The Billings Outpost

Suit filed over toddler’s death

City, county response criticized


Four months after 21-month-old Zachary Wyles was run over and killed in a parking lot in Billings, his family thinks justice is a long way from being served.

The toddler’s parents, Zachary Sr. and Aleada Wyles, recently filed a civil lawsuit against Jamie Van Atta, the woman who was driving the truck that ran over the boy, and the owners and managers of the Rose Park Plaza Apartments on the 2300 block of Avenue C, where the incident occurred.

Meanwhile, the boy’s grandmother, Pamela John, Aleada Wyles’ mother, has been leading an effort to keep a police investigation of the accident open. She said the Billings Police Department conducted a sloppy investigation and its “crash investigator’s report” contained numerous errors of fact and misinterpretation.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 June 2015 14:45

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Poet laureate’s term nearing end

By STEPHEN DOW - For The Outpost

For some, the art of writing poetry may not seem terribly exciting. But for Montana poet Tami Haaland, the process is an adventure that has taken her to some unexpected places.

“Writing a poem doesn’t involve transcribing something that I already have planned out in my head,” Haaland told an audience of around 15 people last week at the Billings Public Library. “It’s more like following a thread into the maze and seeing where it takes you.”

For Haaland, that thread has taken her a wide variety of places. She has been an English professor at Montana State University Billings for over 20 years and just completed her first year as chair of the department. She has published two books of poetry – “Breath in the Room” in 2001 and “When We Wake in the Night” in 2012 – and has had her work published in a variety of magazines and literary journals. Currently, she is near the end of her two-year term as Montana Poet Laureate.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 June 2015 14:40

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Voters to decide jail levy

By STEPHEN DOW - For The Outpost

As with the arrival of any mill levy, many Yellowstone County residents have questions about the proposed Yellowstone County Jail mill levy that will be voted upon on June 9.

Why is the mill levy needed? How much will it cost? What will happen if the mill levy doesn’t pass? Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder took the time to answer these questions and more last week during a meeting of the Heights Community Development Task Force at the Oasis Water Park. Below are some of the highlights from the nearly two-hour long discussion.

• Why is the mill levy needed?

To understand why the mill levy is needed, it is important to first know a bit about the history of the jail.

The Yellowstone County Jail opened in 1987. Prior to this time, the only jail in Billings was a small one on the eighth floor of the court house.

The Yellowstone County Jail has a capacity of 286. However, it is currently housing 487 and is 201 people over capacity.

According to Linder, the overcrowding problem is serious, but not new. In fact, he showed attendees an old Billings Gazette article bemoaning the overcrowding in the jail. The article was written in 1988 – only one year after the facility was built.

“It’s not like things are changing,” Linder said. “This is not a problem that’s new to us right now, but it is one that we’ll have to deal with in the future.”

• So why is the mill levy necessary now?

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 June 2015 12:54

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Musician travels to Japan to honor French composer

Marilyn Cole, left, plays in the Reeds Amis trio with Angela Shankar, clarinet, and Melissa Kritzer, bassoon. Photo by EdenHill Photography


Marilyn Cole is trying to get to Japan to pay tribute to a forgotten French composer.

Cole is a 2002 graduate of Billings Senior High School who is now a professional musician in New York City. She belongs to a reed trio that has been invited to the International Double Reed (referring to oboes and bassoons) Society Conference in Tokyo this August.

There they are to give a presentation on and play the music of Fernande Decruck, who flourished in the 1930s and ’40s but never had a chance to publish most of her works.

Cole and her musical collaborators hope their appearance in Tokyo will be the first step in restoring Decruck to what they say is “her rightful place in history.” They are also planning to go into the studio to record their performances of the French composer’s works.

“It’s definitely an honor and it’s a little nerve-wracking because we have this music and we know other people are going to want it,” Cole said. “This will be the recording that future generations will be listening to to hear how it sounds.”

Last Updated on Friday, 05 June 2015 12:53

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