Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Salkum logging incident claims life of John B. Leonard

Friday, March 28th, 2014

John B. Leonard and his wife Linda Leonard at their Chehalis home. / Courtesy photo

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The logger injured by a large maple limb in Salkum yesterday has died.

John B. Leonard was well known in Lewis County, a logger all his life, according to a family friend.

He used to have J.B. Leonard Logging in Chehalis, Marlene Maki said.

He and her husband have known each for six decades, she said.

“John was 69, he acted like he was 39 years old,” Maki said. “He’d pack hay, he was full of life, that’s for sure.”

Lewis County Fire District 8 Chief Duran McDaniel said an investigator from the state Labor and Industries came out to the site yesterday and was to return today.

Firefighters were called just after 9 a.m. yesterday to acreage just north of the 2200 block of U.S. Highway 12 in between Kennedy Road and Sierra Drive, according to McDaniel.

Leonard was loaded into an ambulance and transported to the Salkum Fire station where they were met by a helicopter that flew him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

It was just two men working, according to McDaniel. At first it appeared vibrations from a logging shovel shook the limb loose, McDaniel said, but he has since come to understand it happened somewhat differently.

“It appears a falling tree caught a limb, and came back and got the poor gentleman,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel described the piece of wood as perhaps 6 inches in diameter, and 20 feet long, before the operator jumped down and  sawed the limb to get it removed from the man.

“The operator and the cutter were the best of friends,” he said.

A spokesperson for Labor and Industries said they are investigating a logging fatality in Lewis County, but had no further information this afternoon.

The death is the third from logging in Lewis County since the beginning of the year.

In mid-January, 63-year-old Alex Oberg, of Toledo, was killed while cutting timber alone in the Toledo area. The sheriff’s office said a tree fell onto Oberg as he was employing a “domino” tree falling technique.

Last month, 21-year-old Tyler Bryan, also from Toledo, was working north of Morton when – according to the initial information from the sheriff’s office – a log being pulled up a slope by a cable began spinning and struck him.

Prosecutors: Arsonist planned to continue lighting fires after leaving his burning bedroom

Monday, March 24th, 2014
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Jonathan P. Brown listens to defense lawyer Bob Schroeter after he is charged with arson, for the second time in less than five years.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Charging documents allege 26-year-old Jonathan P. Brown doused his bed and pillows with lamp oil before setting a fire while his mother and 87-year-old grandfather slept and then walked down the street with a lighter, intending to to start as many structure fires as he could before police found him.

Brown, 26, appeared in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon, charged with one count of first-degree arson in connection with the early yesterday morning events on the 3400 block of Prill Road in Centralia.

He’s been there before.

In 2009, the then-21-year-old pleaded guilty to a string of six fires and attempted fires in the Centralia area that caused or could have caused damage to buildings including a residence and a garage. He was sentenced to four and half years in prison.

Centralia police impounded his truck this weekend looking for evidence from an early morning fire on Saturday about a mile from his home that burned the front door area to an unoccupied house, according to court documents.

“I think he presents a distinct threat to public safety, a very grave one,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg told a judge this afternoon as he recommended a high amount for bail.

Brown, handcuffed and shackled at his waist and ankles, was represented by defense attorney Bob Schroeter.

Judge Richard Brosey set bail at $250,000 and signed no-contact orders regarding Brown’s mother and grandfather.

His mother was in the courtroom, but declined to comment.

Sunday’s fire was contained to the bedroom, but charging documents and the fire department give an account of what could have been deadly.

Brown’s mother, Deborah Brown, said she woke up to a fire alarm, went into her son’s room and found burning pillows atop a large chair.

She yelled for her son, she yelled for her father to wake up and tried to get a bowl of water from the kitchen tap, but found there was no water pressure, according to charging documents. She ran back to the bedroom, grabbed the pillows and managed to smother the flames, charging documents state.

She then woke up her father John Germeau who is hard of hearing and called 911. It was 5:40 a.m.

Deborah Brown suffered minor burns to her hand or hands.

The fires in May and early June almost five years ago included a detached garage on Ham Hill Road, and others such as the tarp covering a recreational vehicle and someone’s portable shed, Riverside Fire Authority Chief Jim Walkowski recalled this morning. Court documents indicate Centralia police investigated two fires on Prill Road and Brown admitted to an incident at the historic Borst Home.

Brown was arrested on June 2, and his lawyer Don Blair noted in court documents his defense at trial would include general denial, diminished capacity and potentially mental health issues. But by the end of July the former assistant manager at the Midway Cinema pleaded guilty. Judge Nelson Hunt gave him 54 months – the top of the standard sentencing range – plus some months of community custody.

He was ordered to pay restitution of almost $20,000 to an insurance company and $1,000 to an individual.

It’s not clear when Brown was released from prison. Centralia Police Department detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald said it was “recently”. A letter in his court file from the state Department of Corrections states he was terminated from community custody on May 7, 2012, as he was screened for it and found not eligible for supervision.

Charging documents in the current case say when Brown was interviewed at the jail by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Dan Riordan, Brown admitted starting the fire in his room.

“He then opened the window in the bedroom to let the fire breathe and to allow the smoke to exit the house to prevent the smoke alarm from being activated,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors allege he said he meant to burn the house to the ground, and knew it was a possibility his mother and grandfather could have been overcome by smoke and died.

When asked why, his answer was vague, but did relay he was upset with his mother over some personal issues, prosecutors wrote.

After starting the fire, he left the house, and walked down the street with his lighter, planning to start more fires until he was caught, he reportedly told the detective.

But his lighter broke, and he threw it into the brush.

He was detained yesterday morning on Mayberry Road  by a Centralia officer and K-9 partner, according to the sheriff’s office.

Brown’s arraignment is scheduled for Thursday morning. Judge Brosey appointed Blair to represent him again.

Centralian arrested for arson has previous arson convictions

Monday, March 24th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The 26-year-old Centralia man arrested for allegedly setting a fire in his bedroom while others in the home were sleeping early yesterday morning was arrested and convicted for arsons in the spring of 2009 in Centralia.

Jonathan P. Brown was released from prison and then subsequently from post-release community custody requirements in May 2012, according to authorities.

Centralia police confirmed they interviewed Brown in connection with a Saturday morning fire at an unoccupied house on Bengal Court, about a mile from his home.

Firefighters and deputies responding to the 5:40 a.m. incident yesterday at the 3400 block of Prill Road learned Brown’s 58-year-old mother awakened to a smoke alarm and discovered two pillows and a large chair burning in his room, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. She and an 87-year-old man residing there were able to escape, but the mother sustained minor burns to her hand putting the fire out, according to authorities.

Riverside Fire Authority Chief Jim Walkowski described the damage as confined to the bedroom. Brown was located yesterday not far from his home, on Mayberry Road by a Centralia officer and K-9 partner, according to the sheriff’s office.

Centralia Police Department detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald said he recalled the 2009 fires as similar in nature to the Bengal Court fire. Investigators found the area around the front door burning around 5:30 a.m. Saturday and also various scorch marks on the side of the house.

Brown was arrested yesterday for first-degree arson, domestic violence and booked into the Lewis County Jail, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

He is tentatively scheduled to go before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court at 4 p.m. today.


For background, read “Fire, law enforcement investigating two arsons in Centralia” from Sunday March 23, 2014, here

Fire, law enforcement investigating two arsons in Centralia

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

A firefighter cuts a hole through the exterior of a house on the 700 block of Bengal Court to ensure a fire is entirely extinguished on Saturday. / Courtesy photo by Riverside Fire Authority

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia man is in custody this morning after firefighters were called to a home where a burning pillow was taken out of a house by a woman who lives there.

She suffered a minor burn to her hand, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

The incident occurred at just about the same time early this morning as an arson attempt yesterday morning at a vacant house for sale about a mile away, Fire Chief Jim Walkowski said.

“At about 5:40 a.m. (today) we got called to a residential structure fire at the 3400 block of Prill Road, but while enroute, we were advised they had the fire out,” Walkowski said. “We found a fire intentionally set inside the house.”

The damage was limited to a bedroom, in the home occupied by three adults, one of whom was detained by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, according to the fire department.

The fire department and the sheriff’s office remain at the scene, conducting an investigation, Walkowski said. The other inhabitants had been sleeping, he said.

“Why? At this point no, we don’t know why he did that,” Walkowski said. “It’s very unfortunate.”

The fire department and law are still investigating a fire from yesterday morning at the 700 block of Bengal Court in which crews called about 5:23 a.m. found flames around the front door and quickly put it out.

Multiple attempts to ignite a fire there were found, with scorch marks discovered on the side of the house, according to the chief.

Centralia police brought a person in for questioning yesterday about that fire, Walkowski said. He declined to say if it was same man the sheriff’s office arrested this morning, saying it was something law enforcement would be able to better address.

The damage yesterday at Bengal Court was estimated at about $8,000, personnel remained on the scene about five hours, according to Walkowski.

It is not related to a residential fire on March 9 nearby on the 600 block of Bengal Court where at about 4:30 a.m. fire was discovered around a bathroom ceiling fan, according to the fire department. That was definitely electrical, the chief said.

Rochester resident was a suspected burglar, before fatal standoff

Friday, March 21st, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Derral Kenneth Mosby was wanted on two warrants, one in Lewis County and another out of Thurston County Superior Court.

But he also knew Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sgt. Rob Snaza wanted to talk with him about as many as five burglaries ranging from Vader, to Adna and into Rochester.


Derral Kenneth Mosby

“We thought he might be pawning stuff,” Snaza said. And he believed law enforcement in Thurston County wanted to talk with him as well, Snaza said.

At the end of February, a warrant was issued after the 36-year-old Rochester man failed to appear in court for a drug possession case in Thurston County. At about the same time, a trafficking in stolen property charge was filed in Lewis County Superior Court, alleging a pearl necklace Mosby gave his 6-year-old daughter came from a burglary on Penning Road west of Chehalis.

A Lewis County judge signed a $25,000 arrest warrant.

The web site for the TV show Washington’s Most Wanted featured him shortly after, when Lewis County shared on its Facebook page they would like tips on the whereabouts of the 6-foot 8-inch tall subject who frequented the Centralia area and had ties to Ridgefield.

A week ago, following a standoff at his parents home near Ridgefield, the wanted man was dead.

“Shots were fired and Mosby was struck,” the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said.

His former neighbor in Rochester hadn’t spoken a word to him in a year, since the two of them had a disagreement about suspicions of Mosby cutting wood from his property to sell, and Mosby punched him the face one day.

But, said Bryan Fisher who previously considered Mosby a best friend, he’ll take off work early tomorrow to attend the funeral.

Mosby, who went by Kenny, was good person with a good heart and a devoted father to his 6-year-old daughter, with a yard full of play equipment he’d made for her, according to Fisher.

He used to work as a millwright at Cascade Hardwood but after he lost his job, he battled depression, Fisher said.

He’d lost his younger brother and when his sister committed suicide last July, he just went off the deep end, Fisher said.

“He was a really great guy, a really talented ballplayer in high school; he went to W.F. West and graduated from Rochester,” he said. “Before the drugs got to him, he was a pretty loyal guy.”

Others in the Rochester neighborhood began to get leery about things getting stolen as well, according to Fisher.

“The guy didn’t work for three years, and managed to keep food on his table,” he said.

Mosby’s house was foreclosed on earlier this year, he said.

According to court documents, back in November, someone  kicked open a door at a home on Penning Road, west of Chehalis and took all the jewelry plus a camera from the master bedroom, but left two firearms in the bedroom closet.

Snaza said some of the other break-ins under investigation included similarly kicked in doors.

Court documents say a detective investigating a burglary on Clinton Road in Adna learned of a suspicious maroon truck and on Feb. 1, a deputy contacted Mosby in his maroon truck, parked in the middle of the night at state Route 6 and Schueber road .

Mosby said he couldn’t go home to Rochester, because of a retraining order involving ex-girlfriend, court documents state. He was talked to and let go, according to court documents.

Two weeks ago, law enforcement officers swarmed a rest area off Interstate 5, after, according to KATU TV in Portland, Mosby’s father called the state patrol, telling them his son had just called him and told him he was shot in the leg and was at the southbound Gee Creek rest area near Ridgefield.

Local law enforcement reached out to the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force, who helped look for Mosby that night, according to Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Eric Wahlstrom in Portland.

And U.S. Marshals continued to search for Mosby, Wahlstrom said.

There were no federal warrants, only the two from Lewis and Thurston counties, he said.

“We tend to be the ones who are available to sit and surveil places,” he said.

Wahlstrom said the reasons they considered Mosby armed and dangerous were because they had information from family and friends that he had access to firearms, that he had said he had been shot that day and that he could have been suicidal.

Some leads took law enforcement to Albany, Ore. and then it was U.S. Marshals who searched a barn last Friday in the Ridgefield area and subsequently discovered Mosby was at his parents home, according to Wahlstrom. They called the Clark County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, he said.

Sgt. Fred Neiman of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said that after attempts to get Mosby to peaceably surrender, Mosby emerged from the residence, armed with a firearm and confronted SWAT team members. Mosby was hit, and deceased before the ambulance could take him to a hospital, according to Neiman.

Exactly how many shots were fired or who fired them or other similar details have not been revealed. Neiman said all of that will be released after an investigation conducted by an outside law enforcement team. And then the county prosecutor will make a determination about if deadly force was justified, he said.

Six members of the sheriff’s office, along with a patrol supervisor from the Battleground Police Department were all placed on what Neiman called critical incident leave.

Neiman said it was common practice after any traumatic incident. The last time he could recall multiple officers being put on the paid leave from a single event was a shooting incident in 2008 or 2009, he said. It’s not a disciplinary action, but an opportunity to “decompress,” he said.

Fisher said it was about the same time as the manhunt at the rest area, he found Mosby’s home in Rochester surrounded by deputies from Thurston County. He spoke with them, he said.

Deputies did want to talk with Mosby about burglaries, Fisher said.

“Kenny did not want to be caught,” he said.


SWAT activity for wanted subject near Ridgefield on March 14. / Courtesy photo by Clark County Sheriff’s Office

The sun sets on House of the Rising Son

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Judy Chafin looks over sentencing documents with her lawyer Sam Groberg in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Chehalis woman who operated halfway houses in Lewis County for newly released prisoners and homeless persons is entirely done with that mission, she says.

Judy Chafin was sentenced yesterday morning to 30 days of house arrest, for a prescription drug possession offense she says was simply an oversight on her part.

As she nears the end of numerous actions against her from various governmental authorities, she says she feels horrible.

“I didn’t expect to have a felony at age 62,” Chafin said after leaving the courtroom. “I live like a Christian, so this is like a slap, a big slap.”

Chafin began to get a lot of attention from law enforcement and then city and county officials beginning about two years ago when residents on a rural Chehalis road complained they didn’t want multiple felons, especially registered sex offenders, living together under one roof in their neighborhood.

Chafin owned what she called the House of the Rising Son in Chehalis and managed other similar homes in Centralia and out in the county on Nix and Clark roads. Except for the Chehalis house, a former church, she sub-leased the rentals to people she found who needed assistance getting back on their feet after they’d done their time in prison.

She described the home owners as individuals who got tired of renting to drug addicts, and made her number one house rule as no drugs or alcohol.

The city of Chehalis and Lewis County began filing zoning and health code complaints against her facilities. Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield vowed to do everything he could to shut her down, including getting new ordinances crafted and writing a letter when he was able to find out who it was in the prison system who was working closely with Chafin.

Last spring, as Chehalis police investigated her ex-husband in connection with suspected sales of hydrocodone, they ended up arresting him and Chafin during a traffic stop.

She was charged with possession of seven and half pills of morphine, with delivery of drugs and with a forgery count. By the time her trial began last week, prosecutors had dismissed all but the possession charge. A jury found her guilty during the one-day trial in Lewis County Superior Court.

Defense attorney Sam Groberg told a judge yesterday his client is the primary caregiver for her infant great-grandchild and has no criminal history.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg told Judge Lawler that because there were so many allegations swirling around, he wanted to ask for a month-long sentence in the jail, but since Chafin has health issues he recommended instead two months of so-called electronic home monitoring.

“I’m aware the state had a lot of allegations, but those things were not proved, not charged,” Lawler said. “There’s no reason to treat this case differently than any other.”

What the jury heard at trial, was the bottle of hydrocodone in Chafin’s purse was prescribed to her. The morphine pills found in her purse had been in there for some months, and belonged to a former housemate.

Chafin said she called a probation officer on the housemate for misusing his medicine, and after he was taken to jail, the pills were left out in a common area. She scooped them up because she had a grandchild in the house, she said. And they ended up in the zipper part of her purse.

“That taught me a lesson, to never hold anything for anyone,” she said. “It shouldn’t be illegal to do something normal in your own home for safety.”

The attentions she’s gotten from police is all about her now ex-husband, she says.

“The thing is, I don’t do illegal drugs, I don’t sell illegal drugs,” she said.

Lawler also ordered Chafin to pay $3,500 in fees, be subject to community custody for one year after serving her time and to get a drug and alcohol evaluation and abide by its recommendations.

“You’ve probably figured this out, but you’re under a lot of scrutiny from law enforcement,” Lawler told her. “If anything is going on, you need to stop, you need to distance yourself from some people.”

She continues to live at the Chehalis home she owns, with family only, she said.

The various other houses are no longer operating and she quit her involvement in that mission months ago, she said. She chose not to fight the various zoning actions. She found places for the occupants, and prays for them every day, she said.

Chafin says she still feels its much safer for the community for registered sex offenders to have a roof over their head, as opposed to being turned out to the streets where they are more difficult to keep track of. Her zeal came from a relative who was victimized, she said.

“I believe the state needs to provide for that,” she said.

Still pending, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries announced in September that following an investigation, Chafin was charged with wrongly collecting benefits since 2006 for an on-the-job injury from when she was a caregiver at Tiffin House in Centralia.

Although she submitted claims stating she could not work, L and I contends Chafin was working when she operated the House of the Rising Son and other homes for released prisoners and homeless persons.

She remains charged with 30 counts of forgery and one count of first-degree theft.

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

Knife assault victims recovering in two Chehalis cases; suspects charged

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Sheldon J. Hardy, 40, of Chehalis, is charged with first-degree assault in connection with a Sunday incident with a knife on Southeast Dobson Court in Chehalis.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Both men stabbed in separate incidents in Chehalis over the weekend are listed in satisfactory condition at a Seattle hospital while their two alleged assailants remain held in the Lewis County Jail.

Michael Bylsma, 25, suffered a single stab wound to his chest on Saturday afternoon in the driveway of the home on Southeast 16th Street where he lives with his friend Kevin A.R. Dawkins.

Authorities say the two argued and fought while out to pizza at lunchtime and resumed the dispute as soon as they returned home.

The victim in Sunday’s late afternoon incident outside an apartment complex on Southeast Dobson Court, 19-year-old Andres F. Santiago, sustained a wound to his chest and a laceration across his lower lip, according to charging documents.

It happened during an alteration witnessed by several others, apparently over something said to Santiago’s 17-year-old pregnant girlfriend, charging documents indicate.

Sheldon J. Hardy, 40, who told police he’d told authorities he’d been drinking and done a few lines of methamphetamine, told police Santiago charged him, court documents state. Police described the two as neighbors.

Hardy was charged yesterday with first-degree assault and ordered held on $250,000 bail. Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey said he’d set it at $50,000 over the weekend, but after hearing more of the allegation’s details and learning Hardy’s criminal history, he would increase the amount.

Dawkins, 24, who appeared before the judge during the same late afternoon hearing, is held on $100,000 bail. He is charged with second-degree assault.

Second-degree assault carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; first-degree assault can mean lifetime incarceration.

Exactly why the two cases didn’t produce the same charge isn’t clear.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher one of his co-workers filed one of the cases and a second co-worker filed the other.

“Not all stabbings are equal,” Meagher said.

Recently hired Deputy Prosecutor Mark McLean mentioned to the judge Dawkins’ significant criminal history, noting two recent felonies and offenses such as burglary and theft.

In Hardy’s case, McLean listed seven past felony convictions such as drugs and forgery as well as two for third-degree assault going back as far as 1996.

In both cases, the weapon used was described by police as a kitchen-like knife with a blade of approximately four inches.

Both victims were treated at Providence Centralia Hospital.

Bylsma was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Saturday. Airlift was unavailable because of weather on Sunday so Santiago was transported there by ambulance.

Charging documents in Saturday’s incident don’t relay what Bylsma and Dawkins argued about, but cite a witness as saying the pair went into the residence on 16th Street for a short period and came back out yelling at each other.

David Graves, who had taken them to Sahara’s Pizza before the incident, told police he watched Bylsma walking backwards down the driveway with Dawkins walking towards him, and he saw Dawkins punch Bylsma in the chest and then drop a knife on the ground and leave the area, charging documents state in a two-page summary.

The five pages outlining why prosecutors believed they had probable cause for the charge in Sunday’s case don’t reveal a specific reason for the disagreement between Hardy and Santiago either.

One witness tells police Hardy came outside and said something to the 17-year-old girl that Santiago could hear and Santiago approached the two. Hardy was yelling at her as the two men came together and Hardy took up a fighting stance, the documents state.

The documents alleged Hardy took a swing and Santiago stopped fighting, and while his hands were down, Hardy hit him again in the face, both blows apparently with a knife in hand.

Another witness said he yelled at the suspect, who stopped what he was doing, charging documents state.

Fellow resident Michelle Gibson took Hardy back to his apartment and was yelling, “I told you guys what would happen,” charging documents state.

Gibson told police Hardy had exhibited behavior and violence issues in the past, once pulling a knife on her, according to the charging documents.

She said she thought his behavior on Sunday afternoon  was because he’d been evicted earlier that day, for similar issues, according to charging documents.

Both men in both cases will go before a judge on Thursday for their arraignments.

For background, read “Breaking news: Young man hospitalized after stabbing in Chehalis” from Sunday March 16, 2014, here


Kevin A.R. Dawkins, 24, of Chehalis, is charged with second-degree assault in connection with a Saturday incident with a knife on Southeast 16th Street in Chehalis.

Young mother who allowed abusive punishment of son pleads guilty to lesser charge

Monday, March 17th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Winlock mother of a 4-year-old boy who was abused by her live-in boyfriend will avoid jail time herself if she follows through with parenting classes and abides by other court ordered restrictions.

Ryon T. Connery, 31, was arrested at the end of November after the boy was found with numerous bruises and injuries and detectives learned of punishments inflicted such getting sprayed with a hose while forced to do pushups for various infractions such as wetting his pants and stealing food in the home.

Connery pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree child assault and was sentenced last month to 16 months in prison.

A soon as he was convicted, prosecutors charged the 23-year-old mother, Heather L. McNurlin, as an accomplice, contending she was present when the abuse was inflicted, and some of it was even her idea. The little boy was taken out of the home McNurlin and Connery shared and placed with his grandmother.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Joely O’Rourke said she and defense attorney Don Blair reached an agreement with a lesser charge of attempted assault of a child in the third degree, or conspiracy to commit the offense.

“She pleaded guilty, she didn’t get any jail time, but she’s on very extensive probation for the next two years,” O’Rourke said this afternoon.

O’Rourke said she thinks it’s in the best interest for the boy that his mother continue with parenting classes. They were already ordered by a family court judge in a separate action, as part of McNurlin’s requirements to regain custody of the boy, she said.

“She was really not the principle concern in that case, it was Mr. Connery,” O’Rourke said.

When the child was brought to the hospital at the end of November, he had a broken finger he said occurred when he dropped a weight on it, a scraped nose he said was from falling on his face trying to get away from a spanking and he spoke of being dunked in a dirty outdoor pool, according to charging documents.

A doctor who reviewed the case opined the youngster was malnourished and was the victim of starvation as well as abuse, both mentally and physically, according to the documents.

The mother said she and Connery had been in a dating relationship about four months. The abuse occurred between last July and into November, according to court documents.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt agreed with the lawyers’ recommendation and sentenced McNurlin on Thursday to 364 days in jail, suspended for 24 months as long as she complies with court ordered requirements such as the classes.

She was also ordered to pay various fines and fees and is prohibited from having any contact with Connery.

Breaking news: Young man hospitalized after stabbing in Chehalis

Sunday, March 16th, 2014


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – For the second time in two days, a male was stabbed in the chest during a dispute in Chehalis.

The victim this afternoon is a 19-year-old who suffered apparently non-life-threatening injuries, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

Firefighters were called just before 5 p.m. to 600 block of Southeast Dobson Court, but just as the ambulance was pulling out, a car pulled up to the fire station with the victim inside, Fire Capt. Kevin Curfman said.

“Friends, or family, had driven him here,” Curfman said.

Medics and the engine returned to the station, the patient was treated, bandaged and transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to Curfman.

The fire captain said he subsequently got word from medics after they returned from the hospital that the young man’s vitals were good and his wounds somewhat superficial.

Chehalis Police Department Officer Chris Taylor later said the victim was transported by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, but did not know his condition.

Police arrested a resident of the apartment complex, Sheldon Hardy, 40 years old, for first-degree assault, according to Taylor.

Detectives are working on working out what the disagreement was about, Taylor said.

The 19-year-old is from Chehalis, although it wasn’t clear yet if he lived at the complex or was staying there with others, Taylor said.

Police and aid yesterday afternoon responded to a dispute in progress at a residence on Southeast 16th Street where a 25-year-old Chehalis man suffered a single stab wound to his chest.

Taylor said he believed that victim was airlifted to Harborview, and as of about 10 o’clock last night was stable, but in the intensive care unit.

A 24-year-old friend who lives at the same home, Kevin Dawkins, was taken into custody without incident at the scene and jailed for first-degree assault.

In both cases, the weapon used is described as a kitchen-like knife with a blade of approximately four inches, according to police.

Jury finds woman guilty in Centralia marijuana store case

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The woman who secured a business license for the short-lived Hub City Natural Medicine was convicted yesterday of maintaining a building for controlled substances purposes.

A jury in Lewis County Superior Court took only about a half hour to find Lauri Spangler guilty, Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meager said.

Last spring, her trial on the same charge ended in a hung jury after about five hours of deliberations.

Spangler was charged in September 2012 in connection with what the city of Centralia said was an illegal marijuana dispensary, which was raided and shut down soon after it appeared on Tower Avenue the year before.

The storefront opened in early 2011 with a city-granted business license, one that slid past officials with a description of its nature as “education and sales of natural medicine.”

Police Chief Bob Berg’s initials were among those placed on the application as it went through the approval process, although jurors were told Berg authorized someone in his department to affix his initials to such paperwork.

Judge Nelson Hunt presided over the two-day trial.

Spangler was the only one of four individuals in the case to go to trial. The others’ cases have been settled with plea agreements.

Voters decriminalized recreational use of marijuana for those over 21 at the end of 2012, and the state is currently the midst of issuing business licenses to growers, processors and retailers.

Meagher said the standard sentencing range for Spangler’s offense is between one year and a day up to 20 months in prison.

Spangler appeared in court briefly this afternoon to set a date for sentencing, but her lawyer was unavailable, so she will return next Thursday to set a date.

For background, read about the 2013 trial, “Centralia marijuana store case goes to trial” from Wednesday May 15, 2013, here

Police: Angry mom’s message said she would shoot everyone at the grade school

Friday, March 7th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The voice mail message was alarming.

To the White Pass Elementary School secretary: “Sorry Chris, but I’m going to f****** shoot everybody that goes to your f****** school, works there.”

So say prosecutors about the mother whose 7-year-old son was dropped off by a school bus driver in a neighborhood not his own earlier this week.

Cheryl A. Strong, 48, of Packwood, was arrested yesterday morning after school officials heard the message and placed the school into lockdown. She was charged today in Lewis County Superior Court with harassment, threats to kill, a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Strong’s significant other said the household is in the process of moving from a home on U.S. Highway 12 to another about seven miles away up in the High Valley neighborhood. But they hadn’t moved yet, James Taylor said.

After school on Wednesday, he and Strong were home and saw the school bus pass by, but it didn’t stop, he said.

They thought maybe the bus driver was taking the child to the open gym program in town so they drove there and found he wasn’t there. They ultimately found the little boy wandering in the High Valley, he said.

The child said he told the driver that wasn’t where he was supposed to get off, but the bus driver told him to get off the bus, he said.

“I was just walking down the street, cause the driver said, it’s down the street,” the boy said.

Taylor said Strong is very protective of her only child, but her bark is worse than her bite.

“Cheryl sometimes she spouts off, but she wouldn’t hurt a fly,” he said.

The former grocery store clerk has lived in Packwood about nine years.

Yesterday morning, when she learned the school was on lockdown, she phoned to see about coming to pick up her son, according to charging documents.

She was told to come on in, but unaware a deputy was waiting for her vehicle to approach, a deputy who took her into custody just before 11 a.m.. She didn’t have a gun, according to court documents.

Strong denied calling the school or leaving a threat on its voice mail; but eventually told the deputy she didn’t mean anything she said and guessed she need to be more careful in the future, according to charging documents.

Her bail was set at $15,000 this afternoon, but she won’t be released as a no-bail hold was placed on her in connection with an unrelated case in Lewis County District Court.

The reason for the hold was her arrest yesterday was a violation of her conditions of release pending sentencing for reckless endangerment, an offense to which she pleaded guilty related to a single-vehicle wreck in August.

Her arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday.

“Do-over” on drive-by shooting sentence yields no change for Centralian

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Court benches are crowded with supporters of now-23-year-old Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. this morning.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt found no merit in any of the arguments that he should reduce the nearly 93 year sentence he imposed on a former Centralia High School student convicted of a 2007 drive-by shooting in which nobody was killed.

Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. was 16 years old when gunfire was sprayed along the east side of South Tower Avenue in Centralia, missing six bar patrons. Witnesses testified it was gang-related. Solis-Diaz maintained he was innocent.

“The sentence is precisely what the legislature intended,” Hunt said.

Solis-Diaz was back in court this morning, because the state Court of Appeals ordered the local court to conduct a new hearing, referencing various matters that should have been handled more thoroughly, given that he was a juvenile. 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.

Hunt listened to both attorneys, a juvenile psychologist and even the defendant before making his pronouncement.

“The sentence will remain unchanged, 1,111 months,” Hunt said.

The judge criticized the appeals court decision calling some of their conclusions insulting and ludicrous. He defended the original court-appointed attorney, whom the appeals judges said made a number of choices at sentencing that no reasonable attorney would have.

None of the mitigating factors raised by Solis-Diaz’s current lawyer are legally sufficient, Hunt said.

About 40 individuals looked on, many wearing T-Shirts in support of the convict, including Solis-Diaz’s mother.

“I’m not here to beg for mercy for Mr. Solis-Diaz,” defense attorney Robert Quillian told the judge. “He did what he did.”

But this is no homicide case, he said.

Quillian pointed out documents provided to the judge before this morning’s court session in which he offered a number of grounds for an exceptional sentence downward.

He asked the judge to re-sentence his client to 15 years.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh recommended the same sentence Solis-Diaz got the first time.

Soliz-Diaz was tried as an adult at the end of 2007 and convicted of multiple offenses, including one count of first-degree assault for each bullet that was fired.

The six assault counts were ordered to be served consecutively and each carried a mandatory extra five years because they were committed with a firearm. The sentence given was at the high end of the standard range.

Solis-Diaz, now 23, has been residing in the Lewis County jail for more than a year, awaiting today’s hearing.

He took the judge up on his offer to speak today, saying he’s not perfect and never has been, and pointed out some of the educational accomplishments he’s made since being locked up.

“Let me show you I can be rehabilitated,” he said.

The red jail garb clad young man told the judge he prays every night, thanking God nobody got hurt. And he thanked the judge for having incarcerated him

“If I wasn’t locked up, I’d have been dead years ago,” he said.

Hunt included in his remarks that the changes in sentencing made by the state legislature were specifically to move away from rehabilitation and give more weight to accountability.

The legislative intent was expressively to curb gun violence among youth, Hunt said.

“The legislative intent is clear,” he said. “Serious violent crimes will be punished severely and older teens will be treated as adults,” he said.

Hunt said he knew he could have given an exceptional sentence downward, and chose not to.

One of the purposes of sentencing is to send a message to others, he said. And it worked in Centralia, according to Hunt.

“From the day this sentence was pronounced, there have been no similar crimes,” he said.

Quillian filed a notice of appeal.

Beigh noted she was scheduling a review hearing in 15 years, on March 5, 2029, in light of potential changes in state law.

The legislature is looking at allowing offenders who committed their crimes when under age 18 to petition the indeterminate sentencing board for release after 20 years, Beigh said.

Prosecutor clears officer in Elm Street fatal shooting

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer has concluded a Centralia police officer’s fatal shooting of a 48-year-old man last month in the side yard of a house on  Elm Street was justified.

Officer Phil Weismiller, 34, was placed on administrative leave after the Feb. 13 encounter in which Joseph R. Wharton died.


Elm Street side yard

In a letter released Friday by Meyer describing his legal analysis to the lead investigator in the case, Meyer outlines a scenario that began when another officer wanted to talk with Wharton who he saw walking toward the back of a closed coffee shop in the middle of the night and ended a few blocks away a few moments later with Weismiller firing eight shots.

Wharton had a knife in his hand, had just unsuccessfully attempted to scale a fence, they were 13 feet apart and Wharton turned on Weismiller in an aggressive manner, according to Meyer.

“Officer Weismiller was left with no choice, but to employ the use of deadly force,” Meyer wrote.

Thurston County Sheriff’s Office detective Cameron Simper was the lead investigator.

Prosecutor Meyer notes he is authorizing the return of Weismiller’s service weapon to him.

Weismiller has been returned to restricted duty, according to Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg.

An internal use of force review board will convene on Monday to ascertain if the officer’s actions were within departmental policy, according to Berg.

In a formal statement issued today, Berg said he appreciates the swift review from the prosecutor and that his department sends its condolences to Wharton’s family for their loss.

“It is unfortunate and sad for all involved that a life was lost,” Berg wrote. “All of us have family and friends and the taking of a life shatters all of that. Having said that, I am thankful for the service of my officers, knowing the potential danger they face each and every day.”

More to come.


Meanwhile, read Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer’s analysis here

For background, read “Police shooting: Former Oakville man died from multiple gunshots” from Friday February 14, 2014, here

Breaking news: Human remains found on TransAlta property

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

A Centralia area man walking his dog yesterday discovered a partial skeleton on property off Little Hanaford Road. / Image by Google maps

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Detectives are investigating skeletal remains discovered in a wooded area east of Centralia, suspected to have been dumped there.

A call to 911 was made at approximately 5:23 p.m. last night from a resident in the area who located the partial human remains while walking his dog, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The property near the 2800 block of Little Hanaford Road is wooded, close to the roadway, and owned by Trans Alta, according to the sheriff’s office.

Search and rescue teams are assisting with an area search this morning, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown stated in a news release.

“It is believed by investigators, at this point, that the remains were dumped,” Brown states. Gender, age, and ethnicity of the remains are not known at this time, she says.

The remains will be sent to King County to be examined by a forensic pathologist who has expertise in identifying human remains.

Brown says detectives will await further information from the forensic pathologist and will then check missing person data bases.

More will be released as it becomes known, according to the sheriff’s office.

Deputy Sgt. Snaza kicks off campaign for sheriff of Lewis County

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Rob Snaza addresses a large gathering this morning in Chehalis as fundraising begins in earnest for his campaign to be elected sheriff.

Updated at 9:24 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – While Deputy Sgt. Rob Snaza announced via Facebook nearly a year ago he was running for sheriff of Lewis County, his campaign kick off breakfast this morning attracted some 150 individuals.

Current Sheriff Steve Mansfield told the crowd he endorsed him; his twin brother Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza introduced him.

Snaza told those assembled at the Lewis County Veterans Museum in Chehalis one of his three focuses will be rooting out career criminals.

“I’m going to go after those individuals dealing drugs and committing burglaries,” he said.

Mansfield spoke of the sergeant’s passion for making felony arrests – having been involved in more of them than any other deputy during Mansfield’s time with the office, Snaza spoke of carrying out requests by the sheriff to track people down.

“I’ve had to tell these people, I do not want you in this community, if you don’t want to be a true comitter,” Snaza said.

Mansfield called Snaza a responsible, respectful, fair and caring person who has been preparing himself for the post. Mansfield said he’s already been sharing some of the ins and outs of the position with him. And he offered a thought about the role of the sheriff.

“People don’t really care how much you know in this job, they only want to know you care,” Mansfield said.

Snaza’s other areas of interest should he be elected will be continuing to provide a no-frills jail and community partnerships, wanting to be in the schools, in the neighborhoods and involved with business and community leaders, he said.

Snaza is the SWAT leader and also the supervisor of the  Lewis County Regional Crime Task Force. He’s also one of three elected persons on the board of commissioners for Lewis County Fire District 5 in Napavine, where he says he’s learned about budgeting.

Earlier this month, he was one of two deputies to be presented with Mansfield’s new Guardian Award.

“If you can find someone more passionate, I want to meet him,” Rob Snaza said.

Snaza is running as a Republican. His brother, who ran as an Independent in 2010 in Thurston County, is running now for a second term.

He asked for the support of those gathered. Mark Anders of the Lewis County Republicans asked for their contributions.

Records filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicate a little more than $6,000 cash raised on behalf of Sgt. Snaza’s candidacy since he registered last June.

Snaza is the chair of the Citizens to Elect Rob Snaza, his wife Jennie Snaza is the vice-chair and the treasurer is listed as Debbie Hamilton of Chehalis.

Eighty-year-old twins succumb to exhaust fumes in garage

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Updated at 4:25 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Two elderly twin brothers died last night of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning from working on a vehicle inside a garage south of Chehalis.

The wife of one of them returned home from a neighbor’s, found the men lying unconscious on the floor inside the garage and called 911, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The men were twins, 80 years old. One was visiting from Rainier, Washington, according to the sheriff’s office.

Lewis County Fire District 5 responding about 6:15 p.m. to 100 block of Ironwood Court found one patient semi conscious and the other unconscious with two or three bystanders performing CPR on him, Chief Eric Linn said.

They were joined by members of Lewis County Fire District 6 and Lewis County Medic One, he said. While some responders took over CPR on the one brother, others treated his sibling and put him on oxygen, Linn said.

Both were transported by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital.

William Schofield, of Chehalis, was pronounced dead at the hospital. His brother was transferred  to Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle where he passed away about 3:15 a.m. today, according to authorities.

Linn said a woman suffering anxiety or heart problems believed due to secondary stress was transported to the hospital as well.

Carbon monoxide is created in combustion fumes from gas engines and from other sources such as gas appliances or burning charcoal or wood. People and animals can be poisoned by breathing it, with fatality highest among persons 65 years and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Linn said the ultimate treatment is a decompression chamber, something not found in Lewis County.

“We support the patient the best we can but the definitive treatment is what’s going to make a difference,” he said.

It happened in the Newaukum Village golf course community, Linn said.

The men had been working on the exhaust manifold of an antique car, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. Responders said all the doors had been closed. Firefighters’ detectors indicated high levels of carbon monoxide inside.

Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield issued a statement saying how tragic and sad the incident was, urging the public to purchase and use inexpensive carbon monoxide alarms.

“These brothers were simply working on a car together and ended up dying from a silent killer,” Mansfield stated in a news release.

The CDC warns to never run a car or truck in a garage with the garage door closed, as carbon monoxide can build up quickly.

The name of the brother from Rainier isn’t expected to be released by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office before tomorrow.

The CDC offers information about carbon monoxide poisoning’s symptoms and ways to prevent it, here


For more, see

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly reflect the hospital in Seattle to which one brother was taken. The sheriff’s office erroneously reported he died at another hospital.

Deaths of Napavine pair remain unsolved

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Authorities say the two individuals found dead inside their Napavine home are Cheryl Ausland, 50, and her 59-year-old brother Robert Collier, but they don’t know yet how they died.

An autopsy was set for today and this afternoon, Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod reports the cause and manner of death won’t be determined until he gets the results of toxicology tests.

That can take eight to 10 weeks.

The sheriff’s office is still investigating, after two co-workers of Ausland went to her home on East Stella Street on Tuesday morning to check on her when she didn’t show up for work. They found the pair deceased.

There were no signs of a struggle or obvious lethal injuries, leaving detectives to wait for information from the autopsy.

A spokesperson for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office says they haven’t ruled out anything.

“I wish toxicology test were instant, so we could say,” Cmdr. Steve Aust said. “Quite frankly, I think toxicology is going to answer those questions.”

Aust said the tests would basically be looking for alcohol, drugs or some other substance that could have led to the deaths, and that they aren’t suspecting poisoning.

When detectives believe the two died is something they won’t release, Aust said.

Ausland had been at work in recent days, and Collier was unemployed, according to Aust.

“We’re still investigating who was the last person to have seen him and when,” he said.

Centralia police: Drug house cleared out by SWAT team

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Two people are arrested when police visit home on South Pearl Street in Centralia. / Courtesy photo by Rachael Estrada

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia police and their SWAT team served a search warrant looking for drugs yesterday afternoon at a house on the 800 block of South Pearl Street and arrested a resident for maintaining a building for drug purposes.

Rebecca J. Higgins, 41, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police. A second person was arrested for an unrelated felony warrant.

About a dozen officers descended on the home about 4:30 p.m., along with their armored rescue vehicle, according to police. Sgt. James Shannon.

The armored carrier is is used with all their SWAT operations, Shannon said, for an extra measure of safety because they never know who might be present. Shannon said there were about six people in the home, but described the events that unfolded as ordinary.

“We knocked on the door, asked them to come out and they did,” he said.

Detectives recovered a small amount of suspected methamphetamine during their search, according to Shannon.

Higgins was arrested for also for possession of meth and delivery of a controlled substance in a school zone, according to police. The delivery count is related to what police called a controlled buy conducted within the past week at the house, according to Shannon.

Higgins also has other controlled substance violations pending in Lewis County Superior Court.

Federal suit against deputy in Napavine shooting dismissed

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Updated at 8:11 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The lawsuit against former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matt McKnight regarding the fatal shooting of an unarmed Napavine man was dismissed by a judge, meaning no trial will take place.

Steven V. Petersen, 33, died after a brief standoff on a city street on the night of June 20, 2011, when deputies responded to a report Petersen had tried to get inside a former girlfriend’s home and was armed with a knife.

A federal judge issued a summary judgment in favor of Lewis County and the deputy on Thursday. The Lewis County Board of Commissioners were notified this morning.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton wrote that even though the reasonableness of McKnight’s use-of-force could not be determined at this stage in the litigation, McKnight is entitled to qualified immunity and all Petersen’s other claims fail as a matter of law.

McKnight was cleared by an internal review and the county prosecutor concluded his use of deadly force was justified in mid-2011. He has since gone to work for the Chehalis Police Department.

The civil trial however, had been set to begin at the end of this month in Tacoma, although it recently had been postponed.

The civil lawsuit was filed in October 2012 by Petersen’s father, on behalf of the dead man’s 10-year-old son. His lawyers called it a ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ approach to law enforcement, faulting McKnight for choosing to engage in a confrontation before backup arrived.

The attorneys representing the deputy and the county said it was a split-second decision to shoot out of fear for the safety of himself and neighboring residents during a rapidly unfolding situation.

It was about 2 a.m. when the deputy encountered Petersen near the intersection of West Vine Street and Second Avenue. The interaction lasted one minute and 11 seconds; the two were 20 to 25 feet apart, the judge wrote.

Petersen paced back and forth, ignored the deputy’s orders to take his hand out of his sweatshirt pocket and then refused to get on the ground.

It came to an end when McKnight shot him four times because he thought Petersen was charging towards him and was going to stab him, according to the judge. As it turned out, Petersen didn’t have a knife.

A summary judgement is appropriate when viewing the facts in the most favorable light to the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact which would preclude it as a matter of law, according to Leighton.

Judge Leighton writes an officer is entitled to qualified immunity unless the right he or she allegedly violated was clearly established at the time of the alleged misconduct.

“Plaintiff cited no analogous cases to support his assertion that the law was clearly established such that McKnight was on notice that his conduct would violate Steven’s (Fourth Amendment) rights,” Leighton writes.

Other claims that were dismissed as a matter of law, were the municipal liability, the child’s 14th Amendment right to the companionship of his father and negligence.

A counterclaim by the defendants of malicious prosecution was also dismissed, because Petersen had a good-faith basis for the lawsuit, according to Leighton.

The complaint sought an unspecified amount of damages, but the claim that preceded it asked for as much as $10 million.

Lewis County RIsk Manager Paulette Young told county commissioners this morning she thought the most that had ever been paid out on behalf of the county was a case involving about $365,000 many years ago.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield issued a statement calling the decision fortunate.

“I am pleased with the findings,” Mansfield stated. “Although I am truly saddened Mr. Petersen lost his life, the facts are what they are.”

Judge Leighton although he concluded he could not resolve a question of fact in his summary judgement outlined what a jury could have been faced with answering.

A reasonable jury could conclude it was unreasonable for McKnight to shoot the man that he thought was armed with a knife who was 20 to 25 feet away without first warning him he would be shot, Leighton wrote.

However, a reasonable jury could also conclude the McKnight reasonably perceived a threat to his own safety based on all the circumstances and that he had to react immediately before Petersen was close enough to attack, he wrote.


Read the judge’s order granting summary judgement, here

For background, read “Lethal force case against sheriff’s deputy ready for trial” from Wednesday February 5, 2014, here

Breaking news: Two found dead in Napavine home

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

The sheriff’s office awaits a warrant to re-enter the home and begin investigating two deaths. / Courtesy photo by Teona Kinswa

Updated at 5:43 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is on the scene this morning where two individuals were discovered dead inside a home.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield said a friend of the 50-year-old woman who resides at the house on the 100 block of East Stella Street came by to check because the woman didn’t show up for work.

She found the woman, and a man, 60 years old, deceased, he said.

“We don’t know what we have here yet, I can’t tell you if it’s a suicide or a homicide,” Mansfield said.

Deputies responded about 8:50 a.m. They are not out looking for any suspect, he said.

There were no signs of a struggle and nothing at this point to suggest the community is in danger because of what occurred there, Mansfield said.

Responders found no obvious signs of lethal injury or forced entry into the house, according to the sheriff’s office.

Across the street neighbor Teona Kinswa said the two moved into the house less than six months ago. She didn’t know them, she said.

Kinswa said she woke up about 9:15 a.m. and saw out her window 10 to 12 police cars and yellow tape around the property.

“A sheriff came and asked me if we heard anything last night or this morning,” she said. She didn’t.

Mansfield said arriving deputies checked inside and then stepped out to wait for a warrant to go back inside the premises. He wouldn’t say where in the residence the pair were located.

Detectives will be processing the scene and investigating to find out what happened, he said.

The home is inside the Napavine city limits, but the Napavine officer was not on duty, according to the sheriff’s office. Sheriff’s detectives are assisting local police by conducting the investigation because of its complexity, the sheriff’s office states.

Autopsies are scheduled for Thursday. Investigators will be waiting for their conclusions and the results of toxicology tests to determine the cause and manner of the deaths.

The names of the individuals have not been released, only that they are related and both lived in the home.