By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Two women who drove away from downtown Centralia with the two suspected thieves following the botched burglary at Salewsky’s Jewelry shop say they didn’t really know what was going on.
They were waiting in their cars in the parking lot at the railroad station after a long night at a casino, 30-year-old Jennifer Nordyke testified.
“Ryan and Rachael were talking about getting a hotel,” Nordyke said. “The guys say, hold on, we’ll be right back.”
The men were gone 15 to 30 minutes, she said.
Prosecutors initially said Nordyke and Rachael Hunter were the getaway drivers after Justin D. McPherson and his friend broke through a wall into the Tower Avenue business early one morning in mid-March, and fled after McPherson was shot when he was confronted by the owner’s son.
The two women have made plea deals in exchange for their testimony. Ryan W. Cox, also charged in the case, remains held in the Lewis County Jail.
The trial for McPherson opened yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court. It’s expected to run in to tomorrow.
Centralia police called about 7 a.m. on March 20 found a trail of dropped jewelry leading from a person-sized hole cut into the wall of the store from a vacant adjacent business space. Officers recovered a crowbar. The lock on the back door at the alley was discovered broken.
A Seattle area man who was staying at the Olympic Club hotel and smoking a cigarette near his work van early that morning testified he saw two men in black running toward him.
“All I heard was go, go, go,” Joshua Morris said.
The two cars he’d noticed with women in them parked near his van then squealed out of the lot, Morris said.
He thought a bank had been robbed, he said.
“At first I didn’t believe what I saw,” he said. “But I’ve seen a lot of movies.”
Fred Salewsky testified he thinks all of the missing jewelry has been recovered, about $3,800 worth.
Salewsky told the court yesterday he got a call from his son Jeremy Salewsky early that morning.
Jeremy Salewsky lives in an apartment above the shop the senior Salewsky bought from his father in 1985.
“My son tells me, ‘I think I might have shot someone’,” Fred Salewsky said. “I said, I will be right there.”
Centralia police got a break in the case a few days later when an off-duty detective learned a male with a gunshot wound was dropped off at a Tacoma hospital by a female in a red Mercedes the morning of the burglary, according to charging documents.
Officers arrested Nordyke on March 22 when she showed up to visit McPherson; they arrested McPherson as he was released from the hospital a few days later. Cox was charged on April 30; Hunter on May 10.
Police described McPherson as someone with an extensive criminal background, well known to police in the Renton, Kent, Auburn area.
The 29-year-old has a 2006 conviction for possession of stolen property, as well as three three eluding convictions, according to prosecutors. He is represented by Chehalis attorney Ken Johnson.
McPherson is charged with one count of second-degree burglary as well as one count of residential burglary.
He’s sat quietly in the courtroom as Johnson and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead questioned witnesses.
Jeremy Salewsky testified yesterday it was too dark too see more than a male figure with a blue hooded sweatshirt when he came downstairs to investigate an odd noise that morning.
He didn’t expect to see someone standing there, and fired from his Colt 45 handgun, he said.
He couldn’t even tell which way the person was facing, he said. Police have said McPherson was shot in the lower back.
“The individual jumped back though a wall that was cut,” Jeremy Salewsky testified.
The younger Salewsky said then he just stood there stunned a minute or two after it happened.
Nordyke, who said she and McPherson live in Federal Way, told jurors she expects prosecutors will drop two felony charges against her. Her hearing is set for tomorrow.
She admitted she didn’t want to be on the witness stand.
“If I testify, I get a misdemeanor charge, rendering criminal assistance,” she said, her voice breaking. “And I get to stay in drug court so I can raise our children.”
McPherson and she have known each other about 10 years. He and Cox have been good friends since childhood, she said.
She described leaving Centralia, a town she said she wasn’t familiar with, and traveling north on the freeway looking for blue hospital signs, trying to keep McPherson awake, holding hands and praying.
Nordyke explained he used the name of a friend’s ex-husband who had health insurance at the hospital, because they didn’t have insurance.
Reluctantly, she read aloud a passage from a police report in which she told officers she heard McPherson say to a friend that morning, “Dude, Mike, I tried to rob a jewelry store.”
On the stand today, Hunter said she’d been offered the same plea deal.
Halstead questioned her about what she thought McPherson and Cox were doing when they left the women in the parking lot that morning.
“Maybe something that wasn’t on the up and up,” Hunter said. “So I didn’t really ask.”
Cox is scheduled for a change of plea and sentencing next week.
For background, read “Jewelry store burglary suspect, alleged getaway driver awaiting May trial” from Thursday April 4, 2013, here