Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Five jailed in connection with Pinotti’s attempt to stay out of jail

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Four young people are now locked up for reportedly helping hide the 22-year-old Adna man, who drew gunfire from an officer as he fled arrest for a misdemeanor warrant in Centralia.

Phillip A. Pinotti faces a first-degree assault charge for allegedly trying to run down a court security officer with his car following a short foot pursuit out of Centralia Municipal Court on Tuesday morning.

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Phillip A. Pinotti

The driver’s side window of Pinotti’s blue Subaru was shattered, but Pinotti’s injuries were limited to cuts on his face from the glass, according to authorities. He sped away and while his car was located that afternoon inside his garage in Adna, he wasn’t found until yesterday morning, at a residence on Bishop Road in Chehalis.

Deputies yesterday morning also arrested the resident of the home, Krystofer M. Yates, 19, and Yates’ girlfriend, Jaelynn N. Pluard, 22, who allegedly hid Pinotti. Both were booked into the Lewis County Jail for rendering criminal assistance.

Yates was additionally booked on a drug offense, as suspected heroin was found in his wallet, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

How and when Pinotti got to Bishop Road is unclear. Where he was for almost 24 hours is unknown.

But court documents give some ideas of how he managed to get out of Centralia and evade multiple officers who converged following the morning incident on West Maple Street – which took place between Centralia City Hall, where both the municipal court and police department are housed, and the next block to the west outside The Chronicle building.

Two of Pinotti’s Centralia friends were arrested the same afternoon at his home, also for rendering criminal assistance.

Eighteen-year-old Miguel V. Martinez and 22-year-old Kayla Burleson gave varying versions to law enforcement officers of what transpired.

One version has Tuesday morning beginning with the three of them driving together in Pinotti’s car to Centralia, as they all had court.

Martinez and Burleson appeared in Lewis County Superior Court before a judge yesterday afternoon  but no charges were filed. Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher asked the judge to continue to hold them in jail because the investigation was not complete.

Centralia Municipal Court security Officer Steve Howard was’t scheduled until this morning to be interview by detectives about his role, Meagher told the judge. Police Chief Bob Berg has said Officer Howard fired one shot, and it entered the vehicle.

Meagher’s declaration of probable cause to hold the pair, offered some details about the time period immediately following the escape from court.

It appears Burleson was sick and vomiting and didn’t attend her court hearing, but she and Martinez were across a parking lot in an alley just north of The Chronicle, according to document.

The two either did or did not see Pinotti entering his vehicle and fleeing, but Martinez said they walked to the penny candy store north of there and met up with Pinotti, according to the document.

Martinez said he drove the car with Burleson in it to Adna, the document states.

Pinotti and his four friends are all scheduled to appear this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court, to face whatever charges are filed.
•••

For background, read “Adna resident wanted for attempt to run down court officer located in Chehalis” from Wednesday December 17, 2014, here

Adna resident wanted for attempt to run down court officer located in Chehalis

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 22-year-old Adna man who fled an attempted misdemeanor warrant arrest in Centralia yesterday – and was shot at – was found hiding at a friend’s home in Chehalis this morning.

Deputies got a tip this morning that Phillip A. Pinotti could be found at a residence on the 1600 block of Bishop Road and just before 9 a.m. they arrested him without incident, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Pinotti was not not struck or injured from the shooting, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. But he did have injuries to his face from when the glass in his vehicle’s window broke, Brown said.

Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg said yesterday his court security officer fired one round at Pinotti’s car when Pinotti reportedly drove toward him, after a foot chase of about one block west from Centralia City Hall.

Pinotti had come there for court for arraignment on a DUI and learned he had a warrant from Chehalis Municipal Court because he failed to appear in court after a third-degree theft arrest. He slipped away as court security Officer Steve Howard was handcuffing him, according to police.

Law enforcement officers searching for Pinotti found his vehicle yesterday hidden in the garage at his home on Clinton Road in Adna. Two individuals contacted there were arrested for rendering criminal assistance. This morning, deputies arrested the young woman who let him stay at the home on Bishop Road for the same offense.

Jaelynn N. Pluard, 22, knew law enforcement was actively searching for Pinotti, but hid him anyway, according to Brown.

Brown said Pluard is from Centralia and was staying at Bishop Road; Brown didn’t know who that residence belonged to.

According to Brown, Pinotti had help yesterday from 18-year-old Miguel V. Martinez and 22-year-old Kayla Burleson. They both admitted they helped Pinotti take his vehicle from the area and drive it back to Adna, Brown said.

The two, who are from Centralia, initially told police yesterday they knew nothing, according to Brown, but eventually it was determined they had witnessed him flee court.

The sheriff’s office says Pinotti will be booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree escape and for first-degree assault, for attempting to run over the court officer while fleeing.
•••

For background, read: “Shot fired by officer, misdemeanor defendant flees court to avoid jail” from Tuesday December 16, 2014, here

Shot fired by officer, misdemeanor defendant flees court to avoid jail

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014
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Sheriff’s deputies wait for a search warrant after finding suspect’s car at his rural Chehalis home.

Updated at 3:54 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Police are looking for a 22-year-old man who sped away after a court security officer fired a round into his driver’s window this morning near Centralia City Hall.

Phillip A. Pinotti was being taken into custody at Centralia Municipal Court when he slipped away from the officer, ran down the street, got into a car and apparently drove toward the officer, according to the Centralia Police Department.

“We do not know if the individual was hit,” Police Chief Bob Berg said.

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Phillip A. Pinotti

That took place just before 10 a.m.

At about 1 p.m., Pinotti’s sport utility vehicle was found in the garage of his residence on Clinton Road in Adna. But Pinotti was not there.

“There were two individuals at the house, we’re talking to them now,” Lewis County Undersheriff Rob Snaza said as deputies waited for a search warrant.

Pinotti is now wanted for first-degree assault and felony escape, according to Berg.

Berg said he asked the sheriff’s office to investigate because it involved one of his own employees.

Several patrol vehicles from both the sheriff’s office and the Centralia Police Department were at the scene on the 200 block of Clinton Road this afternoon. The roadway was blocked by a trooper, at state Route 6, about five miles west of Chehalis.

Snaza said he believes the home belongs to Pinotti’s parents, but they were not present.

“We’re continuing our investigation, and following leads,” Snaza said.

According to Berg, Pinotti came to court this morning for an arraignment on a charge of driving under the influence. The judge noticed he was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant for failing to appear in Chehalis Municipal Court, in connection with a third-degree theft, Berg said.

The judge ordered court security Officer Steve Howard to take Pinotti into custody for the Chehalis warrant, which he began to do just outside the courtroom, according to the chief.

“As officer Howard is handcuffing him, that’s when he bolts,” Berg said. “He’s running down the street, with officer Howard in pursuit.”

Berg said they ran west to the next block, and Pinotti got into a dark blue sport utility vehicle parked on Maple Street next to the The Chronicle.

“According to the officer, the individual gets in the car, starts it, puts the car in drive and comes toward the officer,” Berg said.

The court security officer advised him to stop, but he didn’t, according to police.

Officer Howard fired one shot, Berg said.

The vehicle backed down the street, into the drive at the Centralia Rollerdrome, and headed away.

“He drove away at a very high rate of speed,” Berg said. “The last I saw, he turned at the stop sign.”

The street was closed for about an hour, he said.

Berg said they found a casing but not the round, so they know the bullet entered the car. They believe it shattered the driver’s side window. It’s unknown if Pinotti was struck by the bullet or injured.

Officer Howard has a limited commission and handles courtroom security for the city, according to Berg. He is a retired California Highway Patrol officer.

Centralia Police Department spokesperson Officer Patty Finch indicates Howard has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

The shooting incident will be investigated by the multi-county shooting review team with primary responsibility assumed by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, according to Finch.

It’s the third time a Centralia officer has fired at someone this year. The other two instances were fatal.

Berg was confident Pinotti would be located. His criminal history is not extensive or violent, he said.

“He knows we know who he is, I think he just made an extremely poor decision,” Berg said. “Fight or flight.”

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Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg describes how the wanted man fled outside Centralia City Hall on West Maple Street this morning.

 

The new gun law, Lewis County style

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Updated

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS  – Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer won’t be applying the letter of the law regarding the recently enacted Initiative I-594 – requiring expanded background checks for firearm sales and transfers – among otherwise law abiding citizens.

However, give or sell a gun to someone prohibited from possessing one, and he will take action.

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Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer

Meyer, in a joint news release issued yesterday with Lewis County Sheriff-Elect Rob Snaza, said the broad language and vague definitions of the new law have given rise to many questions and concerns.

Each man offered a brief written statement, attached to their summary of the main provisions of I-594.

The measure which passed in November applies currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun shows and online sales, with specific exceptions. It went into effect Dec. 4.

“The Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Office will not make criminals out of the hardworking citizens of Lewis County,” Meyer states. “Where I-594 attempts to criminalize every-day activities, I, in the exercise of my prosecutorial discretion, will not charge individuals with these types of violations.

“At the same time, make no mistake I will hold accountable those who, in violation of this initiative, knowingly put guns in the hands of criminals.”

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Sheriff-elect Rob Snaza

A first offense is a gross misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses are a class C felony. Meyer is responsible for all felony prosecutions in the county, and for misdemeanor and gross misdemeanors in cases from the sheriff’s office, the state patrol and some other police departments.

Regarding the gun shows regularly held at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds where sales have traditionally been made by both licensed firearm dealers and private citizens, Meyer said he presumes the organizers will make sure proper processes are followed.

An example Meyer gave yesterday, in a brief interview, of what he won’t pursue involve transfers of a gun in some cases.

He spoke of innocent activities such as if a person and their brother-in-law went target shooting and used each others weapons.

The law provides exemptions to background checks, among them are transactions involving gifts between immediate family members as well as antique firearms as defined by applicable law.

Meyer said he views the new law as applying to even temporary transfers such as handling a firearm for inspection, for consideration of purchase or stocking store shelves. But he’s not interested in prosecuting those types of activities, he indicated.

His example of what he is interested in pursuing related to selling or giving a gun to a felon.

As for going after a person who sells or gives a firearm, without the checks, to someone who subsequently uses it in a crime, he said he would be looking at situations on a case by case basis.

Meyer noted he can’t give legal advice to individual citizens and recommended anyone with questions should consult their attorney.

The new law does not change the definition of a firearm. It does mean any sales or transfers must be completed through a licensed dealer, according to Meyer.

The prosecutor said he has not seen any cases involving it yet, and thinks the RCW will be called “Unlawful transfer of firearms.”

I-594 passed statewide with 59 percent of the vote. In Lewis County, 67 percent of voters rejected it.

Sheriff-elect Snaza, in his formal statement, reminds the public he is a strong proponent of the second amendment and notes the “significant” impact of  I-594 on law abiding citizens.

He states that each of these cases will be considered by his office in regard to both the spirit and the letter of the law.

However, his office’s enforcement strategy doesn’t appear to include proactively seeking out violations, or making arrests, according to his statement. He’ll let the prosecutor decide.

“(Our strategy) will be to thoroughly investigate those cases reported to us, and file these cases with the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office, when appropriate,” Snaza stated.

This morning Snaza pointed out the majority of Lewis County residents oppose the new law, which he said he believes has good intentions, but is vague.

“We don’t have all these resources to go after every person breaking the law,” Snaza said.

“Personally, I think this law is unconstitutional,” he said. “We’ll do what we can.”

•••

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS OF I-594, from Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer

WHAT IS A “FIREARM”?*
A “firearm” is a weapon or device from which a projectile or projectiles may be fired by an explosive such as gunpowder. This includes tools such as a concrete nailer that is gas or powder-actuated.
*I-594 did not change the definition of a firearm.

WHO IS SUBJECT TO BACKGROUND CHECKS UNDER I-594?
All purchasers or transferees of firearms are subject to background checks unless the purchase or transfer is specifically exempted by state or federal law.

WHICH SALES AND TRANSFERS ARE SUBJECT TO I-594?
All sales or transfers occurring in whole or in part in Washington State, including sales and transfers through dealers, at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed persons, are subject to the background check requirements of I-594.

WHAT IS A TRANSFER?
A “transfer” means the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without payment or promise of payment, including gifts and loans. This includes a “temporary” transfer (including the handling of a firearm for inspection, consideration of purchasing, stocking of store shelves, etc.).

HOW MUST A SALE OR TRANSFER BE ACCOMPLISHED UNDER I-594?
Any sale or transfer of a firearm where neither party is a licensed firearms dealer must be completed through a licensed firearms dealer in compliance with the following requirements:
1. The seller or transferor must physically deliver the firearm to the dealer. The seller or transferor may remove the firearm from the dealer’s premises while the background check is being conducted, but the firearm must be physically delivered back to the dealer prior to the completion of the transaction.
2. The purchaser or transferee must complete, sign and submit all federal, state, and local forms needed for processing the background check.
3. The dealer must process the transaction in the same manner as he/she would in a sale or transfer of a firearm from his/her inventory. The dealer must comply with all applicable federal and state laws.
4. If the purchaser or transferee is ineligible to possess a firearm, the transaction cannot proceed and the dealer must return the firearm to the seller or transferor.
5. The dealer may charge a fee for facilitating a sale or transfer that reflects the fair market value of the administrative costs incurred.

WHAT TIMING REQUIREMENTS APPLY TO A PURCHASE OR TRANSFER UNDER I-594?
A dealer may not deliver a firearm to a purchaser or transferee until the earlier of:
1. The completion of all required background checks if the purchaser or transferee is not ineligible under federal or state law to possess a firearm; or
2. Ten (10) business days have passed since the dealer requested the background check, except this period is sixty (60) calendar days for a pistol transfer if the purchaser or transferee does not have a valid Washington state driver’s license or identification card or has not been a resident for the previous ninety (90) days.

ARE ANY TRANSACTIONS EXEMPT FROM THE BACKGROUND CHECK REQUIREMENT?
The following transactions are exempt from the background check requirements established by I-594:
1. Bona fide gifts between immediate family members, which is limited to spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles;
2. Sales or transfer of “antique” firearms, as that term is defined by applicable law;
3. Sales or transfers by or to law enforcement and corrections agencies, and to the extent the person is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment or official duties, law enforcement and corrections officers, active members of the military, and federal officials;
4. Receipt of a firearm by a federally licensed gunsmith only if the firearm is received for purposes of service or repair.

ARE ANY TEMPORARY TRANSFERS EXEMPT?
The temporary transfer of a firearm is exempt when:
a. Necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to the transferee, if the transfer lasts only as long as needed and the transferee is not prohibited from possessing firearms by applicable law;
b. It is between spouses or domestic partners;
c. It occurs at an established shooting range authorized by the local governing body and the firearm is kept at all times at the range;
d. It occurs at a lawful organized firearm competition or performance and  the firearm is possessed exclusively at the competition or performance;
e. It is to a person under eighteen (18) years of age for lawful hunting, sporting, or educational purposes while under the direct supervision of a responsible adult; or
f. It occurs while legally hunting if the transferee has completed all required training, holds all required licenses or permits, and is not prohibited from possessing a firearm.

WHAT IF THE FIREARM IS INHERITED?
Acquisition of a firearm, other than a pistol, by inheritance is exempt.
In the case of acquisition of a pistol by inheritance, the transfer is exempt for the sixty (60) days following the transfer by operation of inheritance. However, upon the expiration of the sixty (60) day period, the person must either have lawfully transferred the pistol or must have contacted the Washington Department of Licensing to notify that department that he or she has possession of the pistol and intends to retain possession of the pistol, in compliance with all federal and state laws.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING THE NEW LAW?
A person who knowingly violates the background check requirements is guilty of a gross misdemeanor for a first offense and of a Class C felony for each subsequent offense.
Each firearm sold or transferred in violation of the background check requirements is a separate offense.
A Class C felony conviction for this offense is included in the definition of “serious offense” for purposes of the crime of unlawful possession of firearms.

WHAT ABOUT THE SALES TAX ON SALES OR TRANSFERS OF FIREARMS?
The retail sales tax does not apply to the sale or transfer of a firearm between two unlicensed persons if they have complied with all required background checks.

DOES THE DEALER HAVE TO COLLECT THE USE TAX ON THE TRANSACTION?
Keeps the requirement for firearms dealers to collect sales or use tax from the transferee on interstate firearms transfers by a licensed dealer.

Windstorm passes through

Friday, December 12th, 2014
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The aftermath: Barn, tree on Logan Hill. / Courtesy photo by Robin Williams

Updated at 11:28 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Onalaska was hit pretty hard with wind last night, keeping the fire department busy removing trees from roadways.

Power in the area was knocked out and remains that way this morning, according to Lewis County Fire District 1.

“Responders watched lawn chairs blow across the roads and flags coming off (their poles),” Fire Chief Mark Conner said this morning.

No injuries have been reported, but Conner said a tree fell on a house on state Route 508 near Carlisle Avenue. He assumed the residence was unoccupied, because nobody requested the fire department for it, he said.

It was a relatively quiet night for firefighters at the North Pearl Street station in Centralia, where the highest wind gust was recorded at 35 mph, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

The National Weather Service recorded gusts as high as 46 mph at the Chehalis-Centralia Airport.

Just before 9 p.m., the Washington State Patrol asked area residents to just stay indoors until the storm passed, because of the number of trees falling onto state routes.

One close call occurred about dinnertime, just east of Onalaska beyond Parnell Road, according to Conner.

A UPS truck was forced off the road when a maple tree fell in front of it, Conner said.

“I think maybe a few branches hit it and it went into the ditch,” he said.

State Route 507 north of Centralia was shut down for hours overnight because of trees and power lines on the ground.

Centralia City Light which serves about 10,000 customers responded to power outages from around 4:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Roughly 1,200 were affected at different times, but all service has been restored, according to Line Superintendent Rick Evans.

The latest information from Lewis County PUD’s website – at 3:30 a.m. – shows power outages in places such as around Big Hanaford Road, around U.S. Highway 12 to Mayfield Lake and roads in the Chehalis area.

However, PUD spokesperson Corenne Moses said at midmorning, while she didn’t have a “head count” of the number of customers without electricity, they have several power lines down still.

“We hope to get the greater Onalaska-Salkum area up by noon,” Moses said.

Utility crews responded to calls through the night all around the county and are still working, she said.

Moses reminds members of the public whose power is out to unplug their electronics, to prevent possible damage when their electric service is restored.

The National Weather Service cautions that the increased risk of landslides continues through today, because of the rainfall in recent days.

PUD customers who want to report an outage may call 360-748-9261 or 1-800-562-5612

Customers of Centralia City Light may report an outage by calling 330-7512 during business hours or 736-7040 after hours.

Morton’s Officer Perry Royle passes away

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
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Perry Royle
1960 – 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Morton Police Officer Perry Royle died yesterday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He was 54.

Royle was on duty a week earlier when he suffered an unspecified medical issue, summoned help and and then lost consciousness at the hospital.

A procession of law enforcement officers from various agencies accompanied Royle’s body back to Lewis County yesterday evening, ending at Brown’s Funeral Chapel in Chehalis. A candle light vigil was planned in Morton.

Royle had been with the department since 2002, and was Chief Dan Mortensen’s only officer.

Morton Police Department Clerk Michelle Matchett said Royle’s family, and Chief Mortensen, were with him when he passed.

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Courtesy photo by Jim Hill Photography

Centralia mother who decapitated premature newborn back in court for technical issue

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An appeals court says its enough that a 25-year-old Centralia woman used a kitchen knife to end the life of her severely premature infant after she gave birth, and the fact it did or didn’t have drugs in its system won’t change her 30-year-sentence.

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Laura Lynn Hickey

Laura Lynn Hickey pleaded guilty to second-degree murder almost three years ago, in Lewis County Superior Court and was sent off to prison. She’s back in the Lewis County Jail for an expected hearing on an issue that stems from the October decision from the Washington State Court of Appeals.

It was an early March morning in 2011; neighbors had phoned 911 after hearing calls for help coming from Hickey’s home at the Peppertree Motor Inn and RV Park on Alder Street. She was taken to the hospital where at first she said she’d had a miscarriage, and then police found the decapitated newborn in a Tupperware container under the kitchen sink of  her fifth-wheel trailer.

At sentencing, Hickey’ lawyer asked the judge to give his client about 12 years in prison, for what she viewed as a mercy killing when her approximately 21-weeks-along fetus was unexpectedly delivered into a toilet. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer recommended 80 years, saying it was a crime so heinous, she should lose the ability to “walk among us.”

Attorneys disagreed if the infant boy was far enough along he could have survived outside the womb.

Because Hickey not only admitted guilt, but stipulated to an aggravating factor the victim was particularly vulnerable, the judge could have imposed a sentence all the way up to life in prison. The standard sentencing range for the crime was between about 12 years to 20 years.

At the time, the woman apologized, cried and told the judge said she would accept whatever sentence he gave her. But her appeal attorney appealed the exceptional sentence.

Her lawyer contended the trial court violated Hickey’s Sixth Amendment rights as articulated in Blakely v. Washington, by making findings the victim was particularly vulnerable not only because of age, but because of drug intoxication

The three-member panel concluded in its Oct. 10 decision that Judge Nelson Hunt’s finding was incorrect, and sent the case back to Lewis County so the reference to methamphetamine intoxication could be struck from the findings.

The appeals court however, affirmed the exceptional sentence of 30 years.

One of the reports submitted to Lewis County Superior Court, from a psychologist, noted both Hickey and the victim had significant amounts of methamphetamine in their blood stream at the time of the offense. Another, from the autopsy stated the infant suffered from acute methamphetamine intoxication.

Neither Hickey’s appeals attorney or the appeals court suggest the information is untrue, only that it should not have been considered at sentencing.

Prosecutor Meyer indicates Hickey is scheduled to go before a judge at 2:15 p.m. on Thursday, although the actual hearing may take place at a later day.

•••

For background, read:

• “Centralia woman gets 30 years for decapitating premature infant” from Wednesday February 22, 2012, here

• “Laura Hickey pleads guilty to killing her premature infant” from Tuesday February 7, 2012, here

Flashlight at Centralia arson scene incriminates ex-husband

Friday, December 5th, 2014
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James R. Johnson appears before a Lewis County Superior Court judge for a bail hearing.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A judge ordered bail set at $100,000 for a retired logger accused of a starting a fire at the house where his ex-wife and best friend were sleeping.

James R. Johnson, 65, was arrested near his rural Chehalis home this week for the June 1 blaze that heavily damaged the home on the 900 block of B Street in Centralia.

Police were suspicious of Johnson from beginning, according to charging documents.

Clint Brown said he awoke to the smoke alarm and when he opened his back door, he saw flames and smelled a very strong odor of gasoline. He closed the door, woke up Tamara Johnson who’d just recently moved in with him, and they got out uninjured.

Police were told James Johnson had been at the home just three days earlier, kicking on the door, making threats and demanding to speak with his ex-wife.

Officers visited his home and while he claimed he had not gone anywhere all night, the engine on a Chevrolet Aveo there was still warm, charging documents state.

He told the officer he and Tamara Johnson had been divorced since the 1990s, but retained and on-again off-again relationship that had ended a week before, according to the documents.

Police were told by his daughter he was upset about his ex-wife dating his friend, and he had been threatening to hurt himself.

A flashlight found at the scene was finger printed and tested, and late last month, Centralia Police Department detectives were notified it carried a DNA profile that matched James Johnson’s, according to the documents.

Johnson was charged yesterday with one count of first-degree arson.

He was brought before a judge yesterday afternoon, outfitted in red jail garb, handcuffed and shackled at his wrists and ankles.

Preliminary defense attorney Joely O’Rourke requested just $20,000 bail, noting the defendant owned Jim Johnson Logging for 25 years, has 12 grandchildren and his felony history is a quarter century old.

“He has very strong ties to the community, he’s known about the allegations since June,” O’Rourke told the judge in an attempt to show how unlikely a flight risk he would be.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Mark McClain noted Johnson had previous federal convictions for passport fraud and conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey sided with McClain out of concern for public safety.

As the bail hearing moved to the question of any orders of no contact orders, O’Rourke told the judge her temporary client and his ex-wife, whom he’s known for 38 years, are together again.

“Since this allegation, he has reconciled with the alleged victim,” O’Rourke told the judge. “They’re living together.”

Judge Brosey said he didn’t care, and issued a no contact order between the two.

James Johnson has retained defense attorney Shane O’Rourke.

His arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday.
•••

For background, read “Breaking news: Ex-husband jailed for arson, in Centralia house fire” from Wednesday December 3, 2014, here

Defendants in Vader toddler death case postpone arraignments again

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Vader couple charged in the October death of a toddler they were caring for didn’t get arraigned today as expected but did appear before a judge briefly this afternoon.

Danny A. Wing, 26, and Brenda A. Wing, 27, were arrested early last month and remain in Lewis County Jail on bails set at $500,000 and $200,000 respectively.

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Brenda A. Wing

It appears unsettled who will be their lawyers.

The couple were represented at their Nov. 10 bail hearing by two lawyers retained in anticipation of possible charges after three-year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner died from what the coroner called chronic battered child syndrome.

The attorneys had asked to delay the hearing where they would make their pleas until today – to see if arrangements could be made about legal representation on the criminal charges – , but this afternoon, those proceedings were postponed again.

Brenda Wing told the judge she will be represented by Seattle-based attorney John Crowley, but it was taking a bit of time for her parents to work out the money to retain him.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey agreed to wait one week.

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Danny A. Wing

Danny Wing was joined this afternoon by Vancouver-based lawyer Todd Pascoe.

Pascoe asked the judge to set over his client’s arraignment one week, in part because the wife’s was rescheduled and also because of a rules of professional conduct issue.

When Danny Wing blurted out his lawyer was set up by his wife’s family, Pascoe asked him to stay quiet.

Judge Brosey queried Danny Wing, to ensure he was satisfied with waiting until next Thursday afternoon. He said he was.

The Wings are each charged as either the principal or accomplice with homicide by abuse or, in the alternative, first-degree manslaughter.

The coroner concluded from healing fractures, numerous bruises and an autopsy Jasper died from ongoing physical abuse.
•••

For background, read “Defendants in Vader toddler death case want out of jail until trial” from Monday November 10, 2014, here

Mary’s Corner Deli and Espresso fire remains under investigation

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It’s too early to tell what ignited a fire that claimed two businesses at Marys Corner south of Chehalis on Tuesday night, according to Fire Investigator Jay Birley.

Birley responded that night, took photos and looked through the scene, but planned to return today, he said.

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Tuesday Dec. 2, 2014

Crews from five fire departments battled the blaze on U.S. Highway 12 at Jackson Highway, a fire that caused heavy damage to the building.

Liz Hill, owner of Mary’s Corner Deli, said she had just closed up shortly after 7 p.m., and went back inside while her car warmed up.

“There was this pop,” Hill said. “I thought somebody was in the back room, and I went back there and saw the wall was on fire.”

Hill said she filled a bucket with water, but quickly realized she needed to get out, and call 911.

“The deli’s completely gone, I lost everything,” she said yesterday. “I’m still in shock, I still can’t believe it happened.”

The Ethel resident opened her doors almost three years ago, with deli sandwiches and take-and-bake pizza. Before that, she’d been helping the building owner with her coffee shop there.

Mary’s Corner Espresso has served customers there for five years.

AeCha Jackins yesterday too was very sad for her loss, but feeling gratitude for the firefighters who tried to save the structure, and for the customers who arrived and comforted her at the scene.

They’ve become friends, she said.

“Nice people around there, I love to be there,” Jackins said. “I’m so thankful nobody hurt; that’s the most blessed thing.”

Jackins and her husband, who live in Rochester, purchased the building about 15 years ago. They and Hill both carried insurance.

Lewis County Fire District 5 Firefighter Maria Kennedy who was first on the scene described the worst of the fire in the back of the building. Hill said the room in back was used for storage.

Firefighters were able to keep the fire out of the coffee shop portion, but it sustained smoke and water damage, according to Kennedy.

Hill, who leased her space, said she really wants to re-open.

“I loved my little business,” she said.

Jackins was even more certain she would work to make sure she could serve her customers once again.

“I am going to come back, as strong as ever,” Jackins said. “I am going to rebuild.”

•••

For background, read “Mary’s Corner Deli burns”, from Wednesday December 3, 2014, here

Breaking news: Ex-husband jailed for arson, in Centralia house fire

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Updated at 7:15 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A rural Chehalis resident was arrested today, suspected of setting a middle-of-the-night fire at his ex-wife’s house.

A man and woman escaped uninjured from the June 1 blaze that pretty much destroyed the home on the 900 block of B Street in Centralia.

Fire investigators learned an accelerant was used and determined there was animosity between the occupants, and her ex-husband James Johnson, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald said a crime lab analysis of an item believed to have been left at the scene by Johnson revealed a DNA profile that matched him.

“Based on the DNA evidence and other corroborating circumstances, CPD detectives determined there was probable cause to believe Johnson was responsible for setting the fire,” Fitzgerald stated in a news release.

He declined to say what the item was.

When the fire was discovered, the garage was already fully involved, and it traveled through a carport and to the house, Fitzgerald said. Firefighters at the time said the man got up to use the restroom, smelled smoke and as he opened the back door, flames kind of licked at him.

Today at about 12:45 p.m., detectives found Johnson driving near his home south of Chehalis, and arrested him for two counts of first-degree arson. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail.
•••

For background, read “Centralia house fire displaces two” from Sunday June 1, 2014, here

Mary’s Corner Deli burns

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014
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Crews from five departments converge on Mary’s Corner south of Chehalis. / Courtesy photo byTiffany Dolin

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A deli and pizza business south of Chehalis sustained heavy fire and smoke damage last night, but nobody was injured.

Flames were reported by a woman in the building to 911 about 7:40 p.m. and she confirmed everyone evacuated the business on U.S. Highway 12 at Jackson Highway, according to Lewis County Fire District 5.

“As far as I know, it wasn’t open,” Firefighter Maria Kennedy said. “I don’t know if there were other people with her or not.”

Responding crews could see a column of smoke when they turned the corner at Koontz Road, a mile away, Kennedy said. When they arrived, flames were rising from the roof of Mary’s Corner Deli she said.

Kennedy said they focused on the back part of the building from the exterior at first, trying to keep the fire from extending into the coffee shop portion in the front.

Firefighters from Toledo, Winlock, Salkum and rural Chehalis assisted, she said.

There’s no fire hydrants in the area so they shuttled water in tenders, she said.

Firefighters finished up about midnight, but continued a fire watch through the night to make sure nothing rekindled, according to Kennedy.

A fire investigator came to the scene and is investigating the cause.

Sheriff-elect Snaza will focus on schools, shedding emergency management function

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Sheriff-elect Rob Snaza won’t be sworn in until Dec. 30, but is already busy planning for changes.

According to the results of the election certified and made official yesterday morning, Snaza took 77 percent of the vote. His opponent Brian Green garnered not-quite 23 percent.

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Sheriff-elect Rob Snaza

Snaza, the Napavine area Republican who’s worked at the sheriff’s office about two decades, met with the Lewis County Board of Commissioners before lunchtime, to discuss some of what will be different under his administration.

“Schools are huge, our number one emphasis in 2015,” Snaza said.

He spoke of deputies working more closely with students, and his plans for “active shooter” drills in school buildings.

Specifically, the reason for the meeting was to talk about the transition of the emergency management division out of the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield is the director of emergency management, and will leave office at the end of the year.

“Some years ago, the board of county commissioners made the sheriff the head of that,” Lewis County Commissioner Lee Grose said. “The thinking has been, we should have a full time manager; and we’re looking for one now.”

The issue of schools came up as they spoke of logistics, and Snaza said he’d need that office space for a new special services sergeant, someone who would oversee a variety of programs.

Snaza told Commissioners Grose and Edna Fund he hoped next month to introduce to them his undersheriff, a captain with the Washington State Patrol he’s known for 20 years.

Snaza began attending the sheriff’s monthly meetings with county commissioners about the same time he was promoted from sergeant to undersheriff in early September.

His campaign for the top law enforcement job began in April of last year.

His only opponent, a musician in a band who ran as an independent and focused on preserving gun rights, took 5,144 votes in the Nov. 4 election. Snaza got 17,546 votes.

Snaza’s twin brother John Snaza was elected Thurston County sheriff in 2010.

Already the two of them have announced a joint event in which they will be “jailed” in a cell in the food court at Capital Mall in Olympia next month, and challenge the public to raise at least $20,000 by “bailing” them out.

The idea is to build awareness of the importance of mentoring
and to raise money to ensure more kids have consistent role models through Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Southwest Washington.

The benefits can be seen in the juvenile justice system, according to Sheriff John Snaza.

The average cost to incarcerate a juvenile for a nine to 12 month period is approximately $66,000 to $88,000, according to the Thurston County sheriff.

“Every day I see cases where a child without a trusted role- model wanders down a destructive path,” Sheriff John Snaza stated in a news release yesterday. “What a difference it would make if even one of these youth had a mentor,” continues Snaza.

The so-called “Big Bail Out” with the twin sheriffs will take place from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Dec. 2.

Also from the final results of the election:

• Centralia attorney Wade Samuelson was elected Lewis County District Court judge. He ran unopposed for the four-year term and replaces retiring Judge Michael Roewe. Ten-year veteran of the bench, Lewis County DIstrict Court Judge R.W. Buzzard was unopposed and secured another term.

• Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, (R), unopposed, won a second four-year term.

• Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod, (R), also unopposed, won a second four-year term. McLeod says the board of commissioners have agreed to fund his position full time beginning next year, instead of the traditional part time.

• Lewis County Clerk Kathy Brack, (R), first elected in 2002, ran unopposed and won another four-year term.

• Arny Davis, (R), ran unopposed and will be the new Lewis County treasurer, replacing outgoing Rose Bowman.

• Larry Grove, (R), with 70 percent of the vote, beat Jennifer Slemp, (D), to become Lewis County auditor. Longtime Auditor Gary Zandell is retiring.

• Gary Stamper, (R), took 54 percent of the vote against Rich Bainbridge, (R), to become one of three members of the Lewis County Board of Commissioners, replacing Grose.

• The race for Lewis County assessor is so close, a required hand recount will be conducted on Monday. Incumbent Dianne Dorey, (R), has 10,691 votes, while Candy Hallom, (R), has 10,662.

See all the election results here

Flood warning issued for Randle, and downstream

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Cowlitz River at Randle, and at least one other river on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains.

Heavy rain overnight and today will drive the river over its banks this afternoon and the water will continue to rise until about 10 o’clock tonight, according to the weather service’s current forecast.

Moderate flooding is expected.

The area in Randle and downstream through Riffe Lake can expect to see many farmlands and even U.S. Highway 12 inundated with water, according to the weather service.

The weather service advises the public to be alert for rapid changes and monitor developments by listening to NOAA Weather Radio or other local media.

Flood stage at Randle is 18 feet, and the river is forecast to crest at 21.5 feet.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield cautions that water at that level would affect Highway 131, Skinner Road, Peters Road and could even cross Highway 12 in downtown Randle.

The sheriff’s office, emergency management and the Randle Fire Department are monitoring the situation, according to Mansfield.

At about 10 a.m. today, when the flood warning was issued, the level was measured at just under 10 feet.

Mansfield notes that large flooding events in the Randle area in the past were in excess of 22 feet; the flood of record in 2006 recorded at 25.2 feet.

A flood warning is also in place for the Nisqually River near National, with minor flooding expected.

Early this afternoon, authorities advised all visitors on the west side of Mount Rainier National Park to leave, as heavy rains at higher elevations caused dangerous conditions. The Nisqually entrance was temporarily closed because of flooding in the Kautz Creek area.

“This ‘rain on snow’ event is similar to conditions that were present when the historic flood occurred in November 2006,” Mount Rainier Acting Superintendent Tracy Swartout stated in a news release just after the lunch hour.

The sheriff suggested it is a good time for members of the public to review their emergency action plans. He urges people to not drive through flooded areas, as that is the number cause of deaths related to floods in Washington.

•••

Check for weather alerts here and follow river levels here. (These same links can always be found on the right hand sidebar of this news site, under the heading, “Other useful web links”)

Morton “shaken baby” case resolved with plea deal

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office has concluded it could only prove, if it went to trial, that now-23-year-old Kyle Davison negligently caused injury to a 4-month-old baby when it began choking while in his care.

The child, now 17 months old, has shown slight improvement, but has severe brain damage, according to Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

“She can’t talk, we don’t think she can see, we’re not sure about her hearing,” Halstead said. “She has a lot of other medical issues she had prior.”

The baby, identified in court documents as A.F.J.L., was airlifted to Marybridge Children’s Hospital and placed on life support after the incident in early October of last year. She’s back home with her mother since August, Halstead said.

Davison was arrested and charged in Lewis County Superior Court at that time, and remains held in the Lewis County Jail.

Doctors disagreed about what caused the injury.

A doctor at the hospital told police that tests indicated inter-cranial hemorrhage, consistent with shaken baby syndrome, according to charging documents.

A second doctor concluded the symptoms were indicative of previous problems, and what happened when the baby started choking, according to Davison’s lawyer, Sam Groberg.

Davison and the baby’s mother, Llacye Faye Link, told police he was watching her when she began choking and stopped breathing and he tried to revive the infant – by patting her back, and then he got scared and shook her – then carried her to a neighboring apartment to get help, according to court documents.

Link and her daughter had been visiting Davison, her former boyfriend, at his home in Mineral, then went to dinner and back to her Morton apartment. Link said she stepped out to buy a bag of pot.

Prosecutors initially charged Davison with first-degree assault of a child, alleging  that Davison intentionally hurt the child, inflicting great bodily harm.

When Davison took the infant next door, it either wasn’t breathing, or wasn’t breathing the way he thought it should be, depending on which of the two lawyers you ask.

A deal made last week resulted in Davison making a so-called Alford plea on Thursday morning to third-degree assault of a child. The two sides stipulated the baby was more seriously injured than what would normally accompany that level of assault.

Halstead said he doesn’t have any proof Davison picked up the baby and shook it violently trying to hurt it. The mom doesn’t want to see anything happen to Davison, he said.

Third-degree assault of a child is related to negligence, Groberg said.

“Here, if you’re trying to help, a reasonable person would have done something different,” Groberg said “But he didn’t do it out of maliciousness.”

While the two sides now agree on what would be the proper charge, they disagree about the penalty.

When he is sentenced, Halstead will be asking for the maximum of five years in prison.

The standard sentencing range for the offense is four to 12 months. Groberg said he will recommend his client be sentenced to time served, about a year.

“He feels horrible,” Groberg said. “He probably will always feel horrible.

“He feels like he didn’t do things right; like maybe if he had learned CPR, things would have turned out differently.”

Groberg said the case offers a lesson, for anyone.

“Don’t shake a baby. At all. Under any circumstances,” he said. “Learn CPR.”

Davison will appear in court again on Wednesday to get a hearing scheduled for sentencing.

•••

For background, read “Lawyer seeks second opinion on brain trauma in Morton child assault case” from Monday April 14, 2014, here