Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Victimized Chihuahua expected to make full recovery

Friday, March 25th, 2016
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Richard J. Eng waits to be taken back to the jail after his court hearing on Wednesday in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 29-year-old man accused of throwing a small dog against a table in anger told a deputy he and “Spike” don’t have good rapport.

Richard J. Eng reportedly said when he was leaving the Chehalis area home to get away from an argument with his wife, the Chihuahua mix got aggressive and he wanted to avoid getting bit.

“Therefore he picked up Spike and threw him across the house and fled the scene in his vehicle,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm wrote in charging documents.

The incident occurred just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the residence on the 500 block of Highway 603 southwest of Chehalis.

The responding deputy described the 8-inch tall dog, wrapped in a blanket and being held by its owner, as whimpering with a swollen and bleeding eye.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning the pet is expected to make a full recovery.

The two and a half year old pup was examined and treated at Fords Prairie Animal Clinic, Brown said. Spike was bruised and had trauma to his right eye, but was given medication and returned to its owner, according to Brown.

Eng was arrested that night and charged the following day in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree animal cruelty. The offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Judge James Lawler allowed Eng to be released from jail on a $20,000 signature bond.

Charging documents and the sheriff’s office give the following account of what took place:

A neighbor called 911 and the arriving deputy made contact with Eng’s wife and her mother. A young boy identified as Eng’s son was in the living room crying.

Eng’s mother-in-law said she was sleeping on the couch with her dog when Eng came downstairs, took the dog from her and threw it against a kitchen table.

She said she got up and went outside and was holding her injured pet in the carport.

As Eng was getting ready to leave, he allegedly grabbed it from her arms and tossed it into an outside garbage can.

The deputy located Eng at Wal-Mart and questioned him.

He reportedly told of being woke up by his wife and having a verbal argument, and then leaving.

When asked if anything happened with a dog, Eng said yes and described a bad experience from the past.

He said several months ago he got bit, when he tried to remove a cheeseburger wrapper from the Chihuahua’s mouth while it was choking.

“Therefore he and Spike do not have good rapport,” Prosecutor Bohm wrote of Eng’s description of their relationship.

So when Eng was leaving the house, he was trying not to get bit, he said. He allegedly admitted throwing Spike a second time because it was barking and/or acting aggressive toward him.

His arraignment is scheduled for March 31 in Lewis County Superior Court.
•••

For background, read “News brief: Angry man injures tiny dog” from Wednesday March 23, 2016, here

Remembrance for Ben, Maddy and Sam Tower

Thursday, March 24th, 2016
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More than 400 people came together at the Northwest Sports Hub in Centralia last night to remember Ben, Maddy and Sam Tower.

Wednesday March 23, 2016, Centralia

Watch “Celebration of Life honors Centralia siblings who died in fire” from KING 5 News

And watch “Memorial held for 3 children who died in Centralia house fire” from Q13 Fox News

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“Less than three weeks ago they went to sleep, and they woke up in heaven,” Cyndi Pollard, principal of Evergreen Christian School in Olympia.

Plea deal negotiated in 2008 sandwich shop hold up

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
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Thomas L. Pleasant and his lawyer Don Blair appear before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court today.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A former Centralia man already imprisoned for life pleaded guilty today to robbing the Chehalis Subway store back in 2008.

Thomas L. Pleasant, 50, was brought from prison to Lewis County last month following his letter to the court requesting the languishing case get handled.

Pleasant was charged in Lewis County in 2008 with first-degree robbery and first-degree rape, but was already in custody for three robberies in Cowlitz County. He’s serving a sentence of life without parole.

He went before a judge today in Lewis County Superior Court, where Senior Prosecuting Attorney Will Halstead said they’d made a plea deal.

Halstead told the judge there were evidentiary issues, and that he could provide more detail at the sentencing hearing.

Pleasant pleaded guilty today to first-degree robbery and second-degree assault.

What the victim described as a gun that looked like a long .22 with a silencer was a pellet gun, according to Pleasant and his lawyer.

He confessed to a Chehalis detective back in 2008 to the July 16, 2008 hold up at the Twin City Town Center, saying he tied up the female worker with an electrical cord and put her in a walk-in cooler.

The rape charge was dropped. Pleasant has denied the rape allegation.

He also noted in his letter to the court that he would be in danger if he went back to prison with such an offense on his record.

Judge Nelson Hunt asked Halstead if the victim was accepting of the plea deal. Halstead said she didn’t like it, but understood it.

Defense attorney Don Blair told the judge they were not ready for sentencing, as he needed to further study his client’s Colorado conviction for second-degree assault, which may or may not count as a “strike” offense.
•••

For background, read “Suspect from 2008 Subway robbery initiated reopening his case” from Monday March 7, 2016, here

Insurance Commissioner: Centralia agent failed to remit customer premiums

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The license for a Centralia insurance agent has been revoked after an audit revealed that he misappropriated nearly $30,000 in consumers’ premium payments, according to the Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced the enforcement action against Matthew G. Gingerich earlier this month. It took effect on Feb. 22.

Gingerich was fired from employment with American Family Insurance following an internal audit, according to the state agency. His business address was on the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia.

He was licensed for property, casualty, life and disability insurance in this state beginning in October 2008.

The OIC states that Gingerich put the consumers’ insurance accounts in a hold status so they would not receive a notice that their policies were canceled for nonpayment. As of February, Gingerich had not yet repaid the money, according to OIC.

The order revoking his license states that Gingerich also submitted homeowner policies to the insurer with no down payments, transferred money from his premium trust account into his business account and provided false bank statements to the auditor.

American Family was able to correct the policies of all but one affected consumer, whom they could not identify.

The Feb. 12 order indicates OIC began its investigation after receiving notice April 24, 2014 that American Family terminated Gingerich for cause. Gingerich’s license expired at the end of 2014 and he did not renew it.

An OIC spokesperson indicated any criminal proceedings would be separate.

“We referred the case to our special investigation unit, they have the case,” spokesperson Kara Klotz said today. “We can’t say much other than it was referred to them and they are looking into it.”

Kreidler’s office oversees Washington’s insurance industry to ensure that companies, agents and brokers follow state laws. They have the option of handling violations with probation, suspension, refusal to renew or revocation. They also issue fines.

Last year, the office revoked the licenses of 60 insurance agents and brokers.

If Gingerich disagrees with the revocation, he may demand a hearing within 90 days from the date of the order. Attempts to contact Gingerich for comment were unsuccessful.

Centralia mugging victim struck with hatchet

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Updated at 6:10 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia police are investigating an attack on a man last night in which an unknown person hit him in the head with a hatchet and stole his wallet.

The 33-year-old victim was walking home from a convenience store, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Officers were called at 9:09 p.m. to the scene, at the 400 block of West Pine Street, according to police. Medics were dispatched to the area at the same time for a trauma patient.

The victim sustained a laceration to his head and was transported to the emergency room at Providence Centralia Hospital for treatment, according to Sgt. Dave Ross.

Ross indicated the injuries were not life threatening, but he wasn’t certain how serious they were.

Reflections: Tower children loved their Centralia schools

Friday, March 18th, 2016
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Ben, Maddy, Sam and Sue Tower. / Courtesy photo

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Sue Tower speaks softly, sometimes with a trace of a smile when she talks about her children.

Eight days after she lost all three of them in one night in a house fire, she sits down at a Centralia coffee house because she wants to share memories of her little ones.

The 40-year-old old single mother who grew up in Chehalis confesses, she didn’t want to continue living, during the first few days.

But she knows now she must, she said.

“Otherwise, their lives will have been in vain,” she said. “So I have to carry the light, and go on.”

Tower wanted to share about her children’s life, not their death.

Already she’s had to answer question after question from investigators, recalling for them even the tiniest details about that day, and the night that followed.

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Sue Tower wants to talk about her children.

She doesn’t know what started the fire, but knows, for example, for sure she wasn’t burning candles that day, because she was out of candles and matches both, she said.

The conversation conveys at least part of the story, of three young lives cut short.

The family moved to Centralia, to the split-level home on Ham Hill Road last April.

The kids finished out the school year at Centennial Elementary School in Olympia. Before that, they attended Evergreen Christian School in Olympia.

Recently she had been contemplating moving, but her children were concerned about the possibility of giving up the new life they’d come to like very much, according to Tower.

“They came to me and said, ‘Mom, we can move, but we want to stay in our schools’,” she said. “They loved their teachers.”

Their home had become a hub for the youngsters and their friends, with a backyard trampoline, rabbits and chickens.

“I remember my kids that afternoon, they had their friends over,” Tower said. Her tone is peaceful.

Had it been a weekend, all of them would have ended up spending the night, she said.

“They had amazing friends, for just starting (school) in September,” she said.

Most important to Tower right now, is to keep the memory of Ben, Maddy and Sam alive.

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Ben Tower
2003 – 2016

Benjamin D. Tower, 12, was a sixth grader at Washington Elementary School.

“A teddy bear, so sensitive, Mr. Pay-it-forward,” she said.

Her oldest was already wearing a size 14 shoe, and was going to be tall, she said.

He was captain of his football team, the Leathernecks.

“I feel for the kids on the line against him, he packed a punch,” she said. “But he’s the first to go help them up.”

Even in the land of Seahawks football mania, Ben was a staunch Broncos fan, she said.

She’s calls him a chicken whisperer, a boy who would greet them  outside each morning, saying, “Hi babies.” They followed him around, she said.

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Maddy Tower
2005 – 2016

Madeline R. Tower, 10, was a fourth grader at Washington Elementary School.

“Maddy was my quiet soul, she loved to read,” Tower said.

So much, that when she and her friend Natalie got together for a play day, they’d sit side by side and read, she said.

Maddy’s rabbit allowed her to dress it in doll clothes and be photographed, many times in many outfits.

Last summer, she had a bad bicycle accident, that left her with a concussion and broken teeth.

One of the children’s favorite places was Northwest Sports Hub at Borst Park in Centralia. Tower and her partner Jay Ryan opened the restaurant Hub CIty Grub there together.

It felt to the kids like their own personal playground, she said.

On a recent night, at already 9 p.m., Maddy begged her mother to take her and Natalie to the Hub, so they could play glow-in-the-dark frisbee. She broke her foot and was put on crutches, Tower said.

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Sam Tower
2008 – 2016

Samuel J. Tower, 7, was a second grader at Edison Elementary School.

Her youngest had possibly as many as three girlfriends, she said.

“Sam was my active child,” she said.

He played soccer this past fall, and was so successful his coaches asked her how many years he’d been doing it, she said.

Tower said he was a master climber, a runner and skilled on the trampoline.

“He was at the point he could do back flips, seven in a row, and stick it,” she said. “And incredibly smart. All of them.”

Like his siblings, he swam.

“All my kids, since they were itty bitty babies,” their mother said.

Tower is staying in Centralia, feeling gratitude and feeling humbled by so much support from so many and for the police and firefighters who came early the morning of March 4.

“I’m trying to make a list to send thank yous, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do that,” she said. “This is something that happens to other people, not me. I had plans.”

Now, she’s planning a celebration of life for Ben, Maddy and Sam.

It’s set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, at the Northwest Sports Hub.

Everyone is welcome, but she hopes nobody comes dressed in black, she said.

“I want to honor them in a positive way,” she said.

Their father, Brad Tower, was making separate arrangements for a memorial in Olympia, she said.

Tower requests no flowers, at least not cut flowers.

She’s working with Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund, on something like a bench that could be placed at the Hub, maybe with plantings, she said.

She suggests that instead of flowers, people might find ways to support some of the things her children valued.

Maybe the Centralia pool, maybe the school library, maybe Camp Cispus, she said. Ben was very much looking forward to a school trip there this year, she said.
•••

For background, read “Heavy hearts as family loses three in Centralia house fire” from Friday March 4, 2016, here

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•••

News brief: Beware left lane ‘squatters’

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016
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Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Since many drivers are unaware the left lane is designed as a passing lane and traveling in it for an extended period of time can be against the law, troopers are focusing on left lane violators this week.

The emphasis patrol is statewide, according to the Washington State Patrol. The idea is to bring increased awareness.

Trooper Will Finn calls them left lane squatters.

State patrol Sgt. J. Paul Cagle shares the text of the law, for those who would like to avoid getting pulled over:

RCW 46.61.100(2): Upon all roadways having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction, all vehicles shall be driven in the right hand lane then available for traffic, except for overtaking and passing another vehicle in the same direction, when traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow, when moving left to allow traffic to merge or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, exit or into a private road or driveway when such left turn is legally permitted.

Manager at Jeremy’s restaurant charged with stealing thousands of dollars

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
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Jeremy’s on the 500 block of Main Street in Chehalis is under new ownership now.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A restaurant manager accused of pocketing hundreds of dollars per shift from her Chehalis workplace has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of theft.

Mindy D. Nogues, 32, worked at Jeremy’s Farm to Table on Main Street from May into October of last year.

Owner Jeremy Wildhaber said he now he knows why he was experiencing such a cash crunch, for months.

“She was stealing $300 to $500 a day in September and October,” Wildhaber said on a recent day. “In October, she got us for $4,000.”

Altogether, he, his bookkeeper and police attribute more than $8,000 in losses to the now-former employee.

Nogues was arrested Jan. 19 in connection with a warrant issued on Dec. 31 and the following day allowed release on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

Lewis County prosecutors charged her with three counts of second-degree theft and 10 counts of identity theft.

Last week, she and her lawyer went before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court, where a request to postpone her trial was granted.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm said the trial was set for next month, but rescheduled to the week of May 16 because the defense is requesting more documents from Jeremy’s restaurant.

In hindsight, Wildhaber says, he thinks Nogues was testing various methods from the very beginning. He said that during her first two weeks of employment, he caught her failing to turn in the mandatory 5 percent of her tips for kitchen workers.

They talked about it, and he didn’t fire her, he said.

“I was really was desperate for help, and customers really liked her,” he said.

In fact, he said, she wasn’t the sort of person anyone would ever suspect of being dishonest that way. Everybody liked her and customers loved her, he said.

Charging documents summarizing the Chehalis Police Department investigation indicate Wildhaber and his bookkeeper concluded that Nogues had been using another manager’s code to approve various transactions.

The issue was brought to his attention by his bookkeeper, he said. The bookkeeper discovered that far more gift certificates were being spent at the business than had ever been issued.

Wildhaber told police one has to have a manager’s code to put a gift certificate into the system. He said it would be easy to take cash from a customer, but show they paid with a gift certificate.

The bookkeeper made a sheet illustrating the estimated losses from Nogue, according to court documents.

In their affidavit of probable cause, prosecutors wrote that in in May, Nogues took in only one gift certificate, yet for the month of October, she had 38 transactions involving gift certificates. The other seven employees that month combined took in only 39, according to charging documents.

Jeremy’s also found that while employees were supposed to staple the gift certificate to the particular receipt, Nogues had only done that three times leaving 35 unaccounted for. The system also showed she submitted gift certificates for odd amounts, amounts larger than their ledger showed they had sold.

A printout from the restaurant’s transactions showed Nogues in June took in $2,272.74 in cash sales and $271.66 in gift certificates.

In October, it was just the opposite ratio.

Nogues in October logged just $209.79 in cash sales while recording she took in $2,448.95 worth of gift certificates, according to the documents.

Wildhaber told police it would be impossible to work an entire month and take in that little cash.

She allegedly used other manager’s codes in attempts to cover up cash thefts in other ways as well, according to the documents.

For example, printouts for July through September showed Nogues had $1,753 in voided transactions while the next highest amount among other employees was $577.11.

Some voids supposedly done for her by another manager occurred when the other manager wasn’t working, according to the allegations.

Wildhaber said he confronted Nogues and reported the theft to police on Oct. 30.

Today, Wildhaber no longer owns the business. He said he wasn’t able to pay rent, and his landlord took it over. He’s cooking there and still doing a lot of work connected with the criminal case.

“It’s a big mess,” he said.

The thefts aren’t the only reason he couldn’t continue, but played a role, he said.

“It put me in a downward spiral, really fast,” he said.

Last Thursday, after the hearing in Lewis County Superior Court, Nogues and her lawyer, Jakob McGhie, said they had no comment on the allegations.

•••

Full disclosure: Jeremy’s restaurant had an advertising relationship in the past with Lewis County Sirens.com

Onalaska resident found unresponsive on remote Utah road

Friday, March 11th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 72-year-old Onalaska man overdue on a trip home from Arizona was found nearly unconscious laying on a remote road in southwestern Utah and is recovering from hypothermia.

Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said he now knows the man had recently been diagnosed with Ahlzheimers and had been traveling from Congress, Arizona back to Washington.

It was about 8 a.m. on Wednesday when employees with the water conservation district came across a Jeep abandoned in the middle of the road, west of Cedar City, Utah, Gower said.

About a mile farther, they found him, unresponsive and cold, shirtless and shoeless, he said. Temperatures had dipped into the mid-20s that night, he said.

Deputies and then an ambulance responded and took him to an area hospital, he said.

“When they got him there, his core temperature was 82 degrees, which is very cold,” he said.

The sheriff didn’t release the man’s name, but said family has traveled to Utah to be with him.

“He is going to make it,” Gower said this afternoon.

The sheriff’s office tracked down his family from papers either on the patient or in his vehicle, he said. The family had been trying to track him by his bank card use, he said.

Gower said he wasn’t sure what if any agency took a missing person report.

“I guess he had a cell phone, but he was not answering,” he said.

Sheriff Gower said the thanks belong to the employees of the water district.

Gower said he’s been with the sheriff’s office over 25 years, and worked several similar cases.

“Most of the time they end more tragic than this,” he said. “We usually find them after it’s too late.”

Centralia fire investigation continues, victims positively ID’d

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County coroner today said he has positively identified the three children from Friday’s house fire on Ham Hill Road in Centralia.

He released their names: Benjamin D. Tower, 12; Madeline R. Tower, 10; and Samuel J. Tower, 7.

They were students at Washington Elementary School and Edison Elementary School in Centralia.

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•••

While he doesn’t have any reason to think they died from anything other then the house fire, Coroner Warren McLeod said, it will be awhile before he can make the official determination on the cause of their deaths.

Autopsies have been performed but his conclusions can’t be made until after further studies as well as seeing the results of toxicology tests, according to McLeod.

It can take between eight and 14 weeks to get lab results back, according to the coroner’s office.

Authorities have said the youngsters were sleeping upstairs in the split-level home while their mother was sleeping on the main floor. She was among those who phoned 911 at about 12:45 a.m.

Efforts by the mother, by a police officer and by two firefighters to rescue them were unsuccessful because of the smoke, flames and intense heat.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Centralia Police Department detective Sgt. Carl Buster said the process can sometimes take months.

Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack, who is also the lead investigator, has said they narrowed the origin down to the area of the living room, a few feet from the front door.

The tragedy follows by just over a year a nighttime residential fire in Winlock that claimed three lives.

The family had been sleeping in the two-story house on  Northeast First Street and when the father and two boys headed out the door, the mother and girls were right behind him, but didn’t make it outside.

Samantha Koehler, 31, and her two daughters Bethany Cuvreau, 4, and Tabitha Cuvreau, 2, died of smoke inhalation on February 26, 2015.

•••

For background, read “Heavy hearts as family loses three in Centralia house fire” from Friday March 4, 2016, here

Suspect from 2008 Subway robbery initiated reopening his case

Monday, March 7th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Six years after being locked up for life, former Centralia resident Thomas L. Pleasant wrote a letter to a judge in Lewis County asking for help.

He didn’t want help getting out, he just wanted a warrant quashed.

Pleasant said he robbed a church and its pastor and then two women, all in Cowlitz County. He took a plea on three armed robberies and second-degree assault and accepted the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, he wrote.

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Thomas L. Pleasant

“I have no appeals or any action of ever being released, and I am okay with this,” Pleasant wrote.

He explained that inmates in his position are allowed limited privileges and those with outstanding warrants must deal with them before some jobs and some education are made available to them.

He mentioned he owes some $10,000 in fines, that he’s sorry to his victims and that he has maybe 20 more years left to live.

“Drugs completely ruined my life,” Pleasant wrote.

“It’s a short amount of time to pay back what I can,” he stated. “I am humbly asking the honorable courts to quash my warrant so I may seek help in doing what I can to get right.”

The arrest warrant was issued in September 2008 from Lewis County, after he was apprehended for his Cowlitz County spree.

The charges: first-degree robbery and first-degree rape for the July 16, 2008 hold up at the Subway sandwich shop in Chehalis, in which he confessed to tying up the female worker with an electrical cord and putting her in a walk-in cooler. He denied sexually assaulting her.

Lewis County filed the charges, but never pursued them.

It appears from Pleasant’s court file his letter from August 2014 went unanswered. He sent a second letter this past September, making the same request.

He warned that his life would be in danger if he has to face a charge of rape, as in, a serious “beat down” or stabbing, especially from young inmates trying to gain a reputation, he wrote.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead responded in December, by getting a judge to order Pleasant be transported from Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen to the Lewis County Jail.

Halstead said the case was revived because prosecutors are required to bring people back if they ask to have a warrant quashed.

Pleasant appeared before a judge finally a week and a half ago.

“We didn’t quash it,” Halstead said. “We’re going forward with the case.”

Pleasant pleaded not guilty last week in Lewis County Superior Court to first-degree robbery and first-degree rape. A trial date was set, but a review hearing was also scheduled for this Thursday.

The now-50-year-old is represented by Centralia attorney Don Blair.

“Mr. Blair was hoping we could resolve it right away,” Halstead said, acknowledging “resolve” means some sort of plea deal.
•••

For background, read “Chehalis case from 2008 sandwich shop robbery, rape revived” from Friday February 26, 2016, here

Vigil for fire victims draws hundreds to Centralia park

Sunday, March 6th, 2016
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Centralia’s George Washington Park, South Pearl Street, Saturday March 5, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Individuals and families, children and grown ups alike came together at George Washington Park in Centralia last night to honor the local family that suffered nearly unimaginable tragedy the day before.

Despite the rain, candles continued to glow during prayers and songs for the survivors and the three children who lost their lives when their home caught fire on Ham Hill Road.

Several television news stations captured the gathering.

• “Hundreds gather for vigil to honor 3 kids who died in Centralia fire” from KOMOnews.com on Saturday March 5, 2016

• “Centralia remembers 3 kids who died in fire” from KOIN.com on Sunday March 6, 2016 at 6:11 a.m.

• “VIDEO: Community gathers to remember Centralia fire victims” from KIRO7.com on Saturday March 5, 2016 at 11:43 p.m.

• “Vigil honors three kids who died in Centralia house fire” from king5.com on Sunday March 6, 2016 at 9:54 a.m.

• “Family remembers three children killed in Centralia house fire” from q13fox.com on Saturday March 5, 2016
•••

For background, read “Heavy hearts as family loses three in Centralia house fire” from Lewis County Sirens.com on Friday March 4, 2016 at 6:14 p.m., here

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Centralia’s George Washington Park, South Pearl Street, Saturday March 5, 2016

Heavy hearts as family loses three in Centralia house fire

Friday, March 4th, 2016
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Fire Chief Mike Kytta speaks about the Ham Hill house fire at a press conference this afternoon, flanked by Centralia School District Superintendent Mark Davalos, left and Assistant Chief Rick Mack.

Updated at 7:47 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – The cause of the house fire that claimed the lives of three children in Centralia remains under investigation as untold numbers of individuals mourn their loss.

“It’s with heavy hearts we’re here before you today,” Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack said this afternoon to a gathering of news reporters.

Mack said the fire appeared to start not far from the front door.

“We have narrowed the origin down to the area of the living room,” he said. “We came to that conclusion based on fire patterns we observed.”

Mack said there are many things they need to look at, and probably the most important will be an interview with the sole survivor.

The windows and doors of the four-bedroom, split level home on Ham Hill Road are boarded up now.

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Police Chief Carl Nielsen

The fire investigator indicated he did not know not what kind of heating system was employed at the residence. He does not yet know if there were smoke detectors, he said.

The kitchen stove was removed for examination, but Mack said he doesn’t know what if any role it may have played.

“Initially we did hear something on or about the stove glowing, so we took it into evidence,” he said.

The fire was reported by the mother at about 12:45 a.m. today. Lewis County 911 Communications stated it received multiple reports of smoke seen from a distance.

Authorities said the father lives elsewhere and the children’s bedrooms were upstairs.

Medics evaluated the mother for as long as three hours at the scene, Fire Chief Mike Kytta said.

“She told us she was asleep on the first level, and awakened to a sound, we don’t know what that was,” Mack said. “She tried to make access to the children on the upper level and was unable to because of smoke and heat.”

Centralia Police Department Chief Carl Nielsen this afternoon spoke on behalf of his department, the fire department and the school district.

“When units arrived on-scene, they found the house fully engulfed,” Nielsen said.

Three first responders made tremendous efforts to rescue the youngsters, according to Nielsen.

“Centralia Police Officer Phil Weismiller and RFA Capt.Terry Ternan and Engineer Rick Leboeuf climbed on roof and attempted to gain access to the children’s bedrooms,” he said. “Unfortunately the intense heat and flames prevented their heroic efforts from gaining entry.”

Weismiller’s hand was cut by glass from breaking a window, he said. The officer was treated at the hospital and is resting at home this afternoon, he said.

“The death of any child is significant in any community,” Nielsen said. “The loss of three in a community the size of Centralia is truly a tragedy.

“I have personally witnessed the outpouring of community support this morning and would ask people to take time out of our always busy schedules to think about the family of the victims of today’s tragedy and to make the time to appreciate and love your family members.”

Centralia School District Superintendent Mark Davalos confirmed the kids attend Centralia schools. He said they are in second grade, fourth grade and sixth grade.

The family requested their ages and names not be released.

“We want to extend our heartfelt sorrow to the family,” Davalos said. “I need to be strong for our staff and our community, but this is a huge loss.”

One attended Edison Elementary, two attended Washington Elementary.

Chief Kytta also responded to questions from news reporters this afternoon at the fire station on Harrison Avenue.

Along with smoke alarms and sleeping with bedroom doors closed, firefighters encourage folks to consider ahead of time at least two ways out of any room.

“Can you get out the window with a chain ladder, for example,” he said.

Nielsen said he doesn’t anticipate any more information being released until the investigation is concluded. He didn’t give a time line.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod expects autopsies to be conducted next week. He indicated he won’t be able to confirm and release the identities of the deceased until mid-week.

Chief Nielsen said he knows of three ways to donate to the family.

A family friend named Sandra Wing has set up a Go-Fund-Me account.

Donations can be made in person at the Centralia branch of Security State Bank and cards can be sent to P.O. Box 99 at Centralia Post Net at 1120 Harrison Avenue in Centralia.

A candlelight vigil is planned for 8 p.m. tomorrow in Washington Park which is located at Main and Pearl streets in Centralia.
•••

For background, read “Mother escapes, three children dead after Centralia house fire” from Friday March 4, 2016 at 9:51 a.m., here

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Flags are lowered at Washington Elementary School this afternoon, where two of the three children attended.

Chase Bank robbery suspect pleads guilty, gets 12 years

Friday, March 4th, 2016

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Chehalis’s bicycle-riding bank robber was sentenced today to 12 years in prison.

Larry G. Bailey, 53, is a long time bank robber who has spent most of his adult life in prison for bank robbery, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said the prison term was necessary to protect the community, according to a news release this afternoon.

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Larry G. Bailey

Bailey was arrested on the morning of Jan. 26, 2015 after ditching a BMX-style bicycle on Chehalis’s West Street overpass, with a deputy in pursuit, about 45 minutes after an individual with a similar description implied to the manager of Chase Bank at the other end of town he had a gun and was taken into the bank’s vault.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office indicates he had walked into the bank dressed as an elderly woman, with a canvas bag and one of his hands hidden under his shirt.

He took $36,000, which was recovered tucked inside a floral print cloth bag in his backpack, according to authorities.

He was first charge in Lewis County Superior Court and the case moved to federal court. U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson Emily Langlie says he pleaded guilty.

Bailey had been out of prison less than a year when he committed the bank robbery on South Market Boulevard in  Chehalis.

Bailey’s bank robbery history begins in the 1980s, according to federal authorities.

His first prison term for bank robbery was 30 months and he was released in 1990.  In 1991, he was sentenced to nearly ten years in prison for bank robberies in Kansas and Spokane.

Five years after his release on that prison term, in July 2004, Bailey was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison for another bank robbery in Spanaway.

He escaped from a community corrections facility in Tacoma in March 2013, and was taken back into custody in August 2013.  Bailey was sent back to prison to finish his prison term.

He was living in a tent near the 1500 block of Bishop Road around the time he was arrested for the Chase Bank holdup.

•••

For background, read, “Suspected Chase Bank robber believed to have numerous similar convictions” from Tuesday January 27, 2015, here

Mother escapes, three children dead after Centralia house fire

Friday, March 4th, 2016
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Fire investigators and the coroner’s office are working at the scene at the two-story house this morning.

Updated at 11:07 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Investigators with three agencies are examining the scene of a fatal Centralia house fire this morning in which three children perished.

“My wife noticed lights flashing in the driveway about 1 o’clock this morning,” neighbor Jay Pannette said. “She said it’s my son’s friend’s house; she came back and said ‘Oh my God, the kids aren’t out yet’.”

Firefighters and police responded to the 12:46 a.m. call to the two-story home on the 900 block of Ham Hill Road at the north end of town.

Police said the mother made it out, but the juveniles did not.

One police officer was injured when he attempted to get inside, breaking a window, detective Patricia Finch said. He was taken to the hospital, she said.

This morning, command vehicles crowded the narrow street and next door neighbors sat on their front porch with a chaplain.

Most of the windows observable from the street are missing, one side of the roof partially collapsed. Some rabbits huddled in hutches near the driveway.

Finch said they know the fire started within about four feet of the front door, just inside.

The family rents the home, she said. The children’s father doesn’t reside with them, she said.

The joint fire investigation team is comprised of members of Riverside Fire Authority, the Centralia Police Department and the Chehalis Fire Department.

The Centralia School District has been informed the three attend Centralia schools, district spokesperson Ed Petersen said.

They’ve made additional counseling resources available at two schools, which he wouldn’t identify.

“I know teachers are talking to their classes,” he said at mid-morning.

“It was a tragedy,” Pannette said.

He said the family with two boys and one girl moved in about a year ago.

“We’re waiting for a pastor to come talk with my son,” he said. “He doesn’t know anything yet.”

A press conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Riverside Fire Authority’s main station, when more information is expected to be released.

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A fire investigator examines the area around the front door to the home.

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Police and fire investigators work at the home on Ham Hill Road this morning.

 

Breaking news: Fatal fire north Centralia

Friday, March 4th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia police report three children did not make it out of the house at a fatal fire early this morning on the 900 block of Ham Hill Road.

The joint fire investigation team comprised of members of Riverside Fire Authority, Centralia police Department and the Chehalis Fire Department and others, are on scene, Centralia Police Department detective Sgt. Carl Buster said in a message about 3:40 a.m.

Buster said only the mother made it out of the home.

The call was dispatched at approximately 12:46 a.m.

Lewis County 911 Communications reported getting multiple reports of smoke seen from a distance as a result of the fire about 1 a.m.

Chehalis case from 2008 sandwich shop robbery, rape revived

Friday, February 26th, 2016
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Thomas L. Pleasant waits his turn to go in front of a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The suspect in a robbery and rape of a woman working alone at night at the Chehalis Subway shop from almost eight years ago appeared in Lewis County Superior Court today, to finally face the charges against him.

Thomas L. Pleasant, now 50, was transported from Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen where he is serving a sentence of life without parole.

In 2008, Pleasant was convicted of three first-degree robberies in Cowlitz County, as well as second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and first-degree burglary there, according to Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.

He also has a first-degree robbery conviction from 1989, according to Meyer.

While he was still in jail in Cowlitz County, he requested to talk with detectives and confessed to the July 16, 2008 hold up in Chehalis, saying he tied up the female worker with an electrical cord and put her in a walk-in cooler, according to charging documents.

He denied sexually assaulting her.

Lewis County prosecutors filed charges of first-degree robbery and first-degree rape on Sept. 9, 2008.

It’s not clear why he wasn’t brought to Lewis County sooner than now, Meyer said, other than the wait until after his Cowlitz cases wrapped up. Meyer didn’t become prosecutor until 2011.

“This is kind of an insurance policy,” Meyer said, suggesting the possibility of appeals in the other cases.

He said he has interviewed the victim and she indicated she was willing to go forward.

Pleasant, whose court documents from 2008 show a Centralia address for his residence, was brought before a judge this afternoon for a brief hearing.

Temporary defense attorney Joely O’Rourke said her client had no income and qualified for a court-appointed lawyer. His arraignment was scheduled for next Thursday.

Court documents describe the details Chehalis police learned from the victim.

She said she was preparing for closing about 10:44 p.m. and was alone as another employee had just left, when a male came in through the back door and told her to look down.

She dropped to her knees, saw a gun that looked like a long .22 with a silencer, she said. The male demanded money, smashed the wall phone, took her cell phone and $22, she said.

She said she crawled to the cash register and gave him about $320.

He then asked her if she wanted to live, and with a gun to her back, raped her, according to her statement.

The victim said she eventually was able to free her tied hands and trip the store’s alarm.

The Subway is at the Twin City Town Center on Northwest Louisiana Avenue.

Court documents go on to describe the investigation that followed.

Chehalis police reviewed video surveillance footage from Wal-Mart and saw a vehicle described as a light colored truck with a canopy or a long sport utility vehicle, in which a person got out and went into the Movie Gallery.

About two weeks later, Chehalis detective Rick McNamara saw a robbery bulletin from the Longview Police Department with a photo of a similar truck.

Another officer thought it resembled a truck he’d pulled over a few days earlier and a check of its registration showed it was owned by Pleasant.

Within a few days, Castle Rock police located the vehicle, and Pleasant was soon apprehended.

When Pleasant was interview by McNamara, he said the gun he used was the same one he used in the Longview robbery; he said it looked real, like a .357 and he threw it away because it got him in trouble.

Salkum uncle charged for bow and arrow threat

Friday, February 26th, 2016
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Carl E. Griffith Jr. is brought before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court for a bail hearing.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Bail was set at twice what prosecutors requested for the Salkum man who reportedly aimed a cross-bow at his 24-year-old niece and told her he would kill her if she returned to his mother’s residence.

Carl E. Griffith Jr. was arrested Wednesday and then charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with second-degree assault and harassment.

The incident came to the attention of law enforcement on Tuesday when a mental health provider at Valley View Health in Toledo reported Griffith had come in for a session, in an emotional and extremely agitated state.

According to court papers, Griffith, 45, told the provider about how much he hated his niece, Miranda Griffith, because of her lifestyle and described what he had done.

He said she was at his mom’s home doing laundry when he  began yelling at her, grabbed the bow, placed it in full draw and pointed it at her, according to the documents. He said he then pulled her out of the house by the hair and threw her into the front yard, the documents state.

Authorities said the incident occurred on Feb. 7 at the 2100 block of Spencer Road where he lives with his mother and his fiancé.

Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Blye told the judge yesterday afternoon that she thought bail should be set at $50,000, citing past convictions of second-degree assault and witness tampering as well as four convictions for fourth-degree assault.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke said the allegations seemed out of character for her client and requested a $25,000 unsecured bond, co-signed by Griffith’s brother.

Judge James Lawler said the allegations were very serious.

“I can’t ignore that, these are just far too severe to have unsecured bail,” Lawler said. “I’m setting bail at $100,000, cash or surety.”

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said yesterday Griffith went into great detail about what he would do with his niece. He spoke of eviscerating her with knives and spoke graphically of what he would do with her corpse, charging documents allege.

Detectives interviewed the niece as well as an un-named individual who witnessed the assault, according to court documents.

When the residence was searched on Wednesday, deputies located a compound bow, a cross bow and numerous arrows.

His arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday.

O’Rourke also told the judge she believed Griffith would qualify for a court appointed lawyer, as his income comes from disability benefits.
•••

For background, read “Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup –  PLAN TO KILL, THREAT TO SHOOT WITH BOW AND ARROW  INVESTIGATED” from Thursday February 25, 2016, here

Backpage.com date debacle leaves escort with felony

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Portland area woman was sentenced to 60 days of house arrest this afternoon for a case in which prosecutors contended she made a false report of rape against a Centralia man when he wouldn’t pay for her services as an escort.

“She was working as an escort, he hired her, he never paid her, he said they didn’t have sex,” defense attorney Mike Underwood told the judge. “My client says that’s not true; she’s taken responsibility for what happened.”

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Heidi L. Glick

Heidi L. Glick, 32, previous to today made Alford pleas, not admitting guilt, to malicious prosecution, to prostitution and to first-degree trespassing, in Lewis County Superior Court.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Weirth told the judge she believed 30 days in jail was appropriate.

“There’s a tape of her telling the victim if he didn’t pay her, she was going to call police and report he’d raped her; on tape she’s basically extorting him,” Weirth said. “When a police officer arrived, she described a full forcible rape, that he’d held her down.”

Underwood said he hoped her sentence would be limited to the several days of time already served in the Lewis County Jail.

When police were called by Glick to Steven W. Flournoy Jr.’s Centralia residence on Nov. 7, they were told the “date” came out of her advertisement on Backpage.com.

Charging documents and the police report state that Glick refused to leave his home.

She told an investigating officer she was not a prostitute, she was an escort and that she charged for her time, but that sex was not part of the deal, according to the documents.

Flournoy told police he had a bad feeling about the conversation with Glick, so he recorded it with his phone, which she was aware of, the documents relate.

Charging documents indicate she declined an ambulance to the 911 call taker.

Officers arrested her for malicious prosecution and arrested Flourony for patronizing a prostitute and booked them both into jail. His case was handled in Centralia Municipal Court.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey listened to both sides this afternoon and then imposed a 60-day sentence, which he said Glick could do on electronic home monitoring.

He gave her credit for five days already served and suspended the rest of the 364 days for two years.

Weirth asked the judge to further order Glick be prohibited from working as an escort during the probationary period.

Her lawyer didn’t oppose the recommendation.

“She’s advised me she has no interest in doing that type of work anymore,” Underwood said.
•••

For background, read “News brief: Two jailed following failure to pay prostitute in Centralia” from Sunday November 8, 2015, here