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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Billings man accepts Purple Heart A Missoula Marine killed during World War II was honored in Billings Monday morning during a Memorial Day ceremony on the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn.

Pvt. Jack Kirkwood was shot in the stomach on Okinawa on May 13, 1945. He was buried in Plot 3, Grave 390 in a Marine cemetery on Okinawa, but his family received neither a flag nor his Purple Heart, said Burt Gigoux, with the Eugene Sara Detachment of the Marine Corps League.

According to press clippings from the time, Kirkwood enlisted in 1944 when he was 17. Before being shipped out, he spent his last Thanksgiving at his parents' home at 610 E. Broadway in Missoula. Christmas found him on a troop ship on the Pacific Ocean.

In his last letter home, he wrote that he was "well and happy" and looking forward to seeing his parents and all the members of his family "one of these days."

Kirkwood's nephew, Joe Finneman, of Billings, attended the ceremony in Billings Monday morning. Finneman was given a flag in Kirkwood's name. The Marine Corps League continues to work to obtain Kirkwood's Purple Heart for his surviving relatives, Gigoux said.

Police hunting sex assault suspect Billings police are looking for a man they say attempted sexual assault on a woman early Monday morning.

According to police, the woman, who lives on the 300 block of N. 33rd Street, was awakened around 5:30 a.m. Monday by the suspect as he lay on top of her. The man threatened to rape her and told her to stay quiet and cooperate. The woman broke free and ran to a neighboring apartment. The suspect fled the scene.

The woman was not hurt, Sgt. John Bedford said.

Police described the suspect as a white male, about 5-foot 8-inches tall with a stocky build. He was wearing a gray shirt, blue denim trousers and black gloves.

Bedford did not know whether the man took anything from the woman's apartment.

2 killed in area traffic accidents Two people were killed in the Billings area Monday morning, including one man from Montana.

The 39-year-old man, whose name and hometown were not released, was eastbound on Highway 308 near Red Lodge when he drifted over the center line shortly after 1 a.m. Monday, Montana Highway Patrol dispatcher Vanessa Schulke said. He overcorrected, causing his 1992 Ford pickup to flip more than three times. He was thrown from the vehicle and killed.

The man was not wearing a seat belt, Schulke said, and officers have determined that alcohol was a factor. There were no passengers in the vehicle at the time.

Another accident at 5 a.m. Monday killed one person and injured another.

The two, neither from Montana, were driving west on Interstate 90 near Columbus when the driver's 1995 Toyota Forerunner hit a deer, Schulke said. The car swerved across both lanes, hit a fence and rolled for more than 1,000 feet, ejecting both passengers, she said.

The ages, genders and hometowns of the passengers were not released. Schulke would not say whether the fatality was the driver or the passenger.

Neither was wearing a seat belt, she said, and alcohol was not a factor.