Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Bail set at $1 million for driver accused of hitting man on sidewalk

Friday, August 18th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 30-year-old motorist accused of driving up onto a Centralia sidewalk where he struck a pedestrian is charged with vehicular assault and possession of heroin.

Witnesses told police Christian D. Brown was driving down South Gold Street about 35 mph before his car traveled onto the east sidewalk and hit the man, according to charging documents. When his car came to a stop, the victim fell off its hood, the documents relate.

An arriving police officer found the 58-year-old Chehalis man face down and unconscious, according to authorities. He was seriously injured.

It happened in the noon hour on Wednesday, just outside the Southwest Washington Fair grounds.

Brown was brought before a judge yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello asked for $1 million bail, citing numerous warrants in numerous cases in Brown’s past.

But Masiello also noted, Brown had an ongoing drug case from earlier this year in which he was able to post $100,000 bail and remain out of jail pending a trial.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller told the judge a warrant had not been issued for her client in the past four years. He lives locally, Tiller said. Centralia police describe Brown as transient.

Judge Andrew Toynbee ordered the defendant held on $1 million bail.

According to charging documents, the police officer who contacted Brown at the scene noted Brown was extremely fidgety and abrupt in his movements; his eyes were bloodshot and watery.

A drug recognition conducted an evaluation and gave the opinion he was impaired by narcotics and stimulants. Brown admitted using methamphetamine earlier in the day and using heroin the previous day, according to charging documents.

One of two pocket knives police discovered in Brown’s pants pocket contained residue which field tested positive for heroin, according to the documents.

Vehicular assault has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Among the elements of the offense are a person causing substantial bodily harm to another when operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Results are pending from a blood test, according to court documents.

Masiello said Brown’s case from April involved possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of a controlled substance.

Mike Summer, the victim, yesterday was listed in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Ashley Jackson said her father had a small brain bleed, along with probably 40 stitches; many of them in the back of his head. He also had a sizable gash on his arm, road rash and trauma to his toe, she said.

Jackson is a volunteer with Lewis County Fire District 1.

She said her dad was at the fair with family and was walking back to their car to retrieve something, with his back to traffic.

He doesn’t recall much, she said.

“All he knew he was walking down the sidewalk, then the lights were out,” she said. “Then he was being loaded into a helicopter.”

For background, read “Police: Impaired motorist drove onto sidewalk, injuring pedestrian near fairgrounds” from Thursday August 17, 2017, here

Centralia arson: Teen angry about eviction

Friday, August 18th, 2017

Kelsey T. Rasmussen, in red, is shown to his seat in Lewis County Superior Court

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – He’s charged with knowingly starting a fire in his own home, the top level of a Centralia duplex.

At first he said he was playing with hand sanitizer that caught fire and he got scared so he left.

But then he admitted to a police detective he started the fire because he was mad he was getting evicted with no reason given on the notice, according to prosecutors.

The 19-year-old Centralia man has no criminal history, but was charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree arson, a felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison. It’s also a strike offense.

Kelsey T. Rasmussen was brought before a judge yesterday afternoon where his bail was set at $50,000.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller told the judge Rasmussen has no income, at this time, and Judge Andrew Toynbee appointed Centralia lawyer Don Blair to represent him.

Centralia police say they found Rasmussen a short distance away waiting for a taxi as firefighters and police converged around 9 p.m. on Wednesday at the 1200 block of Windsor Avenue where smoke was rising from the roof vents and the second-story windows were blackened.

The first-floor unit was occupied at the time but everyone was able to get out safely without injury, according to authorities. A woman who lived on the ground floor described her upstairs neighbor as the tall, skinny kid with glasses that usually wore a black hoody.

The fire was extinguished, but it caused heavy damage to the upper level of the house which had been converted to a duplex, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

A fire captain told police there was a can of shaving cream in the middle of the bed, which looked like where the fire began, according to charging documents.

The captain said the smoke detectors were found outside sitting on the railing on the porch.

Rasmussen’s arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

For background, read “Resident of Centralia duplex arrested following fire there” from Thursday August 17, 2017, here

Resident of Centralia duplex arrested following fire there

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Windsor Avenue in north Centralia. / Courtesy photo by Riverside Fire Authority

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 19-year-old man was arrested for arson last night after a fire that heavily damaged the upstairs unit of a duplex in north Centralia.

Firefighters called just before 9 p.m. to the 1200 block of Windsor Avenue found smoke rising from the roof vents and blackened second-story windows, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

The first-floor unit was occupied at the time but everyone was able to get out safely without injury, according to authorities.

The fire department describes the structure as a house converted to a duplex.

Centralia police say they found Kyle T. Rasmussen Jr. a short distance away waiting for a taxi. He had recently been living in the duplex, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Firefighters extended a hose line to the upper level via an outside staircase to extinguish the fire, according to Fire Capt. Scott Weinert.

They were assisted by members of the Chehalis Fire Department and were on scene about four hours, according to Weinert.

Centralia police this morning indicate in a brief summary of events they believe Rasmussen  intentionally set the fire. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree arson.

Human remains recovered from Mineral Lake

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Updated at 4:38 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Five weeks after a local man was believed to have vanished in Mineral Lake, his body has been found in the lake.

Deputies were called yesterday morning to the north Lewis County community along state Route 7 where they recovered human remains from the water, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Gerald L. Harris, 54, of Mineral went missing on July 5.

As recently as Tuesday, the sheriff’s office reported they continued to conduct interviews with people and were waiting for a break in the case. They couldn’t say for sure if Harris drowned or maybe something else had occurred.

Harris had a court date coming up the week after he went missing and it didn’t look like the case was going to have a very good outcome for him, sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dusty Breen said earlier this week.

Deputies were called about 9 a.m. yesterday after two boaters fishing on the lake observed something floating in the water, according to Breen. With help from the boaters, sheriff’s office personnel were able to recover the body and bring it to shore at a boat launch, Breen stated in a press release this morning.

After lunch time today authorities identified the deceased as indeed Harris. Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said he died of drowning.

The details of Harris’s disappearance are murky.

Deputies had been dispatched just before 4 p.m. on July 5 to the lake on a call reporting suspicious circumstances, according to Breen.

A boater had encountered Harris’s 49-year-old girlfriend adrift in a boat on the lake and she said Harris had been in their boat, then he wasn’t in their boat but she was significantly impaired by at least alcohol and her recollection wasn’t very clear, Breen said.

Deputies got help from other boaters to search the area, brought in the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team to check the lake with sonar devices, but also checked Harris’s residence and other locations in the community.

They entered him into the system as a missing person and continued to investigate.

Harris had been charged this spring with second-degree assault and possession of methamphetamine after an incident at the home he shared with his girlfriend on May 30. Harris bailed out of jail on June 1 and was due back in court for a hearing on July 13. A no-bail warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear.

Breen indicated this afternoon that detectives still don’t have a clear picture of what occurred prior to Harris being in the water. His girlfriend has been interviewed multiple times and they are trying to piece together what they can from her recollections, according to Breen.

The sheriff’s office continues investigating the death and looking for answers, he said. The coroner has labeled the manner of death as undetermined.

He said the sheriff’s office is asking anyone with information to contact  the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at 360-748-9286, or Lewis County Communications at 360-740-1105.


For background, read “Search continues for missing man in Mineral Lake” from Friday July 7, 2017, here

Police: Armed bicyclists rob male in Centralia of ‘large sum of cash’

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police say a person reported he was robbed at knife point of a wallet and a large amount of money in Centralia yesterday afternoon.

The victim whose age and hometown were not revealed received a minor cut to his arm and was treated at the scene, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Officers were called at 2:19 p.m. yesterday to to the 1100 block of View Avenue about the robbery.

Police say two suspects rode away from the scene on black BMX-style bicycles.

They were described as two white males in their early twenties; one had curly blond hair and the other was wearing a black baseball cap, according to police.

The police department advises in a brief summary of the episode they will reveal nothing further about the encounter.

“No more information on this incident will be made available until the investigation has been completed,” states an email to the news media this morning from the department.

Centralia man undergoing multiple surgeries after industrial accident

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Leõn Esparza shared a photo on his Facebook page from the hospital in Vancouver. / Courtesy photo

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The National Frozen Foods employee who was severely injured this weekend when he was struck by a large forklift remains hospitalized in the intensive care unit today.

Leõn Esparza was airlifted to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver after police, firefighters and medics responded to an approximately 3:15 a.m. call Saturday to the plant at Northwest State Avenue and West Street in Chehalis. Initial information indicated he was flown to Seattle, but he wasn’t.

His left leg was, as he described this morning, crushed and shattered. A police officer who was first getting to the scene applied a tourniquet.

The 31-year-old Centralia man said he has undergone three surgeries and was awaiting another surgery today, on his right hip which is or may be broken. He said he was medicated, when he spoke briefly on the phone this morning, and in lots of pain, but very lucky to be alive.

The fire department said this weekend Esparza had just gotten off shift and was leaving when he was hit, apparently by the back wheel of a forklift.

Esparza said he has no idea how long the hospital plans to keep him. He still doesn’t know if they can save his leg, he said.

“It’s going to be awhile,” he said. “Don’t sugar coat it, I’m in a lot of pain and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

He said he had family with him at the hospital. He also said he just started working for the vegetable processor a few weeks ago.

For background, read “News brief: Employee airlifted after tangling with large forklift” from Saturday August 5, 2017, here

Centralia resident reports motorist tailgated him, then stole his SUV

Monday, August 7th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police are investigating after a 26-year-old man reported he was car-jacked yesterday evening in Centralia.

The black 1999 GMC Yukon was later found burning on state Route 6 about four miles west of Pe Ell.

Police were called about 5:20 p.m. by the victim who said he had been traveling in the borrowed SUV north on North Gold Street and was being tailgated by a silver sedan so he pulled over near Ham Hill Road.

He said a man from the silver car got out, approached him and struck him in the head with a stick, according to the Centralia Police Department.

“He said he ran (away) so hard he lost his shoes in the bushes, he hitched a ride home and called 911,” detective Sgt. Carl Buster said this morning.

The 26-year-old Centralia man described his assailant as about 6-foot 4-inches tall, on the heavier side and bald, maybe with a tattoo under his eyes, Buster said.

Police booked the victim into the Lewis County Jail because he was wanted for a warrant, but got a call from the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office about 11 p.m., according to Buster.

Someone had reported the GMC Yukon was on fire on state Route 6 about milepost 23, he said.

Buster said he expected detectives would be getting the report from Pacific County and attempt to contact the registered owner of the Yukon.

The victim didn’t have a visible injury, according to the incident report Buster referred to for his information this morning.

DNR looking into origin of large Grand Mound fire

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Arial view of Kuper Court. / Courtesy photo by Chief Robert Scott

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The cause of the fire that swept through more than 30 acres of tall grass and at least one grove of trees in Grand Mound is being investigated by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Firefighters called at 3:56 p.m. yesterday to the area of 201st Avenue Southwest and Kuper Court managed to stop the fast-moving flames just behind a row of numerous houses, but a garage and two outbuildings were lost, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

Residents on Dakota Court were asked to evacuate, Fire Chief Robert Scott said.

WTRFA was joined by eight neighboring fire departments and DNR with approximately 100 firefighters battling the blaze. One DNR firefighter suffered a minor hand laceration.

Scott said today it appeared to be human caused, but said DNR is responsible for the investigation and he didn’t have any details.

Photos taken by the chief show charred wood fencing and curled vinyl siding on the backs of some houses.

It was just two days earlier the same fire department tackled a three-acre brush fire a couple of miles to the northwest, where a pump house burned but they managed to save a dozen homes.

The first wave of firefighters were relieved about 9 p.m. and personnel with DNR stayed overnight, he said. They are continuing mop up today.

Scott said the department stands prepared in case anything else breaks out during the next few hot days, but residents would be well served to help themselves, ahead of time.

He advises people to create defensible space around their homes, clearing away anything combustible from near their houses.

“You don’t think about it much, this side of the state,” he said.

Primary voters favor Tinney, Shannon for county clerk

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It looks like challenger Carla Shannon and appointed Lewis County Clerk Scott Tinney will advance to the November election, based on numbers released for the primary.

Out of 9,302 ballots cast and counted in yesterday’s primary election, a third candidate, Linda Williams, took in just a tad more than 26 percent.

The numbers between Shannon and Tinney are close.

The Board of (Lewis) County Commissioners selected Tinney in November to finish out the term of retired Lewis County Clerk Kathy Brack, who left in the middle of a four-year term.

Tinney came from the Thurston County Clerk’s Office but resides in Lewis County.

Shannon was actually the first choice of three names forwarded to county commissioners by the local Republican party after Brack’s retirement.

Shannon is a deputy clerk in the Lewis County Clerk’s Office, where she has worked about five years.

All three identify as Republicans.

Shannon so far has secured 36.07 percent, or 3,114 votes and Tinney has 37.85 percent, or 3,268 votes, according to the Lewis County Auditor’s Office elections division.

As of 8 p.m. yesterday, the elections division had tallied 8,268 votes and then today processed and counted another 1,034 in the all vote-by-mail primary.

More ballots may come in, but they must be postmarked by no later than yesterday to be valid, Elections Supervisor Heather Boyer said today.

The office won’t count those until Aug. 14 and they will certify the election on Aug. 15.

Regardless of who wins in November, the elected position will be on the ballot again in November 2018, for a regular four-year term.

Lewis County Fire District 5 had an Emergency Medical Services levy on the ballot and while a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of it, it’s not clear it will clear the hurdles to pass.

As of today, 58.96 percent, or 895, people voted yes but the measure needs to pass by a super majority of 60 percent.

Boyer said the EMS levy also requires validation, meaning the total number of votes has to reach at least 40 percent of the number who voted in the last general election. That number is 1,585, Boyer said.

As of today, only 1,518 individuals cast ballots on the levy.

The Napavine-based fire district failed to get at least 60 percent support for an emergency medical services levy in November.

Fire weather: Brush fires break out in Rochester, Chehalis

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

More than two dozen firefighters worked the area off Hilt Road in Rochester last night. / Courtesy photo by West Thurston Regional Fire Authority

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Flames spread over a little more than three acres in Rochester yesterday evening but crews stopped them before they afflicted any homes.

Firefighters were called just after 5 p.m. for a brush fire in the area of U.S. Highway 12 and 183rd Avenue Southwest but found their fire off of Hilt, Denmark and Roseburg streets, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

They were joined by several neighboring fire departments to tackle the fast moving long, skinny fire on the backside of various properties, Lt. Lanette Dyer said.

A 22-year-old firefighter was taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation and dehydration, Dyer said. She was treated and home by about 11:30 p.m., she said.

Dyer said although one pump house burned, a dozen homes were saved.

The scene was turned over to personnel from the state Department of Natural Resources around 7:30 p.m. They planned to watch overnight.

The Chehalis Fire Department kept busy yesterday stamping out small fires, three of them caused by cigarettes tossed into the bark of planting beds at the Twin City Town Center.

A fourth brush fire that broke out along Shoreline Drive was also caused by a cigarette, according to Fire Capt. Ted McCarty.

McCarty said a man said he dropped a cigarette as he and others were being chased out of the area of the old city treatment plant. He approached a deputy at a gas station on Main Street and said he thought he might have ignited a fire, McCarty said.

“And the deputy looked up to see the smoke,” McCarty said. It was held to about an eighth of an acre, he said.

It’s only going to get worse, McCarty said.

An excessive heat warning is in place for much of Western Washington through Friday, with the potential for record-breaking temperatures on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. A fire weather watch is advising that conditions will be favorable for the rapid spread of any fires.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Brooke Bova reminded motorists via Twitter today that throwing a lit cigarette out the window of a vehicle can also earn them a $1,025 ticket.

Authorities are reminding the public of steps to take to avoid heat illnesses, such as drink plenty of fluids, stay out of the sun and check up on relatives and neighbors.

Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances, the NWS advises.

“This is especially true during hot weather when car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes,” the NWS stated in a bulletin this morning.

Centralia mom pleads guilty to exposing children to meth smoke

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 25-year-old Centralia mother who admitted exposing her two children to meth smoke is off to prison with a sentence of a year and a day.

Sabrina L. Sumter pleaded guilty in Lewis County Superior Court to two counts of endangerment with a controlled substance and one count of possession of methamphetamine.


Sabrina L. Sumter / File photo

When she went before a judge on Friday, the judge agreed to the sentence that was within the standard range, according to Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.

Sumter had been arrested at the end of June, the same day Centralia police learned a test result had come back showing positive for the presence of the drug in Sumter’s 3-month-old baby girl.

The only reason the discovery was made, was the infant died unexpectedly in May and the coroner’s office conducted an autopsy and tests to figure out why.

It turned out to have been an accidental death, the baby suffocated while sharing a bed with her mother, according to authorities.

After she was arrested, Sumter admitted that she and others smoked meth in her home, exposing the children, according to prosecutors.

Meyer said two issues were unrelated, in his expert’s opinion.

“The meth in the child’s system was not the cause of death,” he said this week.

Had he been able to link them and show criminality, he would have pursued the case differently, he said.

For background, read “Centralia infant exposed to meth smoke died of something different” from Friday July 7, 2017, here

Wildfire ignites east of Randle

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Looking north from the Cascade Peaks Campground. / Courtesy photo by Robin Hylton

Updated at 4:35 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Crews are on the scene this morning improving fire lines in the Carr Road area between Randle and Packwood.

No structures have been damaged, none are threatened and nobody has been injured, according to Lewis County Fire District 14.

Firefighters from Randle, Packwood and the state Department of Natural Resources were fighting what was described early yesterday evening as a five-plus-acre brush fire.

Photos and video shared by observers showed a helicopter making water drops yesterday.

Fire Chief Jeff Jaques said it was mostly brush and stumps in a clear cut area about one mile up from U.S. Highway 12. He believed it ended up covering about 10 acres.

“It got into the trees a little bit,” he said.

Crews are in the mop up stage now, Jaques said just before 1 p.m. today. The fire was reported just after 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon.

The Board of (Lewis) County Commissioners put outdoor burning restrictions in place nine days ago due to the current and extended weather forecast and substantial fire dangers.

Meanwhile, the cause of a fire that destroyed a Randle residence several miles to the west over the weekend remains under investigation.

Firefighters responding to approximately 3:10 a.m. call on Sunday on the 600 block of Silverbrook Road found a double-wide mobile home and adjacent shop building fully involved in flames, according to Jaques.

Nobody was home as it turns out but they couldn’t be sure, spending a lot of time checking, said Fire Investigator Derrick Paul.

Paul said he understood a family consisting of seven people, five of them children, lived there.

There were two cars inside the shop that were destroyed as well, he said.


Bringing water to the Carr Road fire. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 14

Saying goodbye to Chehalis police dog

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Memorial folder cover for K-9 Reign

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – His life was short, but it was full.

Those were some of the sentiments shared today when a fair-sized gathering of people came together to pay their respects to Chehalis police dog Reign.

The memorial service for the five and half year old K-9 was held at W.F. West High School in Chehalis.

The mayor spoke, the police chief spoke.

Reign’s strength and stubbornness were recalled as well as his achievements in apprehensions and the impressive amounts of narcotics he sniffed out.

Reign served four years with his partner Officer Warren Ayers at the Chehalis Police Department beginning in May 2013. He died suddenly and unexpectedly of unknown causes while training on duty the night of June 27.

The service included a procession to the school, an honor guard, the presentation of a badge and closed with a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace.

Numerous K-9 officers were among the many who came to pay their condolences to Ayers and his family.

“Reign went out and would take care of business, however, when that was done, he could be as gentle as any dog,” Chehalis Mayor Dennis Dawes said.


For background, read “Animal experts: No clear explanation for why Chehalis K-9 died” from Tuesday July 18, 2017, here

Unreplaced guard rail blamed when car wreck went undetected off Leonard Road

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro sits about 10 feet below Leonard Road at Burchett Road on Oct. 18, 2016. / Photo Lewis County Sheriff’s Office case file

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A $1.2 million claim has been filed against Lewis County for wrongful death in the case of a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran whose car wasn’t discovered for nearly 90 minutes after he traveled down an embankment where a guard rail was missing and struck a tree in the Onalaska area.

The Chevrolet Camaro with its flashers on was spotted by a pair of Lewis County Public Works employees driving by, more than 40 feet off the west end of Burchett Road and down more than 10 feet, only because the county utility truck happened to sit high enough to see it, according to authorities.

Morris L. Johanson was conscious when responders arrived and told them he had been on his way to a doctor’s appointment at the VA hospital. Law enforcement noted Johanson was seat belted in and his airbags deployed and they could see his lower leg was broken and his forehead cut. He was on oxygen and had oxygen tanks on the floorboard beside him.


Morris Leland Johanson

The two county employees had broken a window so they could talk with him.

The two-time Purple Heart recipient who lived less than five miles away told the arriving deputy he’d run the stop sign for Leonard Road at 6:30 a.m., that he hadn’t realized where he was and hadn’t noticed it.

The wreck had been reported at 7:55 a.m.

Johanson stopped breathing during the move from his vehicle to the ambulance. CPR was conducted and the ambulance headed to meet an airlift helicopter, but when a second deputy responded to Onalaska High School’s football field, he found the helicopter with its engine shut off and was told Johanson was deceased.

The guard rail had not been repaired or replaced following a collision at the T-intersection about a month earlier, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and the wrongful death claim.

Portland attorney Jon Zbinden wrote that Johanson endured pain and suffering until his demise from blunt force trauma – to his chest according to the coroner. Zbinden wrote that the Onalaska man was not discovered for approximately one and a half hours because his vehicle traveled down the embankment as a result of a missing guard rail.

The collision occurred the morning of Oct. 18. The claim – on behalf of Johanson’s daughter, Cherie Johanson – was received by Lewis County Risk Management on April 10. A claim was filed against the Washington State Department of Transportation as well.

Johanson had lived in Onalaska about 10 years and previously owned a long haul trucking business, according to his obituary.

Earlier this week, the risk and safety administrator for the county, Paulette Young, informed the Board of (Lewis) County Commissioners that their attorney handling the case recommended they deny the claim.

“Most likely if we deny, we’ll see a lawsuit,” Young told them.

The three member board voted unanimously to deny the claim.

The Washington State Patrol analyzed the scene and concluded the orange 2014 Camaro, with a Washington Purple Heart specialty plate had been traveling approximately 43 mph when it left the roadway.

There were no marks to suggest any braking for the stop sign and pieces of the previous guard rail were still scattered on the slope.

There had been orange traffic cones placed along Leonard Road where the guard rail previously was, according to one of the investigating troopers.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office found Johanson died of of blunt force injuries to his chest, with two diseases contributing: arteriosclerotic cardiovascular and chronic obstructive pulmonary. He had multiple rib fractures and internal bleeding collapsed both his lungs, according to the autopsy report.

A service with full military honors was held at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland where he was laid to rest.

‘Cereal burglar’ captured, hog tied for law enforcement in East Lewis County

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Intruder detained by Glenoma family. / Courtesy photo by Gharrett Lamping


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Here’s just one reason to lock your doors at night.

A 29-year-old Glenoma man found a stranger in his house helping himself to breakfast at the crack of dawn today.

Lewis County sheriff’s deputies called at 5:20 a.m. to the 100 block of Glenoma Road were told a resident found the man standing in his kitchen.

“Basically, the suspect goes into the residence … and apparently pours himself some cereal, puts some milk in it and is eating it,” Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dusty Breen said.

The uninvited guest fled, but the 29-year-old and his father-in-law apprehended him about 500 feet away along the road and ordered him to the ground at gun point, according to Breen.

They remained with him until deputies arrived. “They did have him tied up,” Breen said.

Jerald L. Couch, 52, was arrested for residential burglary and booked into the Lewis County Jail.

Breen said the suspect talked about being out in the woods, using a new kind of drug and said he’d been in Florida a few hours earlier. He’s is listed as transient, out of Tampa, Florida.

The doors to the home had been unlocked, according to Breen.

Chehalis steam train strikes Curtis man’s pickup

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Bystanders and pickup truck through window of steam train / Courtesy photo by Maria Castaneda

Updated 5:54 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An 82-year-old motorist was injured when his pickup truck collided with the steam train in Adna yesterday evening.

The Washington State Patrol reports that Jeremy W. Mullins was traveling eastbound on state Route 6 and didn’t see warning lights that a train was approaching. The train struck the 2003 Chevrolet Silverado, according to the state patrol.

Troopers and medics called to the scene near Twin Oaks Road about 6:40 p.m. found the truck totaled, according to the investigating trooper.

Members of the Chehalis Fire Department arrived first, as Lewis County Fire District 6 was just clearing a vehicle fire. They were joined by personnel from Lewis County Fire District 5.

Chehalis Fire Capt. Casey Beck said the patient was conscious and alert.

“His legs were pinned, not crushed, but we had to use the Jaws to relieve pressure and then pop the door open,” Beck said.

Mullins, from Curtis, was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital. He was treated and then transferred, according to hospital spokesperson Chris Thomas.

Beck said there were as many as 70 people on the train, none were hurt and some said they didn’t even feel the collision. The train was traveling about 12 mph, he said.

Both Beck and District 6’s Firefighter-EMT Mike Goodwillie said they were pretty certain the pickup truck had been traveling westbound when it happened.

“I think the sun got in his eyes, and he wasn’t expecting a train there,” Beck said.

The state patrol blamed the wreck on Mullins’ failure to yield the right of way.


CORRECTION: This news story has been updated to reflect that Jeremy W. Mullins was treated at Providence Centralia Hospital and was not released but was then transferred to an unspecified facility.

Doty resident killed in wrong-way I-5 crash

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Traffic comes to a standstill on northbound Interstate 5 at Chehalis / Courtesy photo by Heather Bouck

Updated at 6:03 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A young man is dead and two others injured after he traveled the wrong way on Interstate 5 in Chehalis last night and hit an oncoming vehicle.

TJ L. Sinnott, 23, from Doty was headed south in the northbound lanes near milepost 77 when his car struck a northbound sport utility vehicle occupied by two women from Oregon, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Chehalis Fire Department Capt. Casey Beck said the engine compartment of the women’s vehicle caught fire.

“They had been pulled out, or self extricated,” Beck said. “It was right next to his car. Unfortunately, he passed right away.”

Chelsea R. Zigler, 24, Clackamas and Carrieann M. Zigler, 24, of Gresham, both were transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the state patrol.

Troopers called at 11:12 p.m. to the scene report both vehicles were totaled and impounded.

Sinnott had been driving a 2003 Hyundai Accent and Chelsea Zigler was behind the wheel of a 2011 Chevrolet Traverse.

All had been wearing seat belts. It’s unknown if drugs or alcohol were involved, according to the state patrol.

A hospital spokesperson this morning said Chelsea Zigler is listed in fair condition. Her passenger Carrieann Zigler was treated and has been released.

Washington State Department of Transportation reports the roadway wasn’t cleared until 2:20 a.m.