Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Sheriff: Pe Ell’s marshal jailed for driving police car under the influence

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Updated at 10:45 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The new town marshal for Pe Ell was arrested overnight for driving drunk, in Pe Ell, in his patrol vehicle.

Marshal Anthony K. Corder’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when he was processed at the Lewis County Jail, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

He was booked into the facility this morning, Sheriff Steve Mansfield said.

“He was very polite, very cooperative, upset that he put us in the position to have to do this,” Sheriff Mansfield said. “He didn’t give us any problems.”

Corder was hired recently by the mayor of the small West Lewis County town.

The 27-year-old just out of the military had no prior law enforcement experience and has not yet attended the training academy but did have police powers already, according to the sheriff’s office.

It happened about 2 o’clock this morning.

He apparently was not on duty, as he was wearing civilian clothes, according to the sheriff’s office.

But he was driving a fully marked police car, equipped with all his various police gear, including his duty weapon which the sheriff’s office confiscated, Mansfield said.

It came about because deputies were dispatched about 1:08 a.m., advised there was a possibly suicidal subject and it could be the marshal who might be intoxicated, according to the sheriff’s office.

When he was contacted however, there were no indications of him being suicidal, only that he’d been drinking, according to Mansfield.

The sheriff had no further details about that aspect, suggesting its possible the caller said something that was not true.

Mansfield gave the following account: A responding deputy spotted a car driving around town with its headlights off and when it pulled in front of a house, its driver got out and went inside. The deputy asked dispatch to have the marshal call him and then come outside which he did, Mansfield said.

Corder’s blood alcohol level was measured at .186 and .184, according to Mansfield.

“It’s very concerning,” Mansfield said. “Number one, I hope this young man gets some help, but until he gets his life straightened out or something, he doesn’t need to be working law enforcement in Lewis County or anywhere else.”

Chief Criminal Deputy Gene Seiber said the arrest occurred at the 500 block of North Main Street and that Corder is a Pe Ell resident, but it’s not clear whose home he was at.

He is the town’s only law enforcement officer.

The sheriff’s office will respond to emergency calls in Pe Ell, as they do in all the small towns when no one else is available, and then send the town a bill, according to Mansfield.

New fire chief may be old fire chief, Mike Kytta

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Assistant Fire Chief Rick Mack made it plain he doesn’t have his sights set on a promotion with the departure of the chief of Riverside Fire Authority.

Mack, one of two assistant chiefs serving under Jim Walkowski, last night offered a lengthy discourse about the leadership his co-worker, Assistant Chief Mike Kytta, has shown over more than a decade.

His praise came during a gathering with the decision makers, the Centralia area fire department’s board of commissioners. The special meeting was held to talk about what’s next, following Walkowski’s resignation last week. Walkowski was absent, out of town at a conference.

“I believe, based on his demonstrated selflessness, Chief Kytta is the right person for the job,” Mack said told the board. “I’ll continue to serve alongside him as long as you’ll have me.”

Facing a steeply declining budget, the organization has cut firefighter positions and was poised to trim the trio of top officers down to two, when the chief took a position last week in the Spokane area. He will remain at Riverside through the end of this month.

Mack pointed out that 11 years ago, they were two separate agencies; the Centralia Fire Department and its neighbor that protected areas surrounding the city, Lewis County Fire District 12.

It was an idea presented by Kytta, then chief of District 12, to begin working together in ways so, for example, a fire truck the city wouldn’t have to drive all the way west to answer a call across the street from District 12′s station, a truck from District 12 would go instead, Mack described.

It was around the same time, an agreement was put into place with the private ambulance service AMR that allowed the scheduling of two paramedic-staffed ambulances on duty at all times, Mack said, an arrangement he said has worked well.

When Centralia’s fire chief retired, an interim chief was hired who recruited Walkowski to head up the combined organization, Mack went on.

Kytta could have, but didn’t didn’t, seek the top job, Mack indicated.

Kytta didn’t respond directly to the public recommendation, but later indicated he wouldn’t turn it down.

“If they want to talk with me about that, I’d be honored to talk with them,” he said.

The hour long session at the fire station on Harrison Avenue included an appeal from union president Riverside Firefighter Rick LeBoeuf to make clear as quickly as possible who would be chief, and what size next year’s budget would be.

The board heard Kytta lay out some of the issues and challenges he sees. The group spoke of the importance of making sure citizens understand the specifics – sooner rather than later – of why they will ask for a new kind of levy in August.

Board member Mike Tomasheck indicated the board could choose its chief at its next meeting, saying he’s asked for its agenda to include an executive session.

Riverside Fire Authority, which protects a population of 28,000 spanning more than 180 square miles in and around Centralia, last year operated with a budget of $4.6 million. This year it’s $3.9 million.

The primary reason for the reduction is related to the fairly sudden change in taxes contributed by TransAlta’s power plant, as it winds down coal burning operations; changes that will affect all the junior taxing districts in its geographical area.

•••

For background, read “Centralia area fire department facing lean times” from Sunday April 6, 2014, here

Breaking news: 911 phone lines down statewide

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Updated at 6:28 a.m.: Service has been restored to Lewis County; citizens are advised they may call directly to 911 now if they have an emergency.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 911 service outage is affecting Lewis County and all of Washington.

For emergencies, the public is advised to call the business phone number of the dispatch center for the area in which they live. In Lewis County, that number is 1-360-740-1105.

It’s not clear what caused it or when it might be restored but it’s widespread, according to Lewis County Director of Central Services Mike Strozyk.

“Well, they’re down in the entire state, maybe also in eastern Idaho and northern Oregon,” Strozyk said. “It may be a switching problem in Oregon, according to Century Link.”

The problem began here a little before 1 o’clock this morning, he said.

Locally, they’ve asked all the fire departments around the county to be staffed, in case anyone walks in needing help, according to Strozyk.

They’ve notified other agencies such as law enforcement, he said.

Strozyk said the communications center has implemented its procedures for such a situation and has been processing calls through the night via its business number.

“We’re just waiting to hear more on a timeline for repairs, or when it’s reactivated,” Strozyk said about 4 o’clock this morning.

The Lewis County 911 Center in Chehalis answers emergency calls and dispatches emergency services to all cities, towns and areas throughout the county.

The business line for Thurston County is 360-704-2740. For Cowlitz County, the number is 360-577-3098.

Jennifer Ducummon, public education coordinator for Lewis County 911, provided a link to a website for a public safety communications organization showing business phone numbers for all around the state.

•••

For more, read “CenturyLink service glitch blocks 911 calls” from The Seattle Times on Thursday April 10, 2014 at 6:59 .m., here

Breaking news: Pot, money, stolen in Oakville hold up

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Updated at 2:58 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An Oakville co-op for medical marijuana was robbed this morning by two men in ski masks prompting a multi-agency response and a lockdown of the school.

Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Department Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate said a search of the area has been completed and the pair were not found.

Investigators are still on scene attempting to develop additional suspect information, according to Shumate.

It happened at the Green Harbour Medical Marijuana Co-Op on the 100 block of East Pine Street; its owner called 911 just before 9:15 a.m.

“The owner advised that he had just opened for business when the two men came up behind him and stuck something in his back,” the sheriff’s office stated in a news release. ”The owner believed the object was possibly a gun however never did see a firearm.”

The subjects ordered the 47-year-old man to retrieve money and marijuana from a safe and then they fled northbound on foot, according to the sheriff’s office. The victim was not injured.

The amount of cash and marijuana products stolen was not revealed by authorities.

Numerous law enforcement agencies assisted in the attempt to find the men, including officers with Chehalis Tribal Police, Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and the SP, and Elma Police Department. A police dog with Thurston County police dog was unable to develop a track, according to Shumate.

Shumate indicated they are hoping to get images from security cameras but it appears the room in which the robbery occurred had no surveillance.

The sheriff’s office believes the robbers specifically targeted the marijuana business.

Shumate asks anyone with information to please call Grays Harbor Communications Center at 360-533-8765 or the Sheriff’s Department at 360-249-3711.

Centralia area fire department facing lean times

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Fire Chief Jim Walkowski’s resignation wasn’t really a big surprise.

Unprecedented decreases in revenue to the largest fire department in Lewis County have had them struggling for months with where and how to make cuts while hoping to maintain some semblance of the emergency response services they provide.

Riverside Fire Authority, which protects a population of 28,000 spanning more than 180 square miles in and around Centralia, last year operated with a budget of $4.6 million. This year it’s $3.9 million. Next year pencils out to be as low as $3.1 million.

And the following year, they are forecast to lose a little bit more before the situation might level off.

“We are going to struggle for the next three to five years,” Riverside Firefighter Rick LeBoeuf said. “We’re going to be a very bare bones department.”

The primary reason is the change in taxes contributed by TransAlta’s power plant, as it winds down operations in anticipation of future closure. The details of just how quickly those amounts would drop hit the fire agency unexpectedly last fall.

But there’s more.

There’s the hit caused by the recession and the general decline in property values, according to Walkowski who has led the organization for eight years.

“Also, starting next year, the fire authority will be subject to tax pro-rating,” Walkowski said.

He described that as a potential loss of up to 15 cents of the current $1.50 per thousand dollars of assessed property value it collects for its fire levy, related to how property taxes are allocated to the various taxing districts such as themselves, schools and libraries.

“The bottom line is, we have to do some pretty drastic things to maintain service,” Walkowski said.

And the bleakness doesn’t end there.

Because Riverside’s labor contract with its firefighters calls for layoffs first to those hired last, it turns out it’s the firefighter-paramedics they are losing.

Letting go of paramedics threatens their ability to meet their obligation to a response-sharing agreement with AMR, the local private ambulance service, according to Walkowski. The loss of that arrangement would affect not only Riverside, but the Chehalis Fire Department and four fire districts west of the Twin Cities who participate, he said.

“If we continue to lose people at the bottom, we are going to have very significant issues in our community,” Walkowski said.

The now 45-year-old former fire chief from Bainbridge Island arrived in 2006 as the Centralia Fire Department and its neighbor Lewis County Fire District 12 were undergoing a merging process. District 12′s then Chief Mike Kytta stepped down and was made an assistant chief.

From the city side, Rick Mack was made assistant chief and fire marshal.

In 2008, its consolidation into Riverside Fire Authority was the first of its kind – between a city department and fire district – in the state.

Last year, the organization was operating with 27 firefighters and more than 40 active volunteers.

It is on track to lose six paid personnel this year, and more after that.

The paid firefighters have made concessions and didn’t take the pay raise this year they were due under their contract, according to LeBoeuf, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 451.

The three chiefs took voluntary pay cuts of seven percent.

Tom Davidson, president of Riverside’s six-member board of commissioners, said he wasn’t entirely surprised last week when Walkowski asked the board to lay him off.

The board had previously decided one of the top three administrators would lose their job, but they wanted Walkowski to stay, according to Davidson. Walkowski had told the board it should be him to be let go, the one with least seniority, and that he would seek other job opportunities.

“At our last meeting, the last week in March, we hadn’t made any decision,” Davidson said. “I guess he decided to make the decision for us.”

Walkowski resigned on Wednesday.

“It’s a tough decision, it wasn’t in anyone’s plan to do this,” Walkowski said. “You have to do everything you can to lean out the organization.”

Walkowski says his annual salary of roughly $105,500 will save one and half paramedics. LeBoeuf and Davidson said with his resume, he was the one out of the three chiefs who could secure a new position easily, and almost anywhere.

Walkowski’s contract with Riverside doesn’t expire until 2015. The specific details of the consequences of breaking it early haven’t been worked out.

LeBoeuf said when he learned Thursday morning the chief had a new job in the Spokane area, he congratulated him.

“Chief Walkowski is not jumping ship, he’s leaving to help our organization sustain itself, we need our management cut,” LeBoeuf said. “And being the good person he is, he didn’t want Rick Mack or Mike Kytta to lose their job.”

The outgoing chief’s legacy will probably be his excellent communication skills, his care for the community and wanting the best for the citizens, LeBoeuf said. But most of all, for the kind of relationship he created between top management and the workers, he said.

“There’s an old saying, a good leader can get people to move mountains,” he said. “That’s what Chief Walkowski did, he could get people to come to work and give 110 percent to their job.”

He’s scheduled to begin work May 1 at Spokane County Fire District 9 based in Mead, a department with two assistant chiefs, almost 70 firefighters and 100 volunteers. He will be assistant chief in charge of operations and training.

“Jim was the unanimous first choice for all of us,” District 9′s Administrative Services Director Chris Hamp said. “We think we have a pretty good organization here, so we’re anxious to get him on board.”

Davidson said he predicts the board will appoint Kytta as chief next month, since he was chief before.

The organization will be asking citizens to support a new levy on Aug. 9.

•••

For background, read “Chief Walkowski hired by Spokane area fire department” from Thursday April 3, 2014, here

Chief Walkowski hired by Spokane area fire department

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

 By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The chief of the largest fire department in Lewis County has taken a job near Spokane, just four months after the adoption of a shrinking budget necessitating layoffs of firefighters here.

Riverside Fire Authority Chief Jim Walkowski arrived to Centralia eight years ago as the city department was expanding and merging with its neighboring district and will take a post next month as an assistant chief with another growing fire agency.

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Chief Jim Walkowski

Spokane County Fire District 9 based in Mead is a mid-sized suburban district with more than twice as many personnel, according to its chief.

SCFD9 Chief Jack Cates announced the new hire yesterday on their Facebook page, saying Walkowski will join them on May 1.

He was one of four finalists for the position, when Cates conducted interviews early last week.

In December, Walkowski announced an abrupt and large drop in revenue coming from a massive decrease in the assessed value of TransAlta’s power plant – and the taxes they contribute locally –  in anticipation of its 2020 closure. He said the change would likely lead to cutting up to five personnel. Some have already been let go.

The organization which protects about 180 square miles was operating with 27 firefighters, several of whom are paramedics as well, along with its volunteers.

SCFD9 employs 65 firefighters and just hired four more. It has about 100 volunteers, according to Cates. It protects about 120 square miles and a population of about 40,000, he said.

The move leaves the Chehalis Fire Department without a chief as well; Walkowski a year ago took on the halftime position after its Chief Kelvin Johnson retired.

Riverside has a budget this year of about $3.9 million compared with last year’s roughly $4.6 million.

Walkowski said in December the department previously understood the Washington State Department of Revenue would be depreciating the value of TransAlta more gradually, over an eight or nine year period, but learned of the faster rate. The expected loss in revenue to Riverside is $800,000 to $1,200,000, according to the chief.

A Bainbridge Island native, Walkowski began his firefighting career there in 1991, and eventually moved up to become chief. He took a $12,000 a year pay cut to make the move to Centralia in May 2006.

Pets perish, one injured in Morton house fire

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
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Mattress next to wood stove is blamed for blaze near Morton. / Courtesy photo by Jay Birley

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Morton area resident was hospitalized with burns to his hands after he tried to haul a burning mattress out the front door yesterday and rescue pets.

The ensuing fire in the one and half story house left as many as five young people who lived there together without a home, according to Fire Investigator Jay Birley.

“They’re all probably in their 20s,” Birley said, describing the roommates who shared the two-bedroom residence.

Birley was called about 6:30 p.m. yesterday to explore the cause of the blaze on state Route 508 near Morton said the “kids” who lived there had mattresses on the floors and one was in the living room near the wood stove.

“He was starting a fire in the wood stove and left the door cracked open so the fire would draft,” Birley said.

The young man was the only one home at the time and left to go do something and when he returned to the room, found the mattress on fire, Birley said.

Birley said he dragged it to the door but it wouldn’t fit through.

“He had to let the mattress go, right there at the door,” he said.

Birley said he understood the young man, whose name he didn’t share, then set about trying round up four dogs, at least three of which didn’t survive.

The worst of the damage was in the front room and at the door, he said, estimating perhaps $40,000 damage.

Rochester woman jailed after husband shot in the back

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 50-year-old man is recovering at Providence St. Peter Hospital after he was shot in the back, allegedly by his wife, at their Rochester home last night.

Deputies called about 11:15 p.m. to the 19000 block of Melon Street arrested the 57-year-old woman, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

They had been arguing and fighting since before they left the Lucky Eagle Casino to go home, according to detective Sgt. Ray Brady.

“Just a bad incident,” Brady said. “Unfortunately, domestic violence incidents are all too common.”

Brady said their investigation found after the couple returned home, he removed himself by going out to the garage. Deputies learned she went to the house grabbed a .38 caliber pistol and returned to the garage, where her husband had just left.

“She fired a shot through the closed side door and struck him in the lower back,” he said.

Cynthia L. Fetterly was arrested and booked into the Thurston County Jail for first-degree assault.

The husband as of last night was serious but stable and undergoing surgery, Brady said.

She told deputies she didn’t recall why they were arguing; he said it had to do with becoming separated while at the casino and not being able to find each other, Brady said.

The wife indicated she didn’t intend to shoot her husband, he said.

“She just wanted to scare him, didn’t want him to come back in the house,” Brady said.

The sheriff’s office said the wife appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.

Salkum logging incident claims life of John B. Leonard

Friday, March 28th, 2014
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John B. Leonard and his wife Linda Leonard at their Chehalis home. / Courtesy photo

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The logger injured by a large maple limb in Salkum yesterday has died.

John B. Leonard was well known in Lewis County, a logger all his life, according to a family friend.

He used to have J.B. Leonard Logging in Chehalis, Marlene Maki said.

He and her husband have known each for six decades, she said.

“John was 69, he acted like he was 39 years old,” Maki said. “He’d pack hay, he was full of life, that’s for sure.”

Lewis County Fire District 8 Chief Duran McDaniel said an investigator from the state Labor and Industries came out to the site yesterday and was to return today.

Firefighters were called just after 9 a.m. yesterday to acreage just north of the 2200 block of U.S. Highway 12 in between Kennedy Road and Sierra Drive, according to McDaniel.

Leonard was loaded into an ambulance and transported to the Salkum Fire station where they were met by a helicopter that flew him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

It was just two men working, according to McDaniel. At first it appeared vibrations from a logging shovel shook the limb loose, McDaniel said, but he has since come to understand it happened somewhat differently.

“It appears a falling tree caught a limb, and came back and got the poor gentleman,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel described the piece of wood as perhaps 6 inches in diameter, and 20 feet long, before the operator jumped down and  sawed the limb to get it removed from the man.

“The operator and the cutter were the best of friends,” he said.

A spokesperson for Labor and Industries said they are investigating a logging fatality in Lewis County, but had no further information this afternoon.

The death is the third from logging in Lewis County since the beginning of the year.

In mid-January, 63-year-old Alex Oberg, of Toledo, was killed while cutting timber alone in the Toledo area. The sheriff’s office said a tree fell onto Oberg as he was employing a “domino” tree falling technique.

Last month, 21-year-old Tyler Bryan, also from Toledo, was working north of Morton when – according to the initial information from the sheriff’s office – a log being pulled up a slope by a cable began spinning and struck him.

Prosecutors: Arsonist planned to continue lighting fires after leaving his burning bedroom

Monday, March 24th, 2014
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Jonathan P. Brown listens to defense lawyer Bob Schroeter after he is charged with arson, for the second time in less than five years.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Charging documents allege 26-year-old Jonathan P. Brown doused his bed and pillows with lamp oil before setting a fire while his mother and 87-year-old grandfather slept and then walked down the street with a lighter, intending to to start as many structure fires as he could before police found him.

Brown, 26, appeared in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon, charged with one count of first-degree arson in connection with the early yesterday morning events on the 3400 block of Prill Road in Centralia.

He’s been there before.

In 2009, the then-21-year-old pleaded guilty to a string of six fires and attempted fires in the Centralia area that caused or could have caused damage to buildings including a residence and a garage. He was sentenced to four and half years in prison.

Centralia police impounded his truck this weekend looking for evidence from an early morning fire on Saturday about a mile from his home that burned the front door area to an unoccupied house, according to court documents.

“I think he presents a distinct threat to public safety, a very grave one,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg told a judge this afternoon as he recommended a high amount for bail.

Brown, handcuffed and shackled at his waist and ankles, was represented by defense attorney Bob Schroeter.

Judge Richard Brosey set bail at $250,000 and signed no-contact orders regarding Brown’s mother and grandfather.

His mother was in the courtroom, but declined to comment.

Sunday’s fire was contained to the bedroom, but charging documents and the fire department give an account of what could have been deadly.

Brown’s mother, Deborah Brown, said she woke up to a fire alarm, went into her son’s room and found burning pillows atop a large chair.

She yelled for her son, she yelled for her father to wake up and tried to get a bowl of water from the kitchen tap, but found there was no water pressure, according to charging documents. She ran back to the bedroom, grabbed the pillows and managed to smother the flames, charging documents state.

She then woke up her father John Germeau who is hard of hearing and called 911. It was 5:40 a.m.

Deborah Brown suffered minor burns to her hand or hands.

The fires in May and early June almost five years ago included a detached garage on Ham Hill Road, and others such as the tarp covering a recreational vehicle and someone’s portable shed, Riverside Fire Authority Chief Jim Walkowski recalled this morning. Court documents indicate Centralia police investigated two fires on Prill Road and Brown admitted to an incident at the historic Borst Home.

Brown was arrested on June 2, and his lawyer Don Blair noted in court documents his defense at trial would include general denial, diminished capacity and potentially mental health issues. But by the end of July the former assistant manager at the Midway Cinema pleaded guilty. Judge Nelson Hunt gave him 54 months – the top of the standard sentencing range – plus some months of community custody.

He was ordered to pay restitution of almost $20,000 to an insurance company and $1,000 to an individual.

It’s not clear when Brown was released from prison. Centralia Police Department detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald said it was “recently”. A letter in his court file from the state Department of Corrections states he was terminated from community custody on May 7, 2012, as he was screened for it and found not eligible for supervision.

Charging documents in the current case say when Brown was interviewed at the jail by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Dan Riordan, Brown admitted starting the fire in his room.

“He then opened the window in the bedroom to let the fire breathe and to allow the smoke to exit the house to prevent the smoke alarm from being activated,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors allege he said he meant to burn the house to the ground, and knew it was a possibility his mother and grandfather could have been overcome by smoke and died.

When asked why, his answer was vague, but did relay he was upset with his mother over some personal issues, prosecutors wrote.

After starting the fire, he left the house, and walked down the street with his lighter, planning to start more fires until he was caught, he reportedly told the detective.

But his lighter broke, and he threw it into the brush.

He was detained yesterday morning on Mayberry Road  by a Centralia officer and K-9 partner, according to the sheriff’s office.

Brown’s arraignment is scheduled for Thursday morning. Judge Brosey appointed Blair to represent him again.

Centralian arrested for arson has previous arson convictions

Monday, March 24th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The 26-year-old Centralia man arrested for allegedly setting a fire in his bedroom while others in the home were sleeping early yesterday morning was arrested and convicted for arsons in the spring of 2009 in Centralia.

Jonathan P. Brown was released from prison and then subsequently from post-release community custody requirements in May 2012, according to authorities.

Centralia police confirmed they interviewed Brown in connection with a Saturday morning fire at an unoccupied house on Bengal Court, about a mile from his home.

Firefighters and deputies responding to the 5:40 a.m. incident yesterday at the 3400 block of Prill Road learned Brown’s 58-year-old mother awakened to a smoke alarm and discovered two pillows and a large chair burning in his room, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. She and an 87-year-old man residing there were able to escape, but the mother sustained minor burns to her hand putting the fire out, according to authorities.

Riverside Fire Authority Chief Jim Walkowski described the damage as confined to the bedroom. Brown was located yesterday not far from his home, on Mayberry Road by a Centralia officer and K-9 partner, according to the sheriff’s office.

Centralia Police Department detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald said he recalled the 2009 fires as similar in nature to the Bengal Court fire. Investigators found the area around the front door burning around 5:30 a.m. Saturday and also various scorch marks on the side of the house.

Brown was arrested yesterday for first-degree arson, domestic violence and booked into the Lewis County Jail, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

He is tentatively scheduled to go before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court at 4 p.m. today.

•••

For background, read “Fire, law enforcement investigating two arsons in Centralia” from Sunday March 23, 2014, here

Fire, law enforcement investigating two arsons in Centralia

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014
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A firefighter cuts a hole through the exterior of a house on the 700 block of Bengal Court to ensure a fire is entirely extinguished on Saturday. / Courtesy photo by Riverside Fire Authority

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia man is in custody this morning after firefighters were called to a home where a burning pillow was taken out of a house by a woman who lives there.

She suffered a minor burn to her hand, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

The incident occurred at just about the same time early this morning as an arson attempt yesterday morning at a vacant house for sale about a mile away, Fire Chief Jim Walkowski said.

“At about 5:40 a.m. (today) we got called to a residential structure fire at the 3400 block of Prill Road, but while enroute, we were advised they had the fire out,” Walkowski said. “We found a fire intentionally set inside the house.”

The damage was limited to a bedroom, in the home occupied by three adults, one of whom was detained by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, according to the fire department.

The fire department and the sheriff’s office remain at the scene, conducting an investigation, Walkowski said. The other inhabitants had been sleeping, he said.

“Why? At this point no, we don’t know why he did that,” Walkowski said. “It’s very unfortunate.”

The fire department and law are still investigating a fire from yesterday morning at the 700 block of Bengal Court in which crews called about 5:23 a.m. found flames around the front door and quickly put it out.

Multiple attempts to ignite a fire there were found, with scorch marks discovered on the side of the house, according to the chief.

Centralia police brought a person in for questioning yesterday about that fire, Walkowski said. He declined to say if it was same man the sheriff’s office arrested this morning, saying it was something law enforcement would be able to better address.

The damage yesterday at Bengal Court was estimated at about $8,000, personnel remained on the scene about five hours, according to Walkowski.

It is not related to a residential fire on March 9 nearby on the 600 block of Bengal Court where at about 4:30 a.m. fire was discovered around a bathroom ceiling fan, according to the fire department. That was definitely electrical, the chief said.

Rochester resident was a suspected burglar, before fatal standoff

Friday, March 21st, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Derral Kenneth Mosby was wanted on two warrants, one in Lewis County and another out of Thurston County Superior Court.

But he also knew Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sgt. Rob Snaza wanted to talk with him about as many as five burglaries ranging from Vader, to Adna and into Rochester.

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Derral Kenneth Mosby

“We thought he might be pawning stuff,” Snaza said. And he believed law enforcement in Thurston County wanted to talk with him as well, Snaza said.

At the end of February, a warrant was issued after the 36-year-old Rochester man failed to appear in court for a drug possession case in Thurston County. At about the same time, a trafficking in stolen property charge was filed in Lewis County Superior Court, alleging a pearl necklace Mosby gave his 6-year-old daughter came from a burglary on Penning Road west of Chehalis.

A Lewis County judge signed a $25,000 arrest warrant.

The web site for the TV show Washington’s Most Wanted featured him shortly after, when Lewis County shared on its Facebook page they would like tips on the whereabouts of the 6-foot 8-inch tall subject who frequented the Centralia area and had ties to Ridgefield.

A week ago, following a standoff at his parents home near Ridgefield, the wanted man was dead.

“Shots were fired and Mosby was struck,” the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said.

His former neighbor in Rochester hadn’t spoken a word to him in a year, since the two of them had a disagreement about suspicions of Mosby cutting wood from his property to sell, and Mosby punched him the face one day.

But, said Bryan Fisher who previously considered Mosby a best friend, he’ll take off work early tomorrow to attend the funeral.

Mosby, who went by Kenny, was good person with a good heart and a devoted father to his 6-year-old daughter, with a yard full of play equipment he’d made for her, according to Fisher.

He used to work as a millwright at Cascade Hardwood but after he lost his job, he battled depression, Fisher said.

He’d lost his younger brother and when his sister committed suicide last July, he just went off the deep end, Fisher said.

“He was a really great guy, a really talented ballplayer in high school; he went to W.F. West and graduated from Rochester,” he said. “Before the drugs got to him, he was a pretty loyal guy.”

Others in the Rochester neighborhood began to get leery about things getting stolen as well, according to Fisher.

“The guy didn’t work for three years, and managed to keep food on his table,” he said.

Mosby’s house was foreclosed on earlier this year, he said.

According to court documents, back in November, someone  kicked open a door at a home on Penning Road, west of Chehalis and took all the jewelry plus a camera from the master bedroom, but left two firearms in the bedroom closet.

Snaza said some of the other break-ins under investigation included similarly kicked in doors.

Court documents say a detective investigating a burglary on Clinton Road in Adna learned of a suspicious maroon truck and on Feb. 1, a deputy contacted Mosby in his maroon truck, parked in the middle of the night at state Route 6 and Schueber road .

Mosby said he couldn’t go home to Rochester, because of a retraining order involving ex-girlfriend, court documents state. He was talked to and let go, according to court documents.

Two weeks ago, law enforcement officers swarmed a rest area off Interstate 5, after, according to KATU TV in Portland, Mosby’s father called the state patrol, telling them his son had just called him and told him he was shot in the leg and was at the southbound Gee Creek rest area near Ridgefield.

Local law enforcement reached out to the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force, who helped look for Mosby that night, according to Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Eric Wahlstrom in Portland.

And U.S. Marshals continued to search for Mosby, Wahlstrom said.

There were no federal warrants, only the two from Lewis and Thurston counties, he said.

“We tend to be the ones who are available to sit and surveil places,” he said.

Wahlstrom said the reasons they considered Mosby armed and dangerous were because they had information from family and friends that he had access to firearms, that he had said he had been shot that day and that he could have been suicidal.

Some leads took law enforcement to Albany, Ore. and then it was U.S. Marshals who searched a barn last Friday in the Ridgefield area and subsequently discovered Mosby was at his parents home, according to Wahlstrom. They called the Clark County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, he said.

Sgt. Fred Neiman of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said that after attempts to get Mosby to peaceably surrender, Mosby emerged from the residence, armed with a firearm and confronted SWAT team members. Mosby was hit, and deceased before the ambulance could take him to a hospital, according to Neiman.

Exactly how many shots were fired or who fired them or other similar details have not been revealed. Neiman said all of that will be released after an investigation conducted by an outside law enforcement team. And then the county prosecutor will make a determination about if deadly force was justified, he said.

Six members of the sheriff’s office, along with a patrol supervisor from the Battleground Police Department were all placed on what Neiman called critical incident leave.

Neiman said it was common practice after any traumatic incident. The last time he could recall multiple officers being put on the paid leave from a single event was a shooting incident in 2008 or 2009, he said. It’s not a disciplinary action, but an opportunity to “decompress,” he said.

Fisher said it was about the same time as the manhunt at the rest area, he found Mosby’s home in Rochester surrounded by deputies from Thurston County. He spoke with them, he said.

Deputies did want to talk with Mosby about burglaries, Fisher said.

“Kenny did not want to be caught,” he said.

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SWAT activity for wanted subject near Ridgefield on March 14. / Courtesy photo by Clark County Sheriff’s Office

The sun sets on House of the Rising Son

Thursday, March 20th, 2014
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Judy Chafin looks over sentencing documents with her lawyer Sam Groberg in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Chehalis woman who operated halfway houses in Lewis County for newly released prisoners and homeless persons is entirely done with that mission, she says.

Judy Chafin was sentenced yesterday morning to 30 days of house arrest, for a prescription drug possession offense she says was simply an oversight on her part.

As she nears the end of numerous actions against her from various governmental authorities, she says she feels horrible.

“I didn’t expect to have a felony at age 62,” Chafin said after leaving the courtroom. “I live like a Christian, so this is like a slap, a big slap.”

Chafin began to get a lot of attention from law enforcement and then city and county officials beginning about two years ago when residents on a rural Chehalis road complained they didn’t want multiple felons, especially registered sex offenders, living together under one roof in their neighborhood.

Chafin owned what she called the House of the Rising Son in Chehalis and managed other similar homes in Centralia and out in the county on Nix and Clark roads. Except for the Chehalis house, a former church, she sub-leased the rentals to people she found who needed assistance getting back on their feet after they’d done their time in prison.

She described the home owners as individuals who got tired of renting to drug addicts, and made her number one house rule as no drugs or alcohol.

The city of Chehalis and Lewis County began filing zoning and health code complaints against her facilities. Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield vowed to do everything he could to shut her down, including getting new ordinances crafted and writing a letter when he was able to find out who it was in the prison system who was working closely with Chafin.

Last spring, as Chehalis police investigated her ex-husband in connection with suspected sales of hydrocodone, they ended up arresting him and Chafin during a traffic stop.

She was charged with possession of seven and half pills of morphine, with delivery of drugs and with a forgery count. By the time her trial began last week, prosecutors had dismissed all but the possession charge. A jury found her guilty during the one-day trial in Lewis County Superior Court.

Defense attorney Sam Groberg told a judge yesterday his client is the primary caregiver for her infant great-grandchild and has no criminal history.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg told Judge Lawler that because there were so many allegations swirling around, he wanted to ask for a month-long sentence in the jail, but since Chafin has health issues he recommended instead two months of so-called electronic home monitoring.

“I’m aware the state had a lot of allegations, but those things were not proved, not charged,” Lawler said. “There’s no reason to treat this case differently than any other.”

What the jury heard at trial, was the bottle of hydrocodone in Chafin’s purse was prescribed to her. The morphine pills found in her purse had been in there for some months, and belonged to a former housemate.

Chafin said she called a probation officer on the housemate for misusing his medicine, and after he was taken to jail, the pills were left out in a common area. She scooped them up because she had a grandchild in the house, she said. And they ended up in the zipper part of her purse.

“That taught me a lesson, to never hold anything for anyone,” she said. “It shouldn’t be illegal to do something normal in your own home for safety.”

The attentions she’s gotten from police is all about her now ex-husband, she says.

“The thing is, I don’t do illegal drugs, I don’t sell illegal drugs,” she said.

Lawler also ordered Chafin to pay $3,500 in fees, be subject to community custody for one year after serving her time and to get a drug and alcohol evaluation and abide by its recommendations.

“You’ve probably figured this out, but you’re under a lot of scrutiny from law enforcement,” Lawler told her. “If anything is going on, you need to stop, you need to distance yourself from some people.”

She continues to live at the Chehalis home she owns, with family only, she said.

The various other houses are no longer operating and she quit her involvement in that mission months ago, she said. She chose not to fight the various zoning actions. She found places for the occupants, and prays for them every day, she said.

Chafin says she still feels its much safer for the community for registered sex offenders to have a roof over their head, as opposed to being turned out to the streets where they are more difficult to keep track of. Her zeal came from a relative who was victimized, she said.

“I believe the state needs to provide for that,” she said.

Still pending, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries announced in September that following an investigation, Chafin was charged with wrongly collecting benefits since 2006 for an on-the-job injury from when she was a caregiver at Tiffin House in Centralia.

Although she submitted claims stating she could not work, L and I contends Chafin was working when she operated the House of the Rising Son and other homes for released prisoners and homeless persons.

She remains charged with 30 counts of forgery and one count of first-degree theft.
•••

For background, read:

• “Discord on Nix Road: Newest arrivals unwelcome” from Saturday March 3, 2012, here

• “The backstory: Intelligence gathering, possible fines and code enforcement tools “not normally used” from Sunday March 4, 2012, here

Knife assault victims recovering in two Chehalis cases; suspects charged

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
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Sheldon J. Hardy, 40, of Chehalis, is charged with first-degree assault in connection with a Sunday incident with a knife on Southeast Dobson Court in Chehalis.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Both men stabbed in separate incidents in Chehalis over the weekend are listed in satisfactory condition at a Seattle hospital while their two alleged assailants remain held in the Lewis County Jail.

Michael Bylsma, 25, suffered a single stab wound to his chest on Saturday afternoon in the driveway of the home on Southeast 16th Street where he lives with his friend Kevin A.R. Dawkins.

Authorities say the two argued and fought while out to pizza at lunchtime and resumed the dispute as soon as they returned home.

The victim in Sunday’s late afternoon incident outside an apartment complex on Southeast Dobson Court, 19-year-old Andres F. Santiago, sustained a wound to his chest and a laceration across his lower lip, according to charging documents.

It happened during an alteration witnessed by several others, apparently over something said to Santiago’s 17-year-old pregnant girlfriend, charging documents indicate.

Sheldon J. Hardy, 40, who told police he’d told authorities he’d been drinking and done a few lines of methamphetamine, told police Santiago charged him, court documents state. Police described the two as neighbors.

Hardy was charged yesterday with first-degree assault and ordered held on $250,000 bail. Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey said he’d set it at $50,000 over the weekend, but after hearing more of the allegation’s details and learning Hardy’s criminal history, he would increase the amount.

Dawkins, 24, who appeared before the judge during the same late afternoon hearing, is held on $100,000 bail. He is charged with second-degree assault.

Second-degree assault carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; first-degree assault can mean lifetime incarceration.

Exactly why the two cases didn’t produce the same charge isn’t clear.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher one of his co-workers filed one of the cases and a second co-worker filed the other.

“Not all stabbings are equal,” Meagher said.

Recently hired Deputy Prosecutor Mark McLean mentioned to the judge Dawkins’ significant criminal history, noting two recent felonies and offenses such as burglary and theft.

In Hardy’s case, McLean listed seven past felony convictions such as drugs and forgery as well as two for third-degree assault going back as far as 1996.

In both cases, the weapon used was described by police as a kitchen-like knife with a blade of approximately four inches.

Both victims were treated at Providence Centralia Hospital.

Bylsma was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Saturday. Airlift was unavailable because of weather on Sunday so Santiago was transported there by ambulance.

Charging documents in Saturday’s incident don’t relay what Bylsma and Dawkins argued about, but cite a witness as saying the pair went into the residence on 16th Street for a short period and came back out yelling at each other.

David Graves, who had taken them to Sahara’s Pizza before the incident, told police he watched Bylsma walking backwards down the driveway with Dawkins walking towards him, and he saw Dawkins punch Bylsma in the chest and then drop a knife on the ground and leave the area, charging documents state in a two-page summary.

The five pages outlining why prosecutors believed they had probable cause for the charge in Sunday’s case don’t reveal a specific reason for the disagreement between Hardy and Santiago either.

One witness tells police Hardy came outside and said something to the 17-year-old girl that Santiago could hear and Santiago approached the two. Hardy was yelling at her as the two men came together and Hardy took up a fighting stance, the documents state.

The documents alleged Hardy took a swing and Santiago stopped fighting, and while his hands were down, Hardy hit him again in the face, both blows apparently with a knife in hand.

Another witness said he yelled at the suspect, who stopped what he was doing, charging documents state.

Fellow resident Michelle Gibson took Hardy back to his apartment and was yelling, “I told you guys what would happen,” charging documents state.

Gibson told police Hardy had exhibited behavior and violence issues in the past, once pulling a knife on her, according to the charging documents.

She said she thought his behavior on Sunday afternoon  was because he’d been evicted earlier that day, for similar issues, according to charging documents.

Both men in both cases will go before a judge on Thursday for their arraignments.
•••

For background, read “Breaking news: Young man hospitalized after stabbing in Chehalis” from Sunday March 16, 2014, here

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Kevin A.R. Dawkins, 24, of Chehalis, is charged with second-degree assault in connection with a Saturday incident with a knife on Southeast 16th Street in Chehalis.

Young mother who allowed abusive punishment of son pleads guilty to lesser charge

Monday, March 17th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Winlock mother of a 4-year-old boy who was abused by her live-in boyfriend will avoid jail time herself if she follows through with parenting classes and abides by other court ordered restrictions.

Ryon T. Connery, 31, was arrested at the end of November after the boy was found with numerous bruises and injuries and detectives learned of punishments inflicted such getting sprayed with a hose while forced to do pushups for various infractions such as wetting his pants and stealing food in the home.

Connery pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree child assault and was sentenced last month to 16 months in prison.

A soon as he was convicted, prosecutors charged the 23-year-old mother, Heather L. McNurlin, as an accomplice, contending she was present when the abuse was inflicted, and some of it was even her idea. The little boy was taken out of the home McNurlin and Connery shared and placed with his grandmother.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joely O’Rourke said she and defense attorney Don Blair reached an agreement with a lesser charge of attempted assault of a child in the third degree, or conspiracy to commit the offense.

“She pleaded guilty, she didn’t get any jail time, but she’s on very extensive probation for the next two years,” O’Rourke said this afternoon.

O’Rourke said she thinks it’s in the best interest for the boy that his mother continue with parenting classes. They were already ordered by a family court judge in a separate action, as part of McNurlin’s requirements to regain custody of the boy, she said.

“She was really not the principle concern in that case, it was Mr. Connery,” O’Rourke said.

When the child was brought to the hospital at the end of November, he had a broken finger he said occurred when he dropped a weight on it, a scraped nose he said was from falling on his face trying to get away from a spanking and he spoke of being dunked in a dirty outdoor pool, according to charging documents.

A doctor who reviewed the case opined the youngster was malnourished and was the victim of starvation as well as abuse, both mentally and physically, according to the documents.

The mother said she and Connery had been in a dating relationship about four months. The abuse occurred between last July and into November, according to court documents.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt agreed with the lawyers’ recommendation and sentenced McNurlin on Thursday to 364 days in jail, suspended for 24 months as long as she complies with court ordered requirements such as the classes.

She was also ordered to pay various fines and fees and is prohibited from having any contact with Connery.