Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Case of shotgun fired outside 76 gas station in Adna wrapping up

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 36-year-old man pleaded guilty yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court to drive-by shooting, even though he didn’t fire a weapon from a vehicle.

Gilbert Borquez was the man who said he retrieved a shotgun from his girlfriend’s car when he saw the man he was meeting outside an Adna gas station had a handgun; Borquez initially told detectives he accidentally fired it into the ground.

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Gilbert Borquez

The case involves two vehicles full of people from Raymond and a third car that all fled after a gunshot was heard at the 76 station off state Route 6 on April 16. Lewis County sheriff’s detectives said the group was trying to help a woman get back her rental car – containing $500 and all her belongings – from her ex-boyfriend who stole it.

After the plea deal wrapped up with Borquez sentenced to 34 months in prison yesterday morning, Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said one doesn’t necessarily have to be in a vehicle when they fire a gun for the offense to qualify as drive-by shooting. In this case, a vehicle was used to transport the pistol-grip sawed off shotgun to the scene, Halstead said.

“The title isn’t really what you would think it is,” Halstead said of the statute.

There was no allegation anyone was shot.

In exchange for dropping a charge of first-degree assault, Borquez pleaded guilty to drive-by shooting, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a short barrel shotgun.

Both Halstead and defense attorney J.P. Enbody told Judge Nelson Hunt Borquez was straightforward with law enforcement and cooperative.

Halstead said when the rental car was located, detectives found an area on it that showed a scrape pattern consistent with buckshot. The victim, Paul Martin, was arrested in Oregon and is currently facing criminal charges related to taking the woman’s car, Halstead said.

The woman, Amalia Copp, 43, has pleaded guilty in Lewis County to unlawful possession of a firearm because it was on the seat next to her on the ride to Adna, according to Halstead.

Robert R. Ogilve, 42, who fled on foot and was found by sheriff’s deputies that afternoon along the Chehalis River, has pleaded guilty to escape in connection with not meeting with his community corrections officer.

Halstead said there are two other individuals who have yet to be arrested for their roles.
•••

For background, read “Sawed off shotgun found near Adna gas station, one arrested” from Thursday April 18, 2013, here

Centralia’s “Spooker” gets extra prison time for assault due to gang affiliation

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
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Joshua D. C. Rhoades faces a judge in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 32-year-old Centralia resident said to be the leader of the local LVL gang was sentenced today to a little more than nine years in prison for a roughly 30 to 40 second fight earlier this year on a Centralia street in which a 17-year-old boy was knocked unconscious.

Joshua Rhoades was convicted by a jury in April of second-degree assault.

His one-week-old baby boy was among a handful of family members and friends present during this morning’s proceedings in Lewis County Superior Court. They were out numbered by law enforcement officers in the courtroom.

Prosecutors said during his trial that Rhoades jumped out of a car, flashing gang signs and asking the teen and his two friends if they knew who he was and if they were  rival “Nortenos”. The teenager Dustin McLean testified Rhoades held a closed knife in his fist as he struck him.

The brief brawl in downtown Centralia on Jan 31 included two of Rhoades’ companions as well as at least two of the three boys. McLean said he was hit well over 20 times.

Defense attorney Chris Baum asked the judge today to give his client 65 months, the bottom of the standard sentencing range. The top was 82 months. Baum said there was a lot of discussion of gang activity by the prosecutor during the trial, but the injury itself not that serious and it was more like a misdemeanor assault.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joely O’Rourke recommended the judge sentence Rhoades to the maximum of 10 years, noting the special finding by the jury allowed the judge to go above the standard range.

O’Rourke said Rhoades is well known to Centralia police, who say he is the leader of the LVL and that he assaulted the teenager without provocation.

LVL stands for Little Valley Locos or Little Valley Lokotes a gang locally made up mostly of individuals who grew up in Centralia when it was particularly active in the summer of 2007. Police say Rhoades goes by the street name Spooker.

“This is one of the few times a victim has been brave enough to come in and testify against Mr. Rhoades,” O’Rourke said.

She said the teen’s family has taken him out of school and moved away because he has been threatened, harassed and assaulted since the trial.

Rhoades maintained his innocence when asked by the judge if he wanted to make any statement.

“Well, Ms. O’Rourke, because of me being who I am or whatever, she had no problem offering me a plea bargain of 80 months,” Rhoades said.

Judge James Lawler gave Rhoades 10 months less than 10 years, so that he could also impose 10 months of supervision by the state Department of Corrections upon his release.

The basis for the exceptional sentence was because of the special gang finding by the jury, Lawler said.

The jury had found the assault was committed with a deadly weapon and also a so-called aggravator that the incident was intended to enhance Rhoades’ affiliation in a street gang.

Rhoades previous most recent criminal convictions are for malicious mischief in 2008 and third-degree assault in 2004. Before that, he has convictions for intimidating a witness and theft in 2000 and a second-degree assault in 1999, and then a juvenile record.

His attorney filed a notice of appeal.
•••

For background, read “Lewis County jury convicts Centralia gang member of assault on teen” from Friday April 26, 2013, here

Former bank teller charged with theft from Morton Athletic Association

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The now former treasurer of an organization for youth sports has been accused of misappropriating funds that were kept in the Morton bank where she worked.

Sarah J. Erskine, 34, handled the money for the Morton Athletic Association, for “gosh, several years,” the group’s president Chad Cramer said.

Cramer went to Morton Police Chief Dan Mortensen in mid-May after he and other members who had been scrutinizing the records for several months suspected the treasurer had been dipping into the accounts for about two years.

“No, she’s not still treasurer,” Cramer said today.

The association historically has organized, run or financially supported various non-school based activities from T-Ball and Babe Ruth Baseball to basketball, football and cheerleading, according to Cramer. Mostly for children younger than middle school age, he said.

He called it a 40-year-old institution that’s always been run by adults who are friends, kind of on handshakes an agreements.

“It appeared to Cramer that Erskine was taking money from different accounts and then making an effort to replace that money,” court documents state. “Cramer told Mortensen he believed Erskine got in too deep and couldn’t pay all the money back.”

The amount in question is alleged to be upwards of $12,000.

The investigation by the Morton Police Department began on May 13 and concluded on June 20.

“I will make the point Sarah did pay the money back that was remaining, immediately upon everything coming to light,” Cramer said this afternoon.

Court documents confirm that by mid-June, the accounts were replenished and shortages repaid by her family. Many personal friends also helped her pay some of it back, according to court documents.

Cramer said in court documents Erskine was a teller at Sterling Savings Bank but was fired recently because of the issue. The bank only confirmed she no longer is employed there.

A charge of first-degree theft has been filed in Lewis County Superior Court. Erskine has not been arrested, but summonsed to appear before a judge on July 19.

The case comes on the heels of another local misuse of a fund meant for young people operated by a group of parents.

A 43-year-old Chehalis man was charged this spring with helping himself to some $8,000 from an account run by in part by his wife for the W.F. West High School senior class.

Robert N. Downs Jr.  was charged with first-degree theft and 14 counts of forgery, as he allegedly signed his wife’s name to checks written out to himself. When Chehalis police announced their findings in March, they indicated that Downs’ wife had replaced the missing money after she learned of the losses.

Downs has pleaded not guilty but is scheduled to appear in court on July 24 to change his plea. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said today he offered him a deal in which he could go to prison for one year and one day.

In Erskine’s case, she met with the police chief voluntarily in May, cried, said she was prepared to finish paying the final $3,000 remaining and that she’d “just gotten caught up in everything,” according to court documents.

Sterling Bank held four accounts for the Morton Athletic Association. It appeared Erskine had generated a debit card for her own use, court documents state.

Court documents state her mother-in-law went to the police chief last month and payed the last of debt. “Sarah told her she used the money to pay personal bills,” the documents state.

Cramer provided the police chief records highlighting the withdrawals he did not think were costs incurred by the association. They included expenditures at Bailey’s IGA, Wal-Mart, the Shell gas station in Morton, Big 5 Sporting Goods and Centralia Factory Outlets, according to the court documents.

Attempts to reach Erskine for comment were unsuccessful.

Cramer suggested he bore some responsibility for the situation going undetected. He said the MAA board has been in transition, with many of the long term participants stepping down as their children had grown up, including Erskine.

“Which is maybe why this wasn’t being watched as closely as it should have,” he said.

He couldn’t think of any ways it has affected the youth involved, but is mainly concerned about preserving the group’s integrity.

The association is in the final stages of a lengthy process of combining into a new organization with similar groups from the Randle  and farther east areas, he said. It’s called the Morton-White Pass Athletic Association.

“We’ve just got our board and our bylaws,” he said.

Cramer said they’ve put out the word the public is welcome to their board meetings and to ask questions. The next one is July 19.

Former truck driver, rapist will remain locked up indefinitely

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Lewis County jury concluded yesterday a former Olympia-area truck driver who completed his prison term for raping a hitchhiking teenager should now be held indefinitely as a sexually violent predator.

Mark T. Robinson, 46, was released last year following his 12-year sentence for the knifepoint sexual assault of an 18-year-old girl he picked up at a Spokane truck stop. The teen was headed to Toledo to visit her child and escaped his big rig at an exit on Interstate 5 near her destination.

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Mark T. Robinson

The civil commitment trial which began last week in Lewis County Superior Court ended late yesterday afternoon.

Robinson had only one other criminal conviction in his past, patronizing a prostitute, but reportedly confessed to raping dozens of prostitutes in Pierce and King counties during the four to five years before his arrest in the summer of 2000.

He is among a small number of individuals convicted of sex crimes in Washington state where after their criminal sentence is completed, authorities attempt to retain them in custody for treatment until they are no longer dangerous.

Robinson will now return to the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center, where he has been detained since his release. Judge James Lawler signed a warrant of commitment after the verdict.

One of his two lawyers, Martin Mooney, said his client will be locked up until he’s better.

“I say in theory, because I have a cynical view of the nature of the treatment offered at the center,” Mooney said.

The state legislature invented the term, mental abnormality, back in the early 1990s, he said. But it doesn’t have any meaning in psychology, he said.

The process comes from the Community Protection Act of 1990, the first of its kind in the country, that followed a particularly heinous offense against a little boy in Pierce County, according to Mooney.

It’s a controversial law; people think it’s double jeopardy, he said.

“This law is purportedly an offspring of of civl commitment, so it’s that, but it’s not really that, because Mr. Robinson is not mentally ill,” he said.

Mooney said it’s problematic in that a proper client-therapist relationship can hardly develop when the same therapist is providing evidence for the state of why the person should not be released.

Mooney, who works for the Snohomish County Public Defenders Association, was appointed by the state to represent Robinson. He’s been handling these types of cases for about a decade, he said.

Senior Counsel Malcom Ross, of the Office of the Attorney General of Washington, represented the state.

In Robinson’s case, Mooney argued that although he is diagnosed as a sexual sadist, that doesn’t mean he can’t control his behavior. It’s essentially just an “interest,” he said.

Studies show that among rapists, the reoffense rate is essentially the same for sadists and non-sadists, he said. Statistically, among people with Robinson’s profile, the reoffense rate is about 24 percent, he said.

“That may not sound low, but the law is looking at 50 percent, or more likely than not,” he said.

Mooney said his client has undergone treatment, although he didn’t do well according to his therapist.

“But he didn’t get kicked out,” he said.

The then-teenage victim wasn’t among those who testified during Robinson’s commitment trial. She died at age 25, the victim of a homicide at a motel in Wyoming.

•••

For background, read “Rapist convicted in Lewis County faces indefinite lockup after prison term” from Monday May 21, 2012, here

“Ear hustling”: Convicted murderer John Booth tells judge about problems at Lewis County Jail

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Updated at 8:35 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The convicted triple murderer who once called Onalaska home is seeking to the put an end to practices he contends are eavesdropping by the state on Lewis County Jail inmates, jeopardizing their rights to confidential communications with their lawyers.

And he’s already made some progress.

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John Allen Booth Jr.

John Allen Booth Jr., now 34, is serving a life sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla for the shootings in a Salkum area home almost three years ago. Prosecutors argued Booth and a fellow former cell mate visited a house off Gore Road because they were “taxing” the man who lived there – with his girlfriend and teenage son – on behalf of Lewis County drug dealer Robbie Russell.

In a typewritten motion, Booth tells of law enforcement officers standing outside the jail’s row of visiting rooms while he consulted with his attorneys and their investigators. He points out that people almost had to yell back and forth to be heard through the transparent partitions.

He states he could easily hear the conversations of other lawyers and accused persons all around him.

“On many occasions, other attorneys informed Mr. Booth and whoever with him he was consulting with they could hear everything that was being said, and there were sheriff’s deputies outside in the hallway,” Booth writes.

In his filing, Booth included affidavits by other former inmates to bolster his accusation, and a letter from Centralia attorney Don Blair.

The letter states it’s been an ongoing problem at the jail that Blair has brought up to the jail administration and judges, noting he told them it was only a matter of time that an inmate would have an issue with the lack of confidentiality during attorney visits.

“The state made sure they learned my trial strategy and harassed any witnesses I wanted to bring forth,” Booth wrote.

He calls it “ear hustling”.

The filing made in December is the reason Booth was scheduled to appear in Lewis County Superior Court this week, although his hearing was cancelled because Judge Richard Brosey was in trial.

The filing specifically alleges governmental misconduct and the state’s infringement of Booth’s right to counsel. It’s part of a motion to vacate the judgement and sentence based on court rule 7.8.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Brad Meagher said it’s separate from the appeal those convicted can make to the Washington State Court of Appeals.

“Defendants have this other option,” Meagher said. “You can move to set aside your judgement on a limited variety of grounds.”

A third avenue which can be pursued is called a personal restraint petition. Booth reportedly is working on all three types of appeals.

Lewis County Jail Chief Kevin Hanson said he began taking steps to mitigate the problem when he first found out it was an issue in recent months, after Booth’s motion was filed.

While routine jail visits were long ago moved to a computer screen system in which the inmate doesn’t leave the cell, the six cement-walled booths that remain are used for face to face visits with lawyers and sometimes others, according to Hanson. The glass partitions have small holes around their perimeter meant for voices to get across.

“These rooms were never totally soundproof,” Hanson said. “It’s the way they were designed.”

At first, the jail began restricting inmate-attorney visits to only one set at a time, Hanson said.

Now he has had phones installed on each side of each booth.

“We installed carpet to muffle sounds like chairs scratching on the floor,” he said. “And we’re installing sound board, acoustical sheeting, on the cement walls.”

Hanson has told the Lewis County Board of Commissioners it won’t fix all the related problems, but at least will show they’ve made an effort.

Hanson said it’s not an issue that corrections officers stand in the hallway, and that they do so for high-risk inmates.

Booth was held in the Lewis County Jail from August 27, 2010 until he was sentenced on Dec. 16, 2011 under the so-called three strikes law to life in prison with no chance for release.

The victims, David West Sr., 52; his son David “D.J.” West Jr., 16; and 50-year-old Tony Williams of Randle were each fatally shot in the head on Aug. 21, 2010.  Denise Salts, 51, was shot in the face but survived. Booth was also convicted of attempted extortion and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Booth denied shooting any of them, although he admitted being at the home earlier in the evening saying West Sr. owed him money from a pound of methamphetamine.

Booth raised other issues in his motion, claiming a deputy told him he listened to recorded conversations Booth had with his attorney, jail staff snooped through his cell where he had defense strategy notes and read his mail and a sheriff’s detective sat directly behind he and his attorney during his trial eavesdropping. He also noted that during trial recesses a corrections officer always accompanied him and his lawyer into a room set aside for them.

He wrote in court documents his filings should be considered filed timely, as he spent his first full year in prison in “the hole” and couldn’t do it any sooner. He writes that he has been working diligently.

The court assigned defense attorney Erik Kupka and his office partner to represent Booth on the matters and they appeared before Judge Brosey in February. At that hearing, Booth asked the judge about other issues, such as DNA evidence from the autopsies that turned up in a locker at the coroner’s office long after his trial was over.

Booth stated in court documents he was told to file another motion. And he did.

At the end of March he filed new papers under the same type of motion claiming the state acted fraudulently for failing to disclose the DNA evidence, for failing to disclose a plea agreement with Salts and failing to notify the defense she had a multimillion dollar incentive by way of a lawsuit with the state Department of Corrections to help convict him.

In an accompanying letter, he requested Kupka be appointed to represent him on the supplemental motion. But added: “And if you don’t give me a lawyer, just let me know, and I’ll gladly represent myself.”

Kupka said this week he hasn’t been made aware of Booth’s new issues.

“He may be bringing it to the court’s attention, to have the court assign me,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do to get the ball rolling,” he said.

Meagher said the court hearing which was planned for Tuesday and didn’t happen was specifically to focus on a disagreement between he and Kupka.

“He wants the state to produce a lot of material,” Meagher said, giving as an example, a list of who works at the jail. “We said no.”

The court hearing was rescheduled for Sept. 3.

Also new in the six-volume court file are documents which hint at an issue Booth’s appellate counsel is looking at.

Attorney Stephanie Cunningham filed a request for transcripts from the proceedings during which jurors were selected, also known as voire dire.

Cunningham was appointed in May of last year to represent Booth for his appeal, which was filed for him the day he was sentenced.

His accompanying declaration states that his trial attorney Roger Hunko erred, and that a juror who was a neighbor of one of the deceased should have been struck for cause.
•••

For background, read “Judge will hear Onalaskan’s request to toss his murder convictions this coming September” from Monday February 4, 2013, here

Mossyrock police chief’s wife cancels protection order

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A protection order against Mossyrock Police Chief Jeremy Stamper was terminated today, at the request of his wife who sought the court order at the end of May saying she feared her husband’s access to weapons.

Shannon Stamper, 36, was asked if she was making the new request voluntarily and if anyone had threatened her in any way. She answered yes and no respectively.

Lewis County Superior Court Commissioner Tracy Mitchell told the Mossyrock woman she needed to take some time  to speak with a victim’s advocate and if she still wanted to go forward with canceling the order, it would be signed.

Chief Stamper was not present at his morning’s hearing in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis, but his attorney was in attendance for a portion of the proceedings.

Chief Stamper remains on the job, although the court order restricted him from possessing firearms, except his duty weapon while on shift. Mossyrock Mayor Tom Meade said late last week he was unaware of the requirement he store his police chief’s gun, and that anyway he considered the town’s only police officer on duty 24 hours a day because he is subject to being called out at any time.

Chief Stamper declined to comment on the situation; Shannon Stamper said on Friday it was “all blown out of proportion.”

Just four days after the order was filed, Shannon Stamper made a written request it be withdrawn, noting her husband had never hit her and they agreed to reconcile.

Commissioner Mitchell this morning pointed out to Shannon Stamper the results of a test she had ordered at a June 10 hearing; a UA conducted that day that showed the presence of alcohol in Chief Stamper’s system.

“This was despite his representation to the court he’d had no alcohol since May 20,” Mitchell said.

Shannon Stamper returned before the court commissioner about an hour after her first appearance and the termination order was signed after she confirmed that was what she wanted.
•••

For background, read “Mossyrock police chief contesting protection order” from Friday June 28, 2013, here

Mossyrock police chief contesting protection order

Friday, June 28th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Mossyrock Police Chief Jeremy Stamper is under court order to check his service firearm to his supervisor after each shift where it will be held until his following shift as part of a protection order sought by his wife.

He was also ordered to undergo domestic violence treatment and drug and alcohol treatment, according to court documents.

Stamper, the east Lewis County town’s only police officer, didn’t return calls for comment, but his supervisor says Stamper remains on the job.

“I have full confidence in him, or he wouldn’t be on patrol right now,” Mossyrock Mayor Tom Meade said yesterday.

Meade however said he isn’t aware of the requirement he hold Stamper’s gun.

The court case began when the police chief’s wife, Shannon Stamper, petitioned the court on May 20 for a year-long protection order and requested her husband be required to undergo treatment.

Court documents show that at a June 10 hearing, Lewis County Superior Court Commissioner Tracy Mitchell found “Ms. Stamper credible” and signed a protection order.

Shannon Stamper’s initial request said her husband never hit her, but he had access to weapons. An example of her concern she wrote about was an incident at the end of February in which she said Jeremy Stamper crushed his phone because he could not figure it out.

The order put in place has numerous restrictions, such as prohibiting him from coming within 200 feet of her residence. Five children are listed as protected as well.

A handwritten aside on the document states that work related contacts in the neighborhood are okay.

Meade said the court order comes during a contested divorce and makes no sense to him. He said the court didn’t analyze the situation thoroughly.

“This whole thing has me scratching my head,” Meade said. “I’ve supervised people for 40 years and I can spot an alcoholic and I can spot an abuser, and I just don’t see this.”

Meade said when the issue first arose, everyone thought the best course of action would be for the police chief to go on vacation. “Not administrative leave, just plain vacation,” he said.

Stamper has been back about a week and half, he said.

Meade pointed out his police chief works 40 hours, but is subject to call out at any time. He’s on duty 24 hours a day, Meade said.

The language on the standard protection order form states that if it is a domestic situation, then effective immediately the respondent may not possess a firearm or ammunition. A handwritten notation on the page indicates Stamper can possess his duty firearm while on shift, per “18 USC 8925.”

Stamper’s attorney Don Blair has filed a motion the order be revised contending the evidence did not show the petitioner was a victim of domestic violence.

Shannon Stamper four days after the order was filed made a written request it be terminated, writing the couple has agreed to reconcile and undergo family counseling. She wrote she may have been mistaken in interpreting her husband’s behavior.

Shannon Stamper wrote she has feared her husband in the recent past but never had issues of safety regarding herself or their children.

Her only comment today: “It’s all blown out of proportion.”

A hearing is set for Monday on the matter.

Arguments for re-sentencing teen drive-by shooter to be heard this autumn

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
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Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. waits in a Lewis County courtroom after attorneys pick a date for his new sentencing hearing.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Former Centralia resident Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. made a brief appearance in Lewis County Superior Court today as his “do-over” of a nearly 93-year prison sentence winds its way through the system.

Solis-Diaz was 16 years old when he was arrested following a drive-by shooting in downtown Centralia in the summer of 2007.

He was tried as an adult and convicted of multiple offenses, including one count of first-degree assault committed with a firearm for each bullet that was fired. Nobody was hit.

The state Court of Appeals tossed out his virtual life sentence last September and ordered the local court to conduct a new sentencing hearing, referencing various matters that should have been handled more thoroughly, given that he was a juvenile.

The former Centralia High School student’s personal restraint petition focused on a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held a sentence of life without parole is forbidden for a juvenile who did not commit homicide.

He is represented by attorney Robert Quillian.

In January when Solis-Diaz was returned to Lewis County to begin to address the issue, Quillian asked he remain housed in the Lewis County Jail for closer access as the attorney prepared for the new sentencing hearing.

Quillian and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh told a judge this afternoon they expect the hearing will take half a day. It was put on the court calendar for Sept. 27.

The deputy prosecutor who handled the case in 2007 has predicted the new sentence isn’t likely to be all that much shorter, given the statutory framework in place.

Beigh this afternoon said the prosecutors office still hasn’t finalized exactly how much time they will ask for. She’s waiting to see what arguments the defense attorney raises.

“I know what I think I’m going to recommend,” Beigh said. “But I’m trying to keep an open mind and see what they present.”
•••

For background, read: “Appeals court gives Centralia teen a “do-over” on 90-plus-year drive-by shooting sentence” from Wednesday September 19, 2012, here

Centralia jewelry shop burglary case ends with prison for two men

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
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Justin D. McPherson of Federal Way asks a judge for mercy in deciding his sentence in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A judge yesterday disregarded a defendant’s plea for a special drug offender sentencing alternative and gave him seven years plus two months in prison for the failed Centralia jewelry store burglary in which he was shot.

Justin D. McPherson, 29, stood before Judge Nelson Hunt in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday and admitted he acted selfishly and irresponsibly, saying he didn’t want to “live this life anymore.”

“I do have a drug problem,” McPherson said, his voice breaking. “I need help. I just ask for your mercy.”

McPherson was found guilty by a jury last month for breaking into Salewsky’s Jewelry shop in the early morning hours of March 20. He was confronted by the owner’s son who awoke in an upstairs apartment and shot him before he escaped through a hole he’d cut in a wall to an adjoining office space, dropping a trail of jewelry behind him.

Hunt told the Federal Way resident he deserved hard time.

“It may be that you have a drug problem, but frankly it doesn’t matter to me,” Judge Hunt said.

“You’re also a criminal.”

Hunt outlined his reasons. Part of it had to do with the obvious planning that went into the crime, he said.

Mainly, the judge said, McPherson went into a building where he didn’t belong when someone was present. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t aware anyone would be there, he said.

Gunshots threaten everybody, Hunt said.

“This was a legitimate use of self defense, but it was caused by you,” he said.

McPherson was sentenced for one count of second-degree burglary and one count of residential burglary, as well as second-degree malicious mischief for cutting a hole in the wall inside the building.

He was represented by Chehalis attorney Ken Johnson.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the judge the case against McPherson’s childhood friend Ryan W. Cox wasn’t quite as strong. Cox pleaded guilty in a plea deal.

Later yesterday, Cox was sentenced to seven years for his role.

Halstead said it never was learned how the two non-local men knew about the place; they broke through the back door of the vacant neighboring space and used a crowbar to break through a wall to get into the shop.

The two women who testified they waited in their cars nearby but didn’t know of the plan to steal any jewelry have pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance.
•••

For background, read “Jewelry store break-in defendant’s companions testify against him” from Thursday May 30, 2013, here

Trial gets underway for indefinite detention of accused sexual sadist

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Lewis County jury heard via videotaped interview a convicted rapist talk about 10 to 12 of his victims as they sit through a trial in which they will decide if 46-year-old Mark T. Robinson will remain locked up even though he has served his prison term.

Robinson, once a truck driver, was convicted in September 2000 after raping at knifepoint a teenage girl he picked up at a Spokane truck stop, an 18-year-old who escaped his big rig at an exit on Interstate 5 near Toledo. She was hitchhiking to visit her child in Toledo.

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Mark T. Robinson

The trial which began yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court is expected to run into next week, according to Senior Counsel Malcom Ross, at the Office of the Attorney General of Washington.

Ross filed the petition for Robinson’s civil commitment in May of last year. Such a petition is filed for approximately 1 percent of offenders who are released from prison in Washington, Ross said at the time.

The process comes from the Community Protection Act of 1990, the first of its kind in the country. The state Attorney General’s Office typically handles the cases, in the county where the criminal conviction occurred.

If the 12-person jury finds unanimously beyond a reasonable doubt Robinson is a sexually violent predator, he will be retained in custody for treatment until he’s deemed no longer dangerous, according to Ross.

Robinson, who according to court documents, was raised in a farming area outside Olympia, bullied in special education classes and dropped out of school, confessed he got a thrill out of raping.

His only other conviction is patronizing a prostitute in 1998, according to Ross.

The then-18-year-old rape victim won’t be among those who take the witness stand. She died years later in a homicide in another state, Ross said. He wasn’t certain of the details.

“It would be useful to hear from her, we wish we had her,” Ross said. “But the most important parts will be the experts discussing the mental disorder.”

The legal term is a mental abnormality that would cause one to reoffend in a sexual way, Ross said. The diagnosis is sadism.
•••

For background, read “Rapist convicted in Lewis County faces indefinite lockup after prison term” from Monday May 21, 2012, here

Police: LVL gang member caught dealing meth

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police arrested a 28-year-old Tenino man yesterday after he allegedly sold $50 worth of methamphetamine to an informant behind the Hub Tavern in Centralia.

Ruben Alberto Palomares was the subject on an ongoing investigation by the Chehalis Police Department, according to Deputy Chief Randy Kaut. He was picked up late in the afternoon in a vehicle traveling on Cooks Hill Road in Centralia, Kaut said.

Officers conducted what Kaut called a high-risk stop, which includes drawn weapons.

Palomares is charged in Lewis County Superior Court with three counts of delivery of a controlled substance, meth.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher in asking for bail this afternoon told a judge the defendant has only misdemeanor crimes on his record, but that prosecutors are concerned with his known gang ties.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter who represented Palomares for the hearing said his client works in Winlock and has a solid address in Tenino where he’s lived with his mother for at least the past 10 years.

He qualified as indigent and Centralia attorney Don Blair was appointed to handle his case.

Judge Nelson Hunt ordered him held on $25,000 bail pending trial.

According to charging documents, a police informant twice last month purchased $40 worth of meth from Palomares, and then yesterday bought $50 more while police were conducting surveillance.

A search made today of the impounded vehicle turned up the pre-recorded buy money as well as “paraphernalia” confirming his association with the local LVL gang, according to charging documents.

Palomares once was one of four individuals suspected as being involved in a drive-by shooting in Chehalis that occurred in 2010. Nobody was injured, but a vehicle was shot. That case fell apart because of witness issues, according to Meagher.

Delivery of methamphetamine is a class B felony with a maximum penalty of 10 yeas in prison and a $20,000 fine.
•••

For background, read “Last suspect from summer 2010 drive-by shooting in Chehalis now accounted for” from Wednesday October 3, 2012, here

Illness and delay plagued Winlock rape case ends with lengthy prison term

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
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Leo B. Bunker, right, consults with his attorney Michael Underwood as he is sentenced in Lewis County Superior Court to prison for rape.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 53-year-old Winlock man convicted of raping his wife was sentenced today to 38 years in prison.

Leo B. Bunker III, who denied the accusations when he took the witness stand during his trial earlier this month, filed a notice of appeal following this morning’s court hearing, but suffers from advanced throat cancer.

Bunker’s lawyer called it a virtual life sentence even without the illness; a prosecutor indicated it was well-deserved.

“He is incredibly dangerous, ” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joely O’Rourke told the judge. “He will absolutely get out and either kill (the victim) or hurt someone else.”

Bunker was arrested in late 2011 after deputies were told he physically abused the woman he reunited with some 35 years after they dated in high school. The victim testified he quickly became possessive and violent, preventing her from talking on the phone or leaving the house and terrifying her with cruel and sadistic threats.

She described how she went through with their wedding, because she didn’t think she could get away from him and still make sure she and her family would be safe.

O’Rourke today read a statement from the victim in which she wrote when “Buddy” came back into her life, it reminded her of better times, but she quickly came to fear him and would do just about anything to avoid his rage.

Bunker was convicted by on June 6, as charged, of two counts of second-degree rape, one count of harassment and two counts of violating a protection order. The jury found “aggravating circumstances” which allowed for additional time on his sentence.

On the advice of her doctor, the victim stayed away from today’s proceedings, according to O’Rourke. She sufferers from a coronary condition so serious her doctors told her could kill her if she testified.

Bunker’s older sister however was in the courtroom in support of her sibling.

“It’s one thing to go to prison for things you did, but it’s wrong when you didn’t,” Debra Tsugawa said.

Tsugawa said she doesn’t know if her brother will live long enough to see through his appeal.

She said her brother was diagnosed in August of last year with an aggressive cancer while he was locked up awaiting trial, but his treatment was delayed until January and by then it had spread to his lymph glands and thyroid.

Because he is in the custody of the jail, Lewis County has been responsible for paying for his medical care. As of two weeks ago, the bills had added up to more than $250,000, according to Lewis County Jail Chief Kevin Hanson.

The sentencing was initially scheduled for next month, while waiting for a pre-sentencing report from the state Department of Corrections.

Hanson reported to the Lewis County Board of Commissioners two weeks ago, that he asked Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer to ask DOC to expedite the report because Bunker needed further significant medical procedures before then.

Judge James Lawler today ordered Bunker to pay more than $2,000 in fines, fees and reimbursements such as for his defense attorney and his time in jail. Lawler said he is also ordering the medical costs to be repaid if prosecutors can provide evidence that’s allowable.

Bunker may have no contact with the victim for life and will be on community supervision after his release for the rest of his life.

•••

For background, read “Lewis County rape case plagued with delays hits another hurdle” from  Friday May 31, 2013, here

Prosecutor: Intimidation appears to be motive behind attack on man at Centralia motel

Thursday, June 20th, 2013
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Elijah M. Garibay, 25, of Elma, consults with defense attorney Bob Schroeter in Lewis County Superior Court during his bail hearing.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The victim of a beating that led to a nighttime police search through a Centralia neighborhood for suspects was a key witness in a trial that ended earlier this week in the conviction of a fellow heroin user.

Thomas Pennypacker, 32, of Chehalis, testified against Lonzo Lawson who was sentenced to more than eight years for breaking into a Napavine bar and stealing almost $15,000.

But that’s not what prosecutors think necessarily specifically led to the events on Tuesday night in the parking lot of the Peppertree Motel on Alder Street.

“I’m inclined to believe this is related to other individuals,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke told a judge.

The suspects allegedly called Pennypacker a snitch and said they were going to kill him as he was choked, repeatedly shocked with a stun gun and punched in the face. He escaped the car he had arrived in with the men and ran to the motel office for help, according to charging documents. The car sped away and two of the three men from it were captured in the area within the next hour and a half, according to police.

The Centralia Police Department initially said the victim was with the subjects because he was trying to buy heroin.

O’Rourke said it looked like a beating under the guise of a drug deal. “A pick ‘em up payback kind of thing,” he said.

He wouldn’t confirm if Pennypacker was one of law enforcement’s so-called confidential informants, drug case defendants that can get certain plea deals if they cooperate with police in setting up drug dealers.

“All I can say is he is involved in cases with the state,” O’Rourke said yesterday afternoon, noting the recent trial.

Yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court, two of the three suspects were charged with multiple offenses including intimidating a witness. Judge Richard Brosey ordered them held on $250,000 bail pending their trials.

Joseph M. Hanks, 30, is from Rochester. He was described by Pennypacker as “somewhat of a friend” who picked him up Tuesday night because they were going to buy some heroin.

Elijah M. Garibay, 25, has an Elma address listed as his residence in court documents.

Pennypacker indicated in the documents he didn’t know Garibay, that he was just one of two men Hanks unexpectedly picked up as they were driving to get drugs.

Charging documents give the following account:

A Centralia officer interviewed Pennypacker at the hospital where he was being treated for his injuries, which included Taser injuries along his face and shoulder.

Pennypacker told the officer he hadn’t known anyone else was coming with him and Hanks, and it concerned him when the two men were picked up.

He said after they arrived at the Alder Street motel, he handed $60 to Hanks, who gave it to one of the passengers. That man got out and almost immediately Garibay who was in the backseat put his arm around Pennypacker’s throat and began strangling him. Then Garibay began Tasing him in the face and side.

Hanks got out and began punching Pennypacker in the face full force, he said.

That’s when they called him a snitch and said they would kill him. Then he fled to the motel office and they sped away in Hanks’ Honda.

Motel manager Kaitlin Mendonca, in her vehicle, chased the car to the nearby dead end of Long Road, where they got out and left on foot.

The 25-year-old said today she wasn’t really sure what she was doing, but wasn’t going to let them just drive away.

Court documents indicate Hanks was spotted in a field and turned himself over to officers.

Later in the night, law enforcement was advised a resident few blocks to the north was holding at gunpoint a suspicious male discovered in a yard.

Dan Henderson, 44, and a Centralia city council member, turned the man – who was Garibay – over to arriving officers. Some of his clothing he had allegedly shed was found nearby.

Police said yesterday no heroin was found when the car was searched. Police did find a stun gun, drug paraphernalia and small plastic bags, among other things, according to charging documents.

It’s not clear who the third suspect is, but charging documents for Garibay and Hanks which describe the evening’s events don’t mention the third man assaulting the victim.

Garibay and Hanks are each charged with intimidating a witness, second-degree assault, second-degree robbery and harassment.

Garibay’s prior convictions include one felony and 11 misdemeanors. Hanks’ include five felonies and 20 misdemeanors.

Their arraignments are scheduled for June 27.
•••

For background read:

• “Attempted drug deal turns violent in Centralia” from Wednesday June 19, 2013, here

• “Lawyers: Who broke into the safe at Frosty’s tavern?” from Wednesday June 12, 2013, here

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Joseph M. Hanks, 30, of Rochester, listens to defense attorney Bob Schroeter in Lewis County Superior Court during his bail hearing.

Attempted drug deal turns violent in Centralia

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
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Police detain one individual on Long Road in Centralia following an assault in the parking lot of the Peppertree Motel. / Courtesy photo by Raymond Smith

Updated at 11:16 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An individual who was trying to buy heroin instead was beaten and shocked with a stun gun by the three males he met up with last night in Centralia, according to police.

Police were called about 9:45 p.m. to the parking lot of the Peppertree Motel on Alder Street by citizens who saw what was happening and called 911, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Officers learned the participants were inside a car when the victim was choked, punched and then zapped with a hand held Taser, according to police. The 32-year-old Chehalis man was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital.

Police from Centralia and Chehalis, as well as the state patrol, searched the neighborhood, eventually taking two suspects into custody. The third has not been located.

Sgt. Kurt Reichert said the victim fought back and didn’t give up his money. He didn’t yet know this morning the dollar amount involved.

It’s not clear if the trio even had any drugs they intended to sell, according to Reichert. None were found, he said.

One suspect had fled in the car to the dead end of Long Road, pursued by a witness, and then departed on foot, according to police. Joseph M. Hanks, 30, of Rochester, was soon located in a grassy field and detained, according to police.

An individual who jumped out of the way of the fleeing vehicle and fell down was hurt, so they were taken to the hospital with unknown injuries, Reichert said.

The other suspect turned up a few blocks away on South Cedar Street, being held at gun point by a citizen, Reichert said. Elijah M. Garibay, 25, of Elma, was then taken into custody.

After the car was impounded, police found the stun gun device, but no heroin, according to Reichert.

Hanks and Garibay were booked into the Lewis County Jail for robbery, assault and attempted delivery of a controlled substance. Police say Garibay also had outstanding warrants.

“This is what we had last year,” Reichert said.

He was speaking of the seller of purported medical marijuana who got into the car of two teenagers he thought were customers on the street in front of his East Van Buren Street home.

In that mid December case, 28-year-old Joshua Z. Smith was robbed of his weed at gunpoint and struck in the face before he bailed out of the vehicle. Smith shot at the car as it departed and was recently charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, while armed.

The Tacoma area residents have since pleaded guilty for their role.

Mammoth road-blocking semi from Friday is just one of 13 more coming through

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
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State Route 505 at North Military Road. / Courtesy photo by Jo Withrow

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A giant oversized load on a semi truck that blocked state Route 505 to Winlock for more than four hours last week was a tunnel boring machine on its way to China, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Troopers were called about 12:45 p.m. on Friday when one of its wheels went into a ditch as it tried to make the turn to continue up North Military Road, a state patrol spokesperson said today.

Trooper Will Finn  said they had to call some folks up from Kelso to help get the big rig on its way.

Later that night, it got stuck again trying to make a corner in Centralia.

And it was stalled the night before at state Route 506 and Military Road near Vader.

Finn said he learned the load originated in Canada and traveled through Montana and Idaho trying to get to the port in Grays Harbor so it can be shipped across to Asia.

It’s just one of many trying to make the same journey, according to Finn.

“There are 16 of them, it’s the third one they’ve moved,” he  said.

He said he wasn’t actually certain if each load is an entire tunneling machine or just components, but he did know the truck, trailer and load that had so much trouble on Friday was 120 feet long and 17 feet tall.

He wasn’t sure why it didn’t choose to travel on Interstate 5, and asked about that, he said.

“I guess the company hauling it didn’t want to deal with I-5 because they didn’t want to deal with the over passes,” he said.

His understanding was each time it would come to an overpass too low to clear, it would have to exit the freeway and get back on.

Lewis County granted the travel route permit, but if it allows another one, things will be different.

“I can virtually guarantee we’re not going to go through that again,” Tim Elsea, the director of Lewis County Public Works said today.

Elsea said he doesn’t yet have all the details, but they are looking at the situation.

He described the procedure for such permits: The pilot company proposes a route and the county looks into height and weight restrictions that would prevent travel on certain roads and over certain bridges, Elsea said.

“But we don’t check if they can make all their turns,” he said.

Elsea said he followed the same protocol as usual for issuing a route permit.

The pilot company originally wanted to go a different way, but there were three bridges on Jackson Highway that aren’t authorized for anything above normal weight loads, he said.

“I will say the haulers kind of felt like we were too restrictive of them because of the bridge collapse in Skagit County,” he said. “But that’s not it at all, it was our normal process.”

Elsea said the truck managed to get through at state Route 505 by taking some of the axles off, making the turn and then putting them back on.

In Centralia at about 8:30 that night, the same giant oversized load blocked an intersection at Mellen and Yew streets, long enough for the owner of a parked car to be located to so they could be asked to move their car in order for the truck to get around a corner, according to the police department.

Finn said it’s unknown when the next 13 similar loads may attempt to travel through the area.

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State Route 505 at North Military Road. / Courtesy photo by Jo Withrow

Centralia police track illegal Oxycodone trade to prison inmate

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Updated at 12:15 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Efforts to quash illegal pain pill sales in Centralia have led to an inmate who allegedly headed up a drug trafficking organization from prison, using fabricated telephone numbers to direct and set up deals between suppliers, sellers and customers, Centralia police revealed today.

The investigation that began after the local man was incarcerated in January has caught 20 other individuals in four counties and culminated yesterday in searches at New Beginnings Wellness Centers in Tumwater and Aberdeen, which involved the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, according to the Centralia Police Department.

At the center of the alleged drug ring is 30-year-old Forrest E. Amos, formerly of Napavine, according to police.

It’s mainly Oxycodone, Centralia police’s Anti-Crime Team Sgt. Jim Shannon said this morning.

“We’re doing everything we possible can to reach out as far as we possibly can to cut that off at its source,” Shannon said.

The organization has primarily been involved in illegal delivery of prescription pain relief medication but also has illegally facilitated medical marijuana authorizations, according to Centralia police.

Intercepted prison phone conversations and surveillance of the ensuing drug deals have resulted in arrests, identification of more suspects and further arrests over the past several weeks, according to police.

In the process, authorities have confiscated approximately 1,650 illegal prescription pills with a street value of as much as $66,000, according to Shannon.

Besides Centralia and Chehalis, the arrests have been made in Napavine, Longview, Lacey and at Sea-Tac Airport, according to news release from the Centralia Police Department.

Some of the 20 people ‘caught” have not been arrested, but their cases referred to prosecutors for evaluation of possible charges, according to the news release.

It’s not a marijuana investigation, but officers have also confiscated 156 marijuana plants, one and a half pounds of dried marijuana, according to police.

The investigation has included the seizure of five vehicles, $19,000 cash and a house in south Chehalis, according to Shannon.

Shannon said they have more arrests to make today.

The list of potential charges for Amos and others is long, including  leading organized crime, extortion, identity theft, fraud, first-degree assault, delivery and/or possession with intent to deliver controlled substances, as well as Medicaid fraud, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Shannon said yesterday’s search warrants served in Tumwater and Aberdeen focused on medical records and other documents. New Beginnings Wellness Centers is operated by a nurse practitioner named Sharol Chavez, he said.

DEA agents and the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General will be reviewing them for possible federal violations, according to Shannon.

Other entities involved in the investigation include the Longview Police Department Street Crimes Unit, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Homeland Security Investigations and the Washington State Department of Corrections Internal Intelligence and Narcotics Group, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Police Chief Bob Berg called it a complicated and lengthy investigation which would not have been possible without the cooperation of several agencies.

“The chief suspect in this case, while not in the community, continued to have a major impact on our community,” Berg stated in the news release. “The continued good work of the department’s Anti-Crime Team has been a contributing factor in the downward trend of crime in Centralia.”

Amos is serving time for possessing prescription drugs without authorization. He was sent to prison in January, according to Shannon.

Police allege Amos attempted to hide his prison phone conversations by extorting personal information from sex offenders in prison and using it to set up fake phone accounts. Inmates can communicate with outsiders via collect phone calls, according to Shannon.

Shannon said prison investigators caught onto the telephone scheme early on.

Amos allegedly arranged with a co-conspirator to have contraband smuggled in as well, according to Centralia police.

Police made the investigation public today because it is nearing its completion at the local level, according to police.

Details about the mentioned first-degree assault were not immediately available.

The residence local authorities are in the process of seizing came out of the arrest of Justin Currier in February, according to Shannon. His team was investigating the pain pill trade and just incidentally turned up more than 150 marijuana plants at Currier’s home, he said.

Elderly pilot survives freak accident with biplane at Chehalis airport

Saturday, June 15th, 2013
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Tom Potter of Pe Ell checks out the 1941 biplane that nearly killed its pilot earlier today.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An 85-year-old man was run over by a plane today at the Chehalis-Centralia Airport.

Firefighters called just after 3 p.m. said the small rear wheel ran over his chest after he was knocked to the ground when the plane started up and circled around on the ground.

Getting run over was bad, but it could have been so much worse.

The open cockpit biplane built in 1941 by Boeing has a shiny silver propeller that stretches roughly 10 feet from end to end, nearly reaching the ground.

“I kept telling him to stay down,” said Merrill Stulken, an Alaska resident who was at the airport fueling up his plane.

The plane shouldn’t have started up, but it did, according to Stulken.

“If he’d have put his head up, he’d be gone,” Stulken’s brother-in-law Tom Potter of Pe Ell said.

The plane circled over the man four times and then stopped, according to Stulken.

“God intervened,” Stulken said, calling the outcome of the accident a miracle. “I honestly thought I was gonna to see a man be killed,” he said.

It’s a mystery what happened, according to Stulken.

Stulken was getting ready to take a flight over Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and his farm in Boistfort, he said.

The pilot had a dead battery and asked him for help, he said. They were contemplating getting it going by cranking the propeller by hand.

The plane was parked, and shut off, he said. The fuel was off and before the pilot got in the cockpit, the two men rotated the propeller about one-third of a turn to check it out, Stulken said.

That’s when it started prematurely, he said.

The pilot, from Lakewood, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with a cut to the back of his head.

Chehalis Fire Department Capt. Pat Gilligan said his injuries must not have been too bad, because they got a phone call from the hospital within hours telling them he was headed in a taxi back to the airport to fly home.

The fire department didn’t release the injured man’s name, but the plane is registered to John Dimmer in Tacoma. The hospital said a John Dimmer was treated and has been released.

Stulken and his brother-in-law were back at the airport later this evening, surprised to hear the pilot planned to fly tonight. The plane was still parked however and the injured man wasn’t there.

Stulken estimated the tail of the aircraft weighed 500 to 1,000 pounds.

“He’s got true grit, he’s a tough old bugger,” Stulken said.

Police: Centralian used ex-girlfriend’s cell phone to snap explicit photos with underage girl

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 23-year-old Centralia resident is being held on $500,000 bail following his arrest for allegedly taking pictures with a cell phone of himself having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

The incident came to light when his ex-girlfriend contacted authorities, saying he returned her cell phone to her with the explicit images on it.

Jonathan M. Margart went before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis yesterday afternoon charged with two felonies.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter said he didn’t argue for a lower bail amount, leaving that for the attorney who would subsequently be appointed to represent Margart.

He said his temporary client was a hard working guy, employed at both Ayala Brothers Furniture and Carls Jr. restaurant.

According to the allegations outlined in the charging documents, Margart befriended a local middle school girl on Facebook, they talked on the phone a time or two and once met up at Fort Borst Park in Centralia.

The girl told a Centralia police detective they met on a recent Saturday and went to McDonalds, to the Outlet Mall and then Margart got a room at Motel 6, according to charging documents.

He left and returned with a fifth of Bacardi rum and his friends visited him periodically throughout the evening, the documents state.

The teenager told the detective she was intoxicated but recalled him holding his cell phone while they were engaged in sex, although she thought it was in the “flashlight mode,” charging documents state.

The girl said she allowed him to take one picture of her naked, but would not have agreed to photos during sex, according to charging documents.

She said she told Margart she was 14; when interviewed, he told the detective she said she was 18, according to charging documents.

Margart told the detective the girl was drunk and it was the girl who suggested he film her, according to the documents.

Margart was was jailed last week by his community corrections officer for violating the conditions of his parole by being in the company of a minor.

He was charged yesterday with sexual exploitation of a minor as well as third-degree rape of a child.

The exploitation is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. It’s related to causing a person under 18 to engage in sexually explicit conduct knowing the act will be photographed or part of a live performance.

The rape charge carries a maximum penalty of five years, and is based only upon the age difference between the two parties; a victim who is age 14 or 15 and a perpetrator who is at least 48 months older.

Margart’s criminal history includes convictions when he was 19 years old for third-degree child molestation and second-degree child molestation, according to court documents.

His chance to make his plea will come at his arraignment, scheduled for next Thursday.

New Centralia arson not linked to series of fires in May

Thursday, June 13th, 2013
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Small fires set inside the empty Symons warehouse didn’t harm the building.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Authorities don’t believe last night’s fire set inside a vacant warehouse in a Centralia neighborhood is connected to a string of arsons last month, but they still want to find out who lit it.

Firefighters called about 7:30 p.m. to a report of smoke coming from the large brick-sided building found a fire small enough they put it out with a portable extinguisher.

It was in the center of the structure, fueled by books and other items assembled from the facility, Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack said.

There was actually more than one fire set, but all were on the concrete portion of the floor and none caused any structural damage, he said.

Mack said it didn’t seem as though someone was trying to destroy the building. It could have been devastating if that happened, he said.

“But still, that’s not okay,” he said.

Neighbors call it the cannery, but Mack described it as a cold storage warehouse.

It takes up a city block in between F and G streets and Fourth and Fifth streets.

One of the reasons authorities aren’t linking last night’s incident to the five fires in May is none of those buildings were entered, Mack said.

In a three-hour span during the early morning hours of May 3, fire crews were called to two churches, a coffee stand and Centerville, the western store at the north end of the Centralia Outlets. After daylight, they learned of a failed attempt at a third church.

Longtime area resident Hazel Ragan recalls the now vacant warehouse once was owned by Ocean Spray and last belonged to Symons Frozen Foods. Ryan Rayburn who lives across the street said it a busy operation until about two years ago.

“Squatters probably, that what I figured it was,” Rayburn said. “Squatters in there using the vents for a chimney.”

Police are working with Mack, who is the city’s fire investigator. They don’t have any suspects yet, he said this afternoon.

“We did recover some evidence from the fire,” Mack said. “We’ll be using that as we move forward.”

Mack is asking anyone who saw anyone in the area before the fire to please contact him or the Centralia Police Department.

••

For background, read: “Early May north Centralia church fire could also be arson, officials now say” from Monday May 20, 2013, here