Judge says no death penalty for mom in triple murder case

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A woman charged with conspiracy and murder in connection with the deaths of her two children and her new husband’s late wife will no longer face the death penalty, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Lori Vallow Daybell is scheduled to stand trial starting April 3.

Both she and Chad Daybell — her newest husband — have pleaded not guilty to murder, conspiracy and grand theft charges in connection with the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s children — 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, and Tylee Ryan, who was last seen a few days before her 17th birthday. They are also charged in connection with the October 2019 death of Chad Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell.

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Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for both defendants, but Vallow Daybell’s attorneys said it should be taken off the table in her case because they will not have time to fully review a large amount of evidence that was turned over in recent weeks.

During a Tuesday morning hearing, 7th District Judge Steven Boyce agreed. He noted that Vallow Daybell has not waived her right to a speedy trial, so the proceeding could not be rescheduled to give her defense team ample time to review the evidence.

The death penalty still applies to Chad Daybell’s case, however.

Prosecutors say the couple used doomsday-focused religious beliefs to further a plan to kill the kids and Tammy Daybell, and that it was part of a plot to steal social security funds and insurance money.

Idaho law enforcement officers started investigating the couple in November 2019 after extended family members reported that the children were missing. During that period, police say the couple lied about the children’s whereabouts. Their bodies were found buried later on Chad Daybell’s property in rural Idaho.

The couple married just two weeks after Chad Daybell’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell, died unexpectedly. Tammy Daybell’s death was initially reported as due to natural causes, but investigators had her body exhumed after growing suspicious when Chad Daybell quickly remarried.

Vallow Daybell is separately charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Arizona in connection with the July 2019 death of her previous husband, Charles Vallow. He was shot and killed by Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, who claimed it was self-defense.

The Arizona legal proceedings are on hold while the Idaho case is underway.

Oregon renters voice concern over Senate bill on rent increases

Oregon Senate Bill 611 is causing some panic among renters.

Stable Homes, which is a coalition of housing advocates, held a Zoom conference call Tuesday to allow tenants from around the state to call on lawmakers to take action against what they call a high-rent crisis.

Residents call the prices “predatory.”

RELATED: Inflation means Oregon rent bill to have biggest impact yet in 2023

The bill would set limits on rent increases but not on hikes between tenants.

One Bend resident says high rent makes it impossible for working people to live in our community.

The bill will be heard on Monday.

▶️ Ideal Option opens in Redmond to help those struggling with addiction

Ideal Option is officially open in Redmond thanks to Measure 110.

The clinic is an option for those who struggle with opiate addiction or types of substance abuse.

The Redmond clinic is the second to open in Central Oregon, joining one in Bend.

“I personally feel like Redmond is needing more providers, especially when you’re dealing with individuals that live out here and they don’t have a way or means to make it to Bend,” said Shawnda Jennings, Peer Support Outreach Specialist for Ideal Option.

RELATED: DCSO launches program to divert drug users into recovery

Measure 110 also helped Ideal Option partner with the Deschutes County Jail to provide addiction training and help to inmates before they leave. 

You can see that story Thursday on Central Oregon Daily News.

▶️ Terrebonne approves forming sanitary district, 1st step to sewer switch

The measure on whether to form a new sanitary district that could move Terrebonne from septic to sewer appears to have passed.

Updated numbers Tuesday show the measure passing 24-16. One additional ballot didn’t mark yes or no.

Deschutes County Clerk Steve Dennison told Central Oregon Daily News that there are no outstanding ballots. Tuesday was the deadline for postmarked ballots to arrive.

RELATED: Septic to sewer: Terrebonne residents may vote to make the switch

Dennison also said there were no issues with any of the ballots that were turned in.

Official certification may take a couple more weeks as the county prepares for the May 16 election.

Once a district is formed, conversation would continue regarding the development of the wastewater system.


▶️ VIDEO: Blizzard conditions in Southern California mountains

An atmospheric river brought heavy snow to the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California on Tuesday. The snow caused low visibility on roads, Caltrans said, urging motorists to postpone travel if possible. The footage above, posted to Twitter by Caltrans, shows State Route 2 covered in snow.

RENO, Nev. (AP) — No one really knows how much snow fell on the infamous Donner Party when the pioneers were trapped atop the Sierra Nevada for months and dozens died near Lake Tahoe in the winter of 1846-47.

But this season has now etched its way into the history books as the second snowiest in the 77 years of record-keeping at the Central Sierra Snow Lab — more than 56.4 feet (677 inches, 17.2 meters) with no end in sight.

RELATED: Central Oregon Weather Forecast

And there’s still a chance it could surpass the record of 67.7 feet (812 inches, 20.6 meters) set in 1951-52 when more than 200 passengers on a San Francisco-bound luxury train from Chicago were stranded for three days near Donner Pass west of Truckee, California.

Over the weekend, the “winter that just doesn’t want to end” as the National Weather Service in Reno put it, topped the previous No. 2 record of 55.9 feet (671 inches, 17 meters) set in 1982-83. That was the second of back-to-back blizzard buster seasons remembered most for an avalanche that killed seven at a Tahoe ski resort on March 31, 1982.

Since December, a parade of atmospheric storms have dumped so much snow on the Sierra that Tahoe ski resorts have been forced to shut down multiple times.

The final day of the Nevada high school state skiing championships was canceled. Roofs collapsed under the weight of snow and schools shuttered for days. Interstate 80 closed several times between Reno and Sacramento.

“It started early and it seems to just keep going,” said Eric Sage, 45, of Sparks, who shoveled his way through many big winters growing up in Truckee but doesn’t remember one like this. “Stacked up, big storm after big storm after big storm — wham, wham, wham.”

The official record book keeper is UC-Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab, founded in 1946 in Soda Springs, California, northwest of Lake Tahoe.

“We’ve seen bigger storms in other years and years with higher snow water equivalent totals … but the relentlessness of this season is likely what makes it most unique,” said Andrew Schwartz, the lab’s manager and lead scientist.

More snow is forecast over the next 10 days, but nobody knows what the spring will bring.

“Historically, some of our big seasons have continued to be active right on through the end of spring,” said Tim Bardsley, the senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Reno.

The official winter season coincides with the water year, beginning Oct. 1 and ending the following Sept. 30. Sometimes snow continues falling in the Sierra well into June.

For this winter to overtake the record in 1951-52, another 135 inches (343 cm) would have to fall — unlikely, but not out of the question.

“There’s basically nothing that would indicate just because we’ve been this active, we would then transition the other direction,” Bardsley said. “I’d almost say the opposite is more likely to be true.”

Several of the snowiest winters logged at least one-fourth of their season total after March 15. What’s now the fourth-snowiest winter in 2010-11 received 225 inches (572 cm) of its 643 total inches (1,635 cm) — or 35% — post-March 15.

The snow lab has records dating to 1880 based on measurements taken by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Those unofficial measurements taken near where the train was stranded in 1952 suggest more snow could have fallen in 1938, and nearly that much in 1880 and 1890.

The lab doesn’t formally recognize those numbers because they were from slightly different locations using a different methodology.

Mark McLaughlin, a Tahoe-area author of several books on Sierra history and weather, accepts the railroad numbers and believes snow that fell on the Donner Party in 1846-47 is similar to what fell in 1951-52.

Ten major storms dumped rain and snow on the mountains the first two weeks of November 1846. The monument at Donner Memorial State Park indicates the snow depth reached 22.5 feet (6.9 meters) before some of the stranded resorted to cannibalism.

The now-third-ranked 1982-83 winter came on the heels of the season when Tahoe’s deadliest avalanche struck at Alpine Valley south of Truckee. Some 90 inches (228 centimeters) of snow fell in four days leading up to the disaster.

The 1960 Winter Olympics, the first televised, put Lake Tahoe on the map after the world got a look at the snow-covered mountains surrounding the alpine lake with the turquoise waters. But the winter itself got off to a slow start and Olympic officials were in a panic in the weeks leading up to the games.

“There was no real snow by New Year’s Day and the Olympics were coming in the third week of February,” McLaughlin said. “Then the storm door opened and it snowed and snowed and snowed. There was so much snow no one could practice ski runs on the mountain.”

Author Peggy Townsend and her husband, parents of pro skier Cody Townsend, said they were overwhelmed by the piles of snow when they arrived at their Olympic Valley-area cabin near the base of a Tahoe ski resort last month. They had to park down the road and dig their way in through 10 feet (3 meters) of snow.

“We would have to dig out like three, or four times a day, just so we could get to the woodpile,” Peggy Townsend said. After four days, they’d had enough.

“When there was a break in the snow,” she recalled, “We just said ‘we’re going to get the hell out of there.’”

▶️ German brewer introduces powdered beer

Bend is a beer mecca. So what would Bendites think of this?

A German brewery is causing a stir with what it claims is the world’s first powdered beer. While it’s a concept some connoisseurs may have trouble raising a glass to, creators say it’s all about helping the environment.

Neuzeller Kloster Brewery in East Germany is one of the country’s oldest breweries and the brew masters say just add powder, water, and stir.

“We’ve invented a completely new product. Beer powder like this is the first in the world,” says General Manager Stefan Fritsche.

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Creators say the eco-friendly concept could cut the need for bottles, crates, and kegs, reducing the heavy carbon footprint of beer exports and slashing the weight of deliveries by 90 percent.

Fritsche says, “We have calculated that in regard to Germany, we can save about 3 to 5 percent of the CO2 emissions for Germany alone. And if you look at it worldwide, it’s a gigantic sum.”

Makers say the first tastings of the powdered beer, dubbed the “Dryest Beer” have been promising, delivering a real beer taste, light or dark, complete with carbonation and the signature froth.

But the intoxicating invention is alcohol free for now. Brewers are hoping to add that element in the final stages before rolling out the powdered potion to the market by the end of the year.

This same brewery invented an anti-aging beer nearly 20 years ago that was released in the US, Poland, and South Korea.

Fix a leak, win a toilet: How you can win free appliances this week

Nothing reminds you that you’re an adult more than free appliances.

It’s Fix A Leak Week in Oregon — and that includes a contest and giveaway. You could even win a toilet.

All you have to do is complete a daily water leak challenge and send in photographic proof.

RELATED: ‘No’ on Terrebonne Sanitary District ahead in close vote

There’s a new challenge every day this week. The challenges include checking faucets for leaks, tightening showerheads, checking to see if you need to replace the flapper in your toilet, examine your irrigation backflow device for leaks and register your leak alert notifications at WaterSmart.

The City of Bend partners with Water Sense, so winners of the competition get a toilet, showerhead and aerators

Details about how to enter can be found at this link.

What caused Portland suburbanite to create a NSFW shrub outside her home?

A NSFW (Not Safe For Work) shurb in a Portland suburb is getting a lot of attention for its unique look.

The 12-foot tall “Chub Shrub” has been around for a couple of years, but just got some widespread publicity by The Oregonian. The reason? It’s been trimmed to appear like a circumcised penis.

And, yes. The owner is fully aware of what it looks like.

“I was out there trimming the thing with a 24-inch bar on my hedger thinking, ‘I’m 90% of the way there, why not today?’” Lynn Stanek told The Oregonian.

RELATED: Sparrow Bakery continues Valentine’s Day tradition of raunchy sweets

Stanek said it was something she had thought about doing for some 20 years. In April of 2021, she went for it. 

Before making the cuts, Stanek said she consulted with neighbors to make sure nobody would be up in arms over it.

That being said, someone started a Change.org petition to have it removed, saying “This neighborhood has 2 schools, a high school and an elementary school, within 2 blocks of this display! This is NOT family friendly, nor is it a representation of the people in our community!” 

So why did Stanek do it? According to The Oregonian, Stanek said she was just fed up with almost everything during a time of the COVID-19 pandemic and American politics. Stanek told the paper her creation captured her feelings at the time.

Of course, Stanek decorates the Chub Shrub for holidays and other special occasions. Sometimes with lights. Sometimes with lights doing things that take the NSFW label one step further.

We won’t go into too much detail here. You can look for yourself at the Tualatin Chub Shrub Facebook page.


Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations

WASHINGTON (AP) — It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party.

That unlikely coalition voted in 2018 to roll back portions of a far-reaching 2010 law intended to prevent a future financial crisis. But those changes are now being blamed for contributing to the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank that prompted a federal rescue and has stoked anxiety about a broader banking contagion.

The rollback was leveraged with a lobbying campaign that cost tens of millions of dollars that drew an army of hundreds of lobbyists and it was seeded with ample campaign contributions.

RELATED: Parent company of Silicon Valley Bank files for bankruptcy

RELATED: One of Silicon Valley’s top banks fails; assets are seized

The episode offers a fresh reminder of the power that bankers wield in Washington, where the industry spends prodigiously to fight regulation and often hires former members of Congress and their staff to make the case that they are not a source of risk to the economy

“The bottom line is that these banks would have faced a tougher supervisory framework under the original … law, but Congress and the Trump regulators took an ax to it,” said Carter Dougherty, a spokesman for Americans for Financial Reform, a left-leaning financial sector watchdog group. “We can draw a direct line between the deregulation of the Trump period, driven by the bank lobby, and the chaos of the last few weeks.”

President Joe Biden has asked Congress for the authority to impose tougher penalties on failed banks. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have started investigations. And congressional Democrats are calling for new restrictions on financial institutions.

But so far there is no indication that another bipartisan coalition will form in Congress to put tougher regulations back in place, underscoring the banking industry’s continued clout.

That influence was on full display when the banking lobby worked for two years to water down aspects of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that had placed weighty regulations on banks designed to reduce consumer risk and force the institutions to adopt safer lending and investing practices.

Republicans had long looked to blunt the impact of Dodd-Frank. But rather than push for sweeping deregulation, Sen. Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican who led the Senate banking committee, hoped a narrowed focus could draw enough support from moderate Democrats to clear the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold.

Crapo broached the idea with Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — all on the ballot in 2018 — as well as Mark Warner of Virginia. By the fall of that year, the bipartisan group met regularly, according to a copy of Tester’s office schedule posted to his Senate website.

A lobbying strategy also emerged, with companies and trade groups that specifically mention Crapo’s legislation spending more than $400 million in 2017 and 2018, according to an Associated Press analysis of the public lobbying disclosures.

The bill was sold to the public as a form of regulatory relief for overburdened community banks, which serviced farmers and smaller businesses. Community bankers from across the U.S. flew in to Washington to meet repeatedly with lawmakers, including Tester, who had 32 meetings with Montana bank officials. Local bank leaders pushed members of their congressional delegation when they returned home.

But the measure also included provisions sought by midsize banks that drastically curtailed oversight once the Trump Fed finished writing new regulations necessitated by the bill’s passage.

Specifically, the legislation lifted the threshold for banks that faced a strict regimen of oversight, including mandatory financial stress testing.

That component, which effectively carved large midsize banks out of more stringent regulation, has come under new scrutiny in light of the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, whose executives lobbied on behalf of the 2018 rollback.

“The lobbyists were everywhere. You couldn’t throw an elbow without running into one,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who vehemently opposed the bill, told reporters last week.

Campaign checks were written. Ads were cut. Mailers went out.

As a reward for their work, Heitkamp ($357,953), Tester ($302,770) and Donnelly ($265,349) became the top Senate recipients of money from the banking industry during the 2018 campaign season, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan group tracking money in politics.

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer freed members to vote for the bill, a move intended to bolster the standing of vulnerable moderate incumbents. But the move also bitterly divided the Democratic caucus, with Warren singling out the moderates as doing Wall Street’s bidding.

In the hours before the bill passed the Senate with 17 Democratic votes, Heitkamp took to the chamber floor to inveigh against the “diatribe,” “hyperbole” and “overstatement” from opponents of the bill.

Tester, meanwhile, huddled with executives from Bank of America, Citigroup, Discover and Wells Fargo, who were there on behalf of the American Bankers Association, according to his publicly available office schedule.

The American Bankers Association, which helped lead the push, later paid $125,000 for an ad campaign thanking Tester for his role in the bill’s passage, records show.

Less than a month after the bill was passed out of the Senate, Tester met Greg Becker, the CEO for the now-collapsed Silicon Valley Bank, according to his schedule. Becker specifically lobbied Congress and the Federal Reserve to take a light regulatory approach with banks of his size. Lobbyists with the firm the Franklin Square Group, which had been retained by Silicon Valley Bank, donated $10,800 to Tester’s campaign, record show.

Heitkamp was the only member of the group invited to the bill signing ceremony, beaming alongside Trump. Later, Americans for Prosperity, the grassroots conservative group funded by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, ran an online ad commending Heitkamp for taking a stand against her party.

In an interview, Heitkamp pushed back against suggestions that the legislation was directly responsible for the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. She acknowledged, however, that there was an open question about whether new rules put in place by the Fed after the measure was signed into law could have played a role.

“I’m willing to look at the argument that this had something to do with it,” Heitkamp said, adding: “I think you will find that (the Fed) was engaged in some level of some supervision. Why that didn’t work? That’s the question that needs to be resolved.”

In a statement issued last week, Tester did not directly address his role in the legislation, but he pledged to “take on anyone in Washington to ensure that the executives at these banks and regulators are held accountable.”

Cam Fine, who led the Independent Community Bankers of America trade group during the legislative push, said the overall the bill was a good piece of legislation that offered much needed relief to struggling community banks.

But like any major piece of legislation that moves through Congress, final passage hinged on support from a broad coalition of interests — including those of Wall Street and midsize banks.

“Was it a perfect piece of legislation? No. But there’s an old saying in Washington: You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said Fine.

Many of the moderate Democrats who supported the measure did not fare as well.

Of the core group who wrote the bill, only Tester won reelection. Others from red states who supported it, including Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Bill Nelson of Florida, lost.

Tester will be on the ballot again in 2024. Last week he was in Silicon Valley for a fundraiser.

One of the event’s sponsors was a partner at a law firm for Silicon Valley Bank.

Oregon bill on abortion, gender-affirming care sparks debate

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon bill that would greatly expand access to reproductive health and gender-affirming care drew emotional testimony on Monday, mirroring the culture war debates over abortion, gender identity and parents’ rights that are playing out in state legislatures across the U.S.

The room at the state Capitol in Salem, where the public hearing was held, was packed to capacity and a long line of people snaked down the hallway. Dozens submitted written testimony and dozens more testified in person, with supporters describing abortion and gender-affirming care as life-saving and opponents taking issue with provisions that would make it easier for minors to access certain services without parental consent.

RELATED: Idaho House passes ban on gender-affirming medical care

Abortion remains legal at all stages of pregnancy in Oregon and its state Medicaid program has covered certain gender-affirming care since 2015. But Democratic lawmakers said the measure was needed to push back against the flurry of anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through statehouses across the country.

“Someone I know and love, someone you know and love, may need an abortion or gender-affirming care someday,” Democratic House Speaker Dan Rayfield testified. “People should have the right to make their own decisions on their own health care with medical professionals, without fear of harm.”

The bill would implement a wide-ranging series of measures, including shielding providers and patients from criminal and civil liability as states have moved to outlaw abortion following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last year. It would also allow a person to bring a civil action in court against a public body for interfering with their reproductive health rights.

The bill would also prohibit medical licensing boards from suspending, revoking or refusing to grant a license to a provider because of a conviction or disciplinary action for providing reproductive or gender-affirming health care in states where that care is restricted.

The parts of the bill that have proved to be the most contentious have to do with minors. Under the legislation, doctors would be allowed to provide reproductive health care information and services, including abortion, “to any person without regard to the age,” and would bar them in certain cases from disclosing that to parents.

Democratic state Sen. Kate Lieber, a chief sponsor of the bill, said this would help protect young people living in unsupportive families.

“LGBTQ youth in particular have a very high rate of suicide,” she testified. “It is really important to listen to the children who are telling us what they’re feeling and how they are being in this world.”

Critics said this would exclude parents from key aspects of their child’s health care.

“One of the most beautiful relationships in the universe is a parent to a child,” Republican state Rep. Emily McIntire testified. “This bill goes to the very core of a family unit.”

The legislation would also require private insurance to cover gender-affirming care that is prescribed as medically necessary. In written testimony, some members of the public supporting this measure named it as especially critical for transgender people.

“The fact that I could get gender-affirming care that was covered by insurance meant that I did not have to choose between necessary medical procedures, or risk bankruptcy or homelessness to be who I am,” said Oregon resident SueZeev Ranseen, who is transgender. “Without gender affirming care, I would not be alive.”

The bill would also make it a crime to block access to a health care facility, and require public universities and community colleges with health centers to provide emergency contraception and medication abortions.

Lawmakers will further discuss the bill and propose amendments during a House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care work session next week.