Archive for the ‘Columns and commentary’ Category

Guest column: Faces of Lewis County Search and Rescue a welcome sight after night alone in the woods

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

By Lois Bancroft
White Salmon, Wash.

I wish to thank the members of the search and rescue team who found me near Walupt Creek Falls in the forest south of Packwood on Aug. 3.

I had hiked to the falls the day before and achieved my goal of getting some awesome photographs from the base of the waterfalls.

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Lois Bancroft

It was supposed to be just a day trip from my home in Klickitat County.

But at some point in walking out, I became lost. I couldn’t find the ribbons my friend had tied to trees just the week before. By 7 p.m. I gave up hope of finding the route back to my car.

I layed down in the trail covered by my space blanket. Then, I thought, why not put on my head lamp and use my flashlight to continue down the trail. I was not aware at the time that I was getting farther and farther away from where I had originally crossed the river.

I also began losing the trail. Then I slipped on something and rolled and somersaulted about 25 feet down a hill.

I was in pain, but clawed my way back up to a point where I could inspect my injuries. I dressed my open wound, figured I had broken some ribs. It turns out three were fractured and I sprained both ankles. My whole chest hurt.

At that point it was dark and I found the most level area I could and spent the next four to five hours shivering, waiting for dawn at 4 a.m.

I then resumed, walking the wrong way down the hill. When I got to the river I layed down on a sandy spot for a rest. Then at 6 p.m., I looked up from my task of finding sticks to point the way to where I planned to camp for the second night and saw some people.

They were the rescue team. I will be forever grateful to them. I only remember two names: Sue on the rescue team and Bat who had the horse that I rode out on.

There were many people looking for me, including Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brady Taylor. I wish I could thank you all personally by name but please know your faces will always be in my memory.

Sincerely,
Lois Bancroft
White Salmon, Wash.

Bancroft, 66, often hikes into the backwoods to take pictures of waterfalls.

Her husband Bob Connor said she is a professional photographer; she says she is not, that she only wants to capture photos worthy of a professional.

Conner, a retired volunteer firefighter, couldn’t heap enough praise onto the Lewis County Search and Rescue team, Deputy Taylor and the 911 dispatchers he said were kind, courteous and kept him informed all day long.

Bancroft shared a shot of the falls she brought home from her “day trip”.

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Walupt Creek Falls on August 2, 2013 / By Lois Bancroft

 

Guest column: Right to bear arms begets responsibility

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

By Steve Mansfield
Lewis County sheriff

CHEHALIS –  To the citizens of Lewis County:

As a result of the recent tragic shootings and escalating violence across our nation, we again find ourselves deliberating on the highly volatile topics of gun control and Second Amendment rights which are further fueled by political agendas and high emotions.

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Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield

As your sheriff, I have sworn to support the Constitution of the United States and to support the constitution and enforce the laws of the state of Washington. This is my mandate and I will not lose sight of that. I made my position clear on this topic when you, the people of Lewis County, elected me as your sheriff. I have not wavered from such position or the responsibility you bestowed upon me to carry out these duties. Regardless of the path the federal government chooses to pursue, I am first and foremost responsible and accountable to you.

Doing nothing to address the problem of violence and fear is not an option.

Rather, it will only ensure that the violence will continue. Likewise, doing nothing will only empower those who have no interest in protecting rights afforded by the Second Amendment. Unchallenged, they will continue to move forward to a point where it will be too late to undo the damage of ill-conceived and misapplied legislative actions.

I fully support the ability of law abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms. However, every right begets responsibility. That being said, I do feel it is not only important, but imperative that we all be involved in ending this senseless violence that cannot continue to go unchecked.

So yes, I do believe action needs to occur, but not in a knee-jerk fashion. Rather, our actions must be deliberate and any new legislation must be crafted with scrutiny to guard against infringement upon our constitutional rights.

We must be active participants in the process to find answers that address the causes of our social problems, not just the symptoms. We must focus on the areas that make sense and that can have an impact on the root problem. I consider the root problem to be not guns themselves, but guns in the hands of the wrong people.

It is to this end I am continuing to focus efforts to:

• Close background check loopholes that will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

• Aggressively work with our prosecutor to vigorously prosecute those who commit crimes with guns and have been restricted from gun ownership due to their criminal past.

• Work with our schools, businesses and citizens in facilitating successful “all hazard” planning and preparation efforts for critical incidents.

• Educate the public on issues of deadly force and safely carrying a firearm.

• Work with our legislature to ensure the rights of law abiding citizens are not compromised by knee-jerk legislation and politics.

To restate: I will faithfully support the ability of law abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights. I ask you to stay informed and engaged with the issues.

Also, I ask you to be able and willing to make your position known to our state and federal legislators. You can be assured I will uphold my oath of office, continue to do my best in meeting our mission, and protect our constitutional rights.

Sincerely,
Steve Mansfield, Sheriff of Lewis County

•••

Others sharing their views in recent days include Yakima County Sheriff Ken Irwin who told a gathering on Friday, according to the Yakima-Herald Republic, he favored “improved background checks, including at gun shows, and better access to mental health care, but not reinstatement of a law that expired in 2004 that banned certain semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines”;

And former Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball who wrote a piece yesterday in The Olympian in which he says he does not support the claim the Second Amendment allows citizens to possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, and, he says, “Furthermore, no one should be able to purchase any firearm without submitting to a thorough background check, no matter where or how they purchase that weapon.”

Guest column: Gratitude overflows in time of sorrow

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

By Michelle Matchett
Boistfort Valley resident

Hello. My name is Michelle Matchett.

My son Nicholas Matchett drowned in the Chehalis River on May 4th.

I want to thank everyone for helping us during this time of great loss and being here for my daughter Alex and myself.

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Michelle Matchett

Thank you for the cards, flowers, letters and donations to help with expenses.

Thank you all for being there to hold me up.

Thank you to the Boistfort school staff and students for the letters and memories they shared to me and the celebration of his life they held for us.

Thank you Pastor Rex and Gayle from the Boistfort Community Church for reaching out to us.

Thank you to Jerred and Melissa Hunt for the most heartfelt beautiful service for Nicholas.

Thank you to Lewis County Search and Rescue, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Ronnie at CPS and all the medical personnel who tried to revive Nicky when they found him.

Thank you Joy, Faye and Tammy for going to the funeral home and helping me plan the services; I would have been completely lost.

Thank you to my entire Home Depot family, store manager James, Desi, Bob, Jim, Ron, Jerry, Emily, Zach, David, Barb, Melissa, Joy, Faye, Duane, Renae … thank you all.

Thank you to my neighbors Starla and Bruce, Cathy and Terry.

Thank you to Jeff at Cattermole Funeral Home for his knowledge and care he gave to helping with the funeral arrangements for Nicky.

Thank you to Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod and his staff for the priceless gift of the last footprints of Nicky on paper; framed with loving care hand delivered to me. Thank you for treating him as a person, thank you for telling me you would never forget him.

I cried the entire time writing this, there is no way that I can mention everyone that has touch us and helped us. It hurts so much losing my father and son in one month and words are hard to come up with.

Thank you all and God bless you and your families.

Michelle

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Nicholas Matchett, 2004 - 2012

•••

For background, read:

• “Breaking news: Child drowns in Chehalis River” from Friday May 4, 2012 at 7:38 p.m., here

• “Celebration of life set for 8-year-old Boistfort student who drowned” from Monday May 7, 2012 at 8:09 p.m., here

Notes from behind the news: Want to advertise?

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens

Greetings readers.

I have a really fun story to tell.

However, what follows is an advertisement, not a news story. (Check back in a few minutes to read a mystery about a lawyer and ring)

Want to advertise? Want to reach thousands?

Affordably promote your business, your organization or other enterprise in greater Lewis County.

Advertise on Lewis County Sirens, a popular local news web site with more than 20,000 readers.

That’s huge. It’s a little more than one year old, but that’s twice as many readers as the local daily newspaper has subscribers.

Award-winning Chehalis-based journalist Sharyn Decker writes the news stories folks can read for free at www.lewiscountysirens.com

Lewis County Sirens.com is an independent news provider, focusing on crime, cops, courts, fire and public safety; the topics most everyone wants to keep up with.

Ad pricing is comparatively low,

Our emphasis on publishing the reliable, balanced, fresh and timely news stories readers yearn for has made us the hottest new web site in greater Lewis County.

It’s a well-respected news source that inspires some of the most lively and robust online dialogue among its readers you will find anywhere locally.

Square-ish banner advertisement: (180 x 150 pixels) – $150 month
Shows on the sidebar of the home page and inside pages and may rotate with one other ad.

• Your ad can link to your website if you have a web site.

• Ad design services: no charge for first time advertising. Nominal fee for changes or new design.

• Acceptable formats are .jpg, .gif and .png (.jpg is preferable)

• Ads will be posted after payment received.

Lewis County Sirens tallied more than 200,000 page views in December 2011, (not including traffic generated by robots and other non-humans).

Each ad shows on every page on the site, not just the home page or just an inside page. Readers are people interested in the greater Lewis County area who want to keep current with what’s going on in their community. With a population of more than 70,000 individuals in Lewis County, and only two local news web sites – one of which is closed to non-paying readers – the number of visitors just keeps growing.

Contact: Sharyn Decker

• adminsharyn@lewiscountysirens.com

• (360) 748-4981 or (206) 546-3638

Notes from behind the news: What readers wanted to know in 2011

Saturday, January 7th, 2012
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Members of the news media swarm around Barb Thompson as she exits the courthouse after the inquest jury concluded her daughter's death was homicide. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

I think it’s a little bit lame to write about the top news stories of the year after the year has ended and a new one has already begun.

But I’m going to do it anyhow.

I got busy the past several days and, I can’t bring myself to forego a look-back.

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Ronda Reynolds, case

Once again, I can’t say for sure exactly what the most read news stories were on Lewis County Sirens, because if they are ranked somewhere in my web sites statistics, I still haven’t found that part.

But I can see the numbers for what people are searching for on the Internet when they end up on the news site.

Overwhelming, the October coroner’s inquest into former trooper Ronda Reynolds’ death in Toledo in 1998 comes out on top, with the startling outcome of her husband Ron Reynolds and his son, Jonathan Reynolds, being named responsible.

Search terms like “Ronda Reynolds”, “Ron Reynolds”, Barb Thompson” and “coroner’s inquest” number in the hundreds, and hundreds and hundreds.

Not too far behind is news about John Allen Booth Jr. and his triple murder trial last month, where prosecutors said he executed David West Sr. 52, 16-year-old David West Jr., 16, Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle, and tried to do away with Denise Salts, then 51, at the West’s Salkum-area home.

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Kayla Croft-Payne, still missing

Based on reader searches, the next most popular story was the missing Kayla Croft-Payne from Vader, who more than a year after she vanished at age 18 remained much on many people’s minds.

The fourth most sought out story was about Robert Maddaus who last February was found guilty of murder as he tried to recover cash and methamphetamine stolen from his Rochester trailer home. He was sentenced to life for the death of Shaun Peterson, who was found handcuffed and fatally shot on Capitol Way in Olympia in November 2009.

Next it’s kind of a tossup (based on reader searches) between three stories:

Kenneth Varner, arrested in April for allegedly helping his father – James E. Varner, 49, a former Washington state trooper – carry out a suicide plan in Packwood five years earlier and making it look like homicide so the family could collect insurance money. Charges were dismissed in October following a deal in which the now 35-year-old son pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in an unrelated case. He was sentenced to time served – about six months;

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Ronald A. Brady, convicted

Laura L. Hickey, the the 25-year-old Centralia woman accused of decapitating her premature newborn in a trailer park in March. Her trial is currently scheduled for next month;

Ronald A. Brady who was convicted in July of manslaughter for fatally shooting suspected burglar Thomas McKenzie of Morton outside his Onalaska house.

So those are the top several stories readers were looking for when they came to Lewis County Sirens.

However, all that still doesn’t really tell me what people have read the most or enjoyed reading the best, because the majority of visitors have bookmarked Lewis County Sirens and presumably just look over whatever news appears on the homepage.

What I do know for sure, is the news site has grown so much richer with the increase of readers commenting and adding their opinions. A whole other set of dialogue – sometimes even more spirited – has swelled on Lewis County Sirens Facebook group page.

And traffic to Lewis County Sirens has grown tremendously.

A year ago at this time, Lewis County Sirens’ number of readers was approaching the circulation of the local daily newspaper here. The number of readers has more than doubled since then. I like that.

I’d sure appreciate hearing what readers liked, didn’t like or would hope to see written about in 2012. Myself, I’d like to see more guest columns in the coming year, because more voices are more interesting.

Feel free to send me a note or comment.

Your news reporter,
Sharyn L. Decker

Report: Triple murderer surprisingly charming and well-mannered

Monday, December 19th, 2011

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John Allen Booth Jr. sits in a visiting area in the Lewis County Jail after his conviction in Salkum-area murders

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – So I interviewed convicted triple murderer John Allen Booth Jr. at the jail on Friday.

A personable enough guy, notwithstanding the fact he’d just been found guilty several hours earlier of shooting four people in the head, including a 16-year-old boy.

Of course, I suspect he was friendly towards me, given that he’s been locked alone in a jail cell for 16 months. Plus, I’m not somebody who chased him down, locked him up or got in his way when he was trying to collect drug money.

Charming is probably an overstatement, however, I’m guessing there are people who would use that description.

I thought it would be good to hear from the 32-year-old former Onalaska man directly, given two weeks of a trial where others were in charge of painting the picture of who he is and then his own testimony that left me – and I’m sure others – with several questions.

So what in the heck did that mean, after the jury announced its verdict Thursday, and you say, “And vote for Barack Obama”? I asked.

He laughed. He tends to say things just to get a reaction, he said.

“It was pretty much that, or tell ’em all to fuck off,” he said. “It didn’t mean nothing.”

This was no comprehensive interview.

I’d hoped to meet with Booth in the afternoon, after his sentencing was over and all that would be left was for him to pack up and get ready to go to prison for the rest of his life.

However, for whatever reason, my visit got arranged for early in the morning, before his 10 o’clock appearance in Lewis County Superior Court to be sentenced.

Really only enough time to ask a few questions, try to at least learn a couple of basic facts and make our acquaintance for perhaps another interview in the future.

So I asked, how do you suppose John Lindberg got out of that house alive; hiding in the bathroom while – as prosecutors described – everyone else was shot to get rid of witnesses?

“I don’t think that’s what was going on,” Booth began.

But he stopped before sharing his theory. He’d already testified he was not there.

“I’m gonna appeal, this is gonna have a new trial within the next five years,” he said. “That’s a guarantee, so I’m not gonna say too much.”

Ineffective assistance of counsel will be the main issue, he said.

“My lawyer was almost incompetent,” he said. “I mean, I like the guy, he’s a great guy.”

But Roger Hunko can’t put two sentences together, he said.

He offered this: Lindberg lied about what he said he saw, Linn Perry’s testimony didn’t match with what he said in police interviews, Denise Salts isn’t all there, she was shot in the head after all, he said.

Our visit in the Lewis County Jail lasted only about an hour, I mostly listened. Had to listen hard because we were separated by a glass partition.

The 6-foot 3-inch inmate sat on a ledge on the other side, handcuffed with his ankles shackled.

“That extortion case was bullshit, that’s not how I work,” he said. “Am I a big dude? Yes I am. But I never threaten anybody, I make them invite me to their homes.”

Booth described his “style” is more like sitting down and talking, giving people options.

“I don’t threaten people,” he said again. “Cause I know that I’m a three-striker. If I go to someone’s house and start slapping them around and taking their shit, I’m never getting out of prison.”

“Do I collect money? Yes I do,” he said. That’s business. My muscle’s my hustle.

“I got  a thousand one liners.” He smiled.

It’s something he’s done his whole life, he said. When he was young, he used to punch people in the mouth, but as he got older he found didn’t need to do it that way, he said.

Born in Centralia, by age 13 he was out there, running amok, a young gang member, he said.

“I don’t have regular contact with family members,” he said. “I’m from the streets, we kind create out own family.”

He’s not sure where his parents are, he said. His mother, Paula Wilson, came to see him one time, he said. His father has spent time in prison, and for all he knows, may be dead, he said.

Booth said he has one older brother who might live in Rainier, Ore.

Booth bounced around between his parents, and lived in a lot of places, like Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Federal Way, even southern California, he said. And was locked up in juvenile a lot, he said.

Said he became a member of the Crips gang before age 13. In the early 1990s, remember that gang-banging “was at it’s fullest,” he said.

At age 16, he moved  back to Onalaska, to what was his grandmother’s house on Middle Fork Road, he said.

“I was an athlete, so I always figured I’d be a pro boxer,” he said. “But then, once I got locked up all the time, I couldn’t get nobody to sponsor me. So it was all bad.”

By the time he was 31 years old, he’d been in prison three times. He got out in December 2009, after serving five and a half years for hitting a man in the head with a crowbar at a Saturday night dance in downtown Centralia.

He lived in the Tacoma area, and had 18 months of community supervision from the state Department of Corrections.

“When I was out there right now, I had a 9 to 5 job. I’m on parole, I had to have a job,” Booth said.

He was happy at the upholstery foam making business where he worked, he said. It was a good company.

But was also was a personal trainer, teaching people how to work out and to fight.

“I pretty much had it going on, I thought,” Booth said.

But as part of a gang, he pretty much had to sell drugs, he said.

So what about Robbie Russell, I asked, and the theory Russell had you extorting money from David West Sr., thinking West Sr. should owe him the money from his bail from the June 2009 incident when the two of them of in trouble attacking, threatening a group of teenagers in Winlock? (West Sr., who along with his teenage son D.J. and a friend Tony Williams were fatally shot inside the West’s Salkum-area home, made a plea deal and was a witness against Russell in an upcoming trial.)

“Basically what they say, I’m a goon for Robbie Russell … I don’t work for nobody ya know,” Booth said. “If you’re a friend of mine, I’m extremely loyal, I’m coming through for you no matter what.”

There were so many things going on that never came out, Booth said.

West Sr. was going to prison, he said.

“He owed me some money, he needed to pay that money, he was paying that money,” he said. “It was not a big deal.”

Booth’s red and white striped prison garb literally hangs on his lanky frame.

It wasn’t that way in August 25, 2010 when he was arrested some four days after the shootings. Then, he said he was 220 pounds but in jail he’s dropped 50 pounds – of muscle – he said.

No it’s not nerves or anything like that, he said.

They don’t feed him enough, he said. He’s allergic to pork, so instead he gets noodles, he said.

He’s only let out of his cell once every three days, and so he spends his time reading a lot, doing crosswords and push ups, he said.

And he slept fine the night before, he said. That was after the jury convicted him on every count, and knowing he would be going upstairs to a courtroom in less than an hour where he would be told the mandatory sentence was life with no possibility of release.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’ve known this was coming since the day I got arrested.”

He decided to turn himself in – before he was captured without incident in Spokane – to help out his friend, former cell mate, Ryan McCarthy, he said.

Only, Booth calls him by his nickname White Folks.

He compared it to Darcas Allen getting 490 (420) years for being a getaway driver for Maurice Clemmons who fatally shot four police officers in Lakewood and then was shot dead by an officer.

“On White Folks, they’d a hung him if they couldn’t get me,” he said.

I’m glad he’s going to see daylight again, so, whatever, Booth said.

Booth asked if I’d seen the toxicology reports.

“Everybody there was higher than a kite, with the exception of me,” he said. “I don’t do drugs. At all.”

“When you get all them tweekers, with guns and stuff, they’re unpredictable,” he said. “So am I surprised that that happened to ’em? Not a bit.”

Is it relevant? he asked. Kinda, he answered himself.

“Don’t’ get me wrong in this whole situation, you know what I’m saying. I feel for people’s losses,” he said.

He understands they lost loved ones and are lashing out, but he wasn’t there, he explained.

“The only thing I’m devastated about is I’m never getting out of prison,” Booth said. “And that actually hurts a little bit sometimes.”

“Hey, how come you didn’t report on me spitting in Dusty Breen’s and Dan Riordan’s faces?” Booth asked, referring to two Lewis County detectives.

I didn’t know, I told him.

It was coming back from court, a month or two ago, and he’d told Riordan to stop sitting behind him, he said. “And, I always do what I say, that’s me, no matter what,” Booth said.

He’d been sitting there for a reason, Booth said, and if anybody knows why I did it, he does.

Do you know what you’re going to say, when you get to speak at sentencing? I asked. Yeah, wanna know what I’m gonna say? he said.

“I can wait,” I answered.

Time was running out. Several times I said I had to leave, but I kept having just one more question.

“Hey, here’s my quote for the day,” Booth said. “Everyone out there that hates Big Six, to all of them fuck you.”

There’s more to the case than came in court, he said.

Like he has evidence he was in Rochester at about 2:18 that morning, Booth said.

“I was in Rochester when all this stuff went down,” he said. “They pinged me on my cell phone … which would be 40 something miles from Wings Way,” he said.

I had a bad jury, Booth said.

“Like I said, I’ll have a new trial in the next five years,” Booth said. “If anyone thinks they’ve seen the last of me, they’re sadly mistaken.

“I’ve never lost an appeal and I always come back. And in a case like this, you can’t help but to win.”

Notes from behind the news: Who wants to make some money?

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Greetings readers.

Who wants to make some money?

Lewis County Sirens has been a huge success, bringing timely and relevant news to thousands of readers in greater Lewis County.

However, it’s operated for nearly all of its almost 18-month existence without an advertising sales representative.

It’s time for that now.

I’m looking for a person who wants to join me, who will sell and design ads for the news site.

The ideal individual is highly motivated, outgoing and has an entrepreneurial spirit. They also would have experience selling advertising locally and the skills to create ads.

Lewis County Sirens is an award-winning news site, and it has more readers than the circulation of the local newspaper.

It’s an independent news provider, with an emphasis on publishing reliable, balanced and fresh stories. And it inspires some of the most lively and robust online dialogue among its readers you will find anywhere locally.

If you or someone you know would like to be a part of that – and you want to make money – get in touch with me.

The sales commission is very good.

Did I mention we have more readers than the circulation of the local paper? Way more.

Send me a note. A resume would be nice. Questions are welcome.

Your news reporter,
Sharyn L. Decker
Chehalis, Wash.
adminsharyn@lewiscountysirens.com
360-748-4981

Notes from behind the news: Wow, we have 10,000 readers!

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Did you know Lewis County Sirens has a relatively new team member, working mostly behind the scenes?

Jan Ross, a longtime Chehalis resident, has taken on the task of selling advertising for the news site.

Ross, a local veteran of media advertising sales, would tell you she can’t think of any other place locally to reach so many pairs of eyes, so many times, for so little money.

Lewis County Sirens now has about 10,000 readers. It gets about 25,000 page views each week.

That’s huge. Lewis County Sirens is just one year old, but that’s more readers than the local daily newspaper has subscribers, I’m told.

It’s been easy to grow such a large reading audience.

Nearly everyone gets curious about where that fire engine was headed last night, or why so many police cars were parked outside that one house for so long.

And because readers can almost always find out first, and get answers to more of the questions they might have by visiting Lewis County Sirens.com, they keep coming back.

A confrontation between a deputy and a suspect in Napavine in the middle of a June night turns deadly: a news story is posted by 4:41 a.m. the same day.

An Onalaska property owner is on trial for fatally shooting a suspected burglar: Courtroom coverage daily offered details as the case proceeded.

Prosecutors make a plea deal with one of the suspects in the Salkum triple homicide: The sister of the 16-year-old victim speaks out and shares her thoughts on how a plea bargain might be a good thing.

So, you readers who have come to appreciate quality news reporting on local crime, police, fire, courts etc.: If you want to help ensure the continuation of Lewis County Sirens, there’s something you could do to help me out.

You could tell your friends about Jan Ross.

You could tell them, there is possibly no more cost-effective place locally to advertise their business, their event, their organization.

It’s somewhat uncomfortable as a news reporter, to talk about advertising.

So, I’ll just tell you what else Jan would say about advertising on Lewis County Sirens.

Each color ad shows on every single page on the site, not just the home page or an inside page.

Jan can design it at no extra charge, or they can submit a ready-to-go file.

If an advertiser has a website, readers can link to it with just a click on their ad.

Likewise, readers, if you like what you’ve been seeing here, and think an independent local news site is a valuable resource, there is something else you could do to help.

News reporting is the love of my life, but Lewis County Sirens is not yet self-supporting.

It’s super easy to contribute, if you want to do that, by clicking on the yellow “donate” button on the sidebar. It will take you to PayPal, a secure site to send money through.

That’s it for now. Oh, except you can tell your friends they can reach Jan by email at jan.ross@lewiscountysirens.com or phone at 360-880-6006.

Also, for more information, they can go to www.lewiscountysirens.com and click on “Want to advertise?”

Meanwhile, thanks for reading, and keep the news tips coming.

Your news reporter,
Sharyn L. Decker

Notes from behind the news: Not crime, but a little good news

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Lewis County Sirens’ news web site was honored with an award last night in the Northwest Excellence in Journalism Contest.

The annual competition coordinated by the Society of Professional Journalists recognizes work produced during 2010 in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

Lewis County Sirens received third place in the category of web sites, specialized subject.

First place in the category went to an all-about-Mount St. Helens site created by The (Longview) Daily News.

And second place went to a meteorologist at KOMOnews.com for a fun facts about weather sub-site.

Publications of all sizes competed against one another in the online division.

The contest honors journalism in all forms of media, such as print, television, radio and online.

Also recognized last night were three staffers from The (Centralia) Chronicle in the competition among daily newspapers with a circulation of 25,000 or less.

Okay, so I was just one of probably a couple hundred people singled out during the shindig last night, held at Safeco Field in Seattle. (The Mariners were elsewhere)

But that’s okay.

I’m just happy that my peers (I’m told members of the Society of Professional Journalists in Colorado judged the entries) think I’m doing good work.

And third place is really pretty darn good for me, a simple news reporter, who knows next-to-nothing about creating a web site.

Notes from behind the news: Hello people; we live in the Ring of Fire!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

County officials really, really want citizens to listen up.

On Friday, Lewis County Emergency Management sent out a news release reminding folks the Pacific Northwest is vulnerable to same type of massive earthquake which hit Japan last month.

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Drop, cover and hold

Their message was accompanied by a call for the public to take part in a statewide “Drop, cover and hold” earthquake drill the morning of April 20.

“More than 90 percent of the world’s total earthquakes and 80 percent of the world’s destructive earthquakes happen in the ‘Ring of Fire’ (a horseshoe-shaped zone of volcanic and seismic activity that coincides roughly with the Pacific Ocean borders),” a news release from Emergency Management stated. “Both Japan and our area area included in the Ring of Fire.”

On Monday, county commissioners proclaimed April disaster preparedness month, noting among other things that members of the public should prepare themselves to be self-sufficient for at least three days following a natural or man-made disaster.

And yesterday, Sgt. Ross McDowell, deputy director of Lewis County Emergency Management, arranged for a 3.4 magnitude earthquake to strike in East Lewis County near Mount Rainier.

The 10:45 a.m. trembler was 17 miles east of Ashford – according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network – and it was felt in places such as Morton, Randle, Packwood and even Yakima Portland and Edmonds, according to McDowell.

It was relatively shallow, at four and a half miles deep, but it was one of the largest in the zone on the past 10 to 15 years, McDowell noted.

“It is advisable to take the recent Japan earthquake seriously and improve emergency preparedness at home and at work,” McDowell wrote in a news release today.

Okay, of course McDowell didn’t really cause the earth to move, but I think he’s making some good points. And his tone is quite serious.

That Ring of Fire information got my attention.

Other passages from the four-plus pages of information distributed by Emergency Management between Friday and today: “Sooner or later … A massive quake will hit the Pacific Northwest.” and “The region has been relatively lucky in the last several decades …”

I think McDowell would like people to review this page, about “Drop, cover and hold”.

Some of the other advice McDowell passes along can be found at www.ready.gov – Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.

Guest column: Proposed coroner’s inquest should deeply worry Lewis County citizens

Friday, February 25th, 2011

By Royce Ferguson
Attorney at Law

It has been reported that recently-elected Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod wants to shed light on the manner of Ronda Reynolds’ death by having all the facts presented by impartial people, so the manner of her death may finally be decided by reasonable jurors (who, Mr. McLeod apparently believes, cannot be found among Lewis County residents). Recall that the former coroner refused to change Ronda’s death certificate from suicide, despite a  Lewis County jury verdict which declared that the death was not suicide.

To this end, Coroner McLeod has announced that he’s appointed Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel as his deputy coroner, to convene six jurors in Clark County, to hear evidence selected and presented by Lewis County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney J. David Fine.

Unfortunately, rather than Lewis County citizens being comforted, the proposed inquest should deeply worry them (and will also cost them an estimated $50,000).

How can it fairly be said that the proposed inquest, conducted outside the scrutiny of Lewis County citizens, will be fair and impartial? Or that it will instill confidence in the conduct of Lewis  County officials?

While I am the attorney representing Barbara Thompson in her legal quest for the truth in this case, the facts speak for themselves.

The court record is clear that Lewis County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Fine has battled Thompson in court for years, and that he has fought all her attempts to present any evidence of homicide to any court or any jury.

I am not saying or suggesting that Mr. Fine is doing anything unlawful or unethical, as court ethical rules do not govern coroner inquests. Yet, common sense and impartiality should govern both, particularly when searching for truth.

Below are some of the instances where Mr. Fine was fighting Thompson in court, and thus, fighting any notion of homicide and fighting to keep any evidence of murder from ever being presented to a jury:

July 14, 2008: See former Coroner Wilson’s written response to Thompson’s brief for judicial review, signed by attorneys John Justice and J. David Fine, both as attorneys for Wilson.

Sept. 19, 2008: See hearing transcript before Judge Richard Hicks wherein both attorneys Justice and Fine appear for Wilson, and Justice introduces Mr. Fine as “co-counsel” and then Fine actively argues against Thompson’s case.

Dec. 16, 2008: See written motion filed solely by Mr. Fine as attorney for Wilson to start an emergency appeal to stop Thompson’s case.

Jan. 9, 2009: See Judge Hicks’ ruling on the motion denying the emergency appeal, wherein the judge states in part, “The coroner, represented by Mr. Fine of the prosecuting attorney’s office, after this court denied their motion to dismiss based essentially on jurisdiction grounds, has now asked for certification (to set up an emergency appeal to stop Barb’s case) . . . ”  Judge Hicks denied the request for emergency appeal.

May 15, 2009: See the transcript of hearing before Judge Hicks on Wilson’s request, presented and argued by Mr. Fine, that former Coroner Wilson be excused from the upcoming Lewis County jury trial on judicial review. (It should be noted that Mr. Wilson could have easily presented all the evidence he wanted in Lewis County, but elected to not do so, probably after consulting with his attorney. It may be fairly argued that Mr. Wilson’s lawyers were trying to obtain a court order to relieve him from  having to appear before the Lewis County jury to listen to all the evidence, even if he didn’t want to present his own).

Sept. 29, 2009: Mr. Wilson was deposed and his testimony taken under oath. While Mr. Justice is noted as Wilson’s attorney, Mr. Fine is noted as the attorney “for the county” (even though Lewis County was not and is not a party to the court proceedings).

Can the citizens of Lewis County rest assured that the secluded coroner’s inquest, as presently proposed, will be impartial when a county official – who for years has actively resisted even the suggestion of homicide – is advising, controlling and presenting the selected evidence?

While Mr. Fine may have been acting zealously within the law in defending former Coroner Wilson in court, should not Coroner McLeod reconsider by whom evidence will be controlled, filtered, selected, considered and presented at his short inquest?

There are genuine concerns about Coroner McLeod’s claim that he wants to shed light on Ronda’s death. I have discussed one.

Another concern is the evidence or lack of evidence that will be purposely presented or omitted in the four days presently allotted for the inquest.

•••

Royce Ferguson, an Everett lawyer, represents Ronda Reynolds’ mother in the civil case Barbara Thompson v. Terry L. Wilson, Lewis County Coroner, which was filed Aug. 18, 2006 in Lewis County Superior Court and resulted in the Nov. 2009 judicial review heard by a jury in Lewis County. The outcome is currently being appealed.

About the news: We’re not fancy, but do have some cool new stuff

Monday, February 21st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Greetings readers.

I’ve added a couple more features to help make Lewis County Sirens an even more useful place to bookmark if you like to be on top of the news.

“Latest earthquakes” is a link I use to initially get the most current information when the ground shakes and “Registered sex offender search” is a resource for anyone who wants to stay informed in that regard.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network’s website offers a colored square on a map within moments of tremblers; red for within the past two hours, blue for the previous two days and yellow for the prior two weeks.

Clicking on a square will show you the magnitude, time, location and depth, details that at first are preliminary but get updated by scientists at the seismic laboratory at the University of Washington.

If you check there regularly, you’ll see fairly frequent small earthquakes occur in the area south of Mossyrock.

If you look now, you’ll see there was another “micro” earthquake just before 2 p.m. Saturday in between Morton and the volcano in what they call the St. Helen’s seismic zone. Remember, last Monday seismologists were saying that 4.3 quake and the aftershocks were in a zone with crustal faults that just happened to be close – about six miles northwest – to Mount St. Helens, but were not under the mountain.

Oh look. Just before 6:30 p.m. on Saturday a micro earthquake was recorded less than a mile from the volcano. Hmm. Time to check what the U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash. says about this. It was 2.0 and less than a mile deep, according to the seismic network.

Anyhow, if you feel the earth move, checking that site is a good next move.

Uh, also please think about calling or emailing me right away if it’s more than micro, as I may not have felt it.

Another resource I added under “Other useful web links” on the right hand side of Lewis County Sirens is the offender search, in which you can look at counties around the state, including Lewis, Thurston, Cowlitz and Grays Harbor.

To look up registered sex offenders living within a specified radius from your home, work or school, click on your county. There, you can also find safety tips and other information, as well as register to receive email alerts if a new offender registers with an address near you.

There’s a place to search by name as well as another place labeled “view all offenders” in a county. Keep in mind, those who have never gotten in trouble with the law aren’t going to be required to register, so you won’t see them there. And I’m not sure as I haven’t explored it thoroughly, but you may not find level one registered sex offenders listed.

Both those links are newly added to Lewis County Sirens’ home page, where you can also find links to monitor river levels and weather conditions to get an early heads up when storms threaten, find out who’s in jail and see summaries of court cases, as well as check in with free-to-read newspapers surrounding Lewis County.

Also sort of new on Lewis County Sirens is a Facebook link, so you can go to our Facebook group page and add LC Sirens as your friend.

Lots of you already know this, but if you “friend” the page – with that little square brown “join” button – then whenever I post a news item, my headline and an excerpt will pop up on your Facebook home page news feed.

If you don’t already belong to Facebook, well, you have to join first.

Not so new, but still important is the “donate” button on Lewis County Sirens.

If you like what you’ve been reading here since last June, and think an independent local news site is a valuable resource, consider helping support Lewis County Sirens.

When I launched this news site, a former executive editor who was very enthusiastic about the idea suggested to me such local news sites could probably only be sustainable by tapping into multiple revenue streams.

And I think he is right about that.

It’s super easy to contribute. Just click on the yellow button and it will take you to PayPal, a secure site to send money through.

If giving money electronically makes you uncomfortable, Lewis County Sirens’ mailing address can be found on the right sidebar under “Contact us at Lewis County Sirens”.

I remain dedicated to maybe not having the fanciest news site, but bringing readers news daily and when it happens of crime, police, fire and courts in greater Lewis County.

For example, it was Lewis County Sirens on Christmas morning that brought you news that two buildings were burning in downtown Toledo, and then shared photographs and details of the devastating blaze through the holiday weekend.

It was Lewis County Sirens that brought you ongoing updates about rivers rising throughout a weekend in mid-December and another in mid-January.

And it was here last month that you could follow the trial of a Rochester drug dealer and the details of threats, assaults and eventually a fatal shooting that came after his mobile home was robbed of pounds of methamphetamine.

The tale of Robert Maddaus Jr. wound through Centralia, Onalaska, Olympia and even into the trailer home of former Chehalis resident Robbie Russell whose own frequent encounters with the law are enough for a book.

Those are just some of the stories told first and most comprehensively here as they unfolded.

Lewis County Sirens’ readership continues to grow.

Last month, Lewis County Sirens tallied more than 83,000 page views. Local people who appreciate a reliable source for quality local journalism and want to keep current with what’s going on in their community.

Please consider a donation, or even a monthly contribution, to keep Lewis County Sirens here for you.

I’ve said this before, but you can also contribute to Lewis County Sirens’ success in other ways: If you come across a story here you like, share it with friends by sending them a link; if you know someone you think could benefit from advertising to a wide audience, let them know about a super affordable advertising opportunity.

As always, if you have a news tip, don’t hesitate to contact me.

And keep on reading.

Your news reporter,
Sharyn L. Decker
sharyn.decker@lewiscountysirens.com
360-748-4981 and 206-546-3638

Guest item: Napavine chief addresses the news media on outlawed rooftop fire siren

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

By District 5 Fire Chief Eric Linn

This press release is in response to recent events leading up to the recent decision by the city of Napavine to pass an amendment to an ordinance to silence the fire district’s roof top siren.

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Lewis County Fire District 5 Chief Eric Linn

First and foremost I would like to reiterate the mission of Fire District 5.

“It shall be the mission of Lewis County Fire District 5 to develop, operate and manage the resources granted by the people of the district, to preserve lives and property in our communities by providing services directed toward prevention, management, and/or mitigation of fire, emergency medical, rescue, and disaster incidents.”

That said, I would like to take this opportunity to address the media regarding not only the issue of the siren, but some other concerning issues of interest.

1. The issue of Lewis County Fire District 5 re-implementing the use of the rooftop siren to alert vehicle and foot traffic is in response to an increase in the number of times our crews were delayed during the daytime hours due to cross traffic being held up in front of the station blocking departure.

The siren was set on a timer and intended to only function between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. This was in compliance with the old noise ordinance. It is currently set on the lowest setting and when activated, rings the least number of times (less than 30 seconds) providing a warning and nothing more. Initially the siren miscued twice during the quiet hours as a result of a failure in the 40-year-old timer.

It is unfortunate that this change in procedure has caused such a high level of concern for a limited number of citizens living around the station. To date, District 5 has received two formal complaints on this issue, one in the form of a letter from the city of Napavine, and one email from a concerned citizen.

The city reports that they have experienced an outcry of concern over this issue.

City records reflect only two official complaints and upon further research it appears both were generated by a city council member. This same city council member recently accused the fire district of threatening him by flagging his residence. The district unfortunately had to address requests from employees to protect them from that individual after three well-documented incidents where he verbally harassed them. On one occasion the police department was called by neighbors who reported what they thought was a domestic violence situation due to the loud screaming of said councilman. This councilman has also followed the aid crew while they responded to an emergency, only to sit across the street and observe them. He then followed the ambulance as it left for the hospital.

2. By reviewing the press on this issue I can see why there have been concerns raised by citizens who have been led to believe the siren was turned back on in retaliation for the failure of the levy. This is simply not true.

Turning on the siren was a decision I made based on the fact that I needed to improve response times and reduce stress on our crews. I accept responsibility for this decision and apologize to any citizens that this decision has adversely affected. Upon the first notification from the city (in the form of letter provided interview with the media) the fire district replied to the letter sent by the council and mayor. The district asked to have a sign placed near the station as well as lines painted to curb vehicles blocking the departure of apparatus.

3. After legal review of the adopted amendment to the ordinance our district has been advised by legal counsel that the amendment is in contradiction with the remainder of the ordinance.

We are also told that the city did not follow standards set by the Department of Ecology in following the process to amend a noise ordinance under Washington state law. This is still being investigated.

4. It has been reported that there is a wedge driven between the city of Napavine and the fire district. That simply is not the case.

I can tell you that while the mayor and city council may not agree with the fire district on this topic, we routinely work together with Steve Ashley the public works director for the city as well as Officer-in-Charge Silas Elwood at the police department. Our crews assist with the city on projects when needed and contribute to city functions such as providing traffic control for parades and medical stand by during concerts at the amphitheater.

5. As I’m sure some of you know during the recent events leading up to this decision by the city, the fire district has been forced to take a reactive stance to some of these allegations.

Three times now the district has been contacted via the media well in advance of any official or unofficial notification by the city as to any concerns. These events lead me to believe that this is not just an issue involving the district’s actions.

I believe Mayor Nick Bozarth has a personal and political agenda that he is working toward. He has publicly stated in the past, “It may be time for the city of Napavine to have its own fire department”. I would only guess after being sworn into office he may have discovered the city tax rolls provide approximately $90,000 dollars to the department a year. He may have also realized it would require a vote of the people to reverse  annexation the voters approved long ago to have the district provide fire and life safety services for the city of Napavine.

6. At the time my predecessor Chief Kris Wieland left, the district the Board of Fire Commissioners realized they needed to pick a highly effective proven leader to take his place.

The district had seen more than eight fire chiefs in as many years and they felt one way to improve the agency was to make a long term commitment and investment to a chief that had a plan and experience to improve the district.

The mayor, who had left the department, approached the board of commissioner’s with a plan he felt would prove successful for the district. The board reviewed the plan. The board was seeking not only a plan, but a proven leader to bring the district forward.

At that time the board conducted a nationwide search for a fire chief. During this process I am told that at least 40 people applied. I was selected as the candidate to fill the job, after a comprehensive background and interview process, conducted by board members and representatives of other local fire agencies.

Since Mayor Bozarth left the department in 2010, he has made his displeasure of the direction the district is taking quite clear through as many means possible. This is a pattern; as I’ve discovered he has been at odds with at least two former fire chiefs before me.

Up to this point I have focused my time and energy in improving our district operations. To date, with the support of our board of fire commissioners, we have:

• Increased volunteer membership to over 25 and doubled our number of certified EMT’s.
• Hosted two recruit academies for not only our district, but we have also opened them up to our neighboring agencies. We have another class scheduled in March.
• Reduced our response times on average by two minutes to our customers’ door.
• Used a federal grant to improve daytime staffing while our volunteers are at their regular jobs.
• Trimmed our fleet by seven vehicles. Those remaining are needed, and safe to operate. We have taken the proceeds from those sales and invested them in two vehicles that are used every day.

District 5 will continue to use the siren when appropriate to insure the safety of this community and citizens.

It provides a recognizable warning of the activity of our staff and apparatus as they answer alarms and has additional benefit as a back up to our radio and cellular devices. Its unique sound will alert our crews when their radio devices may not be audible (while operating equipment or away from their radio).

The negative response of a few cannot deter our efforts to serve those we are sworn to protect.

Please feel free to contact me with any further questions you may have. I will be available for contact over the weekend by email

Thank you for your attention and commitment to reporting.

Yours in Fire and Life Safety,
Eric A. Linn
Fire Chief
Lewis County Fire District 5
I can be reached at the District 5 Office Monday through Friday at 360-262-3320 or by email at chief5100@lcfpd5.com

Notes from behind the news: What readers wanted to know in 2010

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011
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A vigil drew more than 200 mourners to Morton after the body of 16-year-old Austin King was found almost a month following his disappearance last summer

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

I realize 2010 has been over for a couple of days, but I’m going to take a look back briefly and tell you about the top stories of last year here on Lewis County Sirens.

Well since I started in June anyhow.

I can’t say for sure exactly what the most read news stories were, because if they are ranked somewhere in my web sites statistics, I haven’t found that part.

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Austin King, found dead

But I can see the numbers for when people Google (or use other search engines) looking for something, and then come to Lewis County Sirens to read about it.

It’s sort of a toss up between the August fatal shootings that left 16-year-old David West Jr., his father and his father’s friend dead and the summer time saga of the missing 16-year-old Austin King of Morton who eventually was found dead.

More people were looking for news about “Austin King Morton” and “Jack Arnold Silverthorne” – the young man charged in his homicide – and related search terms than for stories about the Salkum-Onalaska area triple homicide. That is, if you leave out searches for Robbie Russell and variations on his name.

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Three fatally shot, Salkum

I say it’s a toss up because who knows if people wanted to read about Russell a so-called person of interest in the slayings, or if they wanted to read about his (many) other reasons for being in the news; such as confessing he brought methamphetamine into the jail hidden in his “keister”, trying to outrun deputies in his red Corvette through the Chehalis Industrial Park, getting pulled over with a tennis ball sized clump of methamphetamine in his car or … you see what I mean.

The third most widely read story seems to be October crash of the Cessna from the Chehalis-based Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute that killed pilot Ken Sabin and his passengers Rod Rinta and Dr. Paul Shenk.

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Chehalis Cessna crashes

After that, news on July 2 that 21-year-old Ivy M. Dolowy was killed when her car crashed into a tree on state Route 6 was near the top of the list.

The name of the young woman from Chehalis shows up as the most searched for name of all.

More specifically, key phrases searched for are ranked. The most searched for terms are “Lewis County Sirens” and its variations, and next comes “Ivy Dolowy”.

However, there are so many ways to look for John Allen Booth Jr. – the former Onalaska man charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the triple homicide – that when I add those all up, a handful of people were more interested in him than her.

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Ronda Reynolds case

The next most popular story is Ronda Reynolds, the Toledo woman whose death more than a decade ago resulted in an unprecedented judicial review of a coroner’s decision last year. And then of course, author Ann Rule published her book in October renewing the public’s interest in the case.

Finally, an awful lot of people wanted to read about Donato Valle Vega, the man indicted in September after federal agents found nearly 10 pounds of cocaine in the attic of his Centralia Auto Sales business.

So those are the top six or seven stories readers were looking for when they came to Lewis County Sirens.

However, all that doesn’t really tell me what people have read the most or enjoyed reading the best, because the majority of visitors have bookmarked Lewis County Sirens and presumably just look over whatever news appears on the homepage.

I’d be very interested in hearing what readers liked, didn’t like or would hope to see written about in 2011. Feel free to send me a note or comment.

And hopefully by the end of this coming December, I will have found a statistics program that simply ranks each story by number of readers.