Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Centralia: Residents of two apartments displaced after overnight fire

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018
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Just after midnight at the 1400 block of Lewis Street in Centralia. / Image courtesy of Chris and Shay Woolam

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Two young children were rescued via ladder when a fire broke out overnight in a two-story apartment building in Centralia.

They were among five individuals trapped when a fire in a first floor unit extended to a balcony of upper level apartments, according to Riverside Fire Authority. The three adults were able to walk out after the blaze was under control, according to Fire Capt. Terry Ternan.

Ternan indicates there were no injuries.

Crews called at midnight to the 1400 block of Lewis Street were joined by members of four other fire departments.

The fire is under investigation by the Centralia Police Department and Riverside Fire Authority joint fire investigation team. There were no smoke detectors present, according to Ternan.

A total of seven occupants from two different apartments were displaced. They were assisted by the Red Cross, according to RFA.

Prison awaits Centralia couple convicted of neglecting child

Friday, January 12th, 2018
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Mary G. and Anthony S. Foxworth Sr., in green striped jail garb, seemed to take care to keep their backs to the courtroom audience this afternoon

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Centralia parents who fled to South Carolina in an attempt to avoid prison after pleading guilty to severe neglect of their teenage son were sentenced today to nearly seven years.

Mary G. and Anthony S. Foxworth Sr. were brought before a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court. They have been held in the Lewis County Jail since the end of November after they were tracked down and returned to Lewis County.

They pleaded guilty today to bail jumping, in front of a partially packed courtroom that included their son and his foster parents.

The original agreement was a sentencing recommendation of 51 months, Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said. But because they fled, that increased to 75 months, plus another eight months for the new offense, to be served consecutively, Halstead said.

Halstead requested and the judge agreed they have no contact with their son for 10 years.

Marion Hazzard addressed the court, describing the 16-year-old boy, that she and her husband first met in February 2016 at Mary Bridge Childrens Hospital, who would become their foster child.

He appeared about eight years old, his skin was translucent, his bones were sticking out, she said.

Centralia police had begun investigating a month earlier, after couple took the boy to the doctor, and he was hospitalized with severe malnutrition, weighing just 54 pounds. Police found he had not seen a doctor since 2007, was not enrolled in school and could not read or write.

The Foxworth’s were charged in Dec. 2016 with first-degree criminal mistreatment and pleaded guilty as charged this past October.

The lack of food in their home was because of an elusive uncle who supposedly would sneak into their house, Hazzard said.

“He was told he was autistic, which he’s not,” she said. “He was told he can’t learn, but he is. He was told he had a bone disease.”

He was still wearing pull-ups.

“I came to learn, he didn’t own but one set of clothes,” Hazzard said.

The boy refused to bathe or brush his teeth and the world terrified him, according to Hazzard.

Over the summer, he learned to ride a bike, to mow a lawn, to do his laundry, she said. He’s returned to school and gotten his first-ever best friend, she said.

Anthony Foxworth Sr., 45, made a statement to the judge, that he would never intentionally harm his son. His wife read a letter aloud.

Mary Foxworth, 43, said she knows now she was not a responsible mother, but even when her son was in the hospital, she didn’t understand how ignorant she was.

“I am sorry for not having the life skills and the knowledge to care for you and teach you how to care for yourself,” she said.

Judge Andrew Toynbee said the sentence of 83 months was the most he could hand down. And that’s what he did.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Jacob Clark said his client, the mother, didn’t have the life skills necessary.

Anthony Foxworth’s lawyer, Chris Baum, said he didn’t have a good explanation for the neglect. He said he thinks his client doesn’t necessarily fully understand what happened.

“I think my client is a simple guy and he took a lot of cues from the mother,” Baum said. “He clearly failed to pay attention and his child suffered greatly.”
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For background, read “Parents in Centralia child neglect case see judge on bail jumping charge” from Wednesday November 22, 2017, here

Onalaska fire commissioners facing recall effort

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A movement to recall two elected officials who oversee the Onalaska fire department got underway yesterday.

Former Fire Chief Andrew Martin filed a request for a recall petition for Lewis County Fire District 1 Commissioners Rich Bainbridge and Bill Kassel. There are normally three commissioners on the board, but Jeff Lee resigned at the end of last month.

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Commissioner Rich Bainbridge

Lee said he decided to quit the night Labor and Industries and Lewis County informed them their main station was condemned and they had to vacate immediately.

“The two commissioners tapped me on the shoulder to say, we’re going to Rib Eye to talk with L&I, and I said, you can’t do that,” Lee said.

His continuing frustration was with his fellow commissioners failing to make sure they follow the proper protocol for public meetings.

“I can’t be part of that anymore, I don’t want that liability,” Lee said.

In mid-November, the commissioners dismissed Martin as chief, and six other volunteers either turned in their gear or submitted letters of resignation in protest. Five more responders have left since then, leaving the department at half its previous size.

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Commissioner Bill Kassel

Martin said at the time, he was refusing to further punish a member who had brought to his attention a misdeed by another member, who is a relative of Commissioner Kassel. Assistant Chief Rhonda Volk called the commissioners’ move retaliation and she resigned at a well-attended and contentious emergency meeting.

Several of the former volunteers indicated they would return if Bainbridge and Kassel stepped down.

The paperwork filed by Martin yesterday morning with the Lewis County Auditor’s Office cites as justification for a recall numerous instances of the board violating the state Open Public Meetings Act.

“Public pressure wasn’t working, so we’re going the legal route, and see what happens,” Martin said.

He said there are 15 to 20 people behind the cause, prepared to go door to door to collect signatures to get a recall on the ballot.

Lewis County Elections Supervisor Heather Boyer, at the Auditor’s Office, said her role is to forward the charges to the Lewis County Prosecutor who is tasked under the law with writing a ballot “synopsis” and forwarding that to Lewis County Superior Court.

A judge will then hold a hearing to determine if the charges are sufficient. If they are, then the parties can go ahead and begin collecting signatures for a recall, Boyer said.

The number they need is 35 percent of the number of people who voted in the last election in the fire district.

“The petition would require 274 valid signatures from voters within that fire district to place the recall and discharge of the public officers before the voters,” Boyer stated in an email today.

Boyer said its an infrequent occurrence in Lewis County. The last attempt at a recall was in 2007, regarding the mayor of Morton. And that ended when the judge didn’t find the allegations were sufficient to go forward, she said.

Commissioners Bainbridge said he’s disappointed.

“It’s unfortunate they feel that way, but it’s not a total surprise,” he said.

Bainbridge said he’d already heard from the attorney they use, that a recall effort was underway. Bainbridge is of the opinion the board’s actions have all been “legal.”

“We talk to him every week or so, to try to make sure we’re doing things right,” he said.

He notes the district’s ALS emergency medical service has been unaffected by the resignations and he’s confident neighboring districts will join them if they have to fight a fire.

“The truth is, to my knowledge, nobody’s been denied service,” he said.

The roster currently shows 13 volunteer responders, with about seven or eight of them who can realistically respond to calls, according to district secretary Linda Patraca.

One new person has turned in an application to become a volunteer since the turmoil broke out, Patraca said today.

The next regular meeting of the board of fire commissioners is Thursday.
•••

For background, read “Onalaska fire station condemned” from  Friday December 29, 2017, here

Sheriff’s Office: Dead man was local, living out of his truck

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An autopsy conducted yesterday revealed nothing suspicious about the body of a man found in a vehicle south of Chehalis on Sunday morning, according to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office suggested yesterday the man was most likely living in the pickup truck. They have plans to test a propane heater found in the back of the truck with the deceased.

Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Bruce Kimsey says he’s an older man with ties to Lewis County and with a previous address here, until he was “displaced”, became homeless and began sleeping in his vehicle.

Early on Saturday morning, a sheriff’s deputy tagged the truck with a  24-hour notice it would be towed. The brown or tan in color 1983 Ford F150 with a canopy and Washington plates was parked on the shoulder at Southwest Interstate Avenue and Bishop Road, according to the sheriff’s office.

A deputy returned early Sunday morning, called for a tow truck and discovered there was a dead person in the back, according to Kimsey.

Neither his name nor his age have been released. The coroner’s office yesterday stated they have positively identified him, but are not releasing his name until his legal next of kin can be located and notified.

Making a determination about the cause and manner of death won’t come until after toxicology test results come back, according to Coroner Warren McLeod. He indicated that can take up to 90 days.

At least two people who work in the area have said they saw the truck parked in the same spot all last week.

Kimsey said the sheriff’s office had no information the man had been reported missing.
•••

For background, read “Propane heater examined in death of person inside truck” from Monday January 8, 2018, here

Drugs, guns, and a police chase suspect charged

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 37-year-old man with a rural Chehalis address was charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with attempting to elude for an incident two days after Christmas in which a motorist fled a traffic stop on Rush Road and eventually lost control of the car at West Cherry Street in Centralia and fled on foot.

A search through a cell phone located on the floorboard of the white Ford Crown Victoria left behind led law enforcement to Bradley W. Bell.

Bell was arrested on Jan. 2 by drug detectives for outstanding warrants and for a case from last May. He was charged last week for that.

Charging documents in the first case indicate detectives conducted surveillance on Bell’s home in Centralia because they suspected he was selling meth and heroin. They pulled over a vehicle leaving the residence in which Bell was a passenger, and allegedly located a gun under the seat, 32 grams of heroin, nearly 13 gram of meth and a digital scale, according to the charging documents.

Law enforcement went looking for him on Jan. 2, conducted surveillance, made a traffic stop and allegedly found him with a gun again.

Bell was charged the following day in Lewis County Superior Court with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and two counts of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. His bail was set at $25,000.

Bell allegedly admitted to detectives he was the driver in the pursuit the night of Dec. 27, which reached speeds in excess of 100 mph between Napavine and Centralia.

A judge yesterday afternoon set his bail at $50,000 for the eluding charge.

His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

Propane heater examined in death of person inside truck

Monday, January 8th, 2018

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A vehicle tagged to be towed because it was parked on the shoulder of a road south of Chehalis turned out to contain a dead person.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office says on Saturday morning, a deputy posted a 24-hour notice on a pickup truck sitting on the shoulder at Southwest Interstate Avenue and Bishop Road.

“They came back the next day and started looking more inside the canopy and could see someone in the back,” sheriff’s Chief Deputy Bruce Kimsey said.

The adult male was found dead in the back of the truck about 6 a.m. yesterday, along with items consistent with a person sleeping in the truck, Kimsey said.

Kimsey said the investigation revealed a propane heater, which will be tested.

He didn’t know how long the pickup had been at the spot, but at least two people who work in the area say they saw it sitting there all last week.

Chehalis resident Brendee Arnold recalled the first time she saw it as early last week as she drove home from work. There was a person standing beside the truck, she said.

Kimsey said he won’t say if the death is suspicious or not suspicious; he will wait for information from an autopsy.

Divorce drama brings felony criminal charge for cop’s ex

Saturday, January 6th, 2018
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Tami McGinty appears before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Chehalis area woman was jailed this week for allegedly demanding property she believed she should have been awarded in divorce proceedings from her ex-husband, a law enforcement officer, and telling him she’d “hate” to turn him in to internal affairs at his workplace.

Tami McGinty, 42, was charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with second-degree extortion as well as a violation of a civil anti-harassment order.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told a judge the order had been served in November out of Lewis County District and McGinty violated it the same day.

“After that, she escalates her conduct,” Meyer said.

Charging papers in the case state the court order allowed contact via text message regarding the children.

Chehalis police were called just after 9 a.m. on Tuesday to the 300 block of West Main Street where the ex-husband reported she had been repeatedly violating the order.

Among the text messages shown to police were ones in which she suggested she wanted a table, her dog and then a riding lawn mower, according to the documents.

“Because I know a LOT. So do the right thing and bring them to us,” McGinty allegedly texted.

When Chehalis officers contacted McGinty on Thursday, she reportedly said their child was mentioned in a text exchange so it wasn’t a violation.

She denied threatening to contact internal affairs, but then indicated she was “giving notice” about being honest on paperwork, Prosecutor Meyer wrote in charging documents. She was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee yesterday afternoon imposed a no contact order. Defense attorney Kevin Nelson was appointed to represent McGinty.

Her arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 18.

Salkum fire chief puts out fire at his own house

Friday, January 5th, 2018
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Electrical outlet and the plug in Pest Repeller which burned, along with another Pest Repeller. / Courtesy photo by Duran McDaniel

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – When he and his wife saw smoke coming out from under the kitchen sink, fortunately he knew what to do, but more importantly they had a fire extinguisher handy.

Lewis County Fire District 8 Chief Duran McDaniel said luckily, they happened to be home when it happened, or it may have ended differently.

“I grabbed an extinguisher, got in there, got it out and shut off the power,” McDaniel said.

They called 911 shortly after 11 o’clock yesterday morning and the fire crew arrived to their home on Gore Road north of Salkum.

What happened was about five years ago, the McDaniels got an electronic device called Pest Repeller that emits a tone of some sort to keep mice away, McDaniel said. His wife plugged it into an outlet beneath the sink, he said.

And then they forgot about it, he said.

They disassembled the electrical outlet to examine the area. McDaniel said it didn’t spread beyond the device and outlet and into the wall, only because the two were home to catch onto it immediately.

The chief said it is a good reminder of just how valuable keeping a fire extinguisher in a home can be. He’s definitely not going to plug the rodent repeller back under the sink, where it’s out of sight, he said.

He recalled responding to a wall fire in the recent past that appeared to have been ignited from a cell phone charger plugged into an outlet. He said his neighbor, who works for an insurance company, told him she had been seeing claims for similar problems stemming from plug in air fresheners.

It’s probably a good idea to pay some attention to the various devices we plug in at home, the chief said.

“I guess we ought to check them every once in awhile to see how warm they are,” McDaniel said. “And replace them every once in while.”

Theft charge filed for alleged misappropriation by volunteer firefighter

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 25-year-old Mineral resident has been charged with  alleged misuse of a fire department department gas card while he was a volunteer firefighter.

Brady J. Mounce was summonsed into Lewis County Superior Court and appeared before a judge yesterday afternoon.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller said her client works as a farm hand and his earnings indicated he was eligible for a court appointed lawyer.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer requested Mounce’s bail be set with a $10,000 unsecured bond and Judge Joely O’Rourke agreed.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said this summer a detective investigated after a Washington State Auditor’s Office report came back showing misappropriation of fuel from Lewis County Fire District 9 in Mineral. Mounce was a volunteer and his father was fire chief.

In June, Chief Deputy Dusty Breen said the information showed some of the activity occurred in the Morton area and some in Eatonville. Theft charges were filed in Pierce County, Breen said.

Lewis County prosecutors filed a charge of second-degree theft against Mounce on Dec. 5.

The affidavit regarding probable cause states the issue arose at the Jan. 24, 2016 fire commissioner’s meeting after the acting fire chief scrutinized a fuel bill from Stanley’s Oil Company and found Mounce’s use of the card did not match the run sheets. The matter was forwarded to the state auditor.

Sheriff’s detective Gene Seiber spoke with a fire commissioner who said she had recently resigned because of the issue.

Seiber wrote in his police report that the auditor’s findings showed Mounce made 20 purchases of fuel at Stanley’s Petroleum in Morton, totaling $1,503.12.

The time period of the activity is shown as three years during 2013, 2014, 2015 and through Jan. 1, 2016.

Detective Seiber spoke with the acting chief who told him Mounce had admitted to the “whole thing” in both counties, but when Seiber attempted to talk with Mounce, Mounce denied doing anything in Morton, according to charging documents.

After his court hearing yesterday, outside the courtroom, Mounce said he didn’t have any comment about his case. He will be represented by Centralia attorney David Brown.

His arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday.
•••

For background, read “News brief: Mineral Fire Department audit shows fuel misappropriation” from Wednesday June 14, 2017, here

Caretaker who spent deceased client’s money headed to prison

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Winlock woman who admitted to second-degree theft from the estate of an individual she was a caretaker for was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison.

The attorney for Aurora S. Fulmer, who also uses the last name of Contreras, hoped to persuade a judge to impose a parenting sentencing alternative, but Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler said no.

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Aurora S. Fulmer

Fulmer was arrested in June following an investigation by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, after the estranged daughter of a Centralia woman who died found Fulmer at her mother’s home and discovered she had taken over bank accounts.

The sheriff’s office initially suggested Fulmer wrongfully withdrew more than $43,000 from two of the woman’s accounts.

But Fulmer, 34, pleaded guilty in November to one count of second-degree theft (more than $750 but less than $5,000) and three counts of second-degree identity theft in a plea deal with prosecutors.

Defense attorney Shane O’Rourke pitched what he called a pretty elaborate program of supervision and said it included being sent to prison if she failed to comply. He called it a complicated case, for the mother of six who had gotten clean and is working full time.

“There was some indication my client made arrangements to have some of the money in exchange for taking care of her,” O’Rourke said. “She did take care of her for a significant time

“But that’s irrelevant, it would still be a crime for her to rifle through the money like this without probate.”

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joel DeFazio said the state opposed the sentencing alternative.

The deceased woman’s daughter told the judge the past year has been a nightmare and she didn’t want anyone else to have to deal with what she had to.

Fulmer told the judge she understood better the stress she put the woman’s daughter through, after hearing her speak in court.

Judge Lawler ordered Fulmer directly into custody from the hearing.
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For background, read “Caretaker who spent deceased client’s money pleads guilty” from Friday November 10, 2017, here