Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Sheriff, prosecutor talk about changes in crime fighting efforts

Sunday, March 29th, 2015
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Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza talks about some of the many of the new plans he has for his office.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

SALKUM – More than 30 men and women met with newly-elected Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza and Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer at a “town meeting” held in Salkum.

Snaza said it’s something the two began talking about doing a long time ago.

“We’re a team,” Snaza told the gathering.

Meyer introduced himself as the defense attorney-turned-prosecutor.

He spoke of successes with drug court and the new track for a small number of mentally ill offenders, which they call a mental health alternative program.

“For too long, we as a criminal justice system said we couldn’t do anything till they did anything bad enough,” Meyer said.

Wednesday afternoon’s event at the Salkum Timberland Library was the first of what is expected to be a series of meetings around Lewis County, to talk with citizens, answer their questions and listen to their concerns.

Meyer is just beginning his second term in the elected office. Snaza took office in January, after two decades as a deputy.

Snaza shared the prosecutor’s enthusiasm for new and different ways to get at reducing crime and approaching their roles.

“We’re not just her to put people in jail,” Snaza said. “But also to help provide help to people who need assistance.

“If you could save one person’s life, would you do it?”

The sheriff said he has plans for getting each deputy 40 hours of crisis intervention training and talked about the jail’s more concentrated efforts to address mental illness.

He introduced Special Services Sgt. Fred Wetzel, whose responsibilities include coordinating neighborhood watch groups.

And the new sheriff told the group that every deputy has been assigned a school.

“We just let the schools know, we’re here,” he said. “We’ll do presentations with them, talk about texting, social media, whatever they want.”

The two, accompanied by Undersheriff Wes Rethwill as well, spent almost two hours chatting and answering questions.

Among the concerns from the audience were the new gun law I-594, animal cruelty, trespassing, boating patrol, unmarked vehicles, drunk driving, police cars flying by without lights going and the number of patrol deputies in their area.

Snaza said they’re not sure when and where the next meeting will be, but said they are thinking of doing one more before summer.
•••

For background, read “Town meeting: Got a question for the sheriff, the prosecutor?” from Sunday March 22, 2015, here

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Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer speaks to the small gathering at the Salkum Timberland Library.

May trial set for boyfriend’s rampage with 22 rifle in Onalaska

Friday, March 27th, 2015
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Todd H. Bergfalk, facing camera, waits his turn to appear before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court for a bail setting hearing.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 44-year-old man who allegedly fired a 22 rifle towards his girlfriend as she ran away from him outside her trailer home in Onalaska over the weekend remains held on $250,000 bail.

Todd H. Bergfalk pleaded not guilty yesterday to two counts of second-degree assault. He also allegedly pointed the Remington 22 long rifle at his girlfriend’s 23-year-old son.

He was arrested on Saturday after deputies were called to the 700 block of state Route 508. Deputies reported Bergfalk was very intoxicated and emotional, rambling about abused animals and how he was upset, according to authorities.

He denied pointing the gun at anyone, but said he should probably just go to jail, according to charging documents.

At his first appearance before a judge on Monday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court, a defense attorney said Bergfalk was unemployed, so he qualified for a court appointed lawyer.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported Bergfalk and his girlfriend were arguing when he fired four rounds inside her trailer, and that he wouldn’t let her leave, but she finally made a run for the door.

The sheriff’s office said he fired approximately 10 rounds as she she ran down her driveway, and that some were fired in her direction.

Charging documents state Julie Schoonover ran into the main house and told her son what had happened, and he went outside to try to calm Bergfalk. The 23-year-old said Bergfalk pointed the gun at him and told him not to get any closer, charging documents state.

He called 911, and arriving deputies learned from Susan Bergfalk she had already secured the gun.

Neither charging documents nor the sheriff’s office indicated why he may have been upset, but the documents do state that Schoonover said when she first arrived back home after going out to look at a boat for sale, she found Bergfalk standing in the driveway holding a knife and yelling.

The evidence cited in charging documents includes a bullet hole in the mud approximately 50 feet from the trailer in the direction Schoonover said she ran, as well as more bullet holes in the mud just outside the trailer steps and numerous shell casings.

While he was arrested for first-degree assault when booked into the Lewis County Jail, the charges filed by the prosecutor on Monday were for second-degree assault.

Bergfalk has a conviction for misdemeanor assault from 1989 and at the time of his arrest, a warrant out of King County related to driving under the influence, according to authorities.

The sheriff’s office said he lives in Tacoma. He gave his home address as Onalaska in court documents.

No contact orders were put into place regarding Schoonover and her son. Bergfalk’s trial was set for the week of May 18.
•••

For background, read, “Boyfriend jailed after allegedly shooting at woman, missing” from Monday March 23, 2015, here

Shakedown at Chehalis ATM

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Updated at 11:07 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police searched without success last night after the attempted robbery of a customer who had walked up to a bank’s ATM machine in Chehalis.

Officers called about 9:15 p.m. to the TwinStar Credit Union on the 1500 block of South Market Boulevard found the victim, a 42-year-old Chehalis woman, was uninjured, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

She said she was approached by a male who wanted money from her,” Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said. “The victim replied she didn’t have any cash, she only had a check; he took her cell phone.”

He was wearing a black and white bandana over his face, according to police.

No weapon was displayed, but she saw something in his waistband she thought was the handle of either a gun or a knife, Kaut said.

Kaut said it appeared from the officer’s report a relative of the woman’s was with her, but still in their car.

The subject was described as in his early to mid-20s, heavyset and about 5-feet 6-inches tall, wearing a black hoody, Kaut said.

The report also labeled the male as Hispanic, but said he didn’t speak with any kind of an accent. No hair or eye color were noted.

Police were told he ran toward the opposite side of the bank, where a car was heard speeding away; the victim saw headlights going down a side street.

A police dog attempted to track him, but nobody was found, according to Kaut.

Prosecutors gathering information from husband for wife’s trial in 3-year-old boy’s death

Thursday, March 26th, 2015
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Brenda A. Wing looks on as her lawyer John Crowley, center, confers with Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  The mother of three, accused with her husband in the death of a toddler who was staying with them in their Vader home appeared in court this afternoon, as lawyers continue to map out a path to her trial.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the judge that Brenda Wing’s attorney was asking to postpone her trial a week, as her husband Danny Wing recently pleaded guilty in the case.

“That kind of changes things a little bit,” Halstead said.

The couple were arrested in November, a month after 3-year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner died from what the coroner calls battered child syndrome.

Prosecutors charged them with homicide by abuse or, in the alternative, first-degree manslaughter; each of the two were charged as either the principal or accomplice.

The autopsy found abrasions, bruises, facial trauma, healing fractures that were described as weeks-old injuries.

Danny Wing pleaded guilty last Thursday to first-degree manslaughter and assault, and as part of the deal, is expected to be a cooperating witness for the prosecution.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt agreed to move the trial to the week of May 18.

The lawyers set a date of April 30 for a hearing where they typically file a document that includes the expected length of the trial and other particulars. Today, they estimated it could last a week and a half, or up to three weeks.

Seattle-based defense attorney John Crowley said he needs the extra time, to review materials he expects won’t be available until after next week when the state conducts a taped interview with the husband.

Danny and Brenda Wing’s three children, between infancy and age 6, were all taken into custody by Child Protective Services the day they were arrested. Both Wings remain held in the Lewis County Jail.

No details alleging how Jasper sustained his injuries are included in prosecutor’s charging documents.

Yesterday Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said they’d like to know what happened. Today, Halstead said he wouldn’t answer reporters’ questions about the facts in the case.

Whether Brenda Wing’s trial actually takes place remains to be seen.

Outside the courtroom, Halstead sidestepped the question if he is attempting to work out a plea deal with Crowley for Brenda Wing.

“We’re always working to resolve our cases,” Halstead said.
•••

For background, read “Prosecutor expects plea deal will help reveal answers about Vader toddler’s demise” from for Wednesday March 25, 2015, here

Prosecutor expects plea deal will help reveal answers about Vader toddler’s demise

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Danny A. Wing has pleaded guilty in the death of the 3-year-old boy he and his wife were taking care of at their Vader home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the one who killed the child.

And it doesn’t mean his wife is exonerated, or that she’s necessarily the one who killed the toddler either.

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Danny Wing

Authorities say Jasper Henderling-Warner died from ongoing child abuse and charged both Danny Wing, 26, and Brenda Wing, 27, last November in Lewis County Superior Court.

Charging documents in the case lay out facts that describe a variety of week’s old injuries and conflicting statements from the married couple whose home Jasper lived in. His 21-year-old mother had asked the couple that summer to take him for a year, while she was homeless and looking for work out of state, according to authorities.

The criminal investigation began the night of a 911 call on Oct. 5 from Brenda Wing that Jasper was unconscious at their home on the 400 block of Main Street in Vader. He was transported by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Wings were arrested and charged a month later with homicide by abuse or, in the alternative, first-degree manslaughter. The two crimes have widely different penalties. Each of the two were charged as either the principal or accomplice.

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Brenda Wing

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said Danny Wing pleaded guilty last Thursday to first-degree manslaughter and also to assault.

It came out of a plea agreement, in which prosecutors will recommend Danny Wing be sent to prison for 16 years and four months, according to Meyer.

The hearing took place without being noted on the court’s regular calendar, because the defense attorney from out of town was here, and the deputy prosecutor and the judge found time to just go ahead and do it, according to Meyer.

Danny Wing admitted he didn’t properly care for Jasper, Meyer said.

But what exactly took place and who did it is still not clear.

“That’s one of the things we all want to know,” Meyer said. “What happened.”

The autopsy found abrasions, bruises as well as healing fractures and labeled the cause of death as chronic battered child syndrome. Jasper was suffering from skin infections that were found to be secondary to his cause of death.

Meyer indicated part of the deal is Danny Wing must cooperate and share some information.

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Jasper Henderling-Warner

“We’re anticipating we’ll learn more, as part of the agreement,” he said today. “It’s also fair to say, additional investigation will take place, now that he’s pled guilty.”

While the specifics are still unknown, Meyer said he still believes they both are responsible for the death.

“We’ve always alleged they both had a hand in it,” he said. “We’re not changing our position at all.”

The Wings remain held in the Lewis County Jail.

Brenda Wing’s trial is scheduled for  trial in May.

Meyer said he doesn’t know when Danny Wing’s sentencing hearing will be held, but expected it would not take place until Brenda Wing’s case is finished.

Separately, the Lewis County coroner has initiated a court action to ask a judge to settle the question of which funeral home he should call to pick up the body from the coroner’s office to be cremated.

On Jan. 28, Coroner Warren McLeod was freed from the prosecutor’s hold on the body, and tried for two weeks to get unified direction from the unmarried parents before filing the civil action on Feb. 11.
•••

For background, read “Coroner: Ongoing physical abuse led to Vader toddler’s death” from Friday November 7, 2014, here

Sahara Pizza man attacked in Centralia with bear repellent

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A pizza delivery man thwarted an apparent attempted robbery today in Centralia in which the assailant pulled out a can of bear spray.

It happened around 2 p.m. as the 44-year-old driver from Sahara Pizza was approaching the 100 block of Gleason Road where he was headed to make a delivery, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A male stepped out onto the roadway and the driver slowed to speak with the man, who said something to the effect of, “Sorry, I have to do this,” according to the sheriff’s office.

The driver knocked the can out of the individual’s hand, followed him when he ran off, and then chased a smaller blue car he got into up to the other end of town, according to the sheriff’s office.

The car was last seen headed the wrong way on Sprague Street, a one way road, according to Chief Deputy Stacy Brown.

The victim did get sprayed in the face a little bit, but didn’t require medical attention, Brown said.

He drove to the Centralia Police Department to report what happened, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Frontiersman Bear Attack Deterrent Spray used is advertised as being protection in the wilderness with a range of up to 35 feet away.

Deputies who responded to the call at 2:09 p.m. are looking for an older, smaller, blue vehicle. The suspect was described by the victim as about 5-foot 6-inches tall, with a thin build and wearing a dark sweatshirt and blue jeans.

Brown said the suspect was wearing sunglasses and the victim couldn’t tell how old he was, but said he was white.

“It happened pretty fast, he looked up and he was right there,” Brown said.

The pizza order came from a man who called himself Anthony Kramer.

The sheriff’s office is asking anyone who has any information on the suspect, to call them at 360-748-9286 or Lewis County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-748-6422.

Boyfriend jailed after allegedly shooting at woman, missing

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 44-year-old Chehalis-area woman escaped with her life after her boyfriend reportedly fired repeatedly from a rifle towards her as she ran down her driveway following an argument.

Deputies called to the 700 block of state Route 508 found the suspect had already given up his gun, was very intoxicated and emotional, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

“He said he didn’t want to make any statements, but told the deputy he should probably take him to jail,” Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning.

Todd H. Bergfalk, 44, of Tacoma, was booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree assault, according to the sheriff’s office.

Brown said the incident took place about 5:20 p.m. on Saturday.

What the disagreement was about, she didn’t say, but indicated at one point the girlfriend locked Bergfalk out of the trailer but then eventually let him back in.

When he began to load a Remington 22 long rifle, she tried to leave but he wouldn’t let her, according to the sheriff’s office. He fired off about four rounds inside the trailer, Brown said.

The woman finally went outside and he followed, firing approximately 10 rounds as she fled, according to Brown.

She didn’t know where the bullets were going and was very afraid she would be shot, Brown said. Evidence showed some were fired in her direction, according to Brown.

“She wasn’t hit, thankfully,” Brown stated.

Bergfalk is tentatively scheduled to appear before a judge at 4 o’clock this afternoon.

Man rescued after being trapped all night in mud along river

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015
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Firefighters finally get their patient out of the marsh and to an ambulance. / Courtesy photo by West Thurston Regional Fire Authority

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A motorist pulled over for speeding last night ran off into the dark and ended up spending more than 12 hours stuck in a marshy area along the Black River outside Littlerock.

The individual was stuck chest deep in the swampy backwater of the river, and crews had to blaze a path through brush with chainsaws to get to him, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority Chief Robert Scott.

The rescue operation for the 44-year-old man took all night, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

“The dive team was called, and put on their dry suits and walked out to him,” Lt. Cliff Ziesemer said. “But they were unable to bring him back out because he was so hypothermic.”

Fire Chief Scott said part of the reason it took so long was because they were waiting for daylight, but also because of the composition of the ground, partially quicksand like.

The dive team deputy waded through waist deep water and very thick brush for about two hundred yards to reach the man.

“It took an hour and 20 minutes just to move him 50 yards,” Scott said. “Every time the deputy would go to move him, the deputy would sink.”

The temperature overnight got down to about 37 degrees, according to Scott.

Responders were able to ferry out some items to keep the man’s body temperature from dropping further, according to Scott, such as blankets, heat packs and glucose.

“If it wasn’t for us getting that stuff to the deputy, the outcome would have been much different,” he said.

The patient, James A. Mueller, was finally brought out to waiting medics about 11 o’clock this morning, put into an ambulance and taken to the hospital, according to Ziesemer. Mueller is a Thurston County resident.

The lieutenant said it began about 7:15 p.m. when a deputy tried to stop a car along Littlerock Road south of Tumwater for speeding, and the driver fled on foot.

Around 12:45 a.m., they got a 911 call about someone screaming for help in the swampy area, roughly 200 yards off the road near 110th Avenue Southwest.

They requested assistance from helicopters from both the Air Force and King County, but neither could help because of the fog, he said.

Chief Scott called it a very manpower intensive operation, with nearly 25 firefighters from four other departments joining them.

Ziesemer said the man had felony warrants.

Update: Mueller was released from Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia a few hours later and then booked into the Thurston County Jail for warrants. No charges or ticket is planned for the speeding incident, according to Ziesemer.

New face at the Lewis County Law and Justice Center is sweet

Friday, March 20th, 2015
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Oak, a new court therapy dog, patiently poses for a snapshot at the Lewis County courthouse.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office has expanded its staff by one; one four-legged furry volunteer whose primary job is to help put people at ease.

His name is Oak, and he started coming to the office last week.

The two and a half year old pup is a court therapy dog, and the idea is he can sit with witnesses or victims before trials, to maybe make them less nervous, according to one of his three handlers.

He’s not getting paid, he was offered by the woman who trained him, originally as a seeing eye dog.

Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, or one of his staff, picks him up from her home in the morning, and returns him there each night.

It’s not an entirely new idea, there are other counties that use court therapy dogs, Meyer said. In Thurston County, one is used at Monarch, the child sexual assault center, for example.

Meyer said he’s spoken with the judges about Oak, and maybe even one day he could accompany a witness into the courtroom, for comfort. But that’s not something he’s expecting anytime soon, because of various logistics, he said.

Oak’s first big assignment was going to be yesterday, to sit with a teenage victim during a sex case trial. But the defendant took a plea deal before the jury was seated.

When Oak on the clock, and wearing his vest, he’s just a lovable animal, Meyer said.

“He’ll come up to people and let them pet him, or he’ll just lay there and hang out with them,” he said.

And when the vest comes off, he just runs around and plays like a regular puppy, he said.

Meyer said he plans to share more details with the public about Oak next week.

Heroin overdose for one leads to prison for another

Thursday, March 19th, 2015
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Robert T. Lusk faces Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler this afternoon in Chehalis.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Chehalis man who provided the heroin that killed 23-year-old Tyson J. Anderson two years ago admitted what he did in court today, and will go to prison.

Robert T. Lusk, 37, has been locked up awaiting trial since his arrest last June.

Anderson died of a drug overdose one night – after he and his girlfriend went out to dinner and then shopping at Wal-Mart – at her apartment in Centralia. It took more than a year, but Centralia police tracked down who he’d gotten it from.

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Tyson J. Anderson, April 2013

Lusk pleaded guilty today to controlled substance homicide, clearing his throat slightly before answering the judge, hands cuffed in his lap.

The offense doesn’t include any elements of maliciousness or intent for a person to die. Only that he delivered the heroin to Anderson, that Anderson used the heroin and Anderson died from the heroin.

Anderson was a fairly new drug court participant at the time, and the father of a little girl.

Lusk faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The standard sentencing range that applies, given his criminal history, is 68 to 100 months of incarceration.

In exchange for his guilty plea, Lewis County prosecutors dropped a second charge of delivery of heroin, related to the same incident. Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead indicated to the judge this afternoon, that would have been “folded into it anyway.”

Halstead put in its place one count of first-degree driving with a suspended license, a charge actually out of Thurston County.

Defense attorney Erik Kupka and Halstead scheduled a hearing for sentencing on April 1. They said they have agreed to recommend to the judge at that time that Lusk be given 68 months and one day.
•••

For background, read “Centralia heroin death leads to criminal charge for person who allegedly supplied the drug” from Wednesday June 11, 2014, here

Centralia police officer asks judge to order citizen to stop harassing him

Thursday, March 19th, 2015
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Mike Lowrey, far left, and Bo Rupert, far right, are seated before Lewis County District Court Judge Wade Samuelson.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Centralia police officer is seeking an anti-harassment order against a 20-year-old local man, who has been calling him crooked and corrupt on social media.

“He posted pictures of my family on Instagram, after he posted I should be executed,” Officer Michael Lowrey said.

“I think he’s taken it too far.”

Twenty-year-old Bo D. Rupert is currently prohibited from contacting Lowrey or Lowrey’s four children, based on a temporary court order put in place last month.

The two men have gone before a judge in Lewis County DIstrict Court twice, but an anti-harassment hearing has not yet been conducted because Rupert requested the two different judges remove themselves from the case.

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Bo Rupert

Rupert contends Lowrey has, while on duty, taken part in stopping him from videotaping public employees, unlawfully demanded his identification, and on various occasions when their paths have crossed in public, called him vulgar names.

The final straw, according to Rupert, was a day in which he claims Lowrey got a teenager banned from a local business, after the teen told the officer he wanted to speak with his uncle, and said his uncle was Rupert.

“Pretty much I had all I was going to take off him, after that,” Rupert said. “My pictures on Instagram and the amount of worry it made him feel, measured up to nothing compared to how I felt about my nephew.”

Lowrey, who has been a Centralia police officer for about 15 years, is making the request as a private citizen, his lawyer Shane O’Rourke said after the most recent hearing, held Monday morning in Lewis County District Court in Chehalis.

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Michael Lowrey

O’Rourke said his client is aware that as a public servant, he has to tolerate a certain level of unpleasantness from some members of the public.

“Mr. Rupert is well known for engaging in a particular type of behavior,” he said. “His attempts to antagonize go beyond what you deal with on a day to day basis.”

O’Rourke said police officers are still, first and foremost, citizens and don’t have to be subjected to that.

It is a rare and unusual occurrence, as far as he’s aware, O’Rourke said, for a police officer to ask for such a court order.

The temporary order allows for contact between the two for legitimate police business, he said.

Court documents show the 42-year-old officer made the formal request on Feb. 13. A temporary order was put in place the same day, but did not require Rupert to stay 1,000 feet away, as requested.

Lowrey checked boxes on the petition for order for protection from harassment and stalking form indicating Rupert’s ongoing behavior caused him to feel seriously alarmed, annoyed or emotional distressed.

Lowrey said on Monday it’s not getting videotaped on the job that’s bothering him. He wrote in his request that with the current backlash against law enforcement, he believes it endangers his family when Rupert posts photos of him, off duty, with his young daughter, along with comments that he is corrupt.

In a declaration in support of Lowrey’s petition, Centralia police Sgt. Stacy Denham writes that in his career of more than 20 years, he’s dealt with all kinds of individuals who don’t like police, and go  out of their way to discredit officers simply for entertainment.

“All of these individuals pale in comparison to Bo Rupert,” Denham writes.

He notes Rupert’s numerous convictions for false reporting, calling it an incredible addiction to trying to get others in trouble. He writes that Rupert’s new means of attack is to follow officers around and videotape them, berating them with profanities in an attempt to get a rise out of them.

Denham described Rupert’s activities as escalating into yelling at Centralia Police Department staff through the glass and calling all officers inside a laundry list of unacceptable slurs.

Among the screenshots from social media in the petition is a Facebook post by Rupert in which he wrote:

“The police must be returned to their original purpose to protect and serve WE THE PEOPLE, any that are not and refuse to do so should be executed for treason!!!!!!! Starting with Mike Lowrey, Sgt. Stacey Denham, and Phillip Reynolds”

Rupert, who said he lives part time in Chehalis and part time in Centralia, says he’s a volunteer for a police accountability group called “Peaceful Streets Lewis County”,  the local chapter of a national organization which video records police officers and other government employees while they perform their public duties.

In his general affidavit submitted in response to the case, Rupert writes that he usually picks two nights each week to film, listens for calls over a police radio scanner and arrives on scene staying a safe distance away. He states he also often advises people of their rights and records the interactions.

He claims in writing an instance outside the Centralia library in which Lowrey called him a name, stepped out of his patrol car and said if there were not people around, he would “kick his (blank) ass.”

“It was that moment when I decided from then on I was going to expose his corruption and the content of his character,” Rupert wrote.

In an interview after Monday’s hearing, Rupert acknowledged the Facebook post, paraphrasing it from memory to say, “I wrote to a Facebook status ‘Treasonous officers who create insurrection against the constitution should be executed,’ and I named the officers doing that.”

“I never said I was gonna pickup a gun and shoot Officer Lowrey,” he said.

Rupert said if Lowrey is successful in getting the temporary order made more permanent, he will appeal, because it could have other consequences.

“You can bet I’m not going to let someone use the court system, the legal system, to abuse and oppress people,” he said.

The anti-harassment order hearing is scheduled for March 30, when a pro-tem judge both sides agree upon is to be brought in.

Toddler’s body still at morgue more than five months after death

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It was a month ago the Lewis County coroner initiated a civil action, asking a judge to decide which funeral home he can call to pick up the body of a toddler – who died last autumn – from the coroner’s office.

Coroner Warren McLeod felt he was at an impasse because the unmarried parents of 3-year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner couldn’t agree about which mortuary should cremate the child.

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Jasper Henderling-Warner

McLeod yesterday said he’s still waiting, but now it’s for the court system.

“It’s keeping me awake at night,” McLeod said yesterday.

Jasper is the subject of a homicide case, and from his death on October 5 until the end of January, McLeod was not allowed to release his body. The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office had issued a hold order in case lawyers for the accused wanted to get a second autopsy.

Jasper died from what the coroner called chronic battered child syndrome. The Vader couple who were caring for him, Danny and Brenda Wing, remain jailed pending a trial in May.

McLeod hoped the request for a declaratory judgement filed Feb. 11 in Lewis County Superior Court would help move the process along, so Jasper could be laid to rest.

The hope was each parent would be served quickly with a summons and complaint, and respond within the 20 days allowed. And then a judge would hold a hearing and make them agree or make a decision.

However, McLeod yesterday said he learned the legal documents were served by the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office not upon the father, Casey Henderling, but upon Henderling’s roommate in Longview. McLeod said he called Henderling’s phone number on Monday, and was told he no longer lived there.

The mother, Nikki Warner, has been calling his office repeatedly, McLeod said.

But it turns out the Clark County Sheriff’s Office is four to six weeks behind getting documents served. It could be another two to three weeks before they get the court papers to Warner who lives in the Vancouver area, he said.

Meanwhile, Jasper’s body continues to be stored at the Lewis County Corner’s Office in Chehalis.

Jasper’s parents do agree they want to split the ashes following cremation, according to McLeod.

He said he realized in December Henderling and Warner didn’t agree on where Japer’s body would be taken care of, and tried to help them resolve the differences. A no-contact order prevents the parents from communication with each other, according to the court documents.

On Jan. 28, McLeod was freed from the prosecutor’s hold on the body, and tried for two weeks to get unified direction from the parents before filing the civil action on Feb. 11.
•••

For background, read “Toddler’s body lingers at morgue more than four months” from Thursday February 19, 2015, here

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, March 16th, 2015

BEDROOM BURGLED

• Someone broke into a home on the 3900 block of Jackson Highway south of Chehalis between 3:40 p.m. and 4:40 p.m. on Friday, rifling through a 22-year-old woman’s bedroom. It was the second time within a week it had happened, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The woman was home alone when she heard a knock on the window, and called her roommate who asked a neighbor to check on her, Chief Stacy Brown said. The neighbor took her home and when the roommate returned, he discovered the burglary, Brown said. Missing is $200 worth of quarters, according to Brown.

BREAK-IN CENTRALIA

• A 19-year-old Rochester resident was arrested around 3:30 a.m. today for second-degree burglary in connection with an incident at the 400 block of Kearny Street. Dustin P. McLean was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department. Further details were not immediately available.

• Centralia police took a report of a burglary at the 1400 block of Windsor Avenue yesterday in which someone broke in and took a portable heater. The item was found in the backyard, according to the Centralia Police Department.

BARN BURGLED CHEHALIS

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports this morning that sometime between last Wednesday and Thursday, someone got into a barn on the 800 block of Logan Hill Road in Chehalis and stole a Craftsman two-piece tool box and a heavy-duty four-wheeled wagon. The loss is estimated at $500, according to the sheriff’s office.

SHERIFF: MORTON BURGLARY SOLVED

• A tip on Friday led to the arrest of two individuals for a November break-in in the Morton area in which a 68-year-old resident lost about $5,000 worth of household goods, fishing poles and tools, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. Deputies were told by someone they had seen the two males with the property and in a subsequent contact by a detective, the suspects admitted involvement in the burglary at the 100 block of Chapman Road, according to the sheriff’s office. Booked into the Lewis County Jail for residential burglary were Ricky D. Osborne Sr. 48, from Morton, and Brian J. Elmore, no age given, also of Morton, Chief Stacy Brown said.

VEHICLE THEFT

• A stolen 2000 Ford F350 pickup truck was recovered yesterday at the 100 block of Cedar Lane in Glenoma, according to the the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The owner, who lost it in Lakewood, couldn’t be located so the vehicle was impounded, the sheriff’s office reports.

CAR PROWL

• Two people were arrested about 11 o’clock yesterday morning when a neighbor saw them trying to get into someone else’s vehicle at on the 600 block of Northeast Franklin Avenue in Chehalis. Stacy L. Weighall, 50, was arrested for second-degree vehicle prowl and then released, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Booked into the Lewis County Jail for theft and vehicle prowl was Michael W. Thomas, 29, of Chehalis, according to police.

• Police were called to Wal-Mart in Chehalis about 5:50 p.m. on Friday where someone had gone inside an unlocked vehicle and taken a cell phone.

• Chehalis police were called about 10 a.m. on Friday regarding an overnight vehicle prowl on the 1400 block of Southwest Mills Street. A cell phone charger was among the items stolen from the unlocked vehicle parked in front of its residence, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

IMPOSTOR ARRESTED

• A 33-year-old man who produced a driver’s license that was not his when contacted by an officer about 3 a.m. today along Southwest Interstate Avenue in Chehalis was arrested for possession of another person’s identification, a misdemeanor, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Phillip R. Johnston, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

GRAFFITI ON RESIDENCE

• A resident of the 400 block of Kearny Street in Centralia called police about 5:20 p.m. yesterday to report graffiti left on the outside of his home. It happened sometime during the previous few days,  according to the Centralia Police Department.

DOMESTIC ASSAULT

• A 43-year-old Chehalis man was arrested on Saturday after an incident the night before in which he allegedly slapped and choked his fiancee during an argument, and threatened several times to kill her. Michael G. McBride was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree assault and for harassment, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

SLEEPING IN CHURCH

• A 25-year-old Winlock man found asleep on a pew in a church on the 4200 block of Jackson Highway south of Chehalis yesterday morning was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail. Deputies responding sometime after 8 a.m. learned he wanted a place to get out of the rain, get way from an unsafe place he was staying, and to charge his cell phone, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Matthew R. Istre allegedly broke a glass door to get inside but didn’t take anything, according to the sheriff’s office. He was arrested for first-degree criminal trespass and third-degree malicious mischief, Chief Stacy Brown said.

CHIMNEY FIRE

• Firefighters were called noon yesterday to a chimney fire at the 400 block of Southwest Cascade Avenue in Chehalis. There were flames coming out the chimney, but they used their special nozzle to extinguish it, according to the Chehalis Fire Department. There was no damage, Capt. Casey Beck said.

COLLISION

• A 52-year-old Kelso man and his 52-year-old passenger from Onalaska were uninjured when they crashed a pickup truck into a bridge on the 200 block of Krueger Road in Onalaska on Saturday afternoon, Lewis County Sheriff’s office Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning. A deputy responding about 2:45 p.m. noted the truck sustained major damage and the two appeared intoxicated, Brown said.They were transported by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital and an arrest for driving under the influence depends upon the results of a blood test, according to the sheriff’s office.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, malicious mischief, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, disputes, shoplifting, hit and run, vandalism, suspicious circumstances, possible sexual assault, collision on city street; complaints about a female asking customers for money, a man on a bicycle urinating outdoors … and more.

Accused Vader drug dealers plead not guilty

Friday, March 13th, 2015
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Francisco J. Guerrero, left, and his girlfriend Jennifer M. Hayes, wait while attorneys finish signing documents during their arraignment in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Vader couple arrested after an investigation into what police called a large supplier of heroin in Lewis and Cowlitz counties appeared in court yesterday afternoon with their lawyers for a brief hearing.

Francisco “Poncho” Guerrero, 36, is represented by James K. Morgan; and Jennifer M. Hayes, 33, is represented by John Hays. Both attorneys have offices in Longview.

When police searched the home on Alpine Court on Dec. 29, they seized heroin, cocaine, cash and a handgun, as well as a motorcycle. The investigation was conducted by the Centralia Police Department’s special Anti-Crime Team, Chehalis police detectives and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

For unspecified reasons, police did not arrest them until last week. They have been free on bail and returned to Lewis County Superior Court yesterday afternoon for arraignment.

Hayes is charged with two counts of possession with intent to deliver, involving heroin and cocaine.

Guerrero is charged similarly, along with one count of delivery of heroin and one count of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Both pleaded not guilty yesterday to all charges.

Defense attorney Hays told Judge Nelson Hunt he’d like to schedule a review hearing for next week, as he discovered the prosecutor got a judge to seal the document police presented to secure the search warrant.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello told the judge the state would oppose any request for unsealing. He said the office policy is to withhold that information in order to protect confidential informants, and once that information becomes known by the defense, any possible plea deals are taken off the table.

Judge Hunt agreed they could set a hearing for next Thursday afternoon to take up the matter.

Hunt also scheduled their trials for the week of May 11.
•••

For background, read “Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup – POLICE: VADER HEROIN DEALING COUPLE BUSTED” from Saturday March 7, 2015, here

Centralia drug case leads to lengthy prison term

Thursday, March 12th, 2015
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Sebastian Haller waits as his lawyer shuffles through documents after his sentencing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A drug case from last spring in which Centralia police arrested two brothers and their mother at their home on the 1000 block of Yakima Street is over.

Prosecutors dropped charges against 59-year-old Kathy Challender.

Arthur T. Haller-Heilman, 32, took a deal and got 20 months, and should be getting out around September.

Sebastian Haller, 36, went to trial and lost.

He was sentenced yesterday to 16 years in prison.

Defense attorney Sam Groberg appealed to the judge for less time.

“He’s looking at a minimum of seven years, which is a real long time,” Groberg said. “Even though he does have a history, he’s still a relatively young man.”

Lewis County Prosecutor Paul Masiello noted Haller had an offender score of 19 – from previous convictions – meaning he was subject to a longer term.

“I’m sure the court recalls Mr. Haller picked up these charges while waiting for the last case,” Masiello said.

A jury in Lewis County Superior Court two weeks ago found Haller guilty of two counts of delivery of heroin, one count of possession with intent to deliver heroin, possession of methamphetamine, possession of methadone, possession of oxycodone and three counts of witness tampering.

Centralia police raided the home the morning of May 8, finding only small amounts of narcotics. Centralia’s then Anti-Crime Team Sgt. Jim Shannon said their primary suspect was in the bathroom flushing the toilet.

The action was part of an undertaking that began two months earlier targeting street-level and mid-level heroin suppliers because of the increase in the number of heroin and opiate related deaths over the previous year in Lewis and southern Thurston counties, according to police.

The city reviewed the Yakima Street case to determine if the property might be subject to seizure and forfeiture as a drug nuisance, according to Shannon.

Masiello and Groberg said yesterday that Haller’s grandparents owned the house, and they understood the couple was cooperating with the city in a deal to sell the property and share the proceeds with the city.

Haller expressed his surprise when Judge Lawler handed down the sentence.

“For getting high?” he blurted out. “You’re talking about 16 years for getting high?”

Lawler said no, it was more than that, and repeated the numerous offenses the jury found him guilty of.

The two lawyers disagreed about how the so-called school zone enhancement should apply. Groberg said he understood two mandatory years consecutive to the rest of the sentence.

Masiello said even though the issue is being questioned on appeals, his office felt the law provided for applying three of the enhancements, separately, meaning an extra six years.

Lawler sided with Masiello.

The judge imposed numerous legal financial obligations, and ordered Haller to pay them at a rate of $25 each month.
•••

For background, read “Drug officer: Another raid, but battling heroin deaths will take more than police” from Friday May 9, 2014, here

Feds decline to prosecute former Lewis County Jail sergeant

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The U.S. Department of Justice looked into the events that led to the firing of a Lewis County Jail guard last summer involving mistreatment of an inmate and has concluded it will not file any federal criminal charges.

Trevor S. Smith, a 10-year-veteran of the  Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, was terminated last June for abusing his authority and allowing inmates to suffer.

The Chehalis resident was subsequently arrested for computer trespass, for allegedly snooping into secure jail computer records. Earlier this year, Smith was given a 90-day sentence of electronic home monitoring, after a plea deal in which local prosecutors agreed not to file any charges of assault that could have occurred during his time as a corrections officer.

However, before Sheriff Steve Mansfield left office, he had asked the FBI to investigate Smith for inmate civil rights violations, according to Jail Chief Kevin Hanson.

On Friday, the sheriff’s office received a letter from the Department of Justice, informing them their investigation of the complaint was finished.

“After careful consideration, we concluded that the evidence does not establish a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal civil rights statutes,” Section Chief Robert J. Moossy Jr., of the criminal section of DOJs Civil Rights Division, wrote.

New Undersheriff Wes Rethwill informed the Lewis County Board of Commissioners yesterday of the news.

“There’s still more to come, fallout from that,” Rethwill told the board. “But that’s been taken off the table.”

Smith was disciplined in 2013 for directing that an inmate be kept in a restraint chair for approximately twelve hours without food, water or restroom breaks. Then on Jan. 25 of last year, an inmate with mental health issues was not offered any kind of relief – such as water or decontamination – for more than five hours after the discharge of pepper spray into his closed cell. Sheriff Mansfield described both inmates as assaultive.

Rethwill didn’t elaborate to commissioners about what other fallout he expects, but Hanson said a lawyer representing the pepper sprayed inmate has made a request for the documents in the case.

And former Undersheriff-Chief of Staff Steven Walton who handled Smith’s termination, indicated in a document during those proceedings that Smith put the sheriff’s office and the county in “an indefensible position in a future litigation process.”

Moossy in his letter noted the DOJ decision to close the matter should not be seen as a vindication of Smith’s actions.

The Criminal Section of the DOJ Civil Rights Division enforces federal criminal civil rights laws, such as the willful abuse of authority by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of liberties and rights defined in the United States Constitution or federal law.

They evaluate allegations of civil rights violations to determine whether the evidence and circumstances of the case warrant a federal criminal prosecution.

Hanson said in his 24 years with the jail, they have never asked the FBI to investigate an employee’s treatment of inmates.

Moossy named the inmate from the January 2014 incident as Wellington Waggener.

Waggener, then 24, was arrested by Centralia police on Jan. 18, 2014, after he was told not to come back but returned to a business on the 300 block of North Tower Avenue and then allegedly fought with officers who attempted to detain him.

Less than a month earlier, he was detained by multiple officers in the middle of Interstate 5 in Chehalis, following a call from Green Hill School giving police a heads up about an employee acting strangely and being made to leave the juvenile detention facility.
•••

For background, read “Former jail sergeant admits three felonies, gets immunity regarding inmate treatment” from Wednesday January 28, 2015, here

Efforts underway to keep mentally ill out of Lewis County Jail

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – The budding mental health court program underway in Lewis County has six or seven individuals participating and Lewis County Jail Chief Kevin Hanson highlighted one of their successes this evening.

“This guy has been in the jail 30 times in the last 10 years, and he’s a real handful,” Hanson said. “He does things that are frankly disgusting.”

But he’s been out for a year, and a productive member of society, Hanson said.

Hanson was sharing with Centralia city council members information about an ongoing project he says is currently underway in the local criminal justice system without any additional funding.

Working with him are the prosecutor’s office and the judges. Hanson has three full time mental health workers at his jail as well.

The idea, according to Hanson, is aimed at keeping more people who have serious mental health issues out of the jail.

He cited some statistics.

Forty-three percent of the inmate population has severe mental health issues, he said.

Their stay at the jail is almost three times the length of the time spent there by the non-mentally ill, he said.

And it costs $90 a day when they are locked up.

The way it’s been working is once a person is selected for participation, they plead guilty to whatever offense put them in jail, and then the judge suspends their sentence, but puts in place numerous conditions. Such as, they must take their medications, stay off drugs, stay off alcohol and maintain regular contact with their care provider, he said.

One of his mental health workers at the jail works out in the field monitoring their progress, like a case manager, according to Hanson.

The participant whose name he did not share has fallen off the wagon, so to speak, but he self-reported his infraction, according to Hanson. He admitted to smoking marijuana, and so the prosecutor un-suspended some of his jail time, Hanson said.

County employees currently involved call this Mental Health Alternative Programs. But some would like to see it transformed into a full-fledged mental health court.

“Where are we going?” Hanson said to the city council. “I’m sure you’ve heard of therapeutic courts. That’s where we’re headed.”

It was about four years ago when officials approved a one-tenth of one cent local sales tax to fund drug court and other related programs.

The proceeds can only be spent on what are called therapeutic courts – such as drug court and mental health court – and certain other measures to reduce substance abuse and help keep mentally ill individuals stable.

Hanson and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer last week gave a presentation to the board that oversees how those funds are spent.

Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund, who brought Hanson to Centralia City Hall this evening, called it “kind of economic development.”

“So people can stay in their homes, and keep their jobs,” Fund said.

Winlock house fire victims positively ID’d

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
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Tabitha and Bethany Cuvreau

Updated at 12:02 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The investigation into the cause of the fire that killed a mother and two little girls in Winlock continues but authorities now have some answers.

The three died from smoke inhalation, according to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office.

Coroner Warren McLeod said autopsies were completed between Friday and yesterday on the deceased.

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Samantha Koehler

They are Samantha Koehler, 31, and her two daughters Bethany Cuvreau, 4, and Tabitha Cuvreau, 2.

McLeod said his work didn’t come up with an answer as to why the trio didn’t get out of the burning home, while the father and two boys were able to escape.

“That would call for speculation on my part,” McLeod said.

However, he said, the impact of smoke in a person’s system can overcome someone quite quickly and cause unconsciousness.

The three will be released today, so they can be laid to rest, according to McLeod.

The early morning blaze on Thursday nearly consumed the two-story home on the 800 block of Northeast First Street. According to county records and authorities it was built in 1904 and served by natural gas.

The family had been sleeping and when the father and two boys headed out the door, the mother and girls were right behind him, but for whatever reason didn’t get out, according to Police Chief Terry Williams.

Williams today said he doesn’t know when the investigation into the cause of the fire will be finished.

“There’s stuff that has to be sent off to be analyzed,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, many members of the community have been working to raise money and collect donations for the survivors.

The St. Helens Tap House in Toledo is holding a benefit charity ride on March 21, beginning at their establishment on Ramsey Way with multiple stops during a 75-mile loop through the county, to include door prizes and drawings.

The entry fee is $25 per person with all proceeds going to the fire victims, according to Toledo resident Brandie Devine.

For more info or to donate to the prize packages, the contacts are: Brandie Devine at 360-880-7331, Callie Fraser at 850-803-9617 or or Terry Butler 360-269-0041.
•••

For background, read “Deadly Winlock fire: Investigation, grieving, continue” from Friday February 27, 2015, here

 

Possible ID could come this week of remains found off Kresky Ave.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Authorities are a little bit closer to possibly discovering the identity of the female whose skeletal remains were found last week on a wooded hillside in Chehalis.

If it is who they think it might be, it’s not someone who has been reported missing, according to police and the coroner.

The human remains were found by a surveyor about a quarter mile east of the 2200 block of Northeast Kresky Avenue.

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Northeast Kresky Avenue

Chehalis Police Department detective Sgt. Gary Wilson estimated she had  been dead around a year, based partly on items they found close by. Receipts and other papers in a bag – like a handbag – near her had a name on them, according to Wilson.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod’s office has the ability to send an inquiry fax out to all dentists in Lewis County, and he got a response, he said this morning.

Both the remains and what he believes to be her dental records are being transported today to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, where the forensic anthropologist can compare the two, McLeod said.

He could get an answer as to whether they match within days, he said.

Finding a cause of death is something that will take much longer, if they even can figure it out, according to McLeod.

Dr. Kathleen Taylor, the forensic anthropologist, can examine bones and sometimes find some answers, for example she might find trauma to a skull or knife of bullet marks to ribs, McLeod said.

“But there’s only so much we can do scientifically,” McLeod said.

His office is still trying to track down possible family of the female whose name they have, he said.

Sgt. Wilson said he had nothing new to release about the case, and is reluctant to share many details.

“It’s difficult, because you have family out there, people who do have missing persons, and I don’t want them to get false hopes,” he said. “At the same time, I want to protect the family of who it is.”

Wilson said one of his detectives has been conducting interviews, but his office is in somewhat of a holding pattern, waiting for the coroner to make a positive identification.

Everything they collected at the scene last Tuesday, they turned over to the coroner, he said.

There were no indications of foul play at the scene, but there were also no indications at all there to suggest how she died, Wilson said this morning.

The area is above a swath of property where some earthmoving and cleanup is underway, a hike through woods and steep terrain.

Wilson said he could only speculate why the female would have been in that spot.
•••

For background, read “Human remains recovered off Kresky Avenue hillside” from Tuesday February 24, 2015, here