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Special needs students crowned University High Homecoming Royalty

Friday was a big night for University High School: a packed crowd for Homecoming, a grand halftime show, and a landslide football victory. But the most important event of the night might well have been the coronation of the Homecoming King and Queen.

"[The students] very deliberately decided that they wanted these two special people to become our Homecoming Queen and King," said University High teacher Paul Schneider. "And it was overwhelming. It was just a landslide victory for these two."

So what makes these new royals so extraordinary? Keeley Blanchard has autism. Taylor Baggarley is a few grades behind average. Both are enrolled in the school's special needs program. To say the new monarchs were stunned would be an understatement.

"Totally unexpected," Blanchard said. "I was surprised when i got voted Homecoming Queen."

The new boss of U-High feels the same way.

"I was just like awe and amazed," said Baggarley. "I was just like screaming out for joy. Just like, this is new."

Dept. of Natural Resources lifts statewide burn ban

Dept. of Natural Resources lifts statewide burn ban

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources announced Friday that the statewide burn ban on DNR-protected lands has been removed. Fire danger has been reduced by the recent rainfall and moderating temperatures.

Restrictions set by local authorities are not affected by DNR's actions. Additionally, while conditions no longer warrant a statewide burn ban, some local areas may still remain dry. Anyone who plans on burning should check with local authorities beforehand.

You can also always find the latest on your local fire restrictions here.

Fire officials searching for serial arsonist

Fire officials confirmed Thursday afternoon a potentially dangerous fire last week that threatened homes in Greenacres was the work of arsonist who may have set up to 17 suspicious fires in the area in the last week.

Most of the fires haven't been more that a quarter of an acre except for last week's fire south of the Barker Road exit, which burned eight acres on Saltese Road near Greenacres. That fire required the work of multiple agencies from across Spokane County as well as air support from the Department of Natural Resources to get under control.

So far no buildings have been lost and no one has been hurt in any of the fires.

During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Spokane County Fire District 8 Chief Tony Neilson said all of the firest have had similiarities.

"We have noted that there is a pattern of two fires per day, ranging from early morning to late in the evening. We are calling is suspicious because we are not able to determine any other reasonable cause for these fires," Neilson said.

Teen sentenced to 60 days for fatal crash

Teen sentenced to 60 days for fatal crash

Despite impassioned pleas from the parents of two teens killed in a high speed crash last year, Judge Michael Price sentenced Preston Maher to 60 days in juvenile detention Thursday morning.

Maher, the driver of the vehicle in which University High sophomores Josie Freier and McKenzie Mott were killed last year, was sentenced to 60 days in confinement and 300 hours of community service.

The sentence specifically called for 30 days in confinement for each of the two teens killed in the crash.

Maher, who had recently gotten his driver's license, was driving his car at freeway speeds through a residential neighborhood last year when he tried to launch his car over the Ponderosa Jump. He lost control of his car when it went airborne and it slammed into a tree, killing Mott and Freier on impact.

Calling his actions beyond stupidity, Judge Michael Price, who said Maher's sentencing one of the toughest he's made in his 11 years on the bench, maintained he had to follow the law in sentencing Maher, going below the standard range because Maher has no criminal history.

Prescription Drug Take-Back Saturday

Prescription Drug Take-Back Saturday

Is your medicine cupboard getting a little cluttered? Not sure what to do with all those leftover prescriptions? This Saturday is your chance to take care of all of that with a prescription drug take-back event.

Tossing pills in the trash could allow a child or pet to accidentally eat them, and flushing them down the toilet only puts them into the water supply – but drop them off this weekend and they are guaranteed to be disposed of safely.

You can drop drugs off Saturday from 10 am until 2 pm at either the Spokane Valley Police Department (12710 E. Sprague Ave.) or at the North Spokane Library (44 E. Hawthorne).

Items Accepted:

Bread Tie Challenge to raise awareness of depression/mental illness

Bread Tie Challenge to raise awareness of depression/mental illness

Two Central Washington Seniors are launching a campaign this fall to honor the memory of the teen who made their best friend duo into a trio.

Three years ago this October, Josh Martin took his own life. It was a complete surprise to everyone who knew him.

“There were no signs or anything,” said Donnie Santos. “He was going to be a shortstop for the Spokane Falls baseball team. We had everything going for us. We think he was afraid to come out and ask for help.”

That fear is what Donnie Santos and Dean Neilson are trying to get rid of with the Bread Tie Challenge.

It was Martin's father Joe who came up with the campaign to memorialize his son, then handed it off to Donnie and Dean to run.

The Bread Tie Challenge draws its inspiration from the Ice Bucket Challenge, an easy and visible way to show that your life has been impacted by someone struggling with mental illness or depression, and that you support ending the stigma of shame and weakness that can be associated with it.

Spokane Valley woman pleads guilty to L&I fraud

Spokane Valley woman pleads guilty to L&I fraud

A Spokane Valley woman who worked at her restaurant while collecting disability benefits must repay the state $125,000. Wanitta Racicot, 70, must also serve 60 days in confinement. Spokane County Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins ordered the sentence at a recent hearing when Racicot pleaded guilty as charged to first-degree, felony theft.

“Workers' comp is not a victimless crime,” said Elizabeth Smith, assistant director of Fraud Prevention at the Department of Labor and Industries. “Cheating the workers' comp system is stealing from both employers who pay premiums and legitimately injured workers who depend on it.”

Racicot collected workers' compensation benefits for more than eight years. She originally filed a claim in 2001, stating she injured both of her arms while working at a restaurant. Over the years she regularly signed official documents affirming she was not employed and unable to work due to her injury. As a result, she received wage-replacement payments from L&I.