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WATCH: All these Quinhagak kids want for Christmas is a little snow


Four years ago he teamed up with his Western Alaska students to create a viral hit on YouTube. Now Quinhagak teacher Jim Barthelman is back with a new video -- set to a familiar tune -- that tells the story of Alaska’s warm, wet and not-so-white Christmas.

Behold: 

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Barthelman, who blogged for years about life in Southwest Alaska, said he filmed the clip using an iPhone 6 in just two hours on Friday, Dec. 5.

The 33-year-old teaches fourth grade at Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat school, 71 miles southwest of Bethel. Many of the more than 200 students watched the new video for the first time at the Christmas program Thursday.

Weird weather is an all-too familiar topic of conversation in the village lately. From the very first shot, frost dripping from a roof, they were laughing. 

“We had snow twice last winter," Barthelman said. "Every storm we got was rain, it was crazy, and this year kind of feels the same way."

While weather forecasts predict snow by Christmas Day, Quinhagak residents have learned to be skeptical of predictions for the village, which are sometimes based on Dillingham weather. 

As of today, only an inch of powder covers the town, Barthelman said. 

“The video didn’t work," he said. "It didn’t produce more snow for us.”

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Airman sentenced to 18 years for deadly DUI crash, apologizes to victim's mother


A superior court judge sentenced Lane Douglas Wyatt to 18 years in prison today as punishment for a deadly drunken driving crash in 2013.

Wyatt's blood-alcohol level was .196, more than twice the legal limit to drive, when his sedan smashed into a Monte Carlo carrying five people. The driver of the other car, 20-year-old Citari Townes-Sweatt, was instantly killed.

In court today, Wyatt apologized to Townes-Sweatt's mother as she listened over the phone. 

"I particularly want to apologize for taking her away from you," Wyatt told Lanita Sweatt-Sanders. "I don't know how I'll forgive myself for that."

The mother replied, "I sincerely forgive you."

"You need to forgive yourself," she said. 

The crash came just before 5 a.m. June 30 of last year at the intersection of Boniface Parkway and Debarr Road. It marked the first of a series of deadly drunken-driving accidents in Anchorage that prompted police to increase enforcement and begin using citizen patrols to flag dangerous drivers.

Under an agreement with prosecutors, Wyatt pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree assault and drunken driving. He was sentenced to 23 years with five suspended. 

The former Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson airman turned 24 years old on Tuesday.

Reporter Abby Hancock contributed to this developing story. Check back for updates. 

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Nome grand jury indicts man accused of killing Barrow prosecutor


The man accused of killing a Barrow prosecutor was indicted Friday by a Nome grand jury on counts of first- and second-degree murder and third-degree assault.

Ronald James Fischer, 47, is accused of shooting to death Brian Sullivan, 48, who was one of two prosecutors in the northern community at the time of his Dec. 8 death.

Each of the murder charges carries as many as 99 years in prison and a maximum $500,000 fine. The assault charge carries a maximum five-year sentence and $50,000 fine.

Please watch Channel 2 News and check KTUU.com for updates to this developing story.

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UPDATE: Shell contractor Noble Drilling pleads guilty to 8 felonies


UPDATE: 

Shell contractor Noble Drilling pleaded guilty this morning in federal court to all 8 felony counts. 

"The victims are all of us because we all have an interest in a clean and healthy environment," Judge Ralph Beistline said. 

Prosecutors said the fine and penalties are significant, but that Noble Drilling is a company with significant resources. Some crew members thanked the feds for investigating the case, prosecutors said.

The sentencing, outlined in a plea agreement, includes:

-- An $8.2 million fine.

-- $4 million in community service payments, which include $2.5 million to the International Arctic Research Center, $1 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $500,000 to the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. in Alaska.

-- An environmental compliance plan will be implemented and the company will be subject to third-party audits. 

-- Four years of probation, which can be suspended after three years. 

Prosecutors plan to make a statement to media about the case at 11 a.m.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Noble Drilling, while under contract on offshore drilling work for Shell, broke environmental and maritime laws in Alaska in 2012, according to a plea agreement filed today in federal court.

U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler's office says Noble will plead guilty to eight felonies and has agreed to pay $12.2 million in fines and community service payments.

Federal authorities describe the company's role in Shell’s 2012 offshore drilling plan as operator of the Noble Discoverer and drilling operator of the Kulluk drilling platform. The Noble Discoverer required extensive repairs after a Coast Guard inspection in Seward turned up numerous environmental and safety violations, while the Kulluk broke free from its tow line and grounded on Sitkalidak Island near Kodiak on New Year’s Eve in 2012. Both vessels were ultimately taken to Asia for repairs.

The charges are related to Noble's efforts to side-step environmental reporting laws and laws regulating the disposal of waste-water, and to conceal those efforts from authorities. 

The company admits to making false entries about the collection, storage and disposal of oil in record-keeping books, among other crimes, according to the plea agreement.

According to prosecutors, Noble admitted to:

-- Knowing and willfully failing to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of hazardous conditions aboard the drill ship Noble Discoverer.

-- Failing to maintain an accurate “oil record book” and an accurate “international oil pollution prevention certificate.”

-- Failing to maintain a ballast water record book.

In a statement on the plea agreement, Noble Drilling parent firm Noble Corporation emphasized the voluntary nature of steps it has taken in response to the Justice Department allegations.

The company said it has already replaced the Noble Discoverer's engine and power systems, as well as upgrading the drillship's environmental protection facilities; training and records programs have also been improved.

"Issues noted related to the Kulluk focused on record-keeping," Noble officials wrote. "Concerns related to the Noble Discoverer have been addressed during the renovation and modernization of the rig which occurred as part of an extensive shipyard program conducted in Korea and Singapore."

Asked if Shell, the owner of the Kulluk, was aware of the environmental crimes at the time they occurred, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis would not answer the question. 

Feldis said prosecutors, meeting with reporters at an afternoon news conference in Anchorage, would only talk about the Noble plea agreement. "We're not going to venture beyond the charges we have here today," he said. 

Asked if more charges might still be filed, Feldis said the agreement announced Monday completes the investigation of the Kulluk and Discoverer and related events. He would not say if Shell cooperated in the investigation.

Shell Alaska spokeswoman Megan Baldino said in a statement on Noble's settlement that in the aftermath of the 2012 season, Shell and Noble had initiated "procedural and safety management system reviews" subject to verification by external audits, in order to avoid a repeat of the incidents from that year.

"We were disappointed to learn these events had taken place in 2012, but as the agreement confirms, Noble took immediate steps to investigate the incidents and enhance its training and compliance programs," Baldino wrote. "While Noble has worked to resolve all of the issues and has appropriately accepted responsibility, we’ve made clear that their actions in 2012 are not acceptable."

The U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal division investigated the case.

In addition to the fines and community service payments, Noble has been placed on corporate probation for four years. During the probation, the company's environmental compliance plan will be monitored by a third-party auditor, Feldis said. 

Reporter Chris Klint contributed to this developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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Haines guide cited, fined for dumping refuse into Grand Canyon river


A Haines man who was acting as a non-commercial guide was found guilty of dumping refuse into the Colorado River while leading an excursion through the Grand Canyon National Park earlier this year.

Nelbert “Nels” Niemi, according to a federal citation issued June 25, was the leader of a 12-day rafting trip that started April 12.

“We had large fires every night,” trip participant Mark Cole told an investigator, the citation claims. “Garbage was dumped into the river every day!

“Cole went on to say, ‘The acts of dumping garbage into the river and collecting firewood were almost exclusively done by the trip leader, Nelbert, and his fellow commercial boatman.’”

(The number of trips through the pristine but tightly-regulated canyon is limited annually, and burning of driftwood collected along the shore is allowed only during the winter months.)

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Aspey ordered the 75-year-old to pay $1,500 in fines and about $1,000 in court costs, and federal prosecutors used the conviction as an example by issuing a press release to Arizona media.

While he was a non-commercial guide at the time of the offense, Niemi is described by the Expedition School as a "50-year veteran of bush flying" with "considerable guiding experience in organizing and leading climbing, whitewater rafting and overland ice expeditions."

His background was not lost on prosecutors.

"At sentencing, evidence was produced showing that Niemi was employed by a commercial expedition company, which advertised the company's commitment to the 'Leave No Trace Behind' principle," wrote Cosme Lopez of the U.S. Attorney's Office. "The court ... expressed concern that Niemi displayed complete disregard for regulations designed to protect the river ecosystem."

Aspey, according to the prosecutors, added similar criticism: "It is clear you chose not to abide by those regulations with which you agreed, and ignored those with which you did not," the judge noted.

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Alaska Bites: Warm up for winter with Masala Chai (spiced tea)


Alaska Bites is a weekly cooking segment that airs on Channel 2 News.

The segment features Alaskans ranging from the mom in her kitchen preparing home-made-with-love food to world famous chefs creating edible art. What ties them all together? Great food!

This week on Alaska Bites, Channel 2's Tulsi Patil demonstrates how to make traditional spiced Indian chai. 

Tulsi says spiced chai is more than just a drink. For her and many other Indians, it is a beverage around which important daily social interactions take place.

The 'cutting' chai culture in India transcends the different strata of society like nothing else can, she says.

"What I love about it is that people from every level of society can mingle with each other over a hot cup of tea and talk like their old friends," she said. "Plus, it tastes great!"

Spice (Masala) mix ingredients:

2 or 3 cloveshalf an inch of cinnamon 2 pods of cardamom2 or 3 peppercorns

To make the masala, take all ingredients and grind with mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. 

Chai (Tea) ingredients: 

1 spoon of loose leaf black tea (alternatively 2 tea bags of black tea)1 cup water 1 cup whole milk 1/2 tea-spoon masala spice mix1 small piece of fresh ginger3 teaspoons of sugar (optional)

(Serves 2)

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Method: 

Heat water in a saucepan and add the tea. When the water begins to simmer, add the masala spice mix and grate the fresh ginger into the saucepan. Allow the tea to boil for about 3 minutes as the color of the tea begins to turn deep red. Add milk to the saucepan and then add sugar (optional). Allow the tea come to boil once again. When the tea begins to rise, blow away the bubbles so that it continues to boil without rising and bubbling over. Boil the tea for another 3 to 5 minutes or until tea begins to bubble over again. Strain out the tea into cups and serve. 

Chai Cheats for Alaska: 

If you want to make the tea at home and don't have access to specialty teas, using "Red Rose" black tea tea-bags give a pretty authentic taste to the tea. This is available in most grocery stores. Indians drink tea that is not spiced on a regular basis. This tea is made the same way, eliminating only the masala spice mix. With the fresh ginger grated in, it is a delicious variant of masala chai.

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Community gathers to support Bethel homeless shelter


For clients of the Bethel Winter House like Jeremy Lee, the shelter provides a safe space he can turn when the cold is too much.

"It's pretty much been a home away from home for me," Lee said.

He came to the shelter when it opened last year after realizing jobs in his hometown of Aniak were scarce, and he knew he could not stay with family members anymore.

"I was staying with some family, and it didn't work out there from too much drinking over there, and I didn't want to be around that," Lee said.

Bethel Winter House president Eva Malvich said they use space at the Bethel Covenant House, and they have an agreement that while clients can show up intoxicated, they cannot bring alcohol into the building.

"If some people come in intoxicated, that's fine," Malvich said. "Our rule is if they comply with the rules we'll allow them to stay, but they have to be nice to other people and quiet and when it's time for heads down they have to lay down."

The house closed for three nights after a volunteer coordinator quit.

"He quit in frustration because he felt that he couldn't have the clients comply," Malvich said.

During the closure, Lee said he had to find public facilities to stay warm at night.

"I didn't know where else to go, so I'd go to the ER just to keep warm," Lee said. "You know I would pretty much fake something just so I can keep warm at night."

The house reopened Friday with added rules that clients' belongings are searched, a suggestion the president said came from clients.

"They told us that in some instances clients were bringing in alcohol and drinking in the bathroom and those were the ones that were over time became belligerent and were causing trouble," Malvich said.

While the shelter stayed open for 90 days last year, the plan is to have it available through March of 2015.

A winter feast was held at the cultural center Wednesday night to help the program.

Participants bought ceramic plates painted by members of the community in exchange for a free dinner.

Reyne Athanas, cultural center director, said the idea was to get everyone involved.

"We wanted the community to participate in more than just buying them, so we bought the bisque plates which were then painted," Athanas said. "We fired em and now they get to come back and buy em."

All money raised will go toward funding for the winter house. Lee said life would be much different if not for the program.

"I probably would be in heaven right now," Lee said.

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PHOTOS: Seized Girdwood sled dogs up for adoption


Six huskies seized by authorities from the property of a former Iditarod musher in November will be made available for adoption Friday, according to Anchorage Animal Care & Control.

The dogs were among a dozen removed Nov. 12 from a property that belonged to former sled dog racer Dario Martinez. Martinez was found dead in what police say was an apparent suicide the following day.

Kennel employees have named the huskies: Spencer, Roscoe, Jax, Sherman, Trek and Marco. The adoption fee for each dog is $57.

Animal Control writes: "They are neutered adult males, ages unknown. If you are thinking of adopting one of these dogs, please consider that they have been raised as outdoor sled dogs, therefore, patience and training, including house-training, will be needed while they adapt to living in a home. They will also need daily exercise, preferably running, bike- or skijoring and other outlets for mental stimulation, such as dog sports."

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Hose failure blamed for sickening soldiers


FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Army investigators in Alaska have concluded that a corroded vent hose on a field stove caused carbon monoxide poisoning that sickened 23 soldiers during a September exercise.

Army Alaska spokesman Lt. Col. Alan Brown tells the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1GVgjkp) that the carbon monoxide came from a gas-fueled oven used to heat trays of food in a kitchen tent.

Investigators concluded the corroded hose was not properly connected and kept gas inside the tent.

None of the soldiers in the incident Sept. 25 near Eielson Air Force Base suffered life-threatening injuries. Nineteen were treated and released. Four showed elevated carbon monoxide levels in their blood but recovered after hospital stays.

The soldiers were part of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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Anchorage firefighters pose in -- and out -- of uniform for charity calendar


Anchorage firefighters are stripping down for a good cause.

The Anchorage Fire Department in January will be releasing a 2015 calendar with firefighters wearing their uniforms. Wearing part of their uniforms, anyway. 

He usually goes by Captain Mike Melchert with AFD, but today we are calling him Mr. September.

“It was pretty fun, we had a good time,” said Melchert. “We were in the training center and we were trying to keep people so it wasn’t embarrassing.”

Melchert says this isn’t the first time AFD has done a calendar but he thinks this one will be more popular.

“Years ago we made an effort to make a calendar and we were really restricted and we couldn’t do the right kind of calendar. This kind will actually sell," he said.

A pre-release of the calendar on Tuesday has already sold more than 150 copies, making more than $2,000 for non-profits like Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society.

“What this means for us is that we’ll be able to serve more patients next year and to reach people with our life saving research and support,” said Sarah Robinson with the American Cancer Society.

To purchase a copy of the calendar, which will be available next month, click here.

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UPDATE: APD locates girl, 13, who ran away from Midtown home


THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE:

In a 10:30 am news release, Anchorage Police say that Kayleas Gray has been located and is safe.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Anchorage residents are asked to keep an eye out for a 13-year-old girl who ran away from her Midtown home early Wednesday. In a statement Wednesday afternoon, APD spokeswoman Dani Myren said 13-year-old Kayleas Gray was last seen at her Chugach Way residence at about midnight Wednesday. She was missing when family members checked for her at about 8 a.m. “Neither friends nor family have seen or heard from Gray since,” Myren wrote. “Gray is considered emotionally vulnerable, and family and police are concerned for her safety and well-being.” Myren says police have consulted with school resource officers at Romig Middle School which Gray attends, but don’t consider her disappearance to be school-related. “They’ve reached out to her known friends, they’re working with the SROs there,” Myren said. “They’ve reached out to other places she’s been known to frequent, and they’ve been unsuccessful.” Gray is described as standing 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing about 110 pounds, with short-cropped black hair and brown eyes. Myren says police aren’t sure what clothes she was wearing. “It looks like she left in the dark of the night, so people didn’t see her,” Myren said. “Ultimately, what we want to ensure is that she’s brought home safely and unharmed.” Anyone who sees Gray should call APD at 786-8900.

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$400,000 of heroin seized in Anchorage, Fairbanks drug bust


Two men are under arrest after investigation into an alleged drug ring that spanned from Anchorage to Fairbanks and resulted in the seizure of over $400,000 worth of heroin. On Tuesday a federal grand jury indicted 37-year-old Seneca Neal of Anchorage and Lamon Washington, 40, of Fairbanks for distribution of heroin and conspiracy to distribute over 1 kilogram of heroin. The case dates back to September of this year, when Alaska State Troopers began investigating heroin trafficking in the Mat-Su. Troopers say nearly 50 grams of heroin were seized at the end of October. An additional 266 grams were seized from a residence in Wasilla, and ultimately led to a source in Anchorage who was allegedly supplying the drug to suspects in Wasilla in Fairbanks. In November the investigation moved to Fairbanks, and on the 19th Troopers and agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency seized almost 150 grams of heroin and $17,000 in cash. Officers seized an additional 445 grams of heroin, along with almost $1000 cash and a custom truck, from an Arctic Boulevard residence in Anchorage on November 30th.    According to Troopers, they have several other suspects  and are forwarding those charges for prosecution.   Both Neal and Washington remain in custody.

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Group to provide rural dog care in Yukon-Kuskokwim villages


BETHEL — A nonprofit veterinary group will provide free spay and neutering services for dogs in two Yukon-Kuskokwim villages this week.

KYUK reports the Alaska Native Rural Veterinary group will be in Tuntutuliak and Kongiganak on Wednesday and Thursday.

Group leader Angie Fitch in Fairbanks says it's too expensive for people in rural Alaska to fly dogs for care, and there are no vets in the villages.

So they try to visit about 20 villages a year to offer spay and neuter services and vaccinations. Those include rabies and booster shots. They will also provide shots for eligible cats.

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Ambler road hearing draws opposition, supporters


FAIRBANKS — A two-day hearing in Fairbanks on a proposed 200-mile road to the Ambler Mining District brought out sharp opposition from Alaskans who say traditional hunting grounds would be threatened and wilderness values would be lost.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Alaska Natives and non-Natives expressed concerns about increased access and industrial contamination at the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority hearing.

Brooks Range lodge owner John Gaedecke questioned whether the state should be supporting foreign mining interests and neglecting its own people.

PJ Simon of the Allakaket Tribal Council questioned whether jobs would be forthcoming for villagers who now rely heavily on subsistence living.

NovaCopper, Inc. CEO Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse says proposed mines in the Ambler Mining District have the potential to create hundreds of jobs.

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Anchorage Museum helps smuggled turtles find new homes


Many of the couple hundred turtles seized from the Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport this September after a foiled smuggling operation are finding new homes.

After months of efforts by the Anchorage Museum, only about 35 turtles remain at the museum and need a new place to live.

"It makes me really sad to see them go but really happy that because of our hard work here at the museum," says Nicole Abeln, an animal care technician.

Abeln and volunteers solicited help over the past few months to nurse the various species of infant North American turtles back to health. 124 of 210 turtles seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survived.

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"Given their circumstances they didn't come  in the best of health," said Abeln. "They're baby turtles. They have a very high mortality rate even in the wild."

Chris Andrews, a USFWS inspector, would not provide details about how or why the animals were seized but said a person could face up to 20 years in prison for violating the federal smuggling statute. 

Andrews said anyone involved could also face violations of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. He also said Fish and Wildlife often stops illegal smuggling of non-live plants and goods, like ivory or reptile leather.

This bust was unusual, though: "We we're very surprised and excited at the same time because we love to catch these guys," Andrews said.

About 90 of the turtles have been placed at zoos in the Lower 48, and the remaining ones are expected to be placed soon. One Loggerhead Musk Turtle will remain at the Anchorage Museum.

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Feds sue owner of sunken Alaska ship that cost $1.6 million to recover


A gold dredge captain who appeared on Discovery's "Bering Sea Gold" faces a federal lawsuit that claims it cost $1.6 million to recover his sunken landing craft from the Cordova harbor.

The 117-foot Sound Developer sank in 2009 to the frustration of Cordova officials, who say it leaked fuel and was littered with debris. Federal prosecutors sued owner John Mehelich Monday, court records show.

"The owner had been put on notice, and we were actively working to get him to come back to town and deal with it before it sank," said Cathy Sherman, acting city manager at the time. 

Sherman said she learned of Mehelich's more recent whereabouts when he was seen on 2012 and 2013 episodes of the Discovery reality show.

Mehelich bought the craft in December 2004 and allegedly claimed it was free of pollutants as it sat at the harbor’s H Dock. The civil complaint chronicles two years of work at public expense to raise and remove the ship. 

“The vessel eventually became an unauthorized dump site for waste oil and other debris because (Mehelich) left the vessel unattended and unsecured,” attorneys wrote. “Further, the vessel’s two engines and two generators contained an unknown amount of oil.”

The 147-ton vessel sunk on Sherman's first day on the job as acting city manager, she remembers. Resting at the bottom of the shallow harbor, about half of the ship could be seen at low tide. Divers found it hard to navigate the refrigerators and other debris found aboard, she said. 

“It leaked fuel. It was just full of crap, excuse my French," Sherman said.

An Internet Movie Database listing for Mehelich says he was the owner of the dredge Goldfish, showing up in 2013 episodes of "Bering Sea Gold" entitled “The American Dream” and “Dead Men Gather No Gold.”

He also appears in a video on Discovery's website, narrating a history of Nome's mining industry. Mehelich could not be reached for comment.

Built in 1960, the Sound Developer sank at its moorings. A claim to the federal Oil Spill Response Trust Fund by Alaska Marine Response (PDF) says the craft leaked more than 450 gallons of fuel and oils into the harbor; when Mehelich was told he was responsible for the sinking’s costs, he accepted responsibility and hired Alaska Marine Response, according to the paperwork.

Coast Guard photos of the Sound Developer taken at the time show a stained hulk, with the windows of its bridge smashed out and part of its superstructure still above the waterline. An aerial image of the docks depicts two separate rings of containment boom laid around the wreck, protecting adjacent vessels from its oil sheen.

Alaska Marine Response deployed two layers of containment boom around the site. The federal claim says Mehelich stopped speaking with the company about two weeks after the sinking, prompting federal authorities to take over the entire cleanup on the public dime.

“After AMR’s initial efforts failed to eliminate the sheen, it eventually became apparent that the vessel contained more oil than was originally represented,” federal attorneys wrote. “Despite repeated requests by USCG personnel, (Mehelich) refused to adequately address the oil sheen.”

As the cleanup continued, the roster of companies participating and the landing craft’s litany of problems both expanded.

“(The federal on-scene coordinator) hired Global Diving and Salvage, Inc. to remove one 55-gallon drum of oil and seven 5-gallon buckets of oil/bilge trash,” federal attorneys wrote. “Global also sealed all the fuel vents and open pipes in addition to removing a large generator with several bags of oil-soaked trash.”

An attempt by the Manson Construction Company to refloat the landing craft with its crane derrick Viking appeared to be working, with the vessel even “floating momentarily.”

“However, the vessel quickly developed a severe starboard list and appeared to be on verge of capsizing,” federal attorneys wrote. “In an effort to prevent further discharge, the crane operator lowered the vessel back onto the sea floor.”

After the Viking’s attempt to raise the Sound Developer, the Coast Guard hired AMR to secure oil leaks from the vessel on-site. Mehelich was later advised that future removal efforts might destroy the Sound Developer, but didn’t respond to the Coast Guard; the vessel was ultimately raised and decontaminated, in an action that ended Dec. 20, 2011.

The final cost of the cleanup came to nearly $1.5 million for the cleanup itself, plus about $140,000 in Coast Guard costs. The National Pollution Funds Center made two payouts in the case, covering AMR’s total bill of more than $37,000 and about $3,000 to the City of Cordova to cover its cleanup costs.

“On August 15, 2013, the NPFC issued a bill of cost to defendant Mehelich for $1,657,085.53,” federal attorneys wrote. “The defendant has refused to pay the foregoing costs.”

In addition to the direct costs of the sinking, Mehelich was fined $500 for a violation of the Clean Water Act.

Channel 2’s Kyle Hopkins contributed information to this story.

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Man to spend rest of life in prison for Millennium Hotel supervisor's murder


An Anchorage man will spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to the 2011 murder of his former supervisor at the Millennium Alaskan Hotel. Javier Martinez, 48, was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the first degree murder of Kerry Fadely. Fadely was Martinez's manager at the Millennium, where Martinez worked as a waiter under the name Victor Flores until he was fired in October of 2011. A week later, Martinez returned to the hotel and shot Fadely, 55, with a pistol. The sentence will be served consecutively, after a 65-year federal sentence that a judge handed down on federal charges related to the case including weapons misconduct, identity theft, and illegally reentering the country after being deported in 1992.   Anchorage-based Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion says the defense argued that Martinez's sentences should be served concurrently so he would have an opportunity for parole. Prosecutors argued that his behavior inside state Department of Corrections facilities warranted the longer sentence.   Specifically, the disciplinary report in Martinez's sentencing recommendations says "that he had made threats of harm to correctional officers, and that he had violated facility regulations; there were disciplinary actions taken against him on 11 different occasions." Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton described Martinez's crime, according to Campion, as "one of the most callous and depraved crimes he's ever seen." "I don't know if he's going to survive 65 years" to serve his state sentence, Campion said. "It's a completed case, from our perspective, and we don't expect to see him out of custody again." Fadely’s death also led to another high-profile Alaska court case. After Fadely's death, Millennium Alaska Hotel managers denied death benefits to her longtime same-sex partner, Deborah Harris. While a state commission upheld that decision, the Alaska Supreme Court ultimately overruled the commission, calling that ruling unconstitutional.  

Channel 2's Chris Klint contributed information to this story.

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Former boyfriend pleads not guilty in killing of Irma Williams


WEDNESDAY UPDATE: 

Michael Memeo, 46, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of first- and second-degree murder in the killing of his former girlfriend, Irma Williams.  

Memeo has been appointed a public defender and is being held on $500,000 bail plus a third-party custodian.

ORIGINAL STORY: 

The former boyfriend of Irma Williams, whose body was found near a Mountain View park in October, has been accused of murder in her death.

Williams had not been seen alive since Sept. 30, when her family reported her missing. An Anchorage grand jury today indicted Michael Memeo, 46, on charges of first- and second-degree murder. He is also accused of tampering with evidence, according to Anchorage police.

Police described Memeo as the ex-boyfriend of Williams. An autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s office determined that she was the victim of homicide, police said.

...

Memeo is being held at the Anchorage jail on $500,000 bail and is scheduled to make a first court appearance on the charges Wednesday.

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Prudhoe Bay pipeline technician gets prison time for tax evasion


ANCHORAGE — A 60-year-old Soldotna man gets 16 months in prison and a $10,000 fine for federal tax crimes.

The U.S. attorney's office says in a release James R. Back also paid over $17,000 for costs of his prosecution and paid more than $113,000 in back income taxes. He was convicted on the seven tax crimes in October.

Authorities said he earned more than $125,000 as a pipeline technician at Prudhoe Bay. Yet he claimed his wages were zero dollars in 2006, '07 and '08, and didn't file returns from 2009-2012.

Officials said during this time, he put more than $140,000 to a retirement plan, had investments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, owned real estate and bought more than $400,000 in gold and silver bullion.

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Alaska ferry project caught in flap over US steel


A U.S. requirement that American steel be used to update an Alaska ferry terminal is causing some tension with Canadian officials.      The terminal is on Canadian soil, in British Columbia, but the land is leased to the state of Alaska.      Under a 50-year lease signed last year, the state is to rebuild the terminal facilities and docking structure on that land.      Most of the construction funding would come from the Federal Highway Administration, which has "Buy America" requirements for steel, iron and manufactured products used in projects it funds. The rest of the funding would come from the state.      The Canadian ambassador to the U.S. says requiring the steel for the project to be produced in America is unacceptable. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has pledged to work toward a solution that benefits both sides.

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