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Coroner: Ongoing physical abuse led to Vader toddler’s death

Friday, November 7th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Charging documents in the homicide case of 3-year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner describe a variety of week’s old injuries and conflicting statements from the married couple who were caring for him about his final day or days on this earth.

The Vader pair were arrested today and are being held in the Lewis County Jail on $500,000 bail.

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Jasper Henderling-Warner

Brenda A. Wing, 27, and Danny A. Wing, 26, are each charged as either the principal or accomplice in the Oct. 5 death.

No details are offered of exactly what happened, but the results are described in court papers as numerous abrasions including on the back of his head, trauma to his face and multiple bruises to his arms and legs.

X-rays revealed healing fractures, and Jasper was missing his two lower front teeth, according to the court documents.

The cause is labeled by the coroner as chronic battered child syndrome, meaning ongoing physical abuse, according to authorities.

“Basically, it gets to the point where the body just says, ‘I’ve had enough’,” Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office began investigating when it received a Sunday evening 911 call from Brenda Wing that the boy was unconscious and he was rushed to Providence Centralia Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Brenda Wing said they’d just picked the boy up from his mother in Woodland the night before. Danny Wing told detectives it was two nights before.

Eighteen-year-old Zachary Kidder who resided with the couple at their home on the 400 block of Main Street in Vader said the child had been there for the entire week to week and half he’d been staying there.

The mother, un-named in court documents, told detectives she and the couple agreed they would be his guardians for a year, beginning on July 31, court documents state.

The mother explained she was homeless and could not care for her son and described trips to both Chico, Calif. and Oregon City to look for work. She lives in the Vancouver, Wash. area.

The sheriff’s office has said the parties were distantly related.

Prosecutor Meyer’s documents say they met in July and had several play dates with the boy and the Wing’s children.

Meyer charged the Wings today with homicide by abuse, causing the death by engaging in a pattern or practice of assault or torture; or, in the alternative, first-degree manslaughter, recklessly causing the death.

“They’re both plausible charges, based upon the facts that we’ve got,” Meyer said late this afternoon.

He said he believes both Wings had a role in the death. Meyer alleges further they used a position of trust on a particularly vulnerable victim.

The little boy was suffering from skin infections that were secondary to his cause of death, according to the court documents.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said the doctor who performed the autopsy is not finished with all the forensic studies and could add more contributing factors to the death certificate.

Detectives were told by Kidder that the boy would simply fall over, stiffen and writhe in pain for up to 30 minute several times each day, charging documents state. He also told the detectives at first the Wings picked the boy up two days earlier, but then admitted he was instructed by Danny Wing to say that.

Charging documents offer the following from Brenda and Danny Wing about his condition that weekend:

Brenda Wing said the child was sleeping when they picked him up and when they got home, she put him to bed on the couch in the living room, where her own infant slept in a bassinet.

The following morning she awoke to him moaning, repeating “hungry” while turning his head back and forth with his eyes closed. He had a small bit of toast and Gatorade and she went back to sleep until about noon, and then went to the store.

When she tried to wake him around 4 p.m, he was totally limp so she gave him a bath to revive him and noticed a lot of bruises all over him, she said.

“Brenda initially told detectives once she put the cold water on the child, he stopped breathing,” charging documents state. “She and her husband Danny called 911 and began CPR on the child.”

Danny Wing’s statement was they had brought the boy back to their home on Friday night Oct. 3, not Saturday as his wife had said. On Saturday, the child was coherent, walking around and seemed okay, he said.

That was the day he and his wife noticed the bruises, not right before they called 911, according to Danny Wing.

Brenda Wing told detectives the boy’s mother was a drug user and she believed he had been abused while in the mother’s care.

The mother told detectives after she returned from Oregon City, the Wings brought Jasper to her for a visit in mid-September.

“The mother indicated that she made several attempts to reach the Wing family via cell phone, but they would not take her calls,” Meyer wrote. “When they did, they would make excuses not to meet with her for visitations.”

She provided a note signed by her, Danny and Brenda Wing, making them the guardians from July 31, 2014 until July 31, 2015.

Detectives found a Facebook posting they believe the mother made in September, indicating the Wings had temporary custody of her son, and that she missed him.

Meyer said the evidence they have does not point to the mother being involved.

While the final report has not been issued from the autopsy, the injuries discovered were “weeks, not months” old, during the time the boy was in the care of the Wings, according to the doctor, charging documents state.

The couple is expected to go before a judge on Monday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.
•••

For background, read “Two arrested in death of toddler from Vader residence” from Friday November 7, 2014 at 1:07 p.m., here

Two arrested in death of toddler from Vader residence

Friday, November 7th, 2014
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Jasper Henderling-Warner / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office

Updated at 1:32 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Vader couple taking care of the 3-year-old boy who died under suspicious circumstances early last month have been arrested for homicide by abuse.

Brenda Wing, 27, and Danny Wing, 26, were taken into custody just before 11 a.m. today at the Child Protective Services office in Centralia.

Firefighters and deputies responded the evening of Oct. 5 to a 911 call  from the Wing’s home, in which Brenda Wing said the boy was unconscious and not breathing. Responders continued CPR and conducted other life-saving measures but the toddler was pronounced dead at Providence Centralia Hospital.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at the time said only that it was suspicious, but now reveals the child had severe and obvious bruises and injuries to his entire body.

“The Wing’s explanation for the injuries were inconsistent with the investigation and autopsy findings,” Chief Civil Deputy Brown  states in a news release. “The Wing’s stories have varied from each other as well.”

Jasper Henderling-Warner’s cause of death is labeled by the coroner as chronic battered child syndrome.

Brown indicated the boy’s mother had allowed the Wings to care for her child for several months. The mother resides in Vancouver, Wash.

Brown said the Wings are family of the mother, although it isn’t clear exactly how they are related.

A detective told the mother today by phone of the arrest, Brown said.

“She’s obviously very upset with it,” Brown said. “She’s angry and she’s sad.”

The child’s father was notified as well, according to Brown.

Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield states that Jasper died from severe abuse and neglect, calling his treatment appalling.

“To think this poor little boy went through months of pain and suffering is heart wrenching,” Mansfield said in a prepared statement. “This case is a solemn reminder of the sickening and tragic consequences surrounding a life of drugs, alcohol, and abuse.”

The Wing’s have been charged with homicide by abuse, and should be held accountable for their role in the boy’s death, Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said in the news release.

“No child should be forced to endure the pain and agony that Jasper suffered,” Meyer stated.

Brown said she wasn’t prepared to go into detail about why the mother put her son into the care of relatives.

Brenda and Danny Wing have three children  of their own, between infancy and age 6, who are all currently in custody with CPS, according to Brown.

The sheriff’s office asks for anyone with any information on this incident to call Detective Engelbertson at (360) 748-9286 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-748-6422 to earn a reward or remain anonymous.

•••

For background, read “Law investigating death of toddler from Vader residence” from Monday October 6, 2014, here

 

Armed robber strikes at Vader area gas station

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
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South Lewis County / Google Maps

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Deputies are looking for a fairly small young man who wore a red bandana over his face when he robbed a gas station next to Interstate 5 at the Vader exit last night.

The armed individual got away with about $320, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Law enforcement responding to the 8:30 p.m. call were told by the 26-year-old woman she was working when he walked into the store, displayed a pistol and demanded cash, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Cowlitz Shell station is on the 100 block of Mulford Road, Toledo.

He left on foot to the east, but it’s possible he got into a vehicle before deputies arrived, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

The clerk, a Vader resident, was uninjured, Brown said.

Containment was set up around the area and a police dog deployed, but no suspect as located, according to Brown.

The robber was described as brown-haired and brown-eyed and about 20 years old. He was about 5 feet 6 inches tall weighing approximately 150 pounds, she said.

He wore all dark clothing.

Chief Brown asks anyone who may have information to please contact the sheriff’s office or Lewis County Crime Stoppers.

Two school bus accidents, no serious injuries

Friday, October 24th, 2014
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Honda Accord wrecks into school bus in front of Burger Claim in Grand Mound. / Courtesy photo

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 17-year-old boy was safely removed out the back window of his car by medics yesterday following a rear-end collision in Grand Mound that left the back bumper of a school bus on his steering wheel.

Firefighters called at 3:47 p.m. to Old Highway 99 near 203rd Avenue Southwest found the Honda Accord’s windshield smashed and its front end buried beneath the bus, according to responders.

West Thurston Regional Fire Authority Lt. Isaac Garza said it was the kind of ugly wreckage and entrapment that when they rolled up, they just knew was going to be serious. But it wasn’t.

Garza said he thought the bus was either carrying no students or they were all okay; he was focused on caring for the teen in the Honda, he said.

“The driver of the car was actually fine too, we took him to Centralia for precautionary measures,” Garza said. “He had a laceration to his face, but ended up walking away.”

Both were northbound in front of the Burger Claim restaurant, according to Thurston County Sheriff’s Office .

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said he didn’t have a written report yet on the incident, but preliminary information was the kids on the bus seemed to be fine.

At around the same time in Centralia, a Toyota pickup with no working brakes ran into the back of a school bus on West Reynolds Avenue near Blair Road.

The bus had stopped at a railroad crossing, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

A deputy responding to the approximately 3:20 p.m. collision reported two children on the bus complained of headaches and aid was called to treat them, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

The pickup truck’s driver, 52-year-old Mark Christensen, of Rochester, admitted he knew his brakes weren’t functional and was arrested and booked into jail for reckless driving, according to Brown.

Both vehicles were drivable, Brown said.

Riverside Fire Authority Firefighter-paramedic Jennifer Ternan said they were dispatched at 3:49 p.m. to the scene, but when they arrived, the bus had been moved to a parking lot off Lum Road and the school district told them they were handling it.

Firefighters were told there were no injuries, she said.

Two Onalaska teens trapped when car strikes tree

Friday, October 24th, 2014
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Plymouth Breeze rests against tree after two occupants are extricated. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 1

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A pair of 14-year-old boys who took a parents car joy riding yesterday were hospitalized with serious injuries after they slammed into a tree northeast of Onalaska.

Authorities said they were going so fast, the impact left the tree against the dashboard.

Deputies and members of three fire departments responded to the 4:25 p.m. call to the 200 block of Griel Road; the Jaws of Life were used because they were trapped.

“It took a long time to get the car opened up to get them out, especially the passenger,” Lewis County Fire District 1 Chief Mark Conner said.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said a trooper estimated they were traveling at a very high rate, well above the posted 40 mph speed limit. The 1997 Plymouth Breeze left the roadway and traveled through a wooden bus shack before hitting the tree, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

Both were airlifted from the field at Onalaska High School, according to Conner.

The passenger suffered several broken bones in his lower extremities, Brown said. Conner said he was flown to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, and also had cuts to his face.

The airbags deployed so they were fortunate with no obvious head injuries, Conner said, but both boys had suspected internal injuries.

The driver was delivered to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the fire chief said. He got an update this morning that the driver has liver, kidney and lung lacerations.

Brown said the boys had been home alone so the parents were unaware they took the car out. She said a neighbor reported seeing them pass her home twice at an extremely high rate.

The teens are from Onalaska, and Brown reported they took their parents car, but said she didn’t know specifically if they are brothers or just friends.

The collision remains under investigation.

Second suspicious Centralia fire consumes garage

Saturday, October 18th, 2014
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Fire erupts in the backyard of a West Walnut Street house. / Courtesy photo by Crystal Bowman

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Flames ravaged a detached garage behind a home last night, the second such incident in Centralia in less than a week.

Both fires are being investigated as arsons.

Centralia police arrived first after the approximately 8 p.m. call to the 1000 block of West Walnut Street, offering helpful early information, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

“We showed up, it was a fairly good-sized garage,” Firefighter-paramedic Jade Gross said. “We attacked it from the alleyway.”

Gross said the owner was alerted by older neighborhood children who spotted the fire and pounded on her door so she could call 911.

The crew was joined by firefighters from Chehalis and were on the scene until about midnight, Gross said.

Inside the structure and ruined were a small pickup truck, a motorcycle and a large amount of other personal property, he said.

“It was a complete loss,” Gross said.

Also burned was a travel trailer, some of a neighbor’s fence and outdoor children’s toys, he said.

A fire investigator was expecting to examine the scene today. Centralia police indicate there was no good explanation for the fire, and it is currently classified as an arson.

The garage’s doorless entry opened to the alley, according to Gross.

Early last Sunday morning, a large shed was destroyed by fire on the 1100 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia; it was in a backyard adjacent to the railroad tracks. The rear of the house in that 2:30 a.m. blaze sustained minor damage.

Nobody was hurt in either incident.

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Looking toward what remains inside the destroyed garage from next door neighbor’s backyard. / Courtesy photo by Aaron Cogburn

Investigation: Barbecuing ignited garage, house in Adna fire

Friday, October 17th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

It was an unfortunate series of events that led to the loss of a two-story farmhouse near Adna, according to fire officials.

Fire Investigator Ted McCarty said the cause of the blaze was accidental, originating with a barbecue.

Firefighters called about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday to the 300 block of Spooner Road found the garage in the back fully involved in flames. Lewis County Fire District 6 Chief Tim Kinder said when he arrived, he saw flames coming out the front of the first story.

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Three hundred block Spooner Road

“Unfortunately, with the 100-plus-year-old house, once fire got inside the walls, it raced up into the attic area and through the roof,” Kinder said.

Kinder said he had to pull personnel out, and fight the fire defensively at that point, for safety reasons.

The couple who live there had relocated the home from another part of the valley and put it back together, Kinder said. “It was his grandfather’s place.”

Members of seven other fire departments joined them, working until about midnight, according to Kinder.

“Distance to water was the hard part,” he said.

Nine tenders shuttled water from a hydrant at Adna High School, he said.

“We used so many, because turnaround time was 20 minutes,” he said.

Kinder yesterday said he was grateful to Dave Martin at Tyler Rentals, who he was able to call that night and responded to a request for an excavator; and to Ron Sandrini operated it.

They used the machine to pull parts of the building down, so crews could attempt to finish putting out the fire, he said.

“There’s nothing left, it’s gone,” he said of the house.

Nobody was injured, but the house and its contents were destroyed.

Kinder said the owner had pulled his barbecue into the door-well of the garage, because it had started to rain.

He said he went in the house to get food for the barbecue and when he came back out, he noticed a patch on the floor on fire, he said.

He went to get a hose, and returned to find a wall on fire, Kinder said.

By the time he was spraying the wall, a second wall had caught fire, he said.

“It was very unfortunate,” Kinder said.

McCarty said they don’t know exactly what caused the barbecue to catch the floor on fire.

The chief said they started to get Red Cross to assist the couple, but neighbors responded.

“Half the families in Adna were out there already giving their help,” he said. “They were very well cared for.”

Feds are waiting for Centralia meth trafficking suspect

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A judge set bail at $500,000 yesterday for the Centralia man suspected of trafficking a large amount of methamphetamine.

About five pounds of meth, a scale, a ledger, 10 cell phones and cutting agent to be co-mingled with the drug were found when officers searched the home of Miguel Perez-Espinoza and during their followup investigation on Tuesday, according to court documents. More than $12,000 cash turned up as well.

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Miguel Perez-Espinoza

Perez-Espinoza was a primary suspect from a case four years ago when local and federal law enforcement officers discovered more than 12 pounds of meth during a search warrant execution on 100 block of Elma Drive in Centralia, but he disappeared, according to the Centralia Police Department.

The U.S. Marshals Service has a no-bail hold on Perez-Espinoza because that case is pending in U.S. District Court, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello said.

Masiello said even though Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey set the bail high, he wasn’t certain if federal agents might not take custody of the defendant and consider folding the local case into their federal case.

Perez-Espinoza has no felony criminal history.

In court yesterday afternoon, he told the judge he spoke only a little English, so a Spanish language translator was used.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke said her client was working before, but not currently, so he qualified for a court-appointed attorney.

Perez-Espinoza was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, an offense with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but a standard sentencing range of 12 to 24 months under state law, according to O’Rourke.

Prosecutors added so-called enhancements to the charges that the alleged crime took place within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop, involved a substantial amount of drugs and with a firearm being present. However Masiello said after the brief hearing there was no gun in the current case.

He’d mistakenly added that language, he said, but the information was about a firearm involved in the 2010 case.

According to charging documents, police found approximately a half pound of meth and the other items at the home where Perez-Espinoza lives on 200 block of West Second Street.

Officers learned he was storing more meth at another Centralia residence, and after contacting the occupant there, discovered the other four and half pounds, charging documents state.

Police seized three passenger vehicles as well.
•••

For background, read “Centralia’s drug team scores big; mass meth, cash” from Tuesday October 14, 2014, here

Chehalis police car hits man in crosswalk

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Updated at 11:38 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A pedestrian in a crosswalk was struck by a Chehalis police car last night, sending the 56-year-old Chehalis man to the hospital.

It happened about 7 p.m. on Northwest West Street near Front Street, near the Lewis County Historical Museum, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Kenneth L. Jacaway, 56, of Chehalis, was walking north crossing West Street and the patrol vehicle was traveling westbound, according to the state patrol.

Jacaway sustained a broken leg and an arm injury, according to a patrol spokesperson. He was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital.

His condition is described by a hospital spokesperson as fair.

Police Officer Rick Silva, 60, was driving a 2012 Dodge Charger and uninjured, according to the investigating trooper.

Chehalis Police Chief Glenn Schaffer said they asked the state patrol to conduct the investigation.

Silva was on routine patrol, not on his way to a call with lights or sirens, according to Schaffer.

Trooper Will Finn said it was his understanding that a vehicle coming the opposite direction stopped and motioned for the pedestrian to go.

“The pedestrian did not see the patrol car coming and I’m assuming neither did the other driver,” Finn said.

Jacaway was struck by the front driver’s side quarter panel, he said.

Chief Schaffer said he will wait until the investigation is finished, to then look to see if there are any internal matters to be looked into, regarding policy and procedure.

There was no reason to place Officer Silva on leave during the investigation, Schaffer said.

Centralia’s drug team scores big; mass meth, cash

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
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More than $12,000 in currency is taken into evidence from Second Street drug case. / Courtesy photo by Centralia Police Department

Updated at 3:47 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 28-year-old man who was a primary suspect in a case four years ago in which local police and the Drug Enforcement Administration recovered more than 12 pounds of methamphetamine was arrested today at his Centralia home, where officers seized about five pounds of meth, three passenger vehicles and more than $12,000 cash.

A half dozen members of the Centralia Police Department served a search warrant this morning at the 200 block of West Second Street.

Miguel Perez-Espinoza was arrested without incident and booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession of methamphetamine with the intent to deliver, according to police.

Sgt. Jim Shannon said this morning’s events were very low key. They waited until the children went to school, and then just knocked on the door and asked to talk with their suspect, he said.

The original investigation into Perez-Espinoza’s activities began in September 2010, when officers of the Centralia Anti-Crime unit working in cooperation with the DEA turned up in excess of 12 pounds of methamphetamine from a location in the 100 block of Elma Drive, according to Shannon. Police believed after that seizure, Perez-Espinoza fled the United States, presumably to Mexico to avoid prosecution, according to Shannon.

Toward the end of last year, the Anti-Crime team got information he had come back to town and resumed his drug trafficking, Shannon stated in a news release.

“Through surveillance, interviews and data mining we identified several members of his organization,” Shannon stated.

In August, officers served a search warrant in the 3100 block of Ives Road and ended up arresting three suspects, thought to be co-conspirators with Perez-Espinoza: They are Christian Ayon Felix, 30; Diego A. Vazquez, 22; and Erik M Nava, 35; all of Centralia, according to police. Shannon said slightly less than one pound of methamphetamine and $2,300 in cash were found at that location.

“I think the takeaway, is when we conduct a drug investigation in this city, it doesn’t matter how long it takes or how far you go, we will eventually catch up to you,” Shannon said.

He said they plan on making more arrests in the case.

Perez-Espinoza’s wife was present when police arrived, but has not been arrested, according to Shannon.

The vehicles they impounded include 2007 Chrysler Sebring, a 2010 VW Jetta, and a 2004 Ford Expedition.

Shannon said whatever becomes of the case from Elma Drive in 2010 in under the purview of the DEA.

The estimated current price of meth, by the pound, is $8,000 to $10,000, he said.

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Roughly five pounds of methamphetamine found today following search of Centralia home. / Courtesy photo by Centralia Police Department

Teen’s logging death results in fine to Chehalis employer

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Chehalis logging company has been cited for two serious violations in connection with the death of an 18-year-old employee who was crushed by a piece of equipment south of Boistfort last May.

Cole Bostwick of Winlock was setting chokers for a logging operation when a carriage was accidentally lowered onto him, killing him instantly.

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Cole Bostwick

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office identified the employer as ENB Logging and Trucking, but the state Department of Labor and Industries reports it was ENB Logging and Construction Inc.

An investigation conducted by L&I found the employer did not ensure the chokerman was in the clear as the Danebo drift carriage was being lowered for slack and also that the business’s accident prevention program was not tailored to the needs of the operation, specifically that it didn’t explain or address the differences in the hazards of using a drift carriage and a motorized  carriage.

An assistant fire chief who responded to the scene on May 21 described the carriage in question as a metal piece roughly six feet long and not very wide that traveled along a cable to assist in retrieving logs. He estimated it weighed two tons.

The penalty assessed is $7,800, according to the inspector’s report dated Oct. 1.

ENB has appealed the citations, according to a spokesperson from L&I.

The accident occurred about 14 miles off Pe Ell McDonald Road, on property owned by Green Diamond Resource Co. The teen’s father was on the job with him.

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Tyler Bryan

A Mossyrock logging company was cited for a serious violation earlier this year, after the death of a 21-year-old employee, who was struck by a log being pulled up a slope with a cable. Tyler Bryan, of Toledo, died on Feb. 10 at the site north of Morton.

Brintech Technical Logging Inc. did not appeal and paid the $2,600 fine, according to L&I spokesperson Elaine Fischer.

In that case, the same inspector found the employer did not ensure the three-man rigging crew was in the clear when a “turn” of logs was moving to the landing, according to the inspector’s report. The crew was within 40 feet of the skyline when the tail hold failed, causing the logs to fall towards them, according to the report.

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John B. Leonard

And a March death from a logging injury in the Salkum area brought a citation for an Winlock logging business, according to Fischer.

A fine of $1,800 was assessed against TJB Enterprises Inc. for a serious violation.

John B. Leonard, 69, airlifted to a Seattle hospital on March 27 after he was struck by a large limb while working on acreage just north of the 2200 block of U.S. Highway 12.

The L&I report contends the employer did not ensure before falling that various conditions did not create a hazard.

TJB has appealed.

Judge gives six-plus years to Ricky Riffe, already serving more than 100 years

Monday, October 13th, 2014
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Ricky Riffe, in red, addresses his lawyer as his hearing winds down in Lewis County Superior Court this morning.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Convicted murderer Ricky Riffe will be headed back to prison now after he was sentenced today in a 30-year-old child sex crime case involving a young relative.

Riffe, now 56, was convicted almost a year ago in the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and shotgun deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, of Ethel. While awaiting trial, prosecutors filed charges that during the same time period, he had sexually abused his young stepdaughter.

The former Mossyrock man made an Alford plea last month, pleading guilty to indecent liberties, but admitting no guilt after a deal was struck between the two sides.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and Riffe’s lawyer John Crowley both recommended this morning that he should serve six years and three months, the top of the standard sentencing range for the offense.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt agreed.

Riffe is already serving nearly 103 years in the Maurin case, but has appealed.

Clad in red jail garb, Riffe never turned his heavily whiskered face toward the victim as she spoke. He declined an opportunity offered by the judge to speak on his own behalf.

Riffe denies any guilt in both cases.

“It is disturbing to the state that he cannot accept responsibility for anything he has done in his life,” Prosecutor Meyer told the judge. “But that’s on him.”

The now-grown woman, the daughter of Riffe’s long ago wife Robin, who is since deceased, took a chair next to Meyer when she told the judge what she hoped for.

“If there’s any chance of asking of him never, ever getting out,” I will,” she said, reading from notecards. “And please do not allow the monster of my past to be housed anywhere in Western Washington.”

With intermittent sniffles, and glances to her right where Riffe sat facing straight ahead, she said she knows and he knows what happened that November night in 1984. She was nine years old.

“You, my mother and your brother will rot in hell,” she said.

The judge also signed a lifetime no contact order between Riffe and the victim.

From among the handful of individuals in the audience, came a parting shot as Riffe was led away by jail guards.

Robin Riffe’s sister Tammi Graham raised her voice loudly: “Rick, I hope this label goes with you for the rest of your life.”

He was initially charged also with statutory rape, but that charge was dropped in the deal, part of which included Riffe agreeing not to appeal. The crime of indecent liberties, as it existed in the mid-1980s, involves sexual contact with a child younger than 14 years old.
•••

For background, read “Ricky Riffe makes Alford plea in 1980s child sex abuse case” from Saturday Sept. 6, 2014, here

Sheriff’s Office: First “attempted luring” was misunderstanding

Friday, October 10th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The mother of a student who saw news reports of attempted lurings in Rochester called the sheriff’s office last night to say she was the woman in the black sport utility vehicle from the incident on Monday morning at the school bus stop.

She was speaking to her son.

“There was another juvenile standing nearby and her son was a short distance away,” The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office stated in a news release. “She asked her son if he missed the bus and she was told by both boys that they had not missed the bus.

“When asked if they wanted a ride to school, both declined.”

Two more times this week, deputies took reports from different teenage boys who said a motorist stopped and offered them a ride to school, prompting alerts from the school district.

The first incident, involving the black SUV, was reported by a 13-year-old boy to his mother later that night, and to the sheriff’s office the following day.

Each happened between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

Extra patrols were out and will continue to roam the areas, as the second and third instances remain under investigation, according to sheriff’s Lt. Cliff Ziesemer.

Another 13-year-old on Wednesday morning described how he was walking along the 7500 block of 198th Avenue Southwest when a black four-door car driven by a scruffy-faced man wearing a baseball cap pulled alongside him and asked if he wanted a ride to school.

“Student told him no and the driver asked a few more times until the student cut through the woods,” the sheriff’s office states.

And then yesterday, a 14-year-old was waiting for his bus at the 8500 block of 183rd Avenue Southwest when a black car pulled up and the driver, who sounded like a woman, asked if he’d missed the bus and offered a ride. He told her no and he walked away.

That car was described as having a loud muffler and annoyingly blue headlights.

The dark and fog prevented the boys from getting good descriptions, according to the sheriff’s office.

Ziesemer said that in his 30 years of experience, the vast majority of what are reported as attempted lurings turn out to be something innocent, involving a misunderstanding or miscommunication. And it’s often another parent just offering a ride, he said.

However, the sheriff’s office reminds students:

• If possible, stay in groups while at school bus stops.

• Do not approach any vehicle or person that you are unfamiliar with.

• If a vehicle stops near you and someone talks to you who you are not familiar with, walk in the opposite direction.

• Then, as soon as possible, tell an adult, such as a parent, school bus driver or teacher.

Attempted lurings reported in Rochester

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Three times this week, a different teenage boy waiting at a different school bus stop in Rochester has had a motorist stop and tell him he’s missed his bus and offer him a ride to school.

It happened most recently early this morning on 183rd Avenue Southwest by the bus barn, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office is asking the public to be vigilant.

All have occurred between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., but the vehicles  described are different; and the drivers have been said to be both male and female, sheriff’s Lt. Cliff Ziesemer said this morning.

The sheriff’s office has deputies in the areas in the mornings and expect to continue through at least Monday, trying to intercept another such incident, according to Ziesemer.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Brady said this morning a teen was waiting for a bus when a smaller black vehicle came down his driveway, and he was contacted.

Students and parents need to be alert and aware, and if possible wait in groups for the school busses, Brady said. And please call right way if something similar happens again, Brady urged.

“The faster these reports get to us, the faster we can get in the area,” he said.

The first one was reported to authorities on Tuesday, in which a 13-year-old boy told his mother that a woman in a black sport utility vehicle approached him while he waited for his bus about 6:30 a.m. on Monday at the 9700 block of 180th Way Southwest.

The Rochester School District has been passing along information on its Facebook page, as it has gotten reports from law enforcement.

Authorities still mum on toddler’s death

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It could be as long as 10 weeks before the cause of death is figured out in the case of the 3-year-old boy who died under suspicious circumstances over the weekend.

The child was taken by ambulance from a Vader home to Providence Centralia Hospital on Sunday evening.

Very little information has been released.

Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20 was called to the 400 block of Main Street where CPR was already underway. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said only that they were investigating the death of a 3-year-old boy with suspicious circumstances.

An autopsy was conducted today, but final determinations can’t be made until the Lewis County Coroner’s Office gets back the results of toxicology tests, as well as the findings of various studies conducted by the pathologist, Coroner Warren McLeod said this afternoon.

Toxicology tests can take eight to 10 weeks, he said.

McLeod did not release the toddler’s name, or any other information.

He said he was still waiting for final confirmation of the child’s identity, and would not release it until after the legal next-of-kin have had enough time to notify other relatives.

McLeod said he was taking the extra time to make sure all the family beyond just the next-of-kin is made aware, because of the more sensitive nature of the case; it’s a child and the sheriff’s office is conducting an investigation.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said late this afternoon she had no further information to release. The sheriff’s office has a briefing in the morning and if they choose to share anything more, it would be after that’s done, Brown said.

None of the officials authorized to speak have even stated where the child died, in Vader or at the Centralia hospital, nor have they said where the child lived.