Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Acres and acres scorched south of Chehalis

Thursday, August 4th, 2016
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Firefighters from multiple departments battle grass, hay fire off Rice Road this afternoon.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Just two days after county officials enacted outdoor burning restrictions because of potential fire danger, flames tore through fields in south Chehalis southwest of Interstate 5.

Veronica Redl and relatives were just returning to her home on Rice Road from the store this afternoon when they saw billowing smoke behind her two-acre property.

“We were kind of awestruck ourself,” Redl said. “We saw a lot of smoke.”

The Chehalis Fire Department was called at 2:37 p.m. for a small amount of fire around a hay baler, with a couple of bales which had ignited. Fire Capt. Rob Gebhart estimated the piece of equipment was 400 to 500 yards behind the first house that sits across the street from Stan Hedwall Park.

“Then the wind kicked in, and it took off,” Gebhart said.

Chehalis Firefighter Steve Emrich said it took only two to three minutes before flames spread to more than 10 acres, heading south and west.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported more than 30 acres burned, belonging to several different property owners.

Emrich this evening said he understood it was estimated at 100 acres.

They focused on protecting homes and outbuildings along the rural road.

“We tried to get in front of it with water, which we did,” Gebhart said. And someone with a dozer cut a fire line which was a huge help, he said.

Part of what burned was hayfield already cut, and fields with still tall hay and grass, he said.

They were assisted by crews from Lewis County Fire District 6, Riverside Fire Authority, Lewis County Fire District 5, Lewis County Fire District 1 and the state Department of Natural Resources. A brush truck from Toledo passing by even stopped and joined them, Gebhart said.

Rice Road was shut down from the park to Labree Road, and some residences were evacuated, according to the sheriff’s office.

Nobody was hurt. Fences and equipment were damaged, the sheriff’s office posted on its Facebook page.

The Chehalis Fire Department was back at the station by about 6 p.m. DNR personnel continued at the scene mopping up.

“We were lucky we were able to keep it out of a couple of super dry fields,” Emrich said.

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An estimated 100 acres were consumed; fences and equipment were damaged, but nobody was injured.

 

Prosecutors: Centralia man’s refusal to drive to wooded area gets him pistol whipped

Thursday, August 4th, 2016
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David Serrano Mosso is charged with kidnapping and assault in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A judge ordered a 20-year-old Centralia resident held on $500,000 bail in connection with an incident in which a man was found beaten and bleeding in the parking lot of Providence Centralia Hospital.

On Friday morning, Centralia police described the initial details as someone was trying to make a 37-year-old Centralia man drive somewhere, he got scared, pulled into the lot and was pistol whipped.

Charging documents in the case describe the victim as meeting someone he’d sold some wheels to, in order to get paid, and two males getting into his car, one of them shoving a pistol into his ribs and them telling him to drive out to a wooded area.

He said he noticed a third male following them in a white Honda-style car.

When he refused, and turned into the hospital parking lot along South Scheuber Road instead, the two males struck him, according to court documents.

A person visiting a friend at the hospital found the victim bleeding from his head and face, stumbling through the lot and helped him into the emergency room, according to court documents.

Officers arriving after the 10:20 p.m. call from the hospital last Thursday night, were told security found the unoccupied vehicle running with the driver’s door open and a large pool of blood on the ground nearby.

Inside the car was a BB gun the victim said was not his his. A wallet and .22 caliber bullet were found nearby.

The victim, Juventino Barrera-Martinez, told police he didn’t know the names of the males in his car, but did know the front seat passenger worked at Taco El Rey and lived on Russell Road, Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead wrote in court documents.

On Friday morning, David Serrano Mosso, 20, from Centralia, was arrested for consuming alcohol in violation of his 24/7 program with the Centralia Police Department. He was  booked into the Lewis County Jail.

Because he fit the description provided by the victim, Officer Buddy Croy questioned Serrano Mosso and found he worked at Taco El Rey and lived on Russell Road, Halstead wrote. He denied buying any wheels.

The victim picked Serrano Mosso from a photo montage on Sunday, as the individual in the front passenger seat of his car who had pulled the pistol on him, and assaulted him, according to Halstead.

Serrano Mosso was charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree assault and first-degree kidnapping.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher asked that he be held on $500,000 bail, and Judge Nelson Hunt agreed.

Centralia attorney Don Blair was appointed to represent him. Serrano Mosso’s arraignment was scheduled for this morning.

Second defendant pleads guilty in Chehalis Backpage.com related robbery

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
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Samath L. Hem, accompanied by his lawyer Jacob Clark, faces a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 23-year-old Tacoma man was given just over 12 years in prison today for his role in a violent robbery at a rural Chehalis home by a man expecting an escort he’d contacted on Backpage.com.

Samath L. Hem has been held in the Lewis County Jail since shortly after the April 29 events at a residence on the the 900 block of Logan Hill Road.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said two males arrived with the female to the home, but the 53-year-old victim didn’t report what happened until the following day.

The victim told authorities he was punched, hit in the head with a pistol and dragged to his bedroom where he was tied up with a power cord. His television and some checkbooks were gone when he was able to get himself untied and then some property belonging to him was discovered in the trunk of a car impounded after a shoplifting incident a few days later at Home Depot in Chehalis.

Natrone D. Bostick, 19, of Lakewood, pleaded guilty in mid-June and got a 15-year sentence.

Hem, with only a few misdemeanors in his past, was handed down a sentence today in Lewis County Superior Court of 12 years and three months.

Defense attorney Jacob Clark told the judge it was an agreed recommendation between him and the prosecutor’s office. Hem pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and second-degree burglary. He pleaded guilty to third-degree theft and possession of methamphetamine at the same time in the Home Depot case.

Judge Nelson Hunt agreed with the components of the plea deal.

Hem’s mother, fiancée and step-father sat behind him in the courtroom this afternoon, both women crying.

Hunt told Hem to turn around and take look at the emotion they were showing.

“This is about what you did,” Hunt said, as he admonished the defendant to remember the moment the next time he’s disposed to get into trouble.

The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office has said law enforcement figured out who the woman is, but no charges have been filed against her as of today.
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For background, read “Nineteen-year-old gets sentenced for Backpage.com related home invasion” from Thursday June 16, 2016, here

Suspect in rape of girl at 2012 Centralia party arrested in Vegas

Monday, August 1st, 2016
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Tyler M. McKee, center, sits in front of a Lewis County Superior Court judge this afternoon.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office secured a $100,000 arrest warrant for one of three males a 13-year-old girl believes took advantage of her at a Centralia party when she was so drunk she could not walk.

The girl reported to police back in May 2012 she was raped and forensic evidence was collected including from the pants she was wearing, but she only knew the first names of two of the individuals, according to court documents.

Last year, a detective at the Centralia Police Department interviewed a new witness and was given a name, of a male who subsequently recalled being at the party and said he may have kissed her, but accused two of his friends of having sex with the girl after being told she was only 13, court documents relate. His DNA was excluded from the sample found on her pants.

Charging documents filed in Lewis County Superior Court state that one of the friends, Tyler M. McKee, then 19, now 22, was contacted in January in Las Vegas and the DNA collected from him was a match.

McKee was charged in Lewis County Superior Court with second-degree rape of a child. The charge was filed March 18, at the same time an arrest warrant was issued.

He was booked into the Lewis County Jail on Friday and brought before a judge this afternoon.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher asked the judge to maintain bail at $100,000. Judge Richard Brosey agreed.

Judge Brosey appointed Centralia attorney J.P. Enbody to represent McKee.

Court documents in the case relate the girl said she’d never been intoxicated before, but played beer pong and “shot gunned” approximately 10 beers. She told police she remembered both “Tyler” and “Jeff” being on top of her, one after the other. She recalled a third man who came into the room and put his penis in her mouth, according to the court documents.

She ended up in a corner of a closet with semen on her face and thinks they took a picture of her, because she recalled them telling her to say “cheese,” charging documents allege.

The following day, her friend told she’d had sex with three guys.

McKee’s home address in court documents is listed as in Las Vegas. He is also being held on outstanding municipal court warrants.

His arraignment is set for Thursday.

Man imprisoned for Lewis County molestation now faces indefinite detention

Saturday, July 30th, 2016
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•••

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A former local man nearing release after serving an approximately 27 year prison sentence found himself brought before a Lewis County judge, where state attorneys are asking to keep him locked up.

Dannell Harris was 24 years old when he broke into the home of acquaintances, looking for drugs and money, according to court documents.

The family’s 4-year-old girl was sleeping on the couch, and when he left, he took a BB gun, a few dollars, and the child with him.

Court documents go on to relate how the father discovered she was missing at 3 a.m. It was Nov. 23, 1989, a Thanksgiving morning.

Police searched and later that morning, found the little girl in a car abandoned on a logging road not far from Centralia.

Harris was convicted two months later of second-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary and first-degree child molestation in Lewis County Superior Court. He was given a sentence of 332 months.

This week, the state Attorney General’s Office filed a petition in Lewis County Superior Court to civilly commit Harris for an indefinite period of time, contending he is a sexually violent predator.

Harris had a previous conviction for third-degree rape in a 1988 case. He also had a 1985 conviction for second-degree robbery. Both were in Thurston County.

The state contends Harris has a mental abnormality and is likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence if released. The allegations in the petition have to be proven at a trial.

In 1990, Washington became the first state in the nation to pass a law permitting the involuntary civil commitment of sex offenders after they serve their criminal sentences. The attorney general’s office’s special division to handle those cases was created shortly after that.

Harris, now 50, was transported from the Twin Rivers Correctional Center at Monroe to Lewis County and brought before a judge on Thursday.

A Lewis County Superior Court judge had already seen the petition and found probable case for the case to go forward. An order was signed directing the custodial detention and evaluation of Harris.

An evaluation will be done by an expert chosen by the state, to include penileplethysmograph and polygraph testing, according to court documents.

Among the documents in the petition are those signed by a psychologist who evaluated Harris in 2009, conducting  four and half hours of clinical interview and reviewing more than 2,000 pages of documents.

The psychologist this week signed a declaration that it’s still his opinion Harris has a mental abnormality that causes him serious difficulty controlling his sexually violent behavior. Dr. Dale Arnold wrote he read 700 pages of updated records to come to his present conclusion.

In his report, he makes note of information from his interview that states Harris had some 400 sexual partners by the time he was incarcerated, had only begun to feel sexual desire for young girls a few months before the kidnapping and that Thanksgiving morning of 1989 was the first time he’d acted upon the feelings.

Harris is represented by two lawyers, Pete MacDonald and Ival Gaer.

The state’s aim is to keep Harris in a secure facility for control, care and treatment until his condition has changed.

Judge James Lawler on Thursday signed an order to transport Harris to the Special Commitment Center at McNeil Island. Currently, 283 individuals are being held under the program.

During fiscal year 2015, the attorney general’s office’s special division tried 15 cases and won 10 civil commitments.

Pot in Centralia: A growing underground industry

Friday, July 29th, 2016
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By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Law enforcement estimated a sizable investment was made – as much as $50,000 – in an indoor growing operation on rural property just outside Centralia, where they seized almost 30 pounds of marijuana from an outbuilding.

The 23-year-old resident who allegedly cultivated and trimmed the plants was charged in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday with two felonies in connection with the find.

Ivan C. Spain Hanson was brought before a judge yesterday afternoon, after spending a night in the Lewis County Jail.

Hanson has no criminal history, not even a speeding ticket in his past, defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge as bail was discussed.

He earns about $4,000 per month working at a distributor called Green Leaf Industries in Thurston County, O’Rourke said, indicating that meant he didn’t qualify for a court appointed lawyer.

His case was pursued by the Lewis County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Hanson is charged with manufacture of marijuana and also possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture or deliver, both class C felonies with maximum penalties of five years in prison.

Charging documents don’t make any mention of where he may have planned to market the product.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt when he learned the defendant was employed in the marijuana industry pondered aloud how to tailor the conditions of release, which generally order that a person pending trial may not use or possess illegal drugs.

“Do not have any on your person while you’re away from the job site,” Hunt told him. “And do not use any, on or off the job site.”

While producing and selling recreational cannabis have been legalized in Washington, following the 2012 passage by voters of Initiative 502, businesses must be licensed through the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello said Hanson did not have any kind of license for his operation.

The property is on the 1200 block of Roswell Road, on the east side of town on land just adjacent to the city that sits in unincorporated Lewis County.

Details in court documents are few, suggesting JNET began the investigation “in 2016”. A detective who went to the location could smell the strong odor of growing marijuana coming from the buildings.

Records showed exceptionally high amounts of electricity were being used there. A search warrant for the home and outbuildings was obtained on Monday.

Masiello wrote in charging documents that 150 plant were found in the larger building, and one room appeared to have just been harvested. Marijuana was found inside large trash bags, he wrote.

The preliminary weight of what detectives confiscated was 29 pounds.

Given the growing equipment they found, it appeared $40,000 to $50,000 had been invested in the facility, Masiello wrote.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm made mention to the judge a gun was found in Hanson’s vehicle, when she addressed the question of bail.

O’Rourke noted his car was located elsewhere, with the weapon inside, not at the property and not with Hanson. Hanson had a license for the .22 caliber Walthur, according to O’Rourke.

Judge Hunt allowed the defendant release on a $10,000 unsecured bond. He ordered him to return to court next Thursday.

The illegal grow find comes on the heels of a similar case.

Two individual appeared before the same judge on Wednesday, also charged with manufacture of marijuana.

According to the allegations in court documents in that case, a Renton woman purchased a building described only as on Tower Avenue in Centralia – with recently darkened windows – for the purpose of of growing marijuana.

A detective with tips from citizens, including one who reported smelling marijuana, contacted the driver of a black BMW parked there this past spring.

Anh Tuan Hoang Nguyen, 33, of Centralia, provided the detective with an authorization form and allowed him inside, where he said he had 25 plants.

The detective was shown a room with about 25 plants, but then behind two doorways found rooms with about 80 more plants.

Nguyen told the detective he sold five to six pounds of marijuana every three to six weeks, and that he was growing it for a dispensary in Seattle. When asked about money, he handed over $6,605 he said were proceeds.

Charges were filed on July 1, following the JNET investigation, and Nguyen and his mother were summonsed to court. His mother is named in court documents as Mai Anh Hoang Nguyen, 54 years old.

They arrived to court on Wednesday afternoon with a lawyer and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Judge Hunt set their bail with $10,000 unsecured bonds. Their trials are set for the week of Oct. 13.

Neither the city of Centralia nor Lewis County have yet issued any approvals for growers, processors or retailers of marijuana.

Guilty plea accepted in Green Hill counselor-inmate sex case

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016
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Erin Stiebritz, right, and her lawyer face Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The counselor accused of having sex in her office at Green Hill School with a student-inmate pleaded guilty today, as charged.

Erin Stiebritz, also known as Erin Snodgrass, appeared in Lewis County Superior Court with her lawyer this afternoon who spoke to news reporters after the hearing.

“My client made a terrible decision, she’s taken responsibility,” defense attorney Blake Kremer said. “She’s going to be paying for it for a long time.”

Stiebritz, now 37, was arrested earlier this year following an investigation conducted in 2015 for incidents that occurred during the latter half of 2014. She has been free on bond since she was charged.

Judge James Lawler today accepted her guilty plea to one count of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct.

Lewis County prosecutors wrote in charging papers that the then resident-counselor had an intimate relationship with an incarcerated boy who turned 18 during that time. Stiebritz had begun working there in June 2013.

Green Hill is run by the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, a division of the Department of Social and Health Services. It’s a medium to maximum security fenced facility in Chehalis that provides male offenders education and vocational training.

She remains free until her sentencing, which is set to take place in September after a pre-sentencing investigation is done.

The standard sentencing range for the offense is six to 12 months in jail, however, prosecutors have agreed to recommend an exceptionally shorter sentence, according to Kremer.

If the judge goes along with it, she would get 14 days in jail and 46 days converted to treatment, Kremer said. Then she would also have to register as a sex offender for 10 years, he said.

Judge Lawler today also agreed to seal portions of documents in the file he said contained personal and private information about the defendant as well as other people.

Her hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21.
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For background, read “Counselor-inmate sex alleged at Green Hill School” from Tuesday January 12, 2016, here

A second Chehalis attorney hoping for outgoing Lewis County judge’s seat

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It’s a rare event when any of the three Lewis County Superior Court judge positions really open up, as in recent years the incumbents have run for reelection unopposed until they decide to retire.

So, contested races for the bench here are not common.

This year, two judges will be stepping down at the same time, and two candidates are campaigning for one of those seats.

Rural Chehalis attorney Katherine Gulmert filed to run for the position being vacated at the end of this year by Judge Richard Brosey. Chehalis lawyer Joely O’Rourke declared her candidacy for that seat in March.

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Katherine Gulmert

In December, when Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt announced he would be retiring at the end of this year, Adna attorney Andrew Toynbee announced he would be a candidate. Nobody filed to run against Toynbee.

Hunt was first elected in 2004. Judge Brosey has held his seat since July 1998. Judge James Lawler is running for a third term and is unopposed.

The Superior Court judges preside over felony and high-money civil cases on the top floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center in Chehalis, the county seat. The job pays $162,618 a year.

The names of the three hopefuls will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Gulmert was the last of the three to make her plans known.

The native of central California moved to rural Chehalis in 2002 after earning her law degree in 1998 at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.

She’s worked both sides of the courtroom when it comes to criminal law, with the early parts of her career in various prosecutor’s offices.

In 1999, Gulmert worked at the Grays Harbor County Prosecutor’s Office. In 2000, she took a similar position with the city of Aberdeen and in 2004, with the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office.

For two years, she was the chief criminal deputy prosecutor in Jefferson County, doubling as the county coroner, and then worked as a deputy prosecutor in Cowlitz County until 2013.

Since then, Gulmert has been in private practice, co-creating a law firm that maintained an exclusive contract with the city of Longview for indigent defense. Gulmert cites other areas in which she’s practiced, such as family law, elder law,  and veteran’s law.

She moved her practice to Chehalis this spring, taking an office in the building that holds the Community Mediation Center of Lewis County on Pacific Avenue.

Gulmert, 58, said when she saw Judge Brosey was retiring, she decided: “If I was going to be a judge, this was my time to do that.”

“I do have the experience for the position and I am hardworking,” she said. “And I will learn the areas which I haven’t yet done.”

“I am willing to put my whole self into it,” she said.

Her election information highlights giving back to the community.

“Our county deserves an experienced judge, one who, after listening carefully to both sides of a difficult case, will make her decision based on the laws as written,” she states.

When she’s not working, Gulmert volunteers her time as a board member for the Evergreen Playhouse in Centralia and the Ballet Theater of Washington.

Both Toynbee and O’Rourke since they announced their candidacies have been put on the contact list to serve as substitutes on the bench in in Lewis County Superior Court handling family law cases, as pro-tem commissioner.

According to the most recent information available from the state Public Disclosure Commission, only O’Rourke has reported raising any money for her campaign, with just over $12,000 raised and spent. Her campaign shows about $4,200 of debt, money the O’Rourkes loaned the campaign.

PDC filings for Gulmert, Toynbee and Lawler each show they have raised no money.

The primary election on Aug 2 won’t include any local judicial races but does include various federal and state offices as well as contested races for two of the three Lewis County commissioner positions.

Numerous candidates have filed to run for state representative and state senator in Legislative District 19 which includes the southwest portion of Lewis County. The two representatives and senator for Legislative District 19, the rest of the county,  are on the ballot, but unopposed.

See the online Voter’s Guide for the primary election, here
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For background, read:

• “Judge Brosey eyes retirement, Chehalis lawyer to seek election to the court” from Wednesday March 30, 2016, here

• “Lewis County judge won’t seek election to fourth term, local lawyer to try for the bench” from Wednesday December 16, 2015, here

• Information on candidate Katherine Gulmert, here

• Information on candidate Joely O’Rourke, here

• Information on candidate Andrew Toynbee, here

Chamber Way overpass closed, maybe for months

Friday, July 22nd, 2016
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One of two vehicles which were damaged by falling concrete. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol

Updated at 5:33 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Major work necessary to repair damage after an over-tall load on Interstate 5 struck an overpass at Chehalis today means the main road that leads to Wal-Mart and numerous other retailers will be shut down indefinitely.

Drivers will need to use alternate routes for the foreseeable future, according to the state Department of Transportation.

About 11:40 a.m., a southbound semi-truck hauling a pair of excavators hit the Chamber of Commerce Way overpass, causing significant damage, according to the state Department of Transportation. Concrete debris struck two vehicles in the adjacent lane.

One of those motorists is lucky to be alive.

“I don’t know how fast she was going but if she was going 60 mph and one of those pieces hit her in the head or the chest, I’m sure that would have been it,” Chehalis Fire Department Capt. Rob Gebhart said.

The windshield of her car was intact, but peppered with concrete, he said. Some of the chunks fell into her passenger compartment, and one was left wedged into the glass on her driver’s side, according to Gebhart.

The driver, in her mid-40s from Port Orchard, sustained only a few little scratches, he said.

Melaney A. Watson was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital as a precaution, according to the Washington State Patrol. Her 2014 Ford Fusion was deemed totaled and was towed.

The GMC Yukon driven by a 41-year-old man from Covington was drivable, the state patrol reported.

The Chamber of Commerce Way overpass at exit 79 was shut down initially at the request of the fire and police departments. One southbound lane of the freeway remains closed this afternoon as well.

Due to the extent of damage to the girders and for the safety of the traveling public, the overpass will remain closed until repairs are made, the state agency said in a news release.

“We know this closure is a huge inconvenience for the community,” said DOT Maintenance Manager Glenn Schneider. “Repairing the bridge is going to take time, because each damaged part is unique and integral to the overall strength of the bridge.”

Backups today have stretched 11 miles to Grand Mound in Thurston County.

One of two southbound lanes will remain closed until DOT can remove loose debris and bridge cables that are hanging over the right lane of the freeway.

Washington State Patrol issued citations to the semi-truck driver. He is identified as Henry Abadia, 35, of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Final repair costs are still being determined. DOT will work to recover the costs for the emergency response and repairs from the responsible parties.

Workers next will inspect the overpass to determine the full extent of the damage and develop a repair plan.

Designing and constructing replacement bridge components takes time, and it may take several months until the overpass can reopen to traffic, officials said.

Shoppers can still get to Wal-Mart, Home Depot, the Twin City Town Center and the other businesses on the west side of Interstate 5 by exiting southbound at milepost 79, or using Northwest Louisiana Avenue and Airport Road.

From the south, drivers can get onto Northwest Louisiana Avenue where state Route 6 and Main Street meet just on the west side of the freeway.

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The two tractors sit on a flatbed trailer at the scene. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol

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Two good-sized chunks of concrete can be seen on the driver’s seat next to the center console. / Courtesy photo

Ex-manager of downtown Chehalis retailer sought for allegedly stealing money

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
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By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Lewis County judge issued an arrest warrant yesterday for the former manger of a Chehalis furniture store, accused of pocketing money from cash sales and concocting phony invoices.

Misti M. Moore was expected to make her first appearance yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court, as a summons had been issued when a charge of first-degree theft was filed last month.

The summons was sent to her address on Littlerock Road in Olympia, but was returned to the prosecutor’s office, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meager said.

“We don’t know where she is,” Meager told the judge.

Moore, 45, had quit her job from Furniture World on North Market Boulevard with no explanation shortly before the business’s owner contacted Chehalis police in May of last year, according to court documents.

The owner Emina Jusupovic told an officer the issue came to her attention when a customer came in to ask about getting his furniture repaired and the items on his receipt did not match the entries in the company computer, Meagher wrote in charging documents.

A police detective was shown several instances suggesting similar cash transactions when he met with the new manager in July of last year.

One customer, for example, had a receipt showing he spent $2,000 on couches and love seats, but the store invoice showed a purchase of a table lamp for $43, according to Meagher.

That customer said he got a very good deal after he asked about a cash discount and a veteran’s discount and that one of the items he took home was advertised at $1,600 or $1,700, Meagher wrote.

Charging documents don’t indicate why it took more than a year to investigate and/or file criminal charges.

Meagher wrote in charging documents he currently has documentation of $5,880 missing, but the new manager found as much as $20,000 in discrepancies.

Moore has six prior felony convictions for embezzlement crimes committed in Virginia against another furniture store, according to Meagher.

Judge Nelson Hunt agreed to issue a $5,000 arrest warrant.

Contamination of Olequa Creek was costly consequence of August 2015 fire

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The owners of a Winlock warehouse that went up in flames last summer and their insurance company have already forked out more than $200,000 for the contractors who conducted cleanup and demolition, and now the state Department of Ecology has sent a bill for its response.

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August 18, 2015

The 15,000 square-foot building held pallets of grocery products, including 1,130 gallons of vegetable oils. Runoff from the fire’s extinguishment spilled into the nearby Olequa Creek, killing as many as 100,000 fish over a stretch of three and a half miles.

Ecology and other agencies oversaw the response for more than two weeks after the August 18 fire. After any oil spill response, Ecology is required by state law to follow up with enforcement, including reimbursement for state expenses, the state agency said in a news release.

DOE has directed Olympic Trading Company to reimburse the state for its costs of $30,887.

The work at Northwest Kerron Street, just south of Laurel Street, included the collection and removal of  65,500 gallons of contaminated water and 25 cubic yards of oiled sorbents and contaminated soil, according to DOE.

The owners are Patricia and Michael Parish, who reside in the Winlock area, Fire Investigator Samuel Patrick said at the time.

Investigators have not found a cause for the fire.

Early on, officials reported finding all species and sizes of fish, insects and other living organisms were killed for five miles downstream, but revised the distance. DOE indicates some endangered species perished. Olequa Creek is a tributary to the Cowlitz River.

The state agency also issued Olympic Trading Company a $1,000 fine. The company has 30 days to appeal the penalty and cost reimbursement.

In its news release, DOE noted  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a separate assessment for the value of damages to the environment.
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For background, read “Authorities: Stay out of Winlock creek, avoid contaminated runoff from warehouse fire” from Friday August 21, 2015, here

Prosecutors: Thousands of dollars more missing from Mossyrock accounts

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Mossyrock city clerk now stands accused not only of stealing roughly $7,700 from the city, but of making large monthly withdrawals – from roughly $2,200 to as much as $4,833 – from the municipality’s accounts going back to October.

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Doneia A. Santiago

Doneia A. Santiago, 53, pleaded not guilty to first-degree theft earlier this month, but already the mayor the police chief and prosecutors were digging up new information by looking into transactions at Key Bank, where the city did business until moving to Security State Bank.

Santiago was arrested on June 26 and was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

The alleged thefts came to light when Santiago approached the mayor to tell him her husband inadvertently used the city credit card to make an approximately $3,600 payment to Central Mortgage, according to court documents.

The initial charges also made mention of ATM withdrawals the mayor said were not authorized and use of Mossyrock’s bank card to purchase fuel.

In a supplemental affidavit filed in Lewis County Superior Court, prosecutors write that on the day Santiago was charged, Morton Police Chief Roger Morningstar was notified Santiago had issued herself a payroll check on June 20, which was not a regular payroll date.

Morningstar advised the mayor to look over the Key Bank accounts, where they found a number of transactions made to Central Mortgage, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello wrote.

The total comes to more than $37,000.

Information from the Lewis County Assessors Office shows Santiago co-owns nearly 10 acres and a three-bedroom house outside of Mossyrock assessed at more than $258,000.

The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office filed the supplemental affidavit and an amended information on July 8.

The charge of first-degree theft was left out, but in its place are nine charges of second-degree theft and nine charges of  first-degree identity theft.

Santiago has retained Centralia attorney Don Blair. Her next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.
•••

For background, read “Thousands of dollars in unauthorized transactions attributed to Mossy city clerk” from Monday June 27, 2016, here

Unauthorized marijuana production enterprise shut down in Chehalis

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A $25,000 arrest warrant has been issued for a Pierce County man alleged to be behind an unlicensed marijuana growing operation in a rented building in Chehalis’s industrial district.

Steven D. Smith, 39, and two individuals who told police they worked for Smith tending the plants are charged each with one count of manufacture of marijuana.

Christopher M. Hannigan and Regina V.S. Champaco, both 41 years old and both residing at the same address in Tacoma, appeared before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday afternoon. They were allowed release on unsecured signature bonds.

Charging documents in the case identify the building only as on State Street in Chehalis, with no address, and note it shares a common wall with a neighboring business. Documents indicate a case number associated with the Lewis County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team.

A Chehalis detective was contacted in March about the possible marijuana growing there and the investigation led to a traffic stop for a broken windshield of a suspect vehicle as it left the building’s parking lot on Match 17, according to court documents.

The Tacoma couple said they were working for Smith, according to court documents. Hannigan said he’d built grow rooms and was paid $2,000 a month for the work, according to court documents.

When law enforcement searched the building, they found more than 400 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, charging documents allege.

Among the early clues, listed in court documents: the detective went to the manager of the neighboring business, which shared a wall, and learned there was mold growing in his building and who said when he spoke about it to Richard Na, the son of the building’s owner, Na just laughed it off.

When the Chehalis detective visited the exterior of the building, he could smell the odor of fresh marijuana outside and located items in the trash such as a broken fan, a broken thermostat, fertilizer and potting soil.

Detectives checked the power usage for the building and discovered a tremendous increase when January of this year was compared with September of 2014.

Police could not find either a Chehalis business license or any application to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board on file.

The building’s owner is not named in the court documents.

On March 23, the detective contacted Na directly, who said he rented to Smith for $5,000 per month and Smith pays the electric bill which runs about $1,300 each month, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello wrote in charging documents.

Na indicated Smith told him he had medical authorizations to grow for multiple people and would have no more marijuana than was allowed by law, according to Masiello.

When told there were over 400 plants and not the 75 Na had anticipated, Na appeared surprised, Masiello wrote.

Law enforcement tried to locate Smith at his home in Lakewood, but were unsuccessful.

On June 23, Lewis County prosecutors filed charges against all three, sought and secured the arrest warrant for Smith, and also requested court summons to be issued for Hannigan and Champaco.

They were late to their court hearing yesterday afternoon and the judge had already authorized warrants for their arrest, but essentially tore them up, defense attorney Joely O’Rourke said.

Manufacture of marijuana is a class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Hannigan and Champaco were ordered to return to court on July 21 for their arraignments.

Hit and run charged after man ‘launched’ into the air by truck

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – While police arrested a 19-year-old Rochester resident for second-degree assault after he reportedly struck a pedestrian early yesterday morning at Taco Bell in Centralia, prosecutors today filed a charge instead of hit and run.

Hit and run is a class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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Chase A. Deguise

Officers were called just before 2 a.m. yesterday to the 1100 block of Belmont Avenue and stated later in the morning their investigation showed Chase A. Deguise intentionally struck a male with his truck. The Centralia Police Department continued to investigate.

Deguise was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

Lewis County prosecutors wrote in court documents today that numerous witnesses were questioned and it appeared there was a dispute between Deguise and Kyle R. E. Morrison.

“During the dispute, Deguise drove his truck through the parking lot and struck Mr. Morrison, launching him in the air,” Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead wrote.

Morrison was found laying on the ground and was transported to the hospital with a laceration and bruising and may have a severe back injury, according to Halstead.

Deguise had driven home and didn’t contact law enforcement, charging documents state.

When he was contacted and questioned, he reportedly admitted knowing he’d hit the victim, according to Halstead.

Neither charging documents nor police gave any detail about the disagreement between the two.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh told a judge this afternoon when bail was addressed the defendant has no criminal convictions in his past, but does have two cases currently in municipal court.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke indicated Deguise grew up in Chehalis, lives with his grandparents in Rochester, is going to school and in the process of getting a job.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt set his bail at $5,000. An arraignment was scheduled for Thursday.

Target of Centralia drug-related search warrant relocated to Thurston County

Friday, July 8th, 2016
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Brandon M. Perrott faces a judge today charged with four counts of delivery of methamphetamine.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Bail was set at $25,000 for the suspect that drug detectives were looking for when they raided a south Centralia house yesterday.

Brandon M. Perrott, 33, however, had moved out the day before.

A search warrant was served at 7 a.m., at the 1000 block of South Tower Avenue by the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team with the assistance of the Lewis County Regional SWAT Team, the Sheriff’s Enforcement Team and personnel with the state Department of Corrections.

Several people were detained, but only three were arrested. Law enforcement officers made their fourth arrest when shortly afterward they found Perrott at his new home on Reeder Road outside Tenino near Maytown in Thurston County.

Perrott was wanted for allegedly four times since early May selling methamphetamine to a confidential informant from the Tower Avenue residence while he was living there with his girlfriend and her family.

Her mother Penny Martin was among those in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon when the arrestees were brought before a judge.

Martin said they’d suspected what Perrott was up to and told him to leave. She was distraught over the condition of her home, after law enforcement officers conducted their search.

“Every room the officers went through, they broke things,” she said. “They opened every dresser drawer, and threw them down the hallway.”

She still can’t find her car keys, Martin said, noting one pile left of her belongings was taller than her bed.

Authorities posted the house uninhabitable, attributing the move to numerous code violations found inside and outside. Martin said they were in the process of remodeling the house they are purchasing.

Martin’s husband was arrested as when asked, he told police he had a methamphetamine pipe in his bedroom and gave them consent to search, according to court documents. Police found two meth pipes with residue and baggies with meth.

They also found two guns – a Winchester Model 70 and a Savage Arms Model 111 – which he is prohibited from having because of prior felony convictions.

Patrick N. Martin, 50, was charged today with possession of methamphetamine and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. His bail was set at $10,000.

Thirty-one-year-old Jennifer N. Morillon, who rents a room at the home told police she had drugs in her pocket and in her bedroom they found a digital scale and numerous plastic bags with residue. She was charged with possession of methamphetamine. Her bail was set with a $5,000 unsecured bond.

Penny Martin’s son, 28-year-old Spencer R. Barney, was also arrested as police found in his bedroom an Windham AR-15 rifle and a Springfield 22 rifle, according to court documents. He too has prior felonies, and was charged with first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. His bail was set at $10,000.

Perrott was charged with four counts of delivery of methamphetamine.

All four of the defendants are unemployed and qualified for court appointed lawyers, according to temporary defense attorney Joely O’Rourke.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey was initially visibly perturbed when told the confidential informant involved has in the past been represented by all but two of the county’s contract defense attorneys. It would mean finding outside lawyers for the defendants to avoid conflicts, he said, raising his voice.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello then said he’d charged Martin, Morillon and Barney as co-defendants with each other, but they were not involved in Perrott’s case.

Masiello acknowledged outside the courtroom the three arrests at the house were more or less byproducts of the investigation and search warrant meant for Perrott.

Penny Martin didn’t make excuses for her husband or her son, but couldn’t understand the necessity for police to break things.

“When they came, we didn’t fight,” she said. “If my family’s done something wrong, they’ll have their day in court.”

Arraignments for all four of the defendants are scheduled for next Thursday.
•••

For background, read “News brief: Drugs, guns seized at south Centralia residence” from Thursday July 7, 2016, here

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The aftermath of a search warrant on South Tower Avenue. / Courtesy photo Penny Martin

Mental evaluation ordered for McDonald’s restaurant stabbing suspect

Thursday, July 7th, 2016
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The McDonald’s restaurant in Centralia was the scene of a bloody stabbing during the noon hour on Tuesday.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – When police officers contacted Calvin J. Beck, he was bleeding from his face, acting strange and made numerous statements that didn’t make sense.

So say prosecutors about the 50-year-old accused of stabbing a fellow customer in the Centralia McDonalds restaurant earlier this week.

Authorities said Beck had been in line acting belligerent to counter employees and one patron told him to leave, which he did. But he allegedly walked back into the lobby and stabbed the individual who had confronted him.

“There were two guys holding him down and another guy met me at the door,” Centralia Police Department Sgt. Kurt Reichert said of his arrival to the 1200 block of Lum Road following the approximately noontime call on Tuesday. “It was a bloody mess.”

A folding knife with a four-inch blade lay on the counter, where it was placed by the civilians who disarmed the suspect.

The victim, Keith Mohoric, was stabbed twice in the abdomen, according to police. but took part in jumping his attacker and holding him for police.

Mohoric was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital and admitted into surgery for his injuries, according to prosecutors. A hospital spokesperson this morning said Mohoric is in good condition.

Beck also was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries he received when he crashed into a window during the fight, police said.

Beck was booked into the Lewis County Jail later that afternoon and charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree assault.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke asked the judge to postpone the hearing, so a court order for a competency evaluation could be entered. Judge Nelson Hunt agreed and said Beck should be held overnight without bail.

O’Rourke said she didn’t think he comprehended the proceedings.

“I don’t believe he understands the elements of the crime,” she said.

Beck, who has an Olympia address listed in his court file, has a prior conviction for second-degree assault, according to prosecutors. It’s from 1991.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead got the order for a mental health evaluation signed yesterday.

Specialists from Western State Hospital are expected to visit the defendant at the jail to conduct their examination and lawyers will likely get their report back next week, Halstead said.

Judge Hunt appointed Centralia attorney Don Blair to represent Beck.
•••

For background, read “News brief: Police investigate stabbing in Centralia McDonald’s restaurant lobby” from Tuesday July 5, 2016, here

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Calvin J. Beck appeared briefly before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court on Wednesday.

Sentenced: Mossy man gets eight months for felonies, two years for misdemeanors

Friday, July 1st, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 61-year-old Mossyrock man who returned to his home with an ax in violation of a no-contact order – because of a previous hours-long standoff there in which he fired several rounds including after deputies arrived – has been sentenced to two years in jail.

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James C. Long

James C. Long was first arrested on April 3 after scaring his girlfriend and her mother out of the home on the 100 block of Naylor Road. Law enforcement officers eventually deployed pepper spray into the residence and SWAT members entered and took him into custody.

Long lived there with his girlfriend.

Charges in that case, all misdemeanors, were handled in Lewis County District Court.

Less than three weeks later, within hours of Long being released from jail, he was arrested after allegedly breaking through the back door of the home, wielding an ax and a screwdriver.

His girlfriend had two friends staying over, one of which intercepted Long and ended up with small cuts and scrapes.

For that, Long was charged in Lewis County Superior Court with felony assault and felony burglary as well as a violation of a court order.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said today they made a deal in that case that gave Long eight months in jail. He made a so-called Alford plea on June 2 to  third-degree assault and residential burglary. He simply pleaded guilty to the court order violation.

The Alford plea means he believed if a jury heard the state’s evidence and believed it, they would find him guilty.

On Wednesday, he was sentenced in Lewis County Superior Court to eight months in jail. Halstead said the deal included that the sentence would run concurrently with whatever time he got in the District Court standoff case.

On Wednesday, in Lewis County District Court, the judge gave Long 364 days each for reckless endangerment and third-degree malicious mischief, with the time to run consecutively.

Long was given credit for 81 days already served. He is ordered to have no contact with his girlfriend for 10 years.

Until these cases, he had no criminal convictions.

Centralia man un-convicted of child sex crimes back in court

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Centralia man whose convictions for child sex abuse that put him in prison for 30 years were reversed, is back in the Lewis County Jail.

Lewis County prosecutors are preparing for a new trial for now 41-year-old Paulo Botello-Garcia.

Botello-Garcia was arrested early in 2012 after a 15-year-old girl’s mother found writings in the teen’s journal about incidents that had occurred in the past. He was convicted by a jury in Lewis County Superior Court of two counts of second-degree child molestation and two counts of second-degree rape of a child in early 2014.

The Washington State Court of Appeals found the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence and earlier this year remanded the case for a new trial.

It was a lengthy trial, said Joely O’Rourke who prosecuted the case.

O’Rourke has since left the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office and now serves as temporary defense attorney for individuals at their first court appearance. On Monday afternoon when Botello-Garcia was brought back before a judge, O’Rourke excused herself from the courtroom.

Botello-Garcia, who told Judge Richard Brosey he only spoke a little English, was accompanied at the defense table by only an interpreter.

Judge Brosey noted Botello-Garcia’s trial lawyer has died and asked if he needed a court appointed attorney. Botello-Garcia said he did and Centralia lawyer David Arcuri was assigned to represent him.

Since the case was tried before Judge James Lawler, the case will go back to him, Brosey said.

Court documents show the 2014 trial lasted at least six days. The offenses for which he was convicted occurred when the girl was 12 and 13 years old. They were members of the same household.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh argued the appeal. Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm will be handling the case now, Beigh said today.

Botello-Garcia is scheduled for his next court hearing tomorrow.