The Billings Gazette from Billings, Montana on April 5, 1989 · 8
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The Billings Gazette from Billings, Montana · 8

Billings, Montana
Issue Date:
Wednesday, April 5, 1989
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The Billings Gazette Former bank employee charged with theft (8C) PAGE . J . Co) liDspoffchei? n (on y OITfl By RITA MUNZENRIDER Of the Gazette Staff A Billings law enforcement dispatcher accused of supplying confidential information to Wyoming drug dealers was released from jail Tuesday after posting a $5,000 property bond. La Donna Ullom, 23, of 724 N. 16th St, appeared in District Court Tuesday morning with her attorney, Charles "Timer" Moses, to plead innocent to one count of felony conspiracy and two counts of misdemeanor official misconduct and possession of dangerous drugs. District Judge Russell Fillner reduced her bond from $20,000 and approved the $5,000 property bond for her release from jail. Yellowstone County drug agents arrested Ullom at her home last Thursday evening. An affidavit filed by Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney David Hoefer accuses Ullom of providing suspected drug dealers with lists of names, addresses and telephone numbers of employees of the Billings Communication Center and the Yellowstone County Sheriffs Department She also is accused of conspiring with two Wyoming men to distribute methamphe-tamines on Jan. 22, and of possessing a small amount of marijuana when officers searched her home on March 30. When questioned by officers after her arrest, Ullom admitted to long- term use of marijuana; to receiving methamphetamines from the two Wyoming men; and to distributing methamphetamines to party-goers at her home on Jan. 22, court records said. She denied supplying confidential information to the two, saying that "they must have stolen those items" from her home, the affidavit said. The defendant wouldn't answer investigators' questions about other persons involved with her in the use of narcotics, the document said. When asked if any others at the Billings Communication Center or in law enforcment were involved in narcotics, she again declined to answer, records said. Ullom, who has worked at the Communication Center since September 1986, has been suspended without pay since her arrest, said Acting Fire Chief Dick Blee. She will remain on suspension at least until city officials conduct an internal hearing within the next couple of weeks, Blee said. The investigation began on Jan. 27 when Wyoming drug agents arrested two men in Gillette for selling large amounts of "crank," or methamphetamines, Hoefer's affidavit said. The Wyoming investigators notified Yellowstone County sheriffs drug agents after finding lists of confidential information about the Billings law enforcement personnel while searching one suspect's home. The two men told Wyoming officers that they obtained the lists from Ullom during a party at her home in Billings on Jan. 22, court records said. At that same party, one of the men provided methamphetamines, which were consumed by Ullom and other party goers she had selected to share the drug, the documents said. Before leaving the party, one of the men gave Ullom more crank, for which the defendant owed him $200, the affidavit said. On March 22, Wyoming officers told agents at the Yellowstone County Drug Enforcement Division that one of the men wanted to cooperate with them. The informant and an agent from the Montana Criminal Investigation Bureau contacted Ullom last week. Ullom offered the informant and agent marijuana and said she would "check out" two names of law enforcement officials the agent had provided, court records said. She also asked the agent if he knew where she could buy a quarter pound of marijuana, the document said. Later that night, when the informant called Ullom, she said she no longer was willing to provide the information aril was no longer interested in purchasing the drugs, court records said. 1 On March 29, the informant again called Ullom and was told that she didn't want to do anything illegal because she thoughthis partner was an agent, the affidavit said. When law officers searched Ullom's home on March 30, they found small amounts of marijuana and drug parahernalia in her bedroom, court records said. They also found documents listing shift schedules for law enforcement officers; radio frequencies; and lists of names, aidresses and telephone numbers for Comnunicatioh Center employees, local law enforcement officers, Montana Fish and Game wardens, Sheriffs Reserve deputies and Montana Adult Probation-Parole officers. '. District Judge Robert Holmstroin will set a trial date for Ullom later. m- , , c Fire effort praised While hampered by confusion in the delegation of authority, an "area command" group activated to coordinate firefighting in and around Yellowstone National Park last summer succeeded in its goals, according to a report released Tuesday. The report released to the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee generally concluded that the Greater Yellowstone Area Command formed by the GYCC "performed admirably by setting priorities and providing a forum for overall strategy setting." "The other option would be to allow all incident management teams to operate on their own," said Jerry Monesmith, an official with U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C., who helped prepare the report. "They could not have done as good a job as they did in using scarce resources and with logistics. In hindsight, they did a pretty good job." The report adoDted bv the ever, as it hooan its 3-day meeting in Cheyenne, said the committee, made up of U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service officials representing the national forests and parks in the area, made the correct decision in appointing the GYAC. "The members of the GYCC are accustomed to working with each other at frequent intervals," it said. "Because of this, there are few barriers to proposals of joint actions among agencies or regions. This comfort level provided the framework for the early establishment of the GYAC. This was an excellent decision in the view of this review team." Air quality unchanged Levels of dirt particles, reactive sulfur compounds and carbon monoxide in the air last year have not changed significantly from 1987, according to a report issued recently by the Yellowstone County Air Pollution Control Agency. "We are at the point where a lot of it is pretty much the same," Director Steve Duganz said. Two of the monitoring programs run by the agency are becoming obsolete because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state have changed or dropped enforcement standards. Nevertheless, Duganz said, measurements of total suspended particulate (larger particles of dust and dirt) and sulfation rates (rough estimates of sulfur oxides in the air) nrovide an indication nf problems or trends. The county agency also acquired from the EPA late last year a monitor to track levels of particulate smaller than 10 microns in size. The tiny dirt and dust particles are becoming of more concern because they can get trapped in lung tissues. The EPA adopted standards for the small particulates in early 1988. Duganz said his agency is trying to get a second sampler to measure small particulates. The county also is continuing efforts to monitor carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas produced primariliy by vehicles. The EPA has said Billings is not in compliance for carbon monoxide, based on past, incomplete monitoring information. Monitor-location problems have plagued the county's program, but Duganz said 1989 should be the first full year of carbon monoxide monitoring in the Billings area since 1985. For more specific information on the report, contact the agency at 3306 Second Ave. N or call 256-6841. Wolf Point boy drowns A two-year-old boy drowned in a small creek Tuesday afternoon about 15 miles southeast of Wolf Point, according to McCone County Sheriff Robert Jensen. The victim, Jeremy Arthur Dempsey, son of Jerry and Beverly Dempsey, lived near Redwater Creek, where the accident took place. The McCone County Sheriffs office received a call at about 4:45 p.m. from the victim's aunt who said the boy had wandered away from the house. The boy was found by a family member, who performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on the victim when officials arrived. Roosevelt County Coroner Skip Clayton declared the victim dead at the scene. Jensen said the death was accidental h I A. 1' 4 .rv' s- i .-J J .rt ,-s Freewheeling Stevee Mellas, 9, wheels her cousins Sabrina, 6, and Fer-min Vasquez, 5, down Sixth Gazette photo by Judy Tell Avenue South using a skateboard balanced on a scooter. lendive killin on 'Mysteries' By JILL SUNDBY Of the Gazette Staff GLENDIVE Television viewers nationwide will be asked if they have clues to the November 1985 murder of a 67-year-old man near Glendive on next week's "Unsolved Mysteries" show. In Billings, the NBC program starts at 7 p.m. April 12 on KULR TV (Straight 8). Glendive viewers may watch the segment at 6 p.m. on Channel 13, broadcast from Williston, N.D., or at 7 p.m. on Channel 24. The murder of Dexter Stefonek who was abducted from a rest area 21 miles west of Glendive, shot twice in the back of the head and whose body was left at a private dump four miles northwest of Glendive has never been solved. Dawson County Sheriff James George presented CosgroveMeurer Productions with the Stefonek case as an idea for an "Unsolved Mysteries" television segment George said he "wanted to get the information out. "Maybe somebody knows something that would get the case solved." Shannon McGinn, producer of the segment described the case as interesting in a phone interview from Los Angeles. "There's a lot of little aspects that don't make any sense," she said. McGinn and five others spent Feb. 13 through 15 in the Glendive area, interviewing local authorities and witnesses and filming the rest area and dump sites. Stefonek was en route from Cor-bett Ore., where he had been visiting his son, to his home in Rhinelander, Wis., when he stopped at the Glendive rest area at about 7 a.m. to take a break after driving all night she said. He was abducted and killed, and his body was hidden under a box spring at a private dump used by about five families. McGinn said the killer drove Stefonek's car back to the rest area and set it on fire with gasoline. Stefonek's body was found four months later by William and Cyrthia Shaw. ; "They were people who usee to live in that area and used to go down to the dump regularly to scavenge. She was an artist, and they'd look for stuff," McGinn said. The couple first found Stefonek's billfold, which leo them to look around more and eventually find his body. Because the dump site is so remote 15 miles from Glendive, off a dirt road and used by few people -J authorities believe the killer was familiar with the Glendive areaj McGinn said. McGinn's crew interviewed Fred Siegle who talked to the suspect at the rest area, and Clyde Mitchell, who saw the suspect's vehicle. Both are Glendive-area residents, she said. No motive for the killing was ever determined, she said. "This guy (Stefonek) had no (suspicious) background," she said. "He was an older man, straight, very far from both places that he knew. It didn't seem like it was a robbery." McGinn said she enjoyed filming in Glendive despite the below-zero temperatures. "Everyone was really cooperative in Glendive. I love shooting in smaller towns people gel really excited about it. We shoot here in Los Angeles, and no one cares." She said Glendive residents stood outside for hours in the cold, watching the filming. McGinn said two of the 13 television mystery segments that she's produced have been solved. ierce packin 9 picirit up for aucf ion By JIM GRANSBERY Of the Gazette Staff The Pierce Packing Co. plant defunct since late 1984, will be sold at bankruptcy sale sometime after the middle of May, the bankruptcy trustee said Tuesday. "The petition for sale has been approved," said Billings attorney Sid Thomas. "We are taking applications for an auctioneer and we will set up the auction as soon as the auctioneer is approved. "The sale will be held in mid- to late May," Thomas said. The plant's assests are being liquidated. It is being sold to satisfy a $2.3 million lien held by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and possibly satisfy a $1 million lien for back taxes owed to Yellowstone County. Thomas said in late January that the plant and equipment would be offered for sale on "an individual basis and a collective basis." Tuesday he said that the county had "requested that it be sold in logical business units. That was at the apparent request of International Leather Manufacturers." ILM is a corporation headed by Rolf Schwenninger of Longmont Colo., who is trying to acquire the Pierce Plant as part of a sheep-slaughtering and leather-manufacturing operation., . ILM bought the Midland Packing Co. plant in October and has been trying to get a cattle-slaughtering operation under way. Efforts to refurbish the plant and begin a cattle kill have been on hold because of financial hurdles encountered by Nor-West-Pak, a corporation headed by Phil Huber of Worland, Wyo., and Dr. Joe Whittemore of Bonham, Texas. Nor-West-Pak has an option to purchase and operate the Mid land plant. Thomas said that since the sale petition was approved by federal bankruptcy Judge John Peterson, some major companies have inquired about the plant. "Nothing firm, however," said Thomas. He did not identify the companies. A bill passed by the current Legislature also makes the sale of the plant easier. House Bill 58, awaiting the governor's signature, would allow the county commissioners to forgive the back taxes on the plant to assist a new company wishing to buy and operate the plant Stephens asked to clarify sales fax plans Bv Rll I I OMR A Dill By BILL LOMBARDI Gazette Helena Bureau HELENA Saying the state revenue director has left many legislators "confused" about how the administration plans to use sales tax revenue, House Speaker John Vincent on Tuesday asked Gov. Stan Stephens to clarify his position on the question. The Bozeman Democrat had a letter hand-delivered to the governor's office that noted state Revenue Department Director Ken Nordtvedt was quoted in newspapers over the weekend saying the administration would be attempting "to have the measure scaled back to provide only property and income tax relief." "Obviously, Ken's comments are being interpreted by many legislators as a radical change of position on the part of the administration," Vincent's letter said. "As you know, a significant number of legislators are considering supporting a vote on the sales tax measure because it could help fund the university system, K-12 schools, a state employee pay raise, and other beneficial alternatives," the letter said. "There is now a great deal of doubt about whether you support the use of sales tax reve nues for these Durooses. or whptw ifon'c m ments reflect the administration's real plans for any potential sales tax revenue." The governor was unavailable for comment Wayne Phillips, an administration lobbyist said the governor soon would prepare a response to Vincent's letter. But Nordtvedt said Tuesday the administration's position on the sales tax has not changed since the governor announced his support for the proposed tax on March 22. The administration, he said, has maintained its position that sales tax revenue should be used primarily to help provide property and income tax relief. "We've been preaching this consistently. I think we've had a clear position from the beginning," he said, adding the budget is close to being balanced without considering a costly plan to equalize local school districts' budgets, as mandated by the state Supreme Court Nordtvedt also estimated Billings Sen. Bruce Crippen's 4- percent sales tax bill, passed by the Senate and to be presented Thursday to the House Taxation Committee, would raise about $310 million to $320 million annually, representing more than $100 million in tax revenue. Group rallies for sales tax By BILL WILKE Gazette Helena Bureau HELENA The Montana Ambassadors, a statewide business group, has launched an all-out campaign in support of a proposed 4-percent sales tax. The group has asked members to spend "at least four hours from your busy schedule to help us win this battle." The "Ambassador Alert!" received by some members early this week, noted that the "battle for tax reform will be won or lost in the next two weeks in the Montana House of Representatives." The so-called a)ert also listed the House's 100 representatives, with a dash beside 72 representatives, indicating "best prospects for a yes vote" on Billings Sea Bruce Crippen's 4-percent sales-tax bill The Senate has approved the controversial bill and sent it to the House, where it will be heard Thursday by the House Taxation Committee. That committee twice has rejected a similar 4-percent sales-tax bill proposed by Rep. Dorothy Bradley, D-Bozeman. The alert urged Ambassador members, who work with the state Commerce Department to encourage economic-development efforts in Montana, to lobby House members to support the Crippen-Bradley sales-tax bilL .., .. . h , ,. .. . . . y (

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