National Roundup

Judge’s ruling halts gold mine project in eastern Idaho

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Exploration work by a Canadian company hoping to build an open-pit gold mine in Idaho west of Yellowstone National Park was halted following a federal judge’s ruling involving its impact on groundwater.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Monday amended his previous decision that Otis Gold Corp. had interpreted as allowing exploration drilling.

The new ruling sought by the Idaho Conservation League and Greater Yellowstone Coalition vacates two 2018 U.S. Forest Service documents approving the drilling in the Centennial Mountains.

“This is what we wanted,” said Bryan Hurlbutt, an attorney at Advocates for the West that is representing the environmental groups. “Now, the project cannot proceed unless the Forest Service approves it again.”

Ontario-based Excellon Resources acquired British Columbia-based Otis Gold in February. Robert Maynard, an attorney representing the company, which intervened in the lawsuit, didn’t immediately return a call Tuesday seeking comment. The U.S. Department of Justice, which defends federal agencies in lawsuits, declined to comment.

The proposed Kilgore Project would cover about 19 square miles (50 square kilometers) on Forest Service land and land managed by the state of Idaho in Clark County, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Idaho Falls. The company says the area contains about 825,000 ounces (23.4 million grams) of gold.

The conservation groups filed the lawsuit in late 2018 seeking to halt the exploratory drilling. In a December ruling, Winmill said the Forest Service hadn’t done an adequate analysis involving groundwater quality in the Dog Bone Ridge drainage area, home to Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The trout are considered a sensitive species facing threats to its population or habitat.

But Wimill let stand the Forest Service’s environmental assessment of the exploratory drilling and a decision called a “finding of no significant impact” based on the assessment.

Otis Gold then issued a news release saying the decision allowed it to continue its five-year exploratory drilling in areas outside Dog Bone Ridge. The company had already completed its first year of drilling.

The new ruling Monday shuts down drilling at least until the Forest Service completes its groundwater analysis at Dog Bone Ridge and issues new approval documents. That requires a public process with comment periods.

Winmill said Otis Gold’s plan to continue drilling outside Dog Bone Ridge essentially split the project in two, something not allowed under U.S. environmental laws.

“The area is an important site for grizzly bears and other wildlife, especially wildlife that needs to migrate from Yellowstone to other parts of the Rockies,” Hurlbutt said.

Hearing set for man guilty in hot car death of son

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man who was convicted of murder after his toddler son died inside a hot SUV will get a new hearing to appeal his case.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark will hear Justin Ross Harris’ appeal in December, nearly four years after he was convicted for murder, news outlets reported.

Harris was sentenced to life in prison in November 2016 after a jury found him guilty in the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper Harris. The toddler died after sitting for about seven hours in the back seat of his father’s car outside the office where Harris worked in suburban Atlanta.

Prosecutors in the case argued Harris wanted the child dead so that he would be free to pursue sexual relationships outside his marriage. Harris’ attorneys and his ex-wife, Leanna Taylor, said during the trial that Cooper’s death was an accident.

If Judge Clark rules against a new trial in December, Harris is able to appeal to the state’s Supreme Court, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Man asks for new judge, venue in brothers’ deaths

KINGSTON, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man is seeking a new new judge and a change of venue for his trial on charges that he killed two brothers from Wisconsin.

An attorney for Garland Joseph Nelson, of Braymer, filed the motions Monday during a hearing that was held via Zoom. His defense attorney and the prosecutor did not return calls seeking more information about the hearing.

Nelson faces two counts of first-degree murder and several other charges in the deaths of Nick Diemel, 35, and Justin Diemel, 34, of Shawano County, Wisconsin.

Jack Diemel, the brothers’ father, said the two went to Nelson’s northwestern Missouri farm to collect a $250,000 debt, according to a court records. The father reported his sons missing July 21 after they failed to show up for a flight home and did not answer their phones.

According to a probable cause statement, Nelson shot the brothers, put their bodies in 55-gallon barrels and used a skid loader to move them one at a time from a barn to a pasture. There, he allegedly burned them using diesel fuel and an unknown liquid. Nelson told investigators he then dumped the remains on a manure pile and hid the barrels elsewhere on his property, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

Their remains were found in Missouri and Nebraska.

New Mexico
Man pleads guilty in case involving DNA tracking

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A man in New Mexico could face at least a decade in prison after investigators used an unusual technique of tracking DNA through a genealogy service to link him to a 2015 rape.

Angel Gurule, 23, pleaded guilty Monday to criminal sexual penetration in what New Mexico authorities believe is the state’s first case of an arrest made after investigators uploaded his DNA profile to the database that allows members of the public to investigate their heritage, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

District Attorney Raúl Torrez said he was proud his office was the first in the state to use forensic genealogy to achieve a conviction, and credited the victim for maintaining hope as the investigative team used the new tactic.

“Today’s conviction demonstrates that forensic genealogy is an important new tool in law enforcement and sends a powerful message to victims that we will use every means at our disposal to fight for them,” Torrez said.

A relative of Gurule had uploaded his DNA to, which ultimately led investigators to Gurule.

His attorney, Raymond Maestas, said he plans to present evidence of mitigating factors during the sentencing hearing, including details of childhood trauma and testimony by two psychologists who have examined Gurule.