search of vanished Alaska family

Authorities scoured Kenai-area woods this week searching once again for an Alaskan family of four who vanished -- seemingly in the middle of breakfast -- in May. 

In this story:

-- The discovery last week of an article of clothing, described only as "outerwear," has re-ignited search efforts in the mysterious disappearance. The missing family members are: Rebecca Adams, 5-year-old Michelle, 3-year-old Jaracca Hundley and Adams' boyfriend, Brandon Jividen, 37.

-- "We're looking for evidence that they are alive ... or evidence that they are not," said Lt. Dave Ross of the Kenai Police Department. 

-- With snowfall forecast for the weekend, this is expected to be the final search of the season. The effort Thursday focused on a wooded area behind the family's home. 

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Guard members sue federal government for privacy breach

Four Alaska National Guard members have sued the U.S. Army, saying their privacy was violated when classified military documents were leaked. They are now on the hunt for the sources of the leaks.

Those documents were leaked to media organizations, including Channel 2 News, but KTUU did not report the names.

However, those men have now publicly identified themselves through the news release of their lawsuit.

Suing the federal government are Shannon Tallant, John Nieves, Jarrett Carson and Joseph Lawendowski.

According to leaked documents, the men violated a range of military codes. Among the offenses are having inappropriate relationships, making fraudulent charges on government credit card and, in one case, sexually assaulting a woman.

“Our clients are not accused of any crimes whatsoever, so whatever reports you read that they were accused of crimes, that is completely and totally false,” said Mathew Tully of Tully Rinckey, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm. “That's the basis of this lawsuit. There are a lot of documents going around and there's a lot of accusations, and there's use of words such as crimes and accusations of serious crimes and sexual assaults and there's just no basis in that.” Tully said the plaintiffs are suing the U.S. Army because their records were disclosed to the media. "Those records are supposed to be confidential," Tully said. "Those records included personal information such as Social Security number, dates of birth, private information that is not releasable under federal law." Tully called for a deeper, outside investigation into allegations of Guard misconduct. “What I’ve seen here in Alaska is very disturbing,” he said. “I don’t think that it can be solved by people in Alaska looking at the situation. This requires the Department of Defense inspector general, the FBI, outsiders to come in and dissect every aspect of these allegations.”

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Anchorage man charged with helping his wife run Alaska-wide prostitution ring

An Anchorage man has been charged with helping his wife run a statewide, $300-per-hour prostitution ring by collecting money from johns, among other duties. 

A grand jury indicted Quinn Batts, 33, on a felony sex-trafficking charge Oct. 23. Troopers arrested Batts the following day.

Batts is the husband of Amber Batts, 40, who was charged in July with managing a prostitution business that advertised sex for sale online and served clients in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Kenai.

“During the execution of the search warrants, investigators found 32 ‘independent contractor’ agreements between Batts and the women she trafficked,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Adam Alexander in a complaint charging Amber Batts with eight counts of sex trafficking.

“Batts indicated to investigators that (investigators) would find evidence related to approximately 800 clients that had been serviced through her enterprise,” the charges say.

Amber Batts provided travel expenses and rooms up-front for prostitutes in the four cities the couple served, according to charges. 

“Batts stated that her take was $100 out of the $300 charged for an hour of service,” Alexander wrote. “For two sex workers she took $200 out of the $650 charged.”


Quinn Batts' role in the business was to find a residence for the prostitution to take place, communicate with potential Johns, collect customers’ money and “otherwise facilitating the ongoing enterprise,” according to an Alaska State Troopers dispatch posted online.

Quinn Batts’ criminal record includes convictions for malicious destruction of property, fourth-degree assault and criminal mischief, according to a bail memo filed in state court. He was being held on $1,000 bail at the Anchorage jail Thursday, court records show.

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Prisoner who fatally punched girlfriend dies of illness, Corrections says

A 59-year-old man who was convicted of fatally punching his girlfriend at a Fairbanks homeless camp died of natural causes Wednesday while in custody, according to the Department of Corrections.

Rick Allen died at 10:34 p.m. in what the Department described as an expected death following a lengthy illness. He is the 10th person to die in custody this year, the Department said in a news release.

Allen was arrested in July 2012 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter later that year, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Allen, who had a history of minor alcohol offenses, had struck his girlfriend at a homeless camp at the Johansen Expressway, the newspaper reported.

He was serving an 11-year sentence. Allen had most recently been held at the Anchorage jail and spent a significant portion of his time in custody at the Palmer Correctional Center.

He was pronounced dead at Alaska Regional Hospital, a corrections spokeswoman said. 

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64-year-old woman died in Eagle River Road crash

Anchorage police say the woman killed Wednesday in an afternoon crash on Eagle River Road was an Eagle River resident.

Police say 64-year-old Alane Louise Allen died in the crash just before 12:30 p.m.

Allen was driving a small sedan north on Wren Lane and entered the intersection with Eagle River Road. The sedan collided with another small car and a sport utility vehicle driving in opposite directions on Eagle River Road.

Allen died at the scene.

Drivers in the other vehicles sustained what police called minor injuries.

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Mayor vetoes ban on spiked fences; effort was designed to save city moose

Editor's note: This story contains a graphic image of a moose impaled on a palisade fence.

Mayor Dan Sullivan has vetoed an ordinance approved by the Anchorage Assembly last week that would ban new palisade fences in town, in an effort to prevent moose from being impaled on their spikes. Sullivan confirmed his veto of Jennifer Johnston’s ordinance, first reported by Assembly member Dick Traini, in a Wednesday statement.

"The incidence of moose being wounded or killed by palisade fencing is very, very low," Sullivan wrote. "Contrast this with the cost of cutting off the spikes or pales or completely replacing fencing within the next five years and it is easy to see that the total financial impact far outweighs the benefit of saving a few moose."

The measure narrowly passed on a 6-5 vote at the Assembly’s Oct. 21 meeting. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jessy Coltrane testified before the Assembly that spiked fences occasionally kill moose when they try to step over them and become stuck. Others, however, said drivers hit and kill many more moose each year on local roads.

Johnston said Wednesday afternoon that Sullivan stopped the measure due to confusion over language requiring homeowners to modify fences under 7 feet in height within the next five years. She said she thought the clause had been removed from the ordinance, allowing older fences to remain in place without modification, but it was still in place when the Assembly passed the measure into law. Coltrane declined to speak on camera Wednesday but Rick Sinnott, Coltrane’s predecessor as Fish and Game’s Anchorage-area biologist, said Fish and Game typically responds to two or three moose impaled on fences in the Anchorage area per year. It's a toll Sinnott, who spent much of his career protecting people from wildlife and vice versa in a city that bleeds into the wilderness, said steadily rose during his tenure.

In addition to moose, other animals sometimes wounded themselves on the spikes but were able to struggle free, he said.  “At first (there were) not that many -- we actually had more moose caught in chain-link fences,” Sinnott said. “It’s because there’s more fences, not because there’s more moose.” While many of the ungulates are dead by the time biologists arrive, Sinnott said in other cases biologists sometimes find the animals wounded. Some were shot, while others were freed from the fences to face an uncertain future due to their injuries. “Some of the time they’d live, but in most cases they would die of infection,” Sinnott said. “Most of the time they’d be eviscerated because it would be in the heart or the lungs.”

According to Sullivan, one of the arguments against the palisade-fence ban is its limited scope relative to other means of protecting moose.

“We could save a lot more moose by practicing safer driving habits on our roadways, at no cost to taxpayers and property owners,” Sullivan wrote. “Or, by not planting trees that are an attractive nuisance to moose -- trees that draw moose into roadways or actually make moose sick.”

In Sinnott's view, moose killed on roads are a much larger problem -- but addressing it is also much more costly than Johnston's ordinance. He said most of Anchorage's palisade fences are smaller installations, concentrated in residential neighborhoods like West Anchorage and the Hillside.

"It seems like it’s a simple fix; most people don’t have these fences yet," Sinnott said. "Moose killed on roads is a much more complicated thing -- you can build fences along the Glenn Highway to keep them out of certain areas, but those cost millions of dollars."

Sullivan's statement on his veto also echoed opponents of the palisade-fence ban who criticized its expansion of government power. Despite calling on city designers to avoid including palisade fencing in future public buildings, Sullivan said "the cost/benefit analysis does not warrant this level of government intrusion." Sinnott dismissed the government-overreach argument Wednesday, saying state authorities estimated the value of every living moose at more than $1,000 apiece. He also pointed out that city law bars the installation of barbed-wire fences between properties -- because they might harm humans who try to cross them. “I don’t think this is a huge overreach of government, where moose are essentially being tortured to death on these things,” Sinnott said. “You can have a different kind of fence or even the same kind of fence, a palisade fence, and it’s be just as attractive.” An eight-vote supermajority among the Assembly’s 11 members would be needed to override Sullivan’s veto. According to Johnston, it’s unlikely that the Assembly has the votes for an override.

The body has had difficulty amassing that number, failing in August to defeat Sullivan's veto of a measure replacing labor law AO37. That 7-4 vote put a suspended recall effort for AO37 back into play, and local voters will see a question asking whether the law should remain in effect on their state ballots in Tuesday’s general election.

In the meantime, Sinnott said Sullivan’s veto doesn’t account for moose behavior, which instinctively conditions them to jump over low obstacles. “They’re used to jumping over branches and maybe chain-link fences, which they can flop over, and when they jump over these they get impaled the first time and they die,” Sinnott said. “It’s something I’m afraid we’re going to see happening more often.”

Channel 2's Adam Pinsker contributed information to this story.

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Parents and providers testify against proposed changes to Medicaid

Dozens of parents and health care providers packed a public meeting Wednesday to testify before the Medicaid Reform Advisory Group.

Health Commissioner William Streur attributed the large turnout to a proposal in the group's draft recommendations that would cap pediatric therapy to six hours per year. Many people at the meeting spoke out against the potential changes. "It has made a huge difference in our lives. If we don't have therapy, if we don't have medication, my son would have to be institutionalized," said Colleen Peterson, whose son has autism. She said her son takes 15 prescription medications a year. She testified against a proposed change to limit prescription medications covered by Medicaid to eight to 10 annually. "There will be other families out there who will have to make a choice between food and medicine for the children," said Peterson. After hearing from many parents, Streur said the advisory group would evaluate the proposed cap to pediatric therapy. He said part of the process includes putting out recommendations and then hearing feedback from the public. "Part of the reason we put something out is to see if there is stretch, is there room, is there an ability for providers to tighten down a little bit or a lot on what they do," said Streur. He stressed to the crowd that the group is advisory only and will submit its recommendation to Gov. Sean Parnell by Nov. 15. "My role in this position is to sustain Medicaid and to sustain those services," said Streur. "Where we can achieve efficiencies, I'm going to promote those and I know it's a very unpopular position to take." Other proposals within the draft recommendation include a cap on mental health services, payment reform and increasing or adding co-pays.

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Driver ejected in Sterling Highway crash, expected to survive

A semi-truck towing a trailer collided with a Ford Focus near milepost 114 of the Sterling Highway Wednesday around noon, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers believe Chad Keith, 34 of Kenai, was driving a 2009 Kenworth semi-truck and Byron McBee, 31 of Kasilof, was driving the Focus.

An investigation suggests McBee fell asleep, and his Focus crossed the centerline and collided with the semi's rear trailer tires.

McBee was ejected, and the car came to a rest in the southbound lane. He was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna for treatment and is expected to recover.

Keith reported no injuries.

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Homer man badly hurt after woodstove explosion, fire total home

An elderly Homer man was severely injured in an explosion and fire that destroyed his home Wednesday morning, Alaska State Troopers say. In a Wednesday afternoon AST dispatch, troopers say responded alongside crews from the Anchor Point, Homer and Kachemak Emergency Service Area fire departments to the Diamond Ridge blaze at about 9:15 a.m. “Investigation revealed the 88-year-old male owner of the residence attempted to start a fire in a wood stove using gasoline,” troopers wrote. “There was an explosion and the home was subsequently consumed by fire.” Troopers say the man was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital with life-threatening injuries. The $160,000 residence was a total loss in the blaze.

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APD responds to fatal 3-vehicle Eagle River Road collision

Anchorage police and medic units are responding to a fatal three-vehicle collision in Eagle River Wednesday afternoon. APD spokesperson Dani Myren says calls about the collision, with reports of extrication required, first came in from Eagle River Road’s intersection with Wren Lane just before 12:30 p.m., with few details confirmed.

Myren said Wednesday that at least one fatality was involved, but didn't have an exact count as of 1 p.m. Wednesday.

"I don't have anything further," Myren said. APD said on Twitter that the wreck had blocked the intersection, with drivers asked to avoid the area. Eagle River Road has been closed between Eagle River Lane and Preuss Lane as police respond. This is a developing story. Please check and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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Alaska National Guard members sue over leaked records

Four Alaska National Guard members have sued the U.S. Army, saying investigative and other records pertaining to them were improperly leaked to reporters and state officials. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, said the plaintiffs have suffered humiliation, embarrassment and loss of promotional potential. It seeks unspecified damages and to have those found responsible for the leaks to be referred to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution. Plaintiffs' attorney Mathew Tully says he does not know who leaked the reports. Tully says he believes they were singled out as part of a "smear campaign," with selective information released. The plaintiffs are Shannon Tallant, John Nieves, Jarrett Carson and Joseph Lawendowski, who were part of the Guard's recruiting team.

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APD names suspect in Campbell Creek Park stabbing

Anchorage police arrested a man Tuesday evening, as a suspect in a stabbing at Campbell Creek Park that left another man critically injured.

APD spokesperson Dani Myren says 46-year-old Erin Tracy has been charged with one count of first-degree assault in the incident, which took place at the park on the 2700 block of East 46th Avenue.

"He was remanded at the (Anchorage Jail) on no bail," Myren said.

Police responded to the park, slightly southeast of Lake Otis Parkway’s intersection with Tudor Road, after initial reports of the stabbing came in at about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Officers at the scene said the incident began as an altercation among a group of people on a bridge in the park. The victim was taken to the hospital in critical condition with a stab wound to his neck; Myren didn't have an update on his identity or condition Wednesday. According to police the victim and suspect, both of whom were drinking, knew each other. Channel 2’s Amberia Hill and Kenny Knutson contributed information to this story.

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Two Midtown water main breaks under repair

A pair of water main breaks are blocking traffic along parts of Midtown streets Wednesday, with police and fire units on scene as utility workers address each incident. APD spokesperson Dani Myren said police were called just after 12:30 p.m. to provide assistance controlling traffic near the first break, at 42nd Avenue’s intersection with Roson Court. According to Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility spokesperson Chris Kosinski, dispatchers were notified of the break and sent repair crews at about 12:40 p.m. An excavation crew didn’t reach the scene until shortly before 2 p.m. “We believe we have it all under control,” Kosinski said. “We don’t know what caused it at this time.”

AWWU crews shut off water and switched homes to temporary supplies at 2:30 p.m. for a second break, at East 64th Avenue's intersection with Norm Drive.

"We're there working on it," Kosinski said.

Kosinski says the 42nd Avenue break, which was set to be fixed by early evening, is likely affecting more people than the second incident.

"That's affecting a lot of apartment complexes," Kosinski said. "The Norm one is single-family homes." Myren said the break had blocked traffic on 42nd between Folker and Wright streets. Workers at the scene said water in the area had been shut off as of 2 p.m. Channel 2’s David Brooks contributed information to this story. Editor's note: The timing of AWWU's response to the 42nd Avenue water main break has been clarified by utility officials.

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Troopers make unrelated arrest in Elim shots-fired investigation

An Alaska State Trooper investigating a report of shots fired in Elim Wednesday morning, which led to a lockdown at the local school, made an unrelated arrest in the village Wednesday afternoon. AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen said troopers were informed of three shots fired in the village nearly 100 miles east of Nome, which hosts one of the later checkpoints in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. “Troopers in Nome got a report at 7:07 a.m. from a few people saying they heard shots fired between 6:30 and 7 a.m.,” Ipsen said. “There were no reported injuries; a trooper flew to the village and is now trying to get to the bottom of it.” Ipsen said Wednesday afternoon that the Aniguiin School in Elim was on lockdown, as reported by locals to Channel 2. Troopers couldn't initially confirm those reports Wednesday morning, and when Channel 2 called the school to verify them, an employee said she couldn’t confirm any information and hung up. “They told the troopers in Nome that the school was on lockdown,” Ipsen said.

During the investigation, Ipsen said the trooper encountered 29-year-old Elim man Adam Saccheus. Saccheus was subsequently taken into custody for violating conditions of his probation.

"Saccheus was intoxicated when the trooper contacted him at the village store," Ipsen wrote in an update on the investigation Wednesday afternoon. "Saccheus was arrested a short time later after the trooper discovered that he was under conditions not to consume alcohol from a case that involved original charges of importing alcohol into Elim, a dry village." The trooper, who found Saccheus hiding in a shed, is continuing to investigate the reports of shots fired. “There’s a lot of information coming from a lot of people in villages that has not been proven yet,” Ipsen said. “We do understand the urgency, but we need to sort things out first.” Saccheus is not suspected to be the shooter reported in the original shots-fired call.

"Luckily, nobody was hurt," Ipsen said. Channel 2’s Nikki Carvajal contributed information to this story.

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Military recruiters return to Mat-Su, but not Anchorage schools

School districts in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough have taken diverging courses on whether to allow the return of military recruiters to their campuses, after meetings with recruiters held by their superintendents this week. A ban on military recruiting activities at Anchorage schools remains in place, despite a Tuesday statement from MSBSD Superintendent Dr. Deena Paramo that recruiters’ access had been “fully restored” to her district’s schools. ASD Superintendent Ed Graff announced an Oct. 20 suspension of military recruiting activities pending review meetings, with Paramo following suit in the Valley a day later. Both school leaders said their actions were responses to alleged misconduct by Alaska National Guard recruiters described in leaked military reports, including a recruiter who tried to date a high-school freshman girl and backroom sex at a recruiting station in the Dimond Center mall. Paramo’s decision came after a Tuesday meeting with recruiters from the Alaska National Guard’s Army and Air branches, as well as the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. According to an MSBSD statement on the gathering, she reviewed the services’ training of personnel to deter sexual abuse, as well as their procedures, chain of command and resolution procedures for addressing complaints. “It was a positive response from them,” Paramo said Tuesday. “It was timely -- they were very respectful of our time, and the information that we needed before we moved on.” In Anchorage, Graff said Monday afternoon that he and officials with the military recruitment department have had a very positive and open dialog about expectations and student safety on school campuses. But until the district can get additional information on training procedures by recruiters, Graff says the ban still stands. While it's unclear when most military recruiters will be allowed back in schools, Graff says the Alaska National Guard’s timeline will be different. “I think that in light of the allegations that are out there, there are questions that we still have to investigate and conversations that have to take place,” Graff said. “So I have a separate meeting I’ll be holding with them and we'll just move forward from there.” After the press conference, Alaska Army National Guard officials said they would be meeting with Graff again on Thursday. “We will take all the necessary steps to reassure the superintendent and ASD leadership that we will ensure the safety and respectful treatment of all the district's students,” said Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Lee Knowles.

After meeting with Paramo, Knowles said Army Guardsmen were also establishing a call line to facilitate easier reporting by educators and others of any future incidents. Channel 2’s Caslon Hatch contributed information to this story.

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AST seeks Fairbanks man in woman's August attempted murder

A Fairbanks man is being sought by Alaska State Troopers on more than half a dozen domestic-violence charges, including attempted murder, after troopers say he repeatedly choked a woman in August. Court records show that 39-year-old Richard Walker Lane stands accused of four counts of second-degree assault, plus one count each of first-degree attempted murder, first-degree burglary and violating a domestic-violence protective order. Troopers said in a Tuesday dispatch that they were first informed of the assault north of Fairbanks, at a home on Willow Creek Road, just before 8:45 p.m. on Aug. 24. “Investigation determined that (Lane) forced his way into the residence and assaulted (the victim) by strangling her four times,” troopers wrote. “The woman escaped the house and ran to a neighbor’s house to call 911.” Lane wasn’t at the home when troopers arrived, but after an investigation he was indicted on the charges Thursday. A no-bail warrant was subsequently issued for his arrest. AST spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said Wednesday troopers don’t believe Lane is still in-state, and that residents aren’t being asked to keep an eye out for him. “I believe troopers do have an idea where he is,” Ipsen said. According to Ipsen, it’s not clear when the case against Lane was forwarded to the district attorney’s office. Editor’s note: Information that would identify the victim has been omitted from this story.

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Documents requested a year ago, shed little light on governor's Medicaid decision

When Gov. Sean Parnell announced late last year he would not accept federal money to expand Medicaid coverage, Channel 2 News submitted a Freedom of Information request to better understand the decision-making process of a policy that affects more than 40,000 Alaskans.

KTUU received thousands of pages in March. On Monday night a staff member from the governor's office dropped off a packet with a disc containing thousands more documents.

The records show that the governor and his staff routinely emailed each other links to news stories about Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act.  The stories were often recommended reading by the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee.

What did the governor, health and social services commissioner, and their staff members think about the news stories?

We don't know. That correspondence by the governor's cabinet and appointees is redacted, as is page after page of emails to and from the governor, and to and from his chief of staff, Mike Nizich.

Not redacted are letters and petitions from Alaskans asking the governor expand Medicaid coverage.

Also shown in full are letters to and from then-U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying Alaska will opt out of expanding Medicaid.

The documents that may have shown how the governor came to his decision -- the reason for the records request -- are blacked out.

We asked the governor's office for comment Tuesday but did not hear back.

Here's what Parnell told us Friday, Oct. 24, when Channel 2 News asked about the status of our year-long request:

"The memorandum that we published is the document that reflects my decision and the reasons for my decision," Parnell said. "That's what gets released. The deliberative, and the thinking process and the draft work on things—that doesn't get released, because that is not the final policy decision. To open that up would really chill a person's ability in my role to even make a decision that's informed



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