Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Prosecutor: Daughter of dying Packwood man used debit card to steal thousands

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
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By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 56-year-old woman has turned herself in to authorities, after allegedly admitting she stole nearly $3,000 from her dying father when she went on a four-day shopping spree with his debit card.

It began with a call to a dispute at a Packwood residence in the summer of 2003 and after a warrant was issued for her arrest, Nancy K. Copelin disappeared.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said yesterday he finally recently found Copelin, living in Alaska.

Meager got a governor’s warrant for her extradition but Copelin contacted him before it was served.

“I told her if she got right down here, I’d put a hold on it,” Meagher said.

The former Packwood woman flew down last week, and appeared before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court on Tuesday to hear her charge of first-degree theft. Meagher allowed her to be released on an unsecured bond pending trial, as her plane ticket to return home the next day was already paid for, he said.

According to the nearly 12-year-old charging documents, two deputies were called to the 100 block of Holiday Lane in Packwood on June 5, 2003, regarding a assault.

The documents offer the following account: There had been a dispute over the ownership of a van belonging to Thomas Barnes who lived there.

“Mr. Barnes was in the process of dying, and the issue of who would receive his van had come up,” then-Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Michael Maltby wrote.

One of the parties was asked by his grandmother to move the vehicle, to take it out of the possession of Barnes’ daughter, Copelin.

In the process, her purse was retrieved, it fell to the ground and among the items that tumbled out were wads of cash and receipts.

There was $1,020 in $20 bills. There were also five receipts from Sears, Wal-Mart and an un-named business for the purchase of numerous items, totaling $1,787.44.

Copelin, then 43, was asked about the receipts and stated they were because her father had provided her with his ATM card and pin number, and told her she could go out and get whatever she needed.

When deputies spoke with Copelin a second time, she reflected her dad did not intend for her to make withdrawals from his savings account, and did not intend for her to buy most of the items that she had.

Meagher said the Alaska woman has been cooperative.

Her arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 3.

Election Day: Numerous fire departments and candidates seeking support

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Election day is near, with initiatives, local measures and races for municipal councils, school boards and, commissioners who govern local fire districts.

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Five fire departments in Lewis County are asking voters to support them in various ways. Three districts have contested commissioner positions.

Ballots must be postmarked on or by Tuesday or hand delivered before 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

Check with the Lewis County Auditor’s Office, Elections Department for information, at 351 NW North Street in Chehalis or 360-740-1164 and 360-740-1278.

BONDS FOR NEW FIRE STATION

Lewis County Fire District 3, Mossyrock:
Commissioners are asking the public to approve up to $1.2 million in general obligation bonds to finance the construction and equipping of a new fire station on property already acquired at 238 Mossyrock Road East.

INCREASE FIRE SERVICES LEVY

Lewis County Fire District 5, Napavine:
Commissioners are asking citizens to permanently increase property tax levy from .83 per $1,000 of assessed value up to $1.25 to pay for maintenance, operations and capital facilities, and set the limit factor at 103 percent for each of the following five years.

FIRE SERVICES LEVY

Lewis County Fire District 11, Pe Ell:
Commissioners are asking citizens to permanently increase property tax levy to an amount of $1 per $1,000 of assessed value for maintenance, operations and capital facilities, and set the limit factor at 106 percent for each of the following five years.

EMS LEVY

Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20, Vader:
Commissioners asking the public to permanently increase property tax levy for emergency medical services up to.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, and set the limit factor at 106 percent for each of the following five years.

RENEW EMS LEVY

Chehalis Fire Department
The city is asking voters to renew an expiring levy for emergency medical services, of up to .50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for the next six years.

CONTESTED RACES FOR COMMISSIONER POSITIONS

Lewis County Fire District 2, Toledo:
Commissioner position No. 1
• Mike Thomas
• Dale Nielsen

Lewis County Fire District 8, Salkum:
Commissioner position No. 1
• Don Taylor
• Rick Wood

Lewis County Fire District 15, Winlock
Commissioner position No. 1
• Stan Hankins
• Jerry Craft

• See a sample ballot for details

• Read more details in the online Voters’ Guide

• On Tuesday shortly after 8 p.m, see the preliminary results from the Lewis County Auditor’s Office, Elections Department.

Wet and windy weekend accompanies end to daylight saving time

Sunday, November 1st, 2015
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Residents along the Interstate 5 corridor experience wind and those in the Cascade Mountains get snow. / Image from National Weather Service

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – More wind is coming our way, on the heels of a rainstorm that inundated some city streets and drove the Cowlitz River over its banks in East Lewis County.

The National Weather Service this morning issued a wind advisory that’s in effect until dinner time.

The Southwest Interior could see southerly winds from 15 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph, according to the weather service.

Forecasters expect winds to increase late this morning and peak in strength during the early and mid afternoon hours. They should diminish quickly this evening.

Today’s weather could cause downed tree limbs and even local power outages, according to the National Weather Service.

Minor flooding occurred overnight along the Cowlitz River around Randle. The river crested at 1 o’clock this morning at 18.69 feet.

The city of Centralia declared a local emergency for a few hours yesterday afternoon because of the results of the heavy rainfall, offering sandbags to citizens.

The weather service warns that the rain has increased the risk of landslides.

“Property owners in steep slope areas should keep an eye out for changes such as ground cracks or downslope movement of plants and soil,” NWS stated. “If you see signs of a landslide leave the area immediately if it is safe to do so.”

The overnight change off of daylight saving time is also ushering in the first significant snowfall of the season for higher passes and mountain highways.

Four to eight inches of snow is expected to accumulate at White Pass today through tonight.

A winter storm warning for the west slopes of the Cascade Mountains remains in effect until 11 a.m. tomorrow.
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The link for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Seattle can be found here and also always on the right hand column of this page, labeled “Weather Alerts, forecasts”

The link for the National Weather Service’s river level observation and forecast for Western Washington can be found here and also  always on the right hand column of this page, labeled “River levels”

Rainfall prompts emergency declaration in Centralia, concerns elsewhere

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A flood watch issued on Thursday for most of Western Washington warning of small stream flooding and possibly worse remains in place for counties including Lewis, Thurston, Pierce, Grays Harbor, Mason and King.

The city of Centralia this afternoon declared a local emergency in reference to the continued rainfall.

Moderate to heavy rain is expected to continue for the next 12 hours, causing localized flooding,” Police Chief Carl Nielsen stated in a news release. “At this time the city is monitoring China Creek.

“The city is also watching the river level and at this time the rivers are not expected to reach flood stage.”

A single sand bag station will be operational by 2 p.m. in the 100 block of Center Street. That’s at Pearl Street near the downtown fire station.

Early this morning the National Weather Service indicated the heaviest rain is expected over the Mount Rainier area with another two and half to three inches predicted to fall over the next 12 hours.

The current model from the weather service shows minor to moderate flooding on the Cowlitz River in East Lewis County, peaking between tonight and Sunday morning.

The U.S. Forest Service yesterday warned recreationists the event known as a Pineapple Express would result in substantial runoff from small streams draining Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams and could trigger dangerous landslides and debris flows.

Mount Rainier National Park said visitor access will be impacted and evacuations could become necessary.

“Travel in the park is discouraged until the storm passes,” Park Superintendent Randy King stated.

A winter storm watch remains in effect at higher locations including White Pass until Monday morning. The first significant snowfall of the season is expected later in the weekend and travelers should prepare for slippery roadways and poor visibility, according to the weather service.

“The heavy rain will come to an end from north to south this afternoon into the early evening hours as the front moves south of the area,” forecasters state.

The weather services recommends the public monitor their latest forecast and be ready to act quickly if a flood warning is issued, or if flooding is observed.

The link for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Seattle can be found here and also always on the right hand column of this page, labeled “Weather Alerts, forecasts”

The link for the National Weather Service’s river level observation and forecast for Western Washington can be found here and also  always on the right hand column of this page, labeled “River levels”

No felony charges forthcoming from triple-fatality Onalaska wreck

Friday, October 30th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Investigators concluded the allegedly drunken driver in a two-vehicle crash this summer in Onalaska that killed three teenagers in the oncoming vehicle is not to blame for the accident.

Initial reports indicated the suspected point of impact was exactly in the middle of state Route 508, but the final report showed 17-year-old Arnold W. Mullinax crossed the centerline, according to the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office.

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The 2002 Land Rover Discovery.

The Onalaska teen was carrying seven other young people in his Land Rover Discovery, most of whom were not wearing seat belts.

Mullinax and 13-year-old Taylor N. Thompson, also from Onalaska, died at the scene. Dakota L. Dunivin, 18, from Chehalis, passed away the following day at the hospital.

Joseph W. Rogerson, 36, from Chehalis, was arrested that night for driving under the influence and his case in Lewis County District Court has been in a holding pattern as prosecutors waited for the final report from investigators with the Washington State Patrol.

The July 13 nighttime crash left a community in mourning.

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The 2004 Ford Freestyle minivan

Responders from five area fire departments arrived to the scene near Hyak Road to find Mullinax’s Land Rover upside down, Rogerson’s Ford minivan on the roadway and 10 potential patients. All the survivors except for Rogerson’s wife were transported to hospitals.

Rogerson’s case has been dragged out, because if the investigation revealed the wreck was his fault, prosecutors were prepared to charge him with felonies such as vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer today met with the families of the victims to apprise them of the findings, before speaking about his decision that no further charges would be filed against the Chehalis resident.

He explained to them that there’s simply not a law to hold someone criminally liable who did not cause an accident, he said.

Meyer said he has had the final report for about a month.

“After the measurements were taken, the scene recreated and the vehicles inspected, it was found Mr. Rogerson was in his own lane of travel,” Meyer said.

Meyer said they know Mullinax’s crossed the centerline, although they don’t know for sure why that happened.

“A moment of inattention is all it would take,” Meyer said.

He acknowledged there was information in the state patrol’s report that offered clues, but out of respect for the families of the victims declined to elaborate.

The final reports showed Mullinax had no alcohol or any drug in his system, Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said.

Rogerson’s blood alcohol level that night was .15, according to Meyer.

Meyer said investigators concluded with the way the accident occurred, even a sober driver in the van would not have been able to avoid it.

“This is obviously a huge tragedy, three young children lost their lives,” Meyer said. “That’s the key we take away.

“We always have to be cognizant of what happens (on the road) and let our loved ones know they are loved ones.”

Rogerson’s next court hearing is Wednesday. He has been free on a $5,000 appearance bond

Among his court-ordered conditions are that he may not consume any alcohol, he may not drive without an ignition interlock device installed in his vehicle and has to wear an alcohol monitor bracelet which will detect if he drinks.
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For background, read “Charging decision expected soon in Onalaska triple fatality wreck” from Wednesday September 23, 2015, here

Centralia police dog accused of biting innocent bystander during pursuit

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia woman is recovering after an unexpected encounter with a police dog last night at her back door.

Janice Arias said she was sitting at her kitchen table visiting with two friends when she heard a commotion outside.

“I had my little six-pound Chihuahua in my arms, I opened the back door, I had my flashlight,” Arias said. “I seen an officer moving around, and the next thing I see, is a big black dog head coming at me.”

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Lobo

Arias said the K-9 bit her twice on her left breast and left a seven-inch scratch on her inner thigh.

She was wearing pajama pants.

“I was in shock, and screaming, I dropped my Chihuahua,” she said. “My pit bull Tigger heard me and came running, and got between me and K-9 Lobo.”

She said the two dogs began fighting and the officer came over and gave his dog commands like, “release” and “out”.

“The officer left, and all I heard was ‘get your ass back in the house’,” she said.

Centralia Police Officer Ruben Ramirez had been attempting to pull over a stolen Honda Accord along North Pearl Street, north of Reynolds Avenue.

After its driver jumped out of the still-moving vehicle and fled on foot, the officer activated his door release and called Lobo to apprehend the felony suspect, according to police.

“As Lobo was moving toward Officer Ramirez, a resident came outside of her house carrying a small dog in her arms,” Centralia police stated in a news release today. “Officer Ramirez recognized Lobo was going towards the resident and immediately called the dog off and commanded Lobo to lay down.”

Centralia police say as the K-9 laid down, he was almost simultaneously attacked by the pit bull.

Ramirez broke up the dog fight and instructed the woman to go back inside because a suspect was still outstanding, according to police.

The suspect got away.

Lobo, a German Shepherd, came to the Centralia Police Department at age 1 in mid-2010.

Earlier this year, he was given the Centralia Police Department Lifesaving Award, for grabbing the arm of a suspect who produced a gun while engaged with Ramirez.

Police Chief Carl Nielsen in the formal statement said they are sorry the resident was injured, but at this point, it’s not clear which of the three dogs is to blame.

“This was a dynamic incident with a lot of different things occurring at the same time,” Nielsen stated.

The incident is being reviewed by department staff, according to Nielsen. Arias said police Sgt. Carl Buster took her statement.

Nielsen noted how thankful the department is Ramirez has “outstanding control” over his dog. Detective Patty Finch said Lobo is not being put on leave.

Arias disputes that she stepped outside, at least not until an ambulance arrived to take her to Providence Centralia Hospital.

The 48-year-old Centralia native said neither of her dogs were injured, but she is very sore.

Lobo didn’t leave puncture wounds, but broke the skin, she said.

The emergency room doctor put her on antibiotics and pain medication and told her she was lucky she had been wearing a hooded sweatshirt over her T-shirt, she said.

It was a frightening experience, she said, one she expects the police department should take responsibility for.

Arias said her two friends can vouch for what happened, as they were right behind her. And she’s wrapped up the sweatshirt in a plastic bag, certain it has Lobo’s DNA on it.

“I understand he was doing his job, but he should have a little more control over his dog,” she said. “People should be able to open up their doors and not have a K-9 come up and attack you.”

DNA on discarded cigarettes lead to burglary suspects

Friday, October 23rd, 2015
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One of two cigarette butts picked up by a deputy near the Padrick Road burglary scene. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A stolen credit card used at a 7-11 store with surveillance video, a pair of cigarette butts with DNA and nearly three months of interviews and investigating led to the recovery of four vehicles and more than $10,000 worth of stolen property, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Two men from Burien have been implicated in burglaries in Lewis County, one of whom is being held in the Lewis County Jail and the other in the King County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office said one of them has relatives in Centralia and they targeted random homes.

On July 27, a house on the 2000 block of Padrick Road near Centralia was ransacked and the residents discovered more than $20,000 worth of valuables had been taken, including a handgun and bank cards, according to authorities. Less than a week later, a motor home and a Ford Mustang were stolen from a shop building where they were stored on Middle Fork Road.

According to court documents, in mid-August, sheriff’s detective Gene Seiber took the case over and began tracking the numerous purchases made with the victim’s credit card.

After some of the Padrick Road couple’s stolen property turned up in the vehicle of a man arrested in King County, Seiber put together a photo montage and showed it to the clerk at 7-11, according to the document.

Jared M. Bruce, 26, from Burien, denied involvement, and blamed his friend, 37-year-old Jack E. Grier, according to Chief Deputy Stacy Brown.

Detectives visited Grier’s apartment, found some of the missing property and arrested him on Wednesday, Brown indicated.

Two fairly fresh cigarette butts picked up by a deputy from near a gate at Padrick Road sent to the crime lab for testing show matches made with Bruce and Grier, according to Brown.

Grier was brought before a judge yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court

He has not been charged but was ordered held on $100,000 bail.

Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Weirth told the judge Grier has a criminal history that includes several burglaries, theft and drug possession; and that he was just released from prison last October. Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke said Grier has a stable address with his wife and two children.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, when Grier spoke with detective Seiber, he said he was sorry and that he had a drug problem.

He is scheduled to go before a judge again the afternoon. Criminal charges are pending against his friend Bruce, according to the sheriff’s office.

The documents offer information on only the two burglaries, but Brown stated in a news release this morning that six burglaries in the case have been solved.

The Winnebago and the Mustang were recovered in King County, according to court documents.

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza said in a printed statement he is very proud of the deputies and detectives and their tenacity.

“This investigation took a lot of time to complete, but it is worth every minute when we are able to return property back to rightful owners, and hold criminals accountable for their behavior,” Snaza said.

Local drug team catches firearms trafficking case in Pierce County

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015
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Tacoma resident Rebecca J. Coleman consults with a defense attorney in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 53-year-old mother and grandmother was brought before a judge today in Chehalis in a case that began with a local detective’s undercover operation purchase of a stolen handgun and led to the seizure of 38 firearms, thousands of rounds of assorted ammunition and drugs in Tacoma.

Four improvised explosive devices also located at the residence drew ordinance disposal technicians consisting of members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the Washington State Patrol, according to authorities.

Rebecca J. Coleman, 53, of Tacoma, was charged today in Lewis County Superior Court with numerous offenses related to the case.

Coleman was arrested on Tuesday, the day the search warrant was served at her home, and a judge yesterday allowed local prosecutors to hold her uncharged while the investigation continued.

According to charging documents, Lewis County sheriff’s detective Duke Adkisson learned last month from an unnamed individual that he or she could purchase guns and methamphetamine from Coleman, and he began investigating Coleman for trafficking in stolen firearms.

The relatively new local Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team issued a news release today describing how its members followed up on a tip from a Lewis County resident, and how some of the firearms Coleman allegedly sold were being transported back to Lewis County.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Stacy Brown distributed the press release on behalf of JNET’s leaders.

Sheriff Rob Snaza in a printed statement explained why local detectives made an arrest in another jurisdiction.

“Criminals don’t have physical boundaries, they travel in and out of our county,” Snaza stated. “Even though the arrest and seizure occurred in Pierce County, we stopped the flow of criminal activity from coming into our county.”

Snaza shares overseeing JNET with Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen and Chehalis Police Chief Glenn Schaffer as each agency has law enforcement officers on the team. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer’s name is also on JNET”s letterhead.

Charging documents state that sometime between Sept. 30 and this past Monday, detective Adkisson gave money to an informant to go buy one of Coleman’s guns and to tell Coleman that he or she was a convicted felon and not allowed to possess a firearm.

During the transaction, Coleman allegedly implied some of her firearms could be stolen firearms, the documents state.

The gun brought back to Adkisson did turn out to have been stolen last December.

According to JNET and the court documents, also seized from Coleman’s residence was $1,258 cash, two baggies of suspected methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, mortars, tank simulators and other items consistent with explosives.

The home is located in the south end of Tacoma at the 2400 block of 155th Street Court East.

The explosives were taken off site by the technicians to be detonated, according to Chief Brown’s summary.

Coleman’s bail was set yesterday at $150,000.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge Coleman has only one felony conviction – possession of a controlled substance from last year – and it was a deferred prosecution with a plan for her to withdraw her plea shortly.

Coleman was charged today with four felonies in Lewis County Superior Court.

They are: first-degree trafficking in stolen property, delivery of a firearm to an ineligible person, possession of a stolen firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm in the second-degree and possession of methamphetamine.

She qualified for a court-appointed attorney as she is currently unemployed and receives social security disability payments, according to O’Rourke.

Her arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday.

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Property seized from Tacoma residence is displayed. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office

Lewis County detective meets with Green River killer, probes for links to local cases

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015
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Gary Leon Ridgway’s mugshot is among the materials inside three unsolved case files at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Finally, more than a decade after his convictions for the murders of dozens of women in King County, serial killer Gary Ridgway was interviewed about three homicide victims whose bodies turned up along the Interstate 5 corridor in Lewis County.

Longtime Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey isn’t writing him off as a viable suspect, but Ridgway didn’t confess.

“When I asked him an hour’s worth of questions on the victims, he denied it and said, why would I take someone to Lewis County,” Kimsey said. “I’m not saying I believe him; I’m just saying what he said.”

Kimsey traveled to the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado at the end of September. He was joined by Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead for the two-day visit.

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Chief Criminal Deputy Bruce Kimsey

They were only allowed to bring a pen and paper into the room. The serial killer had handcuffs chained to his waist. On the first day he wore leg irons as well, Meyer said.

“We spent several hours both days, four to six hours each day,” Meyer said. “There wasn’t a clock in the room, I didn’t have my watch.”

Meyer said they’ve been trying for several years to meet with Ridgway, and the answer before from his attorney had alway been no. When he got a yes answer, they jumped at the opportunity right away, he said.

The victimology in the three local cases is such that Ridgway has been a suspect, alluding to patterns in who Ridgway targeted.

Both Kimsey and Meyer took note of how short the infamous killer was.

“I expected him to be more physically imposing,” Meyer said. “He’s kind of meek, mild-mannered. He doesn’t have, ‘this guy’s gonna attack me’ vibe.”

It’s easy to see how someone would get into a truck with him, Meyer said.

The Auburn resident was convicted of murdering 49 women, but has admitted to killing 80, Meyer said. He was arrested in December 2001, at age 52.

There’s no physical evidence tying him to the Lewis County cases, and Ridgway didn’t have any particular facts about the three, the prosecutor said.

And at one point, he suggested he wouldn’t mind taking credit to “get his numbers up.”

“He understands what he’s done, and I think he likes the notoriety,” Meyer said. “He told us, there’s more written about me than Jack the Ripper.”

Much of their time was spent building rapport, talking about his work, marriage and hobbies and then after that, learning details about the crimes he committed in King County.

Ridgway worked at Kenworth for 30 years. He was married three times.

He became known as the Green River Killer, because that’s where some of the first bodies were discovered, Kimsey said.

That’s one of the similarities between the women he’s admitted to killing, and the women whose bodies were discovered locally starting in 1984, according to the detective.

Two of the bodies in Lewis County were found near waterways, he said. Two of the three had ties to prostitution, like Ridgway’s victims, according to Kimsey. And some of the known Green River victims went missing from the same area as did the women found in Lewis County.

What they do know for sure, is the three women were murdered and their bodies were discovered in Lewis County, Meyer said.

On August 12, 1984, Monica Anderson, 32, of Tacoma, was found by a fisherman in the Chehalis River west of Centralia below the Galvin Road bridge. She was last seen June 25 in Tacoma, getting into a brown van on Commerce Way. She died of asphyxiation, Kimsey said.

On May 5 1985, Susan L. Krueger, 42, was found along Lacamas Creek at Drews Prairie Road near Interstate 5 west of Toledo. She was last seen March 11 after she was released from the Pierce County Jail. She died of  blows to the head.

On August 5, 1991, Mignon S. Hensley, 21, was found in a brushy area about a mile east of Interstate 5 along U.S. Highway 12. She was last seen June 19 leaving a Deja Vu strip club in Federal Way. She was about eight months pregnant at the time. She died from homicidal violence.

Kimsey, who was promoted to chief criminal deputy when newly elected Sheriff Rob Snaza took office in January has studied the three case files.

“I would say a reasonable person would say there was sexual assault, or sexual motivation on these crimes,” Kimsey said of the evidence.

Ridgeway indicated to his interviewers he had nothing to do with the three deaths and that it wouldn’t make sense for him dump a body in Lewis County.

Part of Ridgway’s crimes involved returning to the dump sites to visit the bodies, and engage them sexually again, according to Kimsey.

He knew King County like the back of his hand, and said, he wouldn’t go to Lewis County and screw it up, Meyer said.

But, Ridgway did take some of his victims from King County all the way to Oregon, Kimsey said. He told his three interviewers he took bones down there after digging them up, to get the FBI involved and throw off the Green River Task Force.

They three men spent some of their time orienting Ridgway to the boundaries of Lewis County, and learned he’d been to Yard Birds and the the Centralia Outlets.

When the conversation turned to Ridgway’s time in the Navy, overseas, Ridgway’s comment was, “that would open up a can of worms,” Meyer said. A person could speculate about what that means, he said.

“Ridgway will say every one of his victims, he strangled,” Kimsey said.

The takeaway for Kimsey, is what he learned about what Ridgway did to his victims, for example, details of how he left the bodies, Kimsey said.

“I’m going to go back and look again at our cases to see if they match up, if there’s some matchup,” he said.

Meyer said he left feeling like Ridgway would readily admit if he’d killed the women, but then wonders, if he says there’s 80 victims, does he remember every one?

Kimsey has the same question.

“The problem, is he doesn’t remember names and faces,” Kimsey said. “He said he lost count after like two dozen.”

The detective asked one of the most infamous serial killers ever why he did what he did.

“He told us he felt a sense of power over women, and why he didn’t like these women,” Kimsey said. “He saw prostitutes as basically trash.”

He knew the women he victimized weren’t likely to be reported missing, at least not right away, and, he didn’t have to pay them, Kimsey said.

It was almost like a game, where he could take out his negative energy, Kimsey said.

“The things that he’s saying, no normal person could understand,” Kimsey said. “It’s pure evil and horrific, the things he’s done to women.”

Kimsey, Meyer and Halstead also spoke with Ridgway about the unsolved homicides of two other women during the same time period. Kimsey said he doesn’t think he was involved in their deaths.

Roberta D. Strasbaugh, 18, was found October 18, 1985 on the north side of Lincoln Creek Road at its junction with Manner’s Road, about three weeks after her truck ran out of gas along Old Highway 99.

Diana Robertson’s body was found in 1986, about three miles south of Elbe.

It’s obvious there’s been more than one serial killer operating in the region, Kimsey said.

One of them, Robert L. Yates is also on Kimsey’s list to talk with, although he’s a serial killer with limited activity in Western Washington, and Kimsey said he believes his victims were shot with a firearm.

The goal is to get answers, for families who don’t know what happened to their loved ones, according to Meyer.

For Kimsey, continuing to work the cases is a duty owed to their families. He’ll keep going through the files, trying to match some evidence to a suspect, he said.

Ridgway is not eliminated as a suspect, and certainly not based on his denials, according to the detective.

“I’m not convinced he has nothing to do with these, I’m not convinced he does,” Kimsey said. “I’m going to take the information and keep working these cases.” “Maybe the technology one day will be there.”

Dallas man gets 66 months for virtual relationship with teen

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
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Lavon S. Sellers and his lawyer Jacob Clark face the judge for Sellers’ sentencing hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Texas man who engaged in an online sexual relationship with a Lewis County boy who initially said he was 16 will be off to prison to serve a five and a half year sentence.

Lavon S. Sellers and the teen met on a website called “Hot or Not” in the summer of 2014 and eventually the boy confessed he was only 14 years old, according to lawyers handling the case.

There’s no indication the two met, but they made a plan where Sellers would come to Washington and they would spend time in Seattle together, according to court documents and the boy’s mother.

“When Mr. Sellers found out he was 14, that’s when things should have stopped, and it didn’t,” defense attorney Jacob Clark said. “Mr. Sellers and this teen believed they loved each other.”

The boy attempted suicide after the relationship came to light and then he was caught Skyping with Sellers after being ordered by his father not to.

Sellers, now 32, was brought to the Lewis County at the beginning of last month and held on $100,000 bail.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of luring four weeks ago and yesterday was back in Lewis County Superior Court.

Under the plea deal, both sides agreed to recommend to the judge he get 66 months in prison.

“I know Mr. Sellers never meant to hurt anyone by these actions,” Clark told the judge. “He’s been a law abiding citizen all his life.”

The boy’s mother told the judge her son is about two years behind his peers, and has always been vulnerable and trusting. And now, the mother said, he’s a young boy with no spirit, no excitement for life, no self-esteem and remains confused by what Sellers taught him.

Lewis County Sirens.com is not naming the mother, to avoid identifying the victim.

Judge Nelson Hunt agreed with the sentence recommended by Clark and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

“Well, it wasn’t the intention, but it did, it did hurt a whole lot of people,” Hunt said.

Sellers was ordered to have no contact with the boy, and to pay about $3,200 in fines and fees including the extradition costs.

Outside the courtroom, Clark said the people and businesses who make the sort of online applications where the two communicated are immune to prosecution, even though they are made accessible to both adults and children.

“That is the travesty,” Clark said.
•••

For background, read “Lewis County Sheriff’s Office arrests man in Dallas for long-distance sexploitation of local teen” from Sunday September 6, 2015, here

Astonishing humans: Twin sheriffs catch the attention of Believe It or Not! publisher

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
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Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza, left, and his brother Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza. / Courtesy photo by Jennie Snaza

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza and his twin sheriff brother have the shocking, incredible, but true honor of being featured among the “eye-popping oddities” of a new book.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is more than an iconic Sunday newspaper comic feature, it’s museums, traveling shows, videos and books.

Each year, Ripleys puts out puts out a new edition of strange stories, fun facts, oddities, curiosities, and this year, the Snazas are among them.

Sheriff Snaza, who learned of his inclusion from a newspaper reporter, said he thinks it’s pretty cool.

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The new edition

“I just think it’s an honor, I’m excited about it,” he said yesterday. “It’s something to show your kids, your grandkids.”

The entry can be found on page 20, of the 256-page volume overflowing with “mind-blowing stories” of animals, feats, art, pop culture, the human body, and more, according to the publisher.

“In November 2014, twin brothers Rob and John Snaza were elected sheriffs in neighboring southwest Washington counties,” the publicist writes.”Voters elected Rob to become sheriff of Lewis County while John was re-elected sheriff of Thurston County.”

Their recognition is tucked into the edition that includes among its collection of thousands of all-new stories, the lowdown on a goldfish that underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor and a 40-inch-long piece of (alleged) fossilized dinosaur poop, found in Washington State, that sold for $8,500 in 2014.

The book, titled “Eye-Popping Oddities” came out on Sept. 8 and is available through all major book sellers, according to its publicist.

Robert L. Ripley’s first Believe It or Not! books, collections of his newspaper cartoon drawings, appeared in 1929 and 1931.

Sheriff Rob Snaza, of Napavine, who turned 50 earlier this year, ran as a Republican last fall and took 77 percent of the vote.

He said he hadn’t yet had a chance to talk with his brother, to find out if he knew how they caught they attention of the book’s authors.

He said he’s pretty sure it’s probably a first. He’s heard of fathers and sons, such as former Lewis County Sheriff Bill Wiester Sr. whose son became Grant County sheriff, he said, but not twin brothers.

Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza, ran as an Independent in 2010, and last November won another four-year term. He also turned 50 this year.

Missing mother’s makeup bag fished out of Cowlitz River

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office continues to look for a Centralia mother of three who went missing on Saturday, with plans to review surveillance videos from businesses as well as search the Cowlitz River and its banks.

The sheriff’s office said a makeup bag identified as belonging to Elizabeth A. Pham was turned in to the Castle Rock Police Department on Sunday by a fisherman who located it downstream from where Pham was last seen.

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Elizabeth A. Pham

Also, a witness reported seeing a woman matching her description sitting beneath the overpass at exit 59 staring into the Cowlitz River, according to the sheriff’s office.

The 33-year-old woman’s car was found on southbound Interstate 5 near Vader’s exit 59, unlocked with the keys in it by a trooper on Saturday evening.

“At this time, we do not know what happened to Elizabeth; there are a lot of possibilities that need to be examined,” Chief Deputy Bruce Kimsey stated in a news release around noon today. “Elizabeth may have gotten a ride out of the area, and be gone on her own volition, we just don’t know at this time.”

Chief Deputy Stacy Brown indicated today Pham’s family says she may be suffering from postpartum depression.

They are still asking for anyone who has seen her, or has information, to call them.

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza said he has four detectives assigned to the case, and they have set aside everything else.

“My hope is, it’s just a young female who wanted to get away for awhile,” Snaza said.

Detectives believe Pham left her vehicle along the freeway on Saturday morning and walked to Gee Cees truck stop, where she tried to get a ride with a truck driver who was headed to Redding, California. A Gee Cee’s employee stopped Pham from getting into the truck and called a taxi for her, according to Brown.

Detectives have learned Pham asked the taxi driver to take her to Olympia, but they stopped by her vehicle to get some personal items and then she was dropped off at the Shell station off exit 59, according to Brown.

The taxi driver described her behavior as unusual and confused.

She went into the store and stayed for about 20 minutes without buying anything, and then witnesses say she walked over to the nearby Beasley’s Restaurant and placed an order, according to Brown.

It was after that someone saw the woman under the overpass, according to Brown.

Pham was reported missing at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

When last seen, she was wearing purple pajama bottoms, a pinkish red shirt and socks but no shoes. Pham is described as 5-feet 6-inches tall and weighing 122 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact sheriff’s detective Jeremy Almond at 360-748-9286 or jeremy.almond@lewiscountywa.gov

•••

For background, read “News brief: Missing woman’s car found abandoned near Vader” from Monday October 12, 2015, here

Prosecutors: Now-former caregiver made more than 200 unauthorized transactions with client’s bank card

Thursday, October 8th, 2015
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•••

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The caregiver of a bedridden Centralia woman is accused of taking her client’s credit card and running up more than $10,000 in purchases and cash advances before getting caught, returning the card and apologizing.

Tamara A. Hagerman, 44, of Pe Ell, told a detective when she gave the card back, she told the woman and the woman’s husband she would pay the money back, according to court papers.

They called police the following day.

Hagerman is charged in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree theft as well as three counts of unlawful factoring of credit card or payment card transactions.

She was summonsed to appear before a judge yesterday afternoon and signed a $5,000 unsecured appearance bond. Her arraignment is set for next Thursday.

According to charging documents, Hagerman began working for Debra Zillmer in July of last year, and helped with the bills and writing out checks because of Zillmer’s difficulty with fine motor skills.

The Zillmers became aware of the situation when an employee from the Doty store called and asked if someone had permission to use the card on July 1; Hagerman had reportedly told her son to use the blue card from her purse and get her a few things, the documents relate.

Centralia police detective Patty Finch found more than $5,500 in unauthorized charges and more than $4,700 in cash advances over a five month period, according to the charging documents.

Among the things Hagerman allegedly told detectives was she initially took the card, without permission, because she didn’t have enough gas to get home, but after a few days, put it back because she felt bad taking it.

She allegedly said she took it again, because her daughter needed groceries.

Finch stated in her report Hagerman used the card more than 200 times between February and July. Hagerman said she used it for gas, groceries and clothing.

“She said she didn’t use if (sp) often at first, but began using it more and more the longer she had it,” Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher wrote in charging documents.

Among the spending noted in the allegations were to pay her cell phone bill, to put money on a jail inmate’s phone, to eat fast food, order Netflix and rent movies.

The Zillmers told Centralia police Hagerman was a former caregiver when they reported the theft on July 3. Bruce Zillmer also advised the officer he’d contacted their bank who would send paperwork to sign about the unauthorized charges.

When asked by detective Finch if she had had the means to repay the couple, “Tamara said that her mother offered to pay the money back,” Meagher wrote.

The court yesterday ordered Hagerman to get finger printed and photographed at the Lewis County Jail by 5 p.m. next Wednesday.

Reached by phone, Hagerman declined to comment. She is represented by Centralia lawyer David Brown.

Police: Heroin house on Southwest Cascade Avenue

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
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Christopher C. Tortorici is brought before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Chehalis couple was arrested yesterday following a search at their home that turned up drugs and suspected items for dealing them.

Thirty-five-year-old Dawn M. Morningstar-Barnett allegedly told detectives it was mostly her, but they had been selling heroin for several months, to about 10 people a day, according to court papers.

The search warrant was served at their shared residence at the 700 block of Southwest Cascade Avenue.

Numerous items were found in her boyfriend’s pockets, as the two said they thought the visit was from her community corrections officer who could not search him, so he gathered up everything, the documents state.

Christopher C. Tortorici, 36, had $160 in his pockets, along with two small plastic ziplock bags containing a brown powdery substance, a bindle with suspected methamphetamine, a pipe, syringes, two methadone pills, and a prescription bottle containing Suboxone strips and buprenorphine hydrochloride, according to his charging documents.

The documents relate that twice since Aug. 24, Morningstar-Barnett was the target of so-called controlled buys from police informants.

Both were charged in Lewis County Superior Court today with possession of heroin with intent to deliver and delivery of heroin. Morningstar-Barnett was charged with an additional count of delivery.

Judge Nelson Hunt, noting Tortorici was a graduate of drug court, set his bail at $100,000.

Hunt granted a temporary no-bail hold for Morningstar-Barnett, after prosecutors said she wasn’t able to leave the jail to come to court because she was having withdrawal.

Defendant escapes courtroom in Chehalis, captured on street

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
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•••

Updated at 10:45 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A defendant remanded into custody following a jury trial fled a courtroom and reportedly fought with a corrections officer down the stairwell and out into the street in Chehalis yesterday.

Responding deputies assisted in detaining the man outside the building, on Main Street near its intersection with Chehalis Avenue, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

John C. Baker, 49, of Chehalis, was on trial in Lewis County Superior Court, on the fourth floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Dusty Breen said the incident began about 10 minutes before 5 p.m. in Judge Richard Brosey’s courtroom.

The corrections officer ordered Baker to stop, and when he caught up with Baker, a physical altercation ensued during which the officer was assaulted, Breen said.

Baker was taken to the jail where he was booked for new offenses of first-degree escape, resisting arrest and custodial assault, according to Breen.

He had been free on $10,000 bail, but was convicted yesterday of harassment, stalking and other charges.

“He was facing a substantial sentence,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Weirth said.

Escape is a class B felony, with a maximum sentence of 10 years if convicted, according to Weirth.

The Lewis County Law and Justice Center at the corner of Main Street and Chehalis Avenue contains courtrooms on the top two floors and the sheriff’s office on the main level. The Lewis County Jail is adjacent to it at street level.

Searchers comb Centralia lake for fisherman

Monday, October 5th, 2015
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Part of the dive team is stationed on the west edge of Plummer Lake as one member get sonar pictures from a Chehalis Fire Department boat.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – A dive team is looking for a man who vanished beneath the water at Plummer Lake in Centralia today.

Police and firefighters responded to an approximately 11:55 a.m. call to the large pond just east of Interstate 5.

A Centralia resident had been in a boat fishing and a witness saw him swimming toward his life vest and then go under water, never resurfacing, Centralia Police Department Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald said.

After an initial search by Centralia firefighters using the missing man’s boat, Chehalis firefighters brought their boat over and have been working this afternoon with members of the Thurston County Dive Team.

“They’re doing a grid search in the water,” Fitzgerald said.

Chehalis Fire Chief Ken Cardinale said the lake is very deep, and visibility good for only about 14 feet, so they began taking pictures with a sonar.

At least one woman who said she went to school with the victim was among the responders and guests of the Lakeview Inn who watched and waited on and near the motel’s lawn at the south shore.

Sixty-five-year-old Kermit Wood said when he saw the individual out there, it looked like he was splashing and trying to swim toward his life preserver. His empty boat was floating away, he said.

“Honestly, there was nothing we could do, and it was very difficult,” his wife Jackie Wood said.

Fitzgerald said he would be at the scene until the dive team left. They don’t work after dark, so depending on how it goes, they could return in the morning, he said.

Detective Dave Clary recalled the last time anyone drowned in the lake was in 2007, when 45-year-old Frank Mako died.  His body was actually found just beyond the north shore, closer to Hayes Lake, he said.

Just this past May 30, another Centralia resident, 26-year-old Jessy Hamilton, drowned on the other side of Interstate 5, at Fort Borst Park near where the Chehalis River meets with the park’s pond.

Writer of threat to “kill people” at Centralia High School still unknown

Friday, October 2nd, 2015
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Seniors Jared Lee, Javier Corona and Andrew Waddell sit across the street from their school watching and waiting as fellow students are inside getting interviewed by deputies.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Law enforcement officers don’t know if a threat a student was going to kill people at Centralia High School’s homecoming assembly this afternoon was genuine and was thwarted, or if it was something else.

A note found on a teacher’s desk this morning stated as such and prompted a lockdown that lasted all day.

Hundreds of family members descended upon the church and its parking lot across the street waiting for their children to be released.

More than two dozen deputies, police and troopers from the area responded to the 800 block of Eshom Road, after the school resource officer was informed of the message at approximately 10 a.m.

The investigation continued all day, and the last students were let go at about 4 p.m.

“We were interviewing kids, searching kids – with a wand,” Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said. “Escorting them to the bathroom and giving them snacks and water.”

No weapons were found, however, there are still backpacks left at the school that have yet to be searched, according to Brown.

Without going into details, Brown said a person wrote the note, telling of what another person planned to do. Deputies don’t know who left the note, or who the other person is, she said at the end of the day.

Centralia High School sits outside the city limits and is in the sheriff’s office jurisdiction.

Centralia School District spokesperson Ed Petersen said it threatened a specific action at a specific time and place, prompting an intentionally slow and meticulous process.

The homecoming assembly didn’t take place. The homecoming football game scheduled for tonight at Tiger Stadium has been postponed, as has tomorrow’s homecoming dance.

The school district notified the public and the news media at about 11 a.m., but information was already circulating on social media.

Parents were informed they could wait at the Centralia Community Church of God at the corner of Borst Avenue and Eshom Road across from the school’s main entrance.

James Guyer was among those who rushed over, and then waited for hours. His 16-year-old daughter was keeping him somewhat informed, texting periodically and lamenting her classroom was at the back of the school and would be the last to be let out.

“She also sent me a text saying they are patting down each student,” Guyer said.

Guyer chatted with another father, Corey Williams, who sat in the back of his pickup truck with his teenage son.

A large crowd was lined up in the church lobby, signing in with school staff, so they could subsequently be matched up with their youngsters.

“We were already in there about an hour,” Williams said.

He and his 17-year-old, Eli Williams, were waiting for Eli’s 16-year-old brother to come out.

They were told the busses would be bringing students over in groups of 20, but the first one dropped off only five or six kids, he said.

Eli Williams, a senior, said he’d been up in Tumwater at his construction trades class, when the lockdown happened and then he learned about the threat.

“I don’t really know anyone that would do that,” he said. “But a lot of things happen; someone seems really nice and goes crazy.”

Some adults stayed in their cars in the lot, several of which were parked cattywampus suggesting their minds were on more pressing matters than taking up two parking spots.

The mother of one freshman boy was contemplative as she sat with her 6-year-old and their dog.

“They were saying on the news last night, national news,  that things get stirred up, like copycats,” Lori Raab said.

Raab, a radio news director, had spent yesterday coordinating coverage of the unfolding tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, in which at least nine people were fatally shot.

Sitting on a curb, directly across from the fenced off school, were three seniors who had also been elsewhere before the campus was shut down.

Javier Corona, 17, had been at the football stadium just a few blocks to the east, doing a run through for the halftime event with his leadership class. Corona is a finalist for homecoming king.

He said he watched the police cars arriving, the first ones just driving up and the rest with lights flashing.

Jared Lee, also 17, and another student had been out shopping with his mother, a school district employee.

“We were getting scepters and flowers, and I think crowns for the king and queen,” Lee said.

Andrew Waddell, 18, said he walked into work and was told what was happening. HIs first thought was a bomb threat, he said.

“But I thought, that doesn’t make sense,” Waddell said.

Centralia School District Superintendent, Mark Davalos and Centralia High School Principal Josue Lowe periodically gave briefings, reassuring those present that everything going on was to ensure the safety of students.

At one point, a student had messaged someone a fuzzy picture rumored to be a shooter inside the building, but law enforcement figured out it actually was a snapshot of a security monitor showing one of the law enforcement officers with a rifle.

“The only weapons that have been found on Centralia High School campus today are in the hands of law enforcement officers,” Lowe told the crowd.

District spokesperson Petersen said the high school has about 1,000 students. He wasn’t certain late this afternoon exactly how many were in classes today.

Neither he nor Chief Deputy Brown knew for sure why a  Washington State Patrol bomb squad truck was on the scene. Petersen said he thought it might be part of protocol.

The state patrol did bring dogs into the school to sniff around.

They weren’t searching for bombs, they were searching for something else, Petersen said. “There was absolutely no concern for bombs or explosive devices.”

Chief Deputy Brown said although the school was cleared by about 4 p.m., she suspected the investigation would continue.

School staff would be going through the backpacks and items students left behind, she said. And there are lots of interviews to go through.

“It was a very methodical process, but it was absolutely what we needed to do to ensure their safety,” Brown said. “In light of everything that’s going on across the nation, it was imperative to handle it as we did.”

Peterson echoed her sentiments.

“Yes, it took a long time to get everyone out,” he said. “But everyone went home safe, and that’s the best we can hope for.”

To read ongoing posts and comments from the community about today’s events, go to Lewis County Sirens on Facebook.

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Corey Williams and his son Eli Williams decided they preferred to wait outside today.

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Principal Josue Lowe offers an update on Eshom Road in between the high school and the church.

Breaking news: Threat puts Centralia High School on lock down

Friday, October 2nd, 2015
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Chehalis Police Officer Warren Ayers and school staff stand along the fence at Centralia High School as parents congregate at the church across the street waiting.

Updated at 4:05 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia High School is in lock down now.

“Due to a specific type of threat of violence at the high school, I’m not going to release what that is now,” school district spokesperson Ed Petersen said at 11 a.m. today.

Nobody is hurt, he said. Law enforcement is on the scene.

They will be releasing students in the next hour or so to the nearby Church of God, he said.

Parents should not go to the school, he said. Parents should not go to the church either, until they are notified by the school to do so, he said.

Asked if they would be making notification through the school alert system, Petersen said yes and social media and every other way.

A joint news release issued at 11:37 a.m. stated students will be released as soon as appropriate.

“This morning at approximately 10 a.m. the Centralia School Resource Officer was notified of a note located in a classroom, which stated a student was planning on killing people during a school assembly, scheduled for the afternoon.”

At this time it is unknown if any weapons are actually at the school and the school remains in lockdown until further notice.

Students will be released to go home on the bus or be picked up by parents. Parents may wait at Centralia Community Church of God, located at Borst and Eshom.  Students who drove will be allowed to leave when appropriate.

As of about 2 p.m., only a few students had been released from the school back to their parents.

A Washington State Patrol bomb squad truck was seen leaving Tiger Stadium shortly after that. Tonight was supposed to be the homecoming game.

A large crowd has gathered at the church, mostly just waiting. Busses have dropped off students there, five or six at a time.

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza and Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen made a brief appearance, standing back as announcements were made that officials hoped to speed the process up.

Before going back across the street to the school, Snaza said only, “We’re getting additional information.”

“We’ll have more information for the news when the kids are out,” he said. “Stacy (Chief Deputy Brown) put something on Facebook.”

Centralia High School on Eshom Road sits outside the city limits and is in the sheriff’s office jurisdiction.

Law enforcement has issued no updates as to its investigation into what occurred, if any weapon or weapons have been located or if they even know who is the student who may have had some plan to kill people.

A school official did include in his announcements to those gathered at one point during the day, that: “The only weapons that have been found on Centralia High School campus today are in the hands of law enforcement officers.”

More to come. To read ongoing posts and comments from the community about this, go to Lewis County Sirens on Facebook.

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Parents and others wait for students to be brought to them at a church across the street from Centralia High School.

Law enforcement finds Centralia robbery suspect in Vancouver jail

Thursday, October 1st, 2015
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Deandre J. Perry looks back toward the courtroom benches during his first appearance in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The third of three males suspected of a home invasion in north Centralia earlier this year was brought before a judge today in Lewis County Superior Court.

Deandre J. Perry, 26, is from Portland.

Centralia police and a deputy U.S. marshal have been looking for him since mid-July and found him in the Clark County Jail.

Perry was there on “an unrelated matter, I think maybe a probation violation or something,” Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor said this afternoon. He was transported to the local jail in Chehalis yesterday.

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Hennessy Turner-White

Perry is charged with first-degree robbery and first-degree assault in connection with the events on the night of Feb. 19, when a group of males kicked in a door at the 1200 block of Marion Street, demanding cash and weed.

Dustin Palermo said he and his girlfriend had just settled into bed to watch a movie when they showed up, shot up his room and killed his dog. Charging documents in the case don’t relate what was actually stolen but Palermo had a small indoor medical marijuana grow.

Meagher asked that Perry be held on the same $100,000 bail listed on the July 15 arrest warrant. Judge Nelson Hunt agreed.

Temporary defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge Perry is currently unemployed and qualified for court appointed counsel.

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Brian A. Carreon

Arrested and charged in early July with one count of first-degree robbery was a 17-year-old Centralia resident, Brian A. Carreon.

Carreon’s sister from Portland, Taina Duncan, was arrested and charged with rendering criminal assistance for allegedly driving the others to the house.

Hennessy R. Turner-White, 22, from Portland, was picked up less than two weeks later and remains in the Lewis County Jail on $500,000 bail, charged with first-degree robbery and first-degree assault.

Charging documents state that Carreon told detectives Turner-White is his other Portland sister’s ex-boyfriend.

Charging documents offer the following as to how law enforcement came to focus on Perry as the third suspect:

Police were looking for the one who kicked in the door, known to Carreon only as “Dro”. A deputy U.S. marshal ran Turner-White’s name through their database, looking for his associates, and came up with Perry. Carreon identified Perry as the third person from a photo he was shown.

According to police interviews with Carreon, he had once been at Palermo’s home, and trimmed Palermo’s plants for him. He told police he’d taken a video of himself doing that, and had once shown it to Turner-White. Carreon said he received a phone call from Turner-White telling him, he knew had a connection to get weed, and was headed up.

Carreon said he felt pressured to take them there, and when one of them pulled out a gun and said they weren’t going to pay for the marijuana, he was behind them telling them to stop.

Officers found nine shell casings and two bullet jacket fragments at the scene.

Perry’s arraignment was put on the court schedule for next Thursday, when he will be represented by Jacob Clark.

Turner-White’s trial is scheduled for January.

Neither Carreon’s nor Duncan’s trials have yet taken place. The two of them have been released on unsecured bonds.

All three have pleaded not guilty.
•••

For background, read “Suspected gunman in Centralia home invasion held on $500,000 bail” from Wednesday July 22, 2015, here

Appeals court says Toledo lottery theft sentence is too long

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Winlock woman who helped herself to thousands of dollars worth of lottery tickets while she worked at the Flying K store and gas station in Toledo partially won her appeal, that the judge imposed a clearly excessive exceptional sentence.

Katrina M. Bowen was sent to prison for four years, twice the amount of time prosecutors recommended.

Bowen was fired in September 2013 after the owners analyzed their books and confronted her. She was charged in early 2014 with first-degree theft, and pleaded guilty soon afterward, not in connection with any plea deal.

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January 2014

Bowen, then 37, stole nearly $140,000 over a period of time, saying she had a gambling problem. She also won $40,000, but the state lottery reimbursed the business owners for that portion, according to court documents.

Lewis County prosecutors included an aggravating factor that it was a major economic offense, meaning a judge would be free to hand down an exceptional sentence..

Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg recommended to Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey in March of last year that Bowen get two years. She asked for leniency based on her acceptance of responsibility for the crime. Her attorney asked that she get 90 days, the top of the standard sentencing range for a person with no criminal history.

In its opinion issued last week, the Washington State Court of Appeals acknowledged the judge was not bound by the prosecutor’s recommendation, but said the 48-month sentence was grossly disproportionate to the standard range of zero to three months.

Justice Thomas R. Bjorgen, writing for the unanimous three-member panel, wrote that the judge abused his discretion.

“We hold that the exceptional sentence was manifestly unreasonable, vacate it, and remand for resentencing,” Bjorgen wrote.

The unpublished opinion was filed Sept. 22.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh said once she gets the mandate the appeal is final – which can take as long as 60 days – she will bring Bowen back to Lewis County for resentencing.

According to the state Department of Corrections, Bowen is currently incarcerated at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair.

Beigh said today that in her five years of handling appeals for Lewis County, she can’t recall a case of the appeals court saying a Lewis County judge manifestly abused his discretion.

The prosecutor’s office won’t be petitioning the state Supreme Court for a review, but still will seek an exceptional sentence, Beigh said.

It was less than four years earlier when another Winlock resident was caught stealing lottery tickets at a local grocery store where he was a longtime trusted employee and store manager. Judge Brosey gave Benjamin C. Macy 14 months in prison as Macy attempted to repay the debt. The losses to Cedar Village IGA were said to be close to $1 million.

Bowen was represented in her appeal by attorney Jodi R. Backlund from Olympia.

Backlund also argued the guilty plea was involuntary because there was not a sufficient factual basis for it, but the appeals court disagreed.
•••

For background, read “Winlock woman owns up to stealing thousands of dollars from her employer” from Thursday January 30, 2014, here

Outdoor burning allowed again, sparks brush fire in Ony

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
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Onalaska firefighters work to put out grass fire off Jorgensen Road. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 1

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Just because the outdoor burn ban has been lifted, it doesn’t necessarily mean wildfire danger is over.

That’s the message from the Onalaska Fire Department who spent about an hour yesterday afternoon extinguishing a fire that popped up in a field.

Crews were called just before 2:30 p.m. to the 800 block of Jorgensen Road where they found grass burning an area of approximately 150 feet by 50 feet, according to Lewis County Fire District 1.

Assistant Fire Chief Rhonda Volk said the landowner said he was burning a stump this weekend out in the middle of a field that hadn’t been used for awhile, and thought he got it all put out.

“What happens, is fire burns down into the roots, and they can smolder for months,” Volk said.

She believes the gusty winds helped reignite it.

A crew of five saturated the edges of the area and dug down to make sure the entire stump and its roots were extinguished, she said.

The outdoor burning restrictions that were put into place in mid-June in unincorporated Lewis County were lifted on Saturday morning.

“After careful review, of the current and extended weather forecast, the Lewis County Building Official-Fire Marshal, has determined that current weather conditions within Lewis County have improved and will lift the restriction to allow outdoor burning, subject to an open burning application and permit,” Lewis County Community Development Director Lee Napier stated in a news release on Friday.

Still, officials urge residents to be attentive.

The county reminds people to supervise any outdoor burning until the fire has been extinguished and to have fire extinguishing equipment on hand.

Four large wildfires broke out in Lewis County last month in the midst of an exceptionally hot and dry summer, three of them in Onalaska. The 102-acre fire off Gish Road and the Gore Road chicken farm fire at 175 acres were bigger than any seen in three decades in areas near homes.

Even campfires were prohibited for a few weeks.

Outdoor burning in unincorporated Lewis County is limited to only natural vegetation. Always prohibited is burning any kind of garbage, paper of other refuse.

To obtain an Open Burning Application and Permit, individuals may apply on-line at http://lewiscountywa.gov/burn-permit-2 or in person at the Lewis County fire marshal’s office.

For further information concerning outdoor burning, Lewis County Building Official-Fire Marshal Doyle Sanford can be reached at 360-740-1146. The fire marshal’s office is in the Lewis County Public Services building, located at 2025 NE Kresky Avenue in Chehalis.

The Lewis County Board of Commissioners makes the rules for  areas in Lewis County that are outside any city limits and not part of any state or federal lands. For information about any of those other locations, folks can call their fire department.

Vader man gets 34 years for toddler death

Friday, September 25th, 2015
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Danny A. Wing watches as Jasper’s mother prepares to leave the courtroom following his sentencing hearing.

Updated

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Danny Wing was ready to be sentenced today.

For his role in the abuse, neglect and death of a 3-year-old boy he and his wife took into their family last summer.

His lawyer argued for far less time than prosecutors requested, and even made a winning argument that prosecutors should give his client another polygraph test before concluding Wing violated their plea agreement.

“My client knew the parents of Jasper would be in the courtroom today,” Vancouver defense attorney Todd Pascoe said. “He knew I would make this argument. He wants to proceed as if I’d never raised this issue.”

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Jasper Henderling-Warner

Wing, 27, has been held in the Lewis County Jail since last autumn, as has his wife, charged following the death of Jasper Henderling-Warner.

Firefighters and deputies responding the evening of Oct. 5 to a 911 call from the Wing’s new home in Vader, found CPR was underway. The toddler was revived, but died at Providence Centralia Hospital, according to prosecutors.

The autopsy found abrasions, bruises, facial trauma and healing fractures and labeled the cause of death as chronic battered child syndrome. Jasper was suffering from skin infections that were found to be secondary to his cause of death.

Prosecutors initially charged the couple with homicide by abuse or, in the alternative, first-degree manslaughter; each of the two were charged as either the principal or accomplice.

Conflicting stories and an inability to figure out just what occurred led to deals with the Wings this past spring which required them to truthfully describe what occurred, in exchange for guilty pleas and convictions on first-degree manslaughter and recommendations they be locked up for about 16 years.

But Danny Wing didn’t pass the lie detector test, and today in Lewis County Superior Court, prosecutors asked for an exceptional sentence beyond the standard range, citing the so-called enhancements that allowed it; that the victim was a member of his household, and that Wing abused a position of trust on a particularly vulnerable victim.

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Brenda A. Wing

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead described what investigators learned. Wing’s lawyer spoke of cooperation from his client and other reasons for a standard sentence.

After hearing from Jasper’s mother, his father and a Vader firefighter who was part of the huge aid response that tried to save the child’s life, and vowed to speak forever for the little boy who was silenced, Judge Nelson Hunt imposed a sentence of a little longer than 34 and a half years.

The judge called it an incredible story of horror and suffering inflicted.

“The top of the range for the crime that was actually committed here, is what I’m going to go with,” Hunt said.

Between the statements from Halstead, and those of Pascoe, a clearer picture emerged of Jasper’s last 64 days on this earth.

Jasper’s 21-year-old mother Nikki Warner had given the couple temporary custody last summer – at the end of July – while she was homeless and looked for work out of state.

Warner, who lived in the Vancouver area, and Danny Wing were loosely related in a foster family scenario although they’d only recently met each other.

The married couple had three children of their own.

Both lawyers told the judge they did not believe the Wings set out to kill Jasper or intended for him to die.

It started on the return home from a beach trip to Oregon, Halstead said.

Brenda Wing told her husband Jasper had placed his hands over Danny Jr.’s mouth, he said, noting that turned out to be a lie.

“This set off Danny, he struck Jasper quite a few times in the back of the van as they left,” Halstead said.

The beating left the little boy with injuries to his lip and nose, according to Halstead.

The senior deputy prosecutor went on to describe the Wings as heavy heroin users without a stable home, moving from hotel to hotel.

“One of the ways the Wings decided to treat the bruises was to put hot wash cloths on them,” he said. “We all know people on drugs don’t always think rationally.”

Then they spent hours blowing a hair dryer onto the bruises, causing a massive burn one-third the length of Jasper’s upper thigh, he said.

Danny pulled the scab off, Jasper at this time was crawling around in diapers; he contracted MRSA, Halstead said.

The little boy was being hit and conditioned until he would say someone else had been harming him, he said.

“We know now one of the reasons they did not seek help is they’d had prior contact with CPS,” Halstead said. “They didn’t want CPS coming to see the kids.”

Defense attorney Pascoe spoke of a glowing report from CPS about the family, “I think it was July 1,” he said.

He spoke of the Wings love for their children and the “Cinderella affect”.

They should have given Jasper back to his mother, or taken him to the hospital, or accepted help that was offered, Pascoe said. But they didn’t.

“At the root was fear of separation from their own children,” he said.

Halstead told the judge that Jasper’s mother and the Wings had actually written out an agreement, that included that she could visit her son whenever she wanted.

“Nikki had her own personal issues she was taking care of,” he said.

She tried to see Jasper during this time, he said.

“Every time, she was denied,” he said. “She didn’t understand why.”

“Come to find out, of course, her son was slowly dying at the hands of the Wings,” he said. “She never saw her son again.”

Eventually the couple moved to the house in Vader, about two weeks before Jasper’s death, according to Halstead.

He continued to recite what the investigation and interviews revealed.

“They put makeup on him so they could go out in public,” he said.

In the end, the toddler was not eating, not drinking, was basically non-responsive and having seizures, he said.

The last week of his life he lay on the floor in a blanket, and they would periodically check on him to make sure he was still alive, Halstead said.

Halstead, with Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer beside him, told the judge the state thought long and hard about the penalty. They considered the senselessness, the couple’s attempts to blame others and the length of time Jasper suffered.

They asked that Danny Wing be sent to prison for 55 years.

Judge Hunt asked the lawyers to tell him the standard sentencing ranges that would apply for first-degree murder, for second-degree murder and for homicide by abuse.

Among the many gathered in the Chehalis courtroom was Vader’s Assistant Fire Chief Ruth Crear.

“He won’t go to school, get married, he won’t get to do anything,” Crear said. “And that man gets to still breathe.”

Casey Henderling told the judge he agreed with the prosecutors’ recommendation.

“I don’t think 15 years is even close,” he said. “They chose to kill and torture my son.”

Jasper’s mother read from a lengthy letter about the loss of the child she gave birth to at age 17.

She told of a handsome, bright boy who loved all animals and insects and whose favorite foods were Gummy hot dogs and real hot dogs.

“I did the best I could for him, then came to a point where my surroundings were no longer good for Jasper,” Warner said. “The Wings, I thought, were a regular married family with three kids.

“Brenda told me she would decorate his room with Ninja Turtles.”

She said she couldn’t understand how fully grown adults could torture a 3-year-old and how she hoped their children, for their sake, would never find out what their parents did.

“I wish you a painful, violent and slow death in prison,” Warner said.

Pascoe offered reasons he felt the judge could consider a 15-year sentence noting his client was the first of the two to take responsibility; that he turned over records and even a cell phone to investigators, without deleting its messages.

He read to the judge letters from Danny Wing’s mother, a jail chaplain and a fellow inmate who described Wing discovering a sincere desire to serve God. And he made mention of seeing an eerie parallel between Wing as a baby and Jasper as he read passages about CPS concerns from late 1998.

Danny Wing was the last to address the court.

He told the judge that whether he got 50 years or 15, he plans to teach others what drugs can cause.

“I’m not asking for leniency,” he said. “I’m really sorry; I know that doesn’t make up for what they lost.”

Wing was also given 48 months for third-degree child assault, which he also pleaded guilty to in March. The time will be served concurrent with the other.

Brenda Wing’s sentencing was also scheduled for today, but postponed because of a technical issue with materials handed over to her attorney on a CD. The lawyer couldn’t open up the CD to read it, according to Prosecutor Meyer.
•••

For background, read “Coroner: Ongoing physical abuse led to Vader toddler’s death” from Friday November 7, 2014, here

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Prosecutors and a victim advocate stand with Nikki Warner as she addresses the court about the loss of her 3-year-old son.