Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Prosecutor: Mineral woman made up rape story

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An 18-year-old woman went before a judge today in Lewis County Superior Court accused of lying when she reported to a deputy that a 16-year-old boy tried to rape her.

Sierah L. Daniels is charged with malicious prosecution, a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Blye told the judge Daniels has no prior criminal history and recommended she be allowed release pending trial on a $5,000 unsecured bond. Judge Joely O’Rourke agreed.

Daniels had been summonsed to appear, after the charge was filed at the end of December.

Charging documents describe a Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputy being dispatched on Dec. 2 for an attempted rape in Mineral and meeting Daniels at the Morton Police Department.

She reportedly told the deputy the boy, now 17, attempted to have sex with her when he showed up to her trailer in Mineral, first asking her and when she said no, forcing her down on the bed.

She said he began to force her knees apart when her husband’s mother walked in, Deputy Prosecutor Jeffrey Schaap wrote in the affidavit regarding probable cause.

However, the deputy then interviewed the boy who said they’d made a plan to meet at her trailer at 6 o’clock before school, according to Schaap, and after he arrived they hugged and her answer to his question was, “I don’t know.”

He reportedly said he was rubbing her thigh when the mother-in-law walked in and he would take a polygraph to prove he did nothing wrong, according to Schaap.

Schaap wrote that when the sheriff’s deputy re-contacted Daniels, she admitted she lied and made up the story to avoid a rift in her marriage.

Daniels was accompanied to court this afternoon by her husband. She was given a court-appointed lawyer and told to return for her arraignment on Jan. 26.

Winlock man denies molestation charge

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 50-year-old Winlock man accused by a 6-year-old relative of touching her beneath her underwear was allowed to remain free pending trial on a $10,000 unsecured bond when he appeared in court today.

John M. Stafford was charged in Lewis County Superior Court at the end of December with one count of first-degree child molestation. He was summonsed to appear before a judge this afternoon and did so, accompanied by his parents and his daughter.

Judge Joely O’Rourke set his bail as requested and ordered him not to have any contact with minor children or go anywhere they might congregate.

Court documents state that a Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputy spoke with the girl’s mother on June 6 and an appointment was arranged with a child forensic interviewer.

The kindergartner allegedly said Stafford sticks his hand down her pants and rubs her panties, he had touched her 33 times and the last time it happened was a the park, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm wrote in charging documents.

The girl’s mom said the last time the child was around Stafford was around Easter.

When the deputy interviewed Stafford, he denied the allegations, according to Bohm.

Outside the court room, Stafford said the accusations were false and in retaliation for an incident he had with the girl’s father in the past, who vowed he would get back at him.

Stafford’s arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 26. First-degree child molestation carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Self defense course draws moms, daughters

Monday, January 16th, 2017
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Chehalis resident Lisa Isom, center, is coached by self defense instructor Rob Gebhart on a move she’s trying with Katie Gift.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – One of them is a registered nurse who sees potentially out-of-control patients, three are teenage girls who want to feel safer on college campus’s and two are mothers of those girls.

Their instructor is a friendly-looking man who’s been studying and teaching martial arts for about 40 years.

On a recent cold weekend in Chehalis, they came together to learn what he calls common sense self defense, for women.

“We won’t be doing a bunch of wristy-twisty, trying to hold someone down type stuff,” Rob Gebhart said.

The focus is how to protect yourself and then get away, he said.

“My goal is to make you harder to kill,” he said.

Gebhart is a fourth-degree black belt in Danzan Ryu Jujitsu. He operates Ohana Martial Arts in Chehalis.

The two-day class was held in the upstairs of the Chehalis Fire Department, where Gebhart is a captain.

The lecture and hands on training is drawn from various disciplines and only one-third of it involves the physical aspects of a fight. As important, according to Gebhart, are the emotional and psychological components of a confrontation.

And preparation.

For example, Gebhart tells the group to get comfortable with violence, in terms of, instead of looking away from it, to do some research to reduce the fear of it. Like someone might do if they’re afraid of snakes, he said.

He talked to the women about paying attention to their intuition, that feeling one might get in the pit of their stomach when something is not quite right in their environment.

The introductory physical responses to a surprise attack were straightforward and simple.

“We take what the body wants to do naturally and show how that can be used in self defense or combat,” Gebhart wrote as he described the course in an invitation to observe.

The class ran from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on a Saturday and was scheduled for the same hours the following day.

Packwood house burned undetected for hours, man died of smoke inhalation

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The cause of the fatal house fire in Packwood just before Christmas is going to be undetermined.

Fire Investigator Derrick Paul said he has some suspicions and theories that fit, but without proof he can’t say for sure.

Michael J. Pierson, 56, lived alone there according to his family, Lewis County Fire District 10 Chief Lonnie Goble said.

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Dec. 20, 2016

While the coroner has not yet confirmed the identity of the victim, the family has placed an obituary for the Packwood man.

Born in Morton Pierson was injured in a logging accident in his early 20s and unable to work again, according to the notice published by Cattermole Funeral Home. He leaves behind his mother, a brother, a sister, two children and two grandchildren, the obituary states.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office has established he died from smoke inhalation.

The fire at the modular home behind the Chevron gas station along U.S. Highway 12 was reported about 5:20 a.m. on Dec. 20.

Chief Goble said when they arrived, only half the house was engulfed in flames as the fire had already moved from the other side. The roof had already collapsed, he said.

It turns out it had been burning as early as 3:15 a.m., based on footage from the gas station’s security system, Goble said. Around 4:15 a.m., a large explosion could be seen, which may have been a window blowing out, he said.

“How the neighbors didn’t hear that, I don’t know,” he said. “The fire could have started at 12 o’clock that night, no one really knows.”

Once the fire was extinguished, the man presumed to be Pierson was found dead inside.

Goble said Pierson walked with a cane whenever he’d see him in town, and had very poor vision. The family told Goble and Paul that Pierson sometimes smoked in bed and had mishaps with lit cigarettes.

“He’d put cigarettes out and it would be on the night stand instead of the ashtray,” Goble said.

An errant cigarette is one of the investigator’s theories as to the cause of the fire. Paul said the bed was in the front room and the fire started around the bed.

Paul was also fairly certain there was not a working smoke detector in the house. Some of the rooms were still intact and he didn’t find a smoke detector, he said.

“Whether it would have saved his life, we don’t know,” Paul said.  “But I have never had a fire fatality with a working smoke detector in 20 years.”

Paul said once the coroner verifies the victim’s identity, he can finalize his fire report. And the official cause will be undetermined.
•••

For background, read “One dead in Packwood house fire” from Tuesday December 20, 2016, here

State supreme court questions Judge Hunt’s amenability to considering mitigating evidence in drive-by case

Friday, January 13th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Washington State Supreme Court issued an opinion yesterday disqualifying a local judge from presiding over a resentencing that has twice been ordered in a drive-by shooting committed by a former Centralia High School student at age 16.

Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. is serving a nearly 93 year sentence imposed by Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt.

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Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr.

In 2012, the Washington State Court of Appeals ordered the local court to conduct a new hearing, referencing various matters that it believed should have been handled more thoroughly, given the defendant was a juvenile. In 2014, Judge Hunt held the hearing, criticizing the appeals court decision calling some of their conclusions insulting and ludicrous.

He sentenced Solis-Diaz for the second time to 1,111 months in prison.

The case grew out of an incident in the summer of 2007.

Solis-Diaz Jr. was arrested after gunfire was sprayed along the east side of South Tower Avenue in Centralia, missing six bar patrons. Witnesses testified it was gang-related. Solis-Diaz maintained he was innocent.

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Judge Nelson Hunt

He was tried as an adult and convicted of multiple offenses, including one count of first-degree assault committed with a firearm for each bullet that was fired.

The six assault counts were ordered to be served consecutively and each carried a mandatory extra five years because they were committed with a firearm.

Judge Hunt was asked to consider an exceptional sentence downward, but Hunt maintained several reasons why he should not do that.

This past spring, a different three-member panel of the appeals court stated the sentencing court must conduct a meaningful, individualized inquiry into whether Solis-Diaz’s youth should mitigate his sentence. That hearing has yet to be held.

However, they declined to disqualify the sentencing judge and Solis-Diaz went to the Supreme Court about that.

In its opinion issued yesterday the state Supreme Court stated the law requires more than an impartial judge, it requires the judge to also appear to be impartial.

Hunt would be asked to exercise discretion of the propriety of a sentence he has already imposed and, “the record reflects that he not only has strong opinions on sentencing generally and juvenile sentencing in particular, but also suggests he has already reached a firm conclusion about the propriety of a mitigated sentence in this case and may not be amenable to considering mitigating evidence with an open mind,” the court wrote.

Judge Hunt retired last Friday after 12 years on the bench.

The opinion was issued by the court as a whole without a named author.
•••

For background, read “Former Centralia high school student wins a second appeal of virtual life sentence” from Tuesday May 17, 2016, here

Read the Washington State Supreme Court decision here

Prosecutor: ‘Escort’ connected with Chehalis robbery not part of the scheme

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A woman arrested in mid-November for her alleged role in a rural Chehalis home invasion robbery that followed her visit by invitation through a contact on Backpage.com was released from jail with just a misdemeanor conviction.

Toyleasha J. Greene, 26, was initially charged in Lewis County Superior Court as an accomplice with first-degree robbery, first-degree assault, first-degree burglary and also with first-degree kidnapping as were two men she’d gotten a ride with to Lewis County. The 53-year-old victim was attacked, tied up and pistol whipped by two males, according to authorities.

It happened on April 29 at a home on Logan Hill Road and when he was able to get himself untied, the victim discovered his television and other valuables missing. Two Pierce County men were arrested, charged, pleaded guilty and then sentenced to prison terms this summer.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello said he decided to enter into an agreement with Greene in which she would plead guilty to third-degree theft. Greene admitted stealing the victim’s laptop computer, in an attempt to prevent him and authorities from identifying and finding her, he said.

“Because that’s really what the evidence supported,” Masiello said. “The victim said yeah, that’s what she did, she didn’t involve herself more than that.”

Masiello said Greene did go to the home to meet up with the man, but it seems the plan for robbery was hatched after she went inside.

One of the men told her to leave the door unlocked, but she didn’t, he said. “That’s why they came in through the window,” Masiello said.

Greene was sentenced last Thursday to 364 days in jail with all but 56 days suspended and then released from jail with credit for those days, according to Masiello. She will be on probation for two years.

Samath L. Hem, 23, of Tacoma, who told detectives he drove the three of them to Lewis County in his grandmother’s rented red Charger, was sentenced in August to just over 12 years in prison.

Natrone D. Bostick, 19, of Lakewood, was given a 15-year  sentence in June. The pair were arrested a few days after the robbery for shoplifting at Home Depot in Chehalis and items belonging to the home invasion victim were found in their car.
•••

For background, read “Second defendant pleads guilty in Chehalis Backpage.com related robbery” from Wednesday August 3, 2016, here

Second new Lewis County Superior Court judge sworn in

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
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Judge-elect Joely O’Rourke introduces her family as she prepares to take oath for new position.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Joely O’Rourke was surrounded with supporters who witnessed the formalities of her transition from attorney to Lewis County Superior Court judge.

The gathering yesterday on the fourth floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center was presided over by Judge James Lawler, while newly retired Judge Richard Brosey administered the oath of office.

Retired Lewis County District Court Judge Michael Roewe offered his endorsement of the lawyer he first came to know as a deputy prosecutor in his courtroom in 2009.

Roewe spoke of mentoring O’Rourke, among as many as 60 young new lawyers he came across during his 24 years on the bench.

“Joely immediately stood out in that context,” Roewe said. “She constantly sought feedback to improve her performance.”

The qualities she demonstrated caused him to encourage her to consider running to replace him, but she declined, he said.

O’Rourke won her place in history as the first female superior court judge in the county, in a contested race in November with more than 70 percent of the vote. The term is four years.

The Chehalis resident is married to Centralia-based attorney Shane O’Rourke, who helped her don the black robe after she was sworn in.

Monday’s proceedings were attended by all the Lewis County judicial officials, including Lewis County Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee who was sworn in last week.

When Judge O’Rourke faced the audience, she thanked her parents, her husband, her son, colleagues and others who helped in her journey to the bench.

“I sit before you today, humbled and honored by your faith in me,” she said.

O’Rourke singled out her 11-year-old son Brock who was a trooper, she said, spending his summer walking in parades and knocking on doors as she campaigned.

She thanked Roewe and the other judges who have guided her.

“The three judges and Commissioner Mitchell, each of you encouraged me,” she said. “I also want to thank you for setting the bar so high, I will spend every day the rest of my career feeling challenged.”
••••

For background, read “Judge-elect O’Rourke secures her place in Lewis County history” from Tuesday November 29, 2016, here

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Now-retired Judge Richard Brosey administers the oath of office to Joely O’Rourke, with her husband Shane O’Rourke.

Centralia: Teenager dies crossing I-5, wrecks follow

Saturday, January 7th, 2017
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A helicopter lands on Interstate 5 to pick up a victim from one of the several crashes in the aftermath of the pedestrian death. / Courtesy photo by Sarah Gee

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 16-year-old girl crossing Interstate 5 on foot to meet friends was killed when she was struck by a passenger vehicle last night in Centralia, according to the Washington State Patrol.

It happened in the southbound lanes south of Mellen Street near the overpass for the new interchange, according to responders.

The state patrol identifies her as Lukah K. Herren, of Toledo.

Firefighters, police and medics responding to the approximately 6:48 p.m. call were soon joined by other responders for a minor wreck just across the freeway and then a serious multi-vehicle collision farther south in the backup.

Interstate 5 was shut down in both directions for a period of time.

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Lukah Kimberly Herren

Trooper Will Finn said Herren died at the scene.

Finn said that he spoke to a sergeant who said the girl tried to cross Interstate 5 to meet some people to get a ride somewhere.

“She was in contact with some friends on the other side of the freeway,” Finn said. “The friends, I don’t know how many there were, were making their way to her side, in a car.”

A brief summary of the incident from the state patrol stated a 2006 Saturn Vue sport utility vehicle was traveling southbound and struck the pedestrian who was in lane two.

The driver of the Saturn, 19-year-old Sandra F. Grubbs of Longview, was reportedly unhurt, but her vehicle was totaled, according to the state patrol. Finn said he didn’t expect any charges to be filed.

He called it an unfortunate incident.

Chehalis Fire Department Capt. Rob Gebhart said a passenger car and a truck collided in the northbound lanes very close to the same area a few minutes after the call for the pedestrian, but resulted in only minor injuries.

Just before 7:30 p.m. farther south in the northbound lanes, a collision involving a semi truck and at least four other vehicles left one of those drivers pinned in his car, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

That driver, in his 30s, was extricated and then airlifted with suspected serious and internal injuries, according to RFA Capt. Scott Weinert. A helicopter landed on the freeway to pick him up and take him to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, according to the state patrol.

Two other victims in other vehicles were treated and transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to Weinert.

Trooper Finn said the state patrol had been getting calls of the 2006 Freightliner driving erratically, and it failed to slow for the stopped traffic. Its driver was evaluated by a drug recognition expert, found to be impaired and was arrested, he said.

A service dog in one of the involved cars was killed, Finn said.

The southbound lanes weren’t reopened until just before 9:30 p.m. according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The northbound lanes were not cleared until just before 3 o’clock this morning, according to WSDOT.
•••

CORRECTION: This news story has been updated to reflect that the state patrol revised its brief summary about what the pedestrian was doing from ” … struck the pedestrian who was standing in lane two” to “… struck the pedestrian who was in lane two.”

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The northbound lanes near milepost 80 are closed with a multiple vehicle wreck. / Courtesy photo by Riverside Fire Authority

Chehalis man struck, killed in crosswalk on South Market Blvd.

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Updated at 10:41 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An elderly man crossing the street in Chehalis was killed when he was hit by a car this morning.

Firefighters were called just after 6 a.m. to South Market Boulevard at Fourth Street, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

Fire Capt. Casey Beck they began CPR but the man died at the scene.

Lewis County 911 Communications recommends motorists use alternate routes as the area was shut down for the investigation.

Chehalis Police Department spokesperson Linda Bailey said the victim was crossing in the crosswalk, and the vehicle was traveling north on Market.

Bailey said no arrests have been made but she presumes interviews will be conducted. The driver of the Suzuki Aerio is a 22-year-old Chehalis woman, she said.

The Washington State Patrol is assisting the police department in its investigation, Bailey said.

The victim, Clifford C. Seng, is an 82-year-old Chehalis resident who resides nearby, according to authorities

‘Skin and bones’: Parents charged with severe neglect of teen

Thursday, January 5th, 2017
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Mary and Anthony Foxworth plead not guilty today in child mistreatment case in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Centralia parents of a 16-year-old boy discovered so malnourished he weighed less than 60 pounds pleaded not guilty today to first-degree criminal mistreatment.

Mary G. Foxworth, 42, and Anthony S. Foxworth, 44, went before a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

They were accompanied by court appointed lawyers.

Judge Richard Brosey asked them each if they had any questions and then asked how did they plead.

“Not guilty,” each responded separately.

Charges against the couple were filed Dec. 12 and they were summonsed to appear in court last Friday. Both were allowed to remain free on $10,000 unsecured bonds pending trial and ordered to return today for their arraignment.

The available details about the case are five pages of the affidavit regarding probable cause.

The Centralia Police Department began investigating after the Foxworths took their son to the doctor almost a year ago, on Jan. 19, 2016.

The investigation found the boy had not been enrolled in school since 2011 and had not seen a doctor since 2007.

He has a younger brother and sister who are enrolled in school, appeared healthy and presented little concern, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm wrote in charging documents. Investigators found numerous medical contacts for his siblings over the years, she wrote.

The charging documents offer some of the following information and allegations:

Mary Foxworth contacted Northwest Pediatrics on Jan. 19, 2016 near closing time, saying her son had not been eating or drinking for about three weeks and had abdominal pain.

Medical providers said the boy was whiter than a sheet of paper, looked acutely ill and didn’t talk but only grunted. The doctor estimated his age at  11 or 12. The medical assistant described him as skin and bones, said she had never seen anyone in his condition before or since and she was nauseous from looking at him.

The teen was sent to Providence Centralia Hospital for a diagnosis and they transferred him to Mary Bridge Childrens’ Hospital in Tacoma.

He weighed 54 pounds, was missing patches of hair, could not stand on his own and could not open his mouth wide enough to allow a doctor to check his throat.

He was wearing pull-ups and his skeletal age was determined to be that of a 13-year-old child.

The doctor there wrote in a report “at best, this is neglect, but maybe also physical abuse.”

The boy suffered from severe malnutrition, severe constipation and anemia. He was seen by a dentist and needed 24 of his teeth to be treated, including one that had to be pulled and two that would require root canals.

The charging documents don’t indicate when the boy was put in foster care, but note that as of a date unspecified, he had grown more than three inches and gained 39 pounds. His specific height is not mentioned.

Police detectives interviewed the parents.

Anthony Foxworth said the family regularly ate healthy meals together, regularly bathed and that all his children saw a dentist at least once a year.

He attributed the long hospitalization to the boy’s grandfather – who resided with them – being mean to him.

Separately, Mary Foxworth told detectives the children did not regularly see a dentist or routinely eat three good meals a day.

She indicated she thought he was starving himself because he was depressed. Mary Foxworth admitted she didn’t know when he began to lose weight because she was too wrapped up in her own depression.

The mother admitted to making poor choices, being so sorry for failing him and wrote a letter to her son indicating the same, writing she hoped he would be able to forgive her.

Bohm wrote in charging documents that multiple medical professionals indicated the teen’s condition was the direct result of the neglect, if not abuse, suffered at the hands of the defendants, over a matter of years.

The boy’s foster parents have reported they began a “book of firsts” to track things the teen had not done before, such as learning to push a broom, make a sandwich and go to a movie theater.

The Foxworths when contacted earlier this week declined to comment about the allegations.

Charging documents don’t note if the boy had any pre-existing condition or disease. Mary Foxworth’s lawyer, Jacob Clark, this afternoon outside the courtroom, said that wasn’t something he was able to comment upon.

Their trial is scheduled for the week of March 20. first-degree criminal mistreatment has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.

High praise offered up for incoming Lewis County Superior Court judge

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017
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The packed courtroom breaks into applause after Andrew Toynbee is sworn in as Lewis County Superior Court judge.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Newly sworn in Lewis County Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee vowed to work hard, be diligent and be prepared as he faced his peers, friends, family and co-workers old and new today.

“I’ll treat everyone with respect, regardless of who they are,” he said.

The Adna resident was sworn into his new role by outgoing Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt this afternoon.

“This is a very pleasurable moment for me, because I know we’ve got a great judge coming,” Hunt said.

Hunt told the gathered crowd he’d hired Toynbee back in the 1990s for his first job, in the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office when Hunt was the elected prosecutor.

The swearing in ceremony was held in department one, which Hunt has presided over since after he was first elected in 2004.

The benches were nearly full, extra chairs were brought in and the front row of the jury box held sitting judges from Lewis County, Thurston County and the Washington State Court of Appeals.

Toynbee ran unopposed for the seat in November and leaves behind his workplace, the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office.

Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim spoke today as well, praising Toynbee’s style as calm and gentle, calling him a genuinely authentic person.

“I can’t imagine a person who is better suited for this position,” Tunheim said.

After he was sworn in, presented with his robe and gavel, Toynbee took his seat at the bench, his voice sometimes breaking as he expressed gratitude for those who’ve helped him along the way.

Honesty, integrity, authenticity and humility were some of the traits he said he’s learned more about from others.

“I thank you all for helping prepare me for this position,” he said.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey is retiring this week as well. Judge-Elect Joely O’Rourke will be sworn in on Monday.

Toynbee and O’Rourke are joining Judge James Lawler and Commissioner Tracy Mitchell in Lewis County Superior Court.

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Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt, left, swears in Andrew Toynbee.

Centralia: Two trapped, rescued from wreckage of single-vehicle collision

Sunday, January 1st, 2017
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The underside of the vehicle at Reynolds Avenue and Lum Road. / Courtesy photo by Riverside Fire Authority

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Two people were hurt in a suspected DUI crash in which a speeding vehicle flipped onto its side into trees in Centralia just before 1 o’clock this morning.

Firefighters and police responding to the corner of Reynolds Avenue and Lum Road found that witnesses broke a window and removed the passenger to safety, according to authorities.

“The driver was extricated from the vehicle utilizing heavy rescue equipment,” Riverside Fire Authority Capt. Casey McCarthy wrote in a brief summary of the incident.

They were assisted by members of Lewis County Fire District 6, the Washington State Patrol and the Centralia Police Department, according to McCarthy.

Witnesses observed the vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed before the crash, according to police. Both occupants were transported with possible serious injuries to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to McCarthy.

The driver, 25-year-old Michael J. Spillman, of Centralia, was processed for driving under the influence before being transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Whatever happened to that I-5 shooter?: Still at large

Thursday, December 29th, 2016
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View of bullet hole looking forward from front seat of Mazda hatchback. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It’s been a year since a driver on Interstate 5 fired a handgun at least once, sending a bullet through the rear window of the car ahead of him, busting a hole through the top left corner of its rearview mirror and then piercing the windshield.

“It came really close, really close, to the driver,” Washington State Patrol Trooper Will Finn said.

The shooter has yet to be identified and law enforcement is once again reaching out to the public for information, in hopes of making an arrest.

“Even sometimes it’s the littlest things people tell us that can help us crack the case,” Finn said.

It happened around 11 a.m. on December 30, 2015, a Wednesday, during a road rage incident and chase that took place southbound in the 13-mile stretch north of Chehalis.

The victim driver escaped injury. The rear window of his silverish-gray four-door Mazda hatchback was shattered when he pulled into the parking lot at the Lewis County Law and Justice Center in Chehalis to call 911.

Finn said they only got a couple of calls at the time and since, have followed up on one anonymous tip about who the shooter might be. It wasn’t him, he said.

The crime lab tested the glass and confirmed gunshot residue, he said.

The shooter was driving a black, mid 2000s base-model Jeep Cherokee with non-tinted windows and Washington license plates. He is believed to have exited the freeway somewhere between milepost 80 and milepost 76.

Its driver was described as a white male in his 60s to 70s with gray hair and a gray or white beard.  He had a passenger described as a white female in her 80s, wearing a red shirt with an oxygen tube in her nose.

The encounter actually began in south Thurston County around milepost 93 or the Scatter Creek Rest Area. Finn said the victim, a  25-year-old man from Spanaway, was driving in the fast lane and when he came up on the Jeep, got “brake checked.”

“The victim admitted to partaking in behavior, brake checks back and forth,” Finn said. “But the other driver took it to a whole other level.”

They were traveling in and out of traffic at speeds of 85 to 90 mph, Finn said at the time.

Anyone with any information about the driver or the passenger, or if they witnessed it, we’d like them to call in, Finn said.

“As police officers, we don’t like cold cases, things to go unsolved,” he said.

Detective Jen Ortiz can be reached at 360-449-7948.
•••

For background, read “Interstate 5 shooter remains at large” from Wednesday January 6, 2016, here

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The suspect Jeep looks like this one pictured.

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Rear window of Mazda hatchback was shattered.