Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Dognapping outside Wal-Mart

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Eight-week-old Chihuahua snatched from Wal-Mart parking lot on Wednesday afternoon.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police are hoping someone with information about a stranger who grabbed a one-pound Chihuahua puppy in the Wal-Mart parking lot yesterday will give them a call.

The owner said he was setting items in his truck, when the 8-week old female fell out and when he went to retrieve her, she was nowhere to be found.

“Witnesses said they saw a male pick it up, place it in his coat, and take off,” Chehalis Police Department spokesperson Linda Bailey said.

The owner – a 66-year-old Cinebar man – described his pet as an Apple Head Chihuahua, black and gray, brindle in color, according to police. She also has a white triangle on her chest, Bailey said.

Officers called about 2:20 p.m. to the 1600 block of Louisiana Avenue searched the area and were unable to locate the pup or the suspect, according to Bailey.

The male who took the dog was described by witnesses only as a white male, with a backpack, she said.

“We’re looking for anyone who may have seen the person who picked up the puppy,” Bailey said. “So we can reunite the puppy with its owner.”

The Chehalis Police Department can be reached at 360-748-8605.

Microsoft tip leads to child porn arrest of Tenino officer, prison system employee

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Updated at 8:41 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A reserve police officer for the city of Tenino was arrested today for possession of child porn.

The 38-year-old Olympia resident is also currently employed as a community corrections officer with the state Department of Corrections, according to the Washington State Patrol.

State patrol detectives searched his home computer today after getting a search warrant.

Michael C. Boone, 38, Olympia, was arrested after being interviewed at his workplace in Olympia today, according to Sgt. James Mjor.

The case was handled by the state patrol’s Missing and Exploited Childrens Task Force. Mjor is the current acting lieutenant for the unit.

The investigation began with a tip from Microsoft.

Security officers at the Redmond company noticed the electronic signature of well-known and frequently-traded images of child pornography on Boone’s Microsoft SkyDrive account, according to the Washington State Patrol.

SkyDrive is like cloud storage for a person’s photos, documents and other files, which one can access from multiple of their devices.

They turned the information over to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who forwarded it to the state patrol task force, Mjor said.

The task force said this afternoon it had no indication any child porn was stored on Boone’s work computer, but seized it for a forensic examination, and also seized his Tenino Police Department-issued smart phone.

The tip came in last week and initially was just an IP address, Mjor said.

Detectives went to speak with Boone, to see if he had any information he could help them out with, he said. While they were talking with him, other detectives were serving the search warrant at his home for his computer, he said.

Boone was booked into the Thurston County Jail for possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Tenino Mayor Bret Brodersen placed Boone on administrative leave.

Chehalis fire chief search winding down

Monday, April 6th, 2015

2015.0406.chehalisfirechiefs_2-001By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Chehalis City Manager Merlin MacReynold said the five finalists for fire chief interviewed today have a lot of experience, from different places, with different strengths.

They come from a much stronger pool of candidates than he saw last fall, he said.

“It’s going to make my decision a little bit harder,” he said. “But that’s a good thing.”

The city last had a full time fire chief two years ago, when Kelvin Johnson retired. Last spring, half-time Fire Chief Jim Walkowski moved to Spokane County to take a new job and an attempt in September to hire a new chief ended with no one chosen.

Today, the five men were interviewed by representatives of city management, the fire department, neighboring fire agencies and members of the community. MacReynold did a “debriefing” with the interviewers this afternoon, before a reception in the basement at Chehalis City Hall.

The city manager said he expects it could be two to three weeks until he makes an announcement.

These are the choices:

• Ken Cardinale, has lived in Kelso the past year and a half, moving to be closer to family after 29 years with the city of Palo Alto, California. Cardinale served in numerous positions including battalion chief, acting EMS chief and acting deputy chief.

• Jim McGarva is assistant chief at the Tumwater Fire Department, a position he’s held for seven years. He has worked there for 23 years and has 30 years in the fire service.

• Joseph Clow lives in Enumclaw and last summer left his longtime position as chief at King County Fire District 28. During his 35 year career, he has served as chief in three other states.

• Brad Paulson became a firefighter in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1986, and served 18 years as deputy fire chief there, before moving into his current position five years ago. He is the emergency services administrator for the entire borough, and also a volunteer battalion chief.

• John Banning retired after almost 25 years at the Austin Fire Department in Texas, and has spent much of career in command level positions. He is into his third year as chief of the Blue Ridge Fire Department in northern Arizona.


For background, read : “Meet potential new fire chiefs for Chehalis on Monday” from Wednesday April 1, 2015, here

Friends, family puzzle over death on the train tracks

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Lester S. Thomsen, in an undated photo, on the porch of the house on Kearney Street where he lived a few years back.


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – The B Street area is in mourning.

Mourning for a man said to have been born 65 years ago in the Centralia Hospital.

An early riser, who’d given up on driving, but rarely stayed home.

Duane Thornton said it was about a year and a half ago that Lester Thomsen asked if he could rent a room at his house on Crescent Avenue. Thomsen had been living around the corner with the neighbors on Kearney Street, but they got tired of his drinking, he said.

Thomsen had a bicycle, and he rode the bus.

He did a lot of visiting, Thornton said.

“He would go hang out at the depot, at Wal-Mart, he’d go to the senior citizen’s place, the Salvation Army; he did all that stuff,” Thornton said. “And he was a big man. His hands were twice the size of mine.”

Thornton yesterday was trying to figure out where Thomsen was headed, or what he was doing walking on the railroad tracks just a few blocks south of home.

“We don’t know exactly what happened,” he said.

Police say it was just before 11:30 a.m. on Thursday when a southbound passenger train coming into the station was trying to slow, hitting the horn for the man walking with his back to the train.

The engineer said the man looked over his shoulder and began to leave the track at an angle, instead of just jumping off it directly sideways, according to police.

“This morning was the first morning I didn’t hear Les stumbling around the house making coffee,” Thornton said. “And he always wanted a coffee royal, just a splash of whiskey.”

He was one smart man, with a heart of gold, he said.

The two of them were 10 years apart, but both used to be loggers, so they were really tight, he said.

Thornton assumed his older roommate had ridden his bike to the train depot, to catch the city bus to Wal-Mart, he said. But he didn’t keep tabs on him on his daily outings.

“He’d say, ‘I’m going to go check out the lay of the land’,” Thornton said. “Or, ‘I’m going to go whoring around’. He loved to say that.”

On Kearney Street, James and Corrie Aker offered comfort to Thomsen’s grown son.

James Aker said Thomsen in his last years had lived in three  different houses in the neighborhood he called the B Street area, just west of the railroad tracks at the north end of town.

Back in the day, James Aker said, Thomsen had a nice house with property on a hill in town.

“He went into the Army, because he got caught moonshining,” Corrie Aker said. “He told me that story 100,000 times.”

Thomsen was proud of his past as a diesel mechanic and a logger, she said.

Thirty-two-year-old Thomas Simpson sat in the Aker’s living room, petting his black lab and absorbing the loss of his father.

“Walking on the tracks,” Simpson exclaimed. “Why would you walk on the tracks, especially if you can’t hear?”

Simpson was angry, mad at the coroner who wouldn’t let him see his dad, he said.

Corrie Aker dug out a photo she’d taken one summer when Thomsen had recently moved in with them, he and her husband sitting on their front porch playing cribbage.

She said she’d known Thomsen probably four years, and his son should try to remember him him the way he looked in the photo.

He had a lot of friends everywhere, Corrie Aker said.

“And he could ride his bike straight as an arrow on rum,” she said.

Yeah, someone repeated, he could ride his bike straight as an arrow on rum.

CORRECTION: This news story has been updated to correct the spelling of Lester Stephen Thomsen’s last name.

For background, read “Man fatally struck by train in Centralia” from Thursday April 2, 2015, here

Chehalis schools on edge as more threatening phone calls received

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Fourth and fifth graders head home after school today at Olympic Elementary School in Chehalis.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Just three days after a threatening anonymous phone call to a Chehalis school, it happened again.

Twice yesterday.

Chehalis police were contacted shortly after 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon because a call came in at the high school which said only that the caller had automatic weapons, and another was made to Olympic Elementary School which claimed an attacker was in a second grade classroom.

Olympic doesn’t have second graders, only fourth and fifth graders.

Still, this afternoon, a police officer parked outside the entrance to the elementary school on the Southwest Salsbury Avenue at dismissal time.

Children boarded their busses as parents parked waiting at the curb to pick up others.

Tylar Sickel said he and his wife kept their two grade schoolers home on Tuesday, because it was an option they were given. There wasn’t a lot of information to judge the situation, he said.

But last night after learning it happened again, and reading the superintendent’s message, the couple was not too worried, he said.

“We figured if it was that big of a concern, the school district would have made it apparent the kids should stay home,” Sickel said.

When it occurred on Monday at Olympic, it was the end of the school day. Police came and searched the building found nothing suspicious. The school district used their automated system to inform parents that afternoon of what happened.

Chehalis police described it as a vague threat, with something about an attack, and not specific as to the date, time and location.

Police increased their presence at the schools in the Chehalis District this week, as well as at St. Joseph Catholic School.

Chehalis School District Superintendent Ed Rothlin today described the calls as using technology to disguise the voice and also hiding the incoming phone number.

Chehalis Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said there’s some kind of electronics involved and indications the call is probably a recorded message, not a real person. When the person who answers the phone speaks, it seems to activate the message, and if they speak again, the same message is repeated, he said.

Rothlin issued a lengthy memo yesterday for students, parents and staff that states Chehalis doesn’t seem to be alone in this. Two schools in Thurston County and two in Spokane have received similar recorded anonymous calls this week, according to Rothlin.

The superintendent said they take the calls seriously, but his memo also went on to offer parents a resource for evaluating for themselves what to do, and it ends with his hope they continue to send their children to school.

Attendance was about 60 percent of normal today, according to Rothlin.

Rothlin this morning was on the phone with school officials in Spokane. Their police department is involved as well, he said.

Kaut said at mid-day today, he didn’t know if Chehalis’s calls were related to the others. Detectives are still investigating.

“We’re following up on some leads locally,” Kaut said.

Rothlin described today the changing feelings through the week about the disruption.

“The first call we got, earlier this week, it was very scary, we just don’t get those,” Rothlin said. “Yesterday, well, it still makes us nervous, but we’re really angry, because of the disruption.”

“It’s just not a good thing,” he said.

Chehalis School District students will be out of school all next week for spring break.

For background, read,:

• “Anonymous threat to Chehalis grade school increases police presence” from Tuesday March 31, 2015, here

• Chehalis School District’s memo from yesterday, here

• The report Rothlin referred parents to from the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education: “Threat Assessment in Schools”, here

Chehalis man gets five-plus years in overdose death case

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Robert T. Lusk sits in between attorneys Thomas Keehan, on his right, and Erik Kupka, not pictured, in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – His lawyer assured the judge his client has taken full responsibility for his actions, for providing the heroin to 23-year-old Tyson J. Anderson who died of an overdose.

“Mr. Lusk learned something very important,” Defense attorney Erik Kupka said. “He lost a friend; he lost a companion.”

Anderson died April 22, 2013 at a Centralia apartment where he was staying with his girlfriend. She called 911 when she awoke after the two shared drugs, and found him unconscious, according to court papers. Arriving medics could not save him.

Robert T. Lusk, now 37, was arrested and charged last summer with controlled substance homicide. The Chehalis man pleaded guilty two weeks ago.

Even though attorneys on the two sides agreed about how much time he should spend in prison, they went into detail to Judge James Lawler about their recommendation yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

Kupka told the judge he’d learned some about the heroin drug culture.

“People help each other in this culture, they help each other with their addictions,” he said.

When asked if he’d like to speak on his own behalf, Lusk stood and addressed the judge.

Nobody was supposed to get hurt, he said.

“It’s hard to explain how bad I hate heroin now,” Lusk said. “It’s tragic.”

The offense doesn’t include any elements of maliciousness or intent for a person to die. Only that one delivered the heroin to a person, that the person used the heroin and the person died from the heroin.

While the maximum penalty is 10 years, Lusk faced a standard sentencing range, given his criminal history, of 68 to 100 months of incarceration.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead indicated to the judge the lawyers believed the low end of the range was appropriate, because the same range also applied to individuals with more significant criminal backgrounds.

Lawler, when he prepared to decide the sentence, explained what that meant to persons in the audience. Present were Lusk’s parents, but not Anderson’s parents.

The judge said he knew the attorneys worked to make a deal for both sides.

“I will respect that process and follow the agreed recommendation,” Lawler said.

Lusk was given the five years and eight months, with credit for the more than nine months he has been held in the Lewis County Jail since his arrest.

For the deal, a charge of delivery of heroin related to the same incident was dropped, a charge Halstead said would have been “folded in” anyhow.

He was also given 364 days, with 70 of them suspended, for first-degree driving with a suspended license, to be served concurrently.

For background, read “Heroin overdose for one leads to prison for another” from Thursday March 19, 2015, here

Man fatally struck by train in Centralia

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
2015.0402.train.mankilled.7337 copy

An Amtrak passenger train idles as detectives investigate the the death of a pedestrian a few blocks north of the depot.

Updated at 4:27 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – A passenger train hit and killed a man walking on the tracks this morning in Centralia.

It happened just before 11:30 a.m. a few blocks north of the Centralia Train Depot.

The southbound Amtrak was heading into the station, and presumably slowing to make its stop, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Firefighters responded but he was declared dead at the scene.

Police Sgt. Kurt Reichert said he understood the man was on foot heading south, with his back to the engine.

“They saw the guy, they were trying to slow, hitting the horn,” Reichert said. “He didn’t get out of the way, for whatever reason.”

Detectives were on the scene, taking measurements and gathering evidence. Both sets of tracks were shut down.

Such investigations usually take two to three hours, Reichert said.

Centralia police cars were gathered just beyond the north end of Railroad Avenue off East Hanson Street, at the edge of the BNSF rail switching yard. The Amtrak was idled there.

It was not a railroad employee, Reichert said.

He described the victim as a middle-aged man, in his 40s or 50s.

“He appears to be someone we know,” he said.

Reichert said the point of impact was in between the Sixth Street viaduct and where the patrol cars were parked.

There are no public crossings of the tracks in that area, Reichert said, although there is a private crossing for BNSF just below the viaduct.

On average, 50 trains pass through the area each day, according to a BNSF spokesperson. Rail traffic was restored about 1 p.m.

This is the seventh death this year in Washington of a trespasser on BNSF rail lines, spokesperson Gus Melonas said.


Convicted thief held in break-in, fire at real estate office

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The man arrested for breaking into a real estate business, stealing a computer tower and setting a fire before leaving just got out of jail two months ago.

Darren G. Waggoner, 33, was charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with second-degree arson and second-degree burglary for the Sunday night incident that damaged the interior of the RE/Max office on Johnson Road near Caveness Drive.

Waggoner lives just up the road in the trailer court off Harrison Avenue.

Centralia Police Department detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald said they don’t know why the computer component was taken or why the fire was set.

“It was a crime of opportunity, as far as we could tell,” Fitzgerald said.

Firefighters called about 11 p.m. on Sunday to the building extinguished the flames quickly, and concluded the fire was started in some paper in a corner, and spread from there, according to authorities.

An arriving police officer spoke with Waggoner, who was standing across the street watching the fire, charging documents state. Police Sgt. Stacy Denham noted Waggoner smelled of intoxicants.

When detectives subsequently looked over security video, they saw a person wearing clothing similar to what Waggoner had been wearing that night, walk past Les Schwab carrying a computer tower, according to charging documents.

The computer tower – the case that houses the hard drive of a desktop computer – was found in some bushes about halfway between RE/Max and Waggoner’s residence, Fitzgerald said. A cell phone was found near it, but they don’t know yet who that belongs to, he said.

The fire department says damage at the one-story wood framed building is estimated at $10,000.

Waggoner went before a judge yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.  The judge granted prosecutors request he be held on $100,000 bail.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher noted Waggoner’s previous criminal convictions; second-degree burglary and trafficking in stolen property in 2001, forgery in 2002, second-degree theft and taking a motor vehicle without permission in 2007, and then felony shoplifting near the end of last year.

Waggoner was sentenced to 90 days in the Lewis County Jail after an incident at nearby Rite Aid in November, where he headed out the back emergency exit with merchandise including two notebook computers, according to authorities.

His arraignment is scheduled for tomorrow. He is represented by Centralia lawyer David Arcuri.

For background, read “News brief: Local resident arrested for RE/Max office arson fire,” from Tuesday March 31, 2015, here

Meet potential new fire chiefs for Chehalis on Monday

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 copy 2

The finalists are: left to right, John Banning, Ken Cardinale, Joseph Clow, Jim McGarva and Brad Paulson.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Once again the city of Chehalis has a group of fire chief candidates to interview and introduce to the public.

This time there are five finalists. Last autumn there were three and – following a nationwide search and extensive interviews – none were hired.

The five men being eyed to lead the Chehalis Fire Department are from as close as Tumwater and as far away as Fairbanks, Alaska. In the brief descriptions of their backgrounds shared in a news release from the city this morning, one of them is not associated with any city.

On Monday, the candidates will undergo a series of interviews with representatives of city management, the fire department, neighboring fire agencies and members of the community.

A reception open to the public is scheduled for that afternoon, where attendees can meet them and hear brief overviews of their backgrounds and experience, according to the news release.

It will be held from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. in the meeting room in the basement of Chehalis City Hall at 350 N. Market Blvd.

City Manager Merlin MacReynold selected the finalists.

At the end of the previous attempt to replace half-time Fire Chief Jim Walkowski, MacReynold said he was disappointed they didn’t find the right person.

Chehalis Police Department Chief Glenn Schaffer has been overseeing the operations of both departments. The Chehalis Fire Department last had a full time chief in April of 2013, when Kelvin Johnson retired.

The finalists are:

• John Banning
• Ken Cardinale
• Joseph Clow
• Jim McGarva
• Brad Paulson

Court grants officer anti-harassment order against 20-year-old

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
2015.0330.lowrey.orourke.rupert.mercer.7324 copy

Bo Rupert, standing, addresses Court Commissioner Wendy Tripp and witness Officer Josh Mercer while Officer Mike Lowrey, left, and his attorney Shane O’Rourke are seated in Lewis County District Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – One might say it was a slam dunk.

A Centralia police officer seeking an anti-harassment order against a 20-year-old local man faced off in court yesterday, and near the end of the half-day hearing, Bo D. Rupert summed up his opposition.

Rupert urged Lewis County District Court Commissioner Wendy Tripp not to grant the order. But said if she did, she may as well put in a restriction that prohibits him from coming within 1,000 feet of Officer Mike Lowrey.

“Because I might be forced to make a decision I might not want to make,” Rupert said, in the Chehalis courtroom, to the commissioner.

Lowrey petitioned for the order on Feb. 13, after the discovery Rupert had re-posted photos of him and his family on a social media site, and had also posted his opinion Lowrey and two other officers should be executed for treason.

The officer, represented by Centralia attorney Shane O’Rourke, made the request as a private citizen. But he asked that Rupert be prevented from harassing his wife, his four children and himself, both on and off duty.

Tripp heard from Lowrey, from Centralia Police Department Sgt. Stacy Denham, from Centralia Police Officer Josh Mercer, from last year’s losing candidate for Lewis County Sheriff Brian Green, and from O’Rourke and Rupert. The 20-year-old represented himself.

“Your own witness said you were abrasive,” Tripp said. “You’re somewhat of a volatile personality. That comes across.”

Tripp noted the two sides described interactions that took place on certain days at certain places, but had little else in common.

It’s possible the situation that started Rupert’s upset with Lowrey, at Starbucks with Rupert’s nephew, was based on a mistaken notion, she said.

Rupert contended Lowrey got his nephew banned from the business, simply because he was related to him. Lowrey’s said he wasn’t working the day of the incident.

“You said you became extremely angry, because he involved your family,” Tripp said. “But you don’t seem to have insight, you involved his family.”

“You’re crossing a line, there’s no doubt in my mind,” she said.

Tripp decided Rupert could have no contact with Lowrey’s family, or with Lowrey when he is off duty.

“I’m not going to make an order that involves him as a police officer, I think that’s unenforceable,” she said.

Tripp alluded to the option of Lowrey dealing with any harassing behavior while Lowrey is in uniform in other ways.

The anti-harassment order would be effective for one year, she said.

What Tripp didn’t address directly when she spoke to the men at the end of the hearing, was Rupert’s videotaping of officers performing their jobs. The resident of both Chehalis and Centralia says he does it as a volunteer for a police accountability group called Peaceful Streets Lewis County.

Rupert indicated he planned to get an order against Lowrey. That he’s written a letter to the Attorney General, and that he’s going to go to the FBI.

Outside the courtroom, Lowrey said he is relieved.

“The whole thing is protecting my family,” he said.

In the same hallway on the third floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center, Rupert said he will appeal.

“I’m pissed as hell about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to show a lesson, you don’t involve people’s family and not expect someone to fight back as I did.”

Then he tore in half his copy of the order and left it, along with the dumped-out papers from his briefcase laying on the counter, and walked out the door.

For background, read “Centralia police officer asks judge to order citizen to stop harassing him” from Thursday March 19, 2015, here

Anonymous threat to Chehalis grade school increases police presence

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Updated at 10:18 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police are at Olympic Elementary School in Chehalis to “keep an eye on things” this morning after a threat was received yesterday by phone.

Officers were contacted about 2:20 p.m. yesterday regarding a phone call received at the school on the 2000 block of Southwest Salsbury Avenue. Olympic teaches fourth and fifth graders.

After the students finished going home for the day, officers searched the building and found nothing suspicious, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

Department spokesperson Linda Bailey described it as a very vague threat.

“Something about an attack, vague as to the date, time and location,” Bailey said.

Officers are investigating the source of the call, she said.

The school contacted parents yesterday to inform them, and let them know if they chose to keep their children home today, it would be fine.

Chehalis School District Superintendent Ed Rothlin said this morning no extra curricular activities have been cancelled.

School officials used their “robo-dial” system yesterday to inform parents in the entire district of what they knew, he said. They plan to follow up today with another message for families, he said.

Rothlin said they had a police presence at all their schools this morning, and he expected officers would probably remain at Olympic most of the day.

The plan is to continue with police making random visits to the schools until the end of the week, and next week is spring break, Rothlin said.

Sheriff, prosecutor talk about changes in crime fighting efforts

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza talks about some of the many of the new plans he has for his office.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

SALKUM – More than 30 men and women met with newly-elected Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza and Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer at a “town meeting” held in Salkum.

Snaza said it’s something the two began talking about doing a long time ago.

“We’re a team,” Snaza told the gathering.

Meyer introduced himself as the defense attorney-turned-prosecutor.

He spoke of successes with drug court and the new track for a small number of mentally ill offenders, which they call a mental health alternative program.

“For too long, we as a criminal justice system said we couldn’t do anything till they did anything bad enough,” Meyer said.

Wednesday afternoon’s event at the Salkum Timberland Library was the first of what is expected to be a series of meetings around Lewis County, to talk with citizens, answer their questions and listen to their concerns.

Meyer is just beginning his second term in the elected office. Snaza took office in January, after two decades as a deputy.

Snaza shared the prosecutor’s enthusiasm for new and different ways to get at reducing crime and approaching their roles.

“We’re not just here to put people in jail,” Snaza said. “But also to help provide help to people who need assistance.

“If you could save one person’s life, would you do it?”

The sheriff said he has plans for getting each deputy 40 hours of crisis intervention training and talked about the jail’s more concentrated efforts to address mental illness.

He introduced Special Services Sgt. Fred Wetzel, whose responsibilities include coordinating neighborhood watch groups.

And the new sheriff told the group that every deputy has been assigned a school.

“We just let the schools know, we’re here,” he said. “We’ll do presentations with them, talk about texting, social media, whatever they want.”

The two, accompanied by Undersheriff Wes Rethwill as well, spent almost two hours chatting and answering questions.

Among the concerns from the audience were the new gun law I-594, animal cruelty, trespassing, boating patrol, unmarked vehicles, drunk driving, police cars flying by without lights going and the number of patrol deputies in their area.

Snaza said they’re not sure when and where the next meeting will be, but said they are thinking of doing one more before summer.

For background, read “Town meeting: Got a question for the sheriff, the prosecutor?” from Sunday March 22, 2015, here


Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer speaks to the small gathering at the Salkum Timberland Library.

May trial set for boyfriend’s rampage with 22 rifle in Onalaska

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Todd H. Bergfalk, facing camera, waits his turn to appear before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court for a bail setting hearing.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 44-year-old man who allegedly fired a 22 rifle towards his girlfriend as she ran away from him outside her trailer home in Onalaska over the weekend remains held on $250,000 bail.

Todd H. Bergfalk pleaded not guilty yesterday to two counts of second-degree assault. He also allegedly pointed the Remington 22 long rifle at his girlfriend’s 23-year-old son.

He was arrested on Saturday after deputies were called to the 700 block of state Route 508. Deputies reported Bergfalk was very intoxicated and emotional, rambling about abused animals and how he was upset, according to authorities.

He denied pointing the gun at anyone, but said he should probably just go to jail, according to charging documents.

At his first appearance before a judge on Monday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court, a defense attorney said Bergfalk was unemployed, so he qualified for a court appointed lawyer.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported Bergfalk and his girlfriend were arguing when he fired four rounds inside her trailer, and that he wouldn’t let her leave, but she finally made a run for the door.

The sheriff’s office said he fired approximately 10 rounds as she she ran down her driveway, and that some were fired in her direction.

Charging documents state Julie Schoonover ran into the main house and told her son what had happened, and he went outside to try to calm Bergfalk. The 23-year-old said Bergfalk pointed the gun at him and told him not to get any closer, charging documents state.

He called 911, and arriving deputies learned from Susan Bergfalk she had already secured the gun.

Neither charging documents nor the sheriff’s office indicated why he may have been upset, but the documents do state that Schoonover said when she first arrived back home after going out to look at a boat for sale, she found Bergfalk standing in the driveway holding a knife and yelling.

The evidence cited in charging documents includes a bullet hole in the mud approximately 50 feet from the trailer in the direction Schoonover said she ran, as well as more bullet holes in the mud just outside the trailer steps and numerous shell casings.

While he was arrested for first-degree assault when booked into the Lewis County Jail, the charges filed by the prosecutor on Monday were for second-degree assault.

Bergfalk has a conviction for misdemeanor assault from 1989 and at the time of his arrest, a warrant out of King County related to driving under the influence, according to authorities.

The sheriff’s office said he lives in Tacoma. He gave his home address as Onalaska in court documents.

No contact orders were put into place regarding Schoonover and her son. Bergfalk’s trial was set for the week of May 18.

For background, read, “Boyfriend jailed after allegedly shooting at woman, missing” from Monday March 23, 2015, here

Shakedown at Chehalis ATM

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Updated at 11:07 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police searched without success last night after the attempted robbery of a customer who had walked up to a bank’s ATM machine in Chehalis.

Officers called about 9:15 p.m. to the TwinStar Credit Union on the 1500 block of South Market Boulevard found the victim, a 42-year-old Chehalis woman, was uninjured, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

She said she was approached by a male who wanted money from her,” Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said. “The victim replied she didn’t have any cash, she only had a check; he took her cell phone.”

He was wearing a black and white bandana over his face, according to police.

No weapon was displayed, but she saw something in his waistband she thought was the handle of either a gun or a knife, Kaut said.

Kaut said it appeared from the officer’s report a relative of the woman’s was with her, but still in their car.

The subject was described as in his early to mid-20s, heavyset and about 5-feet 6-inches tall, wearing a black hoody, Kaut said.

The report also labeled the male as Hispanic, but said he didn’t speak with any kind of an accent. No hair or eye color were noted.

Police were told he ran toward the opposite side of the bank, where a car was heard speeding away; the victim saw headlights going down a side street.

A police dog attempted to track him, but nobody was found, according to Kaut.

Prosecutors gathering information from husband for wife’s trial in 3-year-old boy’s death

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Brenda A. Wing looks on as her lawyer John Crowley, center, confers with Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  The mother of three, accused with her husband in the death of a toddler who was staying with them in their Vader home appeared in court this afternoon, as lawyers continue to map out a path to her trial.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the judge that Brenda Wing’s attorney was asking to postpone her trial a week, as her husband Danny Wing recently pleaded guilty in the case.

“That kind of changes things a little bit,” Halstead said.

The couple were arrested in November, a month after 3-year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner died from what the coroner calls battered child syndrome.

Prosecutors charged them with homicide by abuse or, in the alternative, first-degree manslaughter; each of the two were charged as either the principal or accomplice.

The autopsy found abrasions, bruises, facial trauma, healing fractures that were described as weeks-old injuries.

Danny Wing pleaded guilty last Thursday to first-degree manslaughter and assault, and as part of the deal, is expected to be a cooperating witness for the prosecution.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt agreed to move the trial to the week of May 18.

The lawyers set a date of April 30 for a hearing where they typically file a document that includes the expected length of the trial and other particulars. Today, they estimated it could last a week and a half, or up to three weeks.

Seattle-based defense attorney John Crowley said he needs the extra time, to review materials he expects won’t be available until after next week when the state conducts a taped interview with the husband.

Danny and Brenda Wing’s three children, between infancy and age 6, were all taken into custody by Child Protective Services the day they were arrested. Both Wings remain held in the Lewis County Jail.

No details alleging how Jasper sustained his injuries are included in prosecutor’s charging documents.

Yesterday Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said they’d like to know what happened. Today, Halstead said he wouldn’t answer reporters’ questions about the facts in the case.

Whether Brenda Wing’s trial actually takes place remains to be seen.

Outside the courtroom, Halstead sidestepped the question if he is attempting to work out a plea deal with Crowley for Brenda Wing.

“We’re always working to resolve our cases,” Halstead said.

For background, read “Prosecutor expects plea deal will help reveal answers about Vader toddler’s demise” from for Wednesday March 25, 2015, here

Prosecutor expects plea deal will help reveal answers about Vader toddler’s demise

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Danny A. Wing has pleaded guilty in the death of the 3-year-old boy he and his wife were taking care of at their Vader home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the one who killed the child.

And it doesn’t mean his wife is exonerated, or that she’s necessarily the one who killed the toddler either.


Danny Wing

Authorities say Jasper Henderling-Warner died from ongoing child abuse and charged both Danny Wing, 26, and Brenda Wing, 27, last November in Lewis County Superior Court.

Charging documents in the case lay out facts that describe a variety of week’s old injuries and conflicting statements from the married couple whose home Jasper lived in. His 21-year-old mother had asked the couple that summer to take him for a year, while she was homeless and looking for work out of state, according to authorities.

The criminal investigation began the night of a 911 call on Oct. 5 from Brenda Wing that Jasper was unconscious at their home on the 400 block of Main Street in Vader. He was transported by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Wings were arrested and charged a month later with homicide by abuse or, in the alternative, first-degree manslaughter. The two crimes have widely different penalties. Each of the two were charged as either the principal or accomplice.


Brenda Wing

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said Danny Wing pleaded guilty last Thursday to first-degree manslaughter and also to assault.

It came out of a plea agreement, in which prosecutors will recommend Danny Wing be sent to prison for 16 years and four months, according to Meyer.

The hearing took place without being noted on the court’s regular calendar, because the defense attorney from out of town was here, and the deputy prosecutor and the judge found time to just go ahead and do it, according to Meyer.

Danny Wing admitted he didn’t properly care for Jasper, Meyer said.

But what exactly took place and who did it is still not clear.

“That’s one of the things we all want to know,” Meyer said. “What happened.”

The autopsy found abrasions, bruises as well as 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.

Meyer indicated part of the deal is Danny Wing must cooperate and share some information.


Jasper Henderling-Warner

“We’re anticipating we’ll learn more, as part of the agreement,” he said today. “It’s also fair to say, additional investigation will take place, now that he’s pled guilty.”

While the specifics are still unknown, Meyer said he still believes they both are responsible for the death.

“We’ve always alleged they both had a hand in it,” he said. “We’re not changing our position at all.”

The Wings remain held in the Lewis County Jail.

Brenda Wing’s trial is scheduled for  trial in May.

Meyer said he doesn’t know when Danny Wing’s sentencing hearing will be held, but expected it would not take place until Brenda Wing’s case is finished.

Separately, the Lewis County coroner has initiated a court action to ask a judge to settle the question of which funeral home he should call to pick up the body from the coroner’s office to be cremated.

On Jan. 28, Coroner Warren McLeod was freed from the prosecutor’s hold on the body, and tried for two weeks to get unified direction from the unmarried parents before filing the civil action on Feb. 11.

For background, read “Coroner: Ongoing physical abuse led to Vader toddler’s death” from Friday November 7, 2014, here