Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Relatives seeking answers, financial accountability for funeral homes’ body mixup

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The lawyer for the family of the man who was mistakenly cremated and whose casket was inhabited by a stranger at his funeral service in Chehalis said they held back on filing a lawsuit until the state licensing authority finished its investigation.

It didn’t provide them all the answers they were looking for, attorney Shawn Briggs said.

“It focused on where the initial mistake was made, and it really stopped there,” Briggs said. “It didn’t address how the mistake was perpetuated.”

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Jerry Moon

Jerry Moon was 72 years old when he died in October 2013 at a hospice facility in Longview.

He and his wife Jan Moon lived in Castle Rock, but he, having been born and raised in Chehalis, had plans to be buried in his family plot in Claquato Cemetery, according to Briggs.

Sixteen years earlier, he had entered into a pre-arranged contract with Brown Mortuary Service of Chehalis, at a guaranteed price of $4,655, that provided for arrangement and professional staff services, and various other items including embalming, viewing, funeral and graveside services as well as disposition by burial in a casket, according to the lawsuit.

Jerry Moon feared cremation, according to Briggs.

Briggs and Briggs of Lakewood filed the complaint for damages last week in Lewis County Superior Court on behalf of Jan Moon and other immediate family members.

According to the lawsuit, and to an investigation conducted by the Washington State Funeral and Cemetery Board, on October 13, 2013, acting at the request or direction of Brown Mortuary’s parent company Service Corporation International, an employee of Dahl McVicker Funeral Home picked up Moon’s body from Community Home Health and Hospice in Longview. In the same trip, he collected the body of another man who had died there at nearly the same time.

Instead of putting identification bracelets on the bodies at the hospice, he brought them back to McVicker’s where he put Moon’s bracelet on Robert Petitclerc; and he placed Petitclerc’s bracelet on Moon.

On Oct. 15, an employee of McVicker’s released the body labeled Moon to a Brown’s employee for transport to Lewis County.

Another employee of McVicker’s took the body labeled Petitclerc to be cremated on Oct. 17.

The state licensing board placed blame for the mixup on Dahl McVicker, and the sanctions for unprofessional conduct included a fine of $12,500 and one year of probation, according to an agreed order signed last May.

Christine Anthony, a spokesperson for licensing board said they found no wrongdoing on the part of Brown Mortuary, concluding it was unaware of the misidentification and didn’t commit any violations.

The lawsuit filed on April 21 seeking an unspecified amount of damages names both entities, specifically Service Corporation International, doing business as Brown Mortuary Service and The Pierce Group, doing business as Dahl McVicker Funeral Home.

SCI, a Texas corporation, describes itself as the North America’s largest deathcare provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery services.

Moon’s funeral service was held on Oct. 21, 2013 at Brown’s.

The lawsuit contends Brown’s conspired to cover up that Moon had been mistakenly cremated, and that defendants knew the wrong body was delivered to Brown’s and acted in concert to conceal the error.

The suit states Brown’s knew or should have known the body – of a man in his 90s – they embalmed and dressed in Moon’s clothing was not Moon.

In preparing for the service, Brown’s was provided with over 60 photographs of Moon.

“When the casket was opened at the end of the service, guests were horrified by what appeared to be a plastic bag covering the head and face of the body in the casket,” the lawsuit states. “When the plastic was removed, guests at the service, including the plaintiffs, were shocked to discover that the body inside was not Moon’s.”

Despite knowledge to the contrary, representatives of Browns insisted and tried to convince Moons’ family the body in the casket was Moon and should be buried as planned in his grave, the lawsuit contends.

“The manager was insistent it was him,” Briggs said. “Saying, people do look different after death.”

“They don’t grow a full head of hair,” he said.

Moon was bald with a recently shaved head when he died.

Briggs said the conversation continued until Brian Moon said, “Show me my dad’s colostomy bag.”

“And in the next breath, the manager said, ‘No, it isn’t him, but it wasn’t my fault’.”

Briggs said Brown’s then put the son on the phone with McVicker, and he was in total shock and grief, learning his father had been cremated.

“It was chaos,” Briggs said.

The suit also claims Jan Moon was charged $8,834 by Brown’s to do what it had previously contracted to do for $4,655, and that afterward, sent her a refund check for $92.72.

“Instead of being treated with dignity, Jerry Moon’s family was demeaned and denied the opportunity to honor their loved one in laying him to rest,” Briggs wrote.

Multiple phone calls to Brown Mortuary manager Daniel LaPlaunt seeking comment were not returned.

The suit asks for damages for the plaintiffs’ emotional distress, financial losses and other special damages to be proven at trial.

Briggs said he previously represented the family of the other man, Petitclerc. They never actually filed suit, he said, they discussed it and negotiated a settlement.

The defendants have 60 days to respond to the complaint, once they are served, he said.

After that, “We go though the litigation process,” he said. “Put people under oath and ask people questions about why they did what they did, and then we end up in front of a jury.”

Life sentence overturned for Twin Star bank robber

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The state Court of Appeals today reversed a life sentence given to a man convicted of attempting to rob Twin Star Credit Union in Centralia five years ago.

Michael Anthony Lar, now 62, lost his appeal, but was successful in a personal restraint petition.

Lar was found guilty by a jury in Lewis County Superior Court of first-degree attempted robbery, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree burglary in March 2010 for events two months earlier.

Prosecutors sought and were granted a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release, based on the Persistent Offender Accountability Act, the so-called three strikes law.

He had previously pled guilty in federal court to bank robbery on two occasions, each time involving two robberies.

Lar, through his lawyer, contended his prior convictions were not comparable to “most serious” convictions under Washington law and appeals judges agreed.

It was an early January morning in 2010 when two employees arrived to the bank on South Gold Street and found a man who’d gotten inside by breaking a window. An arriving 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.

According to the opinion issued today, at sentencing Lar’s lawyer objected to use of the 1985 and 1997 federal convictions.

In its review, the three-member panel noted in order for a trial court to determine that a prior conviction from another jurisdiction is comparable to a strike offense, it must first query if the “foreign” offense is legally comparable, that is whether the elements of the two are substantially similar, the judges state.

If the elements of the “foreign” offense are broader, then the sentencing court must determine if the offense is factually comparable, the judges wrote.

The appeals court concluded the trial court’s analysis on the second line of inquiry fell short, and that at least one of Lar’s previous convictions should not have been used as strike offense.

The appeals court remanded the case for resentencing.

While Lar awaited sentencing in 2010, a Centralia police detective got DNA samples that matched material found on duct tape from an unsolved similar robbery at the same financial institution a year earlier.

Prosecutors charged him with that crime – in which he allegedly managed to get away with approximately $360,000 – but the case was dismissed before going to trial.

Man, grandson burned in Randle fire

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Updated at 6:16 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Two men were injured in a fire early this morning east of Randle, one of them a 67-year-old who was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Firefighters were called around 4:30 a.m. to the 700 block of Carr Road by a neighbor, according to responders.

Lewis County Fire District 14 Firefighter Ron Blankenship said he and his wife – both advanced EMTs – arrived first and found the man and his 23-year-old grandson walking toward the road.

About 200 yards behind them, he could see what he understood was a trailer house fully involved in flames, he said.

The grandfather had burns on 20 percent of his body, on his arms, legs, chest and head, Blankenship said.

The younger man had minor burns on at least one hand and his front, he said. He was taken to Morton General Hospital, he said.

Firefighters were joined by members of Lewis County Fire District 10 in Packwood.

Fire Investigator Jay Birley said there was so little left, he couldn’t be certain what it was before it burned and doubted he would pinpoint a cause.

“It looked like he had a trailer, there was a metal frame on cinder blocks,” Birley said. “It looked like wood frame structures were added onto the sides.”

The resident had no electricity, and Birley learned from a deputy on the scene, the man had had issues with his wood stove door.

Crime Stoppers: Be on the lookout for Glenoma man’s KGB wristwatch

Friday, April 17th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detectives are looking for help in solving a burglary in which an 83-year-old Glenoma man lost thousands of dollars worth of cash, firearms and presumably irreplaceable belongings including a silver Russian KGB wrist watch.

It was almost two weeks ago, on Sunday April 5, when somebody got into his home through an unsecured door at the 8300 block of U.S. Highway 12 and stole 10 handguns and other valuables, according to the sheriff’s office.

Among the property missing are more than 150 pictures circa 1900s in a mahogany box, as well as an antique stereoscope, according to Chief Deputy Bruce Kimsey.

Also taken was $6,500 in cash and two half-karat diamond rings.

The total loss is estimated at more than $14,000.

Lewis County Crime Stoppers is hoping for tips.

If anyone knows anything about the location of the stolen property or who is responsible for taking it, they are asked to please call right away.

Crime Stoppers pays up to $1,000 for information leading to the clearance of crimes. Anonymous calls can be made to 1-800-748-6422 or information may be shared online at www.lewiscountycrimestoppers.org

The missing items include:

• Ruger 44 magnum revolver
• Smith and Wesson 22 caliber revolver
• Two High Standard 22 caliber pistols
• Two Iver Johnson 32 caliber revolvers
• Two Argentine 45 caliber pistols
• Savage 32 caliber pistol
• Stevens 22 caliber revolver
• Boker Gaucho hunting knife
• German Linder hunting knife
• Leupold hunting knife
• A German hunting knife
• Croton wrist watch
• Phase-of-the-moon wrist watch
• Wrist watch
• Another $1,500 worth of jewelry
• Two Exakta 35 mm cameras, with a 2.0 lens and a 2.8 lens

The deal: Griel Road residents sentenced to 30 days for growing marijuana

Thursday, April 16th, 2015
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Laveta Arnold shares the defense table with her husband James Arnold as the two go before Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Onalaska couple arrested in February after police cleaned out what was described as an elaborate indoor garden with more than 600 marijuana plants at their Griel Road property were each given 30 days in jail yesterday.

James L. Arnold and Laveta L. Arnold told officers they’d been growing personal medicinal marijuana for more than 15 years, but during the past five were selling it for profit, generating approximately $136,000 per year, according to court documents.

Centralia police contended the money financed numerous safari trips to Africa to hunt large trophy animals and paid for various assets which were all seized.

A plea deal was worked out in which a charge of money laundering was dropped. The couple, ages 55 and 52, have no previous criminal history, and have been free on bail since two days after they were jailed.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello said the maximum penalty of five years in prison and the standard sentencing range for their remaining offenses were the same as for felony possession of drugs.

Yesterday morning, in Lewis County Superior Court, the Arnolds pleaded guilty to manufacture of marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to to deliver.

The standard range is zero to six months in the county jail. Masiello and defense attorneys made an agreed recommendation to the judge they each serve 30 days.

Their lawyer Keith Hall told the judge the Arnolds understood they needed to take responsibility and wanted to put it behind them.

Judge James Lawler said it was a difficult case, because of the magnitude of it.

He said he’d looked over numerous letters of support, and in doing so, saw how much of a double life they were leading.

“That confirms to me people can project what they want to, while at the same time doing something extraordinarily illegal,” Lawler said.

Four rows of benches on each side of the small courtroom were nearly filled with family and friends during the morning hearing.

The judge explained that his usual method of deciding a sentence is starting at the middle of the range and then looking for reasons to give more time or less time.

“The fact you’ve been involved in the community and done a lot of things is a basis to go down,” he said. “The nature and extent of this is a reason to go up.”

The Arnolds were active in the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue program. She is a master gardner, according to Hall.

Lawler said he would go along with what the lawyers negotiated. Neither of the Arnolds chose to make any statement on their own behalf.

The judge agreed that while Laveta Arnold was taken into custody after the hearing, James Arnold could wait to check into jail on May 12.

Masiello asked for and was granted an order assessing them each $1,900 in various fees, minus a portion based on the plea negotiations.

Lawler reminded them both they’ve lost their right to use, own or possess firearms, as is customary with felony convictions.

“You would be committing another felony,” he said. “The sentence for illegal possession of a firearm is far worse than what you’re facing here today, so don’t mess with that.”

The case began at the end of last year as an investigation into a money laundering operation by the Centralia Police Department’s Anti-Crime Team and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Police said James Arnold was a vice president of a medical marijuana dispensary in the Olympia area called Urban Medicinals as well as another location in the Tacoma area. The couple owns a business called Alpha Marine Installations based at their Onalaska home.

Centralia police said after the arrests, the case would also be referred to the Internal Revenue Service for investigation of possible tax fraud and to state authorities for business tax evasion.

Besides the plants, when police and deputies served the search warrant, they seized more than 40 pounds of marijuana processed and packaged  for sale with a street value of at least $2,000 per pound; five vehicles including a 1948 Ford hot rod pickup and a 1969 Chevy Corvette; 33 guns included hunting rifles, assault rifles and handguns; and approximately 30 mounted animal heads.

Centralia police said James Arnold admitted to purchasing all or part of the vehicles with the proceeds.

Kent-based lawyer Hall said now that the criminal case is done, he and his partner Bradley G. Barshis will work on the civil forfeiture case being handled by the city of Centralia’s attorney.

“The way that works is they take everything, and you have a right to ask for a hearing to contest it,” he said.

The state medical marijuana law allows for up to 15 plants or 24 ounces for a qualifying patient.

And Initiative 502 passed by voters in November 2012 allows recreational use by adults and set up rules under which those obtaining a state license may cultivate and package cannabis and related products.

Any applicant for a county business license in unincorporated Lewis County however would need to provide approval from the federal government, which still outlaws marijuana. The county has issued no licenses to grow marijuana.
•••

For background, read “Onalaska illegal marijuana enterprise case headed toward plea deal instead of trial” from Friday April 3, 2015, here

House fire: Potted plants equal dangerous ashtrays

Thursday, April 16th, 2015
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Firefighters found the roof burning when they arrived to a house fire on the 100 block of Hideaway Hills Lane on Monday morning. / Courtesy photo

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The fire that destroyed the home of a mother and two teenage children east of Centralia was caused by a cigarette put into a soil-filled planter on the front porch that smoldered for hours, before the planter itself caught fire and began burning the siding near the front door.

Flames crawled up the wall, into the attic and then burned the roof off the 1,900 square-foot house, according to Fire Investigator Derrick Paul.

Paul said he’s seen it at least once before, and has also watched during training, how purchased potting soil products – not just ordinary dirt – will ignite.  Some of the components are flammable, he said.

Members of four fire departments arrived early Monday morning after a barking dog alerted the occupants before their smoke alarms sounded.

Nobody was hurt and Paul said it was his understanding all the pets made it out fine.

The residence, built in 2000, is at the 100 block of Hideaway Hills Lane and owned by TransAlta. The tenants did not have renter’s insurance, according to Paul.

He said crews did a good job of stopping the fire, and some of the contents possibly may be salvageable.
•••

For background, read “News brief: Fire claims Centralia area home” from Monday April 13, 2015, here

‘Behind on bills’ says employee accused of writing self extra checks for thousands

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015
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Allyson N. Reed goes before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court for a bail hearing.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – When a police officer asked the 33-year-old Chehalis office manager if she had any idea where several thousand dollars of missing funds from her workplace had gone, she said she did not.

When the officer then explained that her boss had showed him copies of checks written by her and cashed by her totaling more than $70,000 over and above her normal paychecks, the mother of two looked at the ground and started to cry.

She said she’d gotten behind on her bills and didn’t realize she’d taken that much money.

So say charging documents in the case of Allyson N. Reed, also known as Allyson N. Fuller.

Reed was charged on Monday in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree theft.

Chehalis police say an officer responded last week to Northwest Heating and Cooling on Southwest Chehalis Avenue regarding the discovery of money missing from the business. Police department spokesperson Linda Bailey said it appeared it occurred over the past five months.

According to charging documents, the company’s owner Wesley Floyd had looked at the accounts after another employee told him he had seen an order for some gift cards and thought it was odd.

Floyd noticed that several checks were issued to Reed, his officer manager, that he didn’t recall writing, some even while he was out of the state, according to documents.

Reed earned about $16 per hour, getting paid once a week, accounting for about 20 of the checks, the documents state, but Floyd found another 147 checks totaling about $72,000, according to the documents.

The Centralia woman was arrested on Friday and booked into the Lewis County Jail.

Charging documents state that before she was taken away, but after she arranged for childcare, she said she wanted to talk with her boss.

Reed told Floyd her parents would pay him back $60,000 to not press charges, the documents state. He said he wouldn’t take their money.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told a judge on Monday afternoon the charges included two aggravating factors: that it was a major economic offense and that she used her position of trust, confidence or fiduciary responsibility to carry out the alleged crime.

The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.

Meagher in requesting bail noted Reed had 10 convictions in 2006 for false identity and controlled substance violations. Temporary defense attorney Joely O’Rourke argued the offenses were 10 years old and that Reed has resided in Centralia her entire life.

Judge R.W. Buzzard set bail at $10,000.

He was told Reed plans to hire a lawyer. Her arraignment is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Body of Vader boy finally will leave coroner’s office

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015
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Casey Henderling and Nikki Warner quickly leave the courtroom after talking with the judge about the cremation of their dead toddler.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It took less than 10 minutes for a judge to help the parents of a toddler whose body has been stored at the county morgue for months to come to agreement today about which funeral home can be called to handle his cremation.

Three-year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner died Oct. 5 from what the coroner calls battered child syndrome and is the victim in an ongoing criminal case involving a couple who had taken him into their Vader home.

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Jasper Henderling-Warner

Jasper’s unmarried parents initially agreed to have the child cremated at Steele Chapel in Longview, and the services have been paid for, according to Lewis County Civil Attorney David Fine. But the mother Nikki Warner changed her mind and told the coroner she wanted him taken care of by a funeral home in Battleground where she would hold the memorial service.

At the end of January, Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod was notified he no longer had to hold Jasper for a possible second autopsy for the criminal case. Two weeks later, after failing to get the parents to agree on the same mortuary, McLeod filed a request in Lewis County Superior Court, asking for a judge to intervene.

Warner and Casey Henderling sat next to each other this afternoon, in front of Judge James Lawler.

Warner told the judge what she wanted, and told him she had custodial rights before her son’s death.

“As I understand it, we’re not talking about the memorial service here, only the cremation,” Lawler said.

“You still agree the ashes are to be divided between you, right?” the judge asked.

Both answered affirmatively.

Lawler told the two parents he was only trying to understand what difference it makes where the cremation takes place.

“I’m not trying to twist your arm,” he said. “Just trying to understand. Make sure you understand.”

Warner agreed they could use the funeral home in Longview.

Coroner McLeod indicated he would phone Steele Chapel within the next 10 minutes and arrange for the child’s body to be picked up.

The Vader couple accused in the death both remain held in the Lewis County Jail.

Danny A. Wing, 26, has pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. His wife Brenda Wing, 27, awaits trial. She is charged with homicide by abuse or, in the alternative, first-degree manslaughter, as either the principal or accomplice.
•••

For background, read “Toddler’s body still at morgue more than five months after death” from Wednesday March 18, 2015, here

Centralia man charged with stealing dead man’s estate by faking a will

Saturday, April 11th, 2015
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Michael J. Dobbs is led back down to the jail after a bail setting hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police believe a 47-year-old man forged a will making himself the sole heir of a Chehalis man who died, posed as his relative and took over his house, personal property and car.

Michael J. Dobbs, from Centralia, has been under investigation since last September when relatives of Walter Pettit went to Pettit’s home near Chehalis Middle School and  found it had been cleaned out and someone was remodeling it. Pettit was 55 when he passed away in January of last year, according to police.

Dobbs was arrested for theft and forgery but subsequently charged only with possession of methamphetamine, based on a baggie of meth found. At the time, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg said further investigation needed to be conducted regarding the authenticity of the will.

Since then, a Chehalis Police Department detective has gotten Pettit’s purported signature on the document compared with his signature card at his bank by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, which concluded the signature on the will does not appear to be Pettit’s, according to Eric Eisenberg. The name is also misspelled, according to Eisenberg.

In addition, an individual who supposedly signed as witness, was shown the will and said she recalled signing a document, but not the one she was shown, Eisenberg said.

Dobbs was booked into the Lewis County Jail last week, and went before a judge where his bail was set at $20,000, plus another $20,000 for a bail jumping charge.

According to court documents, he pleaded guilty to the drug possession and was supposed to serve 30 days on electronic home monitoring, but vanished.

Dobbs was described as a full time parent of three children when he appeared in court in September. Court documents show his address on Centralia College Boulevard.

He is charged with first-degree theft, forgery, theft of a motor vehicle and also false statement to transfer title. The charges were filed in Lewis County Superior Court on Feb. 10.

Charging documents allege Dobbs pretended to be Pettit’s son when he transferred the man’s car into his own name, and told a funeral home he was Pettit’s nephew when they released Pettit’s cremated remains to him.

Court documents state that when asked about the dead man’s belongings, Dobbs offered several improbable stories about how they’d been stolen, returned and then stolen again.

His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court.

Court papers indicate Dobbs has state IDs in Oregon and Maryland. He also has prior convictions in California, from the 1990s through 2001 for offenses such as spousal assault, burglary and receiving stolen property.
•••

For background, read “Centralia man questioned about dead man’s vehicle, home, belongings” from Friday Sept. 19, 2014, here

Three arrested in connection with Chehalis ATM shakedown

Friday, April 10th, 2015
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Andres F. Santiago, in red, appears with a lawyer before a judge for a bail hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

Updated at 7:09 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 20-year-old Chehalis resident turned himself in yesterday, admitting to police he robbed a woman at the TwinStar Credit Union’s ATM machine two weeks ago.

Andres F. Santiago was booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree robbery, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

His arrest came the day after police arrested two younger males who reportedly were waiting in a car behind the bank.

The victim had gone to the 1500 block of South Market Boulevard to deposit a check in the ATM at about 9:15 p.m. on March 26. A male wearing a black bandana over his face approached her and said “empty all your cash,” but when she told him she had none, he demanded her cell phone, which she turned over, according to court documents.

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James M. Rocha

Jean Gillmer was unhurt, according to police, but said the bandit showed her something in his waistband that was either the handle of a gun or a knife, according to authorities.

Earlier this week, Chehalis detective Jason Roberts was able to view security video from both sides of the building that showed what took place.

Detectives were led to their suspects by witnesses who saw a smaller, reddish oxidized car both before and after the event, according to charging documents. One of them who watched the car speed down 16th Street with its lights off took down its license plate numbers, according to the documents.

Police were able to “ping” the stolen cell phone, which helped them as well, Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said today.

The license plate led to a residence on Southwest 20th Street, where Roberts spoke with the registered owner and her teenage son on Wednesday, according to authorities. James M. Rocha, 18,  was arrested, according to Chehalis Police Department spokesperson Linda Bailey. Two detectives returned to the home later in the day and arrested a 15-year-old boy, Bailey said.

All are from Chehalis, according to police.

Charging documents state the 15-year-old told detectives he was there, but didn’t do anything. They also relate that Rocha admitted to being the driver of the car.

First-degree robbery is a class A felony, with a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Charging documents offer some of the details, as follows:

The owners of Dairy Dan’s, a drive-in restaurant across the street from the credit union, saw a reddish car parked in their lot, and watched it head over to behind the credit union, without its headlights turned on.

Rocha told police Santiago said he needed to go to the bank, to pull out some money to buy his daughter clothes and diapers. He said they stopped at Dairy Dan’s, so Santiago could make  phone call, and Santiago asked him to  drop him at the bank and wait for him.

Rocha said he parked in the back. When Santiago came back, he told them he’d just robbed a girl, and showed the two males a knife he had in a black holster.

When Santiago turned himself in, he told detective Roberts he’d forced Rocha and the 15-year-old to drive him around, and he wanted them released because they didn’t do anything wrong.

He also told the detective he’d had a 9 mm handgun in the rear of his waistband that night.

Santiago was contacted by police yesterday, after they learned he wanted to talk with them, at a Cascade Mental health safe house.

Prosecutor Meagher said he’s not sure if the phone has been found.

The 15-year-old is being held at the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center on a probation violation, and has not yet been charged, according to Meagher.

Rocha, a graduate of W.F. West High School has a job, lives with his mother and has a 1-month-old baby. He has one juvenile felony from four years ago. His bail was set at $75,000 yesterday afternoon.

This afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court, defense attorney Joely O’Rourke asked for Santiago’s bail to be set at $25,000 and unsecured.

The unemployed father of a 7-month-old daughter has no felonies in his past, she said.

“He also turned himself in,” O’Rourke said.

She told the judge Santiago had recently gotten himself admitted into inpatient treatment to get help with drug addiction, and was working with Cascade Mental Health to “get back on track.”

Judge James Lawler set his bail at $100,000.

Santiago and Rocha both qualified for court-appointed attorneys. Their arraignments are set for next Thursday.
•••

For background, read “Shakedown at Chehalis ATM” from Friday March 27, 2015, here

Tenino reserve officer denies intentionally downloading child porn

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Tenino reserve police officer arrested this week for possession of child porn is the same officer who was getting paid for working there, in violation of a city statute that prohibits payment.

Michael C. Boone, 38, Olympia, was arrested by a state patrol task force on Tuesday, at his workplace, according to authorities. He is a community corrections officer with the state Department of Corrections.

A Thurston County Superior Court judge yesterday set bail at $5,000 after finding probable cause for three counts of second-degree possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Boone was ordered not to have any in-person contact with minor children or access the Internet, according to Thurston County Deputy Prosecutor Craig Juris who is handling the case.

Tenino Mayor Bret Brodersen revealed last week that one of the reasons he terminated Police Chief Chief John Hutchings a week earlier was he had recently learned Hutchings added a paid reserve police officer, not approved, not budgeted for and in violation of city statute. The reserve officer collected $10,574 over the previous few months, according to the mayor.

Hutchings was hired by Brodersen’s predecessor in the summer of 2012 and was let go on March 25.

A payroll document obtained from the city of Tenino through a public record request shows Boone earned $10,574 from the time he started with the city until his last pay check or pay period ending on March 20.

He earned $17 per hour, and during his last two-week pay period worked 26 hours, according to the document.

Brodersen said on Tuesday in a news release Boone is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the state patrol’s investigation. The case was handled by the state patrol’s Missing and Exploited Childrens Task Force.

In an email, Brodersen indicated he would not answer reporter’s questions about Boone because of the sensitive nature of the situation.

The mayor hasn’t yet been able to answer when Boone was hired as a reserve officer.

In his March 30 news release discussing reasons for firing the police chief, Brodersen noted the paid assignments to the un-named reserve officer were stopped effective immediately on March 20, and that staff involved in the addition to the payroll had received disciplinary actions and processes were established to prevent it from happening again.

Boone, a married father of two, denied intentionally receiving child porn on his computer, according to the declaration of prosecutor supporting probable cause document filed in Thurston County Superior Court.

The declaration states detectives found three images in a file on his Toshiba laptop when they got a search warrant to seize the computer at Boone’s Olympia home on Tuesday. These were same three images initially reported by Microsoft – as having been noted in Boone’s cloud-type storage – to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to the declaration.

According to the declaration, Boone told detectives he viewed adult pornography, and joined Internet groups that traded images and discussed sexual fetishes. He stated he would provide his email address to others to receive pornographic images, and on occasion he opened files that were of girls under 18 and would delete them, according to the declaration.

He was asked if he ever reported the sexually explicit images of children to police or to the Internet site and said no, he probably should have, but didn’t want people to know he viewed porn, the declaration states.

According to the declaration, and to Sgt. James Mjor of the state patrol’s MECTF, security officers at Microsoft noticed the electronic signature of well-known and frequently-traded images of child pornography on Boone’s Microsoft SkyDrive account. They  turned the information over to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who reported it on Dec. 19 to the Olympia Police Department.

And, an Olympia detective began investigating the IP address which led to a Comcast cable account registered to Boone’s wife on March 17. Once the detective learned Boone lived at the same address, the Olympia Police Department referred the case to the state patrol task force, because Olympia police have a working relationship with Boone, as a community corrections officer and an Tenino reserve officer.

The state patrol’s MECTF got the case on Friday.

Prosecutor Juris said he has until 5 p.m. tomorrow to file formal charges.
•••

For background, read “Microsoft tip leads to child porn arrest of Tenino officer, prison system employee” from Tuesday April 7, 2015, here

Dognapping outside Wal-Mart

Thursday, April 9th, 2015
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Eight-week-old Chihuahua snatched from Wal-Mart parking lot on Wednesday afternoon.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police are hoping someone with information about a stranger who grabbed a one-pound Chihuahua puppy in the Wal-Mart parking lot yesterday will give them a call.

The owner said he was setting items in his truck, when the 8-week old female fell out and when he went to retrieve her, she was nowhere to be found.

“Witnesses said they saw a male pick it up, place it in his coat, and take off,” Chehalis Police Department spokesperson Linda Bailey said.

The owner – a 66-year-old Cinebar man – described his pet as an Apple Head Chihuahua, black and gray, brindle in color, according to police. She also has a white triangle on her chest, Bailey said.

Officers called about 2:20 p.m. to the 1600 block of Louisiana Avenue searched the area and were unable to locate the pup or the suspect, according to Bailey.

The male who took the dog was described by witnesses only as a white male, with a backpack, she said.

“We’re looking for anyone who may have seen the person who picked up the puppy,” Bailey said. “So we can reunite the puppy with its owner.”

The Chehalis Police Department can be reached at 360-748-8605.

Microsoft tip leads to child porn arrest of Tenino officer, prison system employee

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Updated at 8:41 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A reserve police officer for the city of Tenino was arrested today for possession of child porn.

The 38-year-old Olympia resident is also currently employed as a community corrections officer with the state Department of Corrections, according to the Washington State Patrol.

State patrol detectives searched his home computer today after getting a search warrant.

Michael C. Boone, 38, Olympia, was arrested after being interviewed at his workplace in Olympia today, according to Sgt. James Mjor.

The case was handled by the state patrol’s Missing and Exploited Childrens Task Force. Mjor is the current acting lieutenant for the unit.

The investigation began with a tip from Microsoft.

Security officers at the Redmond company noticed the electronic signature of well-known and frequently-traded images of child pornography on Boone’s Microsoft SkyDrive account, according to the Washington State Patrol.

SkyDrive is like cloud storage for a person’s photos, documents and other files, which one can access from multiple of their devices.

They turned the information over to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who forwarded it to the state patrol task force, Mjor said.

The task force said this afternoon it had no indication any child porn was stored on Boone’s work computer, but seized it for a forensic examination, and also seized his Tenino Police Department-issued smart phone.

The tip came in last week and initially was just an IP address, Mjor said.

Detectives went to speak with Boone, to see if he had any information he could help them out with, he said. While they were talking with him, other detectives were serving the search warrant at his home for his computer, he said.

Boone was booked into the Thurston County Jail for possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Tenino Mayor Bret Brodersen placed Boone on administrative leave.

Chehalis fire chief search winding down

Monday, April 6th, 2015

2015.0406.chehalisfirechiefs_2-001By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Chehalis City Manager Merlin MacReynold said the five finalists for fire chief interviewed today have a lot of experience, from different places, with different strengths.

They come from a much stronger pool of candidates than he saw last fall, he said.

“It’s going to make my decision a little bit harder,” he said. “But that’s a good thing.”

The city last had a full time fire chief two years ago, when Kelvin Johnson retired. Last spring, half-time Fire Chief Jim Walkowski moved to Spokane County to take a new job and an attempt in September to hire a new chief ended with no one chosen.

Today, the five men were interviewed by representatives of city management, the fire department, neighboring fire agencies and members of the community. MacReynold did a “debriefing” with the interviewers this afternoon, before a reception in the basement at Chehalis City Hall.

The city manager said he expects it could be two to three weeks until he makes an announcement.

These are the choices:

• Ken Cardinale, has lived in Kelso the past year and a half, moving to be closer to family after 29 years with the city of Palo Alto, California. Cardinale served in numerous positions including battalion chief, acting EMS chief and acting deputy chief.

• Jim McGarva is assistant chief at the Tumwater Fire Department, a position he’s held for seven years. He has worked there for 23 years and has 30 years in the fire service.

• Joseph Clow lives in Enumclaw and last summer left his longtime position as chief at King County Fire District 28. During his 35 year career, he has served as chief in three other states.

• Brad Paulson became a firefighter in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1986, and served 18 years as deputy fire chief there, before moving into his current position five years ago. He is the emergency services administrator for the entire borough, and also a volunteer battalion chief.

• John Banning retired after almost 25 years at the Austin Fire Department in Texas, and has spent much of career in command level positions. He is into his third year as chief of the Blue Ridge Fire Department in northern Arizona.

•••

For background, read : “Meet potential new fire chiefs for Chehalis on Monday” from Wednesday April 1, 2015, here

Friends, family puzzle over death on the train tracks

Saturday, April 4th, 2015
2015.0403.lester.thompsoncopy

Lester S. Thomsen, in an undated photo, on the porch of the house on Kearney Street where he lived a few years back.

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – The B Street area is in mourning.

Mourning for a man said to have been born 65 years ago in the Centralia Hospital.

An early riser, who’d given up on driving, but rarely stayed home.

Duane Thornton said it was about a year and a half ago that Lester Thomsen asked if he could rent a room at his house on Crescent Avenue. Thomsen had been living around the corner with the neighbors on Kearney Street, but they got tired of his drinking, he said.

Thomsen had a bicycle, and he rode the bus.

He did a lot of visiting, Thornton said.

“He would go hang out at the depot, at Wal-Mart, he’d go to the senior citizen’s place, the Salvation Army; he did all that stuff,” Thornton said. “And he was a big man. His hands were twice the size of mine.”

Thornton yesterday was trying to figure out where Thomsen was headed, or what he was doing walking on the railroad tracks just a few blocks south of home.

“We don’t know exactly what happened,” he said.

Police say it was just before 11:30 a.m. on Thursday when a southbound passenger train coming into the station was trying to slow, hitting the horn for the man walking with his back to the train.

The engineer said the man looked over his shoulder and began to leave the track at an angle, instead of just jumping off it directly sideways, according to police.

“This morning was the first morning I didn’t hear Les stumbling around the house making coffee,” Thornton said. “And he always wanted a coffee royal, just a splash of whiskey.”

He was one smart man, with a heart of gold, he said.

The two of them were 10 years apart, but both used to be loggers, so they were really tight, he said.

Thornton assumed his older roommate had ridden his bike to the train depot, to catch the city bus to Wal-Mart, he said. But he didn’t keep tabs on him on his daily outings.

“He’d say, ‘I’m going to go check out the lay of the land’,” Thornton said. “Or, ‘I’m going to go whoring around’. He loved to say that.”

On Kearney Street, James and Corrie Aker offered comfort to Thomsen’s grown son.

James Aker said Thomsen in his last years had lived in three  different houses in the neighborhood he called the B Street area, just west of the railroad tracks at the north end of town.

Back in the day, James Aker said, Thomsen had a nice house with property on a hill in town.

“He went into the Army, because he got caught moonshining,” Corrie Aker said. “He told me that story 100,000 times.”

Thomsen was proud of his past as a diesel mechanic and a logger, she said.

Thirty-two-year-old Thomas Simpson sat in the Aker’s living room, petting his black lab and absorbing the loss of his father.

“Walking on the tracks,” Simpson exclaimed. “Why would you walk on the tracks, especially if you can’t hear?”

Simpson was angry, mad at the coroner who wouldn’t let him see his dad, he said.

Corrie Aker dug out a photo she’d taken one summer when Thomsen had recently moved in with them, he and her husband sitting on their front porch playing cribbage.

She said she’d known Thomsen probably four years, and his son should try to remember him him the way he looked in the photo.

He had a lot of friends everywhere, Corrie Aker said.

“And he could ride his bike straight as an arrow on rum,” she said.

Yeah, someone repeated, he could ride his bike straight as an arrow on rum.
•••

CORRECTION: This news story has been updated to correct the spelling of Lester Stephen Thomsen’s last name.
•••

For background, read “Man fatally struck by train in Centralia” from Thursday April 2, 2015, here