Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Man suspected of killing fiancee had assaulted her before, lawyer says

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
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Corey R. Morgan listens to lawyers discuss his bail amount in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 32-year-old man accused of strangling his girlfriend and trying to cover it up with a story of wrecking his truck after three assailants beat her on a logging road near Morton was ordered held on $500,000 bail yesterday.

Exactly what did happen between Corey R. Morgan and Brenda L. Bail remains mostly a mystery, but Morgan is charged with second-degree murder and Bail is dead after a night of drinking, according to his story.

Prosecutors say Morgan had been sentenced two days earlier for an incident of domestic violence from last fall when he punched her in the face.

Morgan was identified as a Randle resident by the sheriff’s office, but prosecutors indicate the two lived together south of Chehalis. He told law enforcement the 48-year-old was his fiancee and they’d been dating for a number of years.

“When interviewed, the defendant’s cousin, who was aware of the prior domestic violence case, said it was only a matter of time before the defendant did something like this,” prosecutors wrote in charging documents.

His version of events, which authorities have made clear they don’t entirely believe, begins with the couple drinking at the Market Street Pub in Chehalis until about 10 p.m. last Thursday.

He had a few drinks, she had more than five, he said.

According to charging documents filed yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court, he said they left for Wendy’s to get food and dropped some off for her daughter at their home on Pier Road south of Chehalis. Bail’s daughter told law enforcement her mother never came inside the residence.

Morgan said at about 11 p.m., the couple headed out to drink more alcohol at their “special spot” on a logging road about 30 miles away, according to charging documents.

Fast forward to 1:30 a.m. when a resident who lives on state Route 508 not far from the start of the logging road calls 911 to say a man came on foot to her door saying he and his fiancee had been in a wreck and she wasn’t breathing.

Aid crews from Lewis County Fire District 4 responded, along with a Morton police officer, according to the sheriff’s office. They detected no pulse, began CPR and transported Bail by ambulance to Morton General Hospital, according to the sheriff’s office.

Bail was pronounced dead in the emergency room at 2:25 a.m.

Charging documents state that multiple law enforcement officers were dispatched at about 2:30 a.m. after word of the death.

Morgan was questioned.

His truck was found in a ditch along Forest Service Road 73 with minimal damage, although he’d said he’d been traveling at almost 70 mph while being pursued by a Dodge Neon, according to charging documents.

Charging documents state Morgan maintained the same general substance to his story, but there were multiple inconsistencies between interviews with various law enforcement officers.

According to the documents: Morgan said he noticed another vehicle followed them after they turned onto the logging road. He said when they reached their destination, Bail got out to urinate while stayed inside his truck.

He said the car came speeding up at them, made a wild spinout and came to a stop whereupon three males – including his former roommate – jumped out and began repeatedly striking Bail with a Maglight flashlight and a baton.

Morgan said he used his marital arts training to fend them off, even knocking his former roommate out cold.

He said he picked Bail up, put her in the vehicle, sped down the logging road but then crashed into the ditch and got stuck.

He said he’d been hit in the head with the flashlight; law enforcement described the injury on the back of his head as more like a scratch.

The former roommate voluntarily spoke with law enforcement on Friday night and indicated he had “absolutely no idea” what the defendant was talking about. He had no injuries, charging documents state.

The cause of Bail’s death, according to the Lewis County Coroner, was asphyxiation caused by manual strangulation. Blunt force trauma to her head contributed to her demise, according to Coroner Warren McLeod.

The report from the medical examiner noted it would have taken about four to six minutes of strangulation for the death to occur, charging documents state.

In court yesterday afternoon, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke asked for high bail, telling the judge it was a particularly violent homicide.

Morgan sat quietly beside defense attorney Bob Schroeter, with a half dozen individuals in the benches behind him.

Schroeter countered saying his client was a long term resident of the county with a “good” vocational history, commuting to Longview where he worked in an auto detailing shop for three years.

Judge Richard Brosey appointed Centralia attorney Don Blair to represent Morgan and scheduled his arraignment for Thursday morning.

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Brenda Bail: Fun at the river in August 2010. / Courtesy photo

Chehalis woman didn’t die from wreck, she was strangled, sheriff’s office says

Monday, July 22nd, 2013
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Corey Morgan’s wrecked truck on Forest Service Road 73 west of Morton. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office

Updated at 1:26 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Detectives didn’t buy the story about how Corey Ross Morgan’s fiancee suffered her fatal injuries in a wreck on a logging road outside Morton and an autopsy indicated she died from strangulation, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Morgan, 32, of Randle, was arrested on Friday for second-degree murder.

The sheriff’s office said there is a history of domestic violence between Morgan and the victim, 48-year-old Brenda L. Bail of Chehalis.

Aid was called about 1:30 a.m. on Friday to Forest Service Road 73 after Morgan showed up at a house about two miles away and asked the resident to call 911 because he had wrecked his truck and Bail wasn’t breathing.

Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said apparently when aid arrived, Bail had no pulse, they began CPR and transported her to the hospital.

Detectives became suspicious of Morgan’s detailed story of what occurred, according to the sheriff’s office.

He said the couple was visiting their “special spot” when three men jumped them, according to the sheriff’s office. Morgan also told detectives they beat Bail badly but he was able to “thwart” them off because he knew Tae-Kwon-Do, the sheriff’s office said.

He said he put her in his truck and as he sped down the logging road, he lost control and crashed into an embankment, causing his fiancee to hit her head on the dashboard.

The sheriff’s office says Morgan named Roger Etter of Kelso as one of the attackers, but Etter contacted law enforcement over the weekend and has been cleared of any involvement.

Brown said there were no indications Morgan was hurt and even the state patrol didn’t see the collision as one with enough impact to have caused major injuries to Bail.

Brown states Bail was dead at the wreck scene, even though she was transported by ambulance to the hospital. Detectives began their investigation at Morton General Hospital and don’t know if Bail died before the wreck or while Morgan had gone for help, according to Brown.

An autopsy conducted on Friday showed Bail died from asphyxiation caused by manual strangulation, with contributing factors of blunt force trauma to her face, according to authorities. The sheriff’s office says they don’t believe she was injured from the wreck.

Morgan is scheduled to go before a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court where his bail amount will be set.

 

Man booked for Lewis County murder

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A man was booked into the Lewis County Jail  yesterday for murder, however, the sheriff’s office won’t say anything about what homicide he is linked to.

Corey Ross Morgan was arrested for second-degree murder and booked at 3 p.m., according to jail’s roster.

A spokesperson for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office would not say if Morgan is connected with the suspicious death of 48-year-old Chehalis woman under investigation since early Friday morning or if detectives are working on another death in the county.

Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said yesterday morning a man went to a house on the 5900 block of state Route 508 west of Morton and told a woman there he and his fiance had gotten in a wreck on Forest Service Road 73, about two miles away, and she wasn’t breathing.

Aid found her dead when they arrived at the collision, according to Brown.

Detectives were questioning the un-named 32-year-old Randle man who said the couple had been “jumped” and the wreck happened while they were trying to get away, according to Brown. The sheriff’s office yesterday also said they were looking for 39-year-old Roger Etter, of Kelso, because he might have information in the case.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said an autopsy was conducted yesterday and he has determined the cause and manner of death for the woman, but he is withholding that information at the request of the sheriff’s office.

He also is not yet releasing her name as he has not confirmed who she is, he said. McLeod said he has tentatively identified her and notified the family of that person.

Brown indicated last night the sheriff’s office will release no further information on the man booked into the jail until after representatives from its office, the prosecutor’s office and the coroner’s office have a chance to get together for “briefing.”

That won’t happen before Monday, according to Brown.

Lawyers: Mentally disturbed Packwood man kidnapped woman friend

Thursday, July 18th, 2013
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Zachery H. Bynum appears with a defense attorney in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 41-year-old Packwood man being held in the Lewis County Jail allegedly took a 22-year-old woman up a logging road and threatened her with a machete, telling her either she was going to kill him or he was going to kill her before she managed to talk him into going to the Glenoma grocery, where he then forced her to drive him away as deputies arrived.

Zachery H. Bynum was arrested after an approximately four-mile police pursuit, during which he held the large knife alternately to the young woman’s ribs and neck, according to court documents.

Authorities say she tried to jump from her pickup truck while it was still traveling in excess of 45 mph after its front tires had been punctured by spike strips; it was only after it struck a guard rail and further struggling that she broke free and ran to the safety of a nearby patrol car.

Tuesday’s events were triggered because the woman met with Bynum to tell him she could not see him any more, court documents state.

Bynum, a homeless person, is charged with kidnapping and a multitude of other offenses.

He appeared before a judge today in Lewis County Superior Court, with shackles around his waist and his ankles. He refused jail officers’ attempts yesterday afternoon to bring him into court.

“My client could not be here yesterday because he suffers from significant, I mean significant, mental health issues,” defense attorney Bob Schroeter told the judge.

Prosecutors asked for bail to be set at $1 million, citing the danger to the victim and the community.

“Short of a violent sexual assault or homicide, I can’t think of much else more he could have done,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke told the judge.

Prosecutors said the Morton woman was taken to the hospital for treatment of cuts on her neck and other places on her body as well as scrapes.

Bynum has a prior felony conviction for second-degree assault from 1994 and several misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence and harassment, according to prosecutors.

Judge Nelson Hunt set bail at $250,000 and scheduled Bynum’s arraignment for next Thursday.

Charging documents are somewhat vague about the relationship between the two and don’t identify the location of the logging road or how long she and Bynum were there before they got to the grocery store at about 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

O’Rourke said he didn’t yet have a detailed timeline but got the impression from police reports the whole thing may have taken place over a period of a couple of hours.

She told deputies she is married and has had a romantic relationship with Bynum and they were also friends, according to court documents. She said she and her husband were reconciling and her husband no longer wanted her to see Bynum, the documents state. A sheriff’s office spokesperson said the two were dating.

Charging documents based on Lewis County Sheriff’s Office interviews with participants and witnesses allege the following account:

When the young woman met with Bynum on Tuesday to let him know she couldn’t see him any more, he became upset and asked her to give him a ride to a friend’s house. Along the way, he became hostile, calling her names and even spitting on her.

When they neared the destination, he ordered her to pull up a logging road, screaming at her.

Bynum grabbed her by the hair and dragged her up the logging road and away from her vehicle and her dogs which were inside. He took out the large machete and held it in his hand.

Bynum repeatedly shoved her to the ground and ordered her to keep walking and when she struggled, he  grabbed her by the throat and said “if she was going to talk like a man, she would fight like a man.”

He told if she didn’t comply, he would kill her dogs.

Finally, when they were stopped, as he stabbed his machete into the dirt near her, he told her it was her or him and he wasn’t going back to prison.

“(S)he knew she was going to die,” charging documents state.

The young woman convinced him they should go somewhere and continue talking, and she drove them to the store on the 8000 block of U.S. Highway 12 in Glenoma.

O’Rourke charged the defendant with one count of kidnapping for events up to this point and a second count of kidnapping for what happened at the small grocery after they arrived.

Bynum warned her not to do anything stupid, but once inside, she jumped over the checkout register, stood next to the clerk and begged her for help.

“The checker appeared scared and told (her), I’m sorry.”

Bynum pulled the screaming, struggling woman by her hair out of the building, choked her into unconsciousness and then ordered her back into the truck, smashing her face into the steering wheel.

That’s when a deputy arrived. She pulled away and the pursuit began.

The sheriff’s office spoke of him holding a large knife – described as a mini machete – to her neck. Charging documents refer both to a knife and a large machete.

The truck finally stopped near Kiona Creek Road.

Deputies said Bynum refused to comply with their demands, even at gunpoint, walking toward a deputy and telling him to shoot him in the head. It took a sergeant approaching with a Taser for him to get on the ground.

The defendant fought and resisted arrest, even with multiple officers attempting to detain him.

Bynum is charged with 12 counts, including first-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, felony harassment, misdemeanor assault, attempting to elude and resisting arrest.

Schroeter told Judge Hunt Bynum has no income or assets. He was given a court-appointed attorney.

•••

For background, read “News brief: Morton woman assaulted, forced to flee arriving law officers” from Wednesday July 17, 2013, here

Cause of yesterday’s apartment building and house fire unknown for now

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
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Workers begin boarding up the west side of the apartment building that burned yesterday morning on the corner of Northwest West Street and Rhode Island.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It could be awhile before the cause of yesterday’s fire that woke the occupants of a four-unit apartment building and an adjacent house in Chehalis can be determined.

Fire Chief Jim Walkowski said investigators can’t go back inside the bigger structure until its deemed safe to enter.

Both buildings were heavily damaged, he said.

He estimated the loss to the structure and contents was as much as $400,000 to the older apartments on the corner of Northwest West Street and Rhode Island. The house to its west may be fixable, he said.

Walkowski was at the scene of the 4:30 a.m. blaze again late yesterday afternoon as workers boarded up the windows.

The northwest corner of the apartment building suffered the greatest damage, he said. The exterior on the west side is completely charred.

He said he wasn’t sure what the residents might be able to recover of any belongings left undestroyed.

“Probably not a lot,” he said. “Once it’s stable, we’ll see what we can salvage.”

Ten adults were displaced by the fire that appears to have begun in the aging apartment building and spread to the one and half story house next door. A missing cat had not yet been found by yesterday afternoon.

The local Red Cross is providing emergency shelter, food and clothing to the occupants.

Nearly 50 firefighters from eight departments battled the blaze. A 55-year-old man who lives there was hospitalized briefly for smoke inhalation.

The fire chief said he hasn’t yet determined if there were operational smoke detectors, and got a report none activated inside the apartments. He was told by the owner they were in place, he said.

Walkowski said one of the challenges was the type of construction back in 1918 or 1924 when the big building was new. Once any flames got into a wall, there was nothing in place to stop them from spreading all around inside each wall, he said.

The other big issue was a natural gas line on the west side of the building broke, so the gas fueled a flame that was pointed directly at the neighboring house, he said.

It wasn’t an option to just extinguish the fire around the line, as then the gas would still be coming out, which would have been dangerous, he said.

It was about an hour and half before the gas company could get it shut off, he said. It involved digging and more complexity than just turning a valve, he said.

Walkowski said he’s heard the “hub bub” about the fire igniting from a meat smoker or related to explosions, but said it’s too early to know the cause.

The owner of the apartment building is being asked to hire a structural engineer to certify it is safe to enter, and then fire investigators will be able to conduct their examination, he said.
•••

For background, read “Blaze at Chehalis apartment building spreads to neighboring house” from Tuesday July 16, 2013 at 8:53 a.m., here

Blaze at Chehalis apartment building spreads to neighboring house

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
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Flames shoot from a Chehalis apartment building on Northwest West Street and Rhode Island. / Courtesy photo by Lorena Perez

Updated at 10:09 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A three alarm fire chased several people from a Chehalis apartment building and a house next door early this morning with one man hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

Firefighters are still on the scene at Northwest West Street and Rhode Island, around the corner from Kaija’s garden store.

The walls of the older two-story wood structure still stand, but ladder trucks continued to pour water on its roof where flames could be seen.

The blaze broke out around 4:30 a.m. At 8 a.m., Fire Chief Walkowski said the best they could figure was eight individuals were in the building and two others in the one and half story house to its west.

Fifty-five-year-old Ken Jacaway was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital. Walkowski said others declined aid.

“We took a look at them, they were all good to go,” Walkowski said.

Twelve-year-old Rionna Harris said she looked out from her second-story bedroom window across the street and saw an orange glow and flames coming from the west side of the building. She woke her parents up.

“I just heard a bunch of pops, like gunshots going off, and a lady hollering,” Tony Harris said.

Harris said by the time he got outside, several of the apartments’ inhabitants were standing on the street.

The box-shaped building has four apartments, in a neighborhood of older and very close together homes.

“A lot of these houses are old, ours was built in 1908,” Annette Harris said. “I don’t know how old that is.”

Norma Taylor said she’s lived in the apartments ground level unit for about a year. She said she heard a lot of noise on the stairs, but nobody came to wake her up.

“Our bedroom’s right there, I looked in the bathroom and the wall was on fire,” she said.

Taylor, 55, said she has a cat that hadn’t yet been found.

She said she thinks eight people total live in the building.

“By the time we got out, there was one cop car,” she said. “We could account for everybody.”

Walkowski, who is chief of Centralia’s Riverside Fire Authority and recently took over as chief for the Chehalis Fire Department, said 47 firefighters from eight departments – from as far away as Olympia – responded.

“When we arrived, it was pretty much fully involved,” he said.

Thirty-six-year-old Tim Brandner, who was staying at his girlfriend’s house, said he was already awake when he realized the building next door was burning.

Katie Laverell said she grabbed her iPad, her dog and some clothing she had laid out for work.

“When I seen the blinds started melting on the inside, I said, we gotta go,” Brandner said.

Laverell, 24, is among those being helped by the Red Cross this morning.

She looked toward her house, not knowing when she might go back or what was lost.

Jacaway was released from the hospital and back on the street corner with Taylor before the fire hoses even shut down.

He said he was okay.

“We’re both here, that’s the best,” Jacaway said. “Everyone got out.”

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Firefighters from Chehalis, Centralia and six other departments responded to the early morning fire.

Katie Laverell, with her dog Samson, talks with a Red Cross worker as her boyfriend Tim Brandner looks on.

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Witnesses said the fire jumped from the apartment building, on the right, to the single-family house next door, on the left.

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Nearly 50 firefighters battled the morning fires on West Street in Chehalis.

Case of shotgun fired outside 76 gas station in Adna wrapping up

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 36-year-old man pleaded guilty yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court to drive-by shooting, even though he didn’t fire a weapon from a vehicle.

Gilbert Borquez was the man who said he retrieved a shotgun from his girlfriend’s car when he saw the man he was meeting outside an Adna gas station had a handgun; Borquez initially told detectives he accidentally fired it into the ground.

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Gilbert Borquez

The case involves two vehicles full of people from Raymond and a third car that all fled after a gunshot was heard at the 76 station off state Route 6 on April 16. Lewis County sheriff’s detectives said the group was trying to help a woman get back her rental car – containing $500 and all her belongings – from her ex-boyfriend who stole it.

After the plea deal wrapped up with Borquez sentenced to 34 months in prison yesterday morning, Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said one doesn’t necessarily have to be in a vehicle when they fire a gun for the offense to qualify as drive-by shooting. In this case, a vehicle was used to transport the pistol-grip sawed off shotgun to the scene, Halstead said.

“The title isn’t really what you would think it is,” Halstead said of the statute.

There was no allegation anyone was shot.

In exchange for dropping a charge of first-degree assault, Borquez pleaded guilty to drive-by shooting, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a short barrel shotgun.

Both Halstead and defense attorney J.P. Enbody told Judge Nelson Hunt Borquez was straightforward with law enforcement and cooperative.

Halstead said when the rental car was located, detectives found an area on it that showed a scrape pattern consistent with buckshot. The victim, Paul Martin, was arrested in Oregon and is currently facing criminal charges related to taking the woman’s car, Halstead said.

The woman, Amalia Copp, 43, has pleaded guilty in Lewis County to unlawful possession of a firearm because it was on the seat next to her on the ride to Adna, according to Halstead.

Robert R. Ogilve, 42, who fled on foot and was found by sheriff’s deputies that afternoon along the Chehalis River, has pleaded guilty to escape in connection with not meeting with his community corrections officer.

Halstead said there are two other individuals who have yet to be arrested for their roles.
•••

For background, read “Sawed off shotgun found near Adna gas station, one arrested” from Thursday April 18, 2013, here

Centralia’s “Spooker” gets extra prison time for assault due to gang affiliation

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
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Joshua D. C. Rhoades faces a judge in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 32-year-old Centralia resident said to be the leader of the local LVL gang was sentenced today to a little more than nine years in prison for a roughly 30 to 40 second fight earlier this year on a Centralia street in which a 17-year-old boy was knocked unconscious.

Joshua Rhoades was convicted by a jury in April of second-degree assault.

His one-week-old baby boy was among a handful of family members and friends present during this morning’s proceedings in Lewis County Superior Court. They were out numbered by law enforcement officers in the courtroom.

Prosecutors said during his trial that Rhoades jumped out of a car, flashing gang signs and asking the teen and his two friends if they knew who he was and if they were  rival “Nortenos”. The teenager Dustin McLean testified Rhoades held a closed knife in his fist as he struck him.

The brief brawl in downtown Centralia on Jan 31 included two of Rhoades’ companions as well as at least two of the three boys. McLean said he was hit well over 20 times.

Defense attorney Chris Baum asked the judge today to give his client 65 months, the bottom of the standard sentencing range. The top was 82 months. Baum said there was a lot of discussion of gang activity by the prosecutor during the trial, but the injury itself not that serious and it was more like a misdemeanor assault.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joely O’Rourke recommended the judge sentence Rhoades to the maximum of 10 years, noting the special finding by the jury allowed the judge to go above the standard range.

O’Rourke said Rhoades is well known to Centralia police, who say he is the leader of the LVL and that he assaulted the teenager without provocation.

LVL stands for Little Valley Locos or Little Valley Lokotes a gang locally made up mostly of individuals who grew up in Centralia when it was particularly active in the summer of 2007. Police say Rhoades goes by the street name Spooker.

“This is one of the few times a victim has been brave enough to come in and testify against Mr. Rhoades,” O’Rourke said.

She said the teen’s family has taken him out of school and moved away because he has been threatened, harassed and assaulted since the trial.

Rhoades maintained his innocence when asked by the judge if he wanted to make any statement.

“Well, Ms. O’Rourke, because of me being who I am or whatever, she had no problem offering me a plea bargain of 80 months,” Rhoades said.

Judge James Lawler gave Rhoades 10 months less than 10 years, so that he could also impose 10 months of supervision by the state Department of Corrections upon his release.

The basis for the exceptional sentence was because of the special gang finding by the jury, Lawler said.

The jury had found the assault was committed with a deadly weapon and also a so-called aggravator that the incident was intended to enhance Rhoades’ affiliation in a street gang.

Rhoades previous most recent criminal convictions are for malicious mischief in 2008 and third-degree assault in 2004. Before that, he has convictions for intimidating a witness and theft in 2000 and a second-degree assault in 1999, and then a juvenile record.

His attorney filed a notice of appeal.
•••

For background, read “Lewis County jury convicts Centralia gang member of assault on teen” from Friday April 26, 2013, here

Former bank teller charged with theft from Morton Athletic Association

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The now former treasurer of an organization for youth sports has been accused of misappropriating funds that were kept in the Morton bank where she worked.

Sarah J. Erskine, 34, handled the money for the Morton Athletic Association, for “gosh, several years,” the group’s president Chad Cramer said.

Cramer went to Morton Police Chief Dan Mortensen in mid-May after he and other members who had been scrutinizing the records for several months suspected the treasurer had been dipping into the accounts for about two years.

“No, she’s not still treasurer,” Cramer said today.

The association historically has organized, run or financially supported various non-school based activities from T-Ball and Babe Ruth Baseball to basketball, football and cheerleading, according to Cramer. Mostly for children younger than middle school age, he said.

He called it a 40-year-old institution that’s always been run by adults who are friends, kind of on handshakes an agreements.

“It appeared to Cramer that Erskine was taking money from different accounts and then making an effort to replace that money,” court documents state. “Cramer told Mortensen he believed Erskine got in too deep and couldn’t pay all the money back.”

The amount in question is alleged to be upwards of $12,000.

The investigation by the Morton Police Department began on May 13 and concluded on June 20.

“I will make the point Sarah did pay the money back that was remaining, immediately upon everything coming to light,” Cramer said this afternoon.

Court documents confirm that by mid-June, the accounts were replenished and shortages repaid by her family. Many personal friends also helped her pay some of it back, according to court documents.

Cramer said in court documents Erskine was a teller at Sterling Savings Bank but was fired recently because of the issue. The bank only confirmed she no longer is employed there.

A charge of first-degree theft has been filed in Lewis County Superior Court. Erskine has not been arrested, but summonsed to appear before a judge on July 19.

The case comes on the heels of another local misuse of a fund meant for young people operated by a group of parents.

A 43-year-old Chehalis man was charged this spring with helping himself to some $8,000 from an account run by in part by his wife for the W.F. West High School senior class.

Robert N. Downs Jr.  was charged with first-degree theft and 14 counts of forgery, as he allegedly signed his wife’s name to checks written out to himself. When Chehalis police announced their findings in March, they indicated that Downs’ wife had replaced the missing money after she learned of the losses.

Downs has pleaded not guilty but is scheduled to appear in court on July 24 to change his plea. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said today he offered him a deal in which he could go to prison for one year and one day.

In Erskine’s case, she met with the police chief voluntarily in May, cried, said she was prepared to finish paying the final $3,000 remaining and that she’d “just gotten caught up in everything,” according to court documents.

Sterling Bank held four accounts for the Morton Athletic Association. It appeared Erskine had generated a debit card for her own use, court documents state.

Court documents state her mother-in-law went to the police chief last month and payed the last of debt. “Sarah told her she used the money to pay personal bills,” the documents state.

Cramer provided the police chief records highlighting the withdrawals he did not think were costs incurred by the association. They included expenditures at Bailey’s IGA, Wal-Mart, the Shell gas station in Morton, Big 5 Sporting Goods and Centralia Factory Outlets, according to the court documents.

Attempts to reach Erskine for comment were unsuccessful.

Cramer suggested he bore some responsibility for the situation going undetected. He said the MAA board has been in transition, with many of the long term participants stepping down as their children had grown up, including Erskine.

“Which is maybe why this wasn’t being watched as closely as it should have,” he said.

He couldn’t think of any ways it has affected the youth involved, but is mainly concerned about preserving the group’s integrity.

The association is in the final stages of a lengthy process of combining into a new organization with similar groups from the Randle  and farther east areas, he said. It’s called the Morton-White Pass Athletic Association.

“We’ve just got our board and our bylaws,” he said.

Cramer said they’ve put out the word the public is welcome to their board meetings and to ask questions. The next one is July 19.

Former truck driver, rapist will remain locked up indefinitely

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Lewis County jury concluded yesterday a former Olympia-area truck driver who completed his prison term for raping a hitchhiking teenager should now be held indefinitely as a sexually violent predator.

Mark T. Robinson, 46, was released last year following his 12-year sentence for the knifepoint sexual assault of an 18-year-old girl he picked up at a Spokane truck stop. The teen was headed to Toledo to visit her child and escaped his big rig at an exit on Interstate 5 near her destination.

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Mark T. Robinson

The civil commitment trial which began last week in Lewis County Superior Court ended late yesterday afternoon.

Robinson had only one other criminal conviction in his past, patronizing a prostitute, but reportedly confessed to raping dozens of prostitutes in Pierce and King counties during the four to five years before his arrest in the summer of 2000.

He is among a small number of individuals convicted of sex crimes in Washington state where after their criminal sentence is completed, authorities attempt to retain them in custody for treatment until they are no longer dangerous.

Robinson will now return to the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center, where he has been detained since his release. Judge James Lawler signed a warrant of commitment after the verdict.

One of his two lawyers, Martin Mooney, said his client will be locked up until he’s better.

“I say in theory, because I have a cynical view of the nature of the treatment offered at the center,” Mooney said.

The state legislature invented the term, mental abnormality, back in the early 1990s, he said. But it doesn’t have any meaning in psychology, he said.

The process comes from the Community Protection Act of 1990, the first of its kind in the country, that followed a particularly heinous offense against a little boy in Pierce County, according to Mooney.

It’s a controversial law; people think it’s double jeopardy, he said.

“This law is purportedly an offspring of of civl commitment, so it’s that, but it’s not really that, because Mr. Robinson is not mentally ill,” he said.

Mooney said it’s problematic in that a proper client-therapist relationship can hardly develop when the same therapist is providing evidence for the state of why the person should not be released.

Mooney, who works for the Snohomish County Public Defenders Association, was appointed by the state to represent Robinson. He’s been handling these types of cases for about a decade, he said.

Senior Counsel Malcom Ross, of the Office of the Attorney General of Washington, represented the state.

In Robinson’s case, Mooney argued that although he is diagnosed as a sexual sadist, that doesn’t mean he can’t control his behavior. It’s essentially just an “interest,” he said.

Studies show that among rapists, the reoffense rate is essentially the same for sadists and non-sadists, he said. Statistically, among people with Robinson’s profile, the reoffense rate is about 24 percent, he said.

“That may not sound low, but the law is looking at 50 percent, or more likely than not,” he said.

Mooney said his client has undergone treatment, although he didn’t do well according to his therapist.

“But he didn’t get kicked out,” he said.

The then-teenage victim wasn’t among those who testified during Robinson’s commitment trial. She died at age 25, the victim of a homicide at a motel in Wyoming.

•••

For background, read “Rapist convicted in Lewis County faces indefinite lockup after prison term” from Monday May 21, 2012, here

“Ear hustling”: Convicted murderer John Booth tells judge about problems at Lewis County Jail

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Updated at 8:35 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The convicted triple murderer who once called Onalaska home is seeking to the put an end to practices he contends are eavesdropping by the state on Lewis County Jail inmates, jeopardizing their rights to confidential communications with their lawyers.

And he’s already made some progress.

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John Allen Booth Jr.

John Allen Booth Jr., now 34, is serving a life sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla for the shootings in a Salkum area home almost three years ago. Prosecutors argued Booth and a fellow former cell mate visited a house off Gore Road because they were “taxing” the man who lived there – with his girlfriend and teenage son – on behalf of Lewis County drug dealer Robbie Russell.

In a typewritten motion, Booth tells of law enforcement officers standing outside the jail’s row of visiting rooms while he consulted with his attorneys and their investigators. He points out that people almost had to yell back and forth to be heard through the transparent partitions.

He states he could easily hear the conversations of other lawyers and accused persons all around him.

“On many occasions, other attorneys informed Mr. Booth and whoever with him he was consulting with they could hear everything that was being said, and there were sheriff’s deputies outside in the hallway,” Booth writes.

In his filing, Booth included affidavits by other former inmates to bolster his accusation, and a letter from Centralia attorney Don Blair.

The letter states it’s been an ongoing problem at the jail that Blair has brought up to the jail administration and judges, noting he told them it was only a matter of time that an inmate would have an issue with the lack of confidentiality during attorney visits.

“The state made sure they learned my trial strategy and harassed any witnesses I wanted to bring forth,” Booth wrote.

He calls it “ear hustling”.

The filing made in December is the reason Booth was scheduled to appear in Lewis County Superior Court this week, although his hearing was cancelled because Judge Richard Brosey was in trial.

The filing specifically alleges governmental misconduct and the state’s infringement of Booth’s right to counsel. It’s part of a motion to vacate the judgement and sentence based on court rule 7.8.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Brad Meagher said it’s separate from the appeal those convicted can make to the Washington State Court of Appeals.

“Defendants have this other option,” Meagher said. “You can move to set aside your judgement on a limited variety of grounds.”

A third avenue which can be pursued is called a personal restraint petition. Booth reportedly is working on all three types of appeals.

Lewis County Jail Chief Kevin Hanson said he began taking steps to mitigate the problem when he first found out it was an issue in recent months, after Booth’s motion was filed.

While routine jail visits were long ago moved to a computer screen system in which the inmate doesn’t leave the cell, the six cement-walled booths that remain are used for face to face visits with lawyers and sometimes others, according to Hanson. The glass partitions have small holes around their perimeter meant for voices to get across.

“These rooms were never totally soundproof,” Hanson said. “It’s the way they were designed.”

At first, the jail began restricting inmate-attorney visits to only one set at a time, Hanson said.

Now he has had phones installed on each side of each booth.

“We installed carpet to muffle sounds like chairs scratching on the floor,” he said. “And we’re installing sound board, acoustical sheeting, on the cement walls.”

Hanson has told the Lewis County Board of Commissioners it won’t fix all the related problems, but at least will show they’ve made an effort.

Hanson said it’s not an issue that corrections officers stand in the hallway, and that they do so for high-risk inmates.

Booth was held in the Lewis County Jail from August 27, 2010 until he was sentenced on Dec. 16, 2011 under the so-called three strikes law to life in prison with no chance for release.

The victims, David West Sr., 52; his son David “D.J.” West Jr., 16; and 50-year-old Tony Williams of Randle were each fatally shot in the head on Aug. 21, 2010.  Denise Salts, 51, was shot in the face but survived. Booth was also convicted of attempted extortion and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Booth denied shooting any of them, although he admitted being at the home earlier in the evening saying West Sr. owed him money from a pound of methamphetamine.

Booth raised other issues in his motion, claiming a deputy told him he listened to recorded conversations Booth had with his attorney, jail staff snooped through his cell where he had defense strategy notes and read his mail and a sheriff’s detective sat directly behind he and his attorney during his trial eavesdropping. He also noted that during trial recesses a corrections officer always accompanied him and his lawyer into a room set aside for them.

He wrote in court documents his filings should be considered filed timely, as he spent his first full year in prison in “the hole” and couldn’t do it any sooner. He writes that he has been working diligently.

The court assigned defense attorney Erik Kupka and his office partner to represent Booth on the matters and they appeared before Judge Brosey in February. At that hearing, Booth asked the judge about other issues, such as DNA evidence from the autopsies that turned up in a locker at the coroner’s office long after his trial was over.

Booth stated in court documents he was told to file another motion. And he did.

At the end of March he filed new papers under the same type of motion claiming the state acted fraudulently for failing to disclose the DNA evidence, for failing to disclose a plea agreement with Salts and failing to notify the defense she had a multimillion dollar incentive by way of a lawsuit with the state Department of Corrections to help convict him.

In an accompanying letter, he requested Kupka be appointed to represent him on the supplemental motion. But added: “And if you don’t give me a lawyer, just let me know, and I’ll gladly represent myself.”

Kupka said this week he hasn’t been made aware of Booth’s new issues.

“He may be bringing it to the court’s attention, to have the court assign me,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do to get the ball rolling,” he said.

Meagher said the court hearing which was planned for Tuesday and didn’t happen was specifically to focus on a disagreement between he and Kupka.

“He wants the state to produce a lot of material,” Meagher said, giving as an example, a list of who works at the jail. “We said no.”

The court hearing was rescheduled for Sept. 3.

Also new in the six-volume court file are documents which hint at an issue Booth’s appellate counsel is looking at.

Attorney Stephanie Cunningham filed a request for transcripts from the proceedings during which jurors were selected, also known as voire dire.

Cunningham was appointed in May of last year to represent Booth for his appeal, which was filed for him the day he was sentenced.

His accompanying declaration states that his trial attorney Roger Hunko erred, and that a juror who was a neighbor of one of the deceased should have been struck for cause.
•••

For background, read “Judge will hear Onalaskan’s request to toss his murder convictions this coming September” from Monday February 4, 2013, here

Mossyrock police chief’s wife cancels protection order

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A protection order against Mossyrock Police Chief Jeremy Stamper was terminated today, at the request of his wife who sought the court order at the end of May saying she feared her husband’s access to weapons.

Shannon Stamper, 36, was asked if she was making the new request voluntarily and if anyone had threatened her in any way. She answered yes and no respectively.

Lewis County Superior Court Commissioner Tracy Mitchell told the Mossyrock woman she needed to take some time  to speak with a victim’s advocate and if she still wanted to go forward with canceling the order, it would be signed.

Chief Stamper was not present at his morning’s hearing in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis, but his attorney was in attendance for a portion of the proceedings.

Chief Stamper remains on the job, although the court order restricted him from possessing firearms, except his duty weapon while on shift. Mossyrock Mayor Tom Meade said late last week he was unaware of the requirement he store his police chief’s gun, and that anyway he considered the town’s only police officer on duty 24 hours a day because he is subject to being called out at any time.

Chief Stamper declined to comment on the situation; Shannon Stamper said on Friday it was “all blown out of proportion.”

Just four days after the order was filed, Shannon Stamper made a written request it be withdrawn, noting her husband had never hit her and they agreed to reconcile.

Commissioner Mitchell this morning pointed out to Shannon Stamper the results of a test she had ordered at a June 10 hearing; a UA conducted that day that showed the presence of alcohol in Chief Stamper’s system.

“This was despite his representation to the court he’d had no alcohol since May 20,” Mitchell said.

Shannon Stamper returned before the court commissioner about an hour after her first appearance and the termination order was signed after she confirmed that was what she wanted.
•••

For background, read “Mossyrock police chief contesting protection order” from Friday June 28, 2013, here

Mossyrock police chief contesting protection order

Friday, June 28th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Mossyrock Police Chief Jeremy Stamper is under court order to check his service firearm to his supervisor after each shift where it will be held until his following shift as part of a protection order sought by his wife.

He was also ordered to undergo domestic violence treatment and drug and alcohol treatment, according to court documents.

Stamper, the east Lewis County town’s only police officer, didn’t return calls for comment, but his supervisor says Stamper remains on the job.

“I have full confidence in him, or he wouldn’t be on patrol right now,” Mossyrock Mayor Tom Meade said yesterday.

Meade however said he isn’t aware of the requirement he hold Stamper’s gun.

The court case began when the police chief’s wife, Shannon Stamper, petitioned the court on May 20 for a year-long protection order and requested her husband be required to undergo treatment.

Court documents show that at a June 10 hearing, Lewis County Superior Court Commissioner Tracy Mitchell found “Ms. Stamper credible” and signed a protection order.

Shannon Stamper’s initial request said her husband never hit her, but he had access to weapons. An example of her concern she wrote about was an incident at the end of February in which she said Jeremy Stamper crushed his phone because he could not figure it out.

The order put in place has numerous restrictions, such as prohibiting him from coming within 200 feet of her residence. Five children are listed as protected as well.

A handwritten aside on the document states that work related contacts in the neighborhood are okay.

Meade said the court order comes during a contested divorce and makes no sense to him. He said the court didn’t analyze the situation thoroughly.

“This whole thing has me scratching my head,” Meade said. “I’ve supervised people for 40 years and I can spot an alcoholic and I can spot an abuser, and I just don’t see this.”

Meade said when the issue first arose, everyone thought the best course of action would be for the police chief to go on vacation. “Not administrative leave, just plain vacation,” he said.

Stamper has been back about a week and half, he said.

Meade pointed out his police chief works 40 hours, but is subject to call out at any time. He’s on duty 24 hours a day, Meade said.

The language on the standard protection order form states that if it is a domestic situation, then effective immediately the respondent may not possess a firearm or ammunition. A handwritten notation on the page indicates Stamper can possess his duty firearm while on shift, per “18 USC 8925.”

Stamper’s attorney Don Blair has filed a motion the order be revised contending the evidence did not show the petitioner was a victim of domestic violence.

Shannon Stamper four days after the order was filed made a written request it be terminated, writing the couple has agreed to reconcile and undergo family counseling. She wrote she may have been mistaken in interpreting her husband’s behavior.

Shannon Stamper wrote she has feared her husband in the recent past but never had issues of safety regarding herself or their children.

Her only comment today: “It’s all blown out of proportion.”

A hearing is set for Monday on the matter.

Arguments for re-sentencing teen drive-by shooter to be heard this autumn

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
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Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. waits in a Lewis County courtroom after attorneys pick a date for his new sentencing hearing.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Former Centralia resident Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. made a brief appearance in Lewis County Superior Court today as his “do-over” of a nearly 93-year prison sentence winds its way through the system.

Solis-Diaz was 16 years old when he was arrested following a drive-by shooting in downtown Centralia in the summer of 2007.

He was tried as an adult and convicted of multiple offenses, including one count of first-degree assault committed with a firearm for each bullet that was fired. Nobody was hit.

The state Court of Appeals tossed out his virtual life sentence last September and ordered the local court to conduct a new sentencing hearing, referencing various matters that should have been handled more thoroughly, given that he was a juvenile.

The former Centralia High School student’s personal restraint petition focused on a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held a sentence of life without parole is forbidden for a juvenile who did not commit homicide.

He is represented by attorney Robert Quillian.

In January when Solis-Diaz was returned to Lewis County to begin to address the issue, Quillian asked he remain housed in the Lewis County Jail for closer access as the attorney prepared for the new sentencing hearing.

Quillian and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh told a judge this afternoon they expect the hearing will take half a day. It was put on the court calendar for Sept. 27.

The deputy prosecutor who handled the case in 2007 has predicted the new sentence isn’t likely to be all that much shorter, given the statutory framework in place.

Beigh this afternoon said the prosecutors office still hasn’t finalized exactly how much time they will ask for. She’s waiting to see what arguments the defense attorney raises.

“I know what I think I’m going to recommend,” Beigh said. “But I’m trying to keep an open mind and see what they present.”
•••

For background, read: “Appeals court gives Centralia teen a “do-over” on 90-plus-year drive-by shooting sentence” from Wednesday September 19, 2012, here

Centralia jewelry shop burglary case ends with prison for two men

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
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Justin D. McPherson of Federal Way asks a judge for mercy in deciding his sentence in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A judge yesterday disregarded a defendant’s plea for a special drug offender sentencing alternative and gave him seven years plus two months in prison for the failed Centralia jewelry store burglary in which he was shot.

Justin D. McPherson, 29, stood before Judge Nelson Hunt in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday and admitted he acted selfishly and irresponsibly, saying he didn’t want to “live this life anymore.”

“I do have a drug problem,” McPherson said, his voice breaking. “I need help. I just ask for your mercy.”

McPherson was found guilty by a jury last month for breaking into Salewsky’s Jewelry shop in the early morning hours of March 20. He was confronted by the owner’s son who awoke in an upstairs apartment and shot him before he escaped through a hole he’d cut in a wall to an adjoining office space, dropping a trail of jewelry behind him.

Hunt told the Federal Way resident he deserved hard time.

“It may be that you have a drug problem, but frankly it doesn’t matter to me,” Judge Hunt said.

“You’re also a criminal.”

Hunt outlined his reasons. Part of it had to do with the obvious planning that went into the crime, he said.

Mainly, the judge said, McPherson went into a building where he didn’t belong when someone was present. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t aware anyone would be there, he said.

Gunshots threaten everybody, Hunt said.

“This was a legitimate use of self defense, but it was caused by you,” he said.

McPherson was sentenced for one count of second-degree burglary and one count of residential burglary, as well as second-degree malicious mischief for cutting a hole in the wall inside the building.

He was represented by Chehalis attorney Ken Johnson.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the judge the case against McPherson’s childhood friend Ryan W. Cox wasn’t quite as strong. Cox pleaded guilty in a plea deal.

Later yesterday, Cox was sentenced to seven years for his role.

Halstead said it never was learned how the two non-local men knew about the place; they broke through the back door of the vacant neighboring space and used a crowbar to break through a wall to get into the shop.

The two women who testified they waited in their cars nearby but didn’t know of the plan to steal any jewelry have pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance.
•••

For background, read “Jewelry store break-in defendant’s companions testify against him” from Thursday May 30, 2013, here

Trial gets underway for indefinite detention of accused sexual sadist

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Lewis County jury heard via videotaped interview a convicted rapist talk about 10 to 12 of his victims as they sit through a trial in which they will decide if 46-year-old Mark T. Robinson will remain locked up even though he has served his prison term.

Robinson, once a truck driver, was convicted in September 2000 after raping at knifepoint a teenage girl he picked up at a Spokane truck stop, an 18-year-old who escaped his big rig at an exit on Interstate 5 near Toledo. She was hitchhiking to visit her child in Toledo.

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Mark T. Robinson

The trial which began yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court is expected to run into next week, according to Senior Counsel Malcom Ross, at the Office of the Attorney General of Washington.

Ross filed the petition for Robinson’s civil commitment in May of last year. Such a petition is filed for approximately 1 percent of offenders who are released from prison in Washington, Ross said at the time.

The process comes from the Community Protection Act of 1990, the first of its kind in the country. The state Attorney General’s Office typically handles the cases, in the county where the criminal conviction occurred.

If the 12-person jury finds unanimously beyond a reasonable doubt Robinson is a sexually violent predator, he will be retained in custody for treatment until he’s deemed no longer dangerous, according to Ross.

Robinson, who according to court documents, was raised in a farming area outside Olympia, bullied in special education classes and dropped out of school, confessed he got a thrill out of raping.

His only other conviction is patronizing a prostitute in 1998, according to Ross.

The then-18-year-old rape victim won’t be among those who take the witness stand. She died years later in a homicide in another state, Ross said. He wasn’t certain of the details.

“It would be useful to hear from her, we wish we had her,” Ross said. “But the most important parts will be the experts discussing the mental disorder.”

The legal term is a mental abnormality that would cause one to reoffend in a sexual way, Ross said. The diagnosis is sadism.
•••

For background, read “Rapist convicted in Lewis County faces indefinite lockup after prison term” from Monday May 21, 2012, here

Police: LVL gang member caught dealing meth

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police arrested a 28-year-old Tenino man yesterday after he allegedly sold $50 worth of methamphetamine to an informant behind the Hub Tavern in Centralia.

Ruben Alberto Palomares was the subject on an ongoing investigation by the Chehalis Police Department, according to Deputy Chief Randy Kaut. He was picked up late in the afternoon in a vehicle traveling on Cooks Hill Road in Centralia, Kaut said.

Officers conducted what Kaut called a high-risk stop, which includes drawn weapons.

Palomares is charged in Lewis County Superior Court with three counts of delivery of a controlled substance, meth.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher in asking for bail this afternoon told a judge the defendant has only misdemeanor crimes on his record, but that prosecutors are concerned with his known gang ties.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter who represented Palomares for the hearing said his client works in Winlock and has a solid address in Tenino where he’s lived with his mother for at least the past 10 years.

He qualified as indigent and Centralia attorney Don Blair was appointed to handle his case.

Judge Nelson Hunt ordered him held on $25,000 bail pending trial.

According to charging documents, a police informant twice last month purchased $40 worth of meth from Palomares, and then yesterday bought $50 more while police were conducting surveillance.

A search made today of the impounded vehicle turned up the pre-recorded buy money as well as “paraphernalia” confirming his association with the local LVL gang, according to charging documents.

Palomares once was one of four individuals suspected as being involved in a drive-by shooting in Chehalis that occurred in 2010. Nobody was injured, but a vehicle was shot. That case fell apart because of witness issues, according to Meagher.

Delivery of methamphetamine is a class B felony with a maximum penalty of 10 yeas in prison and a $20,000 fine.
•••

For background, read “Last suspect from summer 2010 drive-by shooting in Chehalis now accounted for” from Wednesday October 3, 2012, here

Illness and delay plagued Winlock rape case ends with lengthy prison term

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
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Leo B. Bunker, right, consults with his attorney Michael Underwood as he is sentenced in Lewis County Superior Court to prison for rape.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 53-year-old Winlock man convicted of raping his wife was sentenced today to 38 years in prison.

Leo B. Bunker III, who denied the accusations when he took the witness stand during his trial earlier this month, filed a notice of appeal following this morning’s court hearing, but suffers from advanced throat cancer.

Bunker’s lawyer called it a virtual life sentence even without the illness; a prosecutor indicated it was well-deserved.

“He is incredibly dangerous, ” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joely O’Rourke told the judge. “He will absolutely get out and either kill (the victim) or hurt someone else.”

Bunker was arrested in late 2011 after deputies were told he physically abused the woman he reunited with some 35 years after they dated in high school. The victim testified he quickly became possessive and violent, preventing her from talking on the phone or leaving the house and terrifying her with cruel and sadistic threats.

She described how she went through with their wedding, because she didn’t think she could get away from him and still make sure she and her family would be safe.

O’Rourke today read a statement from the victim in which she wrote when “Buddy” came back into her life, it reminded her of better times, but she quickly came to fear him and would do just about anything to avoid his rage.

Bunker was convicted by on June 6, as charged, of two counts of second-degree rape, one count of harassment and two counts of violating a protection order. The jury found “aggravating circumstances” which allowed for additional time on his sentence.

On the advice of her doctor, the victim stayed away from today’s proceedings, according to O’Rourke. She sufferers from a coronary condition so serious her doctors told her could kill her if she testified.

Bunker’s older sister however was in the courtroom in support of her sibling.

“It’s one thing to go to prison for things you did, but it’s wrong when you didn’t,” Debra Tsugawa said.

Tsugawa said she doesn’t know if her brother will live long enough to see through his appeal.

She said her brother was diagnosed in August of last year with an aggressive cancer while he was locked up awaiting trial, but his treatment was delayed until January and by then it had spread to his lymph glands and thyroid.

Because he is in the custody of the jail, Lewis County has been responsible for paying for his medical care. As of two weeks ago, the bills had added up to more than $250,000, according to Lewis County Jail Chief Kevin Hanson.

The sentencing was initially scheduled for next month, while waiting for a pre-sentencing report from the state Department of Corrections.

Hanson reported to the Lewis County Board of Commissioners two weeks ago, that he asked Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer to ask DOC to expedite the report because Bunker needed further significant medical procedures before then.

Judge James Lawler today ordered Bunker to pay more than $2,000 in fines, fees and reimbursements such as for his defense attorney and his time in jail. Lawler said he is also ordering the medical costs to be repaid if prosecutors can provide evidence that’s allowable.

Bunker may have no contact with the victim for life and will be on community supervision after his release for the rest of his life.

•••

For background, read “Lewis County rape case plagued with delays hits another hurdle” from  Friday May 31, 2013, here