Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Former employee of defunct Lewis County non-profit faces old theft charge

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017
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Peggy L. Maxwell, wearing green jail garb, shares defense table with attorney Rachael Tiller in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  A woman wanted on a $20,000 arrest warrant for a first-degree theft case filed years ago by former Lewis County Prosecutor Jeremy Randolph recently came to the attention of local law enforcement and was extradited from the east coast to go before a judge here yesterday.

Peggy L. Maxwell, now 58, was booked into the Lewis County Jail on Friday and was seen in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday afternoon.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher asked that she be held on $20,000 bail. Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller requested a lesser amount, noting Maxwell has family in Boistfort and a good friend in the area she can stay with.

Judge James Lawler agreed with Meagher.

The criminal case was filed in May 2001, based on the findings from a January 2000 civil trial in Lewis County in which the court found for the plaintiffs.

The complaint in that case stated the plaintiffs, a non-profit organization in Lewis County called the Civil Rights Defense League, in May of 1998 made a loan of $10,000 to Maxwell and her husband, and the note was in default.

The affidavit regarding probable cause drawn up by Randolph in May 2001 alleges the Defense League issued Maxwell a $10,000 check three years earlier which she said she would use to pay a retainer fee to secure legal services from a lawyer named Leslie Abramson.

Randolph wrote that Maxwell deposited the funds into her account and none of it was received by Abramson. He charged Maxwell with one count of first-degree theft.

Randolph was the elected prosecutor, for the second time, for eight years ending at the end of 2006.

Outside the courtroom, Meagher said Maxwell worked for the now defunct organization. Authorities were able to track down one person who is among the victims, he said.

“There’s a lot of backstory here,” Meagher said.

The criminal charge is separate from the civil case, he said.

A now-retired detective with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office conducted the criminal investigation for Randolph’s case. Meagher said he has no idea where the husband is, that he’s not involved in this new case.

Documents, only some of which were available, from the civil case, indicate the defendants didn’t show up for the non-jury trial. And the exhibits from the case were destroyed in 2008.

Meagher said his office got lucky and found Maxwell, because she was in jail on the east coast, and her warrant came up.

Tiller requested and got a court-appointed lawyer for Maxwell, saying she has had no income since May of this year, because of incarceration.

Maxwell’s arraignment is scheduled for tomorrow.

Deadly weekend on Interstate 5

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Rochester man is dead after a multiple vehicle collision on Interstate 5 about five miles north of the Grand Mound interchange occurring just before 3:50 a.m. today.

Troopers called to the scene near milepost 93 in the northbound lanes indicate the 61-year-old was driving a 2011 Hyundai Accent that was totaled. His name was not released.

A 2013 Volvo tractor-trailer was approaching stopped traffic because of an earlier blocking collision ahead and struck another semi truck in front of him, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The Volvo continued to hit the Hyundai and three more vehicles in the adjacent lanes, according to the state patrol. Nobody else was injured, the investigating trooper reports.

Seven vehicles in all were involved and some were able to be driven away from the scene; others were towed.

The roadway was blocked for eleven hours. The wreck is under investigation.

West Thurston Regional Fire Authority reports the earlier collision – approximately 2:10 a.m. –  near northbound milepost 94 involved multiple vehicles, including a semi, at least one injury and also a car that caught fire.

Trooper Brooke Bova tweeted there were multiple crashes in the backups including a motorist who was arrested for driving under the influence.

Meanwhile, firefighters responded to a three-vehicle collision on state Route 6 near Curtis Hill Road about 9:30 a.m. today. Lewis County Fire District 6’s DJ Hammer tweeted that one patient was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital.

And yesterday, the driver of a Honda Accord was airlifted after a two-vehicle wreck on southbound Interstate 5 near milepost 68, the Avery Road and U.S. Highway 12 interchange in Lewis County.

Troopers called at 1:23 p.m. yesterday say a 2008 Honda Pilot was traveling at a reckless speed when it struck the Honda in the rear.

Gold E. Obi, 26, of Tacoma, was injured and flown to St. Joseph Hospital in Tacoma, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The driver of the Pilot, Kim C. Mao, 50, of Longview, had a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl in his car, but none of them were hurt, according to the state patrol. Charges of vehicular assault are possible for Mao, according to the patrol.

Rochester fire: Smoke lingers, losses tallied

Saturday, August 26th, 2017
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Map of Scatter Creek Fire area. / West Thurston Regional Fire Authority

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Crews continue to work to fully extinguish fires in Rochester and are likely to be doing so for at least another 10 days, Thurston County officials said today.

Active fire still exists in the northern part of the Scatter Creek fire and suppression continues there, in the event that began Tuesday afternoon and covered an estimated 485 acres.

A second fire that broke out late yesterday afternoon off Prather Road Southwest in grass, brush and timber was quickly attacked with 45 firefighters, two helicopters and a bulldozer and contained at just under two and half acres, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

At one point a home was threatened but fortunately, firefighters were able to prevent flames from reaching the residence and it was not damaged, WTRFA stated last night on its Facebook page.

The blaze on Department of Natural Resources trust land appears to have been started by a downed power line, according to WTRFA.

The overall command post has moved from Rochester High School to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority’s station on Sargent Road. State mobilization resources departed at 6 o’clock this morning, leaving DNR to manage the fires.

The public is asked to use extra caution when driving in the area.

Thurston County officials continue to remind the community that it’s not uncommon to smell and see smoke coming from hot spots and they ask the public to call 911 only if flames are visible.

This will likely continue for several weeks, according to Thurston County Public Information Officer Megan Porter.

While evacuees were allowed to return to their homes by Wednesday, two residences were lost in the Scatter Creek fire, according to Porter.

Also lost was a commercial building on Southwest 183rd Avenue and Loganberry Street, two outbuildings, six pieces of heavy equipment, three semi trailers, two commercial vehicles, two personal vehicles and many utility poles.

A historical cabin and barn were lost as well.

The Miller-Brewer House which was built around 1860 was sited at the southeast corner of the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area. Its address was 17915 Guava St. SW.

It was described as one of Washington’s few remaining territorial settlement-era box (plank) constructed houses, conveying the technology and materials available during the state’s formative period, in a 2007 report prepared for Thurston County and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The building and the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area is owned and managed by WSDFW.

WSDFW yesterday reported it is still assessing damage to the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area, which accounted for 345 acres of the fire’s damage.

The area provides sanctuary for several threatened and endangered wildlife species and is a destination for hiking, birdwatching, dog training and upland bird hunting.

“This fire is truly a tragedy,” Brian Calkins, regional WDFW wildlife manager stated. “We put our heart and soul into restoring this remaining piece of rare native prairie, and we know a lot of people are going to feel this loss as much as we do.”

Thurston County Emergency Management reported the location where Tuesday’s fire began was near Southwest 183rd Avenue, between Guava Street and Case Road.

Crews are expected to be monitoring the areas for any possible lingering fire for the rest of the summer.

Lewis County officials issued a statement late this week reminding the public an outdoor burn ban remains in place, and urged people to use caution if using outdoor power equipment or tools which could produce sparks.

The National Weather Service says a fire weather watch is in effect tomorrow through Tuesday on the west slopes of the central Cascade Mountains, with very hot, dry and unstable conditions forecast.
•••

For background, read “No injuries, but structures burned in Rochester” from Wednesday August 23, 2017, here

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Miller-Brewer House. / From 2007 report prepared for Thurston County and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Dinner guest critically wounded over offensive table manners

Thursday, August 24th, 2017
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Claude E. Royals walks to the defense table in Lewis County Superior Court

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An evening in Silver Creek with plans for dinner and a threesome ended abruptly when a man allegedly stabbed the guest in the chest because he was masturbating at the kitchen table.

The visitor, a 43-year-old man from Lacey, was listed in critical condition this morning, and the suspect is being held in the Lewis County Jail.

Claude E. Royals, 56, of Silver Creek, was charged in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday with first-degree assault.

Royals was arrested after deputies were called about 9:23 p.m. on Tuesday about a stabbing at the 100 block of Huntting Road.

Law enforcement went both to the home and also to Morton General Hospital, after learning the suspect’s girlfriend was driving the victim there, according to charging documents.

The girlfriend told a deputy she had been home with Royals when the Lacey man arrived. She said the three of them were going to have a sexual encounter and everything seemed to be okay when the friend got there, according to court documents.

Royals was barbecuing some food while the friend took a shower, then the friend sat down at the kitchen table wearing only a towel, she said.

She told the deputy her boyfriend walked over to a roll top desk, picked up a folding knife and opened the blade, then walked over to their guest and stabbed him, charging documents relate.

The girlfriend said the victim stood up, then fell to the ground; she grabbed onto her boyfriend as he continued trying to assault the man and she was eventually able to get the knife, she said.

She and the victim left and drove to the hospital, she said.

The deputies who went to the house spoke with Royals, who allegedly admitted to stabbing the man, saying he did it because the victim was touching himself at the kitchen table, according to charging documents. Royals said he used a fork, not a knife.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said Royals was offended by the actions of his visitor.

In Lewis County Superior Court yesterday afternoon, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher asked that Royals be held on $75,000 bail, noting that while the suspect lived locally, he felt there was a community safety issue. Judge James Lawler agreed.

Royals had a third-degree assault case from 2013, Meagher said.

Temporary defense attorney Kevin Nelson told the judge his client’s income from his job at National Frozen Foods put him close to the line in terms of qualifying for court-appointed counsel. Attorney Chris Baum was appointed.

Royals’ arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday.

The victim was flown from Morton to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to the sheriff’s office. Yesterday morning, sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dusty Breen reported the man was in stable condition.

This morning, a spokesperson at Harborview said he was in the intensive care unit, listed in critical condition.
•••

For background, read “News brief: Man airlifted to Seattle after Silver Creek stabbing” from Wednesday August 23, 2017, here

Odor of marijuana: Indoor nursery in rural Chehalis

Thursday, August 24th, 2017
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Hector M. Patino Jr. prepares for his turn before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An anonymous report of someone growing marijuana at a residence on the 3300 block of Jackson Highway south of Chehalis led to a visit from law enforcement and a man confessing he did have some plants in his garage, but most were dying.

After deputies secured a search warrant, they reportedly found more than 500 plants in the garage and then 775 starter plants in another room in the home.

Hector M. Patino Jr., 52, told deputies he brought the plants with him when the family moved in a few weeks ago, according to court documents. He said his wife and child knew about them, but didn’t tend to them in any way.

Patino was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail after the visit on Tuesday by sheriff’s deputies. He was brought before a judge yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court, charged with one count of manufacture of marijuana.

Judge James Lawler allowed him release on $10,000 unsecured bail.

According to charging documents in the case, deputies went to the home where they spoke to Patino’s wife, who told them there was no marijuana being grown there and they should wait for her husband.

As they walked back to their vehicles, the deputies smelled the odor of marijuana from the closed garage and heard what sounded like fans running, according to the documents.

When they were able to contact the husband, he allowed them inside to search part of the residence, and subsequently, the rest of the area, according to the allegations.

In a loft area, the deputies saw remnants of potting soil and observed the area appeared to have been cleared out. In the end, deputies located other items as well as the plants, such as several fluorescent lights, fans, filters, thermostats, an electronic pump and bags of potting soil, according to charging documents.

Patino’s arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 31. Manufacture of marijuana is a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Crews stop central Lewis County fire at two acres

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Those in the know are advising now is perhaps not the time to take a lawn mower out into tall dry grass.

The cause of the fire that scorched an estimated 485 acres in Rochester is not yet determined, according to authorities, but south of Ethel, it was a riding mower that sparked a brush fire yesterday afternoon.

Crews were called just before 4:30 p.m. yesterday to the 400 block of Tucker Road where an individual had been cutting grass and started a fire, according to Lewis County Fire District 8.

It got into the edge of some trees and burned about two acres before it was finally extinguished, Fire Chief Duran McDaniel said.

They arrived to find they needed to cross a small wooden bridge to get to the fire and laid out hoses, and got brush trucks from Districts 2, 5 and the state Department of Natural Resources to access the area, according to McDaniel.

About 20 firefighters joined in the effort and all but DNR were able to leave by about 7 p.m., he said.

The wind was blowing in a direction away from a home on the property, according to McDaniel.

Fortunately, the fire was dispatched quickly and District 8 had its neighbors and the resources to keep it from spreading, McDaniel said.

“I caution the public, do not try to mow tall, dead grass with anything mechanical,” he said.

The chief said the idea takes him back to two years ago, when a brush hog operating in a field led to a nearly 200-acre fire on a chicken farm on Gore Road.

The wooden bridge was damaged, and the brush trucks had to find a shallow spot in the stream in order to leave Tucker Road, he said.

A spokesperson for the state Department of Natural Resources today is offering a recommendation for the public along the same lines, in response to the Rochester fire.

While it is contained, roughly 200 people continue to work the fire. Teams are assessing hazards including trees, the number of affected structures, burnt material, downed power lines, runoff and hazardous materials.

Lost were two primary residences, one commercial building, one unoccupied historical residence and one historical barn, according to Thurston County officials.

Outdoor burn bans are in place in Lewis and Thurston counties.

“We want to remind citizens to pay attention to their surroundings and be cautious of any outdoor activities.” DNR Communications Manager Janet Pearce said, “Even a lawnmower can start a fire.”

No injuries, but structures burned in Rochester

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
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An image from early on yesterday from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office

Updated at 12:01 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Authorities last night said fire lines were holding and some residents were allowed to return home after flames swept through more than 400 acres in Rochester.

Four residences, two barns and also a business at Southwest 183rd Avenue and Loganberry Street burned, according to Thurston County Emergency Management. No injuries have been reported.

West Regional Fire Authority was initially dispatched at 1:33 p.m. yesterday for a brush fire at Wakley Lane and Southwest 183rd Avenue, near the southwest corner of the Scatter Creek Wildlife Recreation Area, according to the fire department. Numerous fire agencies joined them with ground crews and air drops as the fire moved to the east side of Interstate 5.

Crews planned to remain on scene through the night working on small spot fires for the safety of the community, according to WTRFA.

West Thurston Fire stated last night that those confirmed as property owners within the evacuation area could return home, but the general public would not be allowed in.

More than 1,000 people were without power. Thurston County Emergency Management said 100 homes were evacuated.

A reunification site was at first arranged for Rochester High School, but a site opened at the Rochester LDS Church located at 18501 Paulson Street SW according to Thurston County Emergency Management.

Thurston County Emergency Management last night reported the location where the fire began was in a different spot, at the southeast corner of the wildlife area, near Southwest 183rd Avenue, between Guava Street and Case Road.

WTRFA said last night a cause had not yet been determined, but they confirmed no lightning strikes for the area.

West Thurston Fire Chief Robert Scott requested and received state fire assistance yesterday afternoon, which brought in two wildland strike teams from Pierce County.

Others assisting included fire departments with Thurston, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties, the state Department of Natural Resources, Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, Thurston County Public Works, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to WTRFA.

The fire incident management team was to meet this morning. A fire camp has been set up at Rochester High School.

WTRFA indicates information is being provided by Thurston County Emergency Management, which can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

A soup kitchen was to be opened until 10 p.m. last night and again this morning until 10 a.m.

For the latest on road closures, check Thurston County Public Works.

For updates on power outages, see Puget Sound Energy

Thurston County Emergency Management can be reached here

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Fire camp set up at Rochester High School as crews continue to extinguish fire and assess structure and acreage loss. / Thurston County Emergency Management

Firefighters battle fast moving fire in Rochester, evacuations underway

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017
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Image from Chehalis Tribal Emergency Operations just before 2:30 p.m.

Updated at 6:24 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A large wildland fire in Rochester has jumped across Interstate 5,  prompted several road closures and led to evacuations.

West Thurston Regional Fire Authority Lt. Lanette Dyer says most people who have been asked to leave their homes are saying they want to stay, and that is not a good idea.

“If you’re being asked to evacuate, you really need to pick up what’s really valuable like your pets and your children and get to Rochester High School,” she said.

The fire is estimated at 350 acres and growing, the state Fire Marshal’s Office said just after 6 o’clock this evening. Named the Scatter Creek Fire, it is threatening homes, crops and commercial structures in the area.

Evacuations are currently in effect for approximately 100 homes, state Fire Marshal John Wabel stated.

The right lane of northbound I-5 was closed near milepost 90 near  Southwest 183rd Avenue beginning about 3:20 p.m., according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office just before 3 p.m. asked people to avoid the area. At 4:45 p.m., they said the fire is moving in a southeast direction and that homes southeast from Sargent Road and Wakley Lane to Nutmeg Street are being evacuated.

Dyer said late this afternoon this is a very large scale fire, one she’s been so busy with she could not guesstimate its size, or the number of firefighters from surrounding areas who have joined them.

The fire has has damaged historical homes, two farms and several other houses, she said. It is burning in grass, brush and timber.

State fire assistance was mobilized at 4:30 p.m. at the request of West Thurston Regional Fire Authority Chief Robert Scott. Two wildland strike teams were ordered and the fire will be managed by a Type 3 Incident Management Team.

The State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray is activated to a Level 2 to coordinate state assistance.

The fire started about 1:33 p.m. today and the cause is under investigation.

Thurston County Emergency Management issued a list of local streets shut down at 3:50 p.m. today:

Closures include:

• Southwest 183rd Avenue between Wakley Lane on the west end and Loganberry Street Southwest at the east end

• Case Road between 183rd Ave. and 180th Ave.

• Guava Street SW between 183rd and 180th

• Southwest 180th Avenue between Guava Street to Case Road

• Ivan, Guava South, Elderberry, Citrus, Apricot, Seco Lane all at 183rd

• Southwest 183rd Avenue at Sargent Road to Old Highway 99

• Case Road from 183rd to Maytown Road

• 140th at Case Road

• Nutmeg Street SW at Loganberry at 183rd

Rochester High School is being used as a reunification site, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

Emergency Management states: If you are needing pet sheltering or transport due to the Rochester fire that is currently burning, please contact Diana Hardy at 360-273-7440.

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Image from Thurston County Sheriff’s Office

Bail set at $1 million for driver accused of hitting man on sidewalk

Friday, August 18th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 30-year-old motorist accused of driving up onto a Centralia sidewalk where he struck a pedestrian is charged with vehicular assault and possession of heroin.

Witnesses told police Christian D. Brown was driving down South Gold Street about 35 mph before his car traveled onto the east sidewalk and hit the man, according to charging documents. When his car came to a stop, the victim fell off its hood, the documents relate.

An arriving police officer found the 58-year-old Chehalis man face down and unconscious, according to authorities. He was seriously injured.

It happened in the noon hour on Wednesday, just outside the Southwest Washington Fair grounds.

Brown was brought before a judge yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello asked for $1 million bail, citing numerous warrants in numerous cases in Brown’s past.

But Masiello also noted, Brown had an ongoing drug case from earlier this year in which he was able to post $100,000 bail and remain out of jail pending a trial.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller told the judge a warrant had not been issued for her client in the past four years. He lives locally, Tiller said. Centralia police describe Brown as transient.

Judge Andrew Toynbee ordered the defendant held on $1 million bail.

According to charging documents, the police officer who contacted Brown at the scene noted Brown was extremely fidgety and abrupt in his movements; his eyes were bloodshot and watery.

A drug recognition conducted an evaluation and gave the opinion he was impaired by narcotics and stimulants. Brown admitted using methamphetamine earlier in the day and using heroin the previous day, according to charging documents.

One of two pocket knives police discovered in Brown’s pants pocket contained residue which field tested positive for heroin, according to the documents.

Vehicular assault has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Among the elements of the offense are a person causing substantial bodily harm to another when operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Results are pending from a blood test, according to court documents.

Masiello said Brown’s case from April involved possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of a controlled substance.

Mike Summer, the victim, yesterday was listed in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Ashley Jackson said her father had a small brain bleed, along with probably 40 stitches; many of them in the back of his head. He also had a sizable gash on his arm, road rash and trauma to his toe, she said.

Jackson is a volunteer with Lewis County Fire District 1.

She said her dad was at the fair with family and was walking back to their car to retrieve something, with his back to traffic.

He doesn’t recall much, she said.

“All he knew he was walking down the sidewalk, then the lights were out,” she said. “Then he was being loaded into a helicopter.”
•••

For background, read “Police: Impaired motorist drove onto sidewalk, injuring pedestrian near fairgrounds” from Thursday August 17, 2017, here

Centralia arson: Teen angry about eviction

Friday, August 18th, 2017
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Kelsey T. Rasmussen, in red, is shown to his seat in Lewis County Superior Court

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – He’s charged with knowingly starting a fire in his own home, the top level of a Centralia duplex.

At first he said he was playing with hand sanitizer that caught fire and he got scared so he left.

But then he admitted to a police detective he started the fire because he was mad he was getting evicted with no reason given on the notice, according to prosecutors.

The 19-year-old Centralia man has no criminal history, but was charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree arson, a felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison. It’s also a strike offense.

Kelsey T. Rasmussen was brought before a judge yesterday afternoon where his bail was set at $50,000.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller told the judge Rasmussen has no income, at this time, and Judge Andrew Toynbee appointed Centralia lawyer Don Blair to represent him.

Centralia police say they found Rasmussen a short distance away waiting for a taxi as firefighters and police converged around 9 p.m. on Wednesday at the 1200 block of Windsor Avenue where smoke was rising from the roof vents and the second-story windows were blackened.

The first-floor unit was occupied at the time but everyone was able to get out safely without injury, according to authorities. A woman who lived on the ground floor described her upstairs neighbor as the tall, skinny kid with glasses that usually wore a black hoody.

The fire was extinguished, but it caused heavy damage to the upper level of the house which had been converted to a duplex, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

A fire captain told police there was a can of shaving cream in the middle of the bed, which looked like where the fire began, according to charging documents.

The captain said the smoke detectors were found outside sitting on the railing on the porch.

Rasmussen’s arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.
•••

For background, read “Resident of Centralia duplex arrested following fire there” from Thursday August 17, 2017, here

Resident of Centralia duplex arrested following fire there

Thursday, August 17th, 2017
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Windsor Avenue in north Centralia. / Courtesy photo by Riverside Fire Authority

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 19-year-old man was arrested for arson last night after a fire that heavily damaged the upstairs unit of a duplex in north Centralia.

Firefighters called just before 9 p.m. to the 1200 block of Windsor Avenue found smoke rising from the roof vents and blackened second-story windows, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

The first-floor unit was occupied at the time but everyone was able to get out safely without injury, according to authorities.

The fire department describes the structure as a house converted to a duplex.

Centralia police say they found Kyle T. Rasmussen Jr. a short distance away waiting for a taxi. He had recently been living in the duplex, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Firefighters extended a hose line to the upper level via an outside staircase to extinguish the fire, according to Fire Capt. Scott Weinert.

They were assisted by members of the Chehalis Fire Department and were on scene about four hours, according to Weinert.

Centralia police this morning indicate in a brief summary of events they believe Rasmussen  intentionally set the fire. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree arson.

Human remains recovered from Mineral Lake

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Updated at 4:38 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Five weeks after a local man was believed to have vanished in Mineral Lake, his body has been found in the lake.

Deputies were called yesterday morning to the north Lewis County community along state Route 7 where they recovered human remains from the water, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Gerald L. Harris, 54, of Mineral went missing on July 5.

As recently as Tuesday, the sheriff’s office reported they continued to conduct interviews with people and were waiting for a break in the case. They couldn’t say for sure if Harris drowned or maybe something else had occurred.

Harris had a court date coming up the week after he went missing and it didn’t look like the case was going to have a very good outcome for him, sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dusty Breen said earlier this week.

Deputies were called about 9 a.m. yesterday after two boaters fishing on the lake observed something floating in the water, according to Breen. With help from the boaters, sheriff’s office personnel were able to recover the body and bring it to shore at a boat launch, Breen stated in a press release this morning.

After lunch time today authorities identified the deceased as indeed Harris. Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said he died of drowning.

The details of Harris’s disappearance are murky.

Deputies had been dispatched just before 4 p.m. on July 5 to the lake on a call reporting suspicious circumstances, according to Breen.

A boater had encountered Harris’s 49-year-old girlfriend adrift in a boat on the lake and she said Harris had been in their boat, then he wasn’t in their boat but she was significantly impaired by at least alcohol and her recollection wasn’t very clear, Breen said.

Deputies got help from other boaters to search the area, brought in the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team to check the lake with sonar devices, but also checked Harris’s residence and other locations in the community.

They entered him into the system as a missing person and continued to investigate.

Harris had been charged this spring with second-degree assault and possession of methamphetamine after an incident at the home he shared with his girlfriend on May 30. Harris bailed out of jail on June 1 and was due back in court for a hearing on July 13. A no-bail warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear.

Breen indicated this afternoon that detectives still don’t have a clear picture of what occurred prior to Harris being in the water. His girlfriend has been interviewed multiple times and they are trying to piece together what they can from her recollections, according to Breen.

The sheriff’s office continues investigating the death and looking for answers, he said. The coroner has labeled the manner of death as undetermined.

He said the sheriff’s office is asking anyone with information to contact  the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at 360-748-9286, or Lewis County Communications at 360-740-1105.

•••

For background, read “Search continues for missing man in Mineral Lake” from Friday July 7, 2017, here