Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Centralia man questioned about dead man’s vehicle, home, belongings

Friday, September 19th, 2014

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.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Updated at 9:13 p.m.


• An investigation by Centralia Police Department’s special Anti-Crime Team led to a search warrant yesterday at the 1200 block of North Fork Road south of Chehalis and the arrest of two individuals. Officer Patty Finch said police found three grams of suspected heroin at a residence there and arrested Brandon M. Cruzan, 24, of Chehalis, for possession of heroin with intent to deliver. Arrested at the same time was Riley R. Jones, 27, of Chehalis, for delivery of methamphetamine, possession of meth with intent to deliver and possession of heroin, Finch said. They were both booked into the Lewis County Jail.


• Chehalis police were called just before 8 o’clock yesterday morning by a resident of the 1400 block of Southwest Kelly Avenue who said his neighbor just called because him to say someone was in his house. The neighbor knocked on the door and noticed someone leaving out the back and hop into a car, according to the Chehalis Police Department. “Nothing ended up being taken,” department spokesperson Linda Bailey said. The investigation is ongoing, Bailey said.


• A 33-year-old Centralia man was arrested for driving under the influence last night after his vehicle allegedly struck the rear tail light of a car parked on the 1300 block of Central Boulevard in Centralia. Officers responding about 8:20 p.m. reportedly caught up with Nicholas A. Rickart on Roswell Road and then booked him into the Lewis County Jail for DUI as well as hit and run, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 25-year-old Vader man ended up with a possibly broken collarbone when the vehicle in which he was a passenger swerved for a deer, went into a slide and rolled several times yesterday morning near Winlock. He was cited for not wearing a seatbelt, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responding to the approximately 5:30 a.m. wreck on the 1500 block of Winlock-Vader Road learned the 34-year-old driver, also from Vader, was headed northbound when the deer ran into the road, according to the sheriff’s office. Responders extricated the patients from the 1990 Ford Bronco and they were taken to the emergency room at Providence Centralia Hospital, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. The driver was cited for not having insurance. He had a cut on the top of his head, Brown said.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, misdemeanor assault, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, disputes, disorderly person, suspicious person collision on city street … and more.

Dry vegetation keeps fire crews hopping

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Firefighters with DNR could see a smoke column from a Toledo fire on Herriford Road all the way in Castle Rock and responded to assist. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 2.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Firefighters were called about 4:30 a.m. today when flames were seen on a long residential driveway in Adna.

They were into the trees and crawling up some stumps, burning an area of about 100 feet by 50 feet, according to Lewis County Fire District 6.

The fire on the 600 block of Brockway Road is under investigation by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Firefighter Mike Goodwillie said.

Personnel from Lewis County Fire District 5 assisted, he said.

Goodwillie said there were a couple of minor injuries from falls, from working to extinguish the fire on the steep bank in the dark.

Meanwhile, a fire yesterday afternoon that burned as many as four acres of a field of grain south of Toledo appeared to have ignited from farm equipment working on the property at the time.

Crews from Toledo, Winlock, and Vader as well as two brush units with the state Department of Natural Resources which saw the smoke column from Castle Rock encountered a wind-driven fire but brought it under control within a half hour after their arrival, according to Lewis County Fire District 2.

It was reported about 4:30 p.m. at the 100 block of Herriford Road, according to Chief Grant Wiltbank.

And DNR reported this morning the large forest fire five miles southwest of Pe Ell is covering 117 acres but is 30 percent contained.

The blaze is burning in recently harvested timber, slash and mature timber on property owned by Rayonier. More than 200 individuals have been battling it.

The plan for today was to build and complete containment lines, according to DNR spokesperson Nick Cronquist.

The Fork Peak fire reported on Thursday evening is in Pacific County, at the Lewis County line. Its cause remains under investigation, according to Cronquist.

“The 2014 fire season is not over,” Cronquist stated in a morning memo. “With temperatures remaining high and no significant weather in the forecast, be mindful of areas around your home with potential of fire risk.”

In the Salkum area, the fire chief has this message for the public today: “The burn ban is still on,” Lewis County Fire District 8 Chief Duran McDaniel said.

McDaniel said he and other fire chiefs continue to get late night calls for bon fires not in approved receptacles.


For background, see ” ‘Really big’ wildfire spreading southwest of Pe Ell” from Friday Sept. 12, 2014 at 9:15 p.m., here


The Fork Peak fire in eastern Pacific County is 30 percent contained this morning. / Courtesy photo by Mary Huels, DNR


A helicopter drops water on the Fork Peak Fire southwest of Pe Ell. / Courtesy photo by Mary Huels, DNR

Five hurt, one dead after multiple motorcycle wreck near Pe Ell

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A motorcycle accident on state Route 6 near Pe Ell yesterday killed one and injured five other motorcyclists, shutting the roadway for hours.

Troopers called just after 2 p.m. to the scene four miles west of town found a group of about 20 motorcyclists had begun their ride in Cowlitz County, ridden a loop on Highway 101 and were heading back toward Chehalis when it happened.

Members of two fire departments and medics with AMR responded to treat the patients, one of which was airlifted from the school, according to Lewis County Fire District 11 Chief Michael Krafczyk.

According to the Washington State Patrol, it began when Shawn M. Jessee, 41, of Longview, failed to negotiate a left-hand curve, lost control of his Honda VTX180 on the gravel shoulder and hit the guardrail. He and his passenger Teresa F. Jessee, 47, of Longview, were both ejected but his bike headed back into the eastbound lane where it was struck by another motorcyclist.

That rider, Ronald L. Carr, 56, of Castle Rock, was ejected.

A third motorcyclist, Cheryl F. Palm, 50, also of Castle Rock, lost control, landed on the roadway and was hit by a fourth bike, according to the state patrol.

Krafczyk said firefighters started CPR on Teresa F. Jessee, but arriving medics pronounced her dead at the scene.

Responders from Lewis County Fire District 16 set up a landing zone at the Pe Ell school, and Palm was flown to Oregon Health and Sciences University Hospital, according to responders.

All were wearing helmets, Trooper Terry Brunstad said.

The state Department of Transportation shut down the highway, for about five hours while troopers conducted their investigation, Brunstad said. There was nowhere to create a detour, he said.

“The road was just littered with bikes and parts,” Brunstad said.

A spokesperson for Providence Centralia Hospital said this morning that Shawn M. Jessee was treated and has been released. Carr was treated and transferred to an unspecified hospital, spokesperson Chris Thomas said.

The man and woman from Clatskanie traveling on the fourth motorcycle were injured but not hospitalized, and their Harley Davidson was able to be driven from the scene, according to the state patrol.

“Really big” wildfire spreading southwest of Pe Ell

Friday, September 12th, 2014

A fixed-wing plane flies over the wildfire at the Pacific-Lewis county line. / Courtesy photo by Mary Huels, DNR

Updated at 9:33 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A forest fire burning southwest of Pe Ell has drawn some 200 individuals who have set up camp for the night at the Falls Creek Retreat Center about 10 miles west of town in Pacific County.

The fire was reported at 5:15 p.m. yesterday and is on private timberland owned by Rayonier.

“Right now it’s all industrial timberland, not a large threat to any homes or personal property,” Nick Cronquist, a spokesperson for the state Department of Natural Resources said this evening.

Late this afternoon, flames had run over some 93 acres, according to Cronquist. It doubled in size overnight.

“It’s really big for this neck of the woods,” he said. “It boils down to the weather we’re having.”

Seven fire engines, eight water tenders and 13 hand crews battled the blaze today, along with three helicopters, plus a fixed wing plane which is supervising all the aircraft, he said. It’s zero percent contained.

The firefighters come from local area fire districts, DNR and even some from the National Forest Service, he said.

A tanker which would fill its belly with water from Willapa Bay was ordered, but Cronquist said he didn’t know if it got any runs in before the sun went down.

The smoke and glow are within eye site of the town of Pe Ell, at the far west end of Lewis County, he said.

A crew from the Larch Correctional Facility brought a kitchen in, he said.

The National Weather Service began warning earlier this week that an expected combination of low humidity and east winds would cause vegetation to dry out, making conditions ripe for wild fires.

Lewis County Fire District 11 Chief Michael Krafczyk was among those who gathered this morning at the VFW Hall in Pe Ell to strategize for the day. District 11 provided water support today.

The fire is under the command of DNR’s Pacific Cascade Region.

Nobody has been injured, Cronquist said, but winds yesterday evening caused them to pull crews off the fire.

No night operations were planned, but two engines will monitor the fire, he said.

A morning briefing is planned for 6 a.m., and they’ll get back at it, he said.


CORRECTION: This news story has been updated to correctly reflect the number of hand crews working the fire today.


Local fire departments join crews from DNR battling wildfire at the Pacific-Lewis county line. / Courtesy photo by Mary Huels, DNR


Courtesy image Department of Natural Resources

Large forest fire burning beyond Pe Ell

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Facing west from north of Pe Ell on the 1500 Line last night. / Courtesy photo by Nate Holmes

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Fire personnel are gathered at the VFW Hall in Pe Ell making plans to attack a wildfire on private timberland.

“We’re working on setting up facilities and things for about 200 people coming this way,”  Lewis County Fire District 11 Chief Michael Krafczyk said this morning.

Krafczyk and other local firefighters are assisting the state Department of Natural Resources, which is in charge of the fire.

Krafczyk said he learned at a 7 a.m. briefing the fire doubled in size from last night, and is burning an estimated 50 to 60 acres.

Exactly where it is, he couldn’t say this morning, but the access road is between Pe Ell and the Swiss Park in Francis to the west, he said. And then about an hour’s drive beyond paved roads, he said.

A DNR spokesperson said the fire is burning on a logging site, and two helicopters have been summoned.

“It’s not threatening (Pe Ell) or anything like that,” Krafczyk said. “Just forest land, right now.”

NTSB Report: Small plane bounced on ground, rocked in the air before fiery Chehalis crash

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The short flight of the single-engine plane that crashed and burned in Chehalis was rocky from the start, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

For an unexplained reason, the pilot began his take off on the grass, well back from the approach end of the runway and bounced on the uneven terrain as its speed increased, according to the recently released preliminary report  from the NTSB.


Courtesy photo by Bill Klumbs

“The witness further reported that the airplane subsequently made it onto the runway’s surface and became airborne, but the initial climb was not stabilized; the airplane’s wings were rocking from side to side, and it’s nose was pitching up and down,” the report states.

Within moments, the three-quarter-scale replica of a popular WWII fighter plane, was wrecked and burning in a fenced lot across Interstate 5 from the Chehalis-Centralia Airport; it’s only occupant dead. Firefighters responding the evening of Aug. 26 to the location along Maryland Avenue found the nearly all-wood aircraft virtually consumed.

The pilot Gregory G. Graham, 66, of Centralia, had recently purchased the so-called kit plane, trailered it in and reassembled it, according to authorities.

Peter Knudson, a spokesperson for the NTSB, said he didn’t know if that was its first flight after being put back together.

The NTSB’s report simply describes the facts and circumstances of the incident, it doesn’t contain any analysis or point to a cause, Knudson said today. The average length of an investigation is 12 months.

“There’s a lot of work yet to be done,” Knudson said.

Chehalis-Centralia Airport Manager Allyn Roe described the plane as a P5151 Mustang. The NTSB labels it a Thomas C. Sikes Loehle 5151 Mustang.

The aircraft is classified by the NTSB an experimental plane, meaning it was built by an individual and not a factory.

The day after the incident, Roe told of an out-of-the-area corporate jet pilot, who watched the small plane take off to the north and never really going any higher than about 100 feet.

The investigator with the NTSB cites a professional pilot who observed the take off from the airport’s south perimeter road, from behind the plane. The un-named witness stated the plane made a right turn of about 180 degrees as it continued its wobbling climb.

“The airplane the(n) went into a right bank and steep nose down attitude from an altitude of about 500 feet above ground level prior to impacting terrain to the east of his location,” the report states.

Its landing spot, at the Chehalis Collision Center next to the freeway and near a residential neighborhood, was a little more than two football field lengths from where its take off run began, according to the report.

Nobody on the ground was injured, but at least two parked trucks in the lot were damaged.

For background, read “Professional pilot watched small plane struggle to climb before deadly Chehalis crash” from Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014, here

Suspicious: Barn burns to the ground in Mossyrock

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Mossyrock firefighters were called last night to a structure fire just west of town, the third fire in the area in three weeks.

They found a large 1920s-era barn fully engulfed in flames, its roof already collapsed, Lewis County Fire District 3 Chief Doug Fosburg said. Investigators are looking into the cause, he said.

The department was toned out at 10:20 p.m. to the hayfield just south of the intersection at Mossyrock Road West and Aldrich Road, he said.

“We had two tenders from District 8 that supported us,” he said. “We were there until about 2:30 this morning.”

Nobody was injured. The metal-roofed barn contained old hay and various pieces of haying equipment. There also was an old John Deere combine inside, he said.

“The hay is still burning, we’re working on getting that out now,” Fosburg said just before noon.

The owner of the property lives elsewhere, he said.

The Department of Natural Resources responded today, because of two recent small fires that occurred in the tree-line on the north side of the property, he said.

It’s suspicious and the county fire investigator is in touch with the sheriff’s office, he said.

Salkum ambulance hits elk on Interstate 5

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

The ambulance belonging to Lewis County Fire District 8 is damaged from an elk on the freeway. / Courtesy photo by Spring Hughes-Witham

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Two members of the Salkum fire department and the patient in the back of their ambulance were hospitalized after colliding with an elk on Interstate 5 south of Chehalis overnight.

It happened as they were northbound approaching the milepost 72 interchange for Napavine, according to Lewis County Fire District 8.

“They were transporting a patient to Providence, had an elk walk out in front of them, it was about five points,” Fire Chief Duran McDaniel said.

McDaniel said the patient was uninjured from the incident and was transferred to an ambulance with Lewis County District 5 and taken on to the hospital.

Neither the driver nor the firefighter-EMT who was in the back had life threatening injuries, according to McDaniel. They were transported to Providence Centralia Hospital as well, he said.

He said he wasn’t yet sure if the ambulance was repairable or would be totaled.

“The passenger compartment was intact but the front end was pushed in,” he said.

McDaniel said he was just preparing to head home after responding to assist with the call in Ethel for the fall victim and saw a message on his cell phone from his crew, about 2:20 a.m.: “We hit an elk, everybody appears to be okay,” was the message, he said,

The ambulance was taken to nearby Braun Northwest, the place where it was built in 2008, he said. District 8 has two other ambulances, he said.

Portland resident hurt while base jumping south of Randle

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Rescuers tend to injured base jumper below Tower Rock outside of Randle. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 14

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 38-year-old Portland man was seriously injured when his parachute didn’t fully deploy as he base jumped from a 3,300 foot tall rock in the forest miles south of Randle yesterday.

A witness saw the man hit the rock wall several times on the way down before disappearing into the timber, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The Randle Fire Department was called about 11:45 a.m., hiked the steep terrain and reached the patent by 2 p.m., according to Fire Chief Jeff Jaques.

His two friends had hiked to the base of the mountain where they found him bleeding, with multiple fractures to his lower legs, the sheriff’s office reports. One had hiked out to call 911.

Jaques reports the patient was conscious.

A U.S. Navy helicopter from Whidbey Island responded to hoist the jumper, according to the sheriff’s office.

He was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Jaques reports his injuries were serious. Sheriff’s Office Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown reports he was critical.

Tower Rock is located in the Cispus Valley near the Cispus Environmental Center.

The rescue effort included members of Lewis County Fire District 14, Lewis County Search and Rescue, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Airlift Northwest personnel and two volunteers from the CIspus Learning Center.

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Tower Rock south of Randle. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Witness against local pain pill dealer sentenced to time served

Sunday, September 7th, 2014


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Napavine woman accused of being now-convicted drug dealer Forrest Amos’s “right hand woman” has settled her case with prosecutors and been ordered to get an evaluation and treatment for substance abuse.

Jennifer Lantau, now, 30, was charged in May of last year with dealing in Oxycodone, and became an informant for police, according to court documents. She’s the individual prosecutors contended assisted Amos to continue his drug trafficking while he was behind bars.

“She was, at his request and on her own behalf to fund her prescription pill addiction,” Lewis County prosecutors wrote in charging documents.

Lantau was charged with three counts of delivery of Oxycodone occurring in the spring of 2013, one count of attempted possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, as well as possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and straight possession of marijuana and originally held on $100,000 bail.

However, by last October, Lantau agreed to become a “cooperating witness” against her boyfriend.

Amos was sentenced last month to 12 years behind bars for a multitude of offenses based on a lengthy investigation by Centralia police. Law enforcement estimated that in 2011 when he was aggressively dealing Oxycodone, that he was the main supplier of the synthetic opiate within Lewis County, possessing and dealing thousands of pills a month.

Lantau didn’t have to testify against Amos, as instead of a trial, he entered into a plea agreement. He was sentenced on Aug. 20.

Lantau appeared in Lewis County Superior Court last week to be sentenced for for lesser charges, just two counts of possession of Oxycodone, and one count of felony possession of marijuana. She was given 36 days in jail for each and given credit for the time already served, according to court documents.

She was free to leave after Wednesday’s hearing, but will remain under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections for 12 months, according to Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.

“The fact that we had her as a cooperating witness is part of what helped us settle with Forrest Amos,” Meyer said.

For background, read “News brief: Local oxycodone dealer goes back to prison” from Thursday Aug. 21, 2014, here

Ricky Riffe makes Alford plea in 1980s child sex abuse case

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Ricky A. Riffe, in red, waits as his lawyer John Crowley and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer finish up paperwork during hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The former Mossyrock man who is imprisoned for more than a century in a long unsolved Lewis County double murder struck a plea deal in a second old case that was revived while he awaited trial last year.

Ricky A. Riffe was convicted last autumn in the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and shotgun deaths of an elderly Ethel couple, Ed and Minnie Maurin. Just months after he was brought from his home in Alaska, prosecutors filed charges Riffe had sexually abused his 9-year-old step-daughter in the mid-1980s.

Had he lost in the trial that was to begin next week in Lewis County Superior Court, he would have faced a mandatory minimum of 20 years for the alleged statutory rape and indecent liberties, according to his lawyer.

Last week, defense attorney John Crowley said, he put together a proposal to help both sides get what they wanted in the case, and then called Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer .

Prosecutors dropped the rape charge and the now-55-year-old made an Alford plea yesterday, not admitting any guilt. The court hearing was very short.

“He feels very strongly he would not get a fair trial,” Crowley said yesterday outside the courtroom. “He had no hope of a fair trial, period.”

His client believes he will win his appeal in the Maurin case, and then will have the opportunity to return to court for a re-sentencing in the sex case, where he would face a standard sentencing range of just 12 to 14 months, because he would have fewer criminal history “points”, his lawyer said.

Meyer was pleased with the arrangement as well, noting it wouldn’t have been an easy case to take to trial, relying on witness memories from events of 30 years ago.

“We look at this as a win, win,” Meyer said. “Because it gives finality to the case.”

The victim was in agreement with the deal, he said.

A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled, as the parties have to wait for a pre-sentence review from the state Department of Corrections who will give their recommendation of how much time he should serve.

As part of the deal, Riffe gave up his right to appeal yesterday’s conviction. He also gave up his rights to seek any further reviews or appeals of his convictions in the Maurin case, beyond the appeal that is already underway, Meyer said.

He was convicted by a jury last Nov. 18, as charged, of two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery as well as one count of burglary. All were first-degree. The jury also found the crimes involved particularly vulnerable victims, deliberate cruelty and that the defendant showed an egregious lack of remorse. The judge gave him the longest sentence allowable under the law, 1,234 months.

Prosecutors persuaded the jury that he at the very least was an accomplice to their other longtime suspect who was deceased, his younger brother John Gregory Riffe.

Riffe is serving his sentence at Walla Walla State Penitentiary.

He maintains he’s innocent in both cases.

“He specifically said he didn’t do it,” Crowley said yesterday afternoon of the child sex crime.

Crowley said not only was it investigated back when the allegations were first made and the county prosecutor declined to file charges, but that Riffe willingly took a lie detector test and passed.

The Seattle-based defense attorney contended the sexual abuse charges were a ploy to smear his client, in a small community that was closely following the news of the coming double murder trial.

When Riffe is sentenced, he faces a standard sentencing range of 57 months to 75 months.

Fire sweeps through Toledo area home

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Smoke billows above the 700 block of Tucker Road, northeast of Toledo. / Courtesy photo by Julie Broussard

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Toledo area home went up in flames yesterday evening but a young couple and their dog escaped safely.

The fire appeared to have started inside the attached metal carport at the modular home on the 700 block of Tucker Road, according to Lewis County Fire District 2.

“They got out of the house, it very quickly got inside the house,” FIre Chief Grant Wiltbank said.

Five fire departments responded to the approximately 6:15 p.m. call about five miles northeast of town, according to Wiltbank.

The chief said he lives a couple miles away across the river and when the call came out, he looked that direction and spotted a column of black smoke already probably two hundred feet into the sky.

Arriving crews quickly contained the blaze but remained on the scene for nearly three hours extinguishing hot spots.

Wiltbank said the home and its contents are a total loss. One cat was unaccounted for and presumed lost in the fire, he said.

They thought the lost their dog, but it apparently made it out by itself, and turned up sitting in a field, he said.

The Red Cross responded to offer assistance. The fire’s cause is still under investigation.

FBI child porn investigation leads to Lewis County

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Joshua Q. Keele sits at the defense table during his bail hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A former Salkum man has been arrested and charged with possession of child pornography following a lengthy investigation that started with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attempts to identify the subjects in a homemade video they intercepted in 2012.

The male wearing a maroon shirt with a shark logo in the video was identified as 38-year-old Joshua Q. Keele, by Keele’s ex-wife; and the male toddler has been identified by a former babysitter and roommate as Keele’s son, according to charging documents.

Since April, when a Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective received information from the FBI that Keele was suspected of creating and disseminating child pornography, the detective has been collecting computers and other electronic devices and accessories from Keele’s household, while an FBI agent seized his mobile phone, according to the documents.

On Tuesday, detective Duke Adkisson received confirmation at least one of the images, of a young girl, was identified by law enforcement as child pornography. Other confiscated images are still under analysis.

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FBI: Wanted, Seeking information, endangered child alert program

On Thursday, the detective contacted Keele near his current home in Port Hadlock and arrested him for first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The charge, filed today in Lewis County Superior Court doesn’t mention any federal charges and does not include any charge of creating or distributing child porn.

Keele was brought before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon where he was ordered held on $75,000 bail.

In asking for the high bail, Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher pointed out Keele has previous felony convictions, including third-degree child molestation from 1998.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter asked for much lower bail, noting to the judge no minor children reside with Keele and that he is currently undergoing outpatient treatment in Port Townsend.

The seven-page affidavit of probable cause includes statements from individuals that allege Keele was obsessed with methamphetamine and previously made sex videotapes with women in his life. A Panasonic camcorder and an 8 mm tape were among the items seized.

His former girlfriend who is now his wife attended today’s brief hearing and is described as cooperating with the detective as he obtained evidence.

Judge James Lawler appointed Centralia attorney Don Blair to represent Keele.

His arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday.

Man who jumped into Lake Mayfield yesterday presumed drowned

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Updated at 1:09 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Deputies last night confirmed that a 51-year-old Winlock man never returned home after an outing at Lake Mayfield yesterday and he is presumed drowned.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office was among those who responded to an approximately 2:30 p.m. call that the man didn’t resurface after jumping with a friend from a bluff at Ike Kinswa State Park.

As deputies came to understand the incident had occurred around the noon hour, the search and rescue efforts began to wind down.

The friend, a 43-year-old man who lives in the Mossyrock area, said he went home and then called 911, though there was a significant time delay, Undersheriff Rob Snaza said.

His reason for waiting to call wasn’t clear at all, according to Snaza.

The Winlock man’s name has not been released.

Snaza said there are no plans to put a dive team in the water but they’ll talk today to decide how to proceed.

The lake is more than 100 feet deep in that area, he said.

“It’s hard to say when we’ll see something, because of the temperature of the water and how deep it is,” he said this morning.

Snaza said deputies came to learn the two men had been jumping from the Winston Creek side of the lake on the southern end earlier and decided to go to the cliff near the boat launch at Ike Kinswa, at the northwest corner of the lake. He said they had been drinking, Snaza said.

The Winlock man had never jumped from that spot, he said.

“The RP (reporting party) jumps in first, he’d done it there before, and he pops up and starts swimming to shore,” Snaza said. “Then he hears his buddy jump and doesn’t see his buddy pop up.”

He spent about an hour searching the lake bank for his friend and then went home, according to the sheriff’s office.

The cliff is described as 30 feet above the water.

Ike Kinswa is off state Route 122, which runs around the north side of the lake.

Ten firefighters from Salkum and Mossyrock responded to the afternoon call and scoured the banks for about an hour, according to Lewis County Fire District 8 Chief Duran McDaniel.

Both the sheriff’s office and the Mossyrock Fire Department launched their boats, with members of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office water rescue team responding as well.

Snaza said they finished their work on the water about 4:30 p.m., but deputies continued into the evening investigating and checking with the 51-year-old’s friends and family.

“We confirmed he was not at home,” Snaza said.

No formal search or recovery attempts are underway today, according to Snaza, but deputies, the state park ranger and the Mossyrock Fire Department will continue to check the area.

Deputies haven’t found anyone other than the Mossyrock man who witnessed the two jumping from the bluff, but concluded it happened between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., according to Snaza.

Snaza, a longtime sergeant with the sheriff’s office was promoted to undersheriff as of Monday, filling the vacancy created when Chief of Staff Steven Walton in July took a position as Lewis County budget administrator. Snaza is one of two individuals running for sheriff in November’s election.

Explosion, fire in Napavine injures one

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Updated at 9:15 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A man was badly burned in Napavine this morning from an explosion and fire inside a camper in the driveway of a house.

Firefighters called just before 6 a.m. to the 200 block of West Branch Street found a male patient about 60 years old with burns to approximately 40 percent of his body, according to Lewis County Fire District 5.

The fire itself stayed inside the camper and was quickly extinguished, according to Firefighter-EMT Maria Kennedy. Neither the trees above it or the house which was only about 10 feet away caught fire, she said. The truck it was mounted upon even seemed undamaged, she said.

Kennedy, who was on the first arriving engine, said she didn’t yet know the cause.

“We believe a possible gas leak, but we put all or resources into patient care and had District 6 put the fire out,” she said. “The scary thing about burns, is your skin is your most important organ.”

Kennedy said she didn’t know if the man was visiting or lived there, or what he was doing inside the camper when it happened, but said residents at the home had gotten him to a safe part of the yard and were caring for him where crews arrived.

He was treated at the scene by medics and then airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, she said.

CORRECTION: This news story has been updated to reflect the victim had been inside the camper when it caught fire.

Search launched for possible drowning victim at Lake Mayfield

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Sgt. Rob Snaza launches the sheriff’s office boat at the Ike Kinswa State Park on Lake Mayfield. / Courtesy photo by Marty Hayes

Updated at 6:47 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Authorities are looking for a possible drowning victim at Lake Mayfield, following a 911 call about 2:30 p.m. today.

Firefighters from Salkum and Mossyrock responded to the boat launch at Ike Kinswa State Park expecting to conduct a rescue, and scoured the banks for about an hour, according to Lewis County Fire District 8 Chief Duran McDaniel.

Both the sheriff’s office and the Mossyrock Fire Department launched their boats, with members of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office water rescue team responding as well.

A local man said he and another man had been diving off a nearby bluff, McDaniel said. There’s no approved swimming area or even any good swimming areas there, McDaniel said.

“One guy dived in and he thought the other guy dived in behind him,” McDaniel said.

But once deputies learned from the man the incident had occurred about 11:30 a.m., the fire departments were released from the scene, McDaniel said.

For whatever reason, the one man had already been home and come back to the lake, McDaniel said.

McDaniel said he it wasn’t clear at all what happened. The depth of the water beneath the bluff is about 100 feet, he said.

“We don’t know the status of the person,” McDaniel said. “It’s in the sheriff’s office hands.”

Sheriff’s Sgt. Rob Snaza said they finished their work on the water about 4:20 p.m., but the sheriff’s office is continuing to investigate this evening.

“I have no names or anything to give out,” Snaza said.


Professional pilot watched small plane struggle to climb before deadly Chehalis crash

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Other than a wheel assembly, only small pieces of debris could be seen spread over a small area in the parking lot of Chehalis Collision Center. / Courtesy photo by Bill Klumbs


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The small plane that crashed and burned last night near the airport in Chehalis was a three-quarter-sized replica of a popular WWII fighter plane, just put back together after being purchased and trailered in from out of the area.

The P5151 Mustang was piloted by a Centralia-Chehalis area resident who rented a hangar less than two weeks ago, Chehalis-Centralia Airport Manager Allyn Roe said.

“They spent the past week and a half getting the airplane reassembled,” Roe said. “I had not seen this plane fly, so I do not not know if it was its first flight or not.”

The pilot, a man whose identity has not been released, was killed when shortly after take off, the aircraft slammed into a fenced parking lot across Interstate 5 from the airport.

The crash into or just in front of two parked trucks included at least two explosions and a fire that burned very, very hot, according to neighbors and the fire chief.

It basically disintegrated, Chehalis Police Department Chief Glenn Schaffer said. “There was nothing left on the ground to indicate what type it was.”

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod confirmed the pilot was a Lewis County resident and said an autopsy will be conducted tomorrow. He’s been in contact with the family, McLeod said.

Police said the pilot’s family was at the airport before take off and also briefly at the crash scene.

The victim’s name will be released after he makes final positive identification through dental records or DNA, McLeod said.

The last fatal aircraft accident in the Chehalis-Centralia area was in 1991, according to Roe.

Roe said the short flight was witnessed by an out-of-the-area corporate jet pilot, who described the small plane as taking off to the north and really not going any higher than about 100 feet.

“Essentially it appeared that it was struggling to climb and gave an indication the motor was stalling,” Roe related.

It headed east instead of the normal traffic pattern of going west, Roe said, always in a right-hand turn.

“And then it rolled into what we describe as a knife edge,” he said. “One wing up, and one wing down.”

It was just before 7 p.m. when firefighters and police were dispatched to the fire just east of the freeway, along Maryland Avenue.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesperson, said the aircraft is classified an experimental plane, meaning it was built by an individual and not a factory. The NTSB is the lead agency, he said.

No one on the ground was injured as it landed inside the fenced area of Chehalis Collision Center, a repair business.

“So nobody else was hurt,” Chief Schaffer said. “Whether that was a conscious decision by the pilot, I don’t know.

“But we’re fortunate and thankful that was the case.”

Schaffer said the business had a security camera pointed toward the area where the plane landed. It’s not information that will help police with their part of the investigation though, he said.

“We let the NTSB know, and pointed them in that direction,” Schaffer said.

Peter Knudson, a spokesperson for the NTSB, said an investigator was at the scene gathering information.

The pilot was not in communication with air traffic control, but the investigator spoke to at least one witness who said after takeoff, the plane appeared to be unstable, sort of pitching and rolling, Knudson said.

A preliminary report describing the facts and circumstances ought to be available within about 10 business days, he said, but the average length of an investigation is 12 months.

Former Yard Bird manager pleads guilty as charged in theft from business

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The now-former manager at Yard Birds who admitted to police he pocketed thousands of dollars on the job saying he’d gone bankrupt and was behind in his medical bills pleaded guilty today and is working to pay the money back.


David E. Briscoe

David E. Briscoe, 58, was charged in April with first-degree theft. He appeared out-of-custody this morning in Lewis County Superior Court.

His lawyer David Brown said he is trying to sell some property, to make restitution.

The Centralia man was responsible for managing the business’s swap meet area, vendors, storage units and recreational vehicle spaces on the property at the 2100 block of North National Avenue in Chehalis, according to police.

In his written statement read aloud by Judge James Lawler, Briscoe said he collected rent payments and kept them, and that it went on for three years, resulting in significant financial harm to the victim.

The crime, with the major economic offense enhancement, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, or as little as zero to 90 days in jail given his lack of a criminal history, the judge said.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Mark McClain said he plans to ask for one year and a day, while defense attorney David Brown will be requesting something less.

He was not sentenced today, but a date was set for Sept. 25, when they would meet again and schedule the hearing.

They are giving it some time, to see if over the next couple of months Briscoe can get prosecutors to change their mind about their recommendation, McClain said.

McClain said he’s not sure how much money was stolen, but thinks it could be more than $40,000, and said Briscoe has indicated it was at least $20,000.


For background, read “Police: Yardbirds employee stole thousands of dollars from business” from Tuesday April 29, 2014, here

One dead in fiery plane crash in Chehalis

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

A small plane and parked vehicles burn in the parking lot of Chehalis Collision Center. / Courtesy photo by Martha Harjo

Updated at 9:34 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A small plane crashed this evening into a parking lot across Interstate 5 from the Chehalis Airport, killing its pilot.

It struck two pickup trucks which caught fire, sending a column of black smoke into the sky at the scene just southeast of the Chamber of Commerce Way freeway interchange.

“All I have now is witnesses saw it took off at the airport and saw it go up and come down,” Chehalis Police Department Sgt. Gwen Carrell said. “It was a kit plane.”

The pilot’s family was at the airport when it took off, she said.

Firefighters called about 6:48 p.m. to the 900 block of Maryland Avenue were still spraying water and foam onto the vehicles more than a half hour later.

“I was just getting ready to water my flowers and I heard a big crash, kaboom,” nearby neighbor Judy Martin said. “I saw all this huge black smoke and then heard another explosion.”

Chehalis Fire Department Chief Rob Gebhart said it was only the one victim involved.

The two trucks were fully engulfed in flames, he said.

“I started putting out the fire on the pickups and kept thinking I was going to come around the corner and see a plane, but I didn’t, because there wasn’t much left,” Gebhart said.

Chehalis police were taking initial photographs and interviewing witnesses from the scene, as well as some who had been driving on the freeway. A representative with the Federal Aviation Administration is expected in the morning.

Numerous individuals from the neighborhood gathered on the sidewalk and street trying to get a glimpse of the goings on behind the chain-link fenced lot where it happened, belonging to the relatively new auto body business Chehalis Collision Center.

Wendy Cline who has lived on the corner for most of her life with a view of the small airport said she could only recall one time when a plane crashed.

“It ran off the end of the runway, I think,” Cline said. “It’s sad, it’s so sad.”

Gebhart said it was perhaps 10 years ago, when a Navy plane that came to give rides to the public crashed as it landed, because its landing gear wouldn’t come down. But nobody died, he said.

He couldn’t recall a fatal crash at the small but busy airport during his 27 years with the fire department, he said.


Firefighters and aid arrive to the scene of small plane crash in Chehalis. / Courtesy photo by Amanda Moore


Firefighters continue to put water and foam on two trucks and what’s left of a small airplane in the parking lot of Chehalis Collision Center. 

Police pursuit of Tumwater robbery suspect ends on freeway in Centralia

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Updated at 3:25 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A high speed chase that ended on Interstate 5 in Centralia this morning began near Tumwater when a stranger at a woman’s doorstep demanded her car keys and money.

She had just opened her door to go to work and turned to get her purse when a man holding a small board over his head robbed her, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Lt. Cliff Ziesemer said deputies called around 8:30 a.m. to the residence on the 4500 block of Black Lake Belmore Road Southwest learned that he grabbed the money and the 51-year-old woman threw the keys to her 2013 Subaru Forester out the door.

A neighbor hearing her calls for help briefly held the man at gunpoint but he fled, running down a fence and nearly hitting three people, Ziesemer said.

When the stranger got into the woman’s car, her dog jumped in as well, according to Ziesemer.

A nearby deputy gave chase and speeds reached as much as 125 mph down Interstate 5, according to the sheriff’s office.

An attempt to tap the fleeing car to spin it out of control failed to stop him, as did spike strips that flattened the two front tires near Grand Mound, according to Ziesemer.

“He continued about 100 mph on two flat tires,” Ziesemer said.

The Subaru rear-ended a sport utility vehicle just north of Centralia and finally the deputy used his patrol vehicle to pin the Subaru against the concrete barrier, according to authorities.

The driver, a 33-year-old Portland area man, was taken into custody, he said.

Ziesemer said he didn’t know exactly why the man did what he did.

Shawn B. Ollision was arrested and booked into the Thurston County Jail for eluding, robbery and other offenses including three counts of first-degree assault.

The 55-year-old Olympia woman whose Honda Pilot was struck on the freeway was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital as a precautionary measure, the Washington State Patrol reports. Both vehicles sustained what was described as reportable damage.

The Tumwater woman and her dog are doing okay, according to the sheriff’s office.

Centralia pair accused of helping fugitive flee

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Two Centralia residents were arrested for allegedly helping a wanted man – who uses the identity of his dead 11-year-old brother – get out of jail and get out of town before authorities realized who he really was.

John Lewis, 53, has an arrest warrant from California and was arrested in Doty while deputies were investigating a large-scale fuel theft operation on July 31. He was believed to be 47-year-old Jason A. Lewis.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputies using information obtained from phone calls made from the jail were led on Thursday to a home on the 2700 block Graf Road where they found almost a half pound of methamphetamine and arrested 51-year-old Shauna Teagle, according to authorities.

A second resident of the home, Eric D. Waller, 43, was already in the jail, but was arrested on the same information, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg said yesterday.

Waller and Teagle went before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday afternoon where they were charged with possession of meth with intent to deliver, as well as accomplices in Lewis’s bail jumping and identity theft.

Prosecutors contend Teagle admitted to dealing drugs with Lewis and Waller for years.

Lewis came to the attention of law enforcement officers late last month when surveillance video at a Texaco station in Silver Creek showed three vehicles arrive and somehow pump about $6,000 worth of fuel without paying. A subsequent search at the 100 block of Elk Creek Road in Doty turned up his canopied pickup truck with darkened windows and contained two large fuel tanks, a portable pump and a nozzle.

Lewis’s motorhome was parked inside a barn on the property.

More than a month earlier, an un-named source had told detectives the property owner, Harold Lusk, and a man from California were cooking methamphetamine for sale at the property and stealing large quantities of gasoline from local stations. The cook was supposedly hiding in the barn in a travel trailer. No mention was made in Lewis’s charging documents of meth-making materials located during the search.

Local authorities found a warrant for John A. Lewis out of Sacramento, and a criminal history involving drugs and theft that stretches back to 1986, according to charging documents.

Detectives uncovered records that John Lewis adopted the identity of his younger brother Jason Lewis, who died in 1977 at age 11, according to charging documents.

He was believed to have left town in his 1994 Mountain Air motorhome but charging documents indicate he gave that to Teagle and Waller in exchange for their help; and that Teagle provided him a car.

According to Teagle and Waller’s charging documents, the couple put up $2,000 for his bail and gave him $3,000 travel money. Another individual was paid $250 to arrange Lewis’s bail at Jail Sucks Bail Bonds.

Teagle allegedly arranged to have Lewis’s wife Debra Bean picked up from the Portland airport when she flew up to retrieve her husband.

Lewis bailed out two days after his arrest and failed to return to court for his arraignment.

Lewis is charged in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree theft, first-degree trafficking in stolen property and possession of methamphetamine, and is also wanted now for bail jumping and identity theft.

Previously charged with Lewis in connection with the alleged fuel trafficking are Lusk, 28; Alyssa J. Hanson, 20, of Doty; and Raymond T. Hankins, 48, of Yelm.

Judge Richard Brosey set bail for Waller yesterday, at $100,000. Although he was about to start a new job driving a log truck, Waller is unemployed so qualified for a court appointed attorney, temporary defense attorney Bob Schroeter said.

The judge was told Teagle earns $1,600 a month managing a spa in Olympia, but also qualified for appointed counsel. Her bail was set at $50,000. Teagle is a 2012 graduate of drug court.

Their arraignments are set for this coming Thursday.

For background, read “Sheriff’s Office: Large scale gasoline stealing operation uncovered” from Friday August 1, 2014, here

News brief: Body recovered near Randle deemed a suicide death

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County coroner has concluded a man found dead in the woods south of Randle on Wednesday died from suicide.

The body with a pickup truck was discovered by brush or berry pickers at the end of the 161 Road and is believed to be an individual reported missing from Bonney Lake at the end of May, according to authorities.

Coroner Warren McLeod said he has tentatively confirmed that and expects to make final  identification early next week.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Steve Aust said it appeared the body had been there awhile.

McLeod said an autopsy conducted yesterday found no signs of trauma and the cause of death is probable carbon monoxide poisoning, based on items found at the scene.

Ricky Riffe: Former Mossyrock man returns from prison to argue over coming trial

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Convicted murderer Ricky A. Riffe is back in town, transported from prison where he’s serving a virtual life sentence back to the Lewis County Jail as his lawyer is asking a judge to move his upcoming child sex abuse trial to another locale, citing his inability to receive a fair trial in Lewis County.

Defense attorney John Crowley blames the news media, and prejudicial publicity.


Ricky Riffe

“Ricky Riffe was a defendant in one of Lewis County’s most notorious unsolved murder cases,” Crowley wrote. “Drawing both local and national media purporting the crime was solved as soon as he was apprehended.”

Riffe, now 55, was arrested in mid-2012 and extradited from his longtime home in King Salmon, Alaska to Lewis County where he was charged in the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and shotgun deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, an elderly Ethel couple. The former Mossyrock resident was found guilty after a six-week trial late last year.

Not long after he arrived, prosecutors filed separate charges that he raped and molested his 9-year-old step-daughter in the mid-1980s, saying new information came to light during the Maurin investigation.

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, on Crowley’s motion for a change of venue.

The lawyer claims inflammatory headlines and also comments from the public on online stories illustrate how his client would not face an impartial jury in Lewis County, in the filing made earlier this month.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer responded in a one-page filing that he disagrees with Crowley’s contentions and stated the request is premature.

The trial was initially set for February, but has been postponed until the week of Sept. 8.

Riffe was booked into the local jail this morning.

Riffe was given nearly 103 years last December, after prosecutors persuaded a jury that he at the very least was an accomplice to their other longtime suspect who was deceased, his younger brother John Gregory Riffe.

With no DNA evidence or fingerprints, but nearly 100 individuals testifying, he was convicted as charged in the case in which the Maurin’s were apparently forced to drive to their Chehalis bank and withdraw a sizable amount of cash before being shot in their backs and dumped on a logging road outside of Adna.

Riffe maintains he’s innocent in both cases. He has appealed his convictions.

For background, read “Riffe maintains innocence in face of sentence of more than a century for Maurin murders” from Tuesday December 3, 2013, here