Northwest briefs


Wrong-way driver dies in I-5 crash near Woodland

One person died and another was seriously injured in a head-on collision on Interstate 5 near Woodland early Saturday morning, according to Washington State Patrol.

Elton Cole of Eagle Creek, Ore., was driving a Honda Civic south in the northbound lanes of I-5 when he hit a Ford F-250 pickup driven by Washougal resident Eric Nelsen, 30, according to WSP. The crash occurred near milepost 21 at about 5:20 a.m. Saturday.

Cole, 28, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was not wearing a seat belt. Nelsen, who was wearing a seat belt, was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center with serious injuries, said WSP Trooper Will Finn.

Nelsen was reported in satisfactory condition Saturday night.

Police stayed on the scene for about three hours, Finn said. The incident closed two lanes of the freeway for part of the morning.


Death tied to probe at nonprofit

Police are investigating the death of a woman suspected of embezzling $500,000 from a Spokane nonprofit that links people with developmental disabilities to employers.

The apparent suicide of Shannon Patterson has shaken the organization, Skils’kin, amid investigations and audits of its finances, and has prompted grief among its employees and clients.

“This is a tragic loss of life,” Brian Behler, the chief executive officer of Skils’kin, said Friday.

“I wish she would have come into the office and said ‘Brian, I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’ve been stealing money.’ It didn’t have to come to this.”


Ex-beauty queen sentenced to 4 years in killing

Peggy Sue Thomas, the former beauty queen and millionaire’s ex-wife who just weeks ago was facing decades behind bars for luring a man to his death in 2003, was led out of an Island County courtroom in handcuffs Friday to begin serving a four-year prison term.

Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock’s sentence disappointed the family and friends of victim Russel Douglas, but was part of a plea agreement with Island County prosecutors who deemed trying Thomas on a first-degree murder charge too risky. Instead, they offered to recommend a four-year sentence in exchange for last month’s guilty plea to first-degree rendering criminal assistance in Douglas’ murder.

Had she been convicted of the murder charge, Thomas could have faced up to 45 years in prison. James Huden, her former boyfriend, was sentenced last year to 80 years for first-degree murder in shooting Douglas on a lonely Whidbey Island road two days after Christmas in 2003.


Maintenance for Stennis at shipyard won’t be canceled

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility won’t lose a $65 million job on the USS John C. Stennis.

The aircraft carrier, which returns from the Middle East in early May, was on an initial list of 23 ships whose maintenance periods were to be canceled in response to sequestration and other budget problems that could cost the Navy $9 billion. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert released the list and other cost-saving measures Jan. 25.

McClatchy News Service

A Navy official said Friday that the Stennis isn’t on the latest list.

Many ships still are, however, and the Navy is directing fleet commanders to notify contractors of the potential for maintenance jobs to be canceled, deferred or altered during the second half of the fiscal year, which runs through September.

Congress has until March 1 to reach a debt-reduction agreement and sidestep sequestration’s across-the-board cuts, and until March 27 to extend a continuing resolution on military spending or pass a new appropriations budget. Until then, the Navy can’t be sure of much.