Archive for the ‘News briefs’ Category

Read about former Montesano police chief in trouble again, allegedly dealing drugs …

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Updated

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A one-time finalist for the position of chief of police in Chehalis was charged yesterday in Pierce County after a search of his apartment turned up heroin and meth, drugs he allegedly admitted he’s been selling for the past two months.

The (Aberdeen) Daily World reports Ray Sowers however, denied using drugs.

News reporter Jake Schild writes Sowers was also charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm, in connection with a handgun discovered under his bed and a January felony charge for stealing more than $1,500 worth of liquor from a Safeway store.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune reports Sowers is a drug court participant in Pierce County, and now has a hearing Oct. 14 to determine whether he’s kicked out of the program.

Sowers resigned as police chief from Montesano in 2010 after an investigation found he spent thousands of dollars of public money on personal purchases, ending his 26-year law enforcement career, according to Schild.

He interviewed for the top cop job in the Lewis County seat in late 2006.

Read more about it here

Read more about pounds and pounds of illegal marijuana …

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports the generally well-liked-by-his-neighbors 62-year-old accused by Centralia police of illegally supplying large amounts of marijuana in the region is being held on $200,000 bail.

George Szerency, 62, of Kelso, had not been charged yet by yesterday afternoon, news reporter Shari Phiel writes.

A two-month investigation by the Centralia Police Department’s special Anti-Crime Team led to Szerency’s home on Monday, and the seizure of 21 pounds of marijuana buds, guns, cars, more than $50,000 cash and nine-foot tall marijuana plants growing in his backyard. The operation was using the cover that they were supplying medical marijuana distributors, according to police.

Phiel reports police believe Szerency bought marijuana in 40- to 100-pound increments in southern Oregon and resold it one pound at a time to buyers in Kelso, Olympic and Tacoma.

Read more here

News brief: Mayfield drowning victim identified

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 51-year-old man who presumably drowned in Lake Mayfield two weeks ago has been positively identified as Terrence E. Murphy of Winlock.

His body was recovered on Monday by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team in the area where he had jumped from a bluff at Ike Kinswa State Park.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod indicates an autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has said there was no sign of foul play.

The team used a submersible camera device, and located Murphy 65 feet below the surface between a cliff wall and a log.

•••

For background, read “Man who jumped into Lake Mayfield yesterday presumed drowned” from Wednesday Sept. 3, 2014, here

Tenino baby dies in driveway tragedy

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 1-year-old girl was killed when she was run over by a car in a Tenino area driveway this morning.

“A tragic accident, no charges, just a tragic accident,” Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Cliff Zeisemer said today.

Deputies and firefighters were called about 8:15 a.m. to the baby’s family home on the 16,000 block of Melville Street.

Ziesemer said a 21-year-old woman arrived to the residence to pick up a child for daycare, as the families carpooled.

“Mom came out with the child and also the 1-year-old,” Ziesemer said. “Unbeknownst to everyone, the child had walked in front of the van.”

He said the newer van pulled away very slowly in the circular driveway; the mother had turned to head back into the house.

An arriving deputy started CPR and members of Thurston County Fire District 12 continued, but the baby was pronounced dead at the scene, according to responders.

The parents were both home, the mother had thought the child was back in the house, he said.

Fork Peak Fire near Pe Ell 70 percent contained

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The sixth day of firefighting at an active logging site outside of Pe Ell began with the Fork Peak Fire at 70 percent containment.

The forest fire has spread over 120 acres since it was discovered, about five miles southwest of Pe Ell. It’s burned recently harvested timber, slash and mature timber on property owned by Rayonier.

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Fork Peak Fire / DNR

It’s smoldering now, with low spread potential, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Smoke may still be visible from Pe Ell and adjacent communities, DNR reported this morning.

A crew supervisor was injured over the weekend while working on the fire and airlifted to Providence Centralia Hospital, but released by that evening, according to DNR spokesperson Janet Pearce.

Two hundred-twenty-one personnel are actively fighting the fire, according to Pearce.

Authorities continue to advise the public avoid to Elk Prairie Road, A-Line and Forks Creek Road near the fire area to help firefighters in minimizing any potential hazards. They originally mis-stated the name of Elk Prairie Road as Elks Creek Road.

Their work is supported by nine fire engines, eight water tenders, two bull dozers and one helicopter, Pearce states in this morning’s report.

No structures are threatened.

The fire in Pacific County, near the Lewis County line, is under the command of DNR’s Pacific Cascade Region.

The fire was reported at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday. Its cause is under investigation.

•••

For background, see ” ‘Really big’ wildfire spreading southwest of Pe Ell” from Friday Sept. 12, 2014 at 9:15 p.m., here

Centralia police shut down illegal marijuana operation in Cowlitz County

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
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Cash and processed marijuana buds are seized from Kelso home / Courtesy photo by Centralia Police Department’

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A two-month investigation  by the Centralia Police Department’s special Anti-Crime Team led yesterday to the seizure of 21 pounds of dried marijuana buds, guns, cars, more than $50,000 cash and nine-foot tall marijuana plants growing in a Kelso backyard.

Centralia police say the suspects were illegally supplying large amounts of marijuana in the Lewis, Thurston, Pierce and Cowlitz county areas, as medical marijuana distributors.

“The suspects were then laundering the money by buying and selling used cars to hide the large amounts of cash,” Centralia Police Department Officer Patty Finch states in a news release.

Police say officers conducted an unspecified number of undercover purchases from the suspects and then yesterday made a traffic stop and arrested George Szerency, 62, of Kelso.

A search that followed of his nearby home on the 800 block of South Seventh Avenue turned up 10 fully mature plants growing in his yard, a handgun, a rifle, just under $51,000 in U.S. currency and the buds plus 24 grams of hash oil. Also seized were a 2004 Pontiac Bonneville and a 1997 Mercedes E320, according to police.

Centralia police were assisted by the Kelso Police Department and the Cowlitz County Drug Task Force.

Szerency was booked into the Cowlitz County Jail for unlawful delivery of marijuana, conspiracy to deliver 15 to 20 pounds of marijuana, unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and unlawful manufacturing of marijuana, all within 1,000 feet of a school zone and while armed, according to the news release.

Officers are referring to prosecutors a case for charging Teresa Torres, 60, also of Kelso, with the same offenses. A case involving a third person, Dennis McCracken, 43, of Kelso, is also being referred to prosecutors for consideration of the charges of unlawful possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, according to police.

Police estimate the street value of the seized marijuana at $84,000.

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Ten mature marijuana plants grow in a Kelso backyard. / Courtesy photo by Centralia Police Department

News brief: Drowning victim recovered from Lake Mayfield

Monday, September 15th, 2014
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Deputies with Lewis County and with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team conduct recovery operation today on Lake Mayfield. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office

Updated at 4:09 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The body of the 51-year-old Winlock man who vanished after jumping into the water from a bluff two weeks ago was pulled from Lake Mayfield today.

Dive team members from Thurston County assisted Lewis County sheriff’s deputies this morning, using a submersible camera device and found him between a cliff wall and a log, 65 feet below the surface, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

He was about 25 feet from where he was last seen, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

The victim’s name has not been released.

Brown said there was no sign of foul play, but an autopsy will be conducted later this week.

A short search was launched the afternoon of Sept. 2 near the boat launch at Ike Kinswa State Park after the man’s friend called to report they had jumped into the lake and the 51-year-old didn’t resurface.

The cliff was described as 30 feet above the water.

The 43-year-old Mossyrock area man told deputies he’d spent about an hour searching the lake bank for his friend and then went home.

Deputies began today’s operation at 9 o’clock this morning and located the body at 12:20 p.m., according to Brown. He was removed within the hour, she states in a news release.

Ike Kinswa is off state Route 122, which runs around the north side of the lake, in between Silver Creek and Mossyrock.
•••

For background, read “Man who jumped into Lake Mayfield yesterday presumed drowned” from Wednesday Sept. 3, 2014, here

News brief: Mailbox explosion ignited small forest fire in Adna

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Updated at 9:06 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports this morning it is investigating a third-degree malicious mischief in Adna, where someone blew up a mailbox and started a small forest fire early yesterday.

Deputies learned that around 4 a.m. two neighbors in the area of the 600 block of Brockway Road near Lanakila Lane heard an explosion and then the sound of either a truck or an ATV with a loud exhaust speeding away, according to the sheriff’s office.

A neighbor arriving home at 4:30 a.m. discovered the flames which had spread to trees and brush and covered an area of about 100 feet by 50 feet, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

Firefighters from two departments responded, and put out the fire, described as burning grass and trees on a long private driveway and not threatening any structures; they finished their work about 7 a.m., according to Lewis County Fire Districts 6.

Brown said the fire was quickly extinguished and two mailboxes were damaged by an unknown explosive incendiary device or a firework.

The victims are a 59-year-old man and a 74-year-old woman, according to the sheriff’s office. Brown said the loss is $20.

Personnel from the state Department of Natural Resources are investigating, according to Brown.

Empty, unoccupied Toledo-area home burns

Monday, September 15th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A vacant 1960s-era house near the airport in Toledo was heavily damaged by an overnight fire.

Its cause is under investigation.

Crews were called about 11:45 p.m. to what was initially suspected to be a brush fire in a field at the 200 block of Spencer Road, according to Lewis County Fire District 2.

Approximately 25 firefighters from three districts battled the blaze, which appeared to have started in the garage, Fire Chief Wiltbank said.

“I didn’t know it was a garage, I thought it was carport, there was so little left of it,” Wiltbank said.

Flames spread through the grass and also burned a small garden shed, he said.

The chief said the rambler is owned by a family trust of a man who is deceased and has been for sale for at least the past couple of years.

The home was unfurnished and empty, but crews were on the scene for about two and a half hours because they had to remove the sheetrock of the vaulted ceiling piece by piece.

“It was a tough, tough job,” he said. “Everyone was very tired when they got done with it.”

News brief: Two hurt in Cinebar motorcycle versus vehicle accident

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 52-year-old man from Tacoma was injured when his Harley Davidson ran into the passenger side of an oncoming vehicle that turned in front of him on state Route 508 in Cinebar yesterday afternoon.

Troopers called to the scene about 3:50 p.m. concluded the eastbound Buick Enclave was making a left turn onto Panisco Road; its driver was uninjured, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Gregory J. Stewart, of Tacoma however was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to the state patrol. Stewart is listed in serious condition this morning.

His passenger, Elsie A. Thomas, 50, also from Tacoma, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital where she was treated and then transferred to an unspecified hospital.

The driver of the 2014 Buick, Leonard E. Corbett, 58, from Bellevue, was to be issued a citation for failure to yield the right-of-way, according to the state patrol.

Lewis County Fire District 8 Chief Duran McDaniel said he and his passenger were evaluated by medics. Their airbags had deployed and the side of the vehicle was pushed in probably about six inches, he said.

News brief: Fork Peak Fire near Pe Ell 25 percent contained

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Fire officials describe the forest fire near Pe Ell as 25 percent contained this morning, with 200 personnel still actively working.

The Fork Peak fire reported on Thursday evening is burning on private timberland owned by Rayonier, about five miles southwest of Pe Ell. It’s in Pacific County, at the Lewis County line.

“The fire activity at this time is smoldering with brief runs with moderate spread potential,” the Department of Natural Resources states in its morning update. “Smoke will be visible from the town of Pe Ell and adjacent communities.”

Crews today will be scouting and developing locations for containment lines, according to DNR spokesperson Nick Cronquist.

Its incident command center is located at the Falls Creek Retreat Center about 10 miles west of Pe Ell.

DNR is advising the public avoid to Elks Creek Road, A-Line and Forks Creek Road near the fire area to help firefighters in minimizing any potential hazards.

•••

For background, see ” ‘Really big’ wildfire spreading southwest of Pe Ell” from Friday Sept. 12, 2014 at 9:15 p.m., here

News brief: Where there’s smoke, there’s the Goat Fire

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
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Smoke can be seen from the red-outlined area in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. / Courtesy photo by Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Updated at 5:36 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Fire personnel are monitoring a fire burning in a remote and inaccessible section of the Goat Rocks Wilderness estimated at six acres in size.

The cause is undetermined; however the area did receive numerous lightning strikes in mid-August, according to a spokesperson with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It was first reported on Sunday.

Smoke may be visible from U.S. Highway 12 and occasionally from Packwood, according to Public Affairs Officer Diana Perez. It’s burning about nine miles east of Packwood.

They’ve named it the Goat Fire.

There are no fire related road or trail closures at this time and no known threat to the public, according to Perez.

Cowlitz Valley Ranger District Gar Abbas says fire personnel are actively scouting the surrounding area for appropriate locations to safely construct containment or contingency lines if needed. They are also making daily weather and fire observations of the area, according to Abbas.

Updates will be shared with the public if any significant changes occur, Perez states in a news release.

Read about Court: Lewis County inmates can get more than postcards

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Associated Press reports a federal court says the Lewis County Jail cannot restrict inmate mail to post cards, noting a preliminary injunction issued yesterday.

According to the AP story published at KOMOnews.com, U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura said the policy was a significant burden on the free speech rights of prisoners and their outside correspondents alike, regarding the lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News.

Read about it here

Lewis County Historic Courthouse now officially “historic”

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
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Lewis County Historic Courthouse / Courtesy photo

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A celebration will be held today in honor of the Lewis County Courthouse’s inclusion on the state and national registers of historic places.

The three-story building at 351 NW North Street in Chehalis was built in 1926 and 1927 and earned the two distinctions this summer.

An open house will run from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m., with county employees dressed in period attire. Tours are available.

The structure that encompasses the city block on the north side of Main Street no longer houses any courtrooms – just various county departments – and is referred to as the Historic Courthouse.

Lewis County District Court and Lewis County Superior Court occupy the third and fourth floors of the brick building on the south side of Main Street, the Lewis County Law and Justice Center.

Oakville woman, infant, survive car wreck, fire

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 21-year-old woman is listed in fair condition this morning after her car drifted off U.S. Highway 12 near Oakville, headed into a ditch, rolled onto its side and then struck a tree before catching fire.

She and a six-month-old baby left the vehicle before it caught fire, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Troopers called just before 2 a.m. to the area near Blockhouse Road describe the Toyota Scion as totaled.

Monica R. Lopez and the infant girl, both from Oakville, were taken by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the state patrol. The baby was not injured, but transported as a precautionary measure, according to the investigating trooper.

The state patrol concluded Lopez had been traveling westbound and fell asleep at the wheel. She was to be issued a citation for second-degree negligent driving.

News brief: Mineral timber fire still burns

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
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Smoke rises from hillside across from Mineral Lake. /Courtesy photo by Moira J. Thomas-Fisk McCreery

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Some 55 personnel worked the Mineral area wildfire today which has made its way into mature timber but a couple days of work still remain, according to a spokesperson from the state Department of Natural Resources.

At mid-day, the scorched area was measured at about six acres and the fire 25 percent contained, spokesperson Nick Cronquist of DNR said.

Lewis County Fire District 9 Chief Kevin Mounce said it was about 6 p.m. on Sunday when he looked out a window and saw smoke rising from just to the northwest of the Mineral Lake Lodge, in a clearcut on private property.

Carolyn McKelvie who owns and operates the lodge said it was about that same time she smelled smoke and checked every room in her building.

“My guests had just had a wedding and were down at the lake,” McKelvie said. “They saw flames and came running up the hill.”

The lodge is on the 100 block of Mineral Hill Road across the street from the lake.

The fire came less than a quarter mile from her place but crews have built a large fire break to protect it, McKelvie said today.

Mounce called upon fellow fire departments in Glenoma and Morton to assist and then DNR arrived about 8:30 p.m. Sunday. He turned the scene over to the state agency, he said.

DNR dealt with the fire overnight and yesterday morning it flared up and grew, he said.

“The winds came up around 9:30 or 10 and it started taking off on us then,” Mounce said.

DNR brought in two helicopters yesterday which dropped water on the flames for much of the day, according to Mounce. The terrain is described as very steep.

Today, DNR utilized three hand crews, three engines and a dozer, according to Cronquist. The helicopters remain on standby.

This afternoon, Cronquist characterized the spread potential as very low.

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Two helicopters use water from Mineral Lake to suppress fire across the road on Monday. / Courtesy photo by Carolyn McKelvie

News brief: Wildfire burning in Mineral

Monday, September 8th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters are actively working a fire this morning that ignited off Mineral Hill Road in Mineral yesterday.

Personnel from the state Department of Natural Resources were called about 6 p.m. to the scene, where it was slowly creeping up a timbered slope, according to a DNR spokesperson.

Last night they continued to mop up and they are out there again today, spokesperson Janet Pierce said. It was estimated at 2.8 acres, she said.

A DNR dispatcher in Castle Rock this morning said it started in a clearcut on mostly flat ground, but firefighters are working also on a pretty steep incline. She said she didn’t have a “size up” yet this morning.

News brief: Meet Chehalis fire chief candidates

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It will probably take a week or so before a new fire chief will be decided upon for the city of Chehalis after tomorrow’s day of interviewing the three finalists, according to Chehalis City Manager Merlin MacReynold.

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Jeff Larson

The change comes almost six months after the departure of halftime chief, Jim Walkowski who was also head of neighboring Riverside Fire Authority in Centralia but moved to Spokane County to take a new job. Capt. Rob Gebhart is serving as interim chief.

MacReynold said the city interviewed about a half dozen candidates and any one of the three remaining could do the job.

“But what’s important is they’re a good fit for the community,” MacReynold said.

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Joseph Sands

Which is why tomorrow each will be interviewed by four different panels and then by MacReynold. Then at 4:30 p.m., the city council and the public will get to meet them, he said.

“At the council meeting, we’ll have them get up and talk about their experience and why they’re interested in coming to Chehalis,” he said.

The pay is in the high $80,000s per year, according to MacReynold. The Chehalis Fire Department has 14 employees.

The three men are:

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Gary Woodson

• Jeff Larson, who for the past 13 years has been fire suppression battalion chief with the city of Lodi, California. Involved in the fire service almost 30 years.

• Joseph Sands is an engineer-paramedic in Billings, Montana, serving previously in several locations in positions that have included assistant chief and interim chief. Has more than 22 years experience of emergency service.

• Gary Woodson, former fire chief for Pendleton, Ore. Fire and Ambulance Department where he started in 2010. Involved in the fire service since 1974.

Plea bargain struck in Riffe’s 1980s child sex case

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – There will be no trial as to whether former Mossyrock resident Ricky Riffe sexually abused his 9-year-old step-daughter in the mid-1980s.

It was scheduled to start next week, but instead he is expected in court tomorrow to plead guilty to something less than originally charged, as part of a plea deal.

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Ricky Riffe

Riffe, 55, was sentenced last year to nearly 103 years in prison, following a lengthy trial and his conviction in the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and shotgun deaths of an elderly Ethel couple, Ed and Minnie Maurin.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer confirmed this afternoon that a change of plea hearing will take place tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in Lewis County Superior Court, but declined to say more.

Riffe’s Seattle-based defense attorney John Crowley confirmed he and prosecutors made a deal.

Riffe was arrested in the summer of 2012 in the Maurin homicides and brought to Lewis County from his home in Alaska. The following February, prosecutors charged him with what was then called statutory rape as well as indecent liberties, saying new information came to light.

He appeared in court briefly a week ago, as lawyers talked about a defense motion to move the child sex abuse trial to another locale, with Crowley contending his client would not face an impartial jury in Lewis County.

Crowley said late this afternoon the plan is Riffe will plead guilty to one count of indecent liberties, an offense that would have a standard sentencing range of around five years in prison. He also declined to say more.
•••

For background, read:

• “Attorneys dispute statute of limitations rules on surprise child sex charge for Maurin double murder defendant” from Saturday February 23, 2013, here

• “Riffe maintains innocence in face of sentence of more than a century for Maurin murders” from Tuesday December 3, 2013, here

News brief: Semi truck hits car loaded with kids, drives away

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Chehalis woman and three children were hospitalized after their car was struck by a semi truck changing lanes on northbound Interstate 5 near Napavine last night.

It happened just before 9 p.m. near the exit 72 interchange and the Honda Accord came to rest striking the center barrier, according to the Washington State Patrol. The big rig continued on without stopping, according to the state patrol.

Transported to Providence Centralia Hospital were Finola B. Erickson, 30, a 1-year-old baby girl and two boys, ages 4 and 8, the investigating trooper reports.

Lewis County Fire District 5 Chief Gregg Peterson said he understands the injuries were minor; everyone was reportedly belted in.

All were discharged from the hospital last night, according to a state patrol spokesperson.

News brief: Controlled substance homicide trial on track for November

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 36-year-old man who police believe sold heroin to a Centralia man who died of a drug overdose the same night appeared briefly in Lewis County Superior Court today as lawyers ready for his November trial.

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Robert T. Lusk

Robert T. Lusk was charged in June with controlled substance homicide for the death last spring of 23-year-old Tyson J. Anderson in Centralia.

Prosecutors and defense attorney Erik Kupka notified the judge in writing today the trial could take as long as five days. His client’s defense is general denial, according to Kupka.

The trial in Lewis County Superior Court is on the calendar for the week of Nov. 3.
•••

For background, read “Centralia heroin death leads to criminal charge for person who allegedly supplied the drug” from Wednesday June 11, 2014, here

Ricky Riffe must wait to learn if trial can be moved

Thursday, August 28th, 2014
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Gone is the bushy beard and long hair Ricky Riffe seemed to have begun cultivating once he was convicted last December.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Ricky A. Riffe appeared just very briefly in Lewis County Superior Court today, as lawyers prepare for a second trial in two years for the former Mossyrock man.

Riffe, 55, was charged last year with sexually abusing  his 9-year-old step-daughter in the mid-1980s, as he awaited trial for the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and shotgun deaths of an elderly Ethel couple.

He was convicted and sent to prison for nearly 103 years.

Defense attorney John Crowley filed a motion asking the trial get moved, saying his client would not face an impartial jury in Lewis County given inflammatory publicity beginning after his arrest in the notorious unsolved old case.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told Judge James Lawler this afternoon he opposed the motion, saying the issue is “not ripe.” A legal term, Meyer said, meaning premature.

“You don’t know that until you get your jury pool,” Meyer said.

Crowley told the judge he agreed and the parties concluded the question about a change of venue could be dealt with before, but during the same week as the trial.

The trial is scheduled for the week of Sept. 8.

Coroner: Pilot from Centralia, died from head injury

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The man killed when his small plane went down into a parking lot next to Interstate 5 in Chehalis has been positively identified as Gregory G. Graham, 66, of Centralia, the Lewis County Coroner’s Office said this evening.

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Chehalis Collision Center lot

The cause of Tuesday night’s fiery crash of the single-engine plane remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board but Coroner Warren McLeod said the cause of Graham’s death is blunt force trauma to his head.

Chehalis-Centralia Airport Manager Allyn Roe said Graham was a new face at the airport, renting a hangar on Aug. 15.

He purchased a P5151 Mustang from out of the area, had it trailered in and with others had been reassembling it for the past week and half, according to Roe.

Officials said witnesses watched the plane take off and appear to become unstable before coming down inside the fenced area of a closed vehicle repair business. Nobody else was hurt, despite the surrounding area consisting of a residential neighborhood to the east and a busy retail area including Wal-Mart and K-Mart to the west.

The aircraft is classified an experimental plane, meaning it was built by an individual and not a factory. Roe described it as a three-quarter-scale replica of a popular WWII fighter plane.

Its tail number identifies it as owned by Paul Piper in Waynesfield, Ohio in the registration database of the Federal Aviation Administration, with a manufacture date of 2007.
•••

For background, read “Professional pilot watched small plane struggle to climb before deadly Chehalis crash” from Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014, here