Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Centralia fast food burglar faces more charges

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Cole T. Moon returns to his seat to wait to be taken back down to the Lewis County Jail after bail hearing.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Just as he was finishing up serving jail time for his role in a burglary to the McDonald’s restaurant in Centralia, Cole T. Moon found himself charged with new felonies related to past alleged activities.

Moon, 24, recently pleaded guilty to the McDonald’s incident and was given just 45 days in jail because he was a first time offender.

The break-in was just one in a series of nine which took place during 2015 in cities between Portland and Lacey with similar methods – the thieves cut holes in the roofs of fast food restaurants and then cut holes in their safes and stole money, according to authorities. Three took place in Centralia.

An acquaintance of Moon’s pleaded guilty on Wednesday to five of the crimes and is facing a potential sentence of more than 12 years in prison.

As part of his plea agreement, 26-year-old Alexis Cardenas was required to provide a truthful statement about his activities and the names of all who helped him.

The new information, presented in charging documents, alleges there was an attempted burglary at the Centralia McDonald’s a few weeks before the known break-in on May 28, 2015. But they brought the wrong cutting tool and abandoned the venture, according to authorities.

Moon also is now implicated in the incident at Arby’s on April 14, 2015 as well as others in other counties, according to charging documents.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead charged Moon yesterday with one count of second-degree burglary, one count of attempted second-degree burglary, one count of first-degree malicious mischief and a count of attempted first-degree malicious mischief.

Moon had just completed serving his time the day before in the Lewis County Jail.

Temporary defense attorney Kevin Nelson said his client had a solid place to live and a job lined up as bail was discussed.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Joely O’Rourke agreed with Halstead’s request for bail of $100,000 for Moon.

Moon’s arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

For background, read “Fast food roof top burglar convicted after plea deal” from Wednesday March 22, 2017, here

Fast food roof top burglar convicted after plea deal

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Alexis Cardenas pleads guilty this morning in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Alexis Cardenas cast his eyes downward as he offered guilty pleas today to a string of fast food restaurant break-ins that could bring him more than 12 years in prison.

The former Centralia College student was arrested in February in connection with incidents in the late spring of 2015 in which thousands of dollars were stolen during nighttime burglaries in Centralia, two of which the intruders entered by cutting holes in the roofs of the buildings.

The victim establishments include Arby’s, Wendy’s, McDonalds and local prosecutors combined the case with a February burglary of a Taco Bell in Thurston County and a break-in at a Franklin County Arby’s.

Three other individuals have been charged as well.

Cardenas, 26, was accompanied in Lewis County Superior Court this morning by defense attorney David Arcuri.

He pleaded guilty to five counts of second-degree burglary, five counts of first-degree malicious mischief and one count of attempted delivery of cocaine.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said he and Arcuri plan to recommend a sentence of 148 months in prison. Arcuri alluded to “other things” his client has agreed to do before his sentencing.

Cardenas’s now 20-year-old girlfriend Morelia V. Ayala Garcia, 19, also of Centralia, is charged for her alleged role in the McDonalds case where she used to work as a manager.

Also charged in the burglaries were Joaquin Armenta and Cole T. Moon. Moon pleaded guilty to the McDonald’s incident and was given just 45 days in jail because he was a first time offender, according to Halstead.

Cardenas is expected back in court on April 20 to schedule his sentencing hearing.

For background, read “Two arrested in Centralia rooftop burglary cases” from Friday February 10, 2017, here

Bail set at $250,000 for home invasion suspect

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Franklin G. Cole Jr. appears before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 32-year-old man with 21 felony convictions in his past is being held in the Lewis County Jail in connection with a Chehalis home invasion robbery from a year ago.

Franklin G. Cole Jr. was brought before a judge yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller said Cole has lived in Thurston County his entire life, but court documents show a Tacoma address for his residence.

According to court documents, a defendant charged last year in the case agreed in January to identify the other two involved in the incident in exchange for consideration from the state.

Charges were filed last month and arrest warrants issued for Cole and for Joshua A. Little. Little has already posted bail in his case.

According to charging documents, it was just after 11:30 at night on March 26, 2016 when police were called to the victim’s home on Southwest 10th Street just off Market Boulevard.

The 40-year-old woman was living in a shed behind a residence and packing to move out when three males kicked in her door and came inside. They were dressed in black masks and wearing gloves, she told police. She said at least one of them was holding a handgun.

The victim said they took her Playstation 4, 20-inch monitor, a DVR, laptop computer and one of them threw a four-foot long fluorescent light fixture at her. She told police she thought she recognized the voice of one of them as someone who had traded watches with her boyfriend, and his watch turned out to be fake.

Jesse L. Harkcom, 34 at the time, was arrested and charged last June.

Cole’s bail is set at $250,000. His arraignment is Thursday.

For background, read “Chehalis home invasion suspect facing third strike case” from Friday June 10, 2016, here

Suspect asks officer if he’s a cop as two struggle over weapon

Friday, March 17th, 2017

Mark E. Grover is shown his seat in Lewis County Superior Court for a bail hearing.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Bail was set at $200,000 for the man who allegedly pointed what turned out to be a BB gun but looked like a 9mm pistol at a Centralia police officer who was chasing him on foot.

Mark E. Grover, 35, of Sequim, was charged in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday with second-degree assault and possession of methamphetamine.

Grover has no felony convictions in his past but has had misdemeanor driving offenses and has a pending case involving obstructing a law enforcement officer, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joel DeFazio told the judge.

DeFazio asked for the high bail, citing a threat to the community and a flight risk. He has three active warrants, DeFazio said.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller tried for a lesser amount and conveyed to the judge her client said he has broken ribs and something is “very wrong” with his back.

Grover told the judge the pain was making him nauseous.

Judge Joely O’Rourke told him to work that out with the jail.

According to charging documents and police, Grover wrestled with three officers for several minutes behind the Rite Aid store on Harrison Avenue in Centralia on Wednesday morning.

Centralia police were initially called about a suspicious person who seemed to be prowling vehicles in the Safeway parking lot and were then told a store manager confronted him and pulled him out of a vehicle, according to the documents.

The suspect ran, but saw one officer’s police car and changed directions, according to the documents.

Centralia police Sgt. Brian Warren spotted the suspect in the Rite Aid parking lot, exited his vehicle, identified himself as police and instructed the suspect to stop, according to authorities.

Grover ran, Warren chased him on foot.

Warren was outfitted in plain clothes and driving an unmarked car, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Warren continued to yell he was police and to stop and was three to five feet away from Grover, when Grover stopped, turned around and pointed what appeared to be a handgun at Warren, Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead wrote in charging documents.

Rather then stop to pull his duty weapon, Warren continued forward and grabbed the gun with both hands, according to Halstead. Grover also had two hands on the gun and the two men struggled over it, he wrote.

Warren repeatedly told him to let go, but he refused, according to the documents.

“While struggling over the gun Grover asked Warren if he was a cop and Warren said he was and he needed to release the gun,”  Halstead wrote. “Grover stated numerous times, ‘you’re going to get shot.’ ”

Other arriving officers got the gun from Grover’s hands but spent the next several minutes trying to get Grover’s hands out from beneath his body as he lay on his stomach, according to Halstead.

Officers deployed the Taser numerous times, Halstead wrote.

When Grover was searched, officers found a substance that field-tested positive for methamphetamine on his person, the documents state.

Grover was  taken by ambulance to be checked out before being booked, according to police.

When the gun was examined, it was found to be a loaded, operational BB gun but appeared identical to a 9mm Smith and Wesson handgun, according to court documents.

Grover’s charge of second-degree assault includes an enhancement that alleges he was armed with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.

He was assigned a court appointed lawyer. His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

For background, read “Centralia officer facing gun-wielding man goes hands-on” from Thursday March 16, 2017, here

Centralia officer facing gun-wielding man goes hands-on

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A suspect during a foot chase who turned and pointed a pistol at the officer behind him in Centralia yesterday is booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree assault.

The officer was close enough to reach out and push the gun away and grab the man’s hand then a struggle ensued for control of the weapon, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Centralia police Sgt. Tracy Murphy said it took three officers wresting with the subject almost four minutes before they were able to cuff him. It happened behind the Rite Aid store at Harrison Avenue and Johnson Road.

Once police recovered the gun to clear it, they realized it was a BB gun, Murphy said.

It looked like a Smith and Wesson semi-automatic, he said.

Mark E. Grover, 35, of Sequim, had several outstanding warrants and also was found to be in possession of methamphetamine, according to police.

It’s only by the grace of God Grover wasn’t shot for his actions, according to Murphy.

Had Sgt. Brian Warren been two steps farther behind the guy when the gun appeared, that would have changed everything, he said.

“A split second decision,” Murphy said. “Do I try to beat the guy to the draw or get the gun out of my face.”

The reason for the encounter was a 911 call just before 9:30 a.m. about a suspected car prowler in the parking lot of Safeway; police were told a person was trying car doors, according to Murphy. Witnesses advised 911 of where the suspect headed and Sgt. Warren was the first to arrive, tried to cut him off and then gave chase on foot, he said.

Numerous officers arrived quickly, according to Murphy.

The suspect was taken by ambulance to be checked out, because of the potential effects of the combination of being under the influence of drugs and a prolonged fight, Murphy said. Then he was booked into the jail.

Grover is very fortunate the situation worked out the way it did, Murphy said.

“In the end, we’re very grateful it happened that way,” he said. “He (Warren) is glad it went that way.”

Grover is tentatively scheduled to go before a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

Group of Green Hill inmates charged in adult court for brawl

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017
2017.0314.fourghriot9343 ltr Juan D. Martinez-Sanchez, Angel Flores and Adrian Pimentel Jr.

Brian Mendoza-Laureano Zuniga, in red, faces a judge while his three companions, in orange, from Green Hill School await their turns.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Five student-inmates from Green Hill School are charged with prison riot for an allegedly gang-related melee that broke out in the dining hall of the state juvenile incarceration facility in Chehalis.

The incident that occurred on Aug. 11 was investigated by the Chehalis Police Department and the suspects subsequently charged in Lewis County Superior Court. Four of them were brought before a judge yesterday afternoon.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joel DeFazio said the fifth defendant has since been transferred into the custody of the state Department of Corrections and would be transported to a court hearing on Friday.

“We want all five of them to be arraigned at the same time,” DeFazio told the judge.

Charging documents in the case include statements from six different staff members involved in breaking up the fighting. The attackers were described as Surenos and their targets Nortenos.

One staff member recounted that as dinner was ending, he saw nearly all the Maple A and B Wing residents moving, running and one even climbing over a divider wall to get near or assault rival residents on the other side. One of the staff was reportedly kicked in the face as he tried to protect a resident, according to the documents.

Green Hill School off Southwest 11th Street provides services to as many as 185 male youth incarcerated in the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration for a wide range of felony offenses. They range in age from 15 to 20 years old. A signifiant portion of youth held at Green Hill will finish their sentences in an adult prison.

Yesterday, Brian Mendoza-Laureano Zuniga, now 19, was brought to court via the Lewis County Jail from the state Department of Corrections where he has transferred since the event in August.

Three of them were brought to court from Green Hill School and were to return there after the hearing until their next court date. They are: Angel Flores, 19; Adrian Pimentel Jr., 20; and Juan D. Martinez-Sanchez, 19.

Pimentel is additionally charged with custodial assault, a crime with a maximum penalty of five years.

Not present was Eduardo Humberto Moreneo who is expected Friday.

Charging documents do not make note of what offenses the defendants are currently serving time for. The documents don’t give information about the alleged victims, such as their ages and make no mention of any injuries.

Prison riot is described as two or more inmates together using force, violence or threats of such to disturb the good order of the institution, contrary to commands of officers. It has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Authorities reached out to the Chehalis Police Department the following day, requesting contact about a “major youth disturbance” the night before.

The arraignments are scheduled for March 23.

Chehalis traffic stops yield large amounts of meth

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Gloria N. Iniguez Gonzalez sits with a Spanish-English interpreter as her companion (center) waits at their hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – For the second night in a row this week, Centralia police detective Chad Withrow pulled over a driver who failed to use their turn signal, and turned up a sizable amount of methamphetamine.

Like Tuesday when a pound and three quarters of meth was located in a vehicle pulled off Interstate 5 at the 13th Street exit in Chehalis, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rick VanWyck arrived with his drug sniffing K-9 on Wednesday night to the parking lot at McDonald’s on Median Street.

According to court documents, Withrow and a second detective saw a vehicle approach them in the hours of darkness with only one functioning headlight. They followed and soon, it made a turn without using the blinker and was stopped for the infractions, the documents relate.

A man and a woman with a 1-year-old boy were asked to exit the vehicle.

According to VanWyck, the dog “alerted” on the trunk area and a request to the occupants to search was turned down, so Withrow secured a so-called telephonic search warrant, according to charging papers.

Discovered under the seat where the woman had been sitting, were three clear plastic bags, each containing approximately one ounce of a crystal substance that field tested positive for meth, according to the documents. Six hundred thirty-three dollars were found in a pouch behind the driver’s seat.

Both were charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with  possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver.

The driver, named as Eduardo F. Morales Martinez, 37, of Shelton, in court documents, was additionally charged with first-degree criminal impersonation.

“We don’t know who he is,” Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told a judge yesterday afternoon. “He gave a couple different names that don’t check out in the state’s database.”

Meagher said he hoped to verify the man’s identity with fingerprints and asked for a no-bail hold.

Judge Joely O’Rourke set bail at $500,000, citing serious concerns about the identity issue.

Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello wrote that a more thorough check indicated Morales Martinez had prior convictions for delivery of a controlled substance and driving under the influence as well as multiple deportations and illegal entries.

Bail for the passenger, Gloria N. Iniguez Gonzalez, 38, of the Olympia area, was set at $10,000. Meagher and temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller said she has no criminal history.

Her 16-year-old son and 19-year-old brother were on hand at the brief hearing yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

Charging documents state that when the male driver was first contacted, he identified himself as Antonio Ortiz Hernandez and provided three Mexican ID cards that showed as such. One of them had a different birthdate than the other two, Masiello wrote in the affidavit regarding probable cause.

Upon further questioning and a look inside his wallet that turned up a bank card issued to Eduardo Morales, the driver said the card belonged to his son, according to the documents.

Masiello wrote that after the drugs were found and the two arrested, the driver said his true name was Eduardo Morales Martinez. His driver’s license was suspended.

The two were booked into the Lewis County Jail. Their arraignments are set for Thursday.

Hancel Zagal Alcaraz, 28, from Pasco, remains held in jail with bail set at $25,000, following his separate arrest on Tuesday night and a criminal charge filed on Wednesday in Lewis County Superior Court.

He was allegedly speeding, failing to signal lane changes and displaying no license plate or visible trip permit on northbound Interstate 5 when members of the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team pulled him over and asked him to move to the AM/PM at the 13th Street exit.

Charging documents in his case indicate Deputy VanWyck’s K-9 Axel detected controlled substances that led to a search of his vehicle.

His girlfriend handed over a brown tar substance wrapped in plastic along with two pieces of a crystal substance to detective Withrow, according to court documents.

Another detective found a coffee container that seemed heavier than it should be, reached into the coffee and located three large packages of a crystal substance, according to the documents. In total, they weighed 28.5 ounces and field tested positive as meth.

There is no indication the girlfriend was arrested.

Zagal Alcaraz allegedly told detectives the auto repair business he owns in Pasco is a front he uses to distribute controlled substances in Chehalis, Olympia, Tacoma and Everett.

He was charged the next day with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver. Zagal Alcaraz has no felony criminal history in the state.


For background, read “Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup – JNET: PACKAGES OF CRYSTAL METH HIDDEN IN COFFEE CONTAINER from Wednesday March 8, 2017, here

Vader house claimed by fire

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Crews work to extinguish fire on E Street yesterday afternoon. / Courtesy photo by Derrick Paul

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An investigator is looking for the cause of a house fire that displaced a family of four in Vader yesterday afternoon.

Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20 Assistant Chief Ruth Crear said six other fire departments joined them at the home on the 800 block of E Street.

“It’s a total loss, the house and contents,” Crear said. “There’s nothing for them to salvage.”

The one and a half story residence was home to a couple, their grown son and their 16-year-old nephew, she said.

Crews were called at 3:16 p.m. after the teen got off a school bus and noticed fire in the back, and notified the two men who were inside, unaware anything was burning, according to Fire Investigator Derrick Paul.

Crear described the initial fire as outside a bedroom, but Paul’s understanding was the main part of the fire at first was in an adjacent shed and moved into the house.

A firefighter from Toledo was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with a leg or ankle injury, according to Paul. Nobody else was injured, Crear said.

The Red Cross was contacted to assist the family, who are staying with relatives in Vader, according to Crear.

Approximately two dozen firefighters battled the blaze, which re-ignited about 2 o’clock this morning.

“We were there eight hours the first time and two and a half hours the second time,” Crear said.

Alleged drugged driving brings homicide charge for Centralia woman

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Kimberly J. McPherson waits as her conditions of release documents are signed in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Prosecutors have charged the driver in a fatal Christmas Eve wreck in rural Chehalis with vehicular homicide.

The passenger Thomas D. Lininger, 43, of Chehalis died at the scene of the single-car collision on state Route 508 near Forest-Napavine Road.

Four of his five children and other family members were present in the courtroom today when Kimberly J. McPherson appeared before a judge.

McPherson had been summonsed to Lewis County Superior Court. Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher requested McPherson be allowed to remain free pending trial, with a $25,000 unsecured bond.


Thomas Lininger and his children

He also asked the judge to prohibit McPherson from driving as a condition of her release.

Judge Joely O’Rourke asked if he had community safety concerns.

“I don’t want to hinder the taxpayers with medical bills or make it any more difficult with doctors,” Meagher said. “I am convinced if she doesn’t get behind the wheel of a car, everybody’s better off.”

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller told the judge her client resides locally, has been evaluated at Eugenia Center and is actively involved in treatment. She also has surgery scheduled for tomorrow in Tacoma, Tiller said.

McPherson, 51, used crutches this afternoon and wore a slipper-type shoe on her left foot.

Prosecutors allege McPherson was under the influence of a drug or drugs the night of the accident.

Lininger’s sisters said the couple had just left a family dinner when it happened. Troopers and aid called about 8:40 p.m. on Dec. 24 found the two trapped inside the Honda Accord

“The investigation led the patrol to conclude the defendant drove straight off the road, through a grassy patch, striking a tree,” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer wrote in charging documents. “There was no indication of any attempt to break (sp) or swerve to avoid the collision.”

Lininger died at the scene from head trauma, according to Meyer.

A trooper contacted McPherson at the hospital and a breath sample provided indicated she was not under the influence of alcohol, but she admitted to using controlled substances earlier in the day, according to Meyer.

Both methamphetamine and heroin were allegedly found in the car, and some meth inside McPherson’s purse, Meyer wrote. She is also charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of heroin.

Charging documents state the results of a blood test reveal the presence of meth, opiates and morphine, though the opiate-morphine result may have been from drugs administered at the hospital, according to Meyer.

Centralia attorney Don Blair was appointed to represent her. She has a conviction for second-degree robbery and a controlled substance violation from 1996, according to Meagher.

Judge O’Rourke ordered standard conditions of release and added further restrictions.

McPherson may not go within 30 feet of any bar or tavern, may not get behind the wheel of any vehicle, even a bicycle, O’Rourke said.

“I’m also adding you may not be outside your residence past 10 o’clock in the evening,” O’Rourke said. “Do you understand that?”

Troopers reported McPherson is a Centralia resident, but prosecutors show a Tenino post office box as her mailing address.

Lininger’s two sisters said outside the courtroom they felt satisfied with what they heard and understood it’s a slow process, but would rather authorities take the time and get it right.

Their brother’s death would have been less difficult if it hadn’t have been preventable, they said.

Vehicular homicide has a maximum penalty of life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.  McPherson’s arraignment is scheduled for March 16.

For background, read “Christmas Eve crash claims a life, south of Chehalis” from Sunday December 25, 2016, here

Three separate rape cases dropped in Lewis County Superior Court

Friday, March 3rd, 2017


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A judge has dismissed a charge of second-degree rape of a child against a Chehalis man in a case in which a 13-year-old girl told police she was taken advantage of by three males at a Centralia party when she was so drunk she could not walk.

Geffrey A. Duncan, 22, was charged in September in Lewis County Superior Court in connection with the events reported in 2012. He pleaded not guilty.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm said she’s been unable to contact the alleged victim. The state’s motion to dismiss Duncan’s case without prejudice was granted yesterday, she said.

The allegations were investigated in May of 2012, and forensic evidence collected, but the girl only knew the first names of two of the individuals, according to court documents. An interview with a new witness led to two arrests last year.

Tyler M. McKee, 22, formerly of Chehalis, entered into a plea deal in November and was sentenced to 41 months in prison for two counts of second-degree child molestation.

Prosecutors alleged in charging documents that McKee’s DNA profile matched material collected from the girl’s pants. Duncan’s DNA was excluded from the sample found on the garment, according to prosecutors.

Dismissed without prejudice means the state can file the charge again later, Bohm said.

Two other sexual assault cases from late last year ended the same way in recent days in Lewis County Superior Court.

Bohm said the requests came about after further interviewing of the alleged victims and review of the files and deciding the cases could not go forward.

On Monday, a charge of second-degree rape was dismissed for Juvencio E. Ayala Rodriguez, a 23-year-old Centralia resident. He was charged in November following an investigation that began in April when a 16-year-old girl reported he forced himself on her a few nights earlier when she and a friend met two guys at Schaeffer Park.

Last week, on Thursday, a charge of second-degree rape was dismissed for 19-year-old Santiago L. Fernando of Chehalis. He too was charged in November following an investigation that began with a pregnant 17-year-old girl’s mother calling the Chehalis Police Department.

Appeals court reverses conviction in Vader child death

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

Danny A. Wing at his sentencing hearing in Lewis County Superior Court in 2015.

Updated at 4:33 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The former Vader man incarcerated for his role in the abuse, neglect and death of a toddler he and his wife were caring for will be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, an appeals court has ruled.

Danny A. Wing was given nearly 35 years when he was sentenced in Lewis County Superior Court in September 2015. He had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and third-degree child assault for the death a year earlier of 3-year-old  Jasper Henderling-Warner.

His wife entered into a similar deal with prosecutors and received a similar sentence.


Jasper Henderling-Warner

A unanimous decision of a three-member panel of the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II issued on Tuesday concluded Wing’s plea was premised on an incorrect offender score for the third degree assault of a child conviction, rendering the plea involuntary.

His offender score was improperly calculated at six rather than five, an error the state conceded, and therefore resulted in applying the wrong standard sentencing range, the appeals court wrote. An offender score is related to a person’s previous felony convictions.

For the assault, the range ought to have been 17 to 22 months instead of 22 to 29 months, according to the decision.

Wing was given 416 months for the manslaughter and the two sentences were ordered to be served concurrently. The state argued the error did not determine Wing’s ultimate sentence.

A plea agreement must be treated as “indivisible” and an error on one count means the entire agreement must be set aside, Justice P.J. Worswick wrote.

The family, from the Vancouver area, had  been living in the Vader house about two weeks when the Wings called 911 to say the toddler was unconscious and not breathing on on Oct. 5, 2014. Jasper’s 21-year-old mother had given the couple temporary custody while she was homeless and looked for work out of state.

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

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt called it an incredible story of horror and suffering inflicted.

Wing, now 28, appealed his sentence based also on another issue, claiming prosecutors breached the plea agreement.

His appeal lawyer Lisa Elizabeth Tabbut argued the agreement permitted the state to argue for sentencing enhancements but not to file aggravating factors, but the appeals judges disagreed with the distinction.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh argued the appeal case for the state.

It’s not clear exactly what happens next.

“We don’t know, that’s the long and the short of it,” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said today.

Wing may petition the state Supreme Court to review the part of the appeal decision he lost, Meyer said. If he doesn’t or even if he does and fails, the case will be back in Lewis County Superior Court, he said.

“Then he gets to choose whether he wants to withdraw his guilty plea or not,” Meyer said. “He can opt to do that and if he does, we go to trial.”

Meyer suggested if Wing were to go to trial on one of the original charges, homicide by abuse with aggravators, and lost, the potential sentence could be lengthy.

Brenda A. Wing was sentenced in January of last year to 34 years and eight months for first-degree manslaughter, third-degree child assault, two counts of witness tampering and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.

She also has an appeal in the works.

For background, read “Vader man gets 34 years for toddler death” from Friday September 25, 2015, here

Morton woman charged with burning down own home

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office requested a $25,000 arrest warrant today for woman charged with first-degree arson in connection with a Morton house fire 14 months ago.

Kristin H. Skiles, 45, was summonsed by mail to appear this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court but did not show.


Sunday December 20, 2015

The fire destroyed a two-story home on the  200 block of Third Street the morning of Dec. 20, 2015.

Prosecutors allege Skiles told a roommate she would burn the house down before the executor of the estate “or anyone gets anything.”

Nobody was injured, but three people were present, the fire chief said at the time.

According to charging documents, Skiles was being evicted because the house was going into foreclosure.

Her roommate Diana Stephens told police that when she arrived home that morning, the doors were nailed shut and Skiles was inside, sitting on the couch and made the statement about what she would do.

Skiles initially told police she’d been doing her hair and knocked an ashtray over, but in a follow up interview reportedly said she was suicidal and had once lit a small string on fire with her cigarette lighter, according to charging documents.

When she was interviewed again a month later, she said she couldn’t remember how it started but that she may have accidentally started it, the documents allege.

Fire Investigator Jay Birley concluded the origin was upstairs but the cause was undetermined. A fire investigator working on behalf of the insurance company concluded it could not have been begun the way Skiles first described based on studies that show how long it would take a discarded cigarette to ignite other materials.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead included statements gathered by the Morton Police Department from Stephens and also Mark Clevenger who was at the house that suggested the fire was intentionally set by Skiles.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told a judge this afternoon the summons had been sent to Skiles last known address in Morton and didn’t come back in the return mail.

First-degree arson has a maximum penalty of life in prison.

For background, read “News brief: Flames, water claim Morton house” from Monday December 21, 2015, here

New earthquake analysis leads to lowering Riffe Lake reservoir

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Mossyrock Dam on the Cowlitz River sits at the west end of Riffe Lake. / Courtesy photo by Tacoma Power

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Recently revised earthquake predictions, which portend failure of the spillway gates of the Mossyrock Dam have prompted the the dam’s owner to begin considering seismic retrofits.

In the meantime, Tacoma Power plans to keep less water in the reservoir which is Riffe Lake to reduce the amount of downstream flooding if a big one should strike.

Tacoma Power announced this week the changes it is implementing.

They want to keep the level of Riffe Lake 30 feet lower than normal, according to Chris Gleason, the community and media services manager for Tacoma Public Utilities.

The United States Geological Survey recently revised its earthquake predictions for the Cowlitz River basin, information that was passed along to the owner of the hydroelectric dam in November, according to Gleason.

Riffe Lake, more than 23 miles long, is 778.5 feet when full.

The probability of a large earthquake is low, and the issue isn’t the dam itself, according to Tacoma Power.

But, preliminary analysis concluded that specific seismic events could render the spillway gates useless, which could cause considerable downstream flooding, according to the utility.

A spillway is the part of the dam that water flows through. The four spillways are located high in the middle of the dam.

According to Gleason, they’ve submitted their plans to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which will review and accept or modify the proposal.

They are required keep the lake below 745.5 feet during December and January, so it’s currently close to their lower level proposed, and they will maintain it there for the foreseeable future, according to Gleason.

The new lower level is expected to be in place into the next decade.

Mossyrock Dam, a concrete structure completed in 1968 is the state’s tallest dam. It produces enough electricity for 78,000 homes.

No concrete arch dams have failed due to earthquakes, according to Tacoma Power.

Boating, swimming and fishing will remain possible on Riffe Lake, but access could be limited.

Two Tacoma Power-owned boat launches are anticipated to be usable during the summer, but two others will be closed. They are considering a new swim beach at Mossyrock Park.

The seismic retrofits they are beginning to consider won’t take place for years. The development and implementation of possible solutions involves substantial analysis, planning and federal approval, according to Tacoma Power.


On the east side of the dam are the piers that hold the spillway gates in place. / Courtesy photo by Tacoma Power

Centralian accused of taking advantage of multiple younger women

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

Keith D. Keene prepares to go in front of a judge in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 49-year-old Centralia man was charged yesterday for allegedly molesting three women on separate occasions who he allowed to use his bed when they were either nodded off after using heroin or sleeping while withdrawing from drugs.

Keith D. Keene told a detective when he was arrested he knew their fathers or parents and never touched them.

Keene was arrested on Thursday night when detectives went to the Scammon Creek Apartments in Centralia and spoke to the third alleged victim and then him, according to court documents.

A detective searched Keene’s bedroom and reportedly found a glass smoking device and a small baggie, both with white residue. He was not charged with any drug crime.

When Keene was brought before a judge yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court, Deputy Prosecutor Joel DeFazio asked for $100,000 bail, suggesting a public safety risk.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller requested the amount of bail be lower, as Keene has no felony history, resides locally and is employed locally by Sterling Breen. His only non-traffic misdemeanor was a fourth-degree assault from 1997.

Judge Joely O’Rourke chose $25,000 bail and signed sexual assault protection orders that require Keene not to go within 1,000 feet of the alleged victims.

Charging documents in the case indicate an inmate at the Lewis County Jail asked to speak with Centralia Police Department detective Adam Haggerty last July, and told him of at least four females who may have been sexually assaulted by Keene.

The documents go on to give the following account of interviews he subsequently conducted:

Later that month, the detective talked with a 21-year-old who at first said nothing happened and she wasn’t a snitch. “(Her) eyes welled up with tears and she looked away,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm wrote.

However, the young woman contacted the detective later that night and said she would talk.

She said it happened in mid-May when she and a friend went to Keene’s fifth-wheel trailer and she injected heroin and nodded off. When she came to, her friend was gone and Keene told her she could use his bedroom and rest while she waited.

The 21-year-old said she woke up to her pants being pulled down to her ankles and Keene next to her in bed, with his finger inside her. She jumped up, fixed her clothes and left.

For that, prosecutors charged him with second-degree rape, an offense that has a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Detective Haggerty next interviewed a 20-year-old who described a somewhat similar scenario she said occurred in November 2015, a visit with friends to the fifth-wheel trailer. She said she woke up and Keene was behind her – clothed in boxer shorts and a wife beater T-shirt – rubbing himself against her. She said she got up and immediately went outside.

On Thursday night, detectives got a tip a recent victim of Keene’s was at the Scammon Creek Apartments, and found she had an outstanding warrant. Members of the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team and state Department of Corrections went there, arrested her and then Haggerty interviewed her. The 29-year-old said that in early February, Keene told her she could lay down on his bed and sleep as she was coming down from a several day drug binge.

The 29-year-old said she woke up to find Keene spooning her, rubbing himself against her backside and had one hand inside her panties.

For those incidents, Keene is charged with indecent liberties, crimes with maximum penalties of 10 years in prison.

“Detective Haggerty told Keene that he needed to speak with him about a serious matter,” Bohm wrote in the charging documents.

Before the detective could ask a question, Keene blurted out that a girl accused him of touching her and it was not true, the court documents relate.

Keene’s arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court.

Two arrested in Centralia rooftop burglary cases

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Alexis Cardenas, left, and Morelia V. Ayala Garcia await their turn to go before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Centralia College student and his 19-year-old girlfriend were charged today in connection with a string of fast food establishment burglaries, two of which the thieves broke in by cutting a hole through the roof.

Alexis Cardenas, 26, of Centralia, came to the attention of local police after he was caught red-handed breaking in to the Taco Bell in Olympia the other night, according to Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

In one case, the intruders had the combination to the safe, Halstead said.

His alleged accomplice, Morelia V. Ayala Garcia, 19, also of Centralia, was a manager at the McDonalds in Centralia, according to authorities. She no longer works there, police said.

Both were arrested on Wednesday and held in the Lewis County Jail until charges were filed today in Lewis County Superior Court.

In one case, about $2,800 was stolen, in another it was $5,700, according to Halstead. He wasn’t certain this afternoon of the amount in the third case. The incidents all happened in the late spring of 2015 in Centralia.

Arby’s on the 1200 block of Belmont Avenue was hit on April 14, 2015. In that case, some broke out a window to get inside, according to charging documents.

Thieves struck at McDonalds on the 1200 block of Lum Road on May 28, 2015. Then they struck again at the Centralia Wendy’s on the 800 block of Harrison Avenue on June 13, 2015. In both cases they got inside by by cutting a hole in the roof, according to police.

Police are looking for four other suspects they believe were involved.

Cardenas is charged with three counts of second-degree burglary and three counts of first-degree malicious mischief.

Halstead told a judge this afternoon that even though Cardenas was incarcerated when the McDonalds break-in occurred, they believe he directed it.

Ayala Garcia is charged in only the McDonalds case.

Halstead said the crimes involved a high degree of sophistication. He asked that Cardenas be held on $300,000 bail, out of concern about interfering with the administration of justice by trying to contact witnesses.

While he was released on $20,000 bail in Thurston County after the Olympia burglary, Halstead said that amount was “a joke.”

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller argued for a lesser amount, noting Cardenas is a student at Centralia College, employed at a local auto dealership and resides in Centralia. Lewis County Superior Court Judge Joely O’Rourke said she considered him a very serious threat to community safety and ordered the high bail.

Halstead asked that Ayala Garcia be held on $25,000 bail, noting her situation was different in that she allegedly participated only in one burglary and had nothing more than a speeding ticket on her record. He also said Ayala Garcia didn’t appear to be a citizen, but may have a work permit.

Tiller noted to the judge Ayala Garcia has a 7-month-old baby, works as an insurance agent, had family in the courtroom and wasn’t a flight risk. O’Rourke set her bail at $25,000, noting she was not concerned about Ayala Garcia returning to court as ordered.

Halstead asked the judge to sign an order allowing DNA samples to be taken from the suspects.

The Olympia Police Department Tweeted on Monday they caught a burglar during the night trying to break in to a safe, noting an alarm, the sounds of a grinder being used and foot prints in the snow which led to a rooftop ladder and their suspect at Taco Bell.

Their arraignments are set for next Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court.