Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Police: FBI case leads detectives to Toledo man who offered dog online for sex

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
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By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A retired firefighter who’s never even had a speeding ticket found himself visited by members of three law enforcement agencies at his Toledo area home after his alleged instant messages showed up amid an FBI investigation into a couple arrested for child sex crimes.

The Seattle Police Department today said investigators with its Internet Crimes Against Children task force discovered he had offered his dog up online for sexual encounters and had exchanges with the couple in which he said he liked to watch adults sexually abusing children, offered to set up an encounter with a young child, and later asked for, and received, a picture of the husband’s genitals.

In the chat, he allegedly asked many questions about the man’s daughter, according to court documents.

ICAC detectives obtained a search warrant for his Yahoo account and traced the email and messages back to the 58-year-old Toledo man.

Investigators soon discovered he had also posted elsewhere online, allegedly offering to provide his German shepherd to another person for a sexual encounter.

“He included a detailed description of his dog’s genitals, and bragged about previously coordinating a sexual encounter between a neighbor and his dog, which he said was witnessed by another young child,” a Seattle Police Department writer stated in SPD’s Blotter today.

A detective who examined his emails supplied one of them to local prosecutors which is said to be his response to a Craigslist advertisement titled, “Phone sex about your family member-I call you- m4m.”

Part of his alleged response: “Hey there, love taboo talk and chat, I have a fantasy about my niece who is a little girl … ”

At about 5:45 a.m. on Monday, detectives with ICAC were assisted by members of the Toledo Police Department and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office in “executing a search warrant” at the home on the 1800 block of state Route 505 in Toledo.

Wayde G. Rice was interviewed and his computer devices examined, according to court documents. An image of child pornography is described in the affidavit of probable cause filed in Lewis County Superior Court.

Rice was arrested, booked into the Lewis County Jail and charged with one count of first-degree possession of depictions of minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The offense has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

When Rice was brought before a judge on Tuesday afternoon, handcuffed and dressed in green jail garb, lawyers discussed what his bail should be.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Intern Amber Caulfield noted the defendant has no criminal convictions in his past.

Temporary defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge her client is a longtime Lewis County resident, retired after some 30 years of fighting fires in California.

“He’s never even had a speeding ticket,” O’Rourke said.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey allowed Rice release on a $25,000 unsecured bond. The judge ordered him to stay off the Internet.

According to charging documents, Rice spoke to a detective after his Miranda warnings.

He said the conversation with the man the FBI was investigating was just fantasy, that he didn’t believe “Rick” was real.

“Wayde stated he only has fantasies and he would never act on them,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm wrote in charging documents.

He denied having any images of child sexual exploitation, but stated he had seen some when the Internet first came out, Bohm wrote.

The SPD Blotter author noted that detectives learned he had recently relinquished ownership of his dogs.

“They are now investigating whether any of the animals, including the German shepherd, were abused and are working to ensure they are well cared for,” the author wrote.

Rice, though O’Rourke, told the judge he plans to retain an attorney. His arraignment is scheduled for June 30.

Breaking news: Gunshot victim airlifted from Chehalis

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Updated at 8:57 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Responders were called overnight for a gunshot victim behind a business on the 600 block of West Main Street in Chehalis.

“Police were already on the scene, the male subject was with them behind the Dairy Bar,” Chehalis Firefighter Pennie McCarty said.

He was transported to the airport and airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, McCarty said.

Chehalis Police Department Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said he was briefed by an officer by phone about 3 o’clock this morning.

The man was conscious and talking and had a gunshot wound to his abdomen and stomach area, Kaut said. There was nobody else around and a shotgun was recovered, he said.

“It appears it was self inflicted by the person who called,” Kaut said. “At this point, I don’t know his condition.”

Kaut said he believed the 30-year-old Doty resident worked security for a fenced area nearby, and was staying in a camper there.

Police today will be trying to figure out what happened and why, Kaut said.

Lewis County Communications call log summary indicates police and fire were dispatched at 2:54 a.m.

This is a developing news story. Lewis County Sirens will follow up to try to learn the man’s condition. His name was not released.

Pe Ell mother faces charge of assault of her child

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
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By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – On the same day two weeks ago when Joseph W. Rogerson went before a judge charged with third-degree assault of a child, prosecutors sent off a summons for his wife and filed the same charge against her for an alleged incident from January.

Diana M. Rogerson, 38, appeared before a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

The cases are unrelated but it’s the same alleged victim; her 7-year-old daughter.

Charging documents state Diana M. Rogerson’s ex-husband called law enforcement on Jan. 31 after his girlfriend discovered, while helping with a bath, a bruise on the child’s left buttock.

The girl’s older brother told the deputy his mom got angry with his sister because she refused to say prayers at dinnertime, took her in the bathroom and spanked her and then took her back in the bathroom and spanked her with a belt. Court documents indicate the incident occurred four to six days previous.

The bruise appeared to be darker on the ends and red in the center, the deputy noted.

The older brother said his mother commented she had broken a blood vessel in her hand from the spanking.

Charging documents go on to relate that Diana M. Rogerson told deputies she didn’t know how her daughter got the bruise, but said her hands hurt when she spanks her daughter.

She reportedly said her daughter had been disrespectful and fought to get away from being spanked, and that she retrieved a one-inch belt and folded it twice before spanking her.

The case has been assigned to Child Protective Services. The children are now living with their father in Toledo based on a temporary protection order secured on June 6.

The Rogersons live in Pe Ell.

Third-degree assault of a child is a class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

The allegation is bodily harm accompanied by substantial pain that extended for a period sufficient to cause considerable suffering to a child younger than 13 years old.

Her husband Joseph W. Rogerson, 37, was charged on June 6 with third-degree assault of a child for allegedly punching his 7-year-old step-daughter in the arm when she got in between a physical dispute involving him and her mother.

The felony charge put at risk his deferred prosecution on last summer’s DUI, related to a head-on crash in Onalaska that left three teenagers dead. Law enforcement’s investigation found he was not to blame, as he was traveling in his own lane.

Diana M. Rogerson reportedly also told deputies she and her husband have been under a lot of stress as a result of the car accident.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey set her bail with a $10,000 unsecured bond and told her to return on June 30 for her arraignment.

Judge Brosey commented in court about the difference between the two cases.

“This one has the potential defense of reasonable parental discipline,” he said. “Whereas the other one does not.”

Outside the courtroom today, Diana M. Rogerson said the assault allegations against both she and her husband are coming from her ex-husband.
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For background, read “Driver from last summer’s deadly Onalaska wreck back in court” from Tuesday June 7, 2016, here

Mossyrock knife into neck case brings 26 months of prison

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
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Grace E. Barker consults with her lawyer Shane O’Rourke in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The judge went along with the plea agreement that gave a Mossyrock woman just over two years in prison for stabbing the father of her baby, instead as much as 15 years behind bars had she gone to trial and been convicted.

Grace E. Barker, 26, was accompanied by her defense attorney Shane O’Rourke yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court.

O’Rourke and Lewis County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher spoke of some of the reasons behind the deal.

O’Rourke said he had been working toward an argument of self defense, but it was imperfect and incomplete given an allegation of substance abuse and his client’s inability to recall. At one point they seriously considered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Prosecutors wrote in charging documents that Brian Slater was trying to get Barker to leave his Mossyrock home when she picked up what he has said was a 10-inch stiletto knife. He said he armed himself with a knife and when he threw his down thinking she had done the same, she stabbed him in the throat.

At the time of her arrest on April 6, Barker was homeless although Slater sometimes let her stay at his residence.

Meagher told the judge the victim has made a full recovery.

The original charge of first-degree assault was dropped to a charge of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.

Judge James Lawler yesterday afternoon said he would follow the attorneys’ recommendations. Barker chose not to make a statement on her own behalf.

“You are very lucky that this is what’s happening today,” Lawler told her. “You’re lucky Mr. Slater didn’t die, you’re lucky Mr. O’Rourke was able to work out this deal for you.”

The judge sentenced her to 26 months in prison and 18 months of supervision after her release. He also made a finding that would require she be evaluated for substance abuse and follow up with treatment.

Meagher said outside the courtroom his reading of the defense’s therapists findings were that Barker’s situation was chemically induced.

“She has a terrible meth addiction,” Meagher said.

Part of the reason behind the deal was because prosecutors took the victim’s wishes into account, he said.

“There’s a lot going on when we do these plea bargains,” Meagher said. “There may have been a self defense claim; probably not enough to get over the hurdle, but we don’t want to take that chance.”
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For background, read “Mossyrock argument: Two knives, one airlifted, other arrested” from Thursday April 7, 2016, here

Plea agreement ends Mossyrock stabbing case

Friday, June 17th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Instead of a trial next week for the 26-year-old woman being held after her boyfriend was stabbed in the neck at his Mossyrock home, Grace E. Barker will go before a judge to be sentenced.

Barker was arrested right after the April 6 incident and charged with first-degree assault. She pleaded guilty last week, as part of a plea agreement, to second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.

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Grace E. Barker

Her lawyer Shane O’Rourke yesterday said the standard range for the offense is 12 months to 14 months in prison, along with another year afterward because of the weapon enhancement. She faces 26 months of lockup, he said.

Prosecutors wrote in charging documents that Brian Slater was trying to get Barker to leave his residence when she picked up a knife, and he armed himself with a knife and when he threw his down thinking she had done the same, she stabbed him in the throat. Slater has said it was a 10-inch stiletto.

Her hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday in Lewis County Superior Court.

The settlement before trial follows another April knife crime that ended somewhat similarly.

Gregory L. Trujillo, 58, of Toledo, was charged with first-degree assault following an April 1 attack at the 300 block of Cedar Court in Winlock.

Trujillo’s trial began last week in Lewis County Superior Court, on a charge of first-degree assault, but on Tuesday, he entered into a plea agreement.

The victim in that case told police the two had previously been in an intimate relationship and Trujillo showed up, beat her up and pulled out what was described as a small-bladed knife, leaving her with a large, deep gash on her hand.

Trujillo pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, was sentenced to 14 months in prison and ordered to get evaluated for chemical dependency and domestic violence treatment.
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For background, read “Mossyrock argument: Two knives, one airlifted, other arrested” from Thursday April 7, 2016, here

Nineteen-year-old gets sentenced for Backpage.com related home invasion

Thursday, June 16th, 2016
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Natrone D. Bostick appears before a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It took about 16 minutes today to decide on and hand down a 15-year sentence for one of three people involved in a violent robbery at a rural Chehalis home, that followed a visit by an “escort” contacted on Backpage.com.

Natrone D. Bostick, 19, of Lakewood, appeared with his lawyer Don Blair before Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler this afternoon.

Blair and Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello said they’d worked out the plea agreement with both of them recommending the same amount of prison time.

Bostick and his companion Samath L. Hem, 23, from Tacoma, were arrested back on May 3 following a shoplifting incident at Home Depot in Chehalis. Items found when their vehicle was searched linked them to an event that had taken place a few days earlier on the 900 block of Logan Hill Road outside Chehalis.

A 53-year-old rural Chehalis man reported he’d invited an escort to his home but was attacked, tied up and pistol whipped by two males who arrived with her. The victim said it occurred on April 29, but he didn’t report it until the next day. Once the victim was able to untie himself, he discovered valuables missing from his residence, including a large television and some checkbooks, according to prosecutors.

Bostick pleaded guilty last week to first-degree assault and first-degree kidnapping, as well as third-degree theft and possession of a controlled substance related to the Home Depot case. One count of first-degree robbery was dropped.

Masiello said it seemed to him both men had equal involvement in the crime, although Hem has been more cooperative with authorities.

The judge today heard from Bostick’s attorney that although it wasn’t an excuse, when he and his brother were children, his mother drove them from Florida to Washington, dropped them off at a DSHS location and Bostick has not seen his mother since, according to Masiello.

“I’m sympathetic to your situation,” Lawler told the defendant. “You’ve been dealt a lousy hand, I don’t argue that.”

The judge followed the agreed recommendation.

He imposed a 60-month sentence for the kidnapping and a 120-month term for the assault, to be served consecutively. He called it a steep price to pay and a hard lesson.

Hem’s case is proceeding, with attempts to “resolve” it without a trial, according to Masiello. He is being held in the Lewis County Jail and expected again in court next week.

Masiello said the female they believe was involved in the robbery was not the same woman who was arrested with the pair after the Home Depot incident. But law enforcement has figured out who she is, he said, adding he would say no more on the topic.
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For background, read “Backpage.com encounter results in violent home invasion in rural Chehalis” from Friday May 6, 2016, here

Centralia woman gets 12 years for break-in to prosecutor’s house and other crimes

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
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Janet L. Gleason looks back to supporters in the courtroom after the judge indicates disagreement with her lawyer’s recommendation.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Intentionally skipping her court hearing got Janet L. Gleason five extra years in prison.

Gleason, 43, pleaded guilty today to bail jumping and then officials got on with the business of her sentencing hearing that was supposed to take place last month.

The Centralia woman was already convicted of several felonies pursuant to a plea agreement. She admitted to participating in a burglary early last year at the home of Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.

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Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer

Pacific County Prosecutor Mark McClain who handled the case  told the judge this morning in Lewis County Superior Court they’d had an agreement about how much time he would recommend if she cooperated by trying to retrieve the stolen valuables.

She previously brought a bag of jewelry to court, but none of it was from Meyer’s home, McClain said.

Prosecutors believe Gleason targeted Meyer in retaliation for him prosecuting her teenage son, because a Thurston County Jail inmate who said he was with her told them so.

Gleason apologized, but stuck with her story she gave a friend a ride, the break-in was his idea and she was unaware of whose house it was.

The convictions include residential burglary, first-degree trafficking in stolen property and second-degree malicious mischief as well as a separate possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver.

McClain and Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello recommended she get 84 months for those offenses.

Defense attorney Michael Underwood asked Judge Richard Brosey to give her a prison drug offender sentencing alternative.

He said his client has a drug problem, a serious drug problem.

Elected Prosecutor Meyer spoke of being victimized, calling the crime an attack on his family and an attack on the entire system.

“I had never though the sanctity of my home would be violated simply because I was doing my job,” Meyer said.

Attorneys on both sides agreed Gleason owed restitution of $27,717.74.

Judge Brosey said he wasn’t inclined toward the defense suggestion, given the what he also believed to be the reason Meyer was targeted. He told those present in the courtroom he had the discretion to order her sentences to be served concurrently or consecutively.

Brosey imposed seven years for the burglary case and seven years for the drug case, and said they could be served at the same time as each other.

But then he imposed the maximum of five years for bail jumping and said it had to be served separate from the other crimes, putting her away for 12 years.
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For background, read “Role reversal: Lewis County prosecutor reflects on becoming a burglary victim” from Friday November 6, 2015, here

John Booth loses another attempt to undo life sentence for 2010 murders

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
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John A. Booth Jr. testifies at his motion hearing before Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Convicted triple murderer John A. Booth Jr.’s motion to vacate his judgement and sentence because of alleged eavesdropping by employees of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office before and during his trial has been denied.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey concluded that anything overheard was inadvertent and said he found no evidence it was passed along to prosecutors or used against him.

“The long and the short of it, Mr. Booth was not denied due process,” Brosey said yesterday afternoon.

Booth is serving a life sentence for the August 2010 slayings at the Onalaska-Salkum area home of 52-year-old David West Sr., from whom prosecutors contended Booth was seeking payment of a debt for a local drug dealer.

According to testimony and evidence from the eight-day trial in Lewis County Superior Court, when West brought out a shotgun to get Booth and his companion to leave, Booth shot West with a 9 mm handgun. Prosecutors said the shootings that followed were executions to eliminate witnesses. Booth continues to deny he was the shooter.

Losing their lives that day, along with West Sr., were 16-year-old David “D.J.” West Jr. and 50-year-old Tony Williams of Randle. West Sr.’s girlfriend, Denise Salts, was shot in the face but lived.

The former Onalaska man has already lost an appeal and a personal restraint petition. The motion Judge Brosey ruled on yesterday was based on court rule 7.8.

Brosey was the judge for the December 2011 trial in Lewis County Superior Court.

His finding came after three days of hearings and testimony from 27 individuals who took the witness stand. The first two days of hearings were held on May 2 and May 3. The final day was yesterday, for the witnesses who were unavailable earlier.

The complaint that occupied much of the proceedings was corrections officers standing outside the jail’s row of visiting rooms while Booth consulted with his attorneys and their investigators. Several testified conversations of others could be heard, including former inmates Robert J. Maddaus Jr., Robbie Russell, Centralia attorney Don Blair and corrections officers.

Vernon West Jr. was a transport officer during Booth’s trial.

He said initially they would have two officers stand outside the door while Booth met with his lawyer, and while he was never instructed to listen in, he could hear the conversations.

He said he didn’t repeat what he heard, but after hearing too much, moved farther down the hall during future visits.

“We never stood that close to the door again,” West said.

Another aspect of what Booth called “ear hustling” in the motion he typed from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, was a corrections officer who admitted he heard a recorded phone conversations Booth had with his lawyer.

Now retired Corrections Officer Jack Haskins testified that his primary job for his last eight years was to listen to the recordings made of inmate phone calls. While calls with lawyers were not supposed to be recorded, as part of an automated system, he said he found himself listening once to Booth and his lawyer.

He said he stopped listening to it, looked up the phone number and verified it belonged to an attorney.

Aberdeen attorney Erik Kupka represented Booth, and for closing arguments yesterday afternoon, advised the court he was reading from material prepared by his client.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Brad Meagher argued for the state.

After Judge Brosey announced his conclusion, he was informed Booth would be appealing the decision.
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For background, read “Ear hustling”: Convicted murderer John Booth tells judge about problems at Lewis County Jail”, from Friday July 5, 2013, here

Chehalis home invasion suspect facing third strike case

Friday, June 10th, 2016
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Jesse L. Harkcom sits before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court for his bail hearing this afternoon.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Bail was set at $1 million today for one of three suspects in a Chehalis home invasion robbery.

Jesse L. Harkcom, 34, was arrested in Lacey on drug charges yesterday and transported to the Lewis County Jail to be charged for the March 26 incident.

Charges were filed today in Lewis County Superior Court and Harkcom was brought before a judge this afternoon.

If convicted as charged, it would be a third strike offense, meaning a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Lewis County Intern Deputy Prosecutor Amber Caulfield advised the judge Harkcom has a 1998 conviction for first-degree burglary and a 2011 conviction for second-degree robbery, among his 11 felony convictions.

“At this time, the state would request $1 million,” Caulfield said.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke in citing reasons for her request of $25,000 bail, said her client has been a law abiding citizen for the past year and a half, has opened a cleaning service business and has a stable residence in Lacey.

“Given the circumstances, I think the state’s request is reasonable,” Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey said.

According to charging documents, it was just after 11:30 at night when police were called to the victim’s home on Southwest 10th Street just  just off Market Boulevard.

She was living in a shed behind a residence and packing to move out when three males kicked in her door and came inside. They were dressed in black and wearing gloves, she told police.

The first male yelled, “Where are the valuables”, the second male stood next to her bed holding a pistol and the third male stepped right back outside where he stood with his arms crossed, according to charging documents. She believed he also had a gun.

The woman, 40 years old, according to police, recognized the first male’s voice as Harkcom, someone she’d known since the previous month, charging documents relate.

She said Harkcom grabbed her Playstation 4, 20-inch monitor, a DVR, laptop computer and miscellaneous property.

Charging documents state she told them she was going to call police and the second male told her “she didn’t want to do that because he didn’t want to have to hurt her,” Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead wrote in the documents.

The woman said she got a small scratch on her leg when Harkcom threw a four-foot long fluorescent light fixture which hit her.

She ran to the residence to tell her roommate what happened and he saw the three get into a dark colored truck and drive away, according to Halstead.

The victim was asked why Harkcom would do something like this and she said he and her boyfriend had traded watches and the watch Harkcom received turned out to be fake.

Charging documents also relate that when Harkcom was booked into the Lewis County Jail, a search turned up a small baggie in his waistband containing two pills and a black tar substance.

Harkcom is charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and possession of heroin.

Centralia lawyer David Arcuri was appointed to represent him. His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

Chehalis police said yesterday the other two suspects are still outstanding.
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For background, read “News brief: Chehalis home invasion suspect found, booked” from Thursday June 9, 2016, here

Cascadia 9.0: When the big one hits

Thursday, June 9th, 2016
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Community members discuss some of the nuts and bolts of how they might work together in the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Think about a 6.1 magnitude earthquake shaking for 32 seconds.

“This 9.0 is expected to shake for five and half minutes,” Jill Kangas said.

Kangas and Steve Mansfield, of the Lewis County Department of Emergency Management yesterday brought more than 100 people together to contemplate how to respond to a catastrophic event that would affect the entire Pacific Northwest.

“This scenario is going to be so far beyond anything we have experienced or prepared for,” Mansfield said. “We don’t have a plan in place (for this).”

Mansfield pointed to a large map.

“What I want you to see here is, there’s not going to be a lot of movement on I-5,” he said. “People are not driving, but walking, if they’re still alive.”

The six-hour gathering in the upstairs meeting room of the Lewis County Veteran’s Museum in Chehalis was the local portion of Washington state’s Cascadia Rising earthquake and tsunami simulation exercise. It’s meant to test local, state, tribal and federal government as well as select private sector and non-governmental organizations’ ability to deal with such a situation.

The Cascadia subduction zone, lying mostly offshore, is an approximately 800-mile long fault, running from British Columbia to California. Stresses have been building there for more than 300 years and experts say we can be certain another great quake will shake the region.

Based on a show of hands, only one person in the room had experienced an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude or greater.

Chehalis Fire Department Chief Ken Cardinale told the group what his agency saw in October 1989 around California’s Bay Area. It measured between 6.9 and 7.2, he said.

There was $5 to $6 billion in damage, 63 people were killed and more than 3,000 injured, Cardinale said. The Bay Bridge went down. The aftershocks were 4.0 to 5.0 in magnitude, he said.

“We had 1,700 calls to 911 in the first hour,” he said. “Dispatch became just a call taking center; our department had to dispatch itself.”

Mutual aid from neighboring departments was nonexistant, he said, because they too were affected.

Cardinale offered the lesson for the day: “Everything you know about day to day operations will not be able to put into place in an event like this.”

Yesterday’s participants were seated at eight tables, each representing an area in the county imagined to be entirely cut off from other areas when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake strikes.

The scene: Buildings are in rubble, utilities are down, communications and transportation systems are critically impaired.

There is no Internet. People may or may not be able to use the text function on their cell phones.

Throughout the county, 1,200 people are dead, 2,460 individuals are seriously injured and 12,000 others are without shelter.

Each group was tasked with identifying its resources, building its team and developing action plans for the first 24-, 48- and 72-hour periods.

“What I kind of see is people going to their local fire stations,” Napavine resident and candidate for Lewis County commissioner Bob Bozarth said at the table for the Centralia area.

“They will, you’re right,” Riverside Fire Authority Chief Mike Kytta responded. “They’re going to go there and to doctors’ offices.”

“We don’t have a local search and rescue team, so we’re going to have to organize that,” Kytta said.

They pondered where to set up a command post.

The city of Centralia operates an emergency operations center at City Hall during disasters, such as flooding.

“Our building will probably be dust,” Centralia Police Department Cmdr. Pat Fitzgerald said. “The EOC will probably just pop up where the EOC pops up, that’s the reality.

It could be the hood of some random person’s car, he speculated.

At the Napavine table: “We’re going to check on our neighbors.”

At the Boistfort-Pe Ell-Curtis table: Boistfort and Pe Ell already have a supply of food and water for 100 people. “Water is paramount,” Justin Phelps, public works employee for the town of Pe Ell says.

At times, the various groups shared with the entire room.

From the Toledo-Winlock-Vader table: Mark Anders spoke about the strategy for finding people who need help.

“You’re going to go house to house, to the areas that are the easiest to get to first,” he said. “To help the most people the quickest.”

From the Salkum-Onalaska-Mossyrock table: The Mossyrock and Mayfield dams are built to withstand Morton area earthquakes and should be fine in this scenario, Tacoma Public Utilities employee Jayson Lelli said.

Nobody from TransAlta was present to speak to the strength and expectations of the Skookumchuck Dam.

Former Lewis County Commissioner Ron Averill spoke up.

“That’s an earthen dam,” he said. “If it breaks, Centralia will be under water to the Miracle Mile.”

From the Chehalis table, Chief Cardinale: “One of the options we thought about for sheltering people, is we’re fortunate to have RV sales places around here.” he said. “Even if buildings are standing, with aftershocks, people are going to be afraid to go back in.”

“We also had the idea of commandeering National Frozen Foods,” Cardinale said.

The imagined number of dead in Chehalis is 384.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod, on what to do with the bodies:

“In the first hours, it’s not an issue,” McLeod told the group. “Our main concern would begin at the eighth hour.”

There’s insects, then rodents, he said. “You’ll begin to see mountain lions, bears and pack of dogs,” he said.

“Our plan is, they get buried where they are found,” McLeod said.

Specifically, McLeod said, to bury 200 people, it will take 400 square feet of space and moving 1,300 cubic yards of dirt.

Rationing limited resources will become a reality. No help can be expected from the outside for days, attendees were told.

“Stores don’t carry more than one to two days worth of supplies for their community,” Mansfield said. “Ten years ago, that was different.”

When help from the outside is mobilized, it will head first to the affected areas with the densest populations, such as Seattle and Tacoma, he said.

“If you think the military is going to be here within the first 72 hours, you’re wrong,” he said.

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Chehalis Fire Chief Ken Cardinale speaks about their group’s ideas.

Driver from last summer’s deadly Onalaska wreck back in court

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Joseph W. Rogerson is at risk of losing his deferred prosecution on last summer’s DUI, related to a head-on crash in Onalaska that left three teenagers dead.

Rogerson, now 37, was found to have been traveling in his own lane and not to blame for the July 13 wreck on state Route 508.

The Land Rover was carrying eight young people. Killed were its driver, Arnold W. Mullinax, 17, and Taylor N. Thompson, 13, both from Onalaska. Dakota L. Dunivin, 18, from Chehalis, died the following day at the hospital.

Rogerson, formerly of Chehalis, is being monitored because of his case in Lewis County District Court, but today he went before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court, charged with third-degree assault of a child.

Judge Richard Brosey noted the new case includes an allegation he was drinking and asked if prosecutors have filed a motion to revoke his deferred DUI.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said he had not, at this time.

Deferred prosecution is an arrangement in which a defendant can ask the court to defer a finding of guilt in return for agreeing to abide by certain conditions for a certain amount of time, according to Meyer.

Brosey today ordered Rogerson to wear an alcohol monitor bracelet which will detect if he drinks.

Rogerson was arrested on Friday by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office following an investigation involving a 7-year-old girl who told a counselor at R.E. Bennett Elementary School her step-father hit her in the arm, leaving a bruise.

The sheriff’s office said yesterday the girl, her mother and step-father had gone shooting out in the woods near Pe Ell the weekend before and when the girl tried to get Rogerson to stop hitting her mom, he punched the child. Charging documents in the case indicate the girl told him to stop and hit him in the arm, then he hit the girl in her arm.

Both adults denied it happened, but the girl’s older brother corroborated her statement. Both children told law enforcement they thought the grown ups had been drinking, according to court documents.

Rogerson was released yesterday on $10,000 unsecured bond, and was back in court today after the felony charged was filed.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke asked that the conditions of release be altered to allow Rogerson to go back to his home in Pe Ell, saying he was his grandfather’s sole care provider and the child is now with her actual father, based on a court order.

Rogerson’s arraignment is scheduled for June 16.
•••

For background, read “No felony charges forthcoming from triple-fatality Onalaska wreck” from Friday October 30, 2015, here

Winlock child molestation case from late 1990s resurrected

Saturday, June 4th, 2016
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•••

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 60-year-old Toledo-area man appeared in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday in response to a summons, after learning he was accused for the second time of inappropriately touching a 5-year-old girl almost 18 years ago.

Steven M. Nowlen is charged with first-degree child molestation.

According to charging documents, the allegations were investigated when the alleged victim was a child, but recently the now-22-year-old reported the matter to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Nowlen was distressed to learn news reporters were present during his hearing.

“This isn’t going to be in the newspaper is it,” he asked outside the courtroom. “This is embarrassing.”

Nowlen said the allegation was investigated years ago, and suggested he couldn’t understand why it was getting looked at again.

“I took a lie detector and passed it with flying colors,” he said.

The charge, filed on May 18 in Lewis County Superior Court, alleges sexual contact sometime between Nov. 1, 1998 and March 1, 1999.

The allegation is the child was at her aunts home in Winlock, taking a bath with her cousin and the aunt’s boyfriend touched her between her legs when it was time to get out of the tub.

The court documents indicate the case was re-investigated beginning this past November.

Sheriff’s detective Jeremy Almond gathered records and conducted interviews and found the original case records were incomplete. In 2000, Winlock Police Chief Forrest McPherson suddenly died and there is no record of what happened with the case after the child was examined at St. Peter’s Sexual Assault Clinic.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Weirth wrote in the court documents that information from the medical examination revealed a condition “which can be seen in children who have been sexually abused, but is not a specific finding of sexual abuse.” The clinic recommended further police investigation.

Nowlen when interviewed by the detective denied ever inappropriately touching the child and told him he passed a polygraph in the 1990s, according to Weirth. There is no record of him taking one at that time, Weirth wrote.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey was told yesterday afternoon it appeared Nowlen qualified for a court appointed lawyer. Centralia attorney David Arcuri was appointed.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Prosecutors requested and were granted a $10,000 unsecured bond as a condition of release. Nowlen’s arraignment is scheduled for June 16.

Defendant in Mossyrock knife argument pleads not guilty, will argue self defense

Friday, June 3rd, 2016
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Grace E. Barker turns toward the gallery in Lewis County Superior Court during her hearing.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The woman accused of stabbing her boyfriend in the neck at his Mossyrock home was found competent so her case could continue and pleaded not guilty yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court.

Grace E. Barker, 26, was evaluated at the Lewis County Jail by personnel from the state’s psychiatric hospital, according to her lawyer.

Barker was arrested on April 6 following the incident at the 200 block of Mossyrock Road West, and subsequently charged with first-degree assault. The offense carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Defense attorney Shane O’Rourke told a judge yesterday afternoon, his client would be withdrawing her previous plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

He told the judge that wasn’t a viable route, based on the work they’d done so far on the case. He didn’t offer further detail.

Prosecutors wrote in court documents that Brian Slater was trying to get Barker to leave his residence when she picked up a knife, and he armed himself with a knife and when he threw his down thinking she had done the same, she stabbed him in the throat.

Slater spent about three days at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with a punctured lung and other injuries before being released. He has said the weapon was 10-inch long stiletto.

Concern about Barker’s mental stability led to postponements and the visit from Western State Hospital.

While she was found competent enough to understand and assist in her own defense, she made the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity a few weeks ago. O’Rourke explained that has to do with the question of whether a person is sane at the time of the incident.

Outside the courtroom yesterday, he reiterated they withdrew that plea only for the general reason he gave the judge.

He will be focused on a self defense argument, O’Rourke said.

Slater, her boyfriend and the father of her child, has said he supports her 100 percent and wants to see her get help instead of a jail cell.

Barker’s trial is scheduled for the week of June 20 in Lewis County Superior Court. She remains held on $500,000 bail.
•••

For background, read “Mossyrock argument: Two knives, one airlifted, other arrested” from Thursday April 7, 2016, here

News brief: Lewis SWAT taking part in training to protect capitol campus

Friday, June 3rd, 2016
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Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Lewis County Regional SWAT Team is among five such groups which will join with Olympia’s police and fire departments undergoing an “active threat” readiness exercise tomorrow at the state capitol.

The training is important since more than 6,000 state employees work on the campus daily, according to the Washington State Patrol. In addition, an estimated 500,000 people visit, tour and use the capitol grounds every year.

An estimated 200 first responders – law enforcement officers, firefighters and medical units – will be on campus. Participants will also bring about 50 vehicles to support the exercise.

SWAT teams from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, from Pierce County, the Washington State Patrol and from the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be there as well. The Lacey Police Department and multiple divisions from the state patrol are also taking part.

The Washington State Patrol and the Department of Enterprise Serves are coordinating the event.

“While there are no known specific threats to the campus, the training is designed to enhance preparedness, improve coordination and develop consistent response efforts among state, local and federal response agencies should an active threat occur,” the agencies stated in a news release.

Some roadways and parking lots on the west campus will be closed for staging people, equipment and vehicles.
•••

CORRECTION: Washington State Patrol’s SWAT team took part in this exercise.

 

‘Festering little bombs’: The fire risk of towels with oil residue

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
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Investigators collect bundle of partially burned restaurant towels from Ham Hill Road house fire. / Courtesy photo from Centralia Police Department

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Most people have heard of the dangers of “spontaneous combustion” from oily rags left laying around the garage or workbench.

But how many are aware of the risks associated with a hand towel or dish cloth, for example, used with products one would find in their kitchen cupboards?

Not even Centralia police detective Dave Clary who is trained in fire investigations had come across such a scenario before.

The house fire on Ham Hill Road that took the lives of three children is now labeled with a cause of undetermined. But after two months of investigating, with numerous interviews and examinations that filled more than 50 pages of reports, the experts came up with one possible cause and one probable cause, according to Clary.

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March 4, 2016

It’s possible a compact florescent light bulb in a lamp could have malfunctioned and ignited the fire. Clary knows that because a private investigator hired by the insurance company asked if such bulbs were used in the home and noted they have been known to do that.

He told Clary if he had the bulb, he might be able to tell if it went bad by looking at it. But the fire in that area was so intense that no remains of a bulb were located.

The probable cause of the fire, according to Clary, because its more than 50 percent likely to be the reason it occurred, was from recently laundered oily towels placed in a milk crate near the front door.

Clary, who was the lead police investigator for the fire, said he was previously unaware CFL bulbs could be risky or dangerous.

“But, by the same token, I didn’t know vegetable oil was unstable,” he said.

The recently released reports and photos from the nighttime blaze offer information on previously unanswered questions, detail heroic attempts by police officers and firefighters to rescue the children and shed light on what their mother Sue Tower underwent before eventually standing outside the burning home in what police officers described as in a daze, or in shock.

It was an ordinary week night, a Thursday, and the family shared a dinner of pot roast, potatoes and sourdough bread Tower baked from scratch.

The 40-year-old single mother put her children to bed, reading a story to her youngest, Samuel, and said she closed their bedroom doors after tucking them in. Madeline had been having nightmares, so she slept with her older brother Benjamin that night.

The four had moved in to the rental home the previous April; their father lives in Thurston County.

The children’s bedrooms were on the upper floor of the split level home, with the main living area on the middle level and Tower’s bedroom on the ground floor at the back of the garage.

From her bed, Tower could see up the stairs into the kitchen and said she awoke to a noise like a crack, saw a glow near the stove and saw smoke.

She ran up the stairs twice, the first time in her underwear, the second time after pulling on jeans and a sweatshirt, but was turned back by the intense heat. She grabbed her phone and called 911, and ran out the back door of her bedroom hoping to get in through the back door on the main floor, but realized it was locked and she didn’t have her keys.

Detective Clary’s description of the 911 call characterizes Tower as panicked, out of breath, seemingly terrified and finally not able to speak coherently. She tells the dispatcher there is a fire in her kitchen.

Tower runs back through the house and opens the garage door, thinking that would help get rid of the smoke. A dispatcher tells her that was not the best thing to do.

“Over and over again she tells the dispatcher that she has children in the home,” Clary writes. “She advises that she is in the house downstairs and her children are upstairs and she cannot get to them.”

She goes outside and sees the entire house is on fire.

And she begins to scream.

Benjamin D. Tower, 12; Madeline R. Tower, 10; and Samuel J. Tower, 7, never made it out of their bedrooms, according to the Lewis County coroner. Coroner Warren McLeod said asphyxiation from smoke and carbon monoxide blocked their breathing and it’s more likely than not they did not suffer.

The bedroom door to one of their rooms was found open.

The owner Bill Bates, a former Centralia city council member, told detectives there were smoke detectors throughout the wood-framed house.

Sue Tower said she didn’t hear a smoke alarm. The one on the main floor had recently begun chirping, so she took the battery out and set it on the counter as a reminder to buy a replacement, she told police. She said she hadn’t checked other detectors.

A carbon monoxide detector was plugged in to one of the outlets on the main floor.

The fire was investigated by Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack, four fire department investigators, four detectives with the Centralia Police Department and two private investigators hired by Bates’ insurance company.

The reports and photos outline numerous visits to the scene, close examination of several appliances and electrical outlets and the sifting through the debris to collect various items as possible evidence.

The house was heated with an electric forced-air furnace.

The worst fire damage was on the main floor, not in the kitchen but in the living room.

Tower pondered possible causes with authorities, noting an electrical breaker would trip when the microwave was used and that one of the control knobs on the stove sometimes stuck making it difficult to shut off. She mentioned some of the electrical outlets were “loose.”

She was certain she hadn’t been burning any candles, even though she liked them and used them.

The reports reflect that police detectives were also taking note, looking for any suspicious behavior on the mother’s part.

Early on, investigators narrowed the origin of the fire down to an area near the front door, based on burn patterns they observed.

A piece of carpet and pad from the spot was collected to be tested for ignitable liquids.

It wasn’t until almost a week after the fire as detective Clary was contemplating the possible ignition sources that he recalled cloth items they had found and remembered Tower worked at a restaurant where cooking oil would be used.

She told the investigators she had washed a batch of soiled towels that afternoon and after drying them immediately placed them in black plastic milk crate by front door, so she would remember to bring them back to work the next day.

Tower said they use a lot of rice bran oil at Hub City Grub.

The remains of the towels – which Clary said still smelled somewhat of used cooking oil – along with samples of the cooking oil the restaurant uses and towels that didn’t go through the fire were collected for testing.

The results from the lab came back noting the fats detected would  have a low to moderate tendency toward “self heating.”

However, if laundering doesn’t remove all the oils, the cloth would be subject to spontaneous ignition with the additional of heat from drying, when poor dissipation of the heat occurs, the report indicated.

Instances like this have occurred all over the country and cases have even been documented in Centralia, according to the reports.

Something similar happened last summer at a Chehalis night spot, where firefighters responded to a smell that was not quite right just before closing, and eventually found a slightly smoking stack of towels. They had been used to clean up and then washed and dried before being put away, but when an investigator took them outside, he found heavy charring in the center.

Oily rags, dirty or clean, should be stored in something metal with a lid on it, the Chehalis fire investigator said at the time.

Detective Clary found the scenario is what more likely than not led to the deadly fire on the 900 block of Ham Hill Road in Centralia on March 4.

“When Suzanne washed and dried the towels she brought home from the restaurant and then stuffed them into the milk crate, she inadvertently combined the necessary ingredients for the towels to self heat and ultimately break into flame,” Clary writes.

Both detective Clary, Assistant Fire Chief Mack and the insurance investigator agreed they could rule out all the potential causes except for the towels, and except for a bad CFL bulb – since they never found the bulb.

Because more than one possible cause exists, the cause of the fire is officially ruled undetermined. It is also ruled to be accidental.

Sue Tower was stunned after the meeting with investigators, when they explained what they knew.

“It’s a really hard thing to process,” she said. “It’s such a fluke, I don’t even normally bring them home.”

Tower continues on, still not able to plan more than one, maybe two, days in advance.

Every night, she relives the nightmare, she said.

“Sometimes I’m smarter, quicker, I do something different,” she said. “I’m not going to pretend I’m even remotely okay.”

She calls towels with oil residue festering little bombs. Even just vegetable oil, she said.

The former Chehalis native said she began researching and found quite a bit of information, noting television journalist Diane Sawyer did an episode once on the dangers of linseed oil.

“I had no idea, and there are so many people who don’t know,” Tower said.

•••

For background, read “Heavy hearts as family loses three in Centralia house fire” from Friday March 4, 2016, here

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Investigators took numerous photos at the Ham Hill Road house for their fire investigation, many of them just inside the front door. / Courtesy photo from Centralia Police Department

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Fire investigators working at the scene at the two-story house fire on March 4, 2016.

Suspicious fire breaks out at Winlock fireworks company

Friday, May 20th, 2016
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Crews work to extinguish flames at Jake’s Fireworks. / Courtesy photo by Derrick Paul

Updated at 10:46 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Investigators are looking into vandalism and a fire that left a large fireworks business in Winlock with an estimated $100,000 loss.

Members of Lewis County Fire District 15 spent about 12 hours yesterday at Jake’s Fireworks on the 700 block of Nevil Road.

Fire Investigator Derrick Paul said he is working with the sheriff’s office on the case.

Paul said when employees got to work they discovered vandalism and walked through the property looking around when they discovered smoke coming from one of the many large metal cargo containers on site.

Most of them are locked and used to store fireworks, but the one was used for recycling, such as cardboard and was unlocked, Paul said.

When they opened it to investigate, and allowed oxygen inside, the fire “really took off,” he said.

The radiant heat ignited contents of other cargo containers, according to Paul.

The vandalism that occurred sometime since the day before included someone tampering with the fire suppression system, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said their $7,000 water storage bladder had been sliced open.

A tire on one of the trucks was punctured as well, according to Brown.

Paul said between the vandalism and the items destroyed by the blaze, the loss is upwards of $100,000.

Jake’s is a distributor of wholesale fireworks and a fireworks retailer.

Brown said there is a person of interest and the business is working on providing detectives access to a footage from a surveillance system.

Centralia police admit errors in cat cruelty investigation, taking a second look

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
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An image of Jay the cat shared on Facebook.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Centralia police chief admitted today that police made mistakes in their response and investigation into the death of a cat that suffered what prosecutors called cruel and terrible injuries.

The feline, named Jay, was at one point possibly dropped from a second story balcony and maybe or maybe not, stabbed at an apartment complex in north Centralia last month.

Prosecutors released without charges a 24-year-old who was arrested, calling the evidence murky, and noting the pet’s body was not collected for evidence.

“Fortunately, these types of cases do not occur frequently in our community,” Centralia Police Department Chief Carl Nielsen stated in a news release. “This case brought to light the lack of information and resources we had available for our staff to refer to during the initial investigation.”

Police detectives have been following up on new information and evidence, Nielsen said today. He expects the case will be presented once again to prosecutors late next week, he said.

Nielsen wants the community to know that the Centralia Police Department is currently updating its policies and wanted to personally thank the members of Pasado’s Safe Haven and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for their help in both identifying resources for officers, as well as assisting in the crafting of a new policy for the department.

He says he appreciates the passion and concerns shown by the community throughout this incident.

“We have outstanding staff working here, but from time-to-time mistakes will occur,” Nielsen stated. “When those incidents do occur, we will work diligently to correct those mistakes.”

Nielsen was hired as chief of the department just one year ago.

Centralia police responded to the evening incident at the 100 block of Virginia Drive on April 28, and interviewed several individuals, including children.

They arrested the man accused of stabbing the cat, but Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher released him the following day without charges, saying someone was very cruel to the cat, but he didn’t have enough evidence to make a case.
•••

For background read “Man released from jail with no charges in connection with Centralia cat death” from Friday April 29, 2016, here

Former Centralia high school student wins a second appeal of virtual life sentence

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – For the second time, the Washington State Court of Appeals has struck down Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt’s nearly 93 year sentence for a drive-by shooting committed by a former Centralia High School student at age 16. Nobody was killed.

The three-member panel also agreed Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. is free to move to disqualify the judge from the case.

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Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr.

Solis-Diaz Jr. was arrested after gunfire was sprayed along the east side of South Tower Avenue in Centralia, missing six bar patrons the summer of 2007. Witnesses testified it was gang-related. Solis-Diaz maintained he was innocent.

He was tried as an adult and convicted of multiple offenses, including one count of first-degree assault committed with a firearm for each bullet that was fired.

The six assault counts were ordered to be served consecutively and each carried a mandatory extra five years because they were committed with a firearm. While nobody was injured, the sentence given was at the high end of the standard range.

In 2012, the Court of Appeals ordered the local court to conduct a new hearing, referencing various matters that it believed should have been handled more thoroughly, given the defendant was a juvenile.

At the end of the hearing when it was finally held in the spring 2014, Hunt criticized the appeals court decision calling some of their conclusions insulting and ludicrous and said he found no merit in any argument he should lower the sentence. He sentenced Solis-Diaz for the second time to 1,111 months in prison.

A different three-member panel which issued its opinion today stated that on remand, the sentencing court must conduct a meaningful, individualized inquiry into whether Solis-Diaz’s youth should mitigate his sentence.

“Solis-Diaz argues, and the state concedes, that the sentencing court erred by refusing to consider whether application of the multiple offense policy warranted an exceptional downward sentence,” Justice Thomas B. Bjorgen wrote in the unanimous opinion. “He also argues the trial court erred by refusing to consider his youth as a mitigating factor and by imposing a 1,111-month prison term on a juvenile offender in violation of constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment.”

The appeals court agreed with the two contentions, but stated it did not consider whether the sentence violates the constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Accordingly, we vacate Solis-Diaz’s sentence and remand for remand for re-sentencing,” Bjorgen wrote.

Today’s decision was the topic of some casual conversation in Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey’s courtroom.

Judge Brosey mentioned the issuing of opinion to Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Nelson and defense attorney Joely O’Rourke after they finished the business of preliminary hearings.

Brosey spoke of political correctness and how clerks are the ones who write the opinions the justices sign their names to.

Brosey alluded to his thinking that the age of the person  holding the gun doesn’t change what happens at the other end of a gunshot.

Judge Brosey and Judge Hunt have announced they are retiring at the end of this year. O’Rourke is running for election to Brosey’s position on the bench.

Solis-Diaz is represented by Longview lawyer John A. Hays. Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh argued the appeal for the state.

Justices Bradley A. Maxa and Rich Melnick concurred with today’s decision, however Melnick added a few paragraphs.

Melnick stated he agreed the sentence must be reversed, but didn’t believe the appeals court should be telling the trial court what issue to consider on remand.
•••

For background, read “”Do-over” on drive-by shooting sentence yields no change for Centralian” from Monday March 3, 2014, here

And Washington Courts: Court of Appeals Division II: State of Washington, Respondent V. Guadalupe Solis Diaz Jr., Appellant: 46002-5, here

News brief: Girl dead, driver airlifted following Centralia wreck

Monday, May 16th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A child is dead and a driver is in serious condition after their vehicle struck a parked pickup truck in Centralia this afternoon.

Police and aid were called at 2:47 p.m. to the collision near Galvin and Gallagher roads, according to the Centralia Police Department.

The driver, described only as a female, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center, according to police. The girl, described only as younger than 10 years old, was declared dead at the scene, according to police Cmdr. Pat Fitzgerald.

Troopers with the Washington State Patrol’s major accident team are conducting the investigation.

Fitzgerald indicates Galvin Road, up to River Heights Road,  may remain closed for the next hours as they do their work.

The parked truck was unoccupied.

Both victims have been identified, but their names will not be released until after their next-of-kin are notified, according to police.

Investigation: Fatal Ham Hill fire cause not clear

Friday, May 13th, 2016
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Courtesy photo from Centralia Police Department investigation

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A joint police and fire department investigation has concluded the blaze that killed three children in their Centralia home was accidental but could not pinpoint a certain cause.

Investigators learned of two possible reasons for the March 4 fire on Ham Hill Road. The fire was believed to have started inside near the front door of the split level home.

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•••

One potential culprit was a compact florescent light bulb in a lamp and the other is recently laundered oily towels, both which had been at the point of origin, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Because more than one possible cause exists, the cause of the fire is officially ruled undetermined.

Their mother who had been sleeping downstairs escaped but the children never made out it out of their upstairs bedrooms. Benjamin D. Tower, 12; Madeline R. Tower, 10; and Samuel J. Tower, 7, died from smoke inhalation.

A police officer who responded to the approximately 12:45 a.m. was injured when he broke a window trying to rescue the kids.

Sue Tower had moved her family into the rental home less than a year earlier.

The Centralia Police Department issued its findings today.

A news release from Cmdr. Pat Fitzgerald states that police detectives and members of Riverside Fire Authority have been diligently investigating.

They knew that morning the origin was within about four feet of the front door.

“At the point of fire origin, there had been a lamp with a compact florescent light bulb (CFL), this light bulb could have malfunctioned and caused the fire,” Fitzgerald wrote. “No remains of the bulb were found.”

The other possible cause is the spontaneous combustion of oily towels, according to Fitzgerald. They had been washed and placed in a crate, near the front door, he indicated.

News brief: RFA douses two brush fires outside Centralia

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Centralia area fire department is urging the public to use extra caution when conducting outdoor burning, noting an unusually warm and dry spring after twice yesterday evening responding to brush fires.

At 4:50 p.m. crews were called to the 600 block of Centralia-Alpha Road where they found grass and light brush on fire covering an area of approximately 50-feet by 20-feet.

“The fire was quickly brought under control without any complications,” Fire Capt. Scott Weinert stated in a news release.

It appeared to have originated where brush had been piled up next to an area where the ground was being developed for some type of construction, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

“The RFA wishes to remind everyone that outdoor burning must be attended by a responsible person and a burning permit must be obtained from Lewis County,” Weinert wrote. “All conditions of the permit must be adhered to at all times.”

Twenty minutes after that call, the fire department was dispatched to TransAlta on the 900 block of Big Hanaford Road where employees discovered a nearly half-acre fire that consumed brush and ignited a pile of power poles as well as an over-sized tire and a debris pile, according to Weinert.

The workers had used a bulldozer to create a trail around the perimeter to prevent the fire from spreading, Weinert said.

It was just four days ago when three area fire departments spent all night attacking a wildfire on Crego Hill in Adna.

Last summer saw some of the largest, and fastest moving wild fires around the county, and the region, in recent history due to an exceptionally hot and dry summer.

Backpage.com encounter results in violent home invasion in rural Chehalis

Friday, May 6th, 2016

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Natrone D. Bostick, 19, left, and Samath L. Hem, 23, attempt to turn their seats to face a wall when they see a camera in the courtroom this afternoon.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Two Pierce County men have been ordered held on $100,000 bail for allegedly tying up a rural Chehalis man with a power cord and robbing him at gunpoint at his home where he had invited an escort he contacted on Backpage.com.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday checks belonging to the victim found in the trunk of a car associated with a Chehalis shoplifting case earlier this week led them to the suspects.

Natrone D. Bostick, 19, of Lakewood, and Samath L. Hem, 23, Tacoma, were interviewed in the Lewis County Jail where they had been booked on Tuesday for organized retail theft.

The sheriff’s office said two males arrived with the female to the residence on the 900 block of Logan Hill Road last Friday, but the 53-year-old victim didn’t report what happened until the following day.

The alleged facts set forth in the affidavit of probable cause basically indicate a home invasion, Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey said this afternoon.

Hem, 23, reportedly told a detective he drove Bostick and the un-named female to Lewis County in his grandmother’s rented red Charger.

Court documents make no mention of why the three ended up at the Logan Hill home.

Charging documents give the following account of what the victim reported:

One of the males hit him in the head with a pistol, one of the males punched him the face multiple times.

“(He) stated he was dragged to his bedroom where he was tied up at his feet and ankles with a power cord,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello wrote.

A pistol was pointed at him while one of them demanded the combination to his safe and the other two rummaged through his house.

They were in the residence several minutes and then fled. Once he was able to untie himself, he discovered valuables missing from his home, including a large television and some checkbooks.

The sheriff’s office reported this morning that search warrants were executed which resulted in the recovery of some of the victim’s property.

The victim was shown photo montages and identified Bostick, but was uncertain because the male at his home had been wearing a hoody.

A 21-year-old woman from Tacoma was arrested with Bostick and Hem on Tuesday by Chehalis police in their case, but has not been implicated by authorities in this case.

Bostick and Hem were charged today with first-degree robbery, first-degree assault, first-degree burglary and also with first-degree kidnapping, for allegedly holding the victim to facilitate the commission of a felony or flight thereafter.

Each of those offenses carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Hem, who has no felonies in his background, is to be represented by court-appointed attorney Jacob Clark. Centralia lawyer Don Blair was appointed for Bostick.

Their arraignments are scheduled for next Thursday afternoon.
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For background, read “Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup – BACKPAGE.COM ENCOUNTER ENDS WITH VIOLENT ROBBERY” from Thursday May 5, 2016, here

Fallen Chehalis officer to be honored

Friday, May 6th, 2016
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Chehalis Police Officer Rick Silva

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Chehalis Police Officer Rick Silva will be posthumously awarded the medal of honor today, for his exceptionally meritorious conduct while serving as a law enforcement officer.

The public ceremony will be held at noon at the state capitol in Olympia.

In addition, Officer Silva’s name will be unveiled at the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial.

The Silva family as well as members of the Chehalis Police Department will be in attendance.

Silva died on June 18 of last year, not specifically while he was working, but in a line of duty death. He passed away due to complications during surgery he was undergoing related to a physical struggle with a resisting shoplifter earlier in the year, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

The 61-year-old began his law enforcement career in 1988 at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and in 2002, he went to work for Chehalis.

The local community will be honoring Silva on June 16 at a ceremony during which his name will be unveiled on the Lewis County Law Enforcement Memorial at the front of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center in Chehalis, off Main Street.

Officer Silva will also be honored in Washington D.C. on May 15 during the 35th National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, with his name added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

Police Chief Glenn Schaffer and two of the department’s honor guard members will be in attendance to escort Silva’s family to the various ceremonies and events.

National Police Week takes place Thursday through May 16.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department has a team taking part in a 300-mile bicycle ride to recognize and honor the sacrifices of officers who have died in the line of duty, and will be riding for Silva and two other officers from the Pacific Northwest who lost their lives during 2015. The Police Unity Tour finishes in Washington D.C., when the riders meet up with fallen officers’ families and present them with memorial bracelets worn during the ride at a candlelight vigil on Thursday.

Today’s ceremony on the campus of the state capitol will also be recognizing 11 other officers receiving the Washington State Law Enforcement medal of honor. Silva’s is one of three names being added to the memorial wall.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Brent Hanger died last Aug. 6 and the third line of duty death being recognized today is Chelan County Sheriff’s Office Deputy James M. Bennett who died July 14, 1911.

Behind the Badge Foundation and the Washington State Medal of Honor Committee are responsible for organizing and hosting today’s event.

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For background, read “Chehalis police mourn loss of veteran officer” from Friday June 19, 2015, here

Cause for Cenex fire will be undetermined

Thursday, May 5th, 2016
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Just one side of the office-storage building remained standing on Monday afternoon at Cenex.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Whatever clues might have existed as to what ignited the Cenex building in Chehalis burned up in the fire, according to the fire chief.

Fire investigators spent the past two days exploring the scene at the 100 block of Northwest State Avenue, just north of Main Street.

“The damage was so extensive, they could not determine the cause,” Chehalis Fire Department Chief Ken Cardinale said today. “We were dealing with 2000 degree temperatures.”

The business was closed when flames were reported about 10:34 p.m. on Sunday.

Approximately 30 firefighters from four departments battled the blaze that mostly consumed the office-storage building, dealing with ongoing explosions of the contents.

The building held numerous  55-gallon drums of lubricating oil among other petroleum products, according to Cardinale.

Cenex includes a gas station, but the business also provides bulk delivery of various fuels including propane. Crews worked through the night keeping cool the numerous liquefied petroleum gas tanks on site to prevent them from exploding.

Cardinale said investigators spoke to workers and also to the individual who first reported the fire.

No problems had been reported by the company with its building, such as electrical issues, but the initial caller was able to say the fire at first was seen at the southwest corner of the building, according to the chief.

Investigators focused around that area, but didn’t find anything, the chief said.

A common aspect of fire investigations would be to take samples or have a dog sniff for accelerants, but the building contained mostly hydrocarbons, so that wasn’t an option, according to Cardinale.

An estimated dollar loss won’t be available until after the private contractor finishes cleaning up the surrounding area next week, Cardinale said.

At one point during the fire, the department stopped putting water on it and allowed it to burn, to reduce the amount of contaminated run off.

Cardinale said the adjacent dirt field should be cleaned up by tomorrow, but the contractor will be working next week on cleaning up culverts as well as a retention pond next to Interstate 5.
•••

For background, read “Fire claims Cenex in Chehalis” from Monday May 2, 2016, here

Twin Star Credit Union robber gets reduced sentence

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
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Michael A. Lar, right, confers with defense attorney David Arcuri in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 63-year-old repeat bank robber described as courteous and very literate spent about 30 minutes this morning engaged in oral arguments on his own case before Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt.

Michael A. Lar didn’t win on the point he made, but his life sentence was reduced to 18 years and six months.

“Mr. Lar, I have to tell you, you are the most confounding defendant I have had in my career,” Hunt said. “You are incredibly intelligent, very well-mannered and a violent criminal.”

Lar has multiple convictions for bank robbery, the earliest one local prosecutors could find was as far back as 1982.

According to Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh, Lar was released from prison in 1995, convicted again and released in January 2008.

He was arrested in January 2010 after an attempted robbery at Twin Star Credit Union in Centralia on South Gold Street.

Two employees arriving for work found a man who’d gotten inside by breaking a window. A responding police officer was able to pull one woman to safety and fired two shots before an hours-long standoff.

Police surrounded the bank, but after hiding in nearby bushes nearly 12 hours, a wounded Lar called a taxi and headed to Olympia, where he was arrested the same night, according to court documents.

After his trial in Lewis County Superior Court, Lar was found guilty of first-degree attempted robbery, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree burglary.

He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release, based on the so-called three strikes law. However, last year the state Court of Appeals reversed the sentence, saying his previous federal convictions were not comparable to “most serious” convictions under Washington law.

He appeared in court today, represented by Centralia defense attorney David Arcuri.

The discussion focused on how many points Lar had given previous convictions, for the purposes of computing the sentencing range that should apply.

Arcuri told the judge Lar wanted to make a legal argument, representing himself with Arcuri standing by.

He said his client was very well versed in the matter before the court.

“Mr. Lar knows the law about as well as any lawyer could,” Arcuri said.

Judge Hunt allowed it, noting his own experience showed him Lar was very learned in the area.

Lar cited case law addressing whether his two federal bank robbery convictions were comparable to state convictions, for the purposes of determining his “points.” Arcuri stepped back from the defense table, returning to help turn pages for the handcuffed defendant.

Judge Hunt ultimately agreed with Beigh however.

Hunt imposed 140 months for the  first-degree burglary, 222 months for first-degree kidnapping and 120 months for first-degree attempted robbery, all to be served concurrently.

Among the other orders were no contact with the victim and some $493 restitution to the credit union.

At the end of the hearing, Arcuri handed the judge notice of Lar’s intent to appeal.
•••

For background, read “Life sentence overturned for Twin Star bank robber” from Tuesday April 21, 2015, here