Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Breaking news: Man shot in Salkum, neighbor questioned

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Updated at 10:20 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Detectives are on the scene investigating a shooting in Salkum that sent a 28-year-old Salkum man to Providence Centralia Hospital tonight.

Stowell Road is currently closed between Gore Road and Salkum Road, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

It happened about 8:10 p.m. at the 200 block of Stowell Road, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said in a news release.

The suspected shooter is being questioned. He is a Salkum resident as well, according to Brown. The victim’s condition is unknown, Brown stated at about 9:30 p.m.

Initial information is it was a dispute between neighbors, Brown stated.

Lewis County Fire DIstrict 8 was called to the scene but told to wait at their station until deputies arrived and could make sure the area was secure.

Fire Chief Duran McDaniel said he was on his way home from another call and had already turned the corner so he parked at the Salkum Super market, about a half block from the victim.

“That’s the hard part, having to stage, because we could have an active shooter,” Fire Chief Duran McDaniel said.

Firefighters and medics found the victim in a front yard and took care of the patient, performing CPR all the way to the hospital, McDaniel said.

Brown indicated further information will be released as it becomes available.

Drug officer: Another raid, but battling heroin deaths will take more than police

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Updated at 12:53 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia police made three more arrests yesterday after moving aggressively up the food chain to combat heroin overdoses and deaths in the community.

Officers raided a home about 9 a.m. on the 1000 block of Yakima Street and took two men and their mother into custody, but only found small amounts of a variety of suspected narcotics, according to the Centralia Police Department.

“Our primary suspect was in the bathroom flushing the toilet,” Centralia Anti-Crime Team Sgt. Jim Shannon said.

Among the drugs seized – found mostly in the shower area – were suspected heroin, Oxycodone, methamphetamine, hash oil and a prescription drug called Tramadol, Shannon said. About $460 cash was confiscated.

Sebastian Haller, 36, and his brother Arthur Haller, 32, were arrested on charges involving the distribution of meth and heroin to Centralia residents, according to police.

Fifty-nine-year-old Kathy Challender was arrested for maintaining a building for drug purposes, an offense she has been convicted of in the past, according to Shannon.

Police have served several warrants for felony narcotics at the same address over the past decade; the city is reviewing the case to determine if the property might be subject to seizure and forfeiture as a drug nuisance, according to police.

The search warrant served yesterday resulted from undercover buys, Shannon said.

The action is part of an undertaking that began in March targeting street-level and mid-level heroin suppliers because of the increase in the number of heroin and opiate related deaths over the past year in Lewis and southern Thurston counties, according to police.

Centralia police detectives are currently investigating at least two deaths that have been caused by heroin, Shannon said.

“There’s different types of heroin out there,” he said. “There’s tar and there’s powder, which seems to be more potent and is causing deaths.

“Aberdeen has a huge problem with it.”

What police care about is saving lives, Shannon said.

The most important thing Shannon wants members of the public to know today, is if a person is with someone who overdoses, they should get help immediately.

“I don’t want anyone to be afraid to call 911 because they think they’re gonna get busted,” he said. “That’s someone’s son, someone’s daughter. Sometimes you wouldn’t even know that person was addicted to opiates.”

Shannon referenced a recent case in which a boyfriend and a girlfriend were partying and he overdosed and she called 911.

“We got Riverside Fire Authority and they were able to administer a substance that counteracts it and he woke up,” Shannon said.

Officers didn’t arrest anyone, they just documented the incident and made sure there were no more drugs present, he said.

He himself has had to help save a life.

“It’s no fun doing CPR on somebody and waiting for aid to come and give them Narcan,” he said. “I mean, these people are dead. And AMR and Riverside brings them back.”

A lot of times, such an event is is a huge wakeup call prompting the person to get the help they need, he said.

It’s much worse for a witness of an overdose event if the subject dies and they didn’t call 911, Shannon said. Centralia police have successfully prosecuted controlled substance homicide in the past, he said.

Since mid-March, Shannon’s team has made 11 arrests for delivery. A small number more are expected out of the current investigation, he said.

Shannon said he wants to get the word out about the use and the arrests for drug dealing because it’s time now for others besides police to work on the problem.

“The police department is trying as hard as we can to do something about it,” he said. “The community also needs to think about what to do as well.”

Arrests of street level suppliers began in April.

On April 14, aid and police responded to to a residence on the 300 block of North Diamond Street and saved the life of a 26-year-old woman. The Anti-Crime Team investigated and arrested  Christopher C. Lee, 25, of Rochester, for delivery of heroin as well as possession of methamphetamine.

While investigating further, the team arrested four more Centralia residents. They are Tyler Geist, 28; Sarah McCutcheon, 34; Jarrin Smalley, 21; and Brittany Cary, 25, according to the Centralia Police Department.

With information gained, the team began going after mid-level sources of heroin. Throughout, several search warrants have been served in Centralia and in south Thurston County.

On April 17, the team was led to the 17100 block of Sargent Road in Grand Mound, where they seized more than one quarter pound of heroin and about an ounce of methamphetamine, according to police.

Three individuals were arrested; they are Andrew T Field, 29; Alaina Normand, 24; and Terry Nelson-Rone, 44, according to police.

Field was under the supervision of the Washington State Department of Corrections and was sent directly back to prison in Shelton to serve time revoked for the new offenses, according to Shannon.

Then yesterday, the team, detectives and other Centralia officers went knocking on the door at Yakima Street, where they arrested the three.

Sebastian Haller was found guilty earlier this year for unrelated heroin charges and was out of custody awaiting sentencing, Shannon said.

If charged, the trio will appear before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon.

Birdwell Brothers Auto Sales theft case may end with plea deals

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It appears there will not be a trial in the case of Keith Birdwell, charged last year along with his wife with major theft in connection with their used car business.

The 48-year-old from Toledo was in Lewis County Superior Court today when attorneys told the judge they are working out the details of a plea deal. His trial was set to begin on Monday.


Keith and Lorrine Birdwell

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg asked the judge to set aside time at 9 a.m. Monday for a hearing in which Birdwell would enter a plea.

“I’m confident we’ll be proceeding,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg said when the judge pondered advising potential jurors to show up on Tuesday instead of Monday, just in case.

Eisenberg said he also still needs to get input from the victim in the case, Security State Bank.

Birdwell and his wife Lorrine D. Birdwell are alleged to have used various deceptions to avoid paying back the bank on loans for the vehicles at Birdwell Brothers Auto Sales. Prosecutors have contended the unrecovered losses to the bank are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Neither Eisenberg nor Tacoma lawyer Keith McFie would reveal what the agreement consisted of, but McFie said he will be asking for sentencing to take place about a month later.

He also said, and Eisenberg confirmed, the plea deal is tied together with an arrangement to be worked out with Lorrine D. Birdwell and her attorney.

Her trial is on the calendar for later this year.


For background, read “Centralia used car lot owners appear in court on criminal charges” from Wednesday January 23, 2013, here

High bail ordered for Chehalis dad in shaken baby case

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Tyler C. Abair, seated at table, looks on as defense attorney Bob Schroeter represents him during a bail hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Bail was set at $250,000 today for the Chehalis area father accused of shaking his 4-month-old daughter, causing a bruised brain.

Tyler C. Abair, 23, was arrested yesterday following an investigation that began after last month’s incident at the Koontz Road home he shares with his ex-wife with whom he is reconciling and their twins, a boy and the girl.

The infant is recovering at home with her mother and Abair remains in the Lewis County Jail, where he is serving time for identity theft and second-degree theft, according to authorities.

A doctor found signs of retinal hemorrhaging and a subdural hematoma in her brain at Marybridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, where the baby was transported after the April 13 call to 911, according to charging documents.

The doctor said the baby “exhibited classic signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome and while not severe, the child would have been shaken somewhat violently to cause these injuries,” charging documents state.

Abair acknowledged that he shook her.

According to charging documents, Abair told a detective he was trying to bring her back because she had a “dead look” about her after choking on formula; that he was terrified and may have had a little anger in him when his daughter threw up on him.

He told Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Jamey McGinty he didn’t know CPR.

Abair was charged today in Lewis County Superior Court with  first-degree assault of a child.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Mark McClain told a judge this afternoon the offense carries significant potential sentence of 10 to 15 years when he appealed for the high bail.

Judge James Lawler signed an order prohibiting him from contact with any witnesses, his ex-wife, his daughter and any children.

Abair doesn’t work, but stayed home and took care of the twins while his ex-wife worked; he qualified for a court-appointed attorney.

His arraignment was scheduled for May 15.

Oakville: Bystanders cut hole in burning house to evacuate bedridden occupants

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

The upstairs is ruined by fire but both occupants were sleeping downstairs. / Courtesy photo by Grays Harbor County Fire DIstrict 1.

Updated at 6:55 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Two bedridden Oakville area residents survived an overnight fire that seriously damaged a two-story home.

The rescue was initiated by neighbors and a Chehalis tribal officer, according to Grays Harbor County Fire DIstrict 1.

As many as five individuals were on the scene, using a chainsaw to cut an opening in the front of the house because one man had to be brought out in his hospital bed and an older woman in her power wheelchair, Fire Chief Kevin Witt said.

“Me and another firefighter were first in, and they were well on their way to cutting the wall and cutting the studs by the time we got there,” Witt said. He called their work heroic.

The calls came about 2:15 a.m. to the residence on the 2300 block of South Bank Road, from the owners who woke up as well as from several neighbors who saw flames, according to Witt.

Members of fire departments from Elma, Rochester and Centralia responded to assist in battling the blaze which left the upper floor heavily damaged, and the first floor with smoke and water damage, he said.

The male occupant  – described as middle aged – was transported to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, because of his previous medical condition, Witt said.

The woman was checked by medics and arrangements were made for her to stay at the Eagles Landing Hotel, he said.

West Thurston Regional Fire Authority Lt. Lanette Dyer praised the extraordinary efforts when she viewed the scene today.

“In the light of the day I’m standing here in ‘awe’ over the extraordinary feat that the tribal police, neighbors and firefighters did to save lives,” Dyer stated in a news release. “To see what effort they did to rescue people who were unable to rescue themselves. This is what communities do.”

Witt said the pair were alerted by working fire detectors.

Firefighters remained on the scene until about 5:30 a.m.

The home is on the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis reservation and the cause is under investigation by the tribal building official, Witt said.

Chehalis dad arrested in shaken baby case

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Detectives yesterday arrested a 23-year-old Chehalis area man for allegedly shaking his infant girl causing severe injuries.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office says Tyler C. Abair was alone with his 4-month old child when it happened and told deputies he only shook her when she began choking while drinking a bottle.

It happened at the 700 block of Koontz Road last month, and detectives were waiting for medical reports to confirm their suspicions, according to a news release.

The baby is now recovering at home with her mother and Abair remains in the Lewis County Jail, where he was already in custody serving time for unrelated crimes, according to the sheriff’s office.

The case shares several commonalities with a 22-year-old Mineral man arrested last fall for allegedly seriously injuring by shaking his former girlfriend’s 4-month old. Kyle Davison told the sheriff’s office told authorities that baby was choking and not breathing.

Like Davison, Abair is facing a charge of first-degree assault of a child.

The sheriff’s office said when the baby girl stopped breathing on April 13. Abair called the baby’s mother who was nearby at work, instead of calling 911 himself.

“The mother had someone call 911 immediately, responded home, and began CPR,” Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown stated in the news release.

Abair reportedly initially denied injuring or shaking the infant.

The child was transferred to Marybridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma and doctors reported the infant had suffered retinal hemorrhaging and a brain injury consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome, according to Brown.

Brown said doctors also found old brain injuries which appeared to be caused in the same manner.


Read also, “Lawyer seeks second opinion on brain trauma in Morton child assault case” from Monday April 14, 2014, here

Packwood bus mixup: Mad mom will get to simmer off behind bars

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The mother who left an angry voice message at White Pass school after finding her son was dropped off a school bus in a strange neighborhood was convicted today of two felonies.

Cheryl A. Strong, 48, of Packwood, was arrested in early March after the phone call that prompted a lockdown at the school when it was heard the following morning. She told a deputy she didn’t mean what she said.

“Sorry Chris, but I’m going to f****** shoot everybody that goes to your f****** school, works there,” was the statement listened to by Christy Collette, the school secretary and Rebecca Miner, the district superintendent.

The trial in Lewis County Superior Court began yesterday, with Strong taking the witness stand this morning.

The jury deliberated about two and half hours before finding Strong guilty of one count each of felony harassment, threats to kill, regarding Collette and Miner. The jury also made special findings the crime affected more than the two individuals named.

The family moved or was in the process of moving from one residence on U.S. Highway 12 to another the High Valley neighborhood.

Strong’s boyfriend  James Taylor said when the 7-year-old didn’t get let off the bus, they drove around looking and found him wandering in the High Valley, seven miles away.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Judges in Washington are constrained by the 1981 Sentencing Reform Act to imposing sentences within a fixed standard range, which is based upon the seriousness level of the crime and the particular person’s criminal history – which in in this case would be 33 to 43 months in prison, according to Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Mark McClain.

However, because the jury made the special findings regarding the so-called aggravators, the judge will be free to hand down the maximum if he chooses, McClain said. For Strong, the possibility exists of two five year sentences to be served consecutively, he said.

Strong remains free on bail until her sentencing, set for May 19 at 1 p.m.

For background, read “Police: Angry mom’s message said she would shoot everyone at the grade school” from Friday March 7, 2014, here

Girl allegedly admits to burning down Winlock neighbor’s home

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 13-year-old Winlock girl faces serious criminal charges after allegedly confessing she lit a fire that chased a sleeping neighbor family out of their residence.

The two adults and two small children escaped the double-wide mobile home on the 100 block of Evergreen Lane and arriving firefighters rescued a dog, but the January blaze caused extensive damage.

Some property was salvaged by the fire department.

The sheriff’s office yesterday forwarded a referral to the Lewis County Prosecutors Office for a charge of first-degree arson,

The information came to light last week when a deputy was talking with the girl on another matter, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning. She allegedly admitted using matches to ignite a bamboo curtain that hung between the home and the garage, according to Brown.

Brown said the girl told the deputy she did it because she was angry, not at the neighbor but in general and didn’t mean to burn the home down but the fire got out of control and she ran off.

Nobody was injured but the structures were almost a total loss. The 60-year-old victim estimates damages of $104,000, Brown said.

It happened about 1:30 in the morning on Jan. 25. It took four fire departments more than an hour to bring the blaze under control.

Smoke detectors woke the occupants, the youngest of which were under two years old.

Vader fire: Mysterious blast rocks burning building, throws senior firefighter to the ground

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Vader resident’s shop building is still standing, but pretty much destroyed by fire, explosions. / Courtesy photo by Ted McCarty

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A fire yesterday west of Vader in a metal shop building where marijuana was being cultivated caused an explosion so powerful it raised the roof, blew the helmet off a firefighter and knocked him down.

“He was not injured, he got back up and continued to put the fire out,” Fire Investigator Ted McCarty said.

Members of the the fire department called about 11:30 a.m. to the 100 block of Brim Creek Road found smoke rolling from beneath three bay doors as well as smoke and flames coming through the roof, according to Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20.

Fire Capt. Ellis Andrews had just gotten the north door opened so they could get at the flames, and turned to walk away, Chief Rich Underdahl said. Underdahl was at the road about 20 feet away, hooking up the water tender.

The blast rocked the building, closed the rollup door and sent debris blowing past them both, Underdahl said. He said the concussion pushed him backward a step or so.

“There was so much smoke, all I could see was his helmet fly off,” Underdahl said. “It came at me.

“I’m yelling, Ellis, Ellis, are you alright? He gets up and says, yeah.”

There were only three of them on the scene at the time.

They had just finished participating in the May Day parade held each year in the small South Lewis County town. Andrews had piloted the department’s antique Ford fire engine, which he parked and traded for a water tender when the tone came out, according to Underdahl.

Andrews is the captain at the station in Ryderwood.

Firefighters from Toledo and Winlock joined them to battle the blaze.  The medics who were summoned had to go find Andrews to check him out, Underdahl said. “He was back on a hose line,” he said.

The fire was extinguished before it could ruin the south end of the structure which contained tools, a motorcycle and propane tanks but the other end was destroyed, according to the investigator.

Lost were a couple of boat motors, marijuana gardening equipment and plants, McCarty said.

The big blast was just one of about five explosions, and what produced it couldn’t be determined.

The cause of the fire appeared to be overloaded electrical circuits, according to McCarty. The grow lights were on a timer, he said.

“(The owner) was not at a home, he had left earlier in the day and set them to come on, I think he said at 10 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

McCarty said he understood the owner had a marijuana card allowing him to grow a certain number for himself.

Andrews, a 72-year-old longtime firefighter was at the department training this morning and seemed fine, according to Underdahl, not even complaining of any hearing loss.

The chief called Andrews a tough guy and a valuable asset.

“We still don’t know what that was; it was huge and he took the whole brunt of it,” Underdahl said. “He’s a tough guy.”

RV serving as home, doghouse for nearly 40 canines found near Centralia

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Crates were stacked upon crate inside a motor home near Centralia.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Authorities yesterday seized 38 dogs living in filthy conditions inside a motor home with a Centralia man.

Forty-nine-year-old Jimmie R. Jemison was arrested, but not booked into jail because of a medical condition, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The visit yesterday afternoon to property on the 1600 block of Little Hanaford Road followed a tip at the end of April that Jemison was breeding puppies in unsanitary conditions, according to the sheriff’s office.

Photographs shared by the sheriff’s office show numerous portable kennels, some stacked on top of each other inside the roughly 30-foot long recreational vehicle.

“The animals were sleeping and eating in their own feces,” Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

Seventeen puppies and 21 adult dogs were taken to the Lewis County Animal Shelter where they are under observation, being treated for dehydration and other ailments, according to Brown. She described them as various types including Boxer, Daschund, Chihuahua, Basset and mixed breed.

Numerous other animals on the property were living in clean cages and spaces and were left behind, including seven dogs, a goat, quail, chickens and about a dozen pet rats, according to the sheriff’s office.

“His brother lives nearby and is going to take care of them,” Brown said.

Lewis County does not require permits or licenses for dog breeders, but an ordinance outlines certain requirements for anyone with more than 10 dogs such as providing enclosures with enough space for each animal to turn about freely, stand, sit and lie down. And the housing must be kept in a sanitary condition, with convenient access to clean food and water.

Brown said they believe Jemison was selling puppies.

The search warrant yesterday was obtained after the county humane officer previously visited Jemison and observed violations of the dog breeding ordinance, according to Brown.

Responders wore protective gear as they did their work beginning about 3 p.m. yesterday. Buckets and garbage cans containing feces were stored outside the motorhome, she said.

Also found were deceased baby possums inside one kennel, according to Brown. She said she didn’t know why Jemison was keeping possums or how they died.

Deputies and personnel with code enforcement from the county health department were joined by the state veterinarian at the scene.

Brown said Jemison has been highly uncooperative during prior visits and ended up getting Tased yesterday, which resulted in one of his own dogs biting him. He was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital but transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle because of what she described as a severe medical condition.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield called it an unfortunate situation all around.

Jemison faces possible charges of second-degree animal cruelty.

Lewis County Code Enforcement Supervisor Bill Teitzel in a prepared statement said sometimes investigations appear to outsiders take too long but they have to follow the law, and Jemison was not cooperative.

“I am proud of the work my staff did in remaining tenacious and rescuing these animals so that they have a better chance in life,” Teitzel stated.


Humane officers, code enforcement personnel and deputies emptied a recreational vehicle of 17 puppies and 21 adult dogs.

Napavine area’s new fire chief comes from over the hill to the west

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

New Fire Chief Gregg Peterson, right, talks with Chief Tim Kinder of rural Chehalis’s Lewis County Fire District 6, left, and District 5 firefighters Raymond Smerek and Merlin Correia.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

NAPAVINE – Two months after both the chief and his second-in command resigned, the fire department that protects Napavine and the surrounding area has hired a new leader.

Gregg Peterson, who has served the past six years as the volunteer chief in the Boistfort Valley where he resides, was sworn in last night.

“I consider it an honor to be here working for, actually working for, you guys,” Peterson said to a small group of the department’s firefighters, EMTs and two its three board members.

Peterson, 59, has more than three decades of experience as a professional firefighter behind him. He retired in 2011 from  Valley Regional Fire Authority in South King County.

The father of four now grown children counts 28 years total as a volunteer, much of which came after he joined Lewis County Fire District 13 in 1995 when the family moved to Lewis County.

Lewis County Fire District 5 which serves a population of about 12,000 over a 66-square-mile area south of Chehalis is known for changing chiefs fairly often.

Jamie Guenther, chair of its board of commissioners, said the trio wanted to hire someone who could have broad support.

He told the group assembled last night they pared the five applications they got back down to three candidates. The interviews were conducted by a group of six members of the public, including individuals such as the chair of the school board, a city council member and local business owner, John Sweeny of Ace Hardware, he said.

The vote was unanimous, Guenther said.

“All the people in that room chose Gregg, so I think we can say he’s the people’s chief for District 5,” he said.

Peterson’s first day on the job will be Monday.

Fire Commissioner Lyle Hojem told the gathering the board graded candidates and all three agreed on the committee’s choice.

In contrast with the district’s last chief Eric Linn who was paid $82,000 a year and benefits that totaled more than $19,000, Peterson agreed to an annual salary of only $40,000 a year. It’s  $35,000 during a probationary period, according to Guenther.

Their agreement calls for the chief to work up to 32 hours.

“The current board didn’t hire Eric, a lot of people didn’t like the high wages,” Guenther said while attendees shared ice cream with Peterson and his family.

Peterson said he doesn’t need medical insurance as his wife works, and he gets it through her job. He said they negotiated a deal he thought worked well for the district and for himself.

“I think they’re getting the best bang for their buck,” Peterson said.

His primary goal in the near term is learning how District 5 operates and meeting the people the department serves, he said.

The fire department currently has four full time paid firefighters and 21 volunteers. Their fourth firefighter-EMT Maria Kennedy was hired in mid-April.

Peterson expects he will gradually transition out of the volunteer chief position in Boistfort.

The introduction to the department and swearing in ceremony was planned on short notice, because Peterson wanted to get started away, according to Guenther. The commissioners only met with him the night before.

Ruth Peterson, his wife of 29 years, said she wasn’t entirely surprised her husband came out of retirement after just three years.

Firefighting is his passion, she said.

“He became a volunteer before he was even old enough to drive a car,” she said. “His parents would drive him to car accidents on Highway 18.”

He would go on emergency medical calls, and then head off to school, she said.

Warning: Warm weather, chilly water can kill

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office wants to spread the word about the danger of what they call cold water shock following this weekend’s drowning in Mayfield Lake.

“Many people think if the air temperature is hot, the cool water will have little to no effect upon them, however water conditions this time of year are not warm enough to avoid temperature shock or stay in for any length of time,” Sheriff Steve Mansfield said in a news release today.

At mid-morning on Saturday, during a fishing outing, a 46-year-old man jumped in the lake in an attempt to retrieve his boat which was drifting away from a small island near Ike Kinswa Park.

His companion saw he was in distress and attempted to get to him, but had to turn back because of how cold the water was. And despite efforts by a park employee and arriving medics, Gary L. Rhoades was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Water temperatures are still in the mid 40’s on almost all waterways in Lewis County. Cold water shock is a major concern at this time of year, in these conditions, according to the sheriff’s office.

The immediate danger is the result can be shortness of breath, involuntary gasping, hyperventilation, panic and even heart failure that leads to drowning, Mansfield says.

Every year, deputies here investigate drowning deaths which likely could have been avoided had the victim known about cold water shock, according to Mansfield.

The National Center for Disease Control say drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional injury or death among all ages.

“Understanding the dynamics of swimming in cold water, knowing water conditions, swimming with others, and staying away from drugs and alcohol will prevent water fatalities and help ensure an enjoyable accident free outing,” Mansfield stated.

The sheriff’s office said Rhoades  was a Silver Creek resident. Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod today said he lived in Mineral.

His companion, a 49-year-old man from Tacoma, was taken to Morton General Hospital to be treated for hypothermia.

The sheriff’s office said the men had been drinking.

For background, read “Mayfield Lake incident claims one boater, another rescued” from Saturday April 26, 2014, here

Police: Yardbirds employee stole thousands of dollars from business

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Now former manager at Yard Birds David Briscoe appears in court for bail hearing this afternoon.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A  manager at Yard Birds arrested yesterday for allegedly stealing as much as $30,000 from his employer over time told police he’d gone bankrupt and was getting behind in his medical bills.

David E. Briscoe, 58, was booked into the Lewis County Jail and charged with first-degree theft. He appeared before a judge this afternoon.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter said the Centralia man worked at Yard Birds-Shop ‘n Kart for the past seven years, but is no longer employed there. “He has $19 in the bank,” Schroeter said.

Briscoe qualified for a court-appointed attorney.

Police say Briscoe was responsible for managing the business’s swap meet area, vendors, storage units and recreational vehicle spaces on the property at the 2100 block of North National Avenue in Chehalis.

They say he was collecting rents for the spaces and keeping the cash for himself, over a two to three year period.

According to charging documents, the alleged thefts came to light when one RV space tenant contacted the property manger TJ Guyer about relocating and staff there could not find a record for the woman.

The transactions were investigated by a loss prevention specialist hired by the business and a financial audit conducted by the owner on Friday turned up numerous discrepancies, according to charging documents.

Charging documents indicate Briscoe signed a statement for the loss prevention investigator estimating he may have taken as much as $30,000 and made a handwritten listing of instances he could recall amounting to $18,980.

When interviewed by Chehalis Police Department Officer Troy Thornburg, Briscoe said he believed he had taken somewhere around $24,000 over the past few years, the documents state.

He reportedly admitted to providing tenants with their rental receipt, then destroying his copy and keeping the cash. Briscoe explained to Thornburg he was bankrupt and falling behind on medical bills, charging documents state.

First-degree theft carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and / or a $20,000 fine. Lewis County prosecutors attached a so-called aggravating factor that the crime is a major economic offense.

Lewis County District Court Judge R.W. Buzzard set his bail at $5,000.

Briscoe is expected to be arraigned on Thursday morning, in Lewis County Superior Court.


Yard Birds in Chehalis sits between North National and Northeast Kresky avenues.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, April 28th, 2014


• A deputy driving down Front Street in Mineral about 1 a.m. on Saturday came across what appeared to be a human hand, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The find was taken into evidence and turned out to be a bear paw, the sheriff’s office said today. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said it’s something that happens on occasion, apparently some people’s idea of a joke. “When you take the fur and hair off, it looks like a human hand,” Brown said. “And there’s no reason for it to have been skinned the way it was.” It’ not funny, Brown said, it’s a very time intensive investigation that has to take place following this kind of occurrence. She said its hard enough to tell the difference, it has to be treated as though it might be human. The extremity was inspected at the coroner’s office this morning. It’s happened often enough, perhaps three times in the past five years, that a forensic anthropologist at the King County Medical Examiner’s Office taught a sheriff’s detective how to do an examination of the bone structure so deputies wouldn’t have to transport paws to Seattle so often, she said.


• A deputy took a report on Saturday that someone broke into a home on the 100 block of Cottonwood Lane in Packwood stealing a 36-inch Sanyo flat screen television, three cordless drills, a DVD player, and a comforter. The break-in happened sometime during the previous two weeks, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Centralia police responded about 3:30 a.m. yesterday to a report of a burglary at the 1300 block of Lum Road. The case remains under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police were called just before 6 a.m. yesterday to a report of a burglary at the 100 block of West High Street in Centralia. The case remains under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• A red 1999 Chrysler 300 was stolen about 11 p.m. on Friday when its owner left it running while going into a residence on the 1000 block of Mellen Street in Centralia.


• A 16-year-old boy found hiding in some bushes by a police dog about three blocks away from an incident at the 1500 block of Windsor Avenue in Centralia on Friday evening was arrested for trespassing and booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center. Officers called about 7:40 p.m. initially were told it was an interrupted burglary, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• A 69-year-old Packwood man fishing on Riffe Lake on Saturday reported someone prowled his truck while it was parked at the Taidnapam Park north boat launch. It happened between 10:30 a.m. and noon, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. items taken from the unlocked toolbox in the bed of the pickup included tire chains, a shovel, two quarts of motor oil and a small toolbox, according to the sheriff’s office.


• A 24-year-old Ethel man escaped serious injury when he took a corner too fast, hit a ditch and rolled his 2004 Acura RSX onto its top south of Chehalis over the weekend. A deputy called to the 600 block of Tauscher Road after the approximately 3 a.m. crash on Saturday was told by the driver he was in a hurry to get home and it was foggy, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The car was described as a total loss. The driver declined aid but was cited for driving too fast for conditions, according to the sheriff’s office.

• A 76-year-old Ethel woman backing out of a church parking lot yesterday morning was cited for failure to yield the right of way following a collision at the 4200 block of Jackson Highway south of Chehalis. Her Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Geo prism that she hit both sustained major damage, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The 39-year-old woman in the Prism was hospitalized with neck and back pain and then cited for driving with a suspended license and not having insurance, according to the sheriff’s office.

• Two were injured, including the 18-year-old driver from Chehalis, when a car carrying four teenagers struck a tree after running off U.S. Highway 12 just east of Montesano on Saturday morning. Jessica A. Westcott, 18, from Chehalis, was transported to Summit Pacific Medical Center with unspecified injuries, according to the Washington State Patrol. Troopers called about 10:30 a.m. determined the Honda Civic had been eastbound when a passenger in the front seat grabbed the steering wheel, jerking the car off the roadway to the right and into the tree. Also injured was Caleb L. Hall, 19, from Hoquiam, who was taken to Community Hospital, according to the state patrol. Hospitalized for precautionary measures were Brandon J. Lynch, 19, of Montesano and Shawn M. Anderson, 17, of Hoquiam. The collision is under investigation.

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving under the influence, misdemeanor domestic assault, misdemeanor theft, a 53-year-old man arrested after his wife told police he accused her of cheating, checked inside her for sperm and punched her more than 20 times; responses for alarms, violation of protection order, vehicle versus pole, single-vehicle wreck into a guard rail when an animal crossed a county road in front of a car … and more.

Coroner: Combination of prescription drugs blamed for deaths of Napavine brother and sister

Monday, April 28th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Authorities say the heavy duty pain medication Fentanyl led to the deaths of a pair of grown siblings in Napavine in February.

It’s not clear from the investigation and toxicology results if Cheryl Ausland, 50, accidentally took too much; she died from a combination of that, an insomnia medication and an antidepressant, according to the Lewis County coroner.

Her 59-year-old brother  Robert Collier, is believed to have taken his own life after Ausland died.

Aid and deputies were called to the home the morning of February 18, when co-workers of Ausland went to check on her because she hadn’t shown up for work. The pair lived together in the house on the 100 block of East Stella Street.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Sgt. Dusty Breen said the investigation is not quite wrapped up, but detectives don’t suspect any foul play in Ausland’s death.

Collier’s death was determined to be suicide in part because of the amount of drugs in his system, as well as other things at the scene, Breen said. He said he couldn’t share more details until he finishes his review, expected to be within a week or so, he said.

Breen said it appeared the deaths occurred during the 24-hour period before they were discovered and it seemed as though Collier died after his sister did.

The coroner’s specific cause of death is listed as acute intoxication from Fentanyl and Zolpidem – a drug that slows brain activity to allow for sleep, according to Coroner Warren McLeod.

In Ausland’s case, those two drugs combined with the antidepressant Nortriptyline led to her death, McLeod said.

Who the various medications were prescribed to isn’t clear.

Ausland’s manner of death is labeled undetermined, and they probably never will know the answer as to whether it was an accident or intentional, McLeod said.

Breen said Fentanyl  is a powerful pain medication and is renowned for causing overdoses It’s usually when used in combination with other drugs, he said.

It usually comes in the form of a patch, he said.

Breaking news: Body discovered on street in Centralia

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Updated at 4:06 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia police called early this morning to a report of a body lying on the side of a Centralia street are just now wrapping up their scene investigation.

Officers responded about 6:20 a.m. to the 100 block of East Third Street, just off North Tower Avenue, according to Officer John Panco.

The preliminary investigation concluded he did not die from natural causes, Panco said.

There were signs of some trauma to the body. It’s a suspicious death, he said.

“I know detectives are doing the best they can, everybody wants to find out what happened,” Panco said.

The man appears to be older than 60, and is believed to be a person who lives in the vicinity, according to Panco.

“We have an idea, but I’m unaware if it’s been confirmed,” he said.

The coroner took custody of the body for further examination at their office.

Mayfield Lake incident claims one boater, another rescued

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

One man is dead after he was pulled from the water following an outing on a boat at Mayfield Lake.

Aid and deputies were called about 11:15 a.m. today to an area near Ike Kinswa Park at the northwest portion of the lake.

Firefighters from Mossyrock rescued one man off a small island while members of the Salkum fire department responded to a second man on the shore at the park, according to Lewis County Fire District 3 Chief Doug Fosburg.

The second man didn’t make it, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said the pair had stopped on the island and while there, the 12-foot boat began to drift away so one of the men jumped into the lake to go after it.

The water is very, very cold, Aust said.

His companion saw he was in distress and attempted to get to him, but had to turn back because of the cold temperatures, Aust said.

A park employee on the shore was able to retrieve the boat and then the man, Aust said.

Fosburg said one was transported to Morton General Hospital and the other to Providence Centralia Hospital. He described the individual picked up from the island as hypothermic.

No names were released.

Aust said today was the first day of fishing season, so they may have been fishing, but he didn’t know for sure.

Initial reports are the men are from Lewis County, and the deceased is 35 years old, but that wasn’t yet confirmed, Aust said.

Kayla Croft-Payne: Detective actively on a trail for missing Lewis County girl

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Tom Payne, right, father of Kayla Croft-Payne and her aunts talk with detective Dan Riordan about the case today following a vigil on the fourth anniversary of when the teen disappeared.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – She wasn’t tossed down a well in Winlock, and it doesn’t appear her online modeling portfolio delivered her into the hands of some unknown photographer.

But four years after 18-year-old Kayla Croft-Payne failed to return home, a detective said he has some ideas of what might have happened.

“There’s a lot of rumors, a lot of speculation,” Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Dan Riordan said.

The friends and associates of the Lewis County girl like to talk a lot, just not necessarily to law enforcement, he said.

Riordan is working on the case that began in May of 2010, and spoke to some individuals today. He says over the next month, he has some investigating to follow up on.


Kayla Croft-Payne

He didn’t share his theory, or very specifically how likely he thinks it is this path will lead to answers.

“I can hope, I can pray, I’d like to get this off my desk,” Riordan said. “And I’d like to bring the family some closure.”

Croft-Payne was living in a trailer between Chehalis and Napavine on April 28, 2010 when she last logged onto her MySpace Internet account. She was reported missing a week later by a friend who hadn’t seen or heard from her for several days.

As they have before, her father, mother, other family and friends gathered today at Penny Playground in Recreation Park in Chehalis in recognition of the anniversary of when she vanished. They released balloons with messages to the young woman.

Again, they appealed for anyone who knows anything to speak up.

“I miss her dearly,” her mother Michelle Croft said. “I just wish someone would find her and bring her home.”

Her father Thomas Payne, formerly from Longview, traveled from his home north of Seattle, with his younger daughter.

“Every year I say I’m not going to do another one of these,” Payne said. “But if I stop, it’s like giving up on my daughter.”

Thirteen-year-old Jada is having a tough time too, he said.

“She felt like I do, she didn’t want to give up on sissy,” Payne said.

Many theories have swirled around the disappearance, such as perhaps Croft-Payne died of a drug overdose, prompting the sheriff’s office to point out hiding a body is not a felony.

The sheriff’s office and family have described the young woman as jobless and somewhat transient, living and staying in Chehalis, in Vader and Winlock in the year before she went missing.

She was also known to spend time in Pierce, Grays Harbor and even Kitsap counties. One early search with cadaver-sniffing dogs took place in the Toutle area in Cowlitz County.

Riordan, the third detective who has handled the case, led a search last May in which deputies spent two days digging through mounds of garbage and then excavated and drained two wells at property on Ferrier Road outside Winlock.

Nothing of interest was located except for a dog carcass.

Her aunt Karen Hinton has connected with a Vancouver, Wash.-based organization that last year at this time was investigating women and girls exploited by online modeling sites.

Croft-Payne wanted to be a model, and some of her last postings on social media sites suggested she had gone to get pictures taken for a modeling portfolio.

Detectives ran into somewhat of a dead end when they looked into the site called Model Mayhem. Using a search warrant to get information from the company that houses information for the site, deputies were told there was no account history on the website for Croft-Payne.

It turned out her family located the particular account they had seen and it turned out to be on a different modeling website. Detectives followed up on that too, without any results, Riordan said.

“A red herring,” he said. “That’s been cleared.”

Croft-Payne is a white female with blue eyes and brown hair. Detectives describe her as 5-feet 9-inches tall and about 130 pounds.

Anyone with any information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 360-748-9286.

Anonymous tips can be left at: Crime Stoppers of Lewis County 1-800-748-6422.


For background, read : “Kayla Croft-Payne: Missing Lewis County teen’s parents still seeking answers” from Friday March 25, 2011, here

Tom Payne, father, and Michelle Croft, mother, of Kayla Croft-Payne are among those who came together at Penny Playground.


Balloons float away from those gathered at Penny Playground to remember Kayla Croft-Payne. / Courtesy photo by National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation

Firefighter Gebhart to take the lead in Chehalis, for now

Friday, April 25th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS -  Capt. Rob Gebhart will be the interim fire chief in Chehalis while the city searches for someone to fill the top post with the departure of Chief Jim Walkowski.

Chehalis City Manager Merlin MacReynold appointed Gebhart this morning.

Walkowki, longtime head of Riverside Fire Authority in Centralia has been halftime chief at the Chehalis Fire Department. He’s taken a new job in Spokane County that begins May 1.

Chehalis Fire Capt. Casey Beck said he was among those who recommended the move when MacReynold sat down this morning with the captains and Walkowski to discuss the department and its future.

“Merlin leaned right over, shook Rob’s hand and said, you got it, you start Monday,” Beck said.

Gebhart, a Chehalis firefighter for 27 years, has led the department before. He served as acting chief for about a year and a half beginning in early 2007 when Chief Bill Nacht retired. Gebhart was assistant chief below Nacht. He first became a captain in 1996.

MacReynold said the city is just starting the process to hire a permanent chief. It could take three to six months, he said.

The move comes because of Walkowski’s unexpected departure. Riverside is cutting personnel and top officers, due to sudden large decreases in revenue primarily from the reduced contribution of taxes from TransAlta’s power plant, as it winds down operations.

The Chehalis Fire Department and Riverside Fire Authority had been working more closely together, moving toward a functional consolidation. The changes won’t necessarily prevent that, according to McReynold.

“Everybody’s committed to moving forward, but obviously at a slower pace,” he said.

Gebhart, 49, said he likes the idea of filling the interim position internally, because it’s for such a short time period.

“I’m very glad Merlin made that decision,” Gebhart said. “Not specifically for me, but for the department.”

Decades old child sex crime case for Ricky Riffe on calendar for next week

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Ricky Riffe, prisoner in red, waits as a clerk gets his lawyer on the telephone for a trial confirmation hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Prosecutors have offered a deal to convicted murderer and former Mossyrock resident Ricky Riffe if he pleads guilty to charges he raped and molested his 9-year-old step-daughter in the mid-1980s.

Riffe, 55, is already serving a sentence of nearly 103 years, following his conviction last fall in the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and shotgun deaths of Ed and Minnie Maurin, an elderly Ethel couple.

He was arrested in mid-2012 in the old case, and extradited from his longtime home in King Salmon, Alaska back to Lewis County where he was found guilty after a six-week trial.  Early last year, while he was in the jail awaiting trial, prosecutors filed charges accusing him of sex crimes, saying new information came to light during the Maurin investigation.

Riffe appeared in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon, where lawyers were expected to confirm if they are prepared for the trial which is scheduled for next week.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told the judge there had been an offer made by his office, but he understood Riffe’s attorney hadn’t yet conveyed it to or discussed it with his client.

Meyer didn’t disclose what the deal consisted of.

Seattle-based defense attorney John Crowley couldn’t attend the hearing, but represented his client via speakerphone.

Crowley began to explain he was involved in two trials in Eastern Washington, and while he was there, meant to visit Riffe in prison to discuss the offer. But then he learned Riffe had already been put on a bus back to Lewis County, he said.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt was stern, cutting the lawyer off before he could request a postponement.

“We’ve gone out of our way to preserve dates for you,” Hunt said.

Hunt told him he expects either the trial to begin on time next week, or if a plea deal is reached, then a plea must made before that date.

Riffe has denied any sexual contact with the girl, according to charging documents.

Meyer said the trial is set to begin next Thursday and could last five days.


Ricky Riffe is back in Lewis County Superior Court for another trial, accused of child molestation from the 1980s.


For background, read “Battle continues between Ricky Riffe, Lewis County prosecutors” from Friday January 3, 2014, here

And, “Attorneys dispute statute of limitations rules on surprise child sex charge for Maurin double murder defendant” from Saturday February 23, 2013, here

Morton teen pleads not guilty to assaulting mother with knife

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 15-year-old Morton boy arrested last week after allegedly stabbing his mother will remain locked up as his case proceeds, a judge ordered yesterday.

The teen was taken to the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center in Chehalis following the incident at the family home on April 14.

He appeared before a judge yesterday morning for his arraignment, in the same building in Lewis County Juvenile Court. He is charged with second-degree assault.

His only words spoken during the short hearing were “Yes, your honor” and “not guilty”.

The boy is represented by Centralia attorney David Brown. Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Nelson is handling the case.

According to charging documents, the teen and his mother argued when he wanted to walk his girlfriend home from school, he overheard his mother laughing about him and he told police he’d had enough.

The documents describe wounds on the mother’s arm, leg and chest, as well as a knife about 14 inches long.

Rhiannon Foister, 35, was released from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle last Wednesday and is home recovering, Morton Police Department Police Chief Dan Mortensen indicated earlier this week.

Brown said the next steps for him are investigating the case.

The offense carries a possible penalty of 15 to 36 weeks of incarceration, Brown said.

A fact finding hearing, similar to a trial, Brown said, is scheduled for May 20.


For background, read “Morton mother recovering from stabbing, teen son remains locked up” from Thursday April 17, 2014, here

Centralia police: Dealer of ecstasy busted again

Monday, April 21st, 2014

A Ford Excursion stretch limousine awaiting auction is one of four vehicles confiscated now by Centralia’s special Anti-Crime Team from suspected drug dealer Jai J. Bhagwandin.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 29-year-old man arrested last month by Centralia drug officers for allegedly selling  ecstasy was arrested again after two informants working with police reportedly bought $200 worth of  ecstasy from him in the parking lot at Spiffy’s restaurant south of Chehalis.

Jai J. Bhagwandin, 29, was taken into custody on Friday, apprehended by law enforcement officers after he drove away following the encounter. He appeared in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon, charged with one count of delivery of a controlled substance.

His bail was set at $100,000.

The judge was told he retained a lawyer in his previous case, but ran out of money so qualified for a public defender.

Bhagwandin has 11 pending drug offense counts in Thurston County, the judge was told.

It was March 6 when Centralia’s special Anti-Crime team seized three vehicles, cash and drugs from a Lacey home following an investigation into suspected suppliers to numerous local drug dealers.

A search of that residence turned up about two pounds of hallucinogenic mushrooms, six ounces of suspected hash, five pounds of packaged marijuana, some prescription pills and less than a pound of MDMA, also known as ecstasy or Molly, according to police, as well as a large amount of U.S. currency stored in seal-a-meal packaging.

Bhagwandin now resides in Onalaska where his mother works as an alternative health care provider; his father was present in court today, defense attorney Bob Schroeter said as he appealed for lower bail.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said further charges were expected as roughly a pound of marijuana was located in Bhagwandin’s Subaru Legacy following his recent arrest.

His arraignment  is scheduled for this coming Thursday.

Teen accuses school bus driver of rape

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Richard L. Crumbliss is directed to the defendant’s table during a bail hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An Onalaska school bus driver is jailed following his arrest for allegedly raping a teenage relative in her bed during spring break.

Bail was set over the weekend for 43-year-old Richard L. Crumbliss at $750,000. A different judge today reduced the amount to $100,000.

Crumbliss appeared in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon, shackled at his hands and waist, for the bail hearing.

Temporary defense attorney Bob Schroeter in asking for a lower bond noted his client is a volunteer firefighter and also a part time substitute bus driver.

“But, he’s no longer doing that,” Schroeter said as he described how the Onalaska resident’s financial situation qualified him for a court-appointed lawyer.

Charging documents describe a deputy responding on Thursday to speak to the teenage girl, at the behest of a victim’s advocate.

Deputy Susan Shannon was told the girl came home drunk on April 9 and three times during the night, Crumbliss came into her bedroom, while her mother was home and still up and awake during the first two alleged encounters.

Shannon was still investigating when Crumbliss phoned 911 to report the girl had run away, according to charging documents.

According to the court documents, without solicitation, he told the deputy the girl had accused him of rape and he hadn’t seen her since the night before.

He called the girl a huge fibber and worried about his reputation as an officer of the fire department, according to the documents.

The girl told authorities she’d overheard both he and her mother calling her a liar about it.

Deputies subsequently searched the home, and Crumbliss and his wife offered that they had collected the girls underclothes from that night and saved them, the documents state.

He also told the deputy he is never alone with the girl, his wife is always present because about two and half months earlier he was accused of a different sexual assault, according to the documents. He was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail on Friday morning.

Judge Richard Brosey this afternoon was told the girl has been taken into protective custody.

Brosey ordered Crumbliss, if he makes bail, to have no unsupervised contact with minor females; and further ordered his spouse may not be the one to supervise any contacts.

Centralia lawyer David Arcuri was appointed to represent him.

Crumbliss is charged with two counts of third-degree rape of a child and one count of first-degree incest. His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

The girl also told authorities, according to charging documents, that when she was 12, he gave her vodka mixed with strawberry drink while she traveled with him in his semi truck and he sexually abused her in the sleeper. He denied the accusation, but admitted giving her strawberry vodka, charging documents state.

Morton mother recovering from stabbing, teen son remains locked up

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 15-year-old Morton boy locked up for allegedly stabbing his mother told police he was upset, that she’d laughed about him twice to other people that afternoon and he’d had enough.

She told him to get a towel to wrap around her arm, and he did, according to court documents. But after 35-year-old Rhiannon Foister went downstairs to the living room, fell beneath a table and told him to get her something to put on her wounds, he told her no, that he wanted her to hurt like he had for the past 15 years, the documents state.

And the teen walked out the door to stand in the driveway to wait for police.

Morton Police Department Police Chief Dan Mortensen said he was called around 3:35 p.m. Monday to the home at the 800 block of Overlook Drive in the East Lewis County town. The boy told the chief he stabbed his mother and so he was handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol car, according to the documents.

His brother and sister were home when it happened. Foister was transported to Morton General Hospital and then flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for additional treatment.

A hospital spokesperson said yesterday morning Foister was listed in satisfactory condition.

The teen was booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center, and charged on Tuesday with second-degree assault.

A juvenile court judge at a detention hearing the same day ordered him held at least until his arraignment next Tuesday, according to Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher.

That’s also when a trial date and pre-trial hearing will be scheduled, Meagher said.

Court documents, based on the police reports, indicate the police chief recovered a knife about 14 inches long which the boy said he’d gotten out of the kitchen.

Mortensen told Meagher the mother had five to seven stab wounds, including  one to her chest, but he had yet to get a full statement from her.

The documents give the following account, mostly from the 15-year-old’s conversation with police:

The boy said he’d called his mother from school, to ask if he could walk his girlfriend home from school and then walk the rest of the way home, but she said no, she’d pick him up and did so.

That upset him, and then his mother was talking with another mother, and laughing about him not being able to walk his girlfriend home, he told police.

“She said he was going to be turned in to his juvenile probation officer for violating his conditions of release,” the boy related.

Once they got home, the two continued their disagreement, and after he went upstairs to his room, he could hear his mother talking on the phone to someone else, laughing and saying she was going to call his probation officer, he said.

The boy told police he’d had enough.

He went into the living room and told his siblings to leave, because he and his mother were going to have serious conversation.

He asked his mother to walk to her bedroom, where she sat down on the bed and they faced off.

“(He) stated he pulled out the knife and wanted to scare her and show her how serious he was,” court documents state. “He stated he hadn’t intended to stab her with it, only to scare her.”

His mother said go ahead and stab her, if that’s what he was going to do, the boy related to police.

The teen paused and began crying, but after encouraged by the officer to continue, said he lunged at his mom and stabbed her in the arm. She moved away, and he stabbed her in the leg. They continued yelling at each other.

“He added he knew what was happening but was also kind of blacked out,” the documents state.

The siblings came to see what the yelling and screaming was about, and they all ended up back down stairs.

Mortensen describes he and a deputy responding, and arriving to find one juvenile throwing items around the porch saying he was going to kill the boy for stabbing his mother, seeing a pool of blood around Foister’s feet, and then a girl who helped the chief put direct pressure on a towel on Foister’s leg while he spoke with a 911 dispatcher to get aid.

The teen told the chief his probation was for smoking pot and truancy.

The boy told police he went outside to wait for police, and also said he didn’t want to remain inside and watch his mother bleed out.

Chief Mortensen on Tuesday morning described the reason for the assault only as “family issues, apparently”.

The boy is represented by Centralia attorney David Brown.

He’s 15, so he will not automatically sent to adult court, according to Meagher.

Centralia’s new fire chief will be old chief

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Assistant Fire Chiefs Rick Mack, left, and Mike Kytta, watch the board vote to promote Kytta to the top post at Riverside Fire Authority.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Assistant Chief Mike Kytta will replace outgoing Chief Jim Walkowski at Riverside Fire Authority, the department that protects Centralia and it surrounding area.

The move came this evening when the agency’s board of commissioners accepted Walkowski’s resignation and voted to appoint the Fords Prairie resident to the top spot.

“Thank you for the opportunity, it’s an honor to assume that position,” Kytta responded. “I’m looking forward to working with the board, the labor unit, the volunteers and most importantly the community.

“I’m optimistic we will find a way to preserve services for the community.”

Kytta, 54, was chief for a decade of the former Lewis County Fire District 12 which completed a merger with the Centralia Fire Department under Walkowski’s leadership.

Kytta voluntarily stepped down to minimize potential conflicts as that process moved along with the hiring of Walkowski from outside the area.

He was honored by his peers statewide in 2006 with a “Chief Award” in part because of that move, which the Washington State Association of Fire Chief’s called his uncommon commitment to doing the right thing for the public.

Now however, facing a steeply declining budget, the organization has cut firefighter positions this year. It was poised to trim the trio of top officers down to two, when Walkowski accepted a position earlier this month in the Spokane area. He will remain at Riverside through the end of this month.

Kytta, a Centralia native, was a 16-year-old Explorer Scout when he began as a volunteer firefighter. He has 38 years of experience, the past 17 as a full time firefighter.

He has his work cut out for him.

Because of a changing landscape regarding the collection of property taxes, Riverside is operating with an annual budget of about $3.9 million, compared with $4.6 million last year.

It is on track to lose six paid personnel this year, to meet that budget.

The board is planning to ask voters in August for what’s called an excess levy, to prevent next year’s revenue from dropping to $3.1 million, a scenario the department’s leaders say would mean a much different service level for fires and medical calls.

Kytta has grave concerns about explaining the need to the public, without coming across as threatening.

On the promotion, he says:

“It’s exciting, in that I am optimistic,” he said. “I have very deep concerns if we’re not able to earn the public’s support on the levy.”