Archive for the ‘News briefs’ Category

News brief: Tumwater grocery robbery pinned on Chehalis pair

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Chehalis couple was arrested allegedly fleeing an armed robbery of a store in Tumwater last night.

Police say a male entered the Southend Grocery on the 6400 block of Capitol Boulevard Southeast and pointed a firearm at a 46-year-old woman who works there and demanded cash.

Officers called at 9:52 p.m. learned the male left on foot, but got into a vehicle driven by a female. The suspects were stopped on southbound Interstate 5 and the male ran away but was subsequently found in a wooded area, according to the Tumwater Police Department.

The two were arrested for first-degree robbery and booked into the Nisqually Jail, according to Tumwater detective Jennifer Kolb.

They are identified as husband and wife Gary Bafford, 54, and Genaveve Webb, 40, both of Chehalis.

No lunch for Chehalis man with imaginary firearm

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A grocery customer who allegedly tried to shoplift pre-packaged biscuits and gravy yesterday found himself arrested for more serious charges after he reportedly made a motion with his hand as though he had a gun, saying “Pow, pow, pow,” while staff held him down.

Police called just before 1 p.m. to the 500 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia were told a suspicious employee tried to block the path of Joshua E. Blankenship who then shoved the employee, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Fuller’s Shop ‘n Kart workers were able to stop him, Officer John Panco said, and when Blankenship then slipped and fell, he spilled his cup of coffee and the food item dropped out of his pocket.

That’s when he made the threat to kill the two employees by drawing his non-existent gun, according to Panco.

Blankenship, 25, from Chehalis, was arrested for second-degree robbery, felony harassment and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

News brief: Appeals judges reject each of Pe Ell man’s claims on rape conviction

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The former Pe Ell girls’ softball coach convicted two years ago of rape of a teenage team member lost his court appeal.


Todd D. Phelps

Todd Phelps, 52, was sent to prison for six years after a trial that extended into eight days, where prosecutors described how he gradually seduced a 16-year-old troubled with low self esteem and ultimately had sex with her that was against her wishes.

The former log truck driver was convicted of third-degree rape and second-degree sexual misconduct in May 2012 in Lewis County Superior Court.

A three-member panel of the Washington State Court of Appeals unanimously rejected each of Phelps arguments. The opinion was issued yesterday.

The issues he raised were many. The appeal was countered by Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh.

Through his Olympia lawyers Jodi Backlund and Manek Mistry, Phelps claimed:

(1) the trial court violated his and the public’s right to an open and public trial during jury selection; (2) the trial court violated his right to be present during jury selection; (3) the information charging Phelps with second degree sexual misconduct with a minor was deficient; (4) the trial court failed to give a unanimity instruction for the second degree sexual misconduct with a minor charge; 5) the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing arguments, and (6) Phelps’s trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments.

The decision was authored by Judge Linda Cj Lee, with Judge Thomas R. Bjorgen and Judge Bradley A. Maxa concurring.

For background, read “Pe Ell rape trial: Guilty as charged” from Friday April 27, 2012, here

Read about Pacific County deputy accused of extortion …

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Aberdeen) Daily World reports that 11 criminal charges including extortion and bribery were filed yesterday against a Pacific County sheriff’s deputy following an investigation conducted by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at the Pacific County sheriff’s request.

The newspaper writes that Deputy Vance O. Johnson, 44, has been on administrative leave since April; and that the charges in Pacific County Superior Court stem from on-duty behavior.

Read about it here. KXRO Newsradio has more

Read about Ryderwood domestic shooting incident leads to prison for girlfriend …

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports the woman who shot her boyfriend through a closed bathroom door in Ryderwood  in December was sentenced this week to 21 months in prison and ordered to undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment upon her release.

Linda Cochran, 43, and 69-year-old John Stiller both called 911 the morning of December 9 to report the shooting and Stiller drove himself to the Little Crane Cafe in Vader where he was met by deputies and medics.

The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office said Cochran continued to fire a hunting rifle randomly as she stayed on the phone with a dispatcher but was subsequently taken in to custody without incident.

News reporter Barbara LaBoe reports Stiller was hit twice with fragments from the same bullet and suffered injuries to his bowels; and that Cochran pleaded guilty to second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.

Read more here

Centralia resident disappears after leaving hospital

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 48-year-old Centralia woman seems to have vanished, months ago, police say.

Gina D. Schmidt, described as a vulnerable adult, was reported missing in early May and a search of her apartment revealed that in all likelihood, she hadn’t been home for two or more months, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Gina D. Schmidt

“It appears that most of her clothing and personal belongings were still present, giving the impression that when she left for the last time, she fully intended to return,” police said in a news release yesterday.

Detectives are now turning to the public, asking for assistance in locating the woman as they’ve run into a dead end in the case.

They say the investigation to this point has been fruitless, despite interviews with all of Schmidt’s known acquaintances and family. Nobody officers have spoken with has seen her since mid-February, according to police.

The last place police know for certain that she was, was at Providence Centralia Hospital on Feb. 15. Police say she was discharged at 11:30 p.m. that night.

Department spokesperson Officer John Panco said he didn’t know why Schmidt was hospitalized, but he believed it was an emergency room visit.

Her home is more than two miles across town, at the 300 block of North Tower Avenue.

Panco said it was May 7 when a woman who works for the area agency on aging made the missing person report. He didn’t know if Schmidt was a client there.

Schmidt has a history of alcohol abuse and medical issues including seizures, according to polIce.

Centralia police detective David Clary is interested in hearing from anyone who might have any information regarding her whereabouts.

She is described as a white female who is 5-feet 2-inches tall, weighing about 125 pounds, with graying blond shoulder length hair and blue eyes.

Centralia police say she was last seen dressed in blue sweatpants with a tan and multi-colored long polyester coat, and she had a white tube sock on her arm. Panco said he didn’t know why she wore a sock on her arm.

Clary can be reached a the Centralia Police Department, with a reference to case number 14A3683.

News brief: Fiery crash consumes car, semi truck in Rochester

Thursday, June 12th, 2014
highway 12 rochester headon crash car semi

Two firefighters from West Thurston Regional Fire hustle towards a fully involved car and semi truck truck on U.S. Highway 12. / Courtesy photo by Fire Chief Robert W. Scott

Updated at 6:28 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Two people survived a head-on collision on U.S. Highway 12 in Rochester yesterday in which both the car and the semi truck burst into flames sending a smoke column as much as 1,500 feet into the air and taking thousands of gallons of water to extinguish.

Firefighters dispatched about 3:30 p.m. could see the tower of smoke from their station three miles away, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

The truck was hauling a type of plywood and burned all the way down to the frame, Fire Chief Robert Scott said.

“The concussion heard from the tires blowing was heard over a mile away,” Scott said. “The explosions shot tire debris probably 150 yards.”

It happened on the highway near 183rd Avenue and Nicody Lane Southwest.

The woman driving the car and man driving the big rig were both standing on the side of the road when crews arrived, he said.

She was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital with minor injuries, he said. The truck driver – a 67-year-old Chehalis resident – was evaluated at the scene and shaken up, but otherwise fine, according to responders.

It’s a slow stretch of the road where the speed limit drops to around 35 to 40 mph, according to Scott.

“Very minor injuries, super fortunate,” Washington State Patrol spokesperson Trooper Guy Gill said. “This could have very easily been a double fatality.”

The 65-year-old Olympia woman had been traveling westbound when she fell asleep at the wheel crossed into the oncoming lane, meeting up with the semi, Gill said. Darlene J. Dickinson would be receiving a $500 ticket for negligent driving second-degree, Gill said.

There was a fuel spill that had to be cleaned up, according to Gill. The heat was so intense, road crews were out there today repairing damage to the pavement, he said.


U.S. Highway 12 in Rochester was closed for for more than an hour yesterday after a minor injury two-vehicle collision / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol

Read about Centralia sued on pot store issue …

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Associated Press reports the city of Centralia was hit with a lawsuit yesterday, challenging its stance on marijuana businesses.

An item published on says a prospective pot retailer, Perry Nelson, proprietor of RIU420, sued the city in Lewis County Superior Court, saying the local moratorium is an unconstitutional ban on a legal activity.

Voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and the Washington State Liquor Control Board has been issuing licenses to grow, process and sell.

Read more about it here

Breaking news: Homicide arrest made in Centralia drug death

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Updated at 12:05 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An arrest has been made in connection with last year’s drug overdose death of Tyson J. Anderson, 23, of Centralia.

Centralia police yesterday re-booked a man already in the Lewis County Jail – on another matter – for controlled substance homicide.

Robert T. Lusk is scheduled to go before a judge this afternoon.

Anderson died when visiting a home at the 500 block of North Iron Street in Centralia last April 22, according to police department spokesperson Officer John Panco.

“After a long investigation we have a suspect, or somebody arrested, which is always a good thing in this kind of thing,” Panco said this morning.

Lusk, 36, from Chehalis, was also arrested for delivery of a controlled substance, Panco said.

Panco didn’t know this morning what drug was involved, he said.

Lewis County Senior Prosecutor Will Halstead said it’s not a case of forcing drugs into another person’s body, but that if someone delivers drugs to another who subsequently dies from them, that can be controlled substance homicide.

Read about Tenino area to be home for marijuana growing …

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian reports a self proclaimed longtime pot dealer has become Thurston County’s first state-licensed marijuana grower, granted permission to use up to 7,000 square feet of space next to his Tenino area home for cultivation and processing of the plants.

Jeff Gilmore, 60, is business partners with two Olympia residents, David Brown and Mary McKnew, a former member of the liquor board, according to news reporter Jordan Schrader.

Read more here

Read about Winlock mother says marijuana oil healed girl’s brain tumor …

Friday, June 6th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports a Winlock woman who uses medical marijuana for pain management claims her teenage daughter’s brain cancer has been cured with cannabis.

News reporter Lyxan Toledanes writes that 15-year-old Taylor Rehmeyer, diagnosed at age 6 with a rare brain tumor, over the years has been treated with something called proton radiation at a center in Philadelphia and been treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital, but sometime after last August, turned to marijuana oil, an alternative and controversial treatment illegal in most states and not regulated.

The news article doesn’t mention what doctor, if any, is treating the girl, but notes that her mother, Karen Owen, says she will need to take a small dose daily for the rest of her life.

Read about it here

News brief: Driver arrested after fatal rollover wreck in Capitol Forest

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Along the C-Line Road in Capitol Forest last night. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A teenager is dead after a wreck in the Capitol Forest last night, in which he was standing up through an open sunroof of an SUV when it hit an obstruction and rolled over.

Troopers called about 8:25 p.m. to the scene at a gravel pit along the C-Line Road say Alistair G. Martz, 18, of Olympia, was a passenger in the Toyota 4Runner along with three other males.

Uninjured were the driver Bradley R. Williams, 23, of Lacey; and passengers Brian Lynn, 23, from Baltimore and Jeffrey S. Boone, 19 years old, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The three survivors were seat belted in, according to the state patrol.

He was ejected and the vehicle rolled on top of him, West Thurston Regional Fire Authority Chief Robert Scott said.

It happened so far into the forest – almost to the top of Capitol Peak – it took the ambulance some time to reach him, through forest roads that were fairly heavily trafficked at the time, Scott said.

The vehicle was impounded and reckless driving is blamed, according to the investigating trooper. The driver was arrested for vehicular homicide and booked into the Thurston County Jail, according to the state patrol.

News brief: One injured when car goes airborne near Toledo

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Car comes to rest on west side of state Route 505 after high speed wreck. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 2


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 51-year-old motorist traveling down Jackson Highway who failed to slow for the curve at Plomondon Road crossed a field, hit an embankment and went airborne over state Route 505 today, before rolling twice and coming to a stop.

Firefighters called just before 1 p.m. today to the scene just north of Toledo found the car traveled at least 300 feet after leaving the roadway, according to Lewis County Fire District 2.

Fire Chief Grant Wiltbank said he understood from responders the Chevrolet Cobalt pretty much flew over the front end of a small pickup truck, damaging a quarter panel but not injuring anyone inside. Witnesses told the sheriff’s office the car was traveling more than 100 mph.

The 51-year-old’s condition was described as serious by a paramedic, Wiltbank said.

“She was conscious when we got there, but not 100 percent,” he said.

She was taken by ambulance to the Toledo Airport and met by a medical helicopter which flew her to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to Wiltbank.

News brief: Fire consumes former commercial chicken house behind Southsound Speedway

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

More than two dozen firefighters responded to fire on Danby Drive Southwest. / Courtesy photo by Bryan Fisher

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A large former chicken barn and its contents were destroyed by fire last night east of Grand Mound.

Nobody was injured but members of six fire departments joined Thurston County Fire District 12 to answer the call that came in just before 11 p.m.

Crews responding to the 17900 block of Danby Drive Southwest found the approximately 250-foot-long metal sided building fully involved in flames, District 12 Battalion Chief Jim Fowler said.

They fought the fire defensively with as many as 25 personnel working until about 1:40 a.m., Fowler said.

An engine and two firefighters remained on the scene today, watching and taking care of hot spots in and around the collapsed building, according to Fowler.

“Every bit of the wood burned away, but the metal is still all screwed together,” he said.

Fowler said the structure was last used for raising fryer chickens probably in the late 1980s, and contained two tractors, various farm implements and as many as eight passenger vehicles.

The cause is unknown, he said, as the barn was said to have no electricity running to it.


Items such a vehicles and farm equipment stored inside were ruined. / Courtesy photo by Bryan Fisher

Centralia house fire displaces two

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Updated at 10:46 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An early morning fire chased a Centralia household onto the street, pretty much destroying their home, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

“There may be a few salvageable items, but not much,” Fire Capt. Greg Schwartz said.

Nobody was hurt, the cause is under investigation, Schwartz said.

Crews were called at 4:22 a.m. about a possible structure fire on the 900 block of B Street, according to the fire department.

“As we left the station and turned the corner headed north, we could see a huge glow in the sky and a smoke column,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said it was a single family home with some type of a garage or outbuilding very close to its backside, which is where the fire seems to have started.

The man who lives there said he got up to use the restroom.

“I think he said he smelled smoke, and opened the back door and flames kind of licked at him as he opened the door,” Schwartz said.

He and the woman who resides there are being taken care of by the Red Cross, Schwartz said.

About 15 firefighters, including a crew from the Chehalis Fire Department extinguished the blaze, he said.

The fire is currently being investigated by the joint CPD/RFA Arson Investigation Team, according to the Centralia Police Department.

News brief: Speeding truck crashes, seriously injuring two in Centralia

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Police and fire at the scene of accident on North Pearl Street in Centralia that knocked out electricity to the north. / Courtesy photo by Danielle Ziady

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A man and woman were critically injured in a single-vehicle wreck last night at the north end of Centralia that caused a large power outage and sent them by helicopters to regional trauma centers.

Police and aid called about 10:50 p.m. to the intersection of North Pearl Street and Sawall Avenue found a pickup truck against a tree, a male passenger trapped inside and the female driver had been ejected through a window, according to responders.

Riverside Fire Authority says they are both approximately 35 years old.

It appeared the Chevrolet Avalanche was traveling southbound and very fast when it missed a corner, went broadside and rolled multiple times, before striking a stop sign, a utility pole’s guideline and then the tree, according to police and firefighters.

Initial information indicated the driver was found laying in the roadway about 30 feet away, according to Fire Capt. Scott Weinert. Crews used the Jaws of Life to extricate the passenger.

Both were transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, but helicopters from both Life Flight and Airlift Northwest were summoned to fly them to out-of-the-area hospitals, according to Weinert.

The truck was heavily damaged, according to the fire department.

Further information about the identities of the pair was not readily available. Centralia Police Department Sgt. Brian Warren said troopers from the Washington State Patrol took over the investigation. Excessive speed and alcohol are suspected, according to police.

News brief: Centralia firefighter staffing challenges hit Harrison station

Friday, May 30th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Riverside Fire Authority Chief Mike Kytta notified dispatchers and neighboring fire departments this morning he essentially closed the Harrison Avenue fire station for the day, because he’s short staffed.

One firefighter is on vacation and another called in sick, Kytta said.

Kytta said he doesn’t have money in his budget to pay overtime to bring in someone on their day off.

Three firefighters will be on duty at the Pearl Street station during the 24-hour period that ends tomorrow at 8 a.m., according to Kytta. They will respond to district calls, he said.

The Harrison Avenue station had its usual administrative personnel on duty, during regular business hours.

“It happened once earlier this year,” Kytta said. “Unfortunately we’re down enough staff right now, here it is. Here’s the reality of it.”

The chief expected to have volunteers at the station overnight.

Riverside Fire Authority, which protects a population of 28,000 spanning more than 180 square miles in and around Centralia, is working this year with a budget of $3.9 million, compared to last year’s of $4.6 million.

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.

If their predictions about next year’s budget are realized, they will lose another $600,000 in revenue, Kytta said this morning.

The department is scheduled to lay off two more firefighters in July, making a total of six positions lost since the beginning of the year. Today, they have 23 paid firefighters.

Pair of Centralians awake to intruder leaving home

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia police were called just before 4:30 a.m. today after someone burglarized an apartment while its occupants were sleeping.

Officers arriving to the 400 block of West Main Street called for a police dog to conduct a track, but no suspect was found, according to the Centralia Police Department.

A 19-year-old man who lives there told police he awoke from a recliner chair in the living room to see a person in a dark hooded garment walking out the front door, according to police.

“He yells at the person and last saw him running down the hallway,” Officer John Panco said.

Missing from the living room were a television and a guitar, Panco said. The 24-year-old roommate said he’d left the door unlocked, according to police.

The individual was described as more than 6 feet tall but less than 6-feet 4-inches tall, Panco said.

It was just three days ago when a resident at the north end of Centralia called for help as he hid in his bedroom while his home was burglarized in the night. Deputies responding to the 3000 block of Lowery Lane initially reported the victim did not see the person but there was a broken bedroom window.