Northwest Briefly

State testing fees for driving in carpool lanes

SEATTLE — Will solo drivers pay 50 cents to $4 to drive in the car pool lane?

The state Transportation Department is starting a four-year test of High Occupancy Toll lanes April 26 on a nine-mile stretch of Highway 167 between Auburn and Renton.

Drivers who want to take part can get transponders on their cars to automatically pay the toll, which varies depending on congestion. It’s part of the Good to Go system already used on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

State lawmakers hope congestion pricing will make better use of highways and raise money for improvements.

Jurors questioned on insanity defense

Potential jurors for the trial of Naveed Haq in Seattle are being questioned about their opinion of the insanity defense.

Some who can’t accept the idea are being dismissed from the King County Superior Court jury pool.

Trial begins April 14 for the man accused of killing a woman and wounding five others in 2006 at the Jewish Federation office in Seattle.

The 32-year-old Tri-Cities man has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If convicted he faces life in prison without parole.

Nexus lane pot arrest at Canada border

Drivers in the Nexus program are prescreened and considered to be a low risk so they can cross the border with Canada quicker.

But they are still subject to a search. That’s what a Lacey man found out Sunday night when he tried to enter the United States in Whatcom County.

Spokesman Mike Milne says Border Patrol inspectors found more than 4 pounds of marijuana in his car.

Centralia: Woman found asleep in home

A “Goldilocks” was found sleeping in a Chehalis home.

Deputy Police Chief Randy Kaut says when the family woke up Wednesday they found an 18-year-old stranger asleep in a bed.

When they awoke, the woman she said a friend named Jeremy had dropped her off and told her it would be OK to sleep there. While that was just right for her it was more than the family could bear. They don’t know anyone named Jeremy.

There was nothing taken from the home — no missing porridge. Police gave the Olympia woman a ticket for trespassing.

Vancouver, Wash.: Pack strangles man

Authorities say a transient climbing over a chain-link fence in Vancouver choked to death when he got tangled in the straps of his beer-filled backpack.

Police say 51-year-old James Francis Henry had been drinking beer Tuesday night while walking with his girlfriend, 38-year-old Kelli Jo Barkley. They were returning to their transient encampment from their roadside panhandling site.

Barkley says he fell while trying to scale a 6-foot chain-link fence, got his neck caught in the chest strap of his backpack and said, “Help me! Help me!”

By the time she got a nearby resident to call 911 and emergency crews arrived, Henry was unconscious and could not be revived.

Police said his backpack contained about a dozen 40-ounce bottles of beer.

Spokane: Meningitis cases worry officials

Spokane County health officials say they’ve had seven reports of bacterial meningitis in the last three months.

Spokane Regional Health spokeswoman Julie Graham said the district normally sees three to five cases in an entire year.

Eastern Washington University spokesman Dave Meany says the Eagles coaches and players were immunized after one football player was hospitalized. The player was released from the hospital and returned to classes.

The disease is spread through bodily fluids, such as coughing or kissing or sharing eating utensils and starts with flulike symptoms. In extreme cases, it can result in organ failure, brain damage, limb amputations or death.

Health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinations.

Olympia: State fines Puget Sound Energy

State regulators have fined Puget Sound Energy $1.25 million over phony inspection records for natural gas pipelines.

The Utilities and Transportation Commission says that’s the largest state fine ever handed down to a natural gas distributor.

The commission says a Puget Sound Energy subcontractor falsified records about checkups on “phantom leaks,” when natural gas odor is smelled but no leak is found.

Under a settlement with the state, Puget Sound Energy will improve its subcontractor monitoring and records system, and undergo an independent audit.

Lakewood: Woman’s house explodes

A young woman’s home has exploded and burned in Lakewood, and her estranged boyfriend is in jail.

Seventeen-year-old Kristine Manues says she returned home Wednesday as her 23-year-old ex-boyfriend was leaving with some of his belongings. She says he asked to kiss their 5-month-old son Jaydyn, but she refused because she had obtained a restraining order for herself and the baby.

Before entering the home, she says, she smelled natural gas and went to a nearby house to call authorities. As she was on the telephone, her house exploded and burned.

Police Lt. David Guttu says the ex-boyfriend was arrested two hours later about a mile away. He has been jailed for investigation of violating a restraining order, domestic violence-related burglary and arson.

D.C.: Rep. Reichert to travel to Colombia

Rep. Dave Reichert is going to Colombia to get a firsthand look as Congress considers a free-trade agreement with the South American country.

The Washington state Republican is one of nine members of Congress traveling to Colombia on Friday with U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

Schwab says passage of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement would yield substantial economic benefits for American and Colombian businesses and consumers, while strengthening ties with a crucial Latin American ally.

The proposed agreement would eliminate most tariffs and other trade barriers currently imposed on goods and services between the two countries.

The group is scheduled to return Sunday.

Tacoma: Jail inmate found dead in cell

A 26-year-old man being held on a drug charge hanged himself in the Pierce County jail.

Sheriff’s Detective Ed Troyer says a guard found Thomas Walker Browne hanging from a bedsheet in a shower at 2:50 a.m. Wednesday, and he could not be revived.

Troyer says Browne had not asked for help or been identified as suicidal. He had a prior drug conviction and was in jail for the fourth time in a couple of years.

The last suicide in the jail in Tacoma was a year ago. In that episode Troyer says a murder convict saved up medication for an overdose.

Troyer says there are 1,400 inmates in the jail, 86 percent of them felons facing prison time.

Associated Press

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