Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Chehalis shooting: Firearm still missing, one round recovered from Dairy Bar

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Matthew W. Harader appears before a judge with his lawyer in Lewis County Superior Court.

Updated at 5:28 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Chehalis police yesterday arrested the wife of the man charged with shooting at a passing truck saying they believed that right after the early Sunday morning incident occurred, he gave her the firearm.

Hillary M. Harader, 23, was contacted at the courthouse, there yesterday afternoon for her husband’s hearing. She was booked into the Lewis County Jail for rendering criminal assistance and tampering with evidence, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said this morning they believe she did something with the gun, but they haven’t yet recovered it.

Her husband Matthew W. Harader, age 27, of Centralia, is charged in Lewis County Superior Court with two counts of first-degree assault. At his arraignment yesterday afternoon, his bail was increased to $200,000.

Chehalis police recovered two .45 caliber casings at the scene and recovered one round which had lodged into the side of a building, according to authorities.

It happened at the Jackpot convenience store on the 600 block of West Main Street in Chehalis.

Nobody was injured and charging documents offer no explanation for what occurred.

Officers called about 3:20 a.m. on Sunday spoke to the clerk who said two men and a woman had been inside, although they arrived in separate vehicles, according to court documents. The clerk said she heard a “pop” and saw a male dressed in dark clothing running toward the street with his hand raised in front of him as though he held a gun, according to charging documents.

She said she heard a second “pop” and it appeared he was firing toward a large gray lifted pickup truck which was heading westbound on Main Street, the documents relate.

Charging documents continue on, offering the following account:

The two men from the lifted truck told police they stopped at the store to get Gatorade and as they drove west, one of the men made eye contact with them, began to yell, chased them and shot at them. They pulled behind the Dairy Bar across the street, which is where one bullet hit the building.

Arriving officers located the suspect truck, stopping it at the 400 block of North Market Boulevard, and arrested the passenger.

Matthew W. Harader refused to speak with officers but the driver when asked if he knew why they were being stopped, said “He’s crazy, who just starts shooting at people for no reason.”

The driver was not arrested.

The victims, Cole T. Rife and Tanner R. Bradford, told police they thought the man chasing them was the one wearing shorts, but a review of video images from Jackpot showed the one in shorts didn’t leave the side of the truck while he was pumping gas.

A 9mm pistol was found in the suspect truck as well as .45 caliber ammunition, according to Kaut.

Matthew W. Harader appeared in court Monday afternoon, with his employer and others present in his support. He is represented by Chehalis attorney Katherine Gulmert. He pleaded not guilty yesterday.

His juvenile record includes convictions for second-degree burglary and third-degree assault.

Hillary M. Harader bailed out of jail with a $2,000 bond but returned this afternoon to Lewis County Superior Court where she is charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance, a felony and with tampering with physical evidence, a gross misdemeanor.

Judge Nelson Hunt left her bail unchanged.

For background read “Centralia resident booked for allegedly shooting at moving truck on Main Street” from Monday August 29, 2016, here

Packwood man given nine plus years for 2013 kidnapping

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Zachery H. Bynum talks with his lawyer Jacob Clark after signing sentencing documents in Lewis County Superior Court today.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – After spending more than three years in custody, between jail and the state psychiatric hospital, a Packwood man was sentenced today for events he says he mostly doesn’t recall but a prosecutor called a day of hell for the victim.

Zachery H. Bynum pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping, two counts of second-degree assault, harassment and resisting arrest.

It was July 16, 2013, when Bynum was arrested at gunpoint on U.S. Highway 12 near Kiona Creek Road after an approximately four-mile police pursuit. He had dragged his young woman friend out of the Glenoma grocery store and forced her to drive toward Randle.

“She was the one who went through this,” Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said of the then-22-year-old Morton woman. “She’s the one who had a knife held to her throat.”

Bynum, then 41 years old and living mostly in the woods, was suspected to suffer from severe mental issues from the start.

The allegations included Bynum first forcing the young woman up a logging road where he threatened her with a machete.

Defense attorney Jacob Clark today told the judge of a 10-minute evaluation by personnel from Western State Hospital that initially found Bynum competent and then jail visits in which he would watch his client pull out wads of hair and rip off his own fingernails.

“I’d talk through a little door, he wouldn’t come out from underneath his bed,” he said.

Clark said he asked them to evaluate him as an inpatient, which they did and when he’d come back, spend time in solitary, he would deteriorate again.

“We went through the process I think five times, maybe more,” Clark said.

Clark spoke of a previously undiagnosed brain disease that included cyclical swelling. His client’s current state of mind was the best it’s ever been, he said.

Halstead described the plea agreement in which both attorneys recommended 110 months in prison, as an amount of time sought because of the impact to the victim and also witnesses, including children.

The victim was present in the courtroom and asked Halstead to convey her wish Bynum get the maximum penalty.

Bynum took the judge up on an offer to address the court.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t remember what happened mostly, I believe it, but I’m sorry for what happened.”

Judge James Lawler agreed with a sentence of nine years and two months.

“I don’t think adding more time is going to change the impact on Mr. Bynum, given the mental health issues,” Lawler said.

The judge gave him credit for 1,142 days already served and ordered 36 months of supervision upon his release.

For background, read “Lawyers: Mentally disturbed Packwood man kidnapped woman friend” from Thursday July 18, 2013, here

Lacey teen gets adult court in theft of police chief’s car case

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Dashaud D. Cummings, 17, consults with temporary defense attorney Joely O’Rourke in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 17-year-old boy arrested for allegedly stealing a police car as he tried to get away from troopers chasing him for speeding in Chehalis has been charged as an adult in Lewis County Superior Court.

Dashaud D. Cummings was arrested on August 10, captured by a police dog in the woods off Interstate 5 a couple of miles from where Chehalis Police Department Chief Glenn Schaffer’s car was taken at Riverside Golf Course.

Cummings was brought before a judge this afternoon, who asked if this was the case where the individual was up on a roof while law enforcement officers were searching for him, and then took the police car.

A decline hearing was held in juvenile court, allowing the case to be moved in adult court, according to Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joel DeFazio.

The Lacey resident is charged with second-degree assault, attempting to elude and theft of a motor vehicle as well as hit and run.

Charging documents indicate he told a police officer he was running because he didn’t want to get arrested for a warrant. He told the officer he got into one of the patrol cars, was tased,  and fled, later running on foot, according to the documents.

A Chehalis Police Department spokesperson previously related that as officers approached the police car, the suspect put it in reverse, striking a trooper with the open door, knocking the trooper down.

When Officer Matt McKnight informed him he had injured a trooper, Cummings responded, “I told him to move,” the documents state.

The 15-year-old girl who with him told police she told him to stop and that he didn’t have a license.

Defazio asked that the defendant be held on $100,000 bail.

Temporary defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge Cummings has a stable address with his aunt, his legal guardian who is a nurse and asked for lower bail.

Judge Richard Brosey set bail at $35,000.

Centralia attorney David Brown represented Cummings in juvenile court and was appointed to continue representing him.  The arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 8.

For background, read “Theft of police chief’s car could mean adult court for teen” from Thursday August 11, 2016, here

Judge hands down slightly lighter term in Winlock child porn case

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Donald L. Schnacker takes a seat beside his defense attorney Jacob Clark in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Winlock man with an an intellectual ability his lawyer described as less than that of a 7-year-old was given a shorter than standard sentence for sharing child pornography on the Internet today in Lewis County Superior Court.

Donald L. Schnacker, 30, was arrested by the FBI in December and has been held since then in the Lewis County Jail.

Investigators found evidence Schnacker used his phone and the Kik messenger app to access wireless internet from the library.

“Unfortunately he got into a situation where someone at the library had introduced him to child pornography and he began sharing it,” attorney Jacob Clark told the judge.

Clark told the judge his client at a young age suffered brain damage and also has mental health problems.

“I think initially, he didn’t realize it was a crime,” Clark told the judge. “His family explained to him it was not appropriate.”

Clark apologized in advance as he didn’t want to insult Schnacker, but said he believed his client’s intelligence is below his 7-year-old’s. He can learn, but his retention is problematic, Clark said.

Prosecutors and his lawyer had worked out a plea deal and asked the judge to give Schnacker 12 months in jail, instead of 15 to 20 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of dealing in depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm asked for the 12 months but didn’t offer any details for her request.

Judge Richard Brosey agreed, for the reasons given by Clark, and imposed 36 months of community custody after release. He also ordered Schnacker not to use a computer which is connected to the Internet.

Prison for two more participants in Centralia drug-related robbery

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The third of four suspects was sentenced today for a July incident which authorities alleged involved a ruse to obtain heroin that resulted in a struggle inside a car with bear spray and a box cutter in Centralia.

Jon Parker, 32, pleaded guilty this morning in Lewis County Superior Court to conspiracy to commit second-degree robbery. Judge Richard Brosey followed the agreed recommendation that came out of a plea agreement and gave him one year and one day in prison.

Parker chose not to make a statement on his own behalf.

He, Andrea Parker, 34, of Chehalis; Robert Plasencia, 29, of Napavine; and Kiana J. DeLaRosa, 18, of Chehalis, were all arrested after the early morning July 30 events at the 1600 block of North Scheuber Road.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello said essentially the plan was already in place when the Parkers arrived. DeLaRosa had asked her friend to get her some heroin, saying she was drug sick, he said.

Court documents describe that when the two victims arrived, DeLaRosa began saying they’d stolen $100 from her, and then a purse and a backpack were taken from them.

DeLaRosa pleaded guilty on Friday to second-degree robbery but her sentencing has not yet taken place.

Andrea Parker on Monday pleaded guilty to the same offense as Jon Parker – conspiracy to commit second-degree robbery – but also to four other cases from this year, involving drug possession as well as forgery and second-degree identity theft. She was given 50 months in prison.

Plasencia got 22 months when he was sentenced early last week for second-degree robbery.

For background, read “Bear spray, box cutter and heroin” from Friday August 12, 2016, here

Top ranking deputy to lead Evergreen college’s police force

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Stacy Brown is resigning to take a new job.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office’s chief civil deputy is moving up, taking a position as chief of police services at Evergreen State College.

Chief Deputy Stacy Brown came to the sheriff’s office just over 20 years ago, working as a patrol deputy, a detective for five years with a specialty in sex crimes and child abuse, a sergeant overseeing the detective division and more.

Since 2009, Brown has been responsible for the special services bureau, and is part of the sheriff’s command staff.

Next, Brown will lead a department with nine commissioned law enforcement officers at Evergreen, a 1,000-acre campus in Olympia with more than 4,000 students.

The announcement was made yesterday. Her last day is Sept. 12.

“It is bittersweet, I will miss everyone here so much,” Brown said. “Lewis County feels like a second home.”

Brown, who resides in Thurston County, said she’s looking forward to working with a great new team.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Evergreen in 2006, while working full time, so she already has an idea of what the culture is like, she said.

Police Services at Evergreen has its own dispatch center and Brown will also oversee campus parking services, with several employees.

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza asked his employees yesterday to join him in congratulating Brown and thanking her for her dedicated service.

“Chief Brown has done an excellent job in a myriad of positions during her tenure with our office, and has led our special services bureau with pride, professionalism, and dedication,” Snaza stated in an email message.

The departure of the top-ranking female deputy leaves the sheriff’s office with no female deputies. Until Deputy Sue Shannon left last year after more than 20 years as a patrol deputy, the two women were the only commissioned law enforcement officers in the organization.

The now-46-year-old started her career in public safety as a dispatcher for the Washington State Patrol. She hired on at the sheriff’s office in May 1996 and has worked for three sheriffs.

In her current position, which she is leaving behind, she has
a wide range of duties, conducted along the 13 staff members she supervises.

The special services bureau includes the sheriff’s office’s records division, the property and evidence division and the civil division.

“We’re responsible for all the evictions in the county and all the civil processes,” Brown said. “Like writs of execution, when someone owes money and someone can go after real or personal property.”

Brown and her people do the work involved in satisfying court judgements, whether trying to obtain a child to return to the rightful parent, or seizing property and holding sheriff’s auctions. They also process gun permits and handle fingerprinting.

Perhaps her best-recognized role has been public information officer for the past nine years, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.

Brown said today she had thought she would retire from the sheriff’s office, but she’s very excited about the next step in her career.

“I just hope people understand how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to serve the community, from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, August 29th, 2016


Updated at 7:11 p.m.


• A 55-year-old Winlock resident who wrecked his motorcycle off the 200 block of Knowles Road in Winlock early Saturday morning sustained head injuries, broken bones and abrasions along his body, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responding about 1:35 a.m. cited Corey L. Smith for driving under the influence but he was released at the hospital so he could be treated, according to the sheriff’s office. His 1992 Harley Davidson sustained major damage, Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said.

• A 20-year-old Toledo resident sustained minor injuries but was arrested for driving under the influence after his 1999 BMW 323 came to rest on its side against a tree along the 700 block of Tucker Road outside Toledo. A deputy responding just after midnight on Friday noted Edgar B. Clairez had been wearing a seatbelt but his car had rolled and was totaled, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. He was taken to the hospital for medical clearance and not booked into jail, Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said.

• A 39-year-old Centralia woman was arrested for driving under the influence as well as hit and run after allegedly crossing lanes and striking an oncoming vehicle at the 1700 block of Cooks Hill Road in Centralia. Officers responding to the approximately 9:30 p.m. call on Friday report Consuelo Paulin-Garcia fled the scene but was located a short time later, according to the Centralia Police Department. Two victims were injured, according to police, with one treated for labor contractions and the other for neck pain. Paulin-Garcia was booked into the Lewis County Jail, but is being released with no felony charges filed pending further investigation.

• Centralia police were called about 11:30 a.m. on Friday about a hit and run accident at Harrison Avenue and Interstate 5 in which the fleeing vehicle was described as a gold-colored pickup towing a trailer full of lawn care equipment.

• An officer called about 11:20 a.m. on Friday about a car versus bicyclist accident at the 200 block of West Main Street in Chehalis was unable to locate the suspect vehicle but did find a male pushing a bicycle who said he didn’t know anything about it, according to the Chehalis Police Department.


• A 43-year-old Bucoda man put in the back of a patrol car for an outstanding warrant was arrested for third-degree assault after allegedly kicking a Napavine police officer in the lower stomach and belt area. The incident occurred after the man allegedly spit on the side of the police vehicle and was “escorted to the ground” when Officer Noel Shields believed he was about to spit on him, according to court documents. John P. Beck was booked into the Lewis County Jail on Friday night, according to its online roster, but charging documents state the incident near McDonalds on Kirkland Road happened yesterday. Beck was charged today in Lewis County Superior Court with third-degree assault and his bail was set at $10,000


• Centralia officers called just before 1 o’clock this morning about a man standing in the roadway blocking traffic, with a large sheet covering himself, ended up using a Taser to take him in to custody. Police arriving to the area at North Pearl and West Fourth streets report he charged them and when they tried to talk with him, he made threats and was aggressive, according to the Centralia Police Department. A Taser was deployed and Shane M. Schafer, 45, of Centralia, was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.


• An 18-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for reckless driving last night after allegedly attempting to flee a victim of a water-ballooning. Officers called about 10:35 p.m. to Main and Silver streets in Centralia detained Hodges C. Bailey and two under-18 youth for allegedly striking numerous vehicles in both Centralia and Chehalis with the water-filled balloons, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• A gold 1998 Mazda 626 was reported stolen about 8:35 a.m. on Saturday from the 1400 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia.


• Centralia police were called about 11:15 a.m. yesterday to a home on the 800 block of West Plum Street to take a report of a stolen pistol.

• Police were called about a 30.06 rifle stolen in a burglary at a residence on the 700 block of Vienna Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police about 11 p.m. on Saturday.


• A 32-year-old Winlock woman allegedly stole an LED candle from a chapel at the 900 block of South Scheuber Road in Centralia on Friday afternoon. Lucia D. Spross was arrested for third-degree theft and then released, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Chehalis police were called to the 500 block of Southwest William Avenue at about 2 p.m. on Friday to take a report that five tires were stolen from behind the home early that morning or during the night.


• A counterfeit $100 bill was spent at a retail store on the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia, according to a report made to police about 7:10 a.m. on Saturday. A report of a similar instance at the same location was made on Friday afternoon, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• An officer was called about 8:10 .m. yesterday for a vehicle prowl at the 1700 block of Ham Hill Road in Centralia. Missing was a GPS unit, tools and binoculars, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Centralia police were called about 10:15 a.m. yesterday to the 100 block of North Washington Avenue for a broken window to a vehicle. Just before 10:30 a.m., a report of a broken windshield was made from the 1300 block of Rose Street, and just before 11 a.m., a victim reported the same at the 200 block of North Washington Avenue, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police were called for malicious mischief to a vehicle on Saturday night at the 200 block of West Second Street, the 400 block of West Hanson Street, the 1400 block of Belmont Avenue and the 900 block of Marion Street.


• Austin J. Hines, 20 of Centralia, was arrested and booked for felony possession of marijuana after contact with police about 11:25 p.m. on Saturday at Centralia College Boulevard and Cedar Street in Centralia, according to the Centralia Police Department. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.


• And, as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, underage drinking, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license, possession of marijuana, possession of liquor by minor; responses for alarm, dispute, civil issue, third-degree theft, hit and run, harassment, suspicious circumstances, collision on city street, graffiti to a fence and tree and locomotive … and more among 477 calls for local law enforcement and / or fire-emergency medical services in the 72-hour period ending about 7 a.m. today.

Two of spooked horse victims on the mend, after fair accident

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Helen Morgan at her father Jake Morgan’s bedside. / Courtesy photo

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County officials went silent about the spooked carriage horse that took off running down the midway at the Southwest Washington Fair, injuring five people.

The designated spokesperson about the incident talked with news organizations the day it occurred, offering sparse details.

By early this week, the spokesperson, Lewis County Risk Manager Paulette Young, said nothing more would be said.

“We’re not providing any more information on that, we are no commenting,” Young said Tuesday.

The day before, the three-member Lewis County Board of Commissioners issued a formal statement:

“Because of potential litigation that could arise in the future, and upon advice of counsel, Lewis County will not be making any further comments on this matter,” they wrote. “Our thoughts and well wishes continue to be with those affected by this incident.”

It happened about 2:30 p.m. a week ago Friday.

Young on that afternoon said she knew only that five people were hurt and four of them were hospitalized, after a vendor’s horse with buggy ran through the fairgrounds.

The chief of the fire department whose jurisdiction includes the fairgrounds in between the cities of Centralia and Chehalis said he didn’t know much more. Riverside Fire Authority Chief Mike Kytta referred questions to Young.

We don’t have a whole lot,” Kytta said earlier this week. “With our fairground crew there, we had the whole thing turned around in 18 minutes.”

Kytta said four individuals were put into AMR ambulances and transported to Providence Centralia Hospital. The fifth person went there in a private vehicle, he said.

Although ordinarily Riverside Fire Authority records and shares such basics as the age and sex of accident victims, Kytta said he did not have that information.

“Now we know, from the news, a father and daughter were flown to Harborview with head injuries,” he said earlier this week.

Jake Morgan of Toledo and his daughter Helen were airlifted to the Seattle trauma center. A GoFundMe page posted the following day included words from the mother, Emily Owen, who said they expected a long healing road ahead.

“They have been overwhelmed with prayers and wishes,” the statement read. “Due to the severity of Jake and Helen’s injuries Emily won’t be able to go back to work immediately.

“If you feel moved please join me in donating what you can to offset their cost of living during their stay here in Seattle, and in the time home.”

Now, fellow Toledo resident Brandie Devine is busy organizing assistance for the family.

A benefit spaghetti dinner and auction is planned for Sept. 30 at Toledo High School. It will run from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m.

“Emily will move from primary provider to caregiver,” Devine wrote. “As this family heals, let’s do what we can as a community to ‘make life a little easier’. ”

The cost is $5 per child and $7 for adults.

To donate auction items, Devine can be reached at 360-880-7331

To donate food or supplies for the spaghetti feed, please contact Catrina Mathis at 360-703-1716 or Cara Buswell at 206-303-9472 or 360-864-4291.

Also, Devine notes that in the meantime for anyone who would like to contribute money to help family members with fuel costs for their trips to and from the hospital, an account is set up at the Toledo Flying K Gas Mart.

For background, read “Chehalis: Spooked horse injures several fairgoers” from Friday August 19, 2016, here

Insurance on $322 million highway project will pay for $18.5 million collision settlement for Rochester man

Friday, August 26th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Washington State Department of Transportation issued a formal statement yesterday, the day after a settlement of $18.5 million was approved for a Rochester motorcyclist severely injured last year when he collided with a dump truck working on the Interstate 5 construction project in Centralia.

“This was a tragic and serious incident for Mr. Bliss and our thoughts remain with him, ” the state agency wrote. “Safety is a top priority for WSDOT and we work diligently with our contractors to reduce the risk of roadway incidents.”

Scott R. Bliss was 44 years old when the early morning wreck occurred on April 17, 2015 at the northbound Harrison Avenue entrance to Interstate 5. A Mac truck was turning on to the ramp from an adjacent area and Bliss was entering the freeway when Bliss’s motorcycle struck its trailer, leaving him with a brain injury.

Bliss just finally returned home about a month ago from a rehabilitation center.

The settlement is the largest amount paid to a single person in a Lewis County Superior Court case, as far as Bliss’s attorneys could find.

The lawsuit filed on his behalf named Washington state, the state Department of Transportation’s contractor Scarsella Brothers Inc. and the driver, Wesley G. Snelson, from Galvin.

The judge’s approval came on the same day local and state officials met for a ceremonial ribbon cutting to celebrate the nine year highway construction project coming to a close.

The $322 million project encompassed an 18-mile stretch, adding and modifying interchanges, adding lanes and building new connections that parallel the freeway to carry local traffic, among other improvements.

The $18.5 million in settlement money will be put in a trust for Bliss.

Most of it, $13.5 million, is being paid through Scarsella’s private insurance, according to a WSDOT spokesperson.

The other $5 million comes from a liability insurance policy required under the construction contract paid for by Scarsella but taken out in WSDOT’s name, according to Lars Erickson, communications director for the state agency.

The Interstate 5 work, which began in 2007, was done between Maytown and Napavine.

“This work will help drive down collisions and improve travel times on this portion of the West Coast’s busiest highway,” WSDOT Assistant Regional Administrator Bart Gernhart stated in a news release. “By partnering with local community members, we incorporated their vision of a safer and more efficient I-5 corridor that will have lasting benefits for all travelers.”

The most visible difference are the connectors between the Mellen Street and Harrison Avenue interchanges, meant to improve safety by reducing merge weaving and preventing backups onto the interstate.

Drivers should expect occasional nighttime single-lane closures during the next few weeks as WSDOT’s contractor, Scarsella Brothers, Inc., finishes guardrail installation and striping work, according to WSDOT spokesperson Bart Treece.

Additional roadside landscaping and erosion control work will be completed during the fall and winter months.

For background, read “Multi-million settlement reached for motorcyclist’s injuries at I-5 onramp during construction” from Wednesday August 24, 2016, here

Defendant admits to texting while driving before Winlock crash

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Robert Hicks, represented by Centralia lawyer David Arcuri, is sentenced to 17 months in prison.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Two weeks after his arrest for walking away from the scene of an early morning wreck he caused which left a Winlock woman with serious injuries, 28-year-old Robert A. Hicks pleaded guilty and apologized.

“I’m truly sorry,” Hicks said. “If I could trade places, I would.”

Hicks was sentenced yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court for vehicular assault, hit and run and tampering with a witness.

He admitted to the judge when asked, he was texting and driving as his car crossed over the center line.

Given he had no prior felony criminal history, the top of the standard sentencing range was 17 months in prison. And that’s what he got.

“I have to tell you, if it were legally possible for me to impose a greater sentence, I would definitely do it,” Judge Nelson Hunt said.

The head-on collision occurred on the 200 block of North Military Road in Winlock on July 24. A passing citizen found the two wrecked vehicles and called 911 at about 5:26 a.m.

Mechelle Crosse, 50, had multiple broken bones including in her face and back.

“She’s laying in bed crying because she’s helpless,” her daughter Nicole Ettner said as she asked the judge to hand down the maximum sentence. “My mom has never hurt a fly.”

The mother of 10 and grandmother of 12 needs 24-hour care because her mouth is wired shut, her sister-in-law Carla Ladino added.

“We’re not a rich family, and it’s hard on everybody,” Ladino said.

Hicks hung his head during most parts of the court hearing.

The electrician who had recently relocated to Winlock admitted to leaving the scene, and to calling his ex-girlfriend and telling her to report the car stolen.

Hicks wasn’t arrested until Aug. 10, in Olympia shortly after the case gained region wide attention, through the television show Washington’s Most Wanted.

His lawyer David Arcuri said his client earlier in the day was talking about writing a letter of apology.

Restitution, which will be substantial according to Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, will be determined at a later date.

For background, read “Using cell phone while driving suspected in Winlock wreck” from Thursday August 11, 2016, here

Multi-million settlement reached for motorcyclist’s injuries at I-5 onramp during construction

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Rochester man who just recently has been able to return home after his motorcycle collided with a dump truck 16 months ago near a construction zone on a freeway onramp in Centralia is the beneficiary of an $18.5 million dollar settlement, approved by a judge today in Lewis County Superior Court.

Scott R. Bliss was 44 years old and a welder when the early morning wreck occurred on April 17, 2015 at the  northbound Harrison Avenue entrance to Interstate 5.

He spent about a month at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, time in other medical facilities and was just released in July from a rehabilitation center for serious brain injuries.

A lawsuit filed on his behalf named Washington state, the state Department of Transportation’s contractor Scarsella Brothers Inc. and the driver, Wesley G. Snelson, from Galvin.

Judge James Lawler this morning looked over the agreement between the parties, which sets up a trust fund to provide for his medical care for the rest of his life.

“It seems an extraordinary amount of money,” Lawler said. “Of course there were extraordinary injuries, and that makes sense.”

Bliss and his longtime partner Cheryl Aton were present for the hearing. He rolled into the courtroom in a motorized chair, but didn’t address the court.

His lawyers answered Lawler’s questions. Viivi M. Vanderslice said both defendants denied any responsibility.

Chehalis attorney Joe Mano, there to look out for Bliss’s interests, said he was in agreement, remarking on his belief a Lewis County jury would have found a significant portion of negligence.

The attorney representing the state said he had nothing to add. No lawyer from Scarsella was present.

Vanderslice said it appears from their research, it’s the largest outcome for a civil matter in Lewis County Superior Court paid out to a single person.

According to the Washington State Patrol, a dump truck was turning onto the ramp from a construction site when the motorcycle entering the freeway struck its trailer. Bliss was ejected from his Harley Davidson. It happened shortly before 5:30 a.m.

The Mac truck driver was cited by the state patrol for entering the roadway the way he did, the plaintiff’s other lawyer, Kirk Bernard, said.

“They were allowing big trucks to make a U-turn at the end of an open freeway onramp, without flaggers, with no warning signs,” Bernard said. “We learned they’d been doing this for months.”

Bernard and Vanderslice are with the Bernard Law Group in Seattle.

There was no evidence Bliss was speeding, his headlight was on and he was wearing a helmet, Bernard said.

The defendants took the position Bliss was a rogue motorcyclist and ought to have been watching out for the construction vehicles, he said.

“The issue is protection of the public, and adequate and clear warning,” Bernard said. “This was preventable.”

Today Bliss can take as many as 40 steps.

“He’s been tinkering in his garage, playing with his dogs,” Bernard said. “And he’s hopeful about the future.”

For background, read “News brief: I-5 construction area crash sends one to Harborview” from Friday April 17, 2015, here

Napavine resident going to prison for Centralia drug-related robbery

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – One of four suspects pleaded guilty today to his part in an early morning Centralia incident which authorities alleged involved a ruse to obtain heroin that resulted in a struggle inside a car with bear spray and a box cutter.

Robert Plasencia, 29, of Napavine admitted he took keys and a cell phone during the events of July 30 at the 1600 block of North Scheuber Road.

Plasencia pleaded guilty as charged, to second-degree robbery, before Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler this morning.

Charging documents in the case say the two victims told police of a request to get heroin for one of the four suspects who claimed to be drug sick. One of the assailants allegedly used bear spray and one of the victim’s pulled out a box cutter.

The initial information was a purse and backpack were stolen from the pair.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello told the judge Plasencia was quick in accepting responsibility. Defense attorney Michael Underwood said the plea agreement included both attorneys recommending his client spend 22 months in prison.

The standard sentencing range for the offense, given his criminal history, is 22 to 29 months.

Judge Lawler agreed with the deal.

Plasencia has been held in the Lewis County Jail since his arrest on July 31. He declined to make a statement on his own behalf.

Cases are still pending for the other three, charged similarly. They are Andrea Parker, 34, of Chehalis; Jon Parker, 32, transient; and Kiana J. DeLaRosa, 18, of Chehalis.

For background, read “Bear spray, box cutter and heroin” from Friday August 12, 2016, here

Camp trash dispute turns violent near Dog Mountain

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Updated at 2:21 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An argument over leaving garbage at a Glenoma campsite is what reportedly sparked a stabbing that sent a 40-year-old man to Harborview Medical Center yesterday.

Deputies called just after 5 p.m. to the Dog Patch campground at the base of Dog Mountain found the victim with a stab wound to his abdomen, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said the weapon was a large Rambo-style knife.

The suspect and two companions fled in a white van and were ultimately located on a logging road across from Kosmos Road, Brown said.

Brown said the victim and witnesses said an argument broke out between the occupants of a Ohio license-plated car and the Florida-plated van about the subjects in the two cars leaving the trash behind.

The victim, a 40-year-old from Los Angeles, California, was immediately transported to Morton General Hospital and then airlifted to Seattle, according to Brown. His condition this morning is unknown, as the sheriff’s office last information is from 11 o’clock last night, when he was still in surgery.

The victim said the suspect came at him and stabbed him, Brown said. The suspect said it was self defense, she said.

Theodore D Pojman, 21, from Ocoee, Florida, was arrested for first-degree assault and booked into the Lewis County Jail. Prosecutors are not filing criminal charges today, pending further investigation.