By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – He lost part of one leg and underwent skin grafts, but Edward Jerns survived the September explosion of his camper in Napavine.
He lost his mother on Christmas Day, was unable to return to his job at Chehalis Sheet Metal, but the 60-year-old was determined he would do what he could to regain the life he had.
After treatment at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for months, and more time convalescing in Seattle and then a Centralia nursing home, Jerns told his doctor he planned to drive again.
Daniel L. Norby
He said the doctor refused to release him unless he took a driver’s test to renew his license.
Because of the prosthetic leg, he could only operate a vehicle with an automatic transmission. When he went to the Department of Licensing office on Kresky Avenue in Centralia on April 23, he was told to wait outside and an examiner would be right out to take him on the driving test.
Jerns had the misfortune to be the victim of a 47-year-old Chehalis man behind him in line who, for whatever reason, followed him outside, got into the passenger seat and impersonated a driving examiner.
Daniel L. Norby managed to direct Jerns to the Lucky Eagle Casino, talk him into trading him coats and steal some 1,000 to $1,200 cash from the pocket before Jerns realized something was very wrong.
“I just want you to know how it feels to rob a poor old crippled man,” Jerns said today as he faced Norby in a courtroom.
The 60-year-old had wheeled his new walker right up to the judge, and then turned sideways to speak to the defendant.
Jerns had just cashed his social security check that day, and the cash was every cent he had, he said.
“I had to go to ask friends, for help,” he said. “I hope you have a long time to think about this; don’t do it ever again.”
Norby pleaded guilty earlier this month to criminal impersonation and second-degree theft, as well as second-degree burglary from another incident that was combined for a plea agreement.
Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler could have sentenced him to as much as 68 months in prison, but the deputy prosecutor and defense attorney asked for 29 months. And they asked it be served as what’s called a prison-based drug alternative sentencing option.
Defense attorney David Arcuri went to great lengths to persuade the judge to go along.
His client first started abusing drugs at age 9, with his father, Arcuri said.
“It’s truly not an excuse, but if you look at Mr. Norby’s history, it’s all theft and drugs,” Arcuri said. He called his client’s actions an incredibly stupid way to commit a crime.
Norby would get roughly 29 months, but would be eligible for release after about 20 months, and then would be closely supervised afterward, with treatment and a chance to get clean, according to Arcuri.
“Residential prison DOSA’s, they monitor people,” Arcuri told the judge. “I think it’s the best thing DOC does.”
Norby took up the judge on his offer to speak on his own behalf, and apologized to Jerns.
“I’ve got grandkids now, this is my last chance,” he told the judge.
Judge Lawler reluctantly agreed, but warned Norby if he came back before him with another crime, the result would be as much time as he could possibly give him.
Lawler made a finding that chemical dependency contributed to the crimes, and he ordered Norby to pay $2,400 in fines and fees, at a rate of $25 per month. He would have to repay the victim for the money he took too.
Jerns was smiling when the hearing was over, as he described how he wasn’t scared by the ordeal, and how it fit in with the rest of the challenges he’s faced the past several months.
“I’m Catholic, you know,” he said. “God only puts on your shoulders what you can handle. He’s pushing a load.”
Jerns’ new driver’s license was issued on May 1, and he’s back at his home on West Branch Street in Napavine.
For background, read, “Police: Impostor arrested after driving test includes stop at Lucky Eagle” from Wednesday April 29, 2015, here