Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Jehovah’s Witnesses visit: A dress rehearsal for home invasion burglary

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Braydon Carper, left, sits with his younger brothers Trenton and Skyler.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

ADNA – It’s summertime. Braydon Carper is 13 years old and sometimes he babysits his 7-year-old brother Trenton.

Last week, while the two boys were at home alone, someone came knocking at the door of their Adna home and like he’s been told, Braydon didn’t answer it. He told Trenton to go his room and be quiet.

When their father got home from work, he saw religious literature on the porch and asked if someone came by.

The unexpected visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses was a good opportunity, according to their mother Krysta Carper, to talk to the boys in more detail about what to do if anyone they don’t know comes to the door when they’re home alone.

“I instructed them, no matter who came to the door, even if it’s a police officer, not to answer it,” Krysta Carper said.

The conversation that night paid off.

The following day, last Thursday, the Carpers for the very first time left their 5-year-old Skyler with the older boys while they went to work.

The children said they sitting on the couch watching television when a vehicle pulled up into their driveway and parked.

Trenton looked out the window and saw the foot of someone getting out of a red van.

Braydon took his little brothers into their bedroom, he said.

“We heard knocking,” Braydon said. “About a minute later, we heard slamming. Like hard slamming, so we locked the door.”

Braydon called his mother. Skyler hid in his closet. And Trenton climbed under his bed.

Their little dachshund Rider growled and barked so hard he retched, according to the boys.

Krysta Carper called 911 and called her son back to get him on the phone with a 911 operator.

The mother of three practically flew home to their Penning Road two-story. When she arrived, deputies were inside and the front door was broken. The intruder was gone.

And sure enough, she noticed some of her jewelry that had been on the counter in the bathroom was missing.

A deputy on his way to answer the call stopped a red van about a quarter mile away and detained a woman.

According to charging documents, on the floor of the van was a long crowbar type tool, next to it a pair of gloves lay.

The woman said she uses it to remove her hubcaps.

A small plastic baggie containing suspected methamphetamine was found; a meth pipe was inside her purse, according to charging documents.

The plastic diaper wipes container with a purple lid that Krysta Carper keeps her costume jewelry in was also found in the van, charging documents allege.


Darlene J. Lockard

Darlene J. Lockard, 50, of Olympia, was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail.

She was charged with residential burglary, possession of methamphetamine and misdemeanor theft. A judge last Friday set her bail at $100,000.

This morning, Lockard pleaded not guilty in Lewis County Superior Court.

Her attorney asked Judge Richard Brosey to reduce her bail. She’s not a flight risk, Centralia defense attorney David Arcuri said, she has a pending case in Thurston County.

As Brosey began to recite the 16 counts pending against her – burglary, theft, possession of stolen property and so on – Lockard hung her head. He denied the request noting there were children inside the house she allegedly burglarized.

Two grown daughters of Lockard’s were in the courtroom, not in support of their mother, but hoping to make sure she didn’t bail out of jail.

“She’s been down this path for way too long,” Misty Ward said. “I think this is the right place for her now.”

The daughters said their mother is separated from her husband and has been staying with a friend in Lewis County.

“She was clean for almost two years, then she started spiraling,” Ward said.

Krysta and Chris Carper came to the courthouse as well, to see the woman they believe barged into their home, while their three young boys cowered in a bedroom.

Krysta Carper thinks it probably wasn’t their barking dog that scared off the intruder, but was instead their home telephone answering machine.

During the various attempts to get her 13-year-old on the phone with 911, a dispatcher left a message saying, “This is 911, your mom called us; you need to pick up the phone.”

“I think she might have heard that message,” Krysta Carper said. “And realized, the one bedroom door that closed, there was someone in there.”

The Carper’s advice for all parents:

“I just urge parents to have a conversation with their kids, about what you would do if somebody kicked in the door,” Krysta Carper said. “I don’t know what they would have done if we hadn’t told them what to do.”

Trial for Koralynn Fister case set for next January

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The trial for James M. Reeder won’t take place until early next year.

The attorney for the 25-year-old Centralia man requested it be set out further into the future while he waits for autopsy reports on 2-year-old Koralynn Fister.


Koralynn Fister

Reeder was in Lewis County Superior Court briefly this morning where he waived his rights to a speedy trial.

Reeder is accused in the May 24 death of his live-in girlfriend’s youngest daughter.

Prosecutors allege Reeder tortured and raped the little girl. She was pronounced dead at the hospital after Reeder claimed he found her face down in the bathtub.

According to the coroner, Koralynn died from drowning and head trauma.

The trial is scheduled for the week of January 28.

Reeder is charged with homicide by abuse, two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of first-degree child rape and possession of methamphetamine.

He has pleaded not guilty and remains held in the Lewis County Jail on $5 million bail.

Passing nurses help revive driver whose heart stopped on Interstate 5

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A motorist whose car bounced back and forth between a semi truck and the inside barrier of Interstate 5 before wrecking near Winlock was found in cardiac arrest by a pair of emergency room nurses from the Portland area who stopped to help him this afternoon.

The passersby, EMTs from Lewis County Fire District 5 as well as medics from Lewis County Medic One conducted CPR following the approximately 3:30 p.m. crash, according to paramedic Clayton Skinner.

“District 5 and medics worked on the guy, shocked him, gave him drugs and got him back,” Skinner said.

The man was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital and then on to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Skinner said.

Troopers called to southbound Interstate 5 at milepost 64 reported the 2012 Subaru Legacy was southbound in the inside lane when it drifted into the left front tire area of a white Freightliner.

The car drifted left and then back to the right where it hit the rear tire area before striking the jersey barrier and then crossing all the way to the ditch on the shoulder side of the road, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The driver, Jeffrey L. Calcagno, 55, is from Battleground, according to the state patrol.

The state patrol described the Subaru as totaled but Skinner said it didn’t look that bad. A collision memo from the state patrol stated Calcagno’s injuries were unknown and the cause of the wreck is under investigation.

The semi truck continued south without stopping, according to the investigating trooper.

Skinner said the nurses told him they found the driver unconscious and unresponsive so they started CPR.

He couldn’t say if that caused the crash or was because of it, he said.

“We did get his heart rhythm back, and everything was looking good,” he said.


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Prosecutors: Drunken apartment resident tried to hurt self, get back at wife with arson

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Twenty-seven-year-old Chase N. Ettner yesterday was ordered held on $100,000 bail, accused of intentionally setting fire to his own apartment in downtown Chehalis on Sunday night.

Lawyers say the maintenance man at the building on the 100 block of North Market Boulevard told his wife not long ago, if she ever left him he would burn the place down. Chase and Holly Ettner got into an argument earlier that evening, according to charging documents.

Chehalis police say Ettner apparently was trying to kill himself or possibly even burn up his wife.

The damage was minimal, but residents from five apartments in the 21-unit brick building had to find somewhere else to stay temporarily, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

Responders found Ettner surrounded by an unruly crowd behind the building, laying on the ground seemingly extremely intoxicated and smelling of gasoline.

“Alcohol appears to be a major problem,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the court yesterday afternoon.

The defendant appeared “hell bent” on harming himself or others, Halstead said.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter said it might have been a relapse.

“He has been in treatment for a couple of months,” Schroeter said.

“Because of the intoxication, claims of what he said need to be taken with a large grain of salt,” he added.

Firefighters called just after 9 p.m. found smoke coming from the building, some residents evacuating and at least one person trying to douse the fire, according to responders.

A gas can was found in the Ettner’s first floor apartment; the oven and stove were turned on, police said.

Neither charging documents or police say how Ettner ended up outside or if he was alone in the apartment when the fire started.

Ettner was charged yesterday with one count of first-degree arson, domestic violence. The maximum penalty is life in prison

He told police, according to charging documents, he just wanted to kill himself and he made sure everybody was out before he “torched the place.”

The only injury reported by the fire department was his 32-year-old wife had cuts on her hands from retrieving a fire extinguisher. The fire damage was limited to the couple’s carpet and a wall, the fire department said.

With an income of only approximately $200 a month, Ettner was given a court-appointed attorney. He is scheduled to make his plea on Thursday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

Empty Centralia house goes up in flames

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Fire breaks out in Logan Street house. / Courtesy photo by Robin Taylor


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Members of the police department joined firefighters in north Centralia this afternoon to begin investigating after a vacant house went up in flames.

Riverside Fire Authority was called around 4:15 to the corner of Logan and Vienna streets for reports of a fully involved structure fire, according to Fire Chief Jim Walkowski.

“It’s reportedly abandoned, it’s had drug activity in the past,” Walkowski said.

At 5:30 p.m. crews were still putting water on the one and a half-story wood-frame home.

Walkowski said they were trying to confirm there was nobody inside. They had various reports, including of someone walking away, he said.

Several neighborhood residents, including young people watched from across the street at the playground of the old Logan School.

Eleven-year-old Ashley Taylor said she, her sister and a friend were at home next door when they smelled smoke.

“And next, the whole front was puking fire,” Ashley said.

Robin Taylor, 15, said they heard “bursting” and glass breaking.

“It was the biggest fire I’ve ever seen,” she said.

The girls said a family with several children used to live there, and sometimes the grown ups come back.

Walkowski said two firefighters were treated at the scene for heat exhaustion. Riverside was joined by departments from Chehalis, rural Chehalis and the Rochester area.

The front of the house was charred. The blaze extended to a detached garage in back, according to Walkowski.

An adjacent home sustained minor radiant heat damage, according to the chief.

Update: Investigators determined there was nobody inside the structure. Walkowski said the residents had moved out about two months ago.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the two firefighters suffered heat exhaustion, not smoke exhaustion.


Smoke billows above burning house on Logan Street. / Courtesy photo by Ashley Taylor



Flames pour out the front and back of the one and a half story house. / Courtesy photo by Mandy Taylor



Firefighters knock down blaze on Logan Street in Centralia.

Fire guts Mossyrock house

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Firefighters begin putting water on Schoonover Road home. / Courtesy photo by Taryn Houghtelling

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Mossyrock couple lost their home to fire yesterday, but nobody was hurt and all their pets turned up safe.

Lewis County Fire District 3 was called about 12:30 p.m. to the two-story home on the 200 block of Schoonover Road southeast of town.

The man and woman who live their were working in their shop and when they came outside they saw smoke, he said.

“I don’t know what caused it, it looks like it may have started in the utility room,” Chief Fosburg said.

The wood-frame house was fully involved in flames when the first engine arrived, Fosburg said. The upstairs collapsed onto the first floor, he said.

A dozen members of District 3 were joined by firefighters from neighboring Salkum and Morton.

“It was stubborn, it took us about 40 to 45 minutes to get it under control,” he said.

Fosburg described the house and its contents as a total loss.

Crews were on the scene until 6 p.m. putting out hot spots and doing cleanup, he said.

“They thought they might have lost a cat, but after we left, both cats and their dog were accounted,” he said.

A fire investigator is looking into the cause.

The couple has relatives they stayed with last night, according to the chief.

Injured Cinebar woman rescued from steep banks of Tilton River

Monday, July 16th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 46-year-old Cinebar woman had to be hoisted by helicopter cable from the banks of the Tilton River yesterday after a river rafting accident the day before left her stranded with a dislocated shoulder.

The woman, her husband and their 14-year-old son had capsized at a water fall on Saturday evening, were tossed into the water and ended up spending the night on the rocky shore, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

She was injured when she struck a rock, according to the sheriff’s office.

The father and son hiked up steep terrain to the Bear Canyon Tree Farm west of Morton where they called 911 just before 7 o’clock yesterday morning, Lewis County Fire DIstrict 8 Chief Duran McDaniel said.

It took until 9:30 a.m. for fire department personnel to locate her, he said.

“It’s a rather steep bank, wooded and 750-feet down the river,” McDaniel said.

About 20 responders assembled yesterday morning as they contemplated whether to use a boat to get her out or the high-angle rescue specialists from Packwood Search and Rescue, according to the chief.

They decided it was not an option to float her out because of rapids and bringing her up the back would have taken too long, he said.

The sheriff’s office search and rescue coordinator requested air support and a helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard in Astoria, Ore. responded.

“That was about 3 p.m.,” McDaniel said. “The helicopter arrived, basketed the patient. In nine minutes they were in and out.”

The woman was taken to the Salkum Fire Hall on U.S. Highway 12 where awaiting medics gave her something for pain and transported her to Providence Centralia Hospital.

The sheriff’s office said the family was traveling in a two-man raft with the woman in an inner tube attached behind the raft. They had launched about 4 p.m. Saturday from the Bremer Bridge at state Route 508.

None had been wearing life jackets, the sheriff’s office noted.

Police: Intoxicated Chehalis man arrested after starting fire in his apartment

Monday, July 16th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 27-year-old Chehalis man is jailed after he allegedly used gasoline to set fire to his apartment last night attempting to kill himself or possibly trying to burn up his wife, according to police.

The fire was small but the building on the 100 block of North Market Boulevard was evacuated and six people who live there had to find other places to stay last night, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

Fire and police were called about 9:10 p.m. found smoke coming from the brick building and the suspect laying face down by the dumpster behind it, according to police.

Responders were told he wanted to kill himself, appeared extremely intoxicated and smelled of gasoline, Chehalis Police Department Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said.

A gas can was found in his first floor apartment; the oven and stove were turned on, Kaut said.

It’s not clear how he got outside, according to Kaut. Police were told there had been an argument at the apartment earlier, according to Kaut.

“He was trying to harm himself, or possibly burn up the woman who lives there,” Kaut said.

Fire Capt. Kevin Curfman said residents were working on extinguishing the flames when the fire department arrived.

The only person injured was the man’s 32-year-old wife who had cuts on her hands from retrieving a fire extinguisher, according to Curfman.

The fire damage was limited to a wall and carpeting in the couple’s living room, Curfman said.

Chase N. Ettner, 27, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital to be checked out and then booked into the Lewis County Jail for arson, according to police.

“We’re very lucky it wasn’t worse than what it was,” Kaut said.

View from the ground: Helping trooper take down fighting suspect

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Timothy Tyrell Daily isn’t a fighter.

The closest the married father of two has ever come, he says, is watching ultimate fighting competitions on television.

Yet the other day, while taking his brother-in-law for a spin in his newly purchased Honda Civic, the 25-year-old Napavine man soon found himself wrestling on the side of Interstate 5 in Chehalis after witnessing a man – allegedly – attack a lone state trooper.

“It was just kind of a natural reaction for us,” Daily said. “It was a hairy situation.”

Daily and his brother-in-law Jared Kasinger assisted Trooper Robert Moore in trying to restrain a kicking and punching subject, who was finally cuffed by Moore after an off-duty Centralia police detective joined in the fray.

It happened about 6:30 p.m. the Tuesday before last.

The suspect, Don K. Gonzales, 23, of Centralia, is charged with second-degree assault and other offenses, including attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer.

Gonzales is in the Lewis County Jail on a no-bail hold.

Moore, whose nose and glasses were broken when a semi truck lug bolt was thrown at his face, was appreciative of the two civilians.

According to charging documents, Trooper Moore encountered the man walking along the shoulder of the southbound off ramp at Main Street.

He had told Gonzales to drop two sticks he was carrying and a pocket knife he was “clicking”. When he drew his Taser, Gonzales reportedly replied “Don’t tase me” and dropped the knife.

Then Moore did fire his Taser as Gonzales wound up and threw the lug nut.

Daily said he saw Gonzales take three or four swings at the trooper before the trooper was able to get him in a bear hug.

Then the fight was on.

“When they jumped in, I know their heart was in the right spot,” Trooper Moore said. “And I appreciate that.”

The trooper, who came to court when Gonzales was charged, said he wouldn’t talk further about the incident, wanting to avoid messing up the case in any way.

His left eye was blackened and the injuries to his nose were described as a displaced fracture of the nasal spine and fracture to the left nasal bone.

Kasinger, 24, from Chehalis, ended up with a twisted wrist, according to charging documents. Daily was left with “busted knuckles, not actually broken though, he said, from trying to punch the man into submission.

Daily is an auto body man at Hassler’s in Chehalis where he fixes up cars.

That day, after he picked up his new wheels in Centralia, he stopped by the fireworks stand at Wal-Mart to show his brother-in-law.

They were headed south on Interstate 5 and began slowing when they spotted the trooper pointing a weapon, just in case, he said.

“Obviously it’s a situation,” Daily said. “It’s not good if he has a Taser out, though I didn’t know it was a Taser.”

Daily said he started to pull over and his brother-in-law – who has previous experience working as a corrections officer in California – bailed out before the car stopped.

“I just followed him,” he said “He’s my brother-in-law.”

It was plain as day the trooper was in trouble, he said.

He said he saw the object bounce of the trooper’s face.

“He stumbled back, said some curse words, it knocked him pretty good,” Daily said.

Moore, Kasinger and the man were on the ground, when Daily jumped onto the man’s lower half, he said, “I wrapped my arms around his legs and my legs around his legs.”

The tussle lasted maybe three or four minutes, but it felt like much longer, he said.

The trooper was yelling at him to stop, be still, he said.

“It was a struggle, it was a fight,” he said. “I promise you, I tried with all my might to hurt him.”

He said the trooper gave them instructions, and finally said to just keep holding him down until backup arrived.

Charging documents say Centralia police detective Rick Hughes arrived; Daily remembers two plain clothed officers helping while the suspect was finally cuffed.

Daily, when recounting the brawl, repeatedly said while the trooper appeared in trouble, he also was surely very capable of handling the situation.

“But it wouldn’t have ended pretty, he said.

“I will say, anyone who can take a three-inch lug nut to the face, and still have the consciousness to help us get this guy to the ground, he’s a bad ass.”

Because it happened in Chehalis, the Chehalis Police Department handled the case against Gonzales.

Chehalis Deputy Chief Randy Kaut had no qualms about the two civilians intervening.

“In this case, we had an officer with serious injuries and it sounds like he was struggling,” Kaut said. “To me, they should be commended.”

Kaut said he couldn’t recall in his career ever having a non-police officer jump in and help, but said in the Twin Cities, there’s almost always backup, even on traffic stops.

“It’s just an unspoken rule,” Kaut said, because you never know who you’re going to pull over.

Troopers and sheriff’s deputies are more likely to find themselves alone during such an encounter because of the wide ranging areas they cover, he said.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Stacy Brown said it probably happens more often than we hear about.

“In my 16 years I’ve been here, I’ve heard stories from deputies by themselves out in Randle or Packwood, when log truck drivers have pulled over to help,” Brown said.

Different officers may have differing takes on how they’d view civilians getting involved in an arrest, she said.

“I can tell you what my opinion is, when there’s a fight, and you’re getting hurt, any help is welcome,” Brown said. “That might not be the consensus.”

Washington State Patrol Sgt. Freddy Williams is a supervisor at the state patrol academy in Shelton. He’s taught defensive tactics there.

Williams offered some things for would-be good samaritans to consider.

“When I’m on the ground, I don’t know if they’re there to help me or the bad guy,” Williams said.

His advice: The first words out of the civilian’s mouth need to be, “Officer, do you need help?”

A caution: “If a civilian comes up with a weapon in their hand, you can just imagine what goes through my mind.”

“On a personal note, if I’m out there and I’m getting my clock cleaned,” Williams said. “I’m going to welcome it, and I’m going to say thank you.”

Gonzales was charged second-degree assault, a crime with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

He was also charged with three counts of third-degree assault, one regarding detective Hughes as he allegedly kicked Hughes in the chest, plus one each for Daily and Kasinger.

The Chehalis Fire Department said Gonzales was checked by medics for “scrapes and what not” but not transported to the hospital.

Information in his court file lists him as 5-feet 7-inches tall and weighing 157 pounds.

When Gonzales appeared in Lewis County Superior Court on July 5, he told the judge he didn’t know who he was, according to temporary defense attorney Bob Schroeter.

His arraignment was supposed to be Thursday, but he was not brought to court by jail staff.

As Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer put it to the judge: “It’s my understanding he preferred not to attend.”

Court appointed defense attorney Ken Johnson said he hadn’t had a chance to meet with his new client.

Johnson said he went to the jail to see him, but Gonzales was being kept in solitary.

“They said I could go back and see him in the hole, but that would not be productive,” Johnson said. “I guess he’s responding to internal stimuli. Voices in his head.”

Defendant in Centralia toddler death by abuse case pleads not guilty

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – James M. Reeder pleaded not guilty today in the case involving the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter.

Six times he answered not guilty while staring at the table in front of him in Judge Richard Brosey’s courtroom in Lewis County Superior Court.


James M. Reeder

Reeder, 25, is charged with homicide by abuse, two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of first-degree child rape and possession of methamphetamine.

Koralynn Fister died May 24.

She was pronounced dead at the hospital after Reeder carried the naked and unbreathing child to neighbors across the street from her house, saying he found her face down in the bathtub.

He was watching her while the mother and her 4-year-old daughter were away from their Centralia home, according to police.

Authorities said they found numerous injuries, some in more advanced stages of healing than others. The coroner says she died from head trauma and drowning.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer has described the crime of homicide by abuse as repeated assaults or torture that ends in the death of a child. It carries the same possible penalty as murder.

Each of the charges carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, except the drug charge. Prosecutors added the aggravating circumstances of abusing a position of trust with a particularly vulnerable victim.

Reeder’s arraignment was delayed because he was sent to Western State Hospital to be evaluated to determine if he was competent  to stand trial and assist his lawyer in their defense.

The Centralia resident who worked as a flooring installer until about a year ago was separated from his wife and living with Koralynn’s mother. He has no felony criminal history.

He is expected back in court next Thursday to set a trial date.


For background, read “Mental evaluation: Suspect in death, rape of Centralia toddler found competent for trial” from Tuesday July 10, 2012, here

Missing manhole cover trips blind man

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The pit along Southwest 11th Street is covered by plywood today, but it was open last night.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A blind man walking to the grocery store to buy milk dropped into a brick-lined pit of an uncovered storm drain in Chehalis last night.

Police and aid called about 11:30 p.m. to the corner of Southwest 11th Street at Market Boulevard found 42-year-old Tim Franklin just pulling himself out.


Tim Franklin

He said he was stuck down there about five minutes.

“I stepped into it, went forward and smacked my head on the other side,” Franklin said.

It was only chest-deep, but one of his feet got wedged in a small pipe about halfway down, he said.

“There I was, I was yelling,” Franklin said. “Not for help, I was cussin’.”

Franklin, who uses a white cane to make his way around town, was more annoyed than he was hurt. Today however, the brim of his hat hid a purplish-red scuff mark on his forehead.

“You know, I never go on this side of the sidewalk, he said.

A woman across 11th Street who heard him and called 911 told him it’s been uncovered for about three days, he said.

“Why would they leave it this way,” he said. “I’m pissed.”

The opening – on the shoulder next to the sidewalk – is about three feet long by two feet wide. A shallow stream of water trickled across the bottom of it this afternoon.

A piece of plywood and orange cones set atop it now.

The cover that belongs over it is more like a grate, according to Chehalis Fire Department Capt. Kevin Curfman. He said he was told by the street department it keeps getting stolen.

“(They’re) gonna have to figure out how to bolt it down or something,” Curfman said.

Franklin declined to go to the hospital, a paramedic checked his neck, he said.

The Chehalis man says he’s not immune to accidents because of his lack of sight. A hereditary condition gradually took his vision until it was entirely gone at age 30, he said.

Four or five years ago he fell at Stan Hedwall Park and broke his ankle, he said.

The ankle is sore, he said today. He planned to have his doctor check it, his hip and his head, he said.

Last night, after the nice paramedic was done with him, he nixed the trip to Safeway and limped the 13 blocks back home, he said.

“They didn’t offer me a ride home,” he said.

Onalaskan’s insanity plea in alleged murder of father bolstered by mental exam

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Murder defendant Joshua Leroy Vance was acutely psychotic and responding to “command hallucinations” to kill his father early in the morning on March 7 in their Onalaska home, according to a mental evaluation conducted by a psychologist.


Joshua Vance

Defense attorney David Arcuri submitted Dr. Brett Trowbridge’s professional opinion when he filed a motion asking for an acquittal of his client based on insanity. Vance pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in early May.

Yesterday, in Lewis County Superior Court, the prosecutor’s office said now they would like their experts to examine Vance as well.

Vance, 25, is charged with first-degree murder after allegedly using a knife to attack his sleeping father, 58-year-old Terry Vance on March 7.

The younger Vance is also charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, as he allegedly told a deputy he was going to kill his grandmother, nephew and uncle but couldn’t because he cut his hand.

He remains held in the Lewis County Jail on $1 million bail.

The Centralia College student has already been evaluated by specialists from Western State Hospital who determined he was mentally competent to stand trial, but now they will evaluate him for insanity, according to an order signed by a judge yesterday.

Vance appeared in court for the brief hearing.

According to Arcuri, the guidelines for criminal insanity look at if a person suffers from a mental disease or defect such that they could not comprehend the nature or quality of their act, and, even if they could understand, could not conform their behavior.

Trowbridge wrote in his report, which Arcuri received on June 1, an insanity defense would be appropriate because at the time of the alleged incident, with Vance’s acute mental illness he was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of his conduct.

According to the report from Western State’s previous contact with Vance, he has been hospitalized in the past for command hallucinations to kill himself and harm others. He also has been treated for substance induced hallucinations, according to the report.

His diagnosis’s in the state doctors’ report included psychotic disorder, major depression, amphetamine dependence and alcohol abuse.

Vance told the evaluator he started using methamphetamine at age 11, but had not used it for the previous two years.

Vance’s family say he was being treated for mental health issues at Cascade Mental Health in Chehalis and had gone off his medication because he couldn’t afford it.

If state doctors decide to bring him to their facility to conduct the exam, they can commit him for not more than 15 days and then as soon as is practicable furnish the court with a report on their findings, according to the court order.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said the two sides set a date of Aug. 2 to check in with the judge about the status of the upcoming evaluation.

A trial is scheduled for the week of Oct. 22.

For background, read:

• “Onalaska man pleads insanity in father’s fatal stabbing” from Tuesday May 8, 2012, here

•  “Murder suspect: “When he was good, he was such a good young man”" from Friday March 9, 2012, here

Mental evaluation: Suspect in death, rape of Centralia toddler found competent for trial

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A staff psychologist at Western State Hospital has concluded James M. Reeder is competent to participate in the court proceedings in his Lewis County homicide case, involving the alleged torture and rape of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter.


James M. Reeder

Reeder, 25, was sent to the state mental hospital June 21 after his lawyer requested the evaluation a week earlier.

The report, filed yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court, notes the Centralia man has mild depression and anxiety, attributed to the legal situation he is facing.

“Any of his previous symptoms that may have interfered with his ability to understand court proceedings or assist in his defense appear to have abated,” Dr. Ray Hendrickson wrote in the report.

Reeder has not yet been arraigned, presumably that is the next step in his case. A notation in his court file says he will appear before a judge on Thursday morning.

He is charged with homicide by abuse and related charges, including possession of methamphetamine, following the May 24 death in Centralia of Koralynn Fister.

If convicted, he faces a possible maximum penalty of life in prison.


Koralynn Fister

The coroner has said the child died from drowning and blunt trauma to her head. Reeder said he found the toddler face down in the bathtub when he stepped out to grab a towel.

Prosecutors allege at least two incidents of sexual abuse of the little girl during the roughly two month period Reeder lived with his girlfriend Becky Heupel and her two daughters, ages 2 and 4.

Defense attorney David Arcuri did not state in court the reason for requesting the competency review, but according to the report, Reeder said he attempted suicide in the jail, trying to drown himself in the sink.

The report, dated June 29, said Reeder was kept in a ward that allowed 24-hour observation and treatment while he was at Western State.

While there, he was put on medication for depression and anxiety, as well as temporarily for insomnia. He said he hardly slept while at the jail, the psychologist wrote.

During the formal interview, he was cooperative and open, the psychologist wrote. He said he was “sad, depressed, anxious … grieving, mourning … I miss that little girl … don’t know how to explain what happened.”

Reeder also – when asked – said he’s always been paranoid, not liking to go to bars or Wal-Mart, for example, because people talk about him and look at him.

The psychologist indicated he felt that was more like a personality trait or a symptom of anxiety.

The report included a diagnosis of adjustment disorder, but did not elaborate on what that meant.

Reeder was taken away by police from the couple’s West Oakview Street area home the day Koralynn died, and arrested that night. He is being held on $5 million bail.

Reeder had been unemployed for about a year, but previously worked as a flooring installer, according to the report.

One portion of it offers basic self-reported biographical information: such as he is currently separated from his wife who has a 5-year-old son, and that he has a 2-year-old daughter he fathered with a girlfriend.

His attorney has described him as a lifetime Lewis County resident, who attended W.F. West High School through the 11th grade.

He has no felony criminal history, but in February 2011 was convicted of a gross misdemeanor, fourth-degree assault and in January 2007 was convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana, according to the Western State Hospital report.

He suffered a concussion in a motor vehicle accident as an eighth grader, according to the report.

He told the psychologist he has used, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Although Reeder denied current thoughts of suicide or wanting to harm himself, the psychologist recommended he see a mental health provider.

CORRECTION: This news story has been updated and corrected to reflect a trial date has not yet been scheduled for Reeder.

For background, read “Breaking news: Mother’s boyfriend held for investigation of rape, murder of Centralia child” from Friday May 25, 2012 at 5 p.m., here

Sheriff: It’s safe for further witnesses to come forward following arrest in deaths of Ethel couple

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Dennis Hadaller takes questions from the news media about his mother and her husband's 1985 deaths.

Updated at 8:19 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Although deputies have arrested a former Lewis County man for kidnap, robbery and murder in the 1985 deaths of Ed and Wilhelmina Maurin, the sheriff is calling upon more people who might know something to come forward.

News of yesterday’s arrest at the suspect’s home outside King Salmon, Alaska took most of the elderly couple’s surviving family members by surprise this morning; when Sheriff Steve Mansfield announced to the news media his office has solved the case that’s more than 26 years old.


Rick Riffe

Rick Riffe, 53, and his brother John Gregory Riffe, 50,  have long been primary suspects in the cold case, according to the sheriff.

John Riffe died last month of ill health, just after the sheriff’s office prepared their probable cause statement, Mansfield said.

Authorities say potential witnesses were threatened by the brothers, even with death, if they spoke up.

“We’re very confident now one is dead and the other in custody, (other) witnesses will come forward,” Mansfield said this afternoon. “We would like to hear from them.”

At a press conference this afternoon in Chehalis, Mansfield and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer indicated it’s not like there was suddenly a “smoking gun” that led to the arrest.


John Gregory Riffe

Mansfield called it a long, tedious, frustrating case that the sheriff’s office felt was strong back in the early 1990s, but wasn’t able to persuade the prosector to move forward on.

Meyer said he filed the charges on Friday and got a $5 million arrest warrant.

Meyer likened it to a puzzle.

“You look at all the witness statements, go through the timeline and realize we have all the pieces we need,” Meyer said.

Sheriff’s detective Bruce Kimsey has worked the better part of seven years on the case and it’s been his sole assignment the past four months, according to Meyer.

The affidavit of probable cause offers information pointing to the brothers from several individuals; none of the witnesses are named in the document.

Rick Riffe is still in Alaska, and is being  processed for extradition back to Lewis County to stand trial.

The Maurins, Ed, 81 and “Minnie” 83, vanished from their Ethel home Dec. 19, 1985. Their car was found abandoned the next day in the parking lot at Yard Birds and their bodies discovered Dec. 24, 1985 off a logging road near Adna.

The sheriff’s office says it believes the brothers forced the couple to drive to their bank, Sterling Savings and Loan in Chehalis, and withdraw $8,500 before cutting them down with a shotgun inside their car.

Family members of the Maurins sat in on the press conference.

Minnie Maurin’s son, former Lewis County Commissioner Dennis Hadaller, briefly spoke to those assembled. The 84-year-old’s voice broke as he did.

Hadaller thanked prosecutors, the sheriff’s office, and especially detective Kimsey whom he said has become a close friend.

“Also, I want to thank all the private citizens that came forward under threat of death and gave us information,” Hadaller said.

He made a plea for anyone with additional information to bring it the sheriff or prosecutor.

Prosecutor Meyer suggested the brothers selected their target more or less at random, because a friend of theirs mentioned the Maurins probably had a lot of money.

The friend, interviewed in 1991, said he used drugs with the Riffes and remembered seeing the couple outside when he and the brothers drove past the house about two weeks before the deaths, according to the affidavit of probable cause. He recalled mentioning they must have money, because they owned all the Christmas trees surrounding their property and their son had a successful logging business, the document states.


Rick Riffe

The same man, a truck driver, told investigators he gave a shotgun to Rick Riffe which he asked him to cut down so he could carry it on the job, according to the document. He said he had trouble getting it back, until two or three months after the murders, the document alleges. The gun was later tossed in Mayfield Lake, according to one witness.

The unnamed truck driver spoke of Rick Riffe having no money and then suddenly buying a commercial-type fishing boat, as well as getting an odd call from Rick Riffe’s wife Robin Riffe, who said, “You wouldn’t believe what Rick’s done,” the document states.

Another individual, in 2004, told investigators he was driving from home in Mossyrock with his mother into town that December when he saw John Riffe in a car with the Maurin couple, but that John Riffe confronted him near the Mossyrock Theater and threatened to kill both him and his mother if he spoke about what he saw, according to the documents.


John Gregory Riffe

The man reportedly came forward after his mother passed away.

This past February, he told detective Kimsey both brothers were in the 1960s green four-door car about a quarter mile from the Maurin’s house, the documents state.

One source, a drug dealer interviewed inside a federal prison in Oregon, recalled selling two ounces of cocaine for $2,200 to Robin Riffe back in December 1985, and getting paid in $100 bills by a man he was able to identify as John Riffe, the documents alleges.

Numerous other people are cited as having told detectives of seeing a man or men who matched the brothers’ descriptions at various places that day, often noting one wearing a dark stocking cap and carrying a gun.

One Mossyrock woman who said she’d never seen the brothers before but heard rumors they were involved, offered sightings in three key locations.

She said when she was driving by the Maurin’s house one morning she saw a white van parked there and a man wearing an Army jacket near the mailbox; the following day she saw Ed Maurin sitting in an old car as she left Security State Bank; and then saw the same van parked on the shoulder of Kresky Avenue near Yard Birds and two men getting into it, according to the document.

Two sheriff’s detectives, a private investigator and Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead flew to Alaska to make the arrest; they were joined by Alaska state troopers, according to Mansfield.

Meyer said Rick Riffe is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery, as well as one count of burglary.

Because of the suspect’s poor health, he is not planning to pursue the death penalty, Meyer said.

The prosecutor said he expects whenever Rick Riffe arrives in Lewis County, he will be taken in front of a judge the next day.

After his arraignment, he will go to trial within 60 days Meyer said.


For background read “Breaking news: Sheriff: Cold case solved in 1985 shooting death of elderly Ethel couple” from earlier today, here

Breaking news: Sheriff: Cold case solved in 1985 shooting death of elderly Ethel couple

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Edward, 81, and Wilhelmina "Minnie", 83, Maurin. / Courtesy photo Lewis County Sheriff's Office

Updated at 11:05 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An arrest has been made in what has been described as one of the most horrific homicides in Lewis County, an elderly couple believed abducted from their Ethel home, shot to death and dumped in a wooded area near Adna more than a quarter century ago.

The bodies of Edward and Wilhelmina “Minnie” Maurin were found on Christmas Eve 1985.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office yesterday arrested 53-year-old Rick Riffe in Alaska, according to the sheriff’s office.

The former Lewis County resident and his brother have long been primary suspects in the cold case.

Additional evidence and witnesses finally talking is what helped solve the case, according to Sheriff Steve Mansfield.

“Detectives feel many witnesses did not come forward during the time of the initial investigation due to being fearful of the Riffe brothers and possible retaliation for speaking out,” Mansfield said in a news release.

The two men moved to Alaska in 1987 and John Riffe died a week before detectives purchased tickets to travel there and arrest them, according to the sheriff.

Rick Riffe, who resides in King Salmon, Alaska, was arrested yesterday and will be processed for extradition back to Lewis County to stand trial, Mansfield stated.

Mansfield said his office has developed information the brothers kidnapped the couple from their home, drove them to their bank in Chehalis and forced them to withdraw $8,500 before killing them.

They were reported missing Dec. 19, 1985 after guests arrived for a Christmas party at their house along U.S. Highway 12, and nobody was home. The following day, their car was found abandoned in the Yard Birds parking lot in Chehalis.

The keys were in the ignition and blood stains were found in the car, according to the sheriff’s office. On Christmas Eve day, their bodies were found at the end of Stearns Hill Road.

Former Lewis County Commissioner Dennis Hadaller said he has waited 26 years and seven months for this day.

Hadaller offered rewards and hired private detectives to find who killed his mother and her husband.

“I really appreciate all the help, the sheriff’s department and the people that came forward with new evidence,” Hadaller said this morning.

The Mayfield Lake area resident who is now 84, said he’s “tickled” but the news is sad too, bringing back memories. It didn’t take him by surprise however, he said.

“I’ve been involved all along, we had to keep everything pretty quiet, what was happening,” he said. “I couldn’t even tell my own children or close friends.”

He couldn’t tell even his younger sister Hazel Oberg, he said.

The Toledo woman and her husband were having breakfast when they got the news this morning.

“Well it was a shock for me to hear it on the radio, an awful shock,” Oberg said. “But I’m calming now. It makes me relive it.”

Oberg, 82,  called it a relief.

“In a way, we’re just thrilled,” she said. “I guess you could call it thrilled. I’m in tears.”

A press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. today with the sheriff, Hadaller and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer who will share details of the investigation.

School bus driver gets five months jail for groping team members at Onalaska game

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Kenneth W. Sands is taken directly to jail after sentencing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The attorney for a school bus driver who was arrested last autumn for groping teenage girls after their volleyball game in Onalaska told a judge the behavior was completely out of the ordinary, and related to a manic state caused by his bi-polar disorder.

Kenneth W. Sands, 52, was in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday following a plea agreement in which he would be sentenced for five counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation.

Sands drove a bus for the Rainier School District and was off-duty but had gone to the game in Onalaska last October to support the Rainier team.

He was arrested after he reportedly grabbed a 15-year-old volleyball player’s buttocks as she waited to board the bus, slapped a 16-year-old on the buttocks and then got on the bus and touched the breasts of a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. An adult female said he fondled her during the game.

Olympia lawyer Paul A. Strophy said Sands had just switched medications at the time and was adjusting to the change, plus had used caffeine to counteract the effects of a long bus trip the day before to Forks. Sands pleaded guilty in May.

The two lawyers agreed on the recommended sentence, but Strophy appealed to Judge James Lawler to allow his client to serve his time under house arrest, saying as as former corrections officer, he was extremely anxious about being incarcerated. He also requested time to get his medications set up before the sentence began.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes, one of the teenage victims and her mother opposed the so-called electronic home monitoring.

In a letter from the girl read aloud in court, the girl said now has trust issues with older males and has nightmares about Sands coming to attack her family.

“I feel uncomfortable if Ken’s on house arrest,” she wrote. “I’d feel better if he was in jail.”

Sands spoke to the judge, saying he regretted the events and the circumstances that led up to them.

Judge Lawler imposed 30 days in jail for each of the misdemeanors, suspending most of the rest of the sentence so Sands would for the next 10 years have the remainder of the time hanging over his head if he failed to abide by several conditions.

Four and a half years of the sentence are suspended.

He ordered Sands to be taken to jail immediately following the hearing.

“The fact that he has bi-polar disorder is not a defense,” Lawler said. “It’s something he knows about and deals with or does not deal with at his peril.”

Sands has been terminated from his bus driving position, according to Strophy.

Because of the conviction, he will have to submit his DNA to authorities but will not be required to register as a sex offender following his release.

Packwood teen’s suicide to be revisited, in court

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Brian Edward Stephens: February 11, 1993 - May 19, 2009

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Three years ago, a student at White Pass High School took 30 Ibuprofen pills one morning and then went to school.

When his school counselor found out about it, the boy was taken away in an ambulance to Morton General Hospital where he was treated and subsequently released.

Days later, a buddy of his who was also a student at the school attempted suicide, and succeeded.

The 16-year-old, Brian Stephens, had less than a week earlier passed a note to a girl in English class writing that if his friend killed himself, he would too. The girl told two school counselors.

His grandmother, with whom he lived, never heard about the note until months afterward. She wasn’t called when high school counselor Justin Neilson brought her grandson into his office to ask him if he was suicidal.

Stephens’ family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district, saying a grave lack of professional judgement led the school counselor to dismiss clear signs Stephens was at risk for suicide, that the district did not provide its employees with mechanisms to respond to such situations and that it failed to have a comprehensive school suicide prevention plan.

“Our position is the school district did not address the risks they should have done with Brian,” the family attorney Kevin Coluccio said.

Teen suicide is a huge issue across the country, and it’s an issue that schools need to deal with, Coluccio said.

It’s is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, according to the attorney.

The family, through its attorney, claims the school had a duty to notify his parents the teen was talking about suicide at school.

A key part of student safety is proper parent notification practices, the lawyers write in their filing. If a student says they’re not feeling well, parents are called; if they are behind on their vaccinations or not showing up for classes, parents are contacted, the lawyers write.

The school district’s attorney says it does not have such a duty.

Its responsibility is only to protect students in its custody from reasonably anticipated dangers, according to the lawyer, Jerry J. Moberg.

The school district is represented by Moberg as well as James E. Baker at Jerry J. Moberg and Associates in Euphrata. Also representing them is Tukwila attorney Philip Talmadge.

All that remain of the school officials who were involved in 2009 are three of the five school board members. The school district superintendent Rich Linehan, the high school principal and the two school counselors have since left the district.

White Pass Junior-Senior High School, with about 180 students, is in Randle.

Today, Stephens’ grandmother Debbie Reisert still gets sick talking about it, a loss she says has left a gaping hole in their small family.

“I’m really angry about it,” Reisert said. “But I really haven’t talked about it openly in the town.”

Reisert runs a lodging business on Cannon Road in Packwood. She worries about the impact news of the lawsuit and its details could have on the kids involved, she said; the then-16-year-old friend of her grandson who attempted suicide, the girl who told the school counselor about the note.

Both the current White Pass School District superintendent and the school board president declined to comment, referring questions to their attorneys. The lawyers representing the school district have not returned calls for comment.

A claim filed in January asking $3.5 million was denied. The lawsuit was filed at the end of March in Lewis County Superior Court.

“The thing that’s so frustrating for us is he made an assessment that’s so obviously wrong and didn’t give us a chance to intervene,” Reisert said.

She feels like her only grandson would still be alive, if the school had simply picked up the phone and called, she said.

“Brian was an amazing human being,” Reisert said. “He was really, really intelligent. He was very articulate.”

The oldest of three children, he tended toward the Buddhist philosophy, was funny and was the kind of kid that always helped out the underdog, she said.

His mother took him out of Gig Harbor High School his sophomore year and sent him to live with her in Packwood after he got in trouble with some teens who threw something off a freeway overpass at a vehicle, according to Reisert.

Reisert said she spent about 30 minutes with the school counselor when she enrolled her grandson, explaining about his pending court case, and her concerns about the differences in schools.

She asked him to let her know if he was “hanging out with trouble,” she said, to call if he noticed anything amiss.

It was only about six weeks later he was dead.

Court documents and reports from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office offer details of the week in May 2009 that ended in the death of the White Pass High School sophomore.

It was Thursday May 21, 2009 when Stephens was found with a gunshot wound to his head, inside a Tacoma man’s vacation mobile home on Richer Drive in Packwood, three days after he went missing from his grandmother’s home nearby.

The sheriff’s office investigation gives the following account of what transpired during the previous seven days:

One of Stephens’ female classmates was among the many students interviewed by detective Bruce Kimsey.

She told Kimsey of the note Stephens had written her, saying he never explained why he wrote it.

A 16-year-old Packwood boy Stephens had known since preschool said he and Stephens recently had conversation about how they would kill themselves if they were ever to do so. They were walking around Hinkle Tinkle Falls behind the boy’s house.

On Friday May 15, 2009, that boy took 30 Ibuprofen pills and then went to school.

After he was sent to the hospital, the girl went to the school counselor with the information about Stephens’ note. Several of the students were talked to at school that day about the suicide attempt.

The counselor Neilson told a deputy he then questioned Stephens about committing suicide.

“(Stephens) had replied he was not going to harm himself and did not feel like harming himself in any way,” the deputy wrote.

Over the weekend, her grandson was upset about his friend’s suicide attempt, and some of the other kids seemed to blame him for some reason, according to his Reisert.

Stephens had talked about running away back to Gig Harbor, according to some of the students.

On Monday May 18, 2009: Stephens grades came in the mail, they weren’t good.

“The thing that’s really difficult for me is I got angry at him that day,” Reisert said. “He got bad grades, he wasn’t turning in his homework. I yelled at him and he took off.”

According to Sandra Zacher, a grade school teacher in the district, Stephens had come looking for her son who wasn’t home that afternoon. She said he hung his head down and walked away.

A runaway report was filed that night, a deputy went to the childhood friend’s house on Richer Drive, where he learned the two boys had recently discussed suicide, and listened to a voice message Stephens had left on his friend’s phone, saying he was going to “do it.”

About 4 o’clock the following morning, Zacher’s doorbell rang, and she went to the front door and saw no one was there.

Reisert and Stephens’ mother, Allison Tinney, continued to look for the teenager.

On Thursday May 21, 2009: They went to the friend’s home, and learned from his mother, Zacher, she had noticed the lights on the previous few days at a nearby vacation mobile home.

The three walked over there, Tinney saw her son’s backpack through a window, went inside and found her son dead on a bed with a .22 Winchester long rifle.

The school district superintendent and high school counselor Neilson were among those who arrived at the mobile home as deputies investigated.

A suicide note was found on the back of a piece of homework in Stephens’ backpack. It contents were blacked out in the copy of the report released by the sheriff’s office.

Court documents show his date of death as Tuesday May 19, 2009.

The suicide seemingly came out of nowhere, according to his grandmother.

“He wasn’t even moody ever,” Reisert said. “Brian was just really even all the time, always smiling.

Reisert said she thinks it was a like a fleeting idea he acted on more or less spontaneously.

The lawsuit names as the plaintiffs Stephens’ mother, as well as William Boehm, personal representative of the estate of Brian Stephens.

It is being handled by Coluccio at the Seattle firm of Strittmatter, Kessler, Whelan and Coluccio as well as the Law Office of Skip Simpson in Texas.

Paige Tangney, a past president of the Washington State Association of School Psychologists who has worked in public schools for more 30 years, was asked by the family’s lawyers to evaluate the circumstances of Stephen’s death.

At a minimum, the counselor should have kept Stephens in his office after they spoke about the note he wrote and then picked up the phone to call his grandmother, according to Tangney.

Tangney writes in her filed declaration that a reasonable standard of care is to take any threat of self harm by a student seriously. She describes the protocols many schools have adopted for dealing with potentially suicidal students.

If a student is determined to be a low risk, the parent can advise about the next steps, and is asked to be home when the student gets home from school, Tangney writes. If medium or high risk, the parent is asked to come to school and pick them up.

Tangney writes it appeared Neilson conducted an informal assessment and concluded the teen was either at low risk or not at risk.

Any one of several items the counselor learned, coupled with the note that threatened suicide, made him a significant risk however, she wrote.

“To make a judgement that a student is not a significant suicide risk when they have stated to another student they are going to commit suicide if another student does, the other student has made an attempt, and he has additional risk factors, constitutes, in my opinion, a grave lack of professional judgement as a school counselor,” Tangney writes.

The school district’s attorney, in an answer filed in early May, denies the warning signs were clear or that the counselor failed to properly assess Stephens.

Also, state employees are immune from liability pursuant to a professional judgement doctrine, the district’s lawyer wrote.

“If there was an error in judgement on the part of a professional employee of the school district, it was an honest error in judgment arrived at within the standard of care the school district employee was obliged to follow,” the attorney wrote.

There is currently no date scheduled for when the parties might meet in court.

County moves to remove tenants from Nix Road, Clark Road homes housing ex-cons

Friday, June 29th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Round one: code violations.

Round two: zoning violations.

Lewis County officials continue in their attempts to shut down what they now call boarding houses, two residences in rural communities in which a handful of individuals recently released from prison live together.


110 Nix Road

At issue is a three-bedroom home on Nix Road west of Chehalis where neighbors have said they’re afraid to let their grandchildren outside alone to play as well as a similar operation on the 200 block of Clark Road near Onalaska.

The county has filed a civil suit in Lewis County Superior Court asking a judge to declare the property owners are in violation of zoning rules by using the houses for anything other than single family residences.

Named in the complaint are Judy Chafin-Williams who leases the houses and acts as property manager for the tenants, Janice I. Thompson who owns the properties and Larry G. Gladsjo who is co-owner of the Clark Road property.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield has told a block watch group on Nix Road his goal is to remove the felons from their neighborhood, implementing a zero-tolerance policy for any incidents there and working with other arms of county government to discover if any code or zoning rules have been violated or even craft new ordinances.

Lewis County Commissioner Ron Averill said today the county has  already looked to see if got they’ve got more members of the households than allowed for the particular septic systems.

“At one point they had about nine people and they were informed they were exceeding the septic limit and they had to get that down,” Averill said. “And I understand they did.”

In March, elected officials and other county employees spoke at a block watch meeting for Nix Road, sharing what they believed they could and could not do.

At the time, Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Carter said among the questions they were pondering is what exactly is meant by “single-family” dwellings. It’s not black and white, he said.

However, the complaint filed Wednesday focuses on where in unincorporated Lewis County single family residences are allowed and where they are not.

Both the Nix and Clark road homes are situated in zones called rural development districts. Multi-family residences are not allowed in those zones.

By contrast, there are areas of the county which were more densely populated before the state Growth Management Act was put into place – such as Onalaska, Packwood, Glenoma and similar communities – where multi-family uses are permitted.

The complaint is for an injunction, declaratory judgement and abatement of nuisance.

Part of the request is for a judge to set monetary penalties if the respondents fail to comply within 30 days of an order.

Chafin-Williams, who oversees the homes as well as similar houses in the cities of Centralia and Chehalis, describes her work as Christian-based, and the owners as people who got tired of renting to drug addicts.

The number one house rule is no drugs or alcohol, according to Chafin-Williams. These are simply people who need assistance getting back on their feet after they’ve done their time in prison, according to Chafin-Williams.

She said she was served notice today of the lawsuit.

“I do have an attorney, and we are going to fight it,” she said.

The property owners Thompson and Gladsjo couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

They have 20 days to file a response to the complaint.

For background, read:

• “Discord on Nix Road: Newest arrivals unwelcome” from Saturday March 3, 2012, here

• “The backstory: Intelligence gathering, possible fines and code enforcement tools ‘not normally used’ ” from Sunday March 4, 2012, here

Morton founder of missing children organization loses appeal on felony conviction

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An appeals court has upheld the insurance fraud conviction of Jennifer M. Mau, a Morton woman best known for her private endeavors to search for missing children in high profile cases.

Mau, then 30, and her boyfriend David Eden, then 47, were found guilty in September 2010 of making a false insurance claim involving a U-Haul trailer they said leaked and damaged their belongings during a move from Centralia to Morton three years earlier.

According to the findings issued by the Washington State Court of Appeals, Mau was told the loss from rain and water damage was not covered under the protections she had purchased but told to make a report to U-Haul’s insurance company anyhow.

Mau provided a seven-page list of items totaling approximately $16,000, but said they had taken the damaged items to the dump, according to the decision.

The claims administrator found it suspicious and the claim was denied, according to the decision.

Mau testified it was her understanding it was a preliminary list of items that potentially could have been damaged.

Her appeals attorney argued the list was not made under a contract of insurance. Eden’s appeal involved a denial he was an accomplice. The panel of three judges disagreed in their opinion issued on Tuesday.

The crime is a class C felony, which prosecutors said at the time of conviction could mean up to 12 months in jail.

Mau, a criminal justice student, was founder of the Mount St. Helens Chapter of a Texas-based group called Guardians of the Children, an organization she said helped with abused and missing kids.

In the summer of 2010, she organized volunteer searchers who eventually found the body of a missing 16-year-old Morton boy with the help of a Portland psychic.

A 21-year-old friend of Austin King was subsequently convicted of manslaughter in his death.

Mau, who has since started a different group called Search and Seek, indicates she will appeal the decision.