Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Hank: Judge declines to declassify dangerous dog

Monday, June 19th, 2017
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Jann Propp-Estimo holds back tears as her son Jason Estimo speaks with their lawyer.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Lewis County judge ruled today the county should proceed to euthanize a pit bull terrier after viewing new evidence by an eyewitness that seemed to exonerate him in the killing of two goats.

The session this morning in Lewis County District Court follows a winding case in which the dog was deemed a dangerous animal under a county administrative process, but instead of being put down, was wrongly adopted out by the shelter to an unknowing Centralia family who handed Hank over when law enforcement came to retrieve him.

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Detained April, 2016

Jann Propp-Estimo, seated next to her attorney, let out a sob as Judge R.W. Buzzard made his pronouncement.

“I find by clear and convincing evidence Ms. York got it right,” Buzzard said. “This dog by our codes is dangerous.”

Propp-Estimo’s lawyer Adam Karp shared information with the court about Hank’s disposition from those at the Lewis County Animal Shelter had the dog in custody for several months and once again are holding him and from Propp-Estimo whose family owned him from January until May.

Karp brought the Winlock man who owned the goats to testify and filed a declaration from a neighbor who saw what happened last year.

Julianna Engel, according to a deputy’s report at the time, made statements such as the two dogs chased, bit and killed the goat, Buzzard said. Her more recent sworn declaration specified it was Hank’s mother who engaged in the attack.

“These two statements could not be more different from one another,” Buzzard said.

Judge Buzzard noted that Engel was not present at the hearing to be questioned, but a statement given so close in time to the event is presumed to be more believable, he said.

At the end of the approximately 90 minute hearing, Lewis County Civil Deputy Prosecutor David Fine was instructed to bring back an order for Hank to be euthanized. Judge Buzzard said his signature would start a clock ticking for 48 hours.

Karp said he will appeal and / or file a new lawsuit against the county.

“This is bullsh*t,” Winlock resident Steven Rohr said. “He was not part of it, he was wrongly accused.”

Rohr, the owner of the goats, was visibly upset as he and a fair-sized crowd exited the courtroom.

He had taken the stand in defense of the dog, pointing out what he saw on the video taken by his dash cam that day. At first, he was prejudiced against the pit bull he then knew as Tank, he said. But after speaking with Engel, he changed his mind.

“Hank is sitting right there, wagging his tail,” Rohr had told the court as he pointed to a segment of the video that was shown. The actual killing did not appear on the tape.

Also among those assembled in the lobby on the third floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center was Debra Parscal, who owned Tank at the time. She said that after the incident, she had to tell her children she couldn’t come up with the money to meet the county’s demands for $500,000 worth of liability insurance to be able to keep their dog.

Today’s hearing was held simultaneous to a meeting by the Lewis County Board of County Commissioners in which they approved an amendment to the dangerous dog ordinance that allowed the appeal in Lewis County District Court.

The dog’s situation came to to the attention of county authorities in May, when Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer advised commissioners he learned that instead of putting the dog down last year, the Lewis County Animal Shelter changed its name to Hank and adopted him to the new family, without disclosing his pertinent background.

Propp-Estimo took Hank to her rural Centralia home in January, then relocated him to her grown son and grandson’s home in town, because her other dog, Bruce Almighty, didn’t care for the new addition.

Jason Estimo was disappointed and unhappy with the judge’s ruling.

“It seemed, uh, kind of intellectually really dishonest,” Estimo said. “They changed the ordinance to save Hank, and Hank’s still going to be put down.
•••

For background, read “Possible reprieve for dog implicated in goats’ deaths” from Wednesday May 31, 2017, here

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017
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•••

Updated at 2:23 p.m.

THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS STOLEN FROM HOSPITALIZED WOMAN

• A 34-year-old Winlock woman was arrested yesterday at the end of a two-month long investigation which concluded she withdrew more than $43,000 from two accounts belonging to a woman who was hospitalized and subsequently died. Aurora S. Fulmer allegedly made more than 100 transactions in approximately a one-month period that ended on Feb. 8, according to the sheriff’s office. Fulmer was contacted yesterday, taken into custody and booked for seven counts of forgery and two counts of first-degree theft, Chief Deputy Dusty Breen said this morning. Breen said the case is associated with an address on the 100 block of Fircrest Road in Centralia, but didn’t say how or if the suspect knew the victim.

MISSING MONEY

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports this morning a case for second-degree theft is being referred to prosecutors in connection with a Sunday call to the 400 block of Jones Road in Centralia in which a father reported $800 cash vanished from the home during the two-hour time period when his 17-year-old son was left unattended there.

MOTOR MISSING

• Chehalis police were contacted just before 9 a.m. yesterday about a 6 horse power motor having been removed from a boat at the 1900 block of Northeast Kresky Avenue. The black Mercury long shaft motor was valued at $300, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

HARASSMENT

• Chehalis police were called about 9:40 a.m. yesterday to take a report of harassment over social media involving juveniles.

BEGGING IN THE STREET

• A 42-year-old man who police say was warned multiple times for aggressive panhandling and impeding traffic was arrested after an officer saw him standing in the middle of the road at the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia, allegedly trying to stop cars while asking for money. An officer responding about 1:35 p.m. yesterday took Todd D. Strenge, of Olympia, into custody and booked him into the Lewis County Jail for disorderly conduct, according to the Centralia Police Department.

FROM THE COURTHOUSE

• A pair of Centralia men are accused of stealing nearly $30,000 worth of materials from their employer, a recycling business that specializes in high pressure cylinders and gas tanks located on the 2600 block of Commercial Boulevard in Centralia. The theft wasn’t reported until after a December call to Cylinder Depot Inc. about damage to a back door as if someone tried to break in. A manager told a deputy he suspected 27-year-old Matthew B. Meyer and 31-year-old Christopher A. Clements who had been fired for allegedly stealing, according to court documents. When the deputy contacted the company’s owner, Brian Ogier, he was told the theft was discovered in October when Ogier learned the two men had been taking the stolen brass cylinder valves to Hand and Hand Recycling, according to charging papers. Ogier reported a loss of $29,959, according to the documents. Charges of first-degree theft and also first-degree trafficking in stolen property were filed in Lewis County Superior Court on May 16. The suspects were summonsed to appear in court yesterday afternoon, but only Meyer showed up. He was allowed release pending trial on a $5,000 unsecured bond. Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Jeffrey Schapp said the summons mailed to Clements was returned with a message saying he had moved to Ohio. Judge Andrew Toynbee ordered a no-bail bench warrant for Clements.

AND MORE

• And, as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault; responses for alarm, dispute, vandalism, civil issue, suspicious circumstances, third-degree theft, disorderly person … and more among 131 calls for local law enforcement and / or fire-emergency medical services in the 24-hour period ending about 7 a.m. today.

Chehalis teenage robbery suspect’s state of mind in question

Saturday, June 10th, 2017
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Jose M. Almanza is rolled into the courtroom for his bail hearing.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 19-year-old who got stabbed in the shin when he allegedly tried to forcibly take an acquaintance’s backpack is scheduled for an arraignment next week, but authorities said they plan to seek a mental evaluation.

Jose M. Almanza, 19, of Chehalis, was arrested early last Tuesday morning and then charged later in the day with second-degree attempted robbery.

Prosecutors said Almanza had been admitted to the hospital days earlier for being under the influence of Spice and that he was incoherent when officers spoke with him at the hospital on Tuesday, according to court documents.

He said he was “sorry”, asked “how is everyone” and stated “I thought he gave me the backpack,” when he was questioned, according to the documents.

His arrest came after police were called about 4:50 a.m. on Tuesday for a physical altercation near the freeway onramp at the Main Street-state Route 6 interchange, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

Police learned from the 41-year-old victim that Almanza had showed up at his nearby camp around midnight and was given an extra tent to stay in, but as time went on, Almanza became agitated, so the older man decided to leave and walk towards town, according to court documents.

The victim said Almanza followed him and began to demand his backpack, and when he refused, Almanza punched him in the face, court documents relate. The 41-year-old pulled out a folding knife from his pocket and when they went to the ground and Almanza continued to hit him, he stabbed Almanza in the leg, created some distance and called 911 for help, according to the court documents.

Both men were taken to the hospital to be treated. The 41-year-old man’s partial denture was broken, according to prosecutors.

When Almanza was brought in to Lewis County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon, he was rolled in in a wheel chair.

Defense attorney Rachael Tiller told the judge he he had been working full time in the industrial park, but if his bail was very high he would lose that income. She said her client had no criminal history.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told the judge Almanza’s parents were in the courtroom and very concerned about his mental condition. Meagher asked that bail be set at $50,000.

Judge Andrew Toynbee agreed.

“The state anticipates there will be a request for a competency evaluation,” Meagher said.

Charging documents state Almanza was arrested for fourth-degree assault around the same time he was hospitalized for being on Spice and was just released from jail on Monday.

He was given a court appointed lawyer and his arraignment was put on the court calendar for Thursday.
•••

For background, read “Chehalis: Victim pulls knife on alleged thief” from Tuesday June 6, 2017, here

Chehalis man picked up on $100,000 warrant for alleged sexual assault

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017
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Edgar Ramirez-Dado consults with temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An intercepted message on a Centralia Middle School issued iPad arranging to buy $10 worth of marijuana from a somebody led to an arrest yesterday outside a Centralia convenience store, of a 22-year-old Chehalis resident also wanted on a $100,000 arrest warrant in a rape case.

Edgar Ramirez-Dado was arrested at the 400 block of West Main Street for allegedly planning to sell a little baggie of weed to two boys, ages 16 and 14, according to court documents.

He was booked into the Lewis County Jail for that and numerous outstanding warrants, including one that was issued late last year when a charge of second-degree rape was filed in a case investigated by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Lewis County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher today requested and was granted bail in the amounts of $100,000 and $50,000 for the two cases.

Ramirez-Dado was represented by temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court. Judge Andrew Toynbee appointed Centralia lawyer Don Blair to the cases.

Charging documents indicate a sheriff’s deputy met with a 26-year-old woman in mid-December 2015 when she described a party the night before with a lot of people in which she and her friend consumed a large amount of alcohol.

She said she was introduced to Ramirez-Dado and recalled being dragged by her arms by him into a bedroom and laying on a bed, before two girls came in and pulled her out, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm wrote in charging documents.

She had a couple more shots and the next thing she knew, she was in another room with Ramirez-Dado, according to Bohm.

Bohm wrote that the alleged victim recalled Ramirez-Dado pulling her panties off from beneath her dress and her telling him no and to stop, but she was too weak and drunk to push him away.

She said he raped her.

Charging documents indicate a deputy received a sexual assault report from Providence St. Peter Hospital in January 2016, but don’t explain why charges were not filed until nine months later.

The documents in the new case state that it was just yesterday when a school resource officer alerted a Centralia drug detective of the drug deal arrangement made through a messaging app on the school iPad.

Knowing the details, members of the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team followed one of the boys to the Apex market on Main Street in Centralia.

Police contacted the 16-year-old and Ramirez-Dado inside a vehicle parked there. Inside Ramirez-Dado’s backpack, they allegedly found more than an ounce of marijuana buds, a scale and plastic bags.

Ramirez-Dado is charged with second-degree rape, a class A felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison. He is also charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and involving a minor in drug dealing. Those offenses each carry a maximum penalty of five years.

Meagher told the judge he felt the $100,000 bail was in order in the rape case because of the violent nature of the alleged offense and also because there was some indication an attempt was made to make sure the victim did not tell people what happened.

The 26-year-old victim also told a deputy that when it was over, Ramirez-Dado told her not to come out of the room for a few minutes so it would look like they were not together, according to charging documents.

His arraignment is scheduled for June 15.

Toledo man charged with rape for encounter that stemmed from dating website

Monday, June 5th, 2017
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Benjamin J. Breitenbach, in red, is led into a courtroom for a bail hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Bail was set at $25,000 this afternoon for the Toledo resident accused of raping a woman this weekend he had met on a social media dating website.

Benjamin J. Breitenbach, 37, allegedly admitted to law enforcement to having sex with the alleged victim but said it was consensual, according to court documents.

Breitenbach was arrested after being contacted at his home about 10 p.m. on Saturday.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said a deputy responded to a call about 6 p.m. on Saturday and spoke with the woman who said the two communicated on the site Plenty of Fish and she went to his home that afternoon on the 200 block of Kangas Road.

She said she had met him on the site about a month earlier.

“(She) further explained she and Breitenbach had been exchanging small talk for approximately 10 minutes when he suddenly attacked her on the sofa,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm wrote in charging documents.

He allegedly grabbed her breasts, twisting them causing a great amount of pain, and used that leverage to push her into an adjacent bedroom where he raped her despite her protests.

He left the room, she was able to depart in a near hysterical state and called 911, according to Bohm.

The sheriff’s office this morning reported the 41-year-old woman sought medical attention.

Breitenbach denied to law enforcement any kind of roughness, according to Bohm.

He was charged today in Lewis County Superior Court with second-degree rape, a class A felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller this afternoon told a judge Breitenbach is employed but she believed he qualified for a court appointed lawyer. Centralia attorney Don Blair was appointed.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher asked the judge to hold the defendant on $25,000 bail, because of the violent nature of the alleged offense.

Meagher said Breitenbach had only three warrants in the past, related to minor driving offenses.

Judge James Lawler agreed with the request but stated he had thought the state would have asked for a higher amount.

Breitenbach’s arraignment is scheduled for Thursday morning in Lewis County Superior Court.
•••

For background, read “Claim: Meet-up associated with dating website leads to rape in Toledo” from Monday June 5, 2017, here

Suspicious death in K-Mart parking lot still under investigation

Monday, June 5th, 2017
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Detectives begin to examine the interior of a car after getting a search warrant on Sunday.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Chehalis police say it appears the woman found dead yesterday inside a car at K-Mart died from a gunshot wound.

Officers responded just after 10 a.m. yesterday to a call of a suspicious death at the 1200 block of Northwest Louisiana Avenue, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

The light green 2001 Kia Rio was situated in a parking space at the far south end of the lot.

Department spokesperson Linda Bailey said a gun was found with the woman.

A search warrant was obtained, evidence was collected and the car impounded, according to police.

Police are awaiting a report from the coroner to confirm the identity, according to Bailey.

There was identification found with her, but the car is registered to someone else, Bailey said. The vehicle has Washington license plates, according to police.

As of this morning, nobody had contacted police about a missing person, Bailey said.

It’s the third time in six weeks a person has been discovered deceased inside a vehicle in the city of Chehalis.

The cause and manner of death in the previous two cases have not yet been released, although they did not include gunshot wounds, according to Bailey.

On April 21, the body of a 16-year-old boy was discovered inside his car parked at the Twin City Town Center, also on Northwest Louisiana Avenue. Cole Burbank of Camas had been reported missing eight days earlier by his parents and police subsequently concluded his Honda Accord had been parked at the shopping center since the day he disappeared.

Early on the morning of May 6, a man was found dead after a car fire, in a Honda Accord parked on residential property just south of the Yard Birds Shopping Center off Northeast Kresky Avenue. Robert A. Mansker, 48, was from Kelso.

The Lewis County coroner has said he is awaiting the results of various tests in those cases.

Bailey said the police department will release details in the new case as they become available.
•••

For background, read “Body discovered in vehicle in Chehalis store’s parking lot” from Sunday June 4, 2017, here

Body discovered in vehicle in Chehalis store’s parking lot

Sunday, June 4th, 2017
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Detectives begin to examine the interior of a car after getting a search warrant.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police are investigating after a person was found dead inside a car parked in the lot at K-Mart in Chehalis today.

Chehalis Police Department Sgt. Rick McNamara said it was reported about 10 o’clock this morning.

He didn’t have much information and said a press release will be issued.

Officers, detectives and personnel with the Lewis County Coroner’s Office were gathered this afternoon at the south end of the lot on Northwest Louisiana Avenue.

The light green passenger car was parked at the far side of the lot and blocked off by police tape and a semi-circle of responders’ vehicles.

McNamara said they were working on finding out the identity of the person, he believed was a female. They had just secured a search warrant in order to get inside, he said.

The car has Washington license plates but the sergeant declined to say if police yet knew who the registered owner is.

It was just six weeks ago when the body of a 16-year-old boy from Camas was discovered in a Honda Accord parked in the lot of a shopping center just to the north of K-Mart, the Twin City Town Center. While the coroner is still waiting for the results of toxicology tests on Cole Burbank, authorities have said his death was not suspicious.

McNamara this afternoon said police don’t know yet if foul play might be involved in this death, but it’s customary to investigate as a suspicious death.

Possible reprieve for dog implicated in goats’ deaths

Thursday, June 1st, 2017
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Detained in back of patrol car April 1, 2016. / photo from Lewis County Sheriff’s Office file

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County officials are contemplating a change in the law that would potentially offer one more chance for a 2-year-old pit bull terrier otherwise destined to be euthanized.

The tan and white dog was impounded last summer from its Winlock home, after it and its companion were accused of killing two neighbor goats and biting a pony’s face. Tank was declared a dangerous dog through a county administrative process and his owner didn’t follow through with meeting the stringent and costly requirements to continue to keep such a pet.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer earlier this month informed the Board of County Commissioners he learned that instead of putting the dog down, the Lewis County Animal Shelter changed its name to Hank and adopted him to a new family, without disclosing his pertinent background.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office investigated and retrieved Hank from his new home. Meyer said he would ask an outside prosecutor to investigate the actions of two county employees.

There is no provision under the county code to declassify a dangerous dog, according to Meyer.

But yesterday, the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office presented to the county commissioners a draft amendment to the code which would, if passed, allow any person claiming an interest in an animal designated as dangerous to seek an order from Lewis County District Court to erase the label of dangerous.

Currently the owner of a dog deemed dangerous may have an administrative hearing to dispute the claim and can appeal that to a hearings officer, according to Lewis County Civil Deputy Prosecutor David Fine.

“This amendment gives a third option,” Fine said.

As written, the rules indicate the court would evaluate the animal, using the same criteria as the administrative procedure has already used.

But the judge would be able to take into consideration new evidence including present behavior, character and disposition of the animal, according to Fine.

The rural Centralia woman who adopted Hank in January is pleased to hear there’s a possible reprieve for the dog she brought into her family.

“We’ve done everything right,” Jann Propp-Estimo said yesterday afternoon. “All I want is Hank back.”

Propp-Estimo said they visited the Lewis County Animal Shelter to find a companion for their dog Bruce. She had Hank microchipped before leaving the shelter, got him his rabies shots and made sure he got a physical, she said.

Soon it became apparent Bruce didn’t care for the newcomer.

Her grown son and 9-year-old grandson live in town, but have dinner at Propp-Estimo’s home daily, and were happy to move Hank into their household, she said. She hired a contractor to build a new fence for their Centralia yard.

“We loved that dog, he was the best dog,” she said. “He stole our hearts.”

On May 9, a Lewis County sheriff’s deputy visited the family, explained there was a legal issue and Hank should not have been adopted out, according to the deputy’s report. The pit bull terrier was returned to the animal shelter.

The investigative report into how it came about that the shelter adopted out a dog designated as dangerous indicates what Prosecutor Meyer has already said.

There was a feeling the dog wasn’t really dangerous and Shelter Manager Amy Hanson reached out to an animal group to see if they could find a suitable owner.

Hanson noted in emails and interviews staff saw no signs of aggression to people, other dogs, cats or even kittens.

“This dog is truly something special! Never jumps up on you, will sit politely when asked, shakes hands and loves his stuffed toys. You know how dogs can get when they have been in the shelter setting for even a few days, well Tank completely continues to be a polite sweet dog at all times,” Hanson wrote.

Lewis County Civil Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg, who is among the county’s civil lawyers who advise county departments, was asked by the humane officer, the health department and the shelter what the options were for the dog under county code and was researching potential changes to the code.

He went on family leave, returned to work and went on leave again, and then once he learned the dog had been adopted out, notified his supervisor, according to Eisenberg and the deputy’s report.

Lewis County Board of County Commissioners Chair Gary Stamper said yesterday, after commissioners were presented with the draft amendment to the code, the change potentially could save Hank.

“It still doesn’t solve everything, but it moves it to the next level,” Stamper said.

The item titled,”Judicial removal of dangerous animal designation” will appear on the commissioner’s Monday morning meeting agenda. A public hearing will be set to discuss the matter.

Propp-Estimo said she has hired Bellingham animal lawyer Adam Karp, and has already reached out to the dog’s first owner and even the owner of the goats to learn more about the issue with livestock.

He was just a year old when that happened, and some blame his mother, a pit bull terrier named Sadie who was said to have been moved to another state, for instigating the attack, she said.

“Poor Hank, got left hanging out to dry,” she said.
•••

For background, read “Prosecutor: Lewis County employees broke rules regarding seized dog” from Thursday May 18, 2017, here

Driver with flashing grill lights, badge arrested after police chase

Friday, May 26th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 54-year-old man who had a silver badge pinned to his vest and a can of pepper spray in his pocket when he was arrested at the end of long police pursuit on U.S. Highway 12 yesterday is being investigated for possible criminal impersonation.

James P. Sauter, of rural Chehalis, was finally caught when he turned his truck into a field and got it stuck on a log about 21 miles east of White Pass, according to authorities.

It began just before 1:30 p.m. when troopers were notified of a possible hit and run involving a white Dodge pickup truck with emergency lights installed in its grill.

Callers reported the truck was traveling at a high rate of speed and forcing other drivers to pull off the road and when law enforcement began to follow it near Morton, the truck continued east in excess of 100 mph, according to court documents.

Troopers report the truck passed other vehicles using the oncoming lane, on the right shoulder and on blind corners until they eventually lost sight of it, only to get reports later it had a vehicle pulled over on the shoulder east of Packwood.

The driver allegedly activated his grill lights during the pursuit.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead writes in charging documents the hit and run allegation and the possible impersonation continue to be investigated.

The badge turned out to be a Centralia Fire Department badge, according to Halstead.

Sauter was charged today with one count of felony eluding in Lewis County Superior Court. Bail was set at $10,000.

He was just brought before a judge on Monday for possession of a controlled substance after police located pills on Sauter for which he allegedly did not have a prescription, when he was arrested three days earlier after an incident in downtown Chehalis allegedly trying to get inside a woman’s vehicle. He had been arrested and then released by Centralia police earlier that morning for allegedly aiming a laser pointer at passing motorists.

On Monday, Sauter’s bail was set with a $10,000 signature bond and he conveyed to the judge he would be able to produce the prescription bottle for the pills. A judge today revoked his bail in that case.
•••

For background, read “Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup – UNRULY PERSON” from Monday May 22, 2017, here

Five people arrested on Gish Road following drug investigation

Thursday, May 18th, 2017
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Scott E. Ridgley, left, is represented by defense attorney Kevin Nelson during a bail hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – After twice sending a police informant to buy drugs from an Onalaska man, local drug detectives served search warrants at his home, arresting him and four others and seizing methamphetamine, heroin, psilocybin mushrooms, more than a pound of marijuana and at least $6,900 cash.

Scott E. Ridgley, 56, was charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with multiple felonies, including unlawful use of a building for drug purposes.

It was just over a year ago members of the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team conducted a similar operation with similar results at Ridgley’s property on the 500 block of Gish Road, although that day they confiscated about $20,000, according to authorities. He was out on bail pending trial in that case.

On Tuesday, JNET was accompanied by at least one member of the U.S. Marshals Service and arrested Ridgley along with his 39-year-old son Larry E. Ridgley who was wanted on a felony drug warrant.

Also arrested was a roommate Stephen D. Cobb, 45, who was charged yesterday with possession of meth and heroin.

Not booked into jail but referred for charges were David E. McAbee, 29, of Onalaska, possession of meth and Tracy A. Dona, 43, Onalaska, possession of meth and destruction of evidence, according to a press release from JNET forwarded by the Centralia Police Department.

Judge Andrew Toynbee set Scott Ridgley’s bail at $50,000 yesterday afternoon.

Charging documents state a confidential informant contacted one of the detectives between March 1 and Tuesday about being able to purchase meth from the senior Ridgley, and did so twice during the same period.

Once at the property, detectives found a black case near Scott Ridgley in a shop building, containing about two and a half ounces of methamphetamine, a digital scale and the cash, according to charging documents.

They found pipes with residue, a rifle with a missing stock and a 22 caliber pistol, the documents relate.

Scott Ridgley was charged with two counts of delivery of meth, one count of possession of meth with intent to deliver, possession of meth, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful use of a building for drug purposes.

He has prior convictions from 2012 for delivery of a controlled substance.
•••

For background, read “Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup – LOTS OF DRUGS” from Tuesday May 3, 2016, here

Prosecutor: Lewis County employees broke rules regarding seized dog

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer says a dog deemed dangerous by the county and impounded to the animal shelter which ought to have been euthanized was instead adopted out to a family who weren’t told of its background.

“His name was changed, the true nature of the dog was hidden and he was adopted out,” Meyer said. “There was a feeling it wasn’t really dangerous.”

The prosecutor was summarizing the sequence of events to the Lewis County Board of Commissioners earlier this week and advised he planned to ask an outside prosecutor to look into the actions of two county employees. He did not name the employees.

He noted there is no provision under the law to declassify a dangerous dog.

Meyer said he asked the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office to investigate. That took place last week, according to sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dusty Breen.

The canine was brought to the shelter last July 1 after it and another dog were accused of killing a goat, according to Meyer.

It’s name was Tank and then changed to Hank, and he thought it may have been a pit bull but didn’t know for sure. The dog was adopted out in January. The new owner had given the animal to her grown son and 9-year-old grandson, and they had it for a significant amount of time, Meyer said.

The new owner wanted to keep the dog or be paid for their investment in a fence and the cost of a child’s broken heart, he said. He said they submitted a bill for $3,000.

“They were told they could not keep it and voluntarily relinquished it to the county,” Meyer said.

The meeting on Tuesday was attended by Lewis County Animal Shelter Manager Amy Hanson, her boss Director of Public Health and Social Services Danette York and other personnel with the prosecutor’s office.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg, who is among the county’s civil lawyers who advise county departments, told commissioners he was aware of the situation and was asked in September by the humane officer, the health department and the shelter what the options were for the dog under county code.

He began working on researching the law, he said, but went on family leave, returned to work and went on leave again, he said.

“I didn’t check back with the health department until recently,” Eisenberg said.

The county’s dangerous dog rules are imposed through a process that begins with an incident report from the sheriff’s office, which is forwarded to the county humane officer at Public Health and Social Services. If it’s determined the animal meets the criteria, the owner is served with a declaration their dog is dangerous and given a date for a hearing, which York oversees.

The only way for an owner to be allowed to keep a dangerous dog is to meet costly criteria such as a secure enclosure and extra insurance, Lewis County Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Carter said.

Meyer reiterated there is no provision declassify this dog and advised commissioners if it bit someone, the county could likely be liable.

At the same time, he hinted there was reason to think this particular dog was wrongly labeled and fell through the cracks.

“In the future, I would hope there would be a more careful analysis of the facts and the dog, before it’s declared dangerous,” he said.

International sports gambling operation traced to Chehalis

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017
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•••

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The U.S. State Department helped local prosecutors track down a man wanted for allegedly running an illegal online betting website out of an office in downtown Chehalis.

When investigators were looking into the enterprise in the late summer of 2008, they learned that Ronald W. Ehli had moved to Costa Rica four months earlier, but they interviewed two of his employees at 34 N.E. Boistfort Street, according to court documents.

They learned he was using a bank in Minnesota, another bank in Chehalis and used website server services from a Centralia business, the documents relate.

“It’s an interesting deal,” Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said today. “There was a lot of money involved and we seized every nickel of it.”

Charges were filed in Lewis County Superior Court in the fall of 2008 but Ehli has just recently been taken into custody.

Meagher said the state department revoked Ehli’s passport and when he tried to travel to Nicaragua, where his wife lives, he was located. Ehli was brought to Florida and Meagher had him extradited from the Dade County Sheriff’s Office.

He was booked into the Lewis County Jail yesterday and brought before a judge this afternoon.

Judge Andrew Toynbee allowed him release pending trial on a $10,000 unsecured bond, defense attorney Kevin Nelson said.

Ehli, 58, is charged with second-degree professional gambling and also with unlawfully transmitting or receiving gambling information. Both are offenses with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

He has no known criminal history, according to Meagher.

Charging documents detail how a special agent at the Washington State Gambling Commission decided to look into Sportbetting.com to see if it had any illegal gambling activities in the state.

The agent, using an undercover name and an undercover Visa account, signed up, made bets and won several times, according to the documents.

Sportbetting.com is an Internet website that allows wagering on sports competitions, horse racing, casino games and poker. Its activities are not sanctioned by the Washington State Gambling Commission.

The documents go on to make the following allegations:

The agent received a payout for his winnings with a check drawn on Citizens State Bank in Clara City, Minnesota. It was signed by Ehli and the account belonged to EZPay Financial Services.

That business is a Washington state corporation registered to Ehli, who is listed as president, secretary and treasurer.

The two employees at the Boistfort Street office admitted to checking the email for updates and transferring money to Ehli’s account at West Coast Bank in Chehalis, then printing checks. There were four batches: for Canada, Mexico, International and United States. The computer was seized.

The computer’s server was located at Rainier Connect on Kresky Avenue in Centralia.

Ehli also owns a business called Outsource Printing, based in the same office on Boistfort Street.

Search warrants were served for electronic data from EZPay, West Coast Bank and Citizens State Bank.

It’s not clear if the two employees have been charged with any crimes.

Meagher said that the forfeiture of the business’s accounts was done by the Washington State Gambling Commission and amounted to almost $5 million.

The prosecutor’s office and the sheriff’s office applied to receive a portion of the money, to be used to investigate fraud, he said.

Nelson was appointed to represent Ehli. His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday of next week.

Serial fast food burglar gets long prison term

Friday, May 12th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The former Centralia College student who admitted to a string of fast food restaurant rooftop break-ins in which thousands of dollars were stolen has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison.

Alexis Cardenas, 26, was arrested in February for the incidents in the late spring of 2015 in Centralia.

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Alexis Cardenas

Most of the victim establishments discovered someone had broke into their safes after entering the building by cutting a hole in the roof. Cardenas was released from prison in 2014 for a similar caper at a KFC in King County, according to authorities.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and defense attorney David Arcuri on Wednesday made the agreed recommendation of 148 months to a judge in Lewis County Superior Court. Judge Andrew Toynbee agreed.

Cardenas pleaded guilty in March to five counts of second-degree burglary, five counts of first-degree malicious mischief and one count of attempted delivery of cocaine. The businesses locally included Arby’s, Wendy’s and McDonalds in Centralia.

Halstead said three of Cardenas’s accomplices have been sentenced for their roles.

Joaquin Armenta recently was given five years and eight months and Cole T. Moon received the same amount of time. Moon had previously gotten 45 days in jail for the McDonald’s burglary.

Cardenas’s girlfriend at the time was originally charged with one count each of second-degree burglary and first-degree malicious mischief but Halstead said her participation turned out to be even more limited.

Morelia V. Ayala Garcia, now 20, of Centralia, was completely cooperative, Halstead said.

She pleaded guilty to reduced charges of three counts of third-degree malicious mischief and was given 30 days in jail, which could be served on electronic home monitoring.

Halstead said today more suspects are still outstanding.
•••

For background, read “Fast food roof top burglar convicted after plea deal” from Wednesday March 22, 2017, here

On the road: Onalaska girl named statewide Explorer of the year

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017
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Hailee Olsen and Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza, center, with Explorer advisors Deputy Jeremy Almond, left and Deputy Tyson Brown, right.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – She’s just 17, a junior at W.F. High School, but already she’s invested more than two years into preparing for her hoped for career.

Hailee Olsen said she tried sports and didn’t care for that so much.

In her after school time, when she’s not watching her young cousin, or working as a courtesy clerk at Safeway, she’s over at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office volunteering.

“I help out with office work, I help with a lot of evidence stuff, just various tasks,” Olsen said.

And the Onalaska girl knows what she’s doing, because she joined the sheriff’s office Explorer program when she was 14 and a half.

Members of the post and their advisors meet three times each month at the Lewis County Law and Justice Center in Chehalis. A typical meeting includes an inspection, to make sure their uniforms are nice and clean, she said.

They learn about such things as patrol procedures and do domestic violence classes, she said. They also get to join in with actual deputies’ training, something she especially enjoys.

“We’re in training to be a deputy, pretty much,” Olsen said.

Her uncle, Lewis County sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Riordon, suggested to her when she was 13 years old the program was something she might want to do. But it wasn’t until a friend invited her to an Explorer meeting that she got hooked, she said.

“It was nothing I was expecting when I first walked in,” she said.

It was fun and the Explorers were all so nice, she said.

Olsen said she was bullied a bit in middle school and the program has helped her build up her confidence.

Her dedication led to last year being named the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post #9771 Explorer of the year. And the same honor was bestowed up on her again, at the end of last month.

Advisor Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeremy Almond in his nomination letter notes she volunteered more than 400 hours last year. She is a sergeant who supervises  squad.

“Many deputies she rode with in 2016 provided excellent feedback about her motivation and professionalism with the public,” he wrote. “Sgt. Olsen, during a patrol physical assessment at the W.F. West High School track, saw a deputy struggling on the run. She circled back around and ran with the deputy providing motivation and encouragement to finish the assessment.”

When Sheriff Rob Snaza presented her with the award at Bethel Church during the volunteer appreciation gathering on April 28, he told how now-Chief Deputy Dusty Breen began his career through the same path.

“This is what the Explorer does, not only just for the individuals who want to be in law enforcement,” Snaza said. “But helps them grow as individuals, as young men and women.”

Olsen is working to turn her experiences into a job in law enforcement.

“I am shooting to be out on the road when I turn 21,” she said. “I’m going to apply, and hopefully get hired on.”

Now, she has been recognized statewide for her dedication.

Border Patrol Agent John Tafolla who came to know the teenager at a 2015 winter academy for Explorers said she proved to be an outstanding student. Tafolla wrote a letter to the Washington Law Enforcement Explorer Advisors group’s nominating Olsen to be Explorer of the year. And they chose her.

“Miss Olsen’s level of dedication to her post and law enforcement in general is rare in youth, even in Explorer’s that I have worked with,” Taffolla wrote.

Olsen will travel to Spokane to accept the award during a luncheon at the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs spring conference at the end of the month.

Chehalis: Homeless family chased from van by fire

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Updated at 11:57 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A family living out of their vehicle escaped when it caught fire last night in Chehalis although the father sustained severe burns to his hands pulling their child to safety.

Firefighters called about 12:20 a.m. to the end of a street between Wal-Mart and Home Depot found their van fully engulfed in flames, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

Fire Capt. Casey Beck said the father suffered third-degree burns to his hands moving burning material, grabbing the baby and then threw a small propane cook stove out of the vehicle.

They had been using the portable stove for heat during the night, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

Fire Chief Ken Cardinale said all three were transported to the hospital, the mother and 3-year-old boy for observation and the dad for his injuries.

Red Cross was contacted to assist them, according to police.

Capt. Beck said they have been staying in their vehicle for at least the past couple of weeks. The van was destroyed.

He expected the 37-year-old man was probably transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

A fire investigator will check into the cause of the blaze, Cardinale said.

It’s very dangerous to use items such as a small barbecues or propane-fueled equipment in confined spaces, he said, because they produce carbon monoxide. People can easily be overcome by the colorless, odorless gas, he said.

“So, people don’t know they’re being poisoned by it,” he said. “It takes far too many lives.”

Chehalis: Person found dead in burned car

Saturday, May 6th, 2017
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Vehicle found burning off Northeast Kresky Avenue, just south of Yard Birds Mall

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A body was found inside a car after flames were extinguished overnight in Chehalis.

Firefighters were called just before 1 o’clock this morning to the 1900 block of Northeast Kresky Avenue for a vehicle fire and found it fully involved, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

It was about 12 feet away from a two-car garage associated with a manufactured home near the southeast corner of the Yard Birds Mall property, Fire Capt. Casey Beck said.

Once the fire was put out, Beck said, he shined his flashlight inside and saw there was a deceased person in the driver’s seat.

Law enforcement was at the scene before the fire crew arrived, he said. Police Chief Glenn Schaffer and Fire Chief Ken Cardinale came out, he said.

The car was a 1992 Honda Accord with Washington license plates, according to Beck.

The incident is under investigation. Nobody was available from the Chehalis Police Department this morning to answer any questions.

Castle Rock resident charged with hit and run related to I-5 motorcycle death

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017
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David L. Huisenga appears in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Bail was set at $100,000 today for the driver who allegedly admitted to being involved in yesterday morning’s fatal motorcycle collision in Chehalis, but left the scene and then torched his truck.

David L. Huisenga, 44, was charged today with hit and run involving death and second-degree arson in Lewis County Superior Court.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller argued for a lower amount, telling the judge her client has a stable lifestyle, working as a union laborer the past decade, residing in Castle Rock for the last 17 years and Longview before that.

Her client’s significant other was present in the courtroom, she said.

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Michael Fields

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said he was concerned about interference with the administration of justice, given the allegations.

Meagher said Huisenga’s history included two hit and run unattended accidents in 1998 as well as reckless driving from the same year.

Exactly what occurred on northbound Interstate 5 near Centralia around 5 o’clock yesterday morning remains unclear, except that the motorcycle went down and its rider was then run over by a semi truck, according to authorities.

Michael T. Fields, 57, of Chehalis, died at the scene.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer wrote in charging documents officers discovered a license plate at the scene belonging to Huisenga.

His pickup truck was found burning about 9:15 a.m., according to Meyer, east of Interstate 5 near exit 63, and although the vehicle was destroyed, a license plate matching the one left at the scene was located.

Tiller told Judge R.W. Buzzard this afternoon that Huisenga walked 20 plus miles to the Castle Rock Police Department to turn himself in. Meyer wrote in charging documents Huisenga reported to Castle Rock police his vehicle had been stolen, but then recanted during subsequent interviews.

He said he had been driving northbound in the right lane and saw a motorcycle approaching from the rear in the same lane, according to Meyer.

“According to the defendant, he attempted to go into the left lane to get out of the way of the approaching motorcycle, but collided with the motorcycle,” Meyer wrote. “The defendant was unclear as to how the collision occurred.”

Meyer wrote that Huisenga said he saw the motorcycle go down and as a rider himself, knew the rider did not survive, based on the speeds they had been traveling.

He allegedly admitted fleeing, then passing back by and seeing troopers at the scene, and then using matches to set the front seat of his truck on fire.

The state patrol has described Huisenga’s pickup as a red 2001 Chevrolet Silverado.

The offenses he is charged with are both class B felonies, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and / or $20,000 fine.

Tiller said Huisenga qualified for a court appointed lawyer, and Don Blair was appointed.

Meager outside the courtroom said the charges filed today are based on the evidence prosecutors possessed today, but that the investigation being conducted by the state patrol is not yet finished.
•••

For background, read “Pickup that left scene of fatal motorcycle crash found burning near I-5” from Wednesday April 26, 2017, here

Pickup that left scene of fatal motorcycle crash found burning near I-5

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Updated at 10:01 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It was a Chehalis man who died in the motorcycle wreck yesterday morning on Interstate 5.

It’s unknown exactly what transpired between him and a pickup truck that caused the motorcycle to go down and slide to the shoulder ejecting the rider onto the roadway, but he was then run over by a semi truck, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Michael T. Fields, 57, of Chehalis, was dead at the scene when responders arrived, according to authorities.

The accident about 5 o’clock yesterday morning in the northbound lanes at milepost 80 just south of Centralia shut down the freeway for hours while detectives investigated.

A license plate found at the scene belonging to a pickup truck found burning not far from the freeway in south Lewis County led to the arrest of its owner for hit and run and arson, according to the Washington State Patrol.

It was a WSDOT worker who spotted heavy black smoke off Camus Road near the Gospodor monuments and firefighters dispatched at 8:50 a.m. found the truck fully engulfed in flames, according to authorities.

The owner of the red 2001 Chevrolet Silverado called to report it stolen yesterday afternoon, and after meeting with detectives was booked into the Lewis County Jail, Trooper Will Finn said this morning.

“It doesn’t sound like there was a reason he left the scene, he just panicked and didn’t know what to do,” Finn said. “If he’d have stuck around, it would have been just an unfortunate accident, but now he’s facing two felonies.”

“It’s just a sad story all the way around,” he said.

Field’s 2012 Harley Davidson FLTRU was impounded. The burned Chevrolet Silverado was impounded.

The driver of the 2018 Freightliner, a 64-year-old man from Phoenix, was uninjured, according to the state patrol.

Finn said detectives are still trying to figure out exactly the nature of the contact between the pickup and Field’s motorcycle.

“It may have been a lane change, they’re still investigating,” he said.
•••

For background, read “News brief: I-5 freeway fatality under investigation” from Tuesday April 25, 2017, here

Police awaiting autopsy for confirmation about body found inside parked Honda Accord

Monday, April 24th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Chehalis Police Department has an idea about how he died and feels “pretty positive” he is the missing 16-year-old Camas boy, but are awaiting word from the coroner in regards to the body discovered inside a car parked at the Twin City Town Center late Friday afternoon.

Department spokesperson Linda Bailey this morning called the death a tragedy.

Cole Burbank, 16, of Camas, was reported missing by his parents on April 13 and the Camas Police Department issued a missing person report to the public hoping to locate him and his black 2010 Honda Accord. An intense investigation to find him as quickly as possible began immediately, according to police.

Chehalis police responded about 5:30 p.m. on Friday to the shopping center on Northwest Louisiana Avenue in Chehalis, following a phone call from someone Bailey said she believed was a friend of the family who had located the vehicle.

“I do understand Camas sent a team up to assist with … to process the scene,” Bailey said.

It doesn’t appear police are looking for any suspect. Bailey said if police thought there was a danger element to the public, she would have already made such an announcement.

Officers have an idea of how he died, “but we aren’t going to say that until we get an autopsy report,” Bailey said.

An autopsy is being conducted today, she said.

The car was found in the parking lot east of the auto parts store and closer to Security State Bank. Bailey said she had not yet heard if detectives have determined how long the car was there.

Further information is expected to be released by the Lewis County Coroner’s Office, which has the responsibility to positively identify him and find the cause and manner of his death.
•••

For background read “Male found dead inside missing teen’s car in Chehalis” from Saturday April 22, 2017, here

Male found dead inside missing teen’s car in Chehalis

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017
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The missing person flyer showing Cole Burbank and associated Honda Accord.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Authorities say a car associated with a 16-year-old Camas boy missing more than a week was found yesterday in a Chehalis shopping center parking lot, with a body inside.

Police responded about 5:30 p.m. yesterday to the Twin City Town Center on Northwest Louisiana Avenue.

“Upon arrival, officers discovered a deceased young adult male inside the vehicle,” Chehalis Police Department spokesperson Linda Bailey wrote in a brief message to news media late last night.

Cole Burbank, 16, of Camas, was last seen at Camas High School at about 7:45 am. on April 13 and was reported missing by his parents the same day, according to the Camas Police Department.

He left driving a black 2010 Honda Accord and was likely in the vicinity of Clark College where he attended Running Start classes, but never showed up there, according to police. Camas police issued a missing person report to the public the following day, noting “this type of behavior is not common for Cole and his family is very concerned for his welfare.”

The Chehalis Fire Department and AMR medics were called to the shopping center early yesterday evening, basically to confirm the occupant was dead and helped secure the scene.

Firefighter Braxton Traylor said the black Honda was parked east of an auto parts store and closer to Security State Bank, with no other vehicles parked immediately adjacent to it, but a person was visible through its windows.

“He had a real low profile in the vehicle,” Traylor said. “If you were just driving by, you may not have seen him.”

Bailey’s message stated an investigation is ongoing and information will be released as it becomes available. Nobody was available this morning from the Chehalis Police Department to answer questions.

Camas police stated in a press release the body was released to to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office for positive identification.

Camas police thanked the public for tips and search efforts, as well as assisting agencies they said included the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Citizens keep rounding up small dogs dumped east of Onalaska, as shelter fills up

Friday, April 21st, 2017
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Five of the rescued chihuahuas being held at the Lewis County Animal Shelter

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – They started getting brought in on Saturday, batches of chihuahuas found abandoned in East Lewis County.

The Lewis County Animal Shelter has been clipping, grooming and preparing for spaying and neutering of little dogs all week.

Yesterday afternoon the animals being temporarily housed at the facility on Centralia-Alpha Road huddled in small groups in five separate kennel areas.

Eighteen chihuahuas, all appearing to be pure bred, are or will be available for adoption.

“My gut feeling is they’re all from the same place,” Shelter Manager Amy Hanson said.

Three times so far, people have found some of the dogs and delivered them to the shelter, Hanson said yesterday afternoon.

Lindsey Dean lives in Cinebar but her daughter goes to school in Morton, so she drives that remote stretch along state Route 508 at least four times a day.

“It was Monday morning, I came around the corner and they were piled in the road,” Dean said. “They were hungry, I had a banana and they were eating dirt to get to the rest of the banana.”

They smelled terrible, their nails were long and they were afraid of people, she said.

On Tuesday after work, animal technician Robin Williams, drove out to the same area just over the Bear Canyon Bridge to see if she could locate any more. With help from Dean, Dean’s teenage son and her friend Missy Baier, they rounded up eight.

“If the first ones hadn’t gone out into the road, I don’t think anyone would have found them, cause they were back in the woods,” Williams said.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Criminal Deputy Dusty Breen says it’s a neglect issue that could be pursued criminally.

Lewis County Code Compliance Supervisor Bill Teitzel today said his office is seriously looking at the situation.

Teitzel said over the past six to eight months, the same type of dogs have been dumped in a similar fashion in similar locations, although never this many.

“They seem to coincide with things we’re doing at this office,” he said.

The county’s humane officer conducts inspections for people who want to apply for kennel permits, he said.

“My office doesn’t investigate crime, but if we find crime we will turn it over to the sheriff’s office,” Teitzel said.

Animals must be fixed before the shelter can release them to new homes. That requirement over the years has led to lower numbers of strays kept there.

At any given time, nowadays, they may have only two to three dogs available for adoption, according to Hanson.

This week almost 100 dogs are inhabiting the kennels and cages in the building.

On Monday, Lewis County seized dozens of dogs, mostly chihuahua-mix, from a man who lives on the 1600 block of Little Hanaford Road outside Centralia.

They undertook a similar action three years ago at the same place and the owner, Jimmie R. Jemison, was charged with a violation of state law related to dog breeding and standards of cleanliness, care and protection.

The case however was dismissed in December the following year because Jemison was found not competent to stand trial due to mental illness, according to documents filed in Lewis County Superior Court.

Soon after, the county filed for a declaratory judgement to “abate” the situation, as it believed he continued to breed dogs in the same poor conditions. The court signed a warrant of abatement earlier this month.

Hanson said when they went to the property Monday to impound Jemison’s dogs, the conditions were maybe even worse than before.

Some were living in the motor home with him and others were kept in outbuildings, she said.

They collected five litters of puppies, about two weeks old, she said, plus 47 dogs at least four months old and older.

Those animals are being cared for at the shelter, and will become available for adoption later.

Hanson said she doesn’t have any reason to think Jemison’s operation was related to the animals found off state Route 508.

Dean said she learned today, a man with a tree farm off state Route 508 found more chihuahuas but could only catch one.

“He said there were three more, maybe five miles down by a small bridge,” she said.

As many as four other chihuahuas have been discovered in the area and not turned into the shelter, she said.

She’ll keep going back to look for others, she said.

“Me and my friend Missy, we’re just heartbroken,” she said. “Because it’s obvious, they’re scared.”
•••

For background, read “Centralia man pleads not guilty to dog breeding violation” from Saturday May 31, 2014, here

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Six chihuahuas were picked up Monday morning off of state Route 508 near milepost 22. / Courtesy photo by Lindsey Dean