By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Police are investigating a man who allegedly falsely claimed he was a relative of a Chehalis resident who died in January, and left all of his property to him.
Chehalis police were contacted by Walter Pettit’s family last week, who went to Pettit’s house near Chehalis Middle School and found it had been cleaned out and someone was remodeling it, Chehalis Deputy Police Chief Randy Kaut said.
A detective interviewed 46-year-old Michael J. Dobbs yesterday and subsequently arrested him on suspicion of theft and forgery. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail.
Court papers state Dobbs transferred the decedent’s car into his own name, by claiming to be the decedent’s son, and the detective learned from the funeral home they released the cremated remains to Dobbs’ on Dobbs’ representation he was the nephew.
Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg however, charged Dobbs today only with possession of methamphetamine.
The detective found a baggie of suspected meth in Dobbs’ pocket when he was searched following his arrest, according to Eisenberg. He said it wasn’t his, court papers state.
Eisenberg said Dobbs produced a will from 2011 which made Dobbs personal representative and sole heir of the estate.
“The presence of the will makes it unclear if Dobbs’ behavior regarding the decedent’s estate was lawful,” Eisenberg wrote in court documents, explaining why he filed only the drug charge at this time.
Kaut said this afternoon detectives are continuing to investigate. He didn’t yet know how the two men were acquainted or what Pettit died from, only that the 55-year-old was transferred to a hospital in Thurston County where he passed away.
Dobbs appeared before a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court and was released on a $10,000 signature bond.
Defense attorney Bob Schroeter said Dobbs is not employed, but is a full time parent of three children in Centralia.
Kaut said police don’t yet know what happened to Pettit’s belongings. Eisenberg stated in court documents Dobbs offered several improbable stories about how they’d been stolen, returned and then stolen again.
The will, ostensibly signed by Pettit and witnessed by two individuals, looks valid, Eisenberg said this afternoon. But detectives are looking into that issue further, he said.
Court papers state Dobbs has prior convictions in California, including receiving stolen property in 1999 and 2001.