Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Crane Street fire outside Tenino under control

Monday, August 11th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A wild fire that started about two miles southeast of Tenino yesterday afternoon was contained last night but personnel from the  state Department of Natural Resources are at the fire station this morning and likely will be utilizing one of the school buildings as a base to support further work on that parcel and also on another fire that flared up yesterday evening.

Thurston County Fire District 12 was called about 3:11 p.m. to unimproved property at the 17200 block of Crane Street Southeast, on Bluemauer Hill for a brush fire reported to be about five feet by five feet, according to District 12 Battalion Chief Jim Fowler .

“Within just a few minutes, it was a 10-acre fire,” Fowler said this morning.

Members of nine other fire departments joined them, to work on extinguishing grass, brush, trees and other vegetation, he said.

By about 7:30 p.m., an eight-foot wide path was bulldozed around it, he said.

A shack and two vehicles on the 40-acre parcel burned, according to Fowler.

Crews arrived from as far away as Napavine to protect homes as close as 300 feet away, he said.

Fowler said the property previously belonged to a timber company, and he believes it now belongs to a man who uses it for outdoor parties, one of which began Friday night and went into Saturday night, he said.

The scene was turned over to DNR about 8 p.m.

Fowler said it grew to about 13 acres. A spokesperson from DNR last night described at around 20 acres.

Members of Tenino’s District 12 are assisting DNR with mopup there this morning, he said.

“Then of course there’s the threat of lightning over the next couple of days, so I think they’re going to stay,” Fowler said of DNR.

DNR is working a second fire that began last night about a mile to the east of the Crane Street fire, off Johnson Creek Road Southeast, at a gravel pit on timberland owner by Weyerhaeuser, according to Fowler.

A 10-person DNR hand crew is out there this morning “limbing” trees, he said. Fowler this morning said he understood that fire covered about six acres. It’s an area where there are no homes and can’t be accessed by trucks, he said.

Fowler has a DNR level three incident management team with him this morning at the fire station, and noted he understood the wildfire in Shelton that also began yesterday afternoon is pretty much out.

Timber ignites near clear-cut area west of Centralia

Sunday, August 10th, 2014
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Smoke from Teague Road fire viewed from Albany Street in Rochester. / Courtesy photo by Deb Meyers

Updated at 7:44 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Three large wildfires ignited this afternoon in Southwest Washington, all about the same time including west of Centralia and near Tenino, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

A fire off Teague Road in north Lewis County was reported to Riverside Fire Department about 3:10 p.m.

A spokesperson for DNR said it is burning in 40-year-old timber and threatening structures. Janet Pearce said she didn’t know if that meant homes or outbuildings.

The state agency has air resources on that fire, Pearce said.

Near Crane Road in Tenino, a brush fire has covered about 20 acres and also is threatening structures, according to Pearce. One structure and two vehicles had been lost before 7:30 p.m., according to a tweet from DNR

A third fire in Shelton is threatening the Simpson Lumber Mill, Pearce said about 7 o’clock this evening.

Riverside Fire Authority which protects Centralia and its surrounding area tweeted the brush fire began about three miles past the end of Teague Road in a clear-cut area and as of 6 p.m. had grown to 25 acres.

Ryan Weaver of Napavine said he and a friend went to visit a buddy on Deep Creek Road in Adna and as they were leaving, smelled smoke.

They took the logging road that goes to Teague Road and about halfway there, found a slash pile burning, Weaver said. Roughly two acres around it were on fire and spreading fast, so they called 911, he said.

Weaver said a plane was circling overhead and they warned a man who was out shooting a gun there was fire.

Riverside Fire Authority Firefighter-paramedic Chris Layton said there was no way to know this early how or why a slash pile was burning during the burn ban.

RFA’s public information officer notes fire managers are asking the public to stay clear of the area, as traffic is creating problems in the area on logging roads.

DNR tweeted at about 7:18 p.m. that 10 acres in grass and brush were burning in the Johnson Creek are of south Thurston County.

More information to come.

Meanwhile, follow comments, photos and updates from readers on Lewis County Sirens Facebook page.

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A burning slash pile is discovered off a logging road beyond Teague Road about 3 p.m. today. / Courtesy photo by Ryan Weaver

 

On the run: Lewis County deputies seeking three in connection with large-scale fuel theft

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The man arrested when deputies found a variety of items at a property in Doty linking him to the theft of about $6,000 in fuel from a Silver Creek gas station has disappeared, and it seems he’s not who he said he was.

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John Lewis, aka Jason A. Lewis

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office was investigating a nighttime incident captured on surveillance cameras at the Texaco when they searched property at the 100 block of Elk Creek Road in Doty late last month. They turned up a half dozen plug-in access keypads used to override gasoline pumps, plus a canopied pickup truck with darkened windows which held two large fuel tanks, a portable pump and a nozzle.

A man identified as Jason A. Lewis, 47, was found near a recreational vehicle parked inside a barn and tried to run, but was detained and subsequently charged with  first-degree theft, first-degree trafficking in stolen property and possession of methamphetamine, according to court documents.

His bail was set at $20,000 when he went before a judge, in part because prosecutors believed he had an extensive criminal history in California, under a different name.

Last week, detectives concluded he was actually John Lewis, that he was using his brother’s name, and that he had fraudulent identification for it.

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Harold E. Lusk

On Wednesday, detective Dan Riordan said Lewis bailed out of jail, and they were looking for him for identity theft. Riordan believed Lewis and his girlfriend would be traveling in the motorhome he had previously parked in the Doty barn. It’s a 1994 Mountain Air, registered to his brother, according to the detective.

Lewis didn’t show up for his scheduled court hearing on Thursday, where he and his court-appointed attorney were expected to appear for his arraignment on the original charge.

The sheriff’s office says Lewis may accompanied by his girlfriend, Jodi Hamer.

They are asking for help in locating him.

Lewis is one of three people charged on Aug. 1 in connection with the July 28 theft of about 1,600 gallons of fuel, including regular unleaded gasoline, highway diesel and off-road diesel.

Also charged were 28-year-old Harold E. Lusk who resides on the Elk Creek property, and Raymond T. Hankins, 48, from Yelm.

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Alyssa J. Hanson

This past Wednesday, authorities charged Lusk’s girlfriend, 20-year-old Alyssa J. Hanson with trafficking in stolen property and possession of methamphetamine.

Charging documents state Hanson spoke with detectives when the property was searched and she acknowledged she and Lusk split their time between living in a travel trailer there and the house, both places in which suspected meth was found. She allegedly said Lusk acquired fuel and that she and him distributed it to others from the Elk Creek Road property, according to court documents.

The case began to come together when deputies recognized two faces and a license plate on the surveillance video, put together with an earlier tip from an unnamed person who told law enforcement Lusk and his associates had been stealing large amounts of gasoline from local gas stations.

The unnamed individual also said Lusk and a man from California who was hiding in Lusk’s barn in a trailer were cooking methamphetamine for sale. No mention was made in Lewis’s charging documents of of meth-making materials located during the search.

However, according to court documents, numerous containers of gasoline, including a 55-gallon drum of it were discovered.

Lusk’s warrant includes four counts of unlawful possession of firearms, in connection with guns found that day.

Detectives thought Hanson and Lusk may still be in Lewis County, or may have been planning to leave the state.

Meanwhile, Hankins was picked up on his warrant in Thurston County, and bailed out, but appeared out-of-custody in Lewis County Superior Court on Thursday. Judge James Lawler allowed Hankins to remain free on the $25,000 bail he posted.

His arraignment is set for this coming Thursday.

The sheriff’s office asks anyone with information on the whereabouts of Lusk, Hanson or Lewis to phone them at 360-748-9286 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-748-6422 if they wish to remain anonymous or earn a reward.

•••

For background, read “Sheriff’s Office: Large scale gasoline stealing operation uncovered” from Friday August 1, 2014, here

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Raymond T. Hankins, 48, is represented by defense attorney Bob Schroeter when he appears before a judge on Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court  to hear the charges against him.
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Lewis County sheriff’s detectives share this photo of a 1994 Mountain Air – with a fox emblem – similar to the one John Lewis may be driving.

Primary election: Centralia area fire department gains support for increased taxes

Friday, August 8th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Three days after the primary election and after the counting today of further ballots that arrived in the mail, Riverside Fire Authority Chief Mike Kytta said he thinks now he can say the levy has passed.

The fire department that protects Centralia and its surrounding area asked citizens to consider a new maintenance and operations levy, to supplement a steeply declining budget.

Just over 65 percent of voters said yes, according to a second tally conducted today by election officials.

The estimated levy rate is 49 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value and will be used for fire protection and rescue services, facilities, maintenance, staffing and operations.

“Our entire organization of course is very, very thankful to the voters,” Kytta said this afternoon.

The primary reason for the reduction is related to the fairly sudden change in taxes contributed by TransAlta’s power plant, as it winds down coal burning operations.

The department has already seen a nearly 30 percent loss in response forces this year, according to the chief. Passing the levy won’t bring those employees back, he said.

“It won’t return things to pre-2014 level, but hopefully we’re stabilized,” Kytta said.

Mainly, they were trying to get ahead of predicted losses of revenue next year, where uncertainty still remains, Kytta said.

Tuesday’s primary election has seen a turnout of just shy of 34 percent. It won’t be certified until Aug. 19.

Most of the ballots that will count have been counted, according to Lewis County Election Supervisor Mariann Zumbuhl.

Riverside needed a 60 percent super majority for its measure.

Voters south of Ashford in the region around what is known as the Big Creek area or Paradise Estates appear to have passed a fire department levy as well.

In Lewis County Fire District 17 Big Creek-Mineral, 41 of the 52 individuals who cast ballots said yes to replace an expiring EMS levy.

That’s nearly 79 percent and they only needed 50 percent plus one vote, according to Zumbuhl.

Many other items were on the ballot, but won’t be decided until the November general election, such as the contested race for Lewis County sheriff.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield announced in February he would retire at the end of this year.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Rob Snaza secured nearly 78 percent of the votes.

Brian Green, a former member of the U.S. Navy who performs in and manages a local band of musicians, took almost 22 percent of the votes.

Snaza is listed on the ballot as preferring the Republican Party, Green prefers the Independent Party.

Also among those on the ballot, but running without challengers were Jonathan Meyer looking or a second term as county prosecutor, Warren McLeod aiming for a second term as county coroner, and Kathy Brack heading for a fourth term as county clerk.

Click here to see the rest of the races.

Former Centralia auto business owners avoid jail cells

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
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Keith A. Birdwell watches as the judge decides how much time to give his wife after his own sentencing this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

Updated

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – He clearly didn’t like it, but a judge agreed today to give Keith A. Birdwell one year of house arrest so he could work and pay back $1 million to a local bank.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler was told by attorneys on the case that Security State Bank was on board with their deal that in exchange for a $100,000 downpayment on his restitution, the former used car dealer could avoid a lengthy prison term for his conviction on first-degree theft and three counts of felony unlawful issuance of a bank check.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg suggested the alternative of Birdwell sitting in prison and being ordered to pay back what he owes at $25 a month meant the bank would not likely get back much of its money.

Lawler called it a dilemma and said he didn’t want to victimize the Centralia-based financial institution again.

“The bank is making a business decision, they’re the ones that are the victims in this,” Lawler said. “It’s because of their participation, I’m going to follow the agreed recommendation, but I’m not happy about it.”

Birdwell, 48, and his wife were charged early last year with theft, for using various deceptions to dodge repaying what they borrowed for the vehicles at Birdwell Auto Sales in Centralia and their lot in Lacey. Both businesses are now closed.

He pleaded guilty this past spring. The deals were tied together. Lorinne D. Birdwell made a so-called Alford plea – not admitting guilt – last month, to attempted second-degree theft, a gross misdemeanor.

Tacoma-based defense attorney Keith McFie had told the judge he just today got a check for half of the $100,000 and didn’t say from who, but said the lender conditioned the money on Keith Birdwell being able to work.

The benches behind the defense table were crowded with apparent supporters of the Toledo couple.

Keith Birdwell stood when he addressed the court and apologized.

He said he’d never experienced the economy change so quickly and the that the value of the vehicles he offered for sale dropped rapidly. Rather than humble himself and admit troubles, he took advantage of his bank’s trust, he said.

“I used money to pay off vehicles already sold, I wrote checks before I had money in the bank,” he said. “I take full responsibility.”

Keith Birdwell noted he also lost $400,000 of his own money he’d put into the business over the years.

His lawyer told the judge he thought his client believed in himself too much, and now knows he ought to have shut down operations sooner.

“He ended up with inventory he couldn’t sell at the value of the flooring loans,” McFie said. “That’s when the desperation set in.”

Court documents described the flooring loans from the bank as like a line of credit, allowing the Birdwells to stock their dealership while maintaining capital to acquire new vehicles; they promised in their contract to notify the bank and pay off each loan within 10 days of selling the vehicle.

The troubles came to a head in July 2012 when a bank employee discovered 21 vehicles were unaccounted for, according to court documents.

Keith Birdwell is currently working three jobs and the details of how he will pay off the rest of the $1,005,779.65, McFie said he didn’t know; except he had anticipated the court might put his client under some sort of supervision.

His specific sentence is 364 days on electronic home monitoring, which must begin by Aug. 26.

Because Keith Birdwell also pleaded to the aggravating factors that the actions were major economic offenses with a high degree of sophistication, Judge Lawler was free to impose a penalty of up to 10 years in prison if he chose.

Lawler warned Birdwell if he missed his deadline, he would sit in jail the entire 364 days.

Before the hour-long hearing was over, Lorinne Birdwell took her turn at the defense table.

Eisenberg told the judge he recommended the same 364 days, as it was his and the bank’s position she was equally culpable, although as far as restitution, she would be jointly liable for only about $840,000 of the total.

“My understanding of the evidence was Mrs. Birdwell was the person in charge to contact the bank and let them know when a vehicle was sold,” he said. “There are indications of occasions when she didn’t do that.”

Seattle defense attorney Allen M. Ressler argued that would be a mistake, as the state allowed her to plead to a far lesser charge and the notion she was an equal participant was without any support in the evidence. He asked for 30 days of house arrest.

Lawler said he agreed with some of his logic, and imposed 90 days on electronic home monitoring. But the rest of her 364 sentence was suspended, essentially hanging over her head for two years, he said.

“You heard everything I said to your husband,” Lawler told her. “The same things apply to you.”

The judge set a review date of Nov. 7, to make sure the attempt to pay restitution have not been blown off, and addressed Lorinne Birdwell once again.

“You’re the one who could be sitting back in jail,” he said.
•••

For background, read “Centralia used car business theft defendants get a break” from Thursday July 3, 2014, here

Thurston detectives investigate stabbing

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 25-year-old man who said he was stabbed by two strangers in Rochester when he and a friend ran out of gas is undergoing surgery this morning at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Thurston County deputies learned of the attack about 11:45 p.m. yesterday when they were called to an Olympia hospital for a reported stabbing.

Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Ray Brady said the man suffered had multiple stab wounds and was subsequently flown to Harborview with life-threatening injuries but is expected to survive.

The victim told deputies he was with a friend in the area of U.S. Highway 12 and Southwest 183rd Avenue when their Toyota Forerunner ran out of fuel. He said they were approached by two Hispanic males who started a fight with his friend, and when he intervened, they assaulted him, according to Brady.

He said his friend ran away and he phoned a family friend to come pick him up.

Brady said the family friend had to persuade him to go to the hospital, and he was taken to Capitol Medical Center.

His name was not released but Brady said he may be transient and at one time in the past held a Centralia address.

Deputies have scoured the area where he said the stabbing occurred but have not been able to locate a crime scene, or the light green Toyota Forerunner. They have not located the friend either, as the victim said he doesn’t know the friend’s last name, Brady said.

Detectives are continuing to investigate and are urging any witnesses to contact the sheriff’s office with information, at 360-786-5279

Brush fire in Winlock sweeps toward homes

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
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It took more than 50 firefighters to contain flames that spread through pastures into a tree farm. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 15

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Personnel from the state Department of Natural Resources are back on the scene today of a fire that scorched some 15 acres of farmland in Winlock yesterday.

Firefighters called at 5 p.m. to the 700 block of Nevil Road found an area of approximately 200 feet by 200 feet burning in a field that had been hayed, according to Lewis County Fire District 15.

As many as 50 members of five fire departments plus DNR joined them as wind gusts from the west pushed the flames into a tree farm and adjacent fields, threatening homes and outbuildings, Assistant Chief Kevin Anderson said.

He described the location as south of Nevil Road, roughly three-quarters of a mile west of North Military Road.

“With the wind conditions, it was an extended firefight,” Anderson said.

Heavy equipment was deployed by DNR to establish a line around the fire, Anderson said. It was stopped probably 20 feet from structures on its south side, he said.

Nobody was injured. District 15 resources were on the scene until 11:30 p.m. and DNR personnel monitored the area overnight and have returned today, according to Anderson.

DNR is looking into its cause, he said.

Anderson asks the public to take extra care to limit any sources of ignition.

The moisture content of vegetation remains very low and with the temperatures forecast over the next week and half, fire danger remains high, he said.

Sentencing hearing for Centralia arsonist provides bit of insight

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014
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Jonathan Brown, right, listens to lawyers and the judge speak as he is sentenced in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Centralia arsonist evaluated by psychiatrists at Western State Hospital after his arrest this spring for setting fire to his own house while his mother and grandfather were sleeping was previously diagnosed with pyromania.

Jonathan P. Brown, 26, spent time in prison after a string of fires in 2009 and will be spending many more years locked up after the March fire at the 3400 block of Prill Road.

The doctors didn’t find a reason to commit him to the mental hospital, according to Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead. They found he was competent to stand trial, Halstead said.

“They look for mental defects, not your love for watching fires,” Halstead said.

It was about 5:40 a.m. on March 23 when Deborah Brown woke up to a fire alarm, went into her son’s room and found burning pillows atop a large chair, according to charging documents.

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.

Jonathan Brown was charged with two counts of attempted murder and instead of going to trial, he pleaded guilty in June.

Last week, Halstead asked a judge to give him 32 years, the high end of the standard sentencing range.

Defense attorney Don Blair asked for the low end, 20 years.

“Jonathan is 26; I would echo the statements of his mother,” Blair told the judge. “Last time he was in prison he didn’t get any counseling. He tried to get counseling.”

Brown’s mother wrote a letter to the judge ahead of the court hearing last Tuesday. She was in court, but didn’t want to make an oral statement.

Halstead recounted to Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt how the defendant soaked his bed and chair with lamp oil, opened the window so the smoke could escape and left, admitting he planned to start more fires that morning but didn’t because his lighter broke.

His grandfather never did wake up, until his mother woke him, Halstead said.

“Mr. Brown has demonstrated he’s not safe in the community,” Halstead said.

He was not charged with it, but Halstead told the judge he could also have proved Brown lit another fire the day before at an unoccupied house on Bengal Court, about a mile from his home. It burned the front door area and was investigated by Centralia police.

Before pronouncing the sentence, Judge Hunt wanted to know more about Brown’s mother trying to get water, but finding there was no water pressure.

“There was water,” Deborah Brown told the judge from her bench in the courtroom on Tuesday morning. “I was just hurrying and I couldn’t get it turned on.”

Jonathan Brown chose not make a statement on his own behalf.

His reason for starting the fire  was not addressed during the hearing, but prosecutors wrote in charging documents, that when he was asked why, his answer was vague, but did relay he was upset with his mother over some personal issues.

Judge Hunt imposed a 32 year sentence and agreed to rescind the no contact order regarding his mother.
•••

For background, read “Prosecutors: Arsonist planned to continue lighting fires after leaving his burning bedroom” from Monday March 24, 2014, here

Physician says ‘shaken baby’ not to blame for Morton infant’s brain trauma

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A second doctor who reviewed the case of the alleged shaken baby from Morton in which a Mineral man remains jailed has found something else caused the 4-month-old’s injuries.

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Kyle Davison

Kyle Davison, 22, was arrested in early October and charged with  first-degree assault of a child after a doctor at Marybridge Children’s Hospital concluded bleeding on the child’s brain was consistent with non-accidental shaken baby syndrome.

Davison and the baby’s mother told police he was watching her when she began choking and stopped breathing and he tried to revive the infant then carried her to a neighboring apartment to get help. The little one was airlifted to the children’s hospital and put on life support.

Defense attorney Sam Groberg had another physician examine the child’s medical records, 3,200 pages going all the way to its birth, and even before that. He recently got the report back.

He said the conclusions are helpful to his client’s case.

“Basically it’s the doctor’s opinion it’s not shaken baby, but the symptoms are indicative of previous problems, and what happened when the baby started choking,” Groberg said late last week.

Groberg said the child had a documented choking problem, from a birth defect in its throat area.

He indicated he’s somewhat optimistic, since his doctor is the only one who has looked at all the baby’s medical records.

Lawyers on the two sides have been waiting on the report so they can proceed. Davison remains held on $100,000 bail.

On Thursday, they went before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court to set a new trial date. They chose the week of Sept. 8.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the judge he now will have to send the second doctor’s findings to his experts to look them over before they can go to trial.
•••

For background, read “Lawyer seeks second opinion on brain trauma in Morton child assault case” from Monday April 14, 2014, here

Sheriff’s Office: Large scale gasoline stealing operation uncovered

Friday, August 1st, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 47-year-old man was arrested yesterday after deputies investigating a nighttime theft of about 1,600 gallons of fuel from a Silver Creek gas station searched his vehicle in Doty and discovered the bed of the canopied pickup truck held two large fuel tanks, a portable pump and a nozzle.

Detectives served a search warrant at the 100 block of Elk Creek Road in Doty and also found plug-in access key pads used to override gasoline pumps, according to court documents.

Jason A. Lewis was charged in Lewis County Superior Court today with first-degree theft, first-degree trafficking in stolen property and possession of methamphetamine.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg told the judge there were lots of firearms found at the residence and he would be seeking an arrest warrant for the property owner, Harold Lusk. He didn’t say specifically what for.

Charging documents describe the owner of the Texaco on the 2900 block of  U.S. Highway 12 contacting law enforcement on Monday after surveillance video showed three vehicles arrive and somehow pump about $6,000 worth of fuel without paying. Taken was regular unleaded gasoline, highway diesel and off-road diesel, according to charging documents.

Sherry Lyons called deputies again on Wednesday to report that new video showed the same people returned in the early morning hours, but were unable to activate the pump. The code had been changed after the first theft.

Detectives recognized the face of a passenger of one of the vehicles who then tried to move Texaco’s security camera so it no longer faced toward the pumps, charging documents state.

Detectives – using previous information they’d been told about Lusk and possible fuel thefts – compared his driver’s license photo with the video images and concluded he was one of the three, charging documents state.

More than a month earlier, detectives had been told by an unnamed person that Lusk and his associates had been stealing large quantities of gas from local stations, according to the documents. The same person said they were cooking methamphetamine at the property, but no mention was made in Lewis’s charging documents of meth-making materials located during the search.

However, found at the Elk Creek Road property were numerous containers of gasoline, including a 55-gallon drum of it stored in a barn where Lewis’s travel trailer was parked, according to the documents.

Two baggies of suspected methamphetamine were allegedly located in Lewis’s trailer.

Lewis reportedly admitted to detectives pumping gas at the Texaco, but said he used his credit card and said he’d purchased some fuel from the men in the video for $2 per gallon, according to the documents.

Eisenberg requested Lewis’s bail be set at $20,000, in part because it appears Lewis has an extensive criminal history in California, under a different name.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter said Lewis denies being the person with the different name.

He noted Lewis has been in the area about two years, and he was confident he would be looking for a different place to move his travel trailer.

Charging documents state deputies found a lot of gasoline of at the Doty property, but not 1,600 gallons, suggesting some had been sold or otherwise distributed.

Law enforcement had not yet located Lusk or the third man as of this afternoon.

Oxycodone dealer takes a deal

Friday, August 1st, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The accused prolific local trafficker of pain medications from both inside and outside prison pleaded guilty yesterday in a deal that could put him away for 12 years but avoid a third strike.

Forrest E. Amos, 31, was charged late last year in Lewis County Superior Court with leading organized crime and a multitude of other offenses following an ongoing investigation by the Centralia Police Department.

Law enforcement estimated that in 2011 when Amos was aggressively dealing Oxycodone, that he was the main supplier of the synthetic opiate within Lewis County, possessing and dealing thousands of pills a month.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said he dropped the charge of organized crime, something police said Amos did by orchestrating drug dealing even after he was incarcerated. Amos pleaded guilty yesterday to an assortment of other offenses, he said.

Halstead also dismissed four counts of intimidating a witness, in a case from this summer in which Amos was suspected of planning from inside the jail to have associates hurt or pressure witnesses against him.

Amos is formerly of Napavine and Chehalis.

Halstead and defense attorney Don Blair will recommend to a judge that Amos be sentenced to 12 years, he said. A date for that court hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Amos’s sister Sylvia Pittman was charged also in June with witness intimidation, for allegedly delivering a “hit list” to another so-called supporter-conspirator.

Pittman, 27, pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of attempted witness intimidation and was sentenced yesterday to intensive inpatient drug and alcohol treatment; though if she fails at anytime during the following two years while she is under supervision, she could be sent to prison for almost two years, according to Halstead.

No charges for Salkum man who shot neighbor

Monday, July 28th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer announced today he will not file any criminal charges in connection with the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Travis Shive by a neighbor in Salkum in May.

“While the loss of life is tragic under any circumstances, it appears that Mr. Ritter acted in self defense,” Meyer stated in a formal news release today.

Ritter is Jack L. Ritter, 56, who told deputies he felt threatened because Shive had been on his front porch ranting, accusing him of shooting his dog and refused to leave.

Shive was unarmed, but Meyer said witnesses indicated Shive was the aggressor in the situation.

It happened the evening of May 10 on the 200 block of Stowell Road, about a half block from the Salkum Super market.

Shive had gotten a phone call telling him his dog had been shot by someone in the white house and arrived on his ATV to Ritter’s front yard, according to Meyer. He was at the wrong house, according to Meyer.

Ritter came out of the back of his house armed with .380 semi-automatic handgun, telling Shive to get off his property, he didn’t shoot his dog and Shive was about to go, but then went at Ritter, according to authorities.

Shive died from a gunshot wound that entered his abdomen and traveled into his chest. He was also shot in the left shoulder.

Ritter was afraid for his safety, Meyer said.

In the decline letter Meyer wrote to Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Kevin Engelbertson, Meyer wrote that the facts in the matter do not support criminal charges against Ritter.

At trial Ritter would claim self defense and the state would not be able to rebut the claim based on the available evidence, Meyer wrote.

Meyer said in cases where it’s a close call, that’s when he concludes a jury should decide.

He contrasted it with the Ronald Brady case of 2010 when Brady was charged with first-degree murder for shooting an unarmed suspected burglar outside a house he owned in Onalaska. Brady was convicted by a jury of a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison.

“The victim in that case was running away when shot,” Meyer said. “In this case, the victim was engaged in a struggle for a gun.”

The law is clear that a person can act in defense of themselves or others, Meyer said.

“But whether those actions are reasonable are going to be analyzed and scrutinized,” he said.

He said these kinds of cases are very fact specific.

“There isn’t a clear cut, this-is-the-line rule,” Meyer said. “Sometimes it’s going to turn on minute facts.”

More to come

•••

For background, read “Investigation continues into deadly Salkum dispute” from Wednesday  May 14, 2014, here

Centralia K-9 officer authorized back to work after fatal shooting

Friday, July 25th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news

Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg announced yesterday Officer Ruben Ramirez would be returned to normal patrol duties following a finding by a use of force review board that the officer acted appropriately when he shot and killed a suspect last month.

Berg said in a news release he remained confident since the beginning, the 15-year veteran of the department acted properly and used sound tactics in accordance with policies and procedures.

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Lobo

“I am thankful that he was not hurt and am confident that he will continue his excellent law enforcement service to the residents of our community,” Berg stated. “I am also pleased and grateful that his partner, Police Service Dog Lobo, was with him that day.  I truly believe that the K-9 was instrumental in saving the life of Officer Ramirez.”

It was the morning of June 29 and police were called to a shoplifting incident a the Chevron service station on the corner of South Tower Avenue and East Cherry Street. Ramirez contacted two individuals, and released his K-9 partner when 43-year-old Paul M. Edmundson pulled away from him, according to the Lewis County prosecutor’s summary of the investigation.

As the two men and the German Shepherd fought on the ground, Ramirez detected Edmundson began pulling a handgun from beneath his clothing, backed up and told him to drop it and after hearing a “click”, fired one shot, the summary of the outside investigation concluded.

Edmundson, who was going by the name Christopher Matthews didn’t steal the burritos, but Ramirez recognized the name on his identification as a suspect in an assault two days earlier, according to the investigation.

Edmundson had arrived to Centralia about a month earlier and was staying with his girlfriend  Pepper Tree Motel and RV Park.

The investigative team of detectives from surrounding police agencies was headed up by Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Detective Ben Elkins. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer concluded from their reports last week Ramirez’s use of deadly force was justified.

An internal use-of-force review board then convened and made its recommendation to the chief of police.

Berg said the panel included chiefs from Tumwater and Chehalis, a chief deputy from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, a Centralia police officer selected by Ramirez and a police commander from the Centralia Police Department.

Centralia police’s initial description of the events included Lobo grabbing the suspect’s arm preventing him from pulling his hand out of his pocket, but then briefly releasing his hold and then as Edmundson pulled out the handgun, biting onto his arm again.

It’s the second time this year a Centralia officer has shot and killed someone. In February, an officer fired eight shots at a 48-year-old Westport man staying at the Lakeview Inn after a night time encounter in a nearby residential neighborhood when the man refused to drop a knife. He too was cleared.
•••

For background, read “Centralia officer cleared in deadly bank parking lot shooting” from Tuesday July 22, 2014, here

Centralia officer cleared in deadly bank parking lot shooting

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news

CHEHALIS – The man fatally shot by Centralia Police Department Officer Ruben Ramirez last month was a convicted felon carrying a stolen handgun, only recently arriving to the Centralia area with his girlfriend.

Paul M. Edmundson, 43, was staying at the Pepper Tree Motel and RV Park, using an alias. He had an extensive criminal history over 23 years from multiple states and was in the process of covering up a tattoo on his lower chest of Edmundson, one letter at a time.

But he didn’t steal the burrito that drew a police officer to the encounter at the corner of South Tower Avenue and East Cherry Street the morning of June 29.

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Anchor Bank parking lot, June 29, 2014

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer concluded last week that Ramirez’s use of deadly force was justified. Police Chief Bob Berg is expecting a decision from an internal use-of-force review board by early next week at the latest. And Ramirez could be back on the job after that.

The Centralia Police Department’s initial statements that day were the officer shot and killed a man suspected of shoplifting the snack from the nearby gas station, because he reached into his pocket for a handgun as he was being detained.

Meyer’s summary of events offer a slightly different version.

A letter released by Meyer describing his legal analysis to the lead investigator in the case includes 13 pages of information, some which is pertinent to Ramirez’s decision to draw and fire his weapon, and some of which is relevant only to explain the decedent’s actions. Numerous individuals who witnessed portions of the situation described to investigators what they saw.

Including Ramirez, a 15-year veteran of the police department, a member of its SWAT team and a K-9 handler.

The investigative team of detectives from surrounding police agencies – from the counties of Lewis, Thurston, Pacific, Mason and Grays Harbor – was headed up by Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Detective Ben Elkins.

Michelle Milligan, 44, from Vancouver, told investigators she and Edmundson, although she called him Chris, had been dating about three months and came to Centralia about a month earlier.

Of his behavior in previous days, she said: “(H)e was going crazy on everybody; he was just going on a nut.”

That morning, Milligan described going to Fuller’s grocery to purchase vodka and a roast beef sandwich. And then up to the next block to the Chevron service station and mini mart to get burritos and rolling papers.

Milligan and the clerk told how she didn’t have enough money to pay for both, so she left the burritos in the microwave.

Meyer’s summary of facts discovered, some of which was learned through viewing surveillance video, tells how Milligan exited the store and crossed the parking lot to speak with two men, one of whom then came inside and took the burritos from the microwave and left, returning once again to heat them up and left again.

His name is Adam Casperson, according to Meyer.

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Chevron service station, South Tower Avenue

The 911 call about shoplifting came just before 10 a.m. and when Ramirez arrived in his patrol car, with his police dog Lobo, he found Milligan and Edmundson sitting in the grass across Cherry Street next to the parking lot at Anchor Bank.

Ramirez told an investigator he began to speak with them and wanted to see their identification because based on his information, they were involved in the theft.

Edmundson was mouthy, Milligan denied stealing the burritos and told Ramirez the one he wanted was hiding in the woods, according to the letter.

But when Ramirez looked at the identification Edmundson handed him, he recognized the name on it of Christopher R. Matthews as the suspect in an assault two days prior at the Pepper Tree.

Ramirez had responded to the Friday afternoon call to the motel where a 50-year-old guest there said that during a disagreement an acquaintance he knew as Chris threw him to the ground and struck him in the eyelid with something sharp.

Ramirez indicated to investigators the man in the ID did not match the man he was talking to at the bank very well, and decided to detain him to determine the connection, according to Meyer.

Ramirez asked Edmundson to stand up.

A customer across the street at a different gas station said he watched the man stand up and turn his back to the officer as if preparing to be handcuffed. Ramirez said the man began to resist by pulling away.

Milligan said the cop was being really, really rough and “Chris” was saying “Ouch, you’re hurting me.”

Milligan said at about that time, the police dog jumped out and started attacking “Chris”. “And the dog’s attacking his arm, and dog’s attacking his leg, and the dog’s attacking him all over viciously,” he said.

Ramirez said because he was dealing with a felony suspect, who disengaged, he deployed his K-9 and ordered him to “engage” Edmundson.

“And Chris is screaming, you know, and I’m screaming, I’m like, you know, I’m like, he’s trying, he’s hurt, can you just tr-, call the dog off him …,” Milligan told investigators.

Milligan said she ran out to the road, screaming for someone to help.

Ramirez called for backup and thought it unusual Edmundson continued to fight through the bites, even as Ramirez ordered him to stop.

Witnesses described seeing the two men and the dog engaged on the ground.

A former Centralia police officer Steve Dawes was at the bank’s ATM with his girlfriend and said he saw the two men on the ground tussling while the dog was biting and the man was resisting and ignoring Ramirez’s commands. Dawes said he had turned his attention back to finish his ATM transaction and heard a gunshot.

Ramirez told investigators that when they were on the ground, Edmundson had his hand underneath his body and he heard scraping sounds. He thought it could be a knife, given the assault from the Pepper Tree, he said.

Ramirez said he looked and saw it was the butt of a gun and Edmundson was pulling it out from what appeared to be his waistband.

Ramirez backed up, told him drop it. Ramirez heard a click sound.

Ramirez fired a single shot from his weapon.

Edmundson died at the scene. A single round penetrated his heart and lodged in his spine.

Meyer’s analysis includes that when making a decision to use deadly force, an officer must have probable cause to believe that the person “poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer.”

The elected prosecutor points out Ramirez made two requests for assistance, that Edmundson ignored repeated commands and gained possession of a firearm, which became, at that moment, a fight for life for Officer Ramirez.

“Officer Ramirez was left with no choice but to draw his weapon and protect his own life,” Meyer wrote.

The firearm recovered was described as a Sig Sauer P938 9mm, stolen out of Longview. It was found in the “cocked” position with a round in the chamber, according to Meyer.

How many dog bites Edmundson sustained was not mentioned in Meyer’s report.

An individual named Michael Caton was interviewed, and told investigators he saw Casperson, Milligan and Edmundson at the Chevron, and that Edmundson had flashed a gun at him and it was not the first occasion.

Caton told investigators  Edmundson was dangerous because he was drunk all the time and had a gun.

Prosecutor Meyer who attended the autopsy noted the smell alcohol emanated from the body.

Meyer wrote that Edmundson was originally identified as Christopher Matthews, but fingerprint analysis revealed who he really was.  Edmundson’s previous convictions included assault, robbery, burglary and firearm offenses from Utah and California. Just a month before he was killed, he was arrested in Oregon for driving under the influence.

Meyer called the outcome tragic, but wrote had Edmundson survived, among the crimes he would have charged him with related to the events the morning of June 29 were attempted second-degree murder, or in the alternative, second-degree assault.
•••

For background, read:

• Prosecutor Meyer’s letter detailing his investigative conclusions, here

• “Stolen burrito leads to fatal shooting in Centralia” from Sunday June 29, 2014, here

• “Coroner releases name of police shooting victim” from Wednesday July 2, 2014, here

• “Centralia police shooting case now in the hands of prosecutor for review” from Monday July 14, 2014, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

BRUSH FIRES IGNITE IN BUCODA, ROCHESTER

• Members of six fire departments were joined by crews with the state Department of Natural Resources yesterday when a four to six acre fire broke out in Bucoda. Crews were called around 4 p.m. to an area near Tono and Ohop roads, on timber property owned by Green Diamond Resources previously clearcut and then about two years ago replanted with seedlings, according to Bucoda Fire Department Assistant Chief Robert Gordon. It was not threatening any homes, Gordon said. As many as 75 firefighters were on the scene and it was contained when he left about 8 p.m., Gordon said. “The winds were five to seven miles per hour, and that’s probably what saved the fire from getting any bigger than it did,” he said. DNR planned to sit on the fire overnight and are conducting mop up today, according to Gordon. The incident followed another the day before in Rochester when about an acre and a half of scotch broom and brush caught fire, along with a fence and a shed at the 9000 block of 173rd Avenue Southwest. Gordon said his chief and about eight other individuals with the fire departments from Tenino to Gibson Valley are currently in Eastern Washington assisting with the large wildfires over there.

POLICE: MAN CRAWLS THROUGH WINDOW

• Centralia police say they are looking for Juan E. Mejia after an incident just before midnight in which he allegedly entered a residence through a window and assaulted the female inside. It happened at the 400 block of George Anthony Lane, according top police. Mejia, of Centralia, is 32 years old and wanted for first-degree burglary, according to the Centralia Police Department.

POLICE: MAN ASSAULTS MOM

• A 30-year-old Centralia man is being sought by police after breaking into a home on the 300 block of East Magnolia Street in Centralia and assaulting his mother. Officers responding about 5:45 p.m. yesterday say Isaiah M. Davis is wanted for first-degree burglary, according to the Centralia Police Department.

BURGLARY CENTRALIA

• Police were called about 6:40 p.m. yesterday after a resident on the 1100 block of Ham Hill Road in Centralia returned home and found someone had broken in. Several items are missing and the case is under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.

PILLS MISSING

• Medication was reported stolen yesterday from the 900 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia and from the 1100 block of West Chestnut Street.

CAR PROWL

• Someone stole a Pioneer stereo from an unlocked vehicle parked at the 1200 block of Royal Avenue in Centralia during the night, according to a report made to police yesterday morning.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police responded just before 10 a.m. yesterday to the 1400 block of Oxford Avenue where several vehicles got their windows shot out with a pellet gun during the night.

BUMMING CIGARETTES

• Four people were arrested yesterday after they reportedly harassed a male as he walked down a Centralia street with his small children yesterday evening. Officers responding about 6:45 p.m. to the area of East Locust and South Buckner streets say the male was approached and asked for a cigarette, then threatened when they did not like the way in which they were told no. According to Centralia police, Dustin J. Scott, 31 of Bay City, was booked for obstructing as well as a felony warrant and Richard A. James, 20 of Centralia, was booked for several outstanding warrants. After police left, two others allegedly went back to the individual and began threatening him again, so, booked for disorderly conduct were Jalab L. Browing, 20 of Centralia and Tyler A. Reeves, 21 of Raymond, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CROSSING ARM BREAKS WINDSHIELD

• Centralia police responded about 2:55 p.m. yesterday to the area near East Maple Street and the train tracks after a driver attempted to cross the tracks as the crossing arm was coming down. It broke the windshield and the driver was cited for failing to yield to the arm, according to the Centralia Police Department.

COLLISION

• A pickup truck and a car were totaled and the driver of the car was hospitalized when the pickup truck traveled into the oncoming lane yesterday evening on state Route 508 about three miles from Interstate 5. Brittney N. Dickinson, 18, from Winlock, was westbound when she drifted to the right, over corrected and crossed the centerline running into a 1993 Toyota Camry, according to the Washington State Patrol. Troopers called about 7:25 p.m. found the pickup on its side and cited Dickinson for improper lane travel, according to the state patrol. The car’s driver, Bruce A. Hood, 63, of Onalaska, was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital with unspecified injuries, according to the investigating trooper.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrest for driving under the influence; responses for bicycle stolen, collision on city street … and more.

Sheriff’s Office: Fired corrections officer allowed inmates to suffer

Friday, July 18th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The lawyer for the fired Lewis County Jail sergeant shot back yesterday, issuing a press release criticizing Sheriff Steve Mansfield for attempting to try the case in the news media, reminding news reporters of Mansfield’s personal experience of being investigated for alleged criminal conduct.

Centralia attorney Shane O’Rourke said he represents Trevor S. Smith, who was terminated at the end of last month for mistreatment of two inmates and then arrested earlier this week for allegedly accessing secure jail computer records while he was still on the job.

“As a career corrections officer, my client respects the court system and the judicial process, and because of that we are not going to make any comments about the facts of the disciplinary proceedings or criminal case against my client other than to say that there are always more facts to a story than what only one side offers,” O’Rourke wrote. “We will allow those facts to come out through the legal process.”

Mansfield revealed on Wednesday that Smith was let go because he abused his authority in dealing with assaultive inmates, insinuating Smith moved beyond containing the situations and into punishing the individuals.

The sheriff called Smith’s actions disgusting and embarrassing, but didn’t go into much detail, citing a concern of jeopardizing a termination hearing.

However, a fulfilled public record request for the June 27 termination letter and other related documents show Smith was disciplined last year after directing that an inmate be kept in a restraint chair for approximately twelve hours without food, water, or restroom breaks.

And on Jan. 25, an inmate with mental health issues was not offered a wet towel, a shower or any “decontamination” for more than five hours after Smith had directed the discharge of OC-10 pepper spray into his closed cell, according to the sheriff’s office. There was no running water in the cell at the time, having been shut off the day before due to his attempt to flood the cell.

The termination letter from Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Steven Walton noted that in both cases squad members approached Smith about attending to the inmates’ needs and Smith ignored them, allowing the inmates to suffer.

“Your conduct in this case screams of deliberate indifference to the care and well-being of those over whom you are responsible,” Walton wrote on behalf of the sheriff. “Indeed your conduct ‘shocks the conscience’ and could be viewed as violating basic civil rights possessed by all human beings regardless of status.”

Smith’s attorney O’Rourke pointed out Mansfield is an outgoing sheriff and that his office isn’t supposed to be involved in a large part of the investigation – Smith’s criminal case – because of a conflict of interest.

O’Rourke noted the sheriff has had firsthand experience as both being the subject of an investigation – in 2009 when allegations were made of Mansfield harboring a runaway; the 16-year-old girlfriend of his son, a case that ended with no charges filed – and contended he has before attempted to impose his own beliefs and try a case in the media before it was brought to court.

“(A)s was the case with the Ronald Brady homicide from a number of years ago, where his judgment was later proven to be incorrect by a trial court and appellate court,” O’Rourke stated.

O’Rourke was one of two Lewis County deputy prosecutors who tried the Brady case in 2011 and has since moved into private practice with the firm of Buzzard and Associates. Sheriff Mansfield refused to arrest Brady who shot at two intruders on his Onalaska property, saying it was self defense.

“My client and I hope that as this case moves forward, Sheriff Mansfield draws upon these experiences and discontinues any efforts to improperly taint this case and further prejudice my client,” O’Rourke wrote.

The June 27 letter did not name the two inmates, but did offer further details about the most recent incident.

The inmate with mental health issues was described as a man large in stature, 6-feet 9-inches tall and about 275 pounds, who had exhibited aggressive behavior since his incarceration. He was being held in the medical observation area when he reached through the cuff port in his cell and grabbed an officer’s keys, pulling the officer against the door, according to Walton.

The inmate got the keys, but returned them shortly after an entire three-ounce can of OC-10 was discharged into the cell, Walton wrote.

The decision to use force, the pepper spray, to gain compliance wasn’t questioned, according to Walton.

But leaving him to suffer without any relief was extremely serious and demonstrated unacceptable judgement and decision making, he wrote.

Walton left the sheriff’s office when on July 1 he took a position as Lewis County budget administrator, but has been designated to continue in the chief of staff-undersheriff role for the purposes of handling Smith’s case.

Smith was hired at the sheriff’s office in 2004 and promoted to jail sergeant in 2011.

Smith has filed a grievance through his union, asking to be reinstated, claiming his termination was not for just cause.

His arraignment on charges of computer trespass is set for next Thursday.
•••

For background, read “Lewis County Jail sergeant let go for mistreating inmates, then arrested for computer snooping at work” from Wednesday July 16, 2014, here

Dad pulls pulseless son from pool in Centralia

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A toddler found unconscious and not breathing in a swimming pool at a Centralia home was revived by his father and rushed to the hospital this afternoon.

Aid called at 4:50 p.m. to the 600 block of G Street learned the dad discovered the 2-year-old boy and pulled him from the water. The child had no pulse and the dad started CPR, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

A paramedic unit from the Pearl Street station was the first unit on the scene and arrived in just under a minute and a half, according to Capt. Scott Weinert.

The boy was conscious and breathing but crying when they got there, Weinert said. Medics performed advanced life support measures to ensure the toddler continued to breathe and remained stable, he said.

It happened in a backyard built-in swimming pool, he said.

“We’re really happy he’s in stable condition and hopefully he continues to improve,” Weinert said.

When someone stops breathing for whatever reason, immediate and early intervention through CPR is key, according to Weinert.

“It’s important, that’s why it’s taught, because it can make a difference,” Weinert said.

But a traumatic event such as a near drowning could lead to a variety of physical issues or complications that still need to be evaluated by doctors and possibly treated, according to Paramedic Jade Gross.

The child was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital and then transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital for observation.

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between the ages of 1 and 4 and it’s the third leading cause of death among children, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

The department took the opportunity to remind adults to be mindful of the risks and familiarize themselves with water safety tips for little ones. Riverside recommends a resource with numerous tips called Safe Kids Worldwide.

Lewis County Jail sergeant let go for mistreating inmates, then arrested for computer snooping at work

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 10-year veteran of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has been fired over his manner of dealing with two assaultive inmates.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield said Trevor S. Smith worked in the jail where he was promoted to sergeant in 2011. He was terminated June 27 for an incident at the beginning of this year and another last year, Mansfield said.

The longtime corrections officer abused and exceeded his authority, Mansfield said.

It was the way they were treated, the way they were contained that was a problem, and how Smith handled it was inappropriate, the sheriff said without going into much detail.

“Both situations involved inmates who were acting out and assaulted staff, situations that needed immediate intervention,” he said. “That’s what it is; it’s disgusting and embarrassing for this organization.”

Mansfield said he is reluctant to say more, as Smith is appealing his firing, and the sheriff worries about jeopardizing any termination hearing that may come up.

Meanwhile, Smith was arrested on Monday at his home in Chehalis for a discovery made after he left, that he allegedly had been snooping into secure jail computer records.

“He had no business accessing administrative and personnel files,” Mansfield said. “There’s a reason for them being secure.

Mansfield said he used someone else’s password.

Some deleted files have been recovered but the primary issue is he should not have been reading them and collecting information, the sheriff said.

Smith was booked Monday into the Lewis County Jail for five counts of computer trespass, a class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison, according to the sheriff. He was housed at another jail until his hearing in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday and then released by the judge, Mansfield said.

The criminal allegations, investigation and arrest were handled by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

The inmate treatment issues were investigated internally.

Mansfield said after the most recent incident, Smith was taken out of any role that involved contact with inmates and put on administrative duties, in an office next to the jail chief’s.

Mansfield spoke in general about the duty of care to the people housed in his jail. Feeding, housing and making sure they are safe is his obligation under the law, he said.

Corrections officer have a variety of ways to contain or isolate problem inmates, including using whatever level of force is necessary, but only until the point the situation is stabilized, he said.

“If they do something wrong, the judge decides the level of punishment, not me,” he said. “When people cross that line and make it their role to punish someone, you’ve got problems.”

Worker burned in Texas petroleum explosion just relocated from Adna

Friday, July 11th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news

CHEHALIS – An Adna native was seriously injured in a fiery explosion at a dormant oil well in central Texas.

Cameron McDonald, 25, is in a Houston hospital, with several broken bones and severe burns to his face, arm and legs, his Uncle Jim Harris said today.

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Cameron McDonald

“He doesn’t remember anything at all,” Harris said. “He still doesn’t know why he’s in the hospital.”

It happened on Wednesday at a work site in New Baden, Texas, about 100 miles northeast of Austin, Harris said.

He got a phone call from his sister, who flew down yesterday to be with her son, he said.

Harris has been scouring the news to find out what happened and said he learned his nephew was using a cutting torch to remove bolts from a catwalk above a 12,000 gallon storage tank.

Harris said he understands McDonald was wearing a harness and thrown clear, but then slammed face first into the hot metal of the tank. News accounts say he was critical when transported and describe pillars of smoke visible for miles.

The incident is under investigation by Texas regulatory authorities.

Harris said his nephew only recently took the out of state job with a company that dismantled well sites, as he understood it. Before that, he worked construction locally, he said.

“Cameron, he just went down there in December,” he said. “He decided he was going to go down there and get some of that big oil money and took off.”

Harris got the call from his sister about 2:30 p.m. the day it happened, shortly after his nephew’s employer called his sister, Janie Harris, also of Adna.

They’ve been keeping in close contact. She texted him yesterday with an update, he said.

She told him her son is pretty upset.

“They won’t let him see his face or the news yet,” Janie Harris texted her brother. “Both his eyes are black, all his teeth are gone. But he’s alive. Thank God he’s tough.”

He’s had some skin grafts, Harris said, but it’s not clear how long he might be hospitalized.

Today, his nephew was able to walk from his bed to the bathroom, a good sign, Harris said.

“I hope he pulls through, he’s burned pretty bad,” he said.

Tractor operator falls onto hay mower blades in Mossyrock

Thursday, July 10th, 2014
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The mowing tractor is parked after accident in Mossyrock. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 3

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A man cutting a hayfield in Mossyrock who fell onto the blades of his hay mower yesterday is expected to survive but likely faces a long road to recovery.

Lewis County Fire District 3 was called by someone at the trailer court next to property on the 200 block of Mossyrock Road West  about 5:30 p.m.

“At the time of the incident he was alone, but when I got there, people were around,” Fire Chief Doug Fosburg said. “He was conscious and alert, but in a lot of pain.”

Fosburg said it was an older style piece of equipment – with five blades – where the cutting surfaces are exposed, not shielded.

The victim, who he estimated is in his 40s, had pretty severe cuts on all four extremities with quite a bit of blood loss and will probably lose some fingers, Fosburg said. Both legs and one arm were broken, he said.

He said responders were able to get him stabilized fairly quickly, administering fluids, and splinting and dressing his wounds.

He was airlifted from Mossyrock High School to Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver, according to Fosburg.

“He’s very lucky no vital organs were hit,” the chief said.

It didn’t appear the injuries were life-threatening, but it’s definitely going to be a long road, he said.

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Hay mower blades / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 3

Drugs in Chehalis big drug case unavailable to use as evidence

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
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Randall D. Mauel, right, looks to his lawyer Don Blair during his sentencing hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – When police found a backpack containing a one-gallon freezer bag nearly filled with chards of meth and more than $11,000 worth of heroin inside a south Chehalis home in December, they didn’t have the authority to enter the house.

So say lawyers in the case of the Mauel brothers, two men arrested and charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, as well as unlawful use of a building for drug purposes.

“There was an issue with the search warrant affidavit, which would have been extremely difficult for the state to overcome,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello said yesterday.

Randall D. Mauel, 43, was in Lewis County Superior Court with his attorney, following a plea agreement which would send him to prison for a year and a day.

The raid that took place on Dec. 9 at the 2500 block of Jackson Highway came out of fast-moving investigation by the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force. The Lewis County Regional Crime Task Force and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team assisted, contributing about half of the 14 law enforcement officers that swarmed the residence.

Centralia defense attorney Don Blair told the judge a problem with the affidavit was an understatement.

Mauel pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon to two counts of drug possession, admitting he had drugs.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey agreed with the recommended time, and read off a list of 16 previous felony convictions, mostly involving drugs, on the defendant’s record.

The judge was told he will be also doing two years for a Thurston County conviction that followed his March arrest in Tenino when detectives reportedly found nearly $10,000 cash in his wallet, along with a little more than an ounce of methamphetamine and a small amount of heroin.

Masiello said the case of  Ryan G. Mauel, the younger brother was resolved a few months ago, with a few months of electronic home monitoring, if he recalled correctly.

The sheriff’s office describes them both as Chehalis residents. When the brothers were charged in December, the judge was told the house belonged to their parents.

“We’re trying to get the best outcome we could possibly get,” Masiello said after the hearing.

Without the drugs available as evidence, the case essentially goes away, he said.

He explained the issue of the search warrant this way: When using an informant, they needed to establish the informant saw what they saw and that the informant was credible, he said.

When the Thurston County drug task force officer made a recorded request by phone to a judge, the officer didn’t really address the veracity part, other than saying, we’ve used this person before, he said.
•••

For background, read “Two charged with drug dealing, two set free after Chehalis area raid” from Wednesday December 11, 2013, here