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Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- A 47-year-old Palmer man who fled to Oregon last year during a criminal investigation was sentenced to nearly 90 years in prison Friday for sexually abusing two children over 10 years as well as possessing child pornography.

The Mat-Su child abuse investigation unit of the Alaska State Troopers in January 2013 received a report that the man had sexually abused a 5-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy. Both are now older than 18.

A Palmer grand jury indicted the man in April 2013 on 41 counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and a Superior Court judge issued a $100,000 warrant for his arrest.

He fled the state during the investigation but was later found in Oregon and extradited back to Alaska, troopers said...

Zaz Hollander

The Alaska Mountain Rescue Group extracted an injured 19-year-old Anchorage hiker and five companions from a gorge near Girdwood's Crow Creek Mine on Sunday night, authorities say.

Alaska State Troopers identified the injured hiker as Stephanie Mraz.

Rescuers say Mraz slipped and injured her ankle after the group descended the steep walls above a creek. Then they all realized they couldn’t get back out as darkness fell and the temperature dropped.

The rescue took place in an area described as several hundred yards from the mine parking lot. By the time the Mountain Rescue Group arrived around 8 p.m., it was “damp, dark and slippery” in the gorge, said team member Matt Green. The hikers were on a flat area in a narrow, steep-sided ravine...

Zaz Hollander

An Anchorage Assembly decision on a contentious Chugiak construction debris dump is on hold for six months after Eklutna Inc. detected potential contamination from a property next door -- the municipality’s old Peters Creek Landfill.

The landfill closed in 1987 and now sits beneath Roberta French Horse Park, near ball fields and between the Glenn and Old Glenn highways off South Birchwood Road.

Anchorage-based Central Environmental Services Inc. wants permission to dump shredded construction and demolition waste at a 17-acre parcel owned by Eklutna next to the old dump. The monofill property is part of a larger 85-acre parcel the Alaska Native corporation hopes to develop...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The 6.2-magnitude earthquake that jostled the state from Seward to Fairbanks on Thursday morning toppled shelves and broke bottles but otherwise left Alaskans unscathed.

Earthquakes of that size have killed thousands of people in places like Iran, Pakistan and China.

What’s different here?

Building construction plays a role, but “there’s a huge factor of luck in this as well,” state seismologist Michael West said by phone from Washington, D.C.

Luck -- and depth...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- David Estrada dishes up lasagna soup, cinnamon rolls and coffee at the counter of Gathering Grounds coffee house near downtown Wasilla.

The affable, dark-haired 18-year-old isn’t just working for video game money.

The cafe is one of several businesses affiliated with MyHouse, a nonprofit drop-in center for homeless youths celebrating its first year of operation with a public event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday featuring coffee and food, speakers and music.

Estrada moved out of his mother’s house on Easter this year to escape what he described as constant fights with a relative that cast a pall of tension over his home life...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Alaska Department of Law has filed criminal Medicaid fraud charges against the owner of a Mat-Su center for the disabled and the center itself.

The state last week charged the Mat-Su Activity and Respite Center LLC and owner Laura Sasseen with felony falsifying business records and misdemeanor medical assistance fraud charges.

Auditors estimated the center received more than $705,000 in Medicaid overpayments in 2009 alone, court documents say...

Zaz Hollander
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PALMER -- Students at Valley Pathways alternative school spent the last 14 years in portable classrooms moored in a wind-blasted parking lot near Palmer...

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- Students at Valley Pathways alternative school spent the last 14 years in portable classrooms moored in a wind-blasted parking lot near Palmer.

They clustered into four different portables to eat lunch. There were no hot meals. No gym, except for the basketball hoop outside. Limited computer access. No assemblies -- no auditorium.

The close quarters and unorthodox learning environment forged a bond among students at this school established to serve so-called “at risk” youth in danger of failing or dropping out.

But now, the portables are gone. Valley Pathways is housed in a glossy, new $22.5-million building with 15 instructional spaces, a media center and state-of-the-art equipment...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The driver killed Thursday afternoon following a short Alaska State Troopers pursuit near Wasilla was caught burglarizing a home in the area before he died in a rollover at Church Road.

Troopers on Friday identified the man as 54-year-old Anchorage resident James Bain.

Bain was driving a 1991 Chevrolet pickup reported stolen by Wasilla police on Wednesday, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said in an email. He showed up around 2:30 p.m. Thursday at a construction site on Patsy Drive in Wasilla; somebody there who talked to him told troopers that he “was behaving in a strange manner,” she wrote...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- Alaska State Troopers say a brief pursuit just outside Wasilla ended with the driver of a stolen car killed in a single-vehicle rollover Thursday afternoon.

Troopers received a report of a suspicious vehicle parked at a construction site in Wasilla at 2:39 p.m. Thursday and determined the vehicle was reported as stolen, spokeswoman Megan Peters said. It had also been the subject of a citizen report about a dangerous driver earlier in the day.

Troopers spotted the vehicle driving down Spruce Avenue toward Church Road at 2:44 p.m. Thursday and tried to make contact, Peters wrote in an email. But the adult male driver eluded troopers and wrecked two minutes later where Spruce intersects with Church...

Zaz Hollander