Archive for the ‘Top story of the day’ Category

Early May north Centralia church fire could also be arson, officials now say

Monday, May 20th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Investigators are re-thinking the string of fires that struck Centralia churches and other buildings two weeks ago, classifying all of them now as either arson or undetermined.


Centerville Western Store on May 3

In a three-hour span during the early morning hours of May 3, crews were called to four structure fires and then after daylight, learned of a failed attempt at a fifth location.

They still have no suspects or motive.

Initially, a 4 a.m. fire that damaged a wall at Calvary Chapel on Seward Avenue in north Centralia was believed to be caused by an electrical issue, but authorities are reexamining that conclusion in part because of the timing, according to Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack.

“It strains credulity to think that it isn’t somehow involved,” Mack said today.

The other undetermined fire is one that struck a coffee stand in north Chehalis at 1 o’clock that morning. Flames were quickly knocked down and while an investigator was considering the possibility of a cigarette butt in a trash can, Mack said they just don’t have enough information to say if it was one thing or another.

Clearly arson and attempted arson were Centralia fires that did minor to moderate damage at the rectory-turned teen center of the Centralia Church of the Nazarene, Cooks Hill Community Church  and Centerville, the western store at the north end of the Centralia Outlets, according to Mack.

Authorities are once again seeking the public’s assistance to find who is responsible.

None of the targets have suggested a person they think police should talk to, Mack said.

Mack spoke of chatter on social media that might reveal clues.

“We just encourage people, if they hear anything even if it seems unlikely or remote, we’d like to hear about it,” Mack said today.

No suspicious fires have been reported in the area since that night, but Mack pointed out the burned siding on Cooks Hill Community Church that wasn’t spotted until 10 a.m. that day.

“There may be fires that were set but not discovered,” he said.

He suggested some folks might want to take a look around the exterior of their buildings.

Mack said he, Fire Chief Jim Walkowski and the Centralia Police Department would each be happy to hear from anyone with information.

Crime Stoppers of Lewis County is also calling upon anyone with information to consider making an anonymous phone call to them, at 1-800-748-6422 or leaving a tip online at


For background, read “Arson: String of Centralia fires under investigation” from Friday May 3, 2013, here

Family pet thought dead after Grand Mound fire brought back to life

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Scooter the dog is revived by Firefighter Kylie Kavanaugh after mobile home fire. / Courtesy photo by West Thurston Regional Fire Authority

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters called this morning to a Grand Mound residential fire managed to contain the blaze to one room and resuscitated a small dog discovered unconscious under a bed.

When they started breaking down the room and pulled out a mattress, they found the little dog, West Thurston Regional Fire Authority Lt. Lanette Dyer said.

It was presumed dead, Dyer said, but was administered oxygen with a child bag-valve mask.

The cause of the 6 a.m. fire in a mobile home at the 6400 block of Southwest 201st Avenue is under investigation.

Dyer said the man and woman who live there were treated for scrapes and minor burns. The female was subsequently transported to Providence St. Peter Hospital, she said.

Dyer said she did not know how the occupants got their injuries, but the woman was hysterical because the pet, Scooter, had not come out of the trailer.

Fire Capt. Brian Christenson had crews treating both the people and the dog, after the dog was located, she said.

Dyer called it a bright spot what is otherwise a devastating event.

Firefighter Kylie Kavanaugh used the mask to help the dog breath.

“Within a couple of moments, it started taking a couple of breaths, and then the dog’s eyes came open,” Dyer said. “Then dog then began to lick at the mask; they were all pretty excited.”

Scooter was taken to Ford Prairie veterinary Clinic to be checked out for smoke inhalation.

Centralia: Wanted man accidentally delivers himself to police custody

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 21-year-old man who showed up at the Centralia police station wearing handcuffs, asking for help getting them removed found himself instead getting a ride to jail after officers discovered he had an outstanding warrant.

Aaron M. Perez came knocking at the back door about 4 p.m. yesterday, his hands linked together in front of him with genuine Smith and Wesson police handcuffs, according to Sgt. Kurt Reichert.

He said his friends were playing around and then pitched the key out onto the lawn so he walked to the police department, Reichert said.

Officers at first wondered where he might have escaped from and a check showed he had a warrant from Lewis County Superior Court for failing to show up for a court date, according to police.

Perez didn’t know he was wanted, Reichert said.

Reichert said he’s heard of this happening elsewhere, but it was a first for him.

“It was pretty cut and dried, other than we were laughing all our a*ses off about it,” he said.

The young man was transported to the Lewis County Jail, and booked, still wearing the cuffs he provided, according to Reichert.


Rochester High School student charged with rape

Friday, May 17th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Prosecutors filed charges yesterday against the now-former lifeguard from the Great Wolf Lodge accused of raping a young teenage girl whose family was staying at the hotel and indoor water park.

Nineteen-year-old Alex Eduardo Salazar is a senior at Rochester High School. The alleged victim is 14 years old.


Alex Eduardo Salazar

Salazar was arrested Tuesday afternoon at school and after his court appearance the next day was bailed out by his father.

Jaime Salazar Sr. said they were hiring an attorney today.

Salazar Sr. said he knows what the allegations are and his son has been very open with him.

It’s a totally different story, he said.

“I think it’s going to be a really tough case, but I think it’s going to be okay for him,” Salazar Sr. said. “There’s stuff she’s saying that’s not true.

“Hopefully that will come out in court.”

The younger Salazar is charged with second-degree rape as well as rape of a child in the third degree.

The second charge is based upon a victim who is age 14 or 15  – too young to give consent – with the perpetrator being at least 48 months older.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office has said the girl left willingly with Alex Salazar after his shift ended, the assault occurred in his car on a nearby roadside and that he dropped her back to hotel where she told her family. She had minor injuries, Lt. Greg Elwin said.

The Great Wolf Lodge is a family oriented destination resort in Grand Mound with an indoor water park for guests. Alex Salazar had been working there a little more than six months, according to his father.

Charging documents describe how the girl and her older sister befriended the lifeguard on Monday while in the water park and the sister gave him her phone number.

He texted her later and they arranged to meet; the sisters, another friend and he met in the parking lot and had a conversation in his car, charging documents go on to say.

They all went into the arcade and after some time passed, he and the girl went to his car. Surveillance video shows they left the hotel at 12:05 a.m.

The girl told a deputy she didn’t know he intended to drive away, and became uncomfortable; he parked on the side of a gravel road and they began to kiss, then they decided to get in the backseat, charging documents state.

Click below to read the rest of the story.


Mother of slain Centralia child heads to prison

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Becky Heupel accepts hugs and farewells from her family and friends while waiting for a jail guard to arrive to take her away after sentencing.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – While the man convicted of a torturous death of a Centralia toddler sits in prison for possibly life, the little girl’s mother who failed to protect her daughter will continue her grieving behind bars for a year and a day, starting now.

Becky M. Heupel, 31, was handcuffed and taken into custody this morning, after a 30-minute hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

Heupel pleaded guilty last month to second-degree criminal mistreatment, not for any abuse she inflicted but for her inaction.

Her short-term live-in boyfriend James Reeder was sentenced in March after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree rape of a child, second-degree assault and homicide by abuse. And possession of methamphetamine. Two-year-old Koralynn Fister died from drowning and head trauma while in the care of Reeder on May 24 of last year at the home off East Oakview Avenue.

Today it was Heupel’s turn to be sentenced.

The deputy prosecutor stated that Heupel’s inaction was a gross failure of her parental responsibility but he spent more time explaining to the judge why he was not asking for a much harsher punishment.

“I think there’s a lot of people who think she should be charged right along with Mr. Reeder,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke said. “There’s simply wasn’t any evidence she knew about the activity of Mr. Reeder or participated in any way.”

O’Rourke noted extensive deliberations with the prosecutor’s office and police on what her level of accountability was.

He spoke of Heupel’s past, her level of intelligence, of naivety and even stupidity. He spoke of her lifetime punishment of losing her child.

“There’s some degree of selfishness on her part perhaps, blindly putting her faith in Mr. Reeder,” he said.

She has no previous felonies, he added.

Defense attorney Paul Strophy went down the same path, only farther.

“She’s already suffered a horrendous loss from someone she let into her life,” Strophy said. “Some would argue that is punishment enough.”

Strophy noted his client’s long mental health history, OCD, PTSD, agoraphobia, major depression, lack of self confidence and a history of abandonment issues.

“With her learning disabilities, and hearing loss, all these things played a role in how she was used,” he said.

Hindsight is 20-20, Strophy said, about the couple of short months in question.

He told the judge that while Heupel was informed Reeder had a history of domestic violence, she never saw it coming against her children.

“None of the injuries gave her any indication what he ultimately did would occur,” he said. “Her biggest mistake obviously was giving his explanations too much credence and that’s why it’s reckless.”

And she was cooperative, he added.

Prosecutors have indicated a lengthy list of injuries found on the child’s body, some old and some new, such as a missing toenail, a missing patch of hair, palm-sized pieces of skin missing from her buttocks, signs of penetration, bruising and more.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said outside the courtroom Heupel knew her child was being injured when she was with Reeder, and Heupel did nothing except to continue to leave her daughter with him.

“When you open your home to someone like Mr. Reeder, in this case, you’re going to be held accountable,” Meyer said.

The plea deal worked out was that both attorneys recommended Heupel go to prison for one year and one day.

While the maximum penalty is five years, the standard sentencing range for someone with no criminal history, such as Hepuel, is six to 12 months. They asked for the extra time so she  could serve her time in state prison instead of in the Lewis County Jail.

Judge James Lawler said it gave him no pleasure to impose the sentence, but that it was appropriate in the case.

“It’s clear to me you were taken advantage of by Mr. Reeder,” Lawler said. “(But) your conduct constitutes a gross failure as a parent. You did what you did because it was easier to step back and do nothing instead of confronting Mr. Reeder.”

Heupel chose not to make a statement on her own behalf, after a long pause of seemingly considering it.

A crowded courtroom of mostly supporters formed a line to hug her before she was led away. Among them was Koralynn’s father, David Fister.

Fister said he’s forgiven the mother of his only child.

He said he agrees but mostly disagrees Heupel should be locked up.

“I don’t think that’s what should have happened to her, but I understand,” he said.

For background, read:

• “Mother of dead Centralia 2-year-old admits some responsibility in case” from Friday April 19, 2013, here

• “Centralia man gets maximum prison term for sexual abuse, death of toddler” from Wednesday March 6, 2013, here

Centralia marijuana store case goes to trial

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The long saga of the short-lived Hub City Natural Medicine – medical marijuana dispensary – is winding down, with three of the participant’s cases settled and the fourth who is taking hers to trial.

The storefront opened in downtown Centralia in early 2011 with a city-granted business license, but was shut down after police realized what “education and sales of natural medicine” on the application really meant.

Lauri Spangler, 47, is charged with maintaining a premises for using controlled substances.

Jurors in Lewis County Superior Court were reminded by a judge today not to jump to conclusions as there are two sides to every case, and then they heard 10 minutes of opening statements from attorneys.

It’s simple, Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told them.

“But there are different parts of it that kind of lock this all together,” Meagher said.

Pay attention to the dates, and then to the law as it applied back then, he said.

At the time, some cities in Washington such as Tacoma allowed so-called dispensaries of medical marijuana to operate, where, in theory, patients with authorizations make donations to obtain cannabis. But the issue hadn’t come up in Lewis County.

Meagher told jurors that Hub City Natural Medicine’s application for a business license slid past city officials and was mailed out on Feb. 2, 2011. But then police found out they were selling marijuana.

Meagher said Police Chief Bob Berg sent them a letter advising them they could not do what they were doing.

The following month, police got a tip it was still going on and sent an informant into the store, Meagher said.

“And sure enough, the informant was able to buy it,” he said.

Twice more, undercover purchases were made and finally police went in and found marijuana, infused edible products and such, Meagher said.

The people involved were Daniel Mack, David Low and Colby Cave, who was Spangler’s live-in boyfriend, Meagher told the jury.

“And she helped by getting him him the business license,” he said.

Defense attorney Michael Underwood was brief when he addressed the courtroom.

His client had nothing to do with the operation of the business, she didn’t work there or go there, Underwood said.

“What the evidence is going to show is my client got the business license and set up the checking account and that’s pretty much it,” Underwood said.

They didn’t use the word “selling”, Underwood said. They gave the product in exchange for a donation, he said.

Underwood contended it was Cave, Low and Mack who handled the day to day operations.

Mack will be testifying against Spangler, he said.

“It’s gonna come out he got a heck of a deal,” he said. “In exchange for avoiding a long prison term.”

Cave and Low pleaded guilty earlier this year. Mack has pleaded guilty but has not yet been sentenced.

Maintaining a premises for using controlled substances is a class C felony.

The trial will continue tomorrow morning.

For background, read “Centralia medical marijuana dispensary case winding down” from Saturday February 2, 2013, here

Duo gets one year for Centralia indoor marijuana farm

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A pair of brothers jailed earlier this year for growing lots of marijuana in a home they rented on Seminary Hill Road in Centralia pleaded guilty today.

Zeshawn H. Hasnani, 27, and Sohail Hasnani, 24, went before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court where their lawyers and the prosecutor recommended they be sentenced to one year and one day.

When they were charged, police said they had seized 90 plants in various stages of growth and prosecutors suggested the men were supplying product to medical marijuana dispensaries around the state, alleging also that one of their businesses was nothing more than a post office box in Florida.

A money laundering charge was dropped as part of a plea agreement.

Seattle attorney David Arganian said they both had medical marijuana authorizations, and had taken steps to get legal counsel but some advice they got was not the best.

“They weren’t running a cartel or anything like that,” Arganian said. “They were growing marijuana; they did a couple things, like I say, they shouldn’t have.”

While Initiative 502 passed by Washington voters in November has somewhat decriminalized recreational use of marijuana, no licenses have yet been issued to growers, distributors or retailers.

And local governments have kept at bay any legitimate cultivation of medical cannabis in the county via collective gardens through moratoriums and other means.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke asked a judge to accept the plea agreement, noting it was because of the facts of the case and the risks of going to trial.

The Hasnanis pleaded guilty to manufacture of a controlled substance, marijuana and also to possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, with intent to deliver.

The standard sentencing range for their offenses is zero to six months, but both sides agreed to ask for a higher sentence so they could serve their time with the state Department of Corrections instead of in the local jail.

Judge Richard Brosey agreed.

Other charges which were dismissed included possession of marijuana and maintaining a premises for using controlled substances, as well as the special allegations of doing it near a school bus stop and committing the crimes while armed with a firearm.

Arganian said the college educated pair from Florida were shocked to have found themselves locked up on $250,000 bail, as was their family.

“They learned a lot,” he said. “Unfortunately, the hard way.”

For background, read “Police: Centralia home a hub for marijuana for regional dispensaries” from  Friday January 11, 2013, here

Sheriff’s office digs around Winlock property in connection with missing girl case

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Detectives comb through debris at a property on Ferrier Road. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Sheriff’s detectives yesterday finished up two days of searching two wells and digging through mounds of garbage at a property south of Winlock after getting tips the body of the missing Kayla Croft-Payne had been dumped there.

Nothing of interest was located except for a dog carcass, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said today.

The Lewis County girl vanished three years ago. She was 18 years old when a missing person report was made, days after her last posting on social network sites.

Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said the office had received several tips Croft-Payne had been killed and either buried or tossed down a well at property on the 1500 block of Ferrier Road.

She said the young woman used to hang out with the people who lived there.

The owners gave detectives permission to conduct the search, according to the sheriff’s office. Brown said she didn’t know if the property has changed hands.

The sheriff’s office says the place is known as “the farm” by those who frequent it.

Brown said detectives excavated a 20-foot deep well which had recently been filled with trash and debris. They used a pump to drain a 35-foot deep well.

A neighbor assisted with his backhoe and the detectives worked sixteen hours on Wednesday and Thursday, but turned up nothing, according to Brown.

According to Brown, deputies had received information in the past about the location which was vague, but two new tips in the past three weeks offered more detail.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield said in a prepared statement his people worked diligently and conducted a thorough search.

“This case has been troubling for our office and we still hope to find Kayla and bring closure to her family and friends,” Mansfield stated.

At a gathering the weekend before last at Penny Playground in Chehalis, family and some friends marked the three year anniversary since Croft-Payne disappeared.

Her aunt has connected with a Vancouver, Wash.-based organization that is investigating women and girls exploited by online modeling sites.

Croft-Payne wanted to be a model, and spoke of getting photographs taken for a portfolio.

Earlier this week, the sheriff’s office outlined the lengths it has gone to pursue that lead, noting they now know it was a different modeling site that Croft-Payne used than the one they checked.

Brown says the case has never been dormant, and detectives continue to follow all leads.

The sheriff’s office asks anyone who knows anything about the case to please call them at 360-748-9286 or contact Crime Stoppers of Lewis County, at 1-800-748-6422.


For background, read “News brief: Model Mayhem website not involved in missing Lewis County girl’s case” from Tuesday May 7, 2013, here


Detectives search a well at a property on Ferrier Road. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office

Centralia murder trial: Miller found guilty in B Street shooting death

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Weston G. Miller hangs his head after hearing a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Murder defendant Weston G. Miller blinked once and finally lowered his head after he was found guilty as charged today in Lewis County Superior Court.

A jury took a little more than three hours today to convict the 30-year-old Centralia resident of first-degree murder in the shooting death last year of a house guest, 43-year-old David Wayne Carson.

He’ll be back in court next Thursday morning when attorneys will set a sentencing date.

In the trial that began on Monday, jurors and spectators heard that Carson died from two gunshots to his chest, that it occurred at a fairly close range and that Miller claimed self defense.

It happened March 13, 2012 inside Miller’s house on B Street.

What they didn’t hear from witnesses or prosecutors was any explanation for why it happened.

Carson’s girlfriend Sara DeSalvo – has described how she and Carson were inside a bedroom that day and Miller kept coming to the door to tell them to stop arguing.

DeSalvo told jurors Miller knocked on the door and asked her boyfriend to come out for a minute, and as soon as the door closed she heard three shots. Miller told police during an interview he opened the door and Carson charged at him with a rusty kitchen knife so he shot him.

DeSalvo and Carson who were off and on homeless were staying with Miller for a few days in exchange for her doing some house cleaning.

The case has dragged on over a year in part because of questions about Miller’s competency and sanity.

One friend of Miller’s was sitting in the benches behind him when the verdict was read this afternoon.

Carson’s brother, two grown children and other family members have attended most of the trial.

DeSalvo, who said Carson proposed to her the night before he was killed, sat behind his family and cried when the verdict was read.

She said she still doesn’t know why Miller shot her boyfriend.

“I have no idea,” she said.


For background, read “Centralia murder trial: In the defendant’s own words” from Friday May 10, 2013 at 10:13 a.m., here

Centralia murder trial: In the defendant’s own words

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Weston G. Miller consults with his lawyer, J.P. Enbody during a recess in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Jurors yesterday heard Weston G. Miller describe the events inside his Centralia home that led him to pull a 9 mm handgun out of his sweatpants pocket and fire multiple shots at a houseguest.

Miller, 30, is charged with first-degree murder for the March 13, 2012 death of 43-year-old David Wayne Carson.

The trial in Lewis County Superior Court which began on Monday is expected to wrap up today.

The only other person who was in the house on B Street – Carson’s girlfriend Sara DeSalvo – has described how she and Carson were inside a bedroom that day and Miller kept coming to the door to tell them to stop arguing.

The former welder did not take the witness stand, but portions of a two-hour taped interview with police were presented to the jury yesterday.

The fragmented interview suggested Miller was rescuing DeSalvo from getting beaten.

Miller indicated he invited DeSalvo to stay in his home and didn’t know she was bringing a boyfriend with her.

Under questioning by two Centralia police officers, Miller spoke of DeSalvo telling him of the things Carson had done to her and that Carson was the kind of guy who would cut someone’s throat.

He said he heard yelling like DeSalvo was getting “choked out”, went to the bedroom and found Carson with his hands all over her.

“I said wait a minute, this is my house, my kid’s room, this is not happening here,” Miller said.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher has described for jurors that three times Miller came to the bedroom door to confront the couple.

Miller, in his interview with police, said he would then stand outside the door listening to the couple.

At one point, he went to the back of the house to get his gun, he said.

In a portion of the sometimes fuzzy audio, it sounds like Miller told police he heard DeSalvo saying why don’t you just go kill him now and Carson saying shut up, shut up.

Miller described Carson whispering in a deep voice.

The final time was when he fired his gun.

“I opened the door and he was like right there, he came right at me,” Miller said.

With what? he was asked.

“Like a “freaking rusty kitchen knife,” was his reply.

Closing statements will be heard this morning in the Chehalis courtroom.

For background, read “Centralia murder trial: Self defense or premeditated?” from Thursday May 9, 2013, here

Centralia murder trial: Self defense or premeditated?

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Weston G. Miller stands next to his attorney in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The murder trial of Weston G. Miller continues this morning in a Chehalis courtroom, with a videotape of Miller’s interview with police expected.

Miller, 30, is charged in the March 2012 shooting death of 43-year-old David Wayne Carson who had been staying at his house on B Street in Centralia.

Centralia defense attorney J.P. Enbody has told jurors there’s no doubt his client shot Carson, but contends it was because Carson came at Miller with a knife.

Only one other person was present, Carson’s 46-year-old girlfriend Sara DeSalvo who spent more than two hours on the witness stand, and was repeatedly asked by the judge to focus.

“Again, listen to the question and answer the question that’s asked,” Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey said numerous times.

DeSalvo, at times distraught and at times seemingly irritated by questioning, apologized, saying she knows she talks fast.

Yesterday, jurors heard the pathologist who conducted the autopsy describe a grazing bullet wound on Carson’s left forearm as a probable defensive wound.

Miller was charged last year with first-degree murder in the death. Prosecutors have not offered a motive, but the case got off to a slow start because of questions whether Miller was competent to stand trial.

Police called the afternoon of March 13 to Miller’s house on B Street found Carson dead inside with two bullet wounds in his chest and chased down Miller who had left in a pickup truck. Officers were told Carson and DeSalvo had been arguing and Miller told them to stop.

Jurors have heard that Carson and DeSalvo were off and on homeless after Carson lost his job. After they were kicked out of one Centralia home, DeSalvo asked Miller if they could stay a short time, in exchange for her doing some much needed major house cleaning.

DeSalvo, on Tuesday afternoon and yesterday morning told the court about the week prior and the day of the shooting.

She described Carson, the love of her life, as amiable.

“He never had any disagreements with anybody, he was very soft-spoken and quiet,” DeSalvo said.

She spoke of Miller wanting to be friends with Carson and hanging out smoking pot together.

Under questioning, it became apparent Miller grew weary of his house guest’s arguing.

On the last day, Carson and DeSalvo were in the bedroom and Miller repeatedly knocked on the door and told them to stop fighting.

Weston was being a jerk for no reason, she said.

He knocked on the door one last time, according to DeSalvo.

“He said, ‘hey man, can I talk to you for a minute’,” DeSalvo testified.

Carson kissed her, handed her his pot pipe and opened the bedroom door, she testified.

“As soon as it closed, as soon as I heard it click, I heard pop, pop, pop,” DeSalvo said.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher has told jurors no knife was found in Carson’s hand. Enbody has pointed out three knives found in the guest bedroom where Carson stumbled onto his back and lay dead.

Today, jurors are expected to hear testimony from neighbors who rushed in to the house to see if they could help Carson.


For background, read “B Street homicide: Defendant says self defense” from Wednesday March 14, 2012, here


Sara DeSalvo sobs on the witness stand.

Second area wildfire breaks out overnight

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Courtesy photo by West Thurston Regional Fire Authority

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Air support is on the scene for a 40-acre fire that ignited overnight in the Capitol Forest overnight.

Firefighters from the Rochester and Littlerock area responded about 12:30 a.m. after a 911 caller reported a large fire at Capitol Peak, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

The blaze is described as approximately eight miles northwest of Littlerock and three miles south of the C Line. The fire chief is asking the public to stay out of the area.

Steep terrain and steady wind with gusts has made it difficult to fight, according to Lt. Lanette Dyer.

Crews from the McLane-Black Lake fire district are on the scene as well as the state department of Natural Resources.

DNR spokesperson  Karen Ripley said smoke is already visible from Olympia.

“There’s an off-road and ATV festival going on this weekend in the forest and there will be unexpected trail closures,” Ripley said.

Ripley said the cause is under investigation. Lt. Dyer called if suspicious, in part because it’s not yet very dry out, she said.

It’s burning on DNR trust land in logging slash and a 20-year-old old plantation, Ripley said.

In Lewis County at the Dog Mountain Fire near Glenoma, Ripley said there is little change this morning from last night.

As many as 50 firefighters were there last evening on property owned by Port Blakely. It too is burning in steep terrain and was described as spotty fires inside a 100-acre perimeter.

Engines patrolled the area overnight and a strong effort will be made today to extinguish the fire, according to Ripley.

For background, read “Breaking news: Large brush fire burning south of Glenoma” from Saturday May 4, 2013, here

Breaking news: Large brush fire burning south of Glenoma

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Looking toward Dog Mountain from Falls Road. / Courtesy photo by Miriam DeShasier

Updated at 7:09 p.m. and 8:33 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A large wind-fueled wildfire that started east of Morton this afternoon has spread and is still growing.

Seven fire departments plus firefighters from the state department of Natural Resources are on the scene on Dog Mountain, at the east end of Riffe Lake.

Various reports have suggested the blaze is as large as 200 to 700 acres, but a spokesperson from DNR said the fire was within a 100-acre perimeter but very patchy and spotty.

Only about 10 acres is actually fire, Karen Ripley of DNR said after speaking with the incident commander about 7 p.m.

“There’s a lot of fuel in the area, but not a lot of it has dried out” Ripley said.

Ripley said the Dog Mountain Fire on land owned by Port Blakely is in an area both recently logged and with 8-year-old trees.

Lt. Laura Hanson from Lewis County Fire District 5 said the initial call came in at 1:22 p.m. More than 50 firefighters are working the fire, according to Hanson.

The Taidnapam Park area has been evacuated, but no structures are threatened, according to Hanson.

The incident commander told Ripley the wind is beginning to die down. She said crews would likely be out there for a couple of days.

Dog Mountain, just south of Glenoma,  is known as a favorite spot for hang gliders.

Miriam DeShasier, who lives in Glenoma, took a drive down Falls Road this afternoon and said it appears the east side of Dog Mountain was burning.

“A lot of the smoke is gone from the area now,” DeShasier said this evening.


Judge sends former Lewis County museum director to prison, criticizes disengaged board

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Deborah Sue Knapp sits with her defense attorney Ken Johnson as she is sentenced for theft.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Judge Richard Brosey blasted board members of the Lewis County Historical Museum today when he sentenced its now-former executive director for stealing possibly more than $200,000 during her time at the helm.

The theft was brought to light after revelations the non-profit’s endowment fund of more than $460,000 was gone.

Both the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney in the case deny Deborah Sue Knapp took all of it, Brosey said. Both say the museum simply lived beyond its means.

“The endowment apparently was used as a piggy bank,” Brosey said.

Being on a board is not just a ceremonial job where members can attend meetings once in awhile and nod in agreement, it comes with responsibilities, Brosey told a nearly packed courtroom this afternoon.

“I’m going to impose punishment to Mrs. Knapp for what she did,” Brosey said. “But the board of directors has to take an active role. You can’t just sit there and do nothing.”

The Lewis County Superior Court judge said he was personally offended that the heritage of Lewis County was abused, noting how difficult it is to build endowment funds, and how this scandal will make it even harder.

The endowment was in an account meant to be left untouched, so it could generate interest which could be used for operating costs.

“It’s egregious its depleted,” Brosey said.

Knapp was arrested at the end of 2011, five and a half years after she was hired to run the institution that inhabits a former rail station on Northwest Front Way in Chehalis.

After months of trial preparations and negotiations, the now-53-year-old agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a sentencing recommendation. The hope was she could do about 12 months of jail time on work release, if she could find a job.

That didn’t work out.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and defense attorney Ken Johnson’s back up plan was to ask the judge to give her one year plus one day, so she could serve her time in state prison instead of in a county jail.

State prison was at Knapp’s request, in part because it’s better equipped to deal with her ill health, according to her attorney.

The top of the legislatively mandated standard range for the crimes to which she pleaded guilty is 14 months.

Judge Brosey today imposed 14 months and ordered her immediately into custody.

Knapp was taken away in handcuffs, although she had hoped not to check into the jail until the evening before transport to prison, because of issues regarding bringing her heart medication into the jail.

Prosecutors alleged Knapp basically doubled her salary for a period of time, by obtaining “draws” that weren’t subsequently accounted for, writing her own payroll draw checks without anyone else’s knowledge and many times listing them in the check register as voided. She used the museum’s debit card to pay personal expenses, in an amount the two sides don’t agree upon.

Halstead had told the court he believed he could prove she took in excess of $124,000 and said it appeared she took more than $200,000, but that wasn’t provable.

“Reports that over $400,000 was taken by Mrs. Knapp, that’s just not true” Halstead told the court.

He said he knew the deal would make outsiders on both sides unhappy, but he wanted both for her to do time and be able to pay restitution.

Knapp’s attorney told the court his client has already paid $20,000 in restitution, money she borrowed from a relative.

“Mrs. Knapp is ashamed and embarrassed to be in this position,” Johnson said. “She would like to apologize to the entire community.”

He took a moment as well to share his view of the museum’s books, noting it operated without a budget or accountability.

“The endowment was used routinely to balance things out, they were living beyond their means,” Johnson said. “Anyone who’s attempted to blame Mrs. Knapp for that in total is simply mistaken.”

The final deal saw Knapp pleading guilty to five counts of first-degree theft.

Knapp herself addressed the judge only briefly. She said she appreciated the judge’s consideration and she was sorry.

Edward Fund spoke to the court as a member of the museum who has been involved in fundraising over the years.

“I just want people to actually learn from this,” he said.

His wife, former museum board member and newly elected Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund, focused on the betrayal, sharing examples of how she felt Knapp manipulated her and others.

“I didn’t know she would go from a very good friend to someone who would exhaust the museum fund,” Fund said.

The museum’s current board of directors is said to contain both old and new members.

For background, read:

• “Knapp confesses she stole money from Chehalis museum as its director” from Wednesday March 13, 2013, here

Arson: String of Centralia fires under investigation

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Response at Centerville Western Store on Lum Road / Courtesy photo by Riverside Fire Authority

Updated at 6:12 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Three fires broke out within less than an hour overnight in Centralia, causing damage at two church buildings and a third at the Outlet Mall.

They are under investigation.

It began about 3:20 a.m. when a female showed up at the front door of the downtown fire station and said she thought there was a fire next to the Centralia Church of the Nazarene on the 1200 block of West First Street, according to Riverside Fire Authority Capt. Tim Adolphsen.

At 3:35 a.m. crews were called to the Centerville store off Lum Road, he said.

And just after 4 a.m., they were notified of another at a church on the 2500 block of Seward Avenue, he said.

Nobody was injured, he said.

Investigators have concluded already the last fire, at Calvary Chapel in north Centralia, was from an electrical issue, but the other two are arson, Chief Jim Walkowski said.

Fire investigators and police going to have a busy day, he said.

“We’re trying to find people who may have wanted to do harm to these buildings,” Walkowski said.

The most seriously damaged was the house just west of the Nazarene Church, which is used for youth activities, according to firefighters. The bulk of the fire was in its garage area however, Walkowski said.

He estimated the loss to as much as $50,000.

“That has been deemed a set fire, that’s an arson,” Walkowski said. “From where it started and the burn patterns, it was definitely a set fire, not an accident.”

The chief said he was just arriving at the scene when they were informed of an alarm activation at Centerville, the western store at the north end of the Centralia Outlets, so he headed that way instead.

Flames there originated in a hot water tank enclosure attached to the east end of the structure, he said.

“We were able to get inside quick enough so they will be open for business today,” Walkowski said.

The chief is asking residents who may have surveillance cameras to take a look at their footage to see if they show any vehicles or even people walking down the streets. And to please call him at 736-3975 or the police department if they find anything.

“We’ve solved lots of fires with these,” Walkowski said.

Four other fire departments, from Rochester to Napavine, assisted, he said.

The fire damage at the church on Seward Avenue was minimal, although it sustained some smoke and water damage, according to Walkowski.

By 10:30 a.m., crews learned of an attempt to burn yet another building, Cooks Hill Community Church on the 2400 block of Cooks Hill Road. They don’t know when it occurred, because it failed.

“One of the workers walked outside and found the side of the church had scorch marks,” Walkowski said.

The chief said they are asking folks to be hyper vigilant, and be sure to move any combustible materials away from the exterior of their homes or buildings.

A fire earlier in the night at the north end of Chehalis remains under investigation as well, he said.

Crews were called about 1 a.m. to the Firehouse Espresso stand on the 2300 block of Kresky Avenue. Flames were found on the backside, which were quickly knocked down, according to Chehalis Fire Department Firefighter-Investigator Jay Birley.

Birley said they had a garbage can behind the structure, and he’s suspicious about cigarette butts.

“It’s looking toward accidental, but I won’t know more till later today,” Birley said.

He’s described the damage to the coffee stand as moderate.