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Dog dead after encounter with Chehalis police officer

Saturday, September 28th, 2013
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Bruce Beauregard reads the police report describing the officer’s version of what happened to his dog.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 68-year-old Chehalis man has contacted an attorney after retrieving his dog from the city animal shelter and finding it had a broken jaw.

Bruce Beauregard is both steaming mad and broken hearted about his 6-year-old Dachshund-mix he called Rowdy.

Beauregard was alarmed when the police officer sent to collect his pet said the dog was aggressive so he “offered him his boot” and then horrified when he saw his dog sitting in the kennel with his head hanging down and his face smashed up. He said he was afraid to look closely, but when he rushed to his veterinarian, his fears were confirmed.

“The poor little guy, he couldn’t even lick me or lick my face,” he said.

The 16-pound dog was euthanized the same day.

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Rowdy with broken jaw

The city denies the animal was kicked, but it’s an injury the veterinarian said he hasn’t seen in 30 years of practice. The bone was fractured completely, not just cracked, on both sides, according to Dr. Mark Giffey.

“It’s a little unusual to see both the left and right side, because usually there is an impact site,” Giffey said.

Chehalis Police Department Officer Bruce Thompson stated in a written report the Dachshund lunged at him so he offered the left toe of his shoe as a barrier. Thompson wrote the animal bit the toe and as it shook its head from side to side he heard a snapping sound; the dog let go and backed away.

Police Chief Glenn Schaffer said he has absolutely no doubt it happened the way his officer described.

“What Officer Thompson did is what anybody would do if about to get bit,” Schaffer said. “Offering a dog a shoe to bite is better than offering an arm or a hand.”

For Beauregard, a bachelor, whose constant companion is now buried in his backyard, the explanation doesn’t pass the smell test. He’s hoping his lawyer can make things right.

“I want to prosecute the guy that did this,” he said. “It’s awful, uncalled for and totally inhumane.

“If I did that to my neighbor dog, I know would happen to me. I’d be arrested, put in jail and fined for animal cruelty.”

Rowdy’s stay in the city’s temporary animal holding facility at the end of last month was unplanned. It began the evening of Aug. 23 when Beauregard was pulled over by a Chehalis police officer for weaving down South Market Boulevard and arrested for drunk driving.

According to the police report, the small dog in his truck was very aggressive when a second officer came to take the dog away.

Chief Schaffer points out the two officers got Beauregard out of the back of the patrol car and out of his handcuffs so he could assist in moving the dog. Beauregard said he helped them leash and muzzle Rowdy who was understandably upset.

“He was very protective of me, and didn’t like strangers handling me,” he said.

He said he warned them his pet wouldn’t like going to a kennel, wouldn’t be happy and wouldn’t eat.

Rowdy was taken to the city’s shelter off Kresky Avenue and after the officer finished getting breath samples and filling out paperwork, Beauregard was given his citation and then a ride to his home.

He tried to pick his dog up the following day, he said, but was told he had to wait until Monday morning.

Beauregard’s longtime buddy Scott Fanning who went with him described the same kind of puzzlement and apprehension when Officer Thompson addressed the men before opening the shelter door.

“He said, he was pretty aggressive when I was trying to get him. He was attacking me so I offered him my right boot,” Fanning said.

Once they got inside, they saw Rowdy with blood on his face, his jaw hanging and one tooth bent outward.

The officer was saying he thought the dog’s tooth was hurt and Beauregard was getting hot, asking who did it, who was taking care of his dog, Fanning said.  Thompson replied he didn’t know, he said.

Fanning hustled his friend and the dog out the door and to the veterinary office, he said.

Two weeks later, Fanning said he still gets sick thinking about what transpired between a “big cop and a little dog”.

“I’m still crying, I can’t take it,” Fanning said. “He was one of my dog’s best friends.”

At the Chehalis Centralia Veterinary Hospital, Rowdy was shaking like an outboard motor, Beauregard said.

“I think he said we could probably save him, or we could try to save him,” he said. “I don’t recall exactly. I was crying.”

Fanning said he was too upset to stay at the clinic in support of his friend. Both men knew it wasn’t realistic to to send Rowdy to an orthopedic veterinary specialist who would attach metal plates to the fractures.

“When you get a broken jaw, that’s like a death sentence, cause dogs aren’t gonna lay around and suck on a straw and watch TV while they heal,” Fanning said.

Dr. Giffey said he’s thought about it a lot, wondering if the force of a dog’s jaw closing on a boot is strong enough to break the bones. It’s something he’s never encountered in three decades of treating animals, he said.

Whether twisting or shaking could explain it, would be a question for an orthopedist, he said.

“The police officer was the only witness to the injury, so I guess that’s where it stands at,” Giffey said. “I haven’t seen that myself.”

Weeks later, Beauregard is spending more time fishing with his friends and less time at home, because his quiet house reminds him that Rowdy’s dead.

“For six years he slept with me, never left my side,” he said. “Day and night, 24 -seven. It’s pretty strange not having him.”

But hanging out on the Cowlitz River fishing with his buddies who always bring along their dogs isn’t entirely better.

“Out there, all these dogs out there running around, and mine’s not there,” he said.

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Bruce Beauregard holds a rain jacket clad Rowdy at a family birthday party.

Former Winlock school bus driver’s ticket dismissed

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Winlock man whose school bus went airborne some 25 feet and came to rest wheels down at the bottom of an embankment off Interstate 5 this past spring got his ticket changed.

Or more specifically, his wife did.

Ronnie H. Withrow, 53, was cited for running a stop sign after the April 9 incident. Withrow said the brakes went out and was praised for navigating the bus between a sign and a guard rail at the northbound exit to state Route 505. None of the passengers which included 32 members of the Toledo-Winlock High School soccer team were seriously injured.

A commercial vehicle inspector with the Washington State Patrol however found no mechanical failures or defects with the braking system. Withrow was suspended and subsequently resigned.

Debbie Withrow hired an attorney and at a contested hearing on July 17, the infraction for failing to stop at the stop sign was dismissed and in its place an infraction was issued for moving defective vehicle unlawful, RCW 46.32.060.

Debbie Withrow said they convinced Lewis County District Court Judge R.W. Buzzard the wreck was caused by defective equipment, bad brakes.

“I’m just glad we were able to clear his name, because to him that was really important,” Debbie Withrow said today.

Ronnie Withrow declined to comment.

Exactly what the judge heard from the two attorneys isn’t clear. It isn’t described in court documents. The Withrow’s attorney didn’t return phone calls seeking information. Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Nelson said last week he didn’t recall the details of the negotiations. It was an agreed motion to dismiss the first infraction to issue the new one.

Debbie WIthrow said her husband’s union apparently couldn’t officially assist him, as he was still in his probationary period on the job, but they helped.

“They did look up a bunch of information on those busses that showed those busses did have problem with brakes,” she said. “I took that into the court and showed it to the judge.”

It was a 2009 Thomas full-sized yellow bus, which is back in service now.

Ronnie Withrow had begun driving for the Winlock School District last September. Before that he did the same thing in Rochester for about two years, according to his wife, and also drove trucks after a number of years of working for a local bicycle manufacturer.

The accident has left him quite discouraged, according his wife.

“He totally loved being a bus driver, it was his dream job,” she said. “He loved being with the kids.”

Her husband doesn’t have any interest in trying to get his job back, and didn’t even care to pursue contesting the ticket, she said.

“It was all me, he just curled up in a ball and didn’t want to get out of bed,” Debbie Withrow said.

Trooper Will Finn, a spokesperson for the state patrol, said yesterday the agency stands by its finding there was nothing mechanically wrong with the bus. They blamed the wreck on inattention.

“The court system is the court system,” Finn said. “We have a job to do and the court system has a job to do.”

•••
For background, read “School bus wrecks off I-5 into swamp near Toledo” from Wednesday April 10, 2013 at 7:28 a.m., here

Rochester man loses murder appeal

Friday, September 20th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Robert J. Maddaus Jr. lost his appeal of his convictions and sentence that put him in prison for life in connection with a weekend of threats and death as he tried to recover cash and pounds of methamphetamine stolen from his Rochester trailer home.

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Robert J. Maddaus Jr.

The admitted drug dealer was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Shaun Peterson, a 42-year-old acquaintance who died handcuffed and shot on an Olympia street early on Nov. 16, 2009.

At his jury trial in Thurston County Superior Court in early 2011, Maddaus was also convicted of two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and four counts of witness tampering, as well as second-degree assault and attempted kidnapping related to his interrogation of a 25-year-old woman he suspected was involved in the theft.

In a unanimous opinion issued today, the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II affirmed the convictions, except for one count of witness tampering.

His appeals attorneys argued, and the state conceded, that two counts of tampering related to multiple contacts with Theodore Farmer to persuade him to provide an alibi constituted at the most one unit of tampering. The appeals court agreed.

Today’s decision remands to the trial court to vacate or dismiss one of those counts.

Through his attorneys, Maddaus argued a dozen different reasons and ways the outcome of his trial was wrong. The one point he won on won’t change his sentence of life without the possibility of release, based on the so-called three strikes law.

Among the rejected arguments discussed in the 57-page opinion are that his home was improperly searched, that he was allowed to be  restrained with a leg brace and shock device during trial and challenges to recorded jail phone conversations, jury instructions, the prosecutor’s closing statements and more.

Maddaus was captured in Chehalis about a week and half after Peterson’s death, in a car containing pounds of meth, cocaine and heroin.

At trial, the 41-year-old took the witness stand and denied everything, except that he sold drugs and wanted to find out who had robbed him.
•••

For background, read “Three guesses as to who helped murder suspect Maddaus hide out …” from Sunday Feb. 6, 2011, here

Read the opinion, here

Big Bottom Bust cases ending with plea deals

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
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Jack W. Mullins, left, prepares to sign his sentencing documents in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – His attorney says it was credibility issues with the confidential informant, the deputy prosecutor said he didn’t have enough confidence the informant would cooperate during a trial.

Fifty-seven-year-old Jack Wayne Mullins was sent to jail today for two and half months after making a plea deal, pleading guilty to possession of methamphetamine.

Mullins was one of 10 people swept up in what was dubbed Operation Big Bottom Bust, a June operation in which some two dozen law enforcement officers from multiple agencies descended upon Randle in the Big Bottom Valley in east Lewis County and arrested 10 individuals following a months-long drug investigation.

One person was picked up only on a warrant, but the rest were jailed for allegedly dealing meth. Two were never charged.

Mullins, the oldest of the arrestees, is the sixth of the bunch to have entered into a plea agreement.

The remaining person, Marty Joe Mullins, 48, is scheduled for trial later this year.

The cases were distributed among four deputy prosecutors. Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher is handling Marty Mullins’ case.

Meagher declined to say if any kind of plea arrangement was in the works.

“The trial’s a long ways down the road,” Meagher said today.

The investigation and raids were coordinated by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Regional Task Force. One of its members, sheriff’s detective Jeffrey S. Humphrey is on paid administrative leave after getting arrested a week and a half ago for driving under the influence in Chehalis.

Whether Humphrey remains a deputy will have no bearing if he can still be a witness, Meagher said. But whether his pending gross misdemeanor case could affect the one drug dealing case left, Meagher said simply, maybe.

Today, in Lewis County Superior Court, Jack Mullins listened as his lawyer and a deputy prosecutor told the judge they agreed he should spend 75 days in jail. He faced a sentencing range for drug possession of zero to six months as he has no criminal history.

Defense attorney Jacob Clark told the judge the $3,000 in fines and fees would be a hardship as his client earns money picking mushroom, with the season starting this time of year.

Jack Mullins asked Judge Nelson Hunt to give him more time before going to jail.

“I work the last four months of the year to pay my bills,” Jack Mullins said. “I’m going to lose my house if I don’t get my taxes paid.”

Hunt imposed the financial obligations, and said he could begin paying $25 each month starting 60 days after his release. Jack Mullins was handcuffed and taken away.

Among the other defendants, Byron O. Daily, 42, is in jail for 75 days having pleaded guilty to possession of meth. Twenty-five-year-old Leah D. Williams who lived with Daily and has children got herself into family drug court and was given 30 days of house arrest for possession, according to Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke.

Still to be sentenced is 52-year-old Diane L. Allison who lives with Jack Mullins; Keith A. Sanders, 42, and Robert D. LaChance Sr., 51. All live in Randle.

LaChance was arrested again earlier this month by the sheriff’s office for possession and delivery of methamphetamine.

Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eiseneberg said today LaChance was looking at  at least five years for one count of delivery of methamphetamine, and he will likely recommend the high end of the standard sentencing range because of the new case.
•••

For background, read “Seven charged for dealing meth in Randle” from Tuesday June 11, 2013, here

Headless, burned dog belonged to Centralia residents

Saturday, September 14th, 2013
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Crom, a Doberman-Labrador-Pit Bull mix, pauses for a photo.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Michelle Nelson and Tim Filer buried their dog last week. Yesterday they buried its head.

Nelson, a 28-year-old nursing assistant who lives in Centralia, had been looking for her pet named Crom for days when she heard someone had set fire to a decapitated dog near the railroad tracks in downtown Centralia.

At first, when a police officer showed her photos of the carcass, she didn’t think it was hers. But when she learned the animal still remained laying out on the gravel off Walnut Street, she went to view it in person. It was Crom.

It’s a mystery what happened to the half Doberman, part Labrador and part Pit Bull mix.

“I just wish the cops had more to tell me; it’s pretty brutal,” Nelson said.

Crom was just a little more than a year old and lived with the couple on Pine Street, but recently moved to Main Street near Centralia College. Filer and Nelson had a kind of joint custody agreement after they separated.

“He was a really sweet dog, my dog,” Nelson said. “He just loved everybody.”

Crom was familiar with the downtown neighborhood as they would take walks to see Filer at work on Tower Avenue just blocks from home, she said.

It was a dark and rainy night when he bolted out the door chasing a cat, she said. It was Aug. 28.

Early on the morning of Aug. 31, the fire department was called to the area behind Power Sports and extinguished the fire in between the two sets of tracks.

Centralia Police Department Sgt. Buster said a large bag of clothes and the dog were burned. Buster told Nelson he was wrapped in a sweater. Police didn’t think the animal was alive when it was lit.

No arson investigator was requested. Police advised BNSF to come and remove it because it was on railroad property.

Filer’s mother contacted police two days ago when she got a tip about where Crom’s head might be found. She and Officer Angie Humphrey walked the area and found a mound of rocks along the side of the tracks a few blocks south of where the body had been.

“The collar was still on him,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey said she doesn’t know what happened, but she’d like to find out.

“There’s some pretty morbid individuals out there,” Humphrey said today. “There’s a lot of speculation, but without more information, it’s hard to say.”

It’s difficult to imagine for a train to have decapitated the dog, and what animal is going to lay with its head on the rails anyhow, Humphrey said.

“I’m just kind of speculating, because it’s not normal for a dog to lose its head,” she said.

Humphrey asks if anyone has any information about what happened to the dog, that they call her at the Centralia Police Department, or call Lewis County Crime Stoppers, where they can be anonymous.

Crime Stoppers can be reached at 1-800-748-6422.

Lewis County sheriff’s deputy pleads not guilty to DUI

Friday, September 13th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A plea of not guilty was entered yesterday for the sheriff’s deputy who was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Chehalis over the weekend.

Jeffrey S. Humphrey went before a judge today in Lewis County District Court in Chehalis an hour before the regularly scheduled time with his defense attorney Don Blair and a special deputy prosecutor from Thurston County appointed to handle the case.

Blair filed the plea a day early in writing and today’s appearance was to handle Humphrey’s conditions of release while his case is pending.

According to charging documents, the 40-year-old Chehalis area resident’s breath samples registered at .159 and .143. They were taken at the Lewis County Jail after his arrest early Sunday morning. The legal limit of an alcohol concentration is .08.

Charging documents state Humphrey was stopped by a trooper at an accident scene at the Labree Road offramp of Interstate 5 after he drove past a truck-mounted reader board flashing messages of “Ramp closed” and “Use alternate route”.

The high speed collision around 3:45 a.m. was the end result of a police pursuit in which a car driven by an allegedly intoxicated driver crashed into a guard rail and caught fire. A passenger was airlifted with a broken ankle.

Charging documents give the following account of Humphrey’s arrest: A Washington State Patrol sergeant wearing a reflective vest attempted to get the attention of Humphrey’s westbound gray Ford F150 by waving his arms, yelling and shining his flashlight at the truck. The sergeant chased the truck which eventually stopped and when asked if he saw all the emergency vehicles and road closure sign, Humphrey replied, “sorry.”

Humphrey had three un-named passengers with him and the sergeant smelled a strong odor of intoxicants from the window; Humphrey was described with a blank, far off look on his face, his eyes bloodshot and watery.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was off duty refused to do field sobriety tests and would not answer when asked how much he’d had to drink.

Humphrey, an 11 year veteran of the sheriff’s office, is on paid administrative leave.

A state patrol spokesperson said earlier this week Humphrey’s vehicle was towed and he he was released from the trooper’s custody at his home.

Lewis County District Court Judge R.W. Buzzard released Humphrey on his own recognizance today, meaning no bail was necessary.

He was also ordered not to consume any alcohol or non-prescribed controlled substances, but the prohibition against entering taverns or bars printed on the standard court form was crossed out.

Humphrey also signed today a waiver of his time for trial which would be 90 days from arraignment for a person not in custody.

The charges were filed on Monday by Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer asked his counterpart in Thurston County to select a special deputy prosecutor to handle the case because of appearances of fairness. The special prosecutor is Chad McClellan.

Driving under the influence is gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and or a $5,000 fine.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18.

Sheriff’s deputy on paid leave as DUI arrest is investigated

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Lewis County sheriff’s deputy arrested for drunken driving over the weekend while off duty is scheduled to go before a judge tomorrow afternoon.

Jeffrey S. Humphrey has been with the sheriff’s office for 11 years. He is on paid administrative leave, according to the sheriff’s office.

Humphrey was stopped by a trooper early Sunday morning on Interstate 5 in the Chehalis area, according to the Washington State Patrol. He was pulled over when he attempted to drive through the closed area of a collision scene, state patrol spokesperson Stephen Robley said.

Robley said he believed it occurred about 3 a.m.

“He was arrested for DUI, processed and then released,” Robley said. “And the charges were forwarded to the Lewis County prosecutor.”

Robley said he didn’t have many details, and said he didn’t know why the case was referred for a charging decision as opposed to the trooper issuing a citation with a date and time for Humphrey to appear in court.

Robley, who is an agency spokesperson and works patrol in Clark County, said in his work, those decisions and whether to book a person into jail depend on a variety of factors sometimes related to how cooperative an individual is or if they also have a warrant.

Humphrey’s vehicle was towed and he was released from the troopers custody at his home, Robley said.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said he asked his counterparts in Thurston County to select a special deputy prosecutor to handle the case because of appearances of fairness. The Lewis County Prosecutors Office represents the sheriff’s office, he said.

The charge was filed on Monday in Lewis County DIstrict Court.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield issued a statement saying his deputy will be processed through the criminal justice system just as anyone else arrested for the same offense would. In addition, an internal investigation will be conducted, according to Mansfield.

Humphrey works on the sheriff’s office drug task force.

One of his recent large cases was the so-called Operation Big Bottom Bust in Randle in June in which 10 residents were arrested following a months-long investigation of under cover purchases of methamphetamine.

Humphrey’s arraignment is set for 2 p.m. tomorrow before Judge Michael Roewe.

Boater clinging to tree in Cowlitz River plucked to safety

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A woman fishing in the Cowlitz River south of Ethel yesterday was rescued after her boat struck a log and dumped her into the icy water.

A man in another boat heard her yelling and tried to grab her but couldn’t and called 911 about 7:15, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Crews responded to the area near Brim and Spencer roads on both sides of the river and finally spotted the woman who had pulled herself onto a tree above very heavy rapids, Lewis County Fire District 8 Chief Duran McDaniel said.

Firefighters from Toledo in two boats they put in the river pulled the woman to safety, he said.

McDaniel said the area, about a mile and a half upstream from the Blue Creek Hatchery and Boat Launch, is rather remote and it was getting to be dusk when they got to her.

“She’s very lucky she had a passerby,” McDaniel said. “That saved her life; there’s no doubt about it.”

Jeanine McDaniel – no relation to the fire chief – 47, from Fife, was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital to be treated for scrapes and possible hypothermia, according to the sheriff’s office.

She was boating alone and not wearing a life jacket, sheriff’s Sgt. Rob Snaza said. It’s a good reminder of how important safety precautions can be, Snaza said.

Neither Snaza or Chief McDaniel knew how long she’d been in the water.

“That river rises and falls on a regular basis,” Snaza said. “When you’re fishing, you should always be wearing a life jacket.”

Lewis County judge takes issue with forced do-over of drive-by shooter sentencing

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
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Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr., right, with his attorney appear before Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt today seemed to give clues as to how he might resentence a former Centralia High School student serving a nearly 93 year prison term for a 2007 drive-by shooting in which several bar patrons on a sidewalk escaped injury.

Hunt imposed the time on Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. almost six years ago, but the state Court of Appeals last year tossed out the virtual life sentence referencing various matters that should have been handled more thoroughly, given that he was a juvenile.

The appeals court called it clearly excessive.

“This is ridiculous,” Hunt said, focusing on one of the several criticisms of the local court proceedings and the then-teenager’s then-defense attorney.

The unanimous opinion of the three-judge panel stated local attorney Michael Underwood mistakenly indicated the teen was “declined” as a juvenile and tried as an adult, when in fact no decline hearing was held to determine if the teen’s maturity and mental development warranted prosecution as an adult. The case was actually “auto-declined” by operation of a statute.

Hunt told the attorneys in his courtroom today he helped draft the rules for the so-called automatic assumption of jurisdiction in Washington. He called the issue Underwood’s misuse of a word.

Solis-Diaz, dressed in red jail garb and chains, sat quietly in the courtroom while the judge, his defense attorney Robert Quillian and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh addressed matters to be taken care of before the new sentencing hearing.

Quillian was requesting more time and also for an authorization to expend funds for an expert to evaluate his client’s emotional and mental maturity.

He’s already been waiting in the local jail nearly a year, the judge said, at an estimated cost of $88 per day when he is the responsibility of the state Department of Corrections, Hunt pointed out.

“All so I could be told that Mr. Underwood made a mistake by not advising me this was not a decline and when I imposed a sentence within the standard range, that that was somehow incorrect,” Hunt said.

Solis-Diaz is 23 years old. He was 16 when the offense occurred.

He was arrested in August 2007 after gunfire from a car was sprayed along the east side of South Tower Avenue in Centralia, outside two taverns. Witnesses testified it was gang-related. Solis-Diaz maintained he was innocent.

He was convicted by a jury of six counts of first-degree assault, one count of drive-by shooting and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. State law required the time for the assaults to be served consecutively and there were 30 years of mandatory time for firearm enhancements.

The issue comes back to Lewis County Superior Court not from a direct appeal, but a personal restraint petition. The challenge was made in light of a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, specifically a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held a sentence of life without parole is forbidden for a juvenile who did not commit homicide.

However, the appeals judges focused on the deficient performance of the court-appointed attorney. Among the reasons cited, was Underwood failed to produce or request a pre-sentencing report which could have shed light upon issues related to the teen’s mental and emotional sophistication.

Quillian said he would like to postpone the hearing currently scheduled for the end of this month, as the specialist he was working with took leave for a family illness.

He proposed to hire Dr. Ron Roesch from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia who specializes in forensic juvenile criminal work. Quillian told the judge Dr. Roesch would review the case materials, conduct a battery of tests on his client and submit a report concerning the matters at hand.

Hunt said he wondered if such an evaluation is even a proper topic to consider.

“It’s his maturity level back then he’s going to need to assess, and he won’t be able to do that,” Hunt said.

Quillian said his reading of the appeal decision was that his client was entitled to present the information of an expert before getting sentenced.

“I think it would be remiss for Mr. Solis-Diaz not to have the benefit of these services,” Quillian told the judge.

Judge Hunt noted the Supreme Court has already said everybody knows juveniles are different in that they engage in more reckless behavior. He pondered if Quillian’s request meant all juveniles accused of crimes deserved an evaluation by an expert.

“Why do we need to spend $6,000 of public money to find out what everybody already knows?” Hunt asked.

During the half hour hearing today, Hunt pointed out he imposed a sentence that was authorized by law, by statute Solis-Diaz was treated as an adult and noted the defendant was at the time, 16 years plus 362 days old.

The judge told the attorney he didn’t want the chosen expert to be someone that charged more than twice as much than the $75 per hour the original attorney was paid. Dr. Roesch estimated 30 hours of time at $200 an hour.

He said he would consider approving the expense if Dr. Roesch submitted a report but didn’t incur travel expenses to provide live testimony.

The new date for sentencing was set for Dec. 17, and expected to last half a day.
•••

For background, read:

• “Appeals court gives Centralia teen a “do-over” on 90-plus-year drive-by shooting sentence” from Wednesday September 19, 2012, here

• “Former Centralia High School student getting a shot at shorter sentence from 2007 drive-by shooting” from Thursday January 24, 2013, here

Motorcyclist zapped on head by lightning on freeway at Chehalis

Thursday, September 5th, 2013
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The lightning strike victim talks with police and firefighters trying to arrange who he would allow to drive his motorcycle away before he would get back in to an ambulance.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 59-year-old Tenino man was struck by lightning this morning as he was traveling on his motorcycle up Interstate 5 at Chehalis.

A man and his wife who were behind him saw the flash and stopped to help.

“I was behind him in my truck, the lightning came down and lit up his helmet,” Martin Zapalac said.

At first Zapalac wondered if he imagined it, but then saw the motorcyclist lean forward and move to the shoulder.

The couple had the man follow him to the AM/PM off 13th Street, where arriving firefighters and paramedics checked him out.

It happened about 9:20 a.m., just north of the LaBree Road interchange.

Medics checked his vital signs and found he had some burns on the side of his head, although minor, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

“He seemed to suffer some hearing damage as well,” Fire Capt. Kevin Curfman said.

The man was conscious and talking, and alert enough he got out of the ambulance to try to arrange who could drive his bike to a spot for safe keeping.

He was transported by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital.

Zapalac said the man’s hair was burned and the inside of his helmet was messed up, but he didn’t quite seem to understand how seriously he could be hurt.

He took off his helmet and asked, “Why am I parked by the side of the road,” Zapalac said.

“I’ve never seen it strike quite that close,” Zapalac said. “It was a good strike too, cause I felt the  concussion in my truck … when the thunder came.”

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Motorcycle helmet is damaged where it was struck by a lightning bolt.

What happened to Tina Thode?

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
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Tina Thode’s body was discovered on July 29, at the edge of the Skookumchuck River, east of a pasture off West Reynolds and Tower Avenue in Centralia, two days after an hours long search when she called 911 to say she was lost. / Google maps

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – She was a 40-year-old mother of three boys, none of whom lived with her.

Tina Thode didn’t work, but labored intensely in recent years to overcome drug addiction.

Described by those who knew her as both a girly girl and a tomboy, she was a woman who would entice housemates to gather in the kitchen with her homemade tacos or be content passing time exploring nearby woods.

On the final weekend of her life, Thode called 911 asking for help getting off the banks of the tree-lined Skookumchuck River. It was after dark, about a quarter mile from her north Centralia home. An intense but unsuccessful search was abandoned, and it seems as though that was the last anyone heard from her. Two days later, a pair of 15-year-olds floating down the river on inner tubes discovered her body partially submerged on the river’s edge.

What killed Thode won’t be known for sure until the Lewis County coroner reports his findings; he’s waiting for toxicology test results.

What exactly she was doing at the river that evening, and for the next day and half remains a mystery as well.

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Tina A. Thode

Her good friend Matt Mitchell is among those grieving and trying to make sense of Thode’s death. He was with her the morning of the Saturday she got lost. After she died, he helped her parents clear out her studio apartment at the end of Pike Street.

“I was told she was alive until Monday, noonish,” Mitchell said. “She didn’t starve to death or drown.”

Centralia Police Department detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald indicated on the Monday night when he helped recover her body, it didn’t appear to him she’d been in the water for two days. There were no obvious signs of injury or foul play, he said.

Mitchell recalls that Sunday was a hot day, and it stayed warm out until late. He can’t come up with a reason why the woman he calls his best friend didn’t just walk home after daylight.

“I don’t know what happened to her to cause her not to be able to get out,” Mitchell said. “Or if she had a stroke, or a seizure. Not that she had that history, I just don’t get it.”

Mitchell, a tow truck driver who came to know Thode through recovery, doesn’t think it odd if she went to the river by herself. Still, he said, he’s checked with a half dozen people she could possibly have been with, and they all said they weren’t.

“I called even my ex using friends,” he said.

Thode didn’t have enough money to get high enough to become delusional, he said. She had just $20, he said. And, he was told about that amount of methamphetamine was found in the car she had borrowed which was discovered parked on the east side of the river off Central Boulevard.

He tried to describe who she was, saying that even though she got high, drugs were not the center of her life.

He saw her often over the previous few months. Mitchell said she hadn’t been awake for days before that weekend, and she wasn’t the type of meth user to crash into a long, deep slumber after a high, according to Mitchell. “I’ve seen her sleep for four hours and be ready to go,” he said.

What is clear about Thode, is an extraordinary number of people turned out for not just one, or two, but three gatherings in her honor the week after her death.

“I’ve been to a lot of funerals, but I’ve never seen that many people at a funeral,” her father Roger Thode said.

He estimated there were 300 at the Napavine Assembly of God Church on Sunday Aug. 4, the same church where his daughter was baptized a year ago.

Two nights earlier, he and his wife Lila Thode were among two dozen individuals who came together beneath a picnic shelter in Fort Borst Park, comforting each other with song, prayer and fond recollections.

A couple years back, Tina Thode spent 10 months at a place called Safe Family Ministries on Jackson Highway south of Chehalis. It’s a year-long discipleship program primarily for women and children getting their lives back on track. Former residents recently began holding the Friday night park meetings so women who still struggle have a place to get encouragement, according to Kandi Delos Santos.

The Chehalis native was flamboyant with a contagious laugh, they said.

“She was always working, or she was directing, or she was just singing,” one young woman shared. “You could hear her singing for 40 yards down the hill,” added a man who said he volunteered at Safe.

Jen Jackson, whose voice and guitar led the evening music recalled Tina Thode as inspiring to many during her stay there.

“There were times I didn’t want to start until Tina was in the room, just because of the joy that radiated off of here,” she said.

Roger and Lila Thode showed again the day after the memorial service when Lewis County Drug Court members assembled in the county commissioner’s chambers at the Historic Courthouse in Chehalis honoring his daughter’s memory.

She was a current and active participant in drug court, according to drug court manager Jennifer Soper-Baker.

“A lot of the folks knew Tina pretty well, and they’re taking it pretty hard,” she said.

Soper-Baker called her a neat lady, who was very emotionally open and willing to do what was expected of her.

“She definitely tried many times to get clean over the course of the last three years,” she said.

Tina Thode had relapsed and spent a few days in jail as a sanction just before the fatal weekend, according to Soper-Baker. They spoke that Thursday afternoon, and Tina Thode was feeling optimistic and hopeful about her recovery, she said.

When she got out of the Lewis County Jail, she was set up to go into an inpatient drug treatment center in Chehalis, Mitchell said.

“I think it was Wednesday or Thursday, she had to be at ABHS by 10 p.m. the same night,” he said. “She made it there like at 11:30, but they still let her in.”

The following morning at around 11 o’clock, she called him and said she’d walked out, he said. He picked her up.

Her chosen drugs were meth and marijuana, he said. And she really wanted help to quit them, he said.

“She said she wanted to go back, but she didn’t want to be somewhere she could call someone and be home in five minutes,” Mitchell said.

On Saturday morning July 27, Mitchell was at Tina Thode’s apartment. He was helping her compose a letter to drug court, apologizing for walking out of treatment after they’d found her a bed, and asking to be able to go to an 90-day program in Spokane.

Mitchell said he had to go to work and their plan was to meet again about 5 p.m. to finish the letter. He spoke to her on the phone about 3 p.m., she said she was jumping in the shower.

“I talked to her about 4, when I called to tell her I had to work late,” he said.

Roger Thode went to the police department the following week to try to get some questions answered.

“She was gonna go put some more minutes on her phone, run some errands that day,” he said. “Instead, she went to the river.”

Born in Chehalis and mostly raised there, by her father and his current wife, Tina Thode alway loved spending time at the water, her father said.

“The Newaukum, that’s where you’d find her in the summer,” he said. “She would spend all day walking up and down the river, picking up agates

“She swam like a fish, even as a baby, water didn’t scare her.”

Roger Thode said his daughter has always had a battle, and her family has always tried to help her.

She didn’t work and was receiving disability benefits for mental issues, he said. Exactly what they were, he didn’t know.

“If she took her meds for her mental issue and left the drugs alone, she was a hard worker and worked hard,” he said.

At one job at a bakery in Yelm, the owner thought so much of her, he’d take off on vacation and leave her in charge,” her father said.

“She did good for quite some time,” he said. “But the meds, she couldn’t feel emotion. Didn’t laugh or cry; she got tired of that, doped up like a zombie.”

She decided having mental illness was better, he said.

Tina Thode tried to take her own life a year and a half ago, but survived, he said. After that, she worked closely with her doctors and got back on her medications and had the ten month stretch while she was at Safe where she did very well, he said.

She has three sons. The oldest lives in Everett with his father, the middle one is in the Army based in Alaska and her 12-year-old lives in Kelso with his father.

“We can’t hide the fact she was an addict,” Roger Thode said. “I was always afraid someday she’d be found dead in a ditch. I was hurt, but I wasn’t surprised.”

It was 10:21 p.m. on Saturday July 27, when the Lewis County emergency dispatch center got a 911 call from Tina Thode.

Centralia Police Department Sgt. Carl Buster on duty. He was told she went to the Skookumchuck River at the B Street Park, was cold, wet and needed help.

Buster knew her. He arrested her in May, an arrest that pushed her into drug court, he said.

On the way to jail they had a really good talk, he said. About life.

“It was like, hey Tina, when are you gonna get cleaned up?” Buster said. “She was like, I’m trying.”

Buster and two other officers responded, and before the night was over, they and four members of the fire department had searched along both sides of the river around the park – also known as Parkins Park, farther downstream along the levy at Sixth and Pearl Street and even father southwest near River Road.

Until her phone went dead, they communicated with her through a call taker and a dispatcher at the 911 center.

“We’re calling, telling her to yell, she’s singing at one point, but we can’t hear here,” Buster said.

The river is lined with thick blackberries and other brush, and in some places, the closest responders could get was like 20 yards, he said. Buster went in at B Street Park, crawling through bushes to get close to the riverbank.

“I’m hollering, ‘hey, it’s Buster’,” he said. “I’m thinking she’s scared. I know she knows me, I was there when she stabbed herself last year.”

We had so much working against us, he said.

Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Mike Kytta now wonders about the various ways sound may have or have not have traveled along the course of the river.

They tried calling out to her, sounding a whistle and other means to make contact, he said.

“The deputy sounded his siren and she said she could hear it, but it sounded far away,” he said. “In fact, he was closer to her than anyone.”

Kytta and his crew walked with thermal imaging cameras, looking on the black and white screen for a heat signature that a person would have.

Her phone was “pinged” off a nearby cell tower.

They inquired about getting the state patrol aircraft with thermal imaging type capabilities, but it was not available.

Her father listened to the 911 tapes, and heard his daughter’s call.

At one point, she she didn’t want to wave her little flashlights or call out to the searchers as the 911 operator requested, saying she heard people on the bank but they hadn’t answered her when she did call out to them. At another point, she suggested she should sing, and let loose with multiple verses of Amazing Grace.

She told 911 she’d gone in the river at the park, and that she’d waded along the river. Roger Thode said he could hear that his daughter was a little spooked, but could tell she was not wasted.

“She could have been a little high, but not out-of-her-mind stupid,” he said. “It was Tina on there, and she wasn’t a mess.”

Police and fire personnel discussed getting a boat out onto the river, but it was dark and that would be too dangerous, according to Buster.

Although, he admitted, he even contemplated ignoring the fire department’s position on that and going out alone. He didn’t.

While later another sergeant from the police department said the reason the search was called off was because authorities came across someone who had seen her and told them she was okay, that wasn’t the case, he was mistaken, according to Buster.

They’d done what they could, it was 2 a.m. and going to be getting light again by about 4:30 a.m., when she would have been able to see her way out, according to Buster.

“It was warm, so we knew she wasn’t in danger from the elements,” Buster said.

It didn’t occur to Buster the search should resume the next day, except in hindsight, he said. “It’s tragic; I am so sorry for her and her family,” he said.

“I know people want to make a story about it, that police let her down,” Buster said. “And I’ll shoulder that. I tried to find her and I didn’t.

“The way I feel about it, is my own personal feelings about it.”

Buster now knows that at one point he was within about 100 to 200 yards of her, he said. The place Tina Thode subsequently was found was north of the park, north of where they looked, according to Kytta.

It was east of a pasture at Reynolds and North Tower avenues.

Buster said when she was discovered, she was on her back in shallow water at the edge of the river. A chair and a couple bottles of water were found near her body.

“Even though she was under water when she was found, we know she didn’t drown,” he said. “The coroner said her lungs didn’t have water in them.”

Mitchell said he was told an educated guess by the coroner was she died around noon on the same day her body was recovered. What was going on between 2 a.m. on Sunday and whenever she died is just something he can’t figure out, he said.

And he wonders why she called police if she were simply lost, instead of calling him, he said. “I know 911 would have been a last resort for her,” Mitchell said. “She knew they would have taken her straight to jail, for her drug court (issue).”

“It’s a very big mystery,” he said. “Me, Roger, Lila, her grandmother, all, would like to know what happened. But as it sits right now, she’s gone.”

Her father says, after talking with police, he feels confident they did everything they could, yet still ponders if she were the mayor’s daughter, they maybe wouldn’t have called off the search.

But there’s no point in wondering, what if, he said.

He doesn’t hold a grudge. He doesn’t know what happened. And yet he still speaks as though regardless of the conclusion from the coroner, his grown daughter’s demise is still a consequence of her drug use.

“If some person could look at their life and see what happened to Tina could happen to me,” he said. “I could get wasted and not come home some day. If they could just think that through, it would help us.

“Make her count for something I guess, if somebody could learn from this.”

Centralia police detectives are conducting an investigation. The Lewis County Coroner’s Office said on July 31 that a determination about the cause and manner of  her death won’t be made until the results of toxicology tests come back. The tests can take eight to 10 weeks.

Morton hospital sued for unnecessary pain, death of 96-year-old patient

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A lawsuit has been filed against Morton General Hospital on behalf of an elderly woman who was discharged from its emergency room with two boxes of enemas and a misdiagnosis of constipation and died days later.

Gertrude Tibbetts was taken to the hospital with severe abdominal pain where she was given an injection of pain medication, and an X-ray and then released against her wishes a little more than an hour later.

“She was screaming in agony, stating ‘I can’t believe you are sending me home, you are killing me. No one survives pain like this’,” an attorney for her daughter states in court documents.

The visit to the East Lewis County public hospital was Feb. 26, 2010. Tibbetts, 96, was residing at a Morton nursing home so she and her daughter Jane E. Jones could spend more time together, the attorney wrote.

The attorney stated, when the nurse handed the boxes with enemas to the Heritage House representative, she asked why they couldn’t be administered at hospital. The nurse replied, the lawyer wrote, “What? Do you want a blow out in the van?” and three nurses burst out laughing while Tibbetts was screaming in the background.

The complaint filed in Lewis County Superior Court earlier this month for medical malpractice and wrongful death names the hospital, Dr. Thomas Calderon and three unknown nurses.

Tibbetts was brought back to the hospital the following day when the laxatives were ineffective and then transferred to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. There, doctors discovered she was suffering with peritonitis due to small bowel obstruction and perforation as well as kidney failure. She was given comfort measures and died Mar 2, 2010.

“For her age, Gertrude Tibbetts was a remarkable and strong woman who was cognitively bright, and full of life, personality and humor,” the Puyullap-based attorney Talis Abolins wrote.

Abolins alleges the hospital failed when it failed to admit her, and failed to provide appropriate evaluation and care.

“She suffered tremendous pain and suffering, humiliation and fear of her impending death in the hours and days that followed,” the attorney wrote.

Multiple messages left requesting comment from hospital administrators yesterday were unreturned. Attempts to reach Calderon were unsuccessful. The parties have 20 days to respond in court to the lawsuit.

Calderon was informally disciplined by the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission for his evaluation of the patient’s condition.

He agreed to two years of probation and to undertake extra education in exchange for the commission not continuing to pursue charges of incompetence, negligence or malpractice, according to documents filed with the state Department of Health.

The commission alleged that after ordering the shot of pain medication and an X-ray which was unrevealing, Calderon did not perform a subsequent examination of Tibbetts, according to the documents.

The stipulation agreement – signed March 11, 2011 – indicated he should be sanctioned at a level comparable to practicing below the standard of care, related to causing unnecessary pain, stating the failure may not have caused the death since early discovery may not have saved her life.

The doctor did not admit any of the commission’s allegations, but was cooperative, had no previous disciplinary action since being licensed in Washington in 1998 and was released from his probation this past March.

The allegations by the commission note the patient reported her pain level as 20 on a scale of one to 10, while nurses recorded it at 10; and at discharge, the patient described her pain as a seven or eight.

The lawsuit seek damages in an amount to “be proven at trial.”

Among the reimbursements sought are medical bills of about $6,800 from Morton General Hospital and almost $16,000 from Providence St. Peter Hospital.

Excessive force complaint lodged against Centralia police

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 41-year-old Centralia man who uses a wheelchair has filed a claim against the city saying he was attacked and injured by police officers during an incident in a hallway outside his apartment door.

Trygve Nelson was followed into the building where he lives on the 200 block of West Reynolds Street by an officer who was attempting to talk with him regarding calls he had just rode his wheelchair in the middle of the road up North Pearl Street.

Nelson’s claim for damages notes his injuries, his multiple upcoming medical appointments and claims damages in the amount of $400,000. It doesn’t detail what he claims police did – only saying police wrongly attacked him – but a six-page police report from the Centralia Police Department goes into great detail.

Nelson writes the incident occurred on July 2; the police report states it occurred on June 30.

According to the police report, Officer Patricia Finch called for backup after a drunken, angry and cussing Nelson refused to give his name, and stood up from his wheelchair facing her – he is described as 6-feet 4-inches tall and weighing 230 pounds – prompting her to unsnap her Taser – before riding away from her, going inside and slamming his door.

When Sgt. Carl Buster arrived and knocked on the door four times with his flashlight, Nelson exited fast with his hands in the air and said, “What the f***,” according to police reports.

Buster states in his report that fearing he was about to be assaulted, he spun Nelson around and tried to secure him against the wall.

Finch’s and Buster’s reports tell how they tried to gain control of him and he resisted, until he was on the ground and cuffed with a roughly one inch long cut above his left eye. It left what Finch described as a small amount of blood on the floor.

As they walked outside, Nelson allegedly pulled away and grabbed at Buster’s hand, and Buster “escorted him to the ground” again, Finch wrote.

They put a leg restraint on him because he was flailing. He was yelling he had aids, was terminal and they should just kill him, the officers wrote.

This all occurred at an apartment complex owned and operated by Reliable Enterprises, an organization founded in the 1970s to assist individuals with developmental disabilities.

Nelson was bleeding profusely, and said he was on blood thinners as well as heart medication, according to the report.

At one point, he was apologetic, said he was sorry for being an A-hole and that he drank too much after 18 years of abstinence, the report states.

Nelson vomited, medics sedated him and put a tube down his throat.

He lists in his claim injuries to his head, shoulder and knee and notes he has appointments with specialists for spine, for hands and ankles and for blood, as well as his primary physician.

Nelson also claims he was denied medical care while in jail and denied access to his medications. The Lewis County Jail is run by the sheriff’s office, not the police department.

Nelson was at the emergency room for several hours, where a doctor ordered a chest X-ray and CT scan because he was unconscious, according to police.

He was cited for several misdemeanors: disorderly conduct, obstructing a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. However, by the following morning he had allegedly pushed a hospital staff member who was attempting to discharge him, so he was booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree assault.

Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg said yesterday the police report was rather self-explanatory.

“Claims like this are routinely denied by our insurance carrier,” Berg stated in a written response. “Any comment beyond that would be inappropriate as potential litigation may arise from the incident.”