Archive for the ‘Columns and commentary’ Category

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.

Guest column: Now I lay me down to sleep; an end to addiction

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

By Judy O’Brien
Doty resident

Note: Judy O’Brien shared the following words with friends as they commented over the weekend on a news story about recent suspected drug overdoes in Centralia.

She last saw her 37-year-old daughter 18 months ago in Olympia. Stacey O’Brien Hofland grew up in Doty and went to W.F. High School.

DOTY – The battle of drug addictions is an internal war in which those who are not users in that war can not truly understand. I can’t understand it but I do know it is the saddest and most dangerous of addictions.

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Stacey O'Brien Hofland

The newspaper article said a decomposed body had been discovered in a sleeping bag off of Interstate 5 in Tumwater this past Thanksgiving day.

The average person reads that, shakes their head and moves on to another article. For the last several years I have never read those and moved on.

I would then start the search to know if that homeless and newly discovered body was that of my daughter. It won’t be necessary for me to search any longer … she is no longer a meth addict, or homeless. She is just no longer.

The story of Stacey O’Brien is like so many; it is not unique.

The lack of uniqueness is the problem our individual families face throughout our society. Many intelligent young adults become meth addicts.

Stacey was raised in Lewis County, attended our schools, had siblings, grandparents, husband, children and parents that cared. She was smart, pretty, manipulative, cunning, a convincing liar and outgoing.

These personality traits made it possible for her to appear functional while her life of addiction was anything but functional.

She has been gone from my day-to-day life for a very long time.

I had never quite got over having a sliver of hope that she would “hit bottom”. As her life spun out of control and she became more dependent on drugs she made the choice to live in a bottomless pit.

She gave birth several times over the years, and was unable to care for her children. Others stepped in and brought home a child to give them a better life. After the completion of the last adoption, she told me then she just was no longer going to fight the addiction.

I remember clearly the eyes of acceptance that looked at me to understand she could not do it anymore. I understood.

My last time with her was a step back in time, she was my daughter and I was her mom. We cried and explained how we wished things were different, explored how her life had become what it was.

As she loaded the last of her belongings into my car she hugged me, said “I love you Ma” and walked down the alley from the church parking lot back into the streets of Olympia.

She did not look back and I just stood there in tears knowing I would not see her again. It was our good-bye.

She would call me at our agreed time frame so I would know she was still among the living. I was left feeling hopeless and helpless after each call.

There won’t be a call in a few weeks and this time I will not have to look for unidentified bodies or go to Olympia looking for her in the corners of the drug world. She has finally found a place where meth won’t torment her any longer and she will no longer to be destructive to herself or the world around her.

The coroner’s office told me it was a death by natural causes. She had crawled in her sleeping bag, fell asleep and died at the age of 36. The assumption is a drug overdose that caused a heart attack.

As the words droned on I could have sworn I heard the voice of my daughter praying her childhood prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

If your family has been impacted by addiction please know you are not alone. Join a support group and learn how to cope with the addict and the consequences of addictions.

There is a 24 hour / seven day a week drug and alcohol help line available; it  is sponsored by the state and works through DSHS: 1-800-562-1240.

About the news: You can help Lewis County Sirens bring you the news

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

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

Local advertising, sure. Donations from readers. Perhaps support from a patron who believes deeply in the value of independent local news. Grants. And then those little Google or Yahoo ads sprinkled throughout that pay a few cents for each click.

Maybe even “micro-payments” – charging a little bit to read each story, but I’m not so keen on that.

On any given day however, it’s way funner to report and write a news story. And it’s no secret that I’m not all that technically savvy, so I’ve been slow to do the web development work to incorporate new elements.

I’m in between advertising sales people right now, which apparently I have been for a few months.

So yesterday, I finally took the time to add a “donate” button to the web site.

If you like what you’re reading here and would like to help support Lewis County Sirens, it’s super easy to contribute that way. 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“.

Meanwhile, for anyone who has wanted to advertise on Lewis County Sirens and didn’t get a response to an inquiry, please contact me directly at adminsharyn@lewiscountysirens.com

Readership just continues to grow and grow.

Last month, Lewis County Sirens tallied more than 68,000 page views. Local people who want to read quality journalism and keep current with what’s going on in their community.

Who brought you a story with photos by 8:45 a.m. on July 7 telling that the reason a freight train was idling in downtown Centralia was because police were investigating a man getting run down on the tracks?

Who brought you photos on the weekend of July 24 of the Centralia wood furniture store fully engulfed in flames – one of the most destructive fires seen in Centralia in years?

Who brought you – within 16 minutes – news of an earthquake striking near Mossyrock last month?

Who told the extensive backstory of the three men sought by the law after August’s triple homicide on Wings Way in Onalaska? And later, brought you the link between one of them and an Olympia murder suspect?

Who described two weeks ago how ATF undercover agents have been roaming gun shows in Centralia?

Who told you Friday the Centralia Factory Outlet Stores are in foreclosure?

Who told you Winlock homicide victim Jackie Lawyer was “a little fiery”, that Ron Meeks who died in his Centralia apartment fire had never lived on his own before because of a brain injury, that the 21-year-old accused of accosting a child in a public restroom is developmentally delayed, that the death of supposed runaway Morton teen Austin King was homicide – a month before the sheriff’s office acknowledged foul play was involved?

And who finally got a public comment last week from Lewis County Prosecutor Michael Golden about his election loss?

Those are just some of the stories told first, or only, on Lewis County Sirens.

The news site is also a one-stop site to check in with free-to-read newspapers surrounding Lewis County, find out who’s in jail, see summaries of court cases and monitor river levels and weather conditions to get an early heads up when storms threaten.

Choosing to advertise or to donate are two important ways to support Lewis County Sirens. However, if you appreciate a reliable source for local news, you can contribute to its success in other ways a well.

If you come across a story here you’d like to share with friends, do it. Send them a link, and spread the word that Lewis County Sirens is the place to find news daily and when it happens of crime, police, fire and courts in greater Lewis County.

If you know someone you think could benefit from advertising here, make sure they know Lewis County Sirens exists.

Also, if you happen to snap a photo of some newsworthy event, send it my way.

Even more important to the journalist in me, if you have a news tip, don’t hesitate to contact me. That’s where some of the best stories come from.

And most of all, you can simply continue to read the news here. For that, I thank each and every one of you.

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

Commentary: Judge Brosey said that?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Lewis County’s own Judge Richard Brosey is a featured guest columnist in the current issue of the Olimpian.

The occasionally published look at the “seamy underbelly of the local legal community, delivering all the news that is fit or unfit to print …” is produced by the Morgan Hill law firm in Olympia.

The brilliant writer Rob Hill is a lawyer, but he is also a one-time journalism major and a standup comedian.

So when you click to read Brosey’s editorial, “Who the hell do I have to sleep with in Olympia to get Tracy Mitchell a job in Thurston County?” you can figure out pretty quickly it’s make-believe.

Unlike the angry reader Hill said he got a call from yesterday calling him a racist and demanding a retraction of a clearly made up story.

You’ll find a small item on Paris Hilton and Olympia attorney Jim Dixon who is currently representing an aggravated first-degree murder defendant in Lewis County.

The two-page edition also lists nominees for the Morgan Hill 2010 Rock Star Award: among them, a senior deputy prosecutor in Grays Harbor County who earned his 15 minutes of fame by getting “doinked on the bean” by a murder defendant and Lewis County Prosecutor-elect Jonathan Meyer who … well, you can read it yourself.

Lewis County doesn’t get quite as much play as it did in the Dec. 2007 edition when the top of the fold, front page story highlighted an expected “misconduct contest” between Thurston County Prosecutor Ed Holm and Lewis County Prosecutor Michael Golden.

The contestants were to be awarded one point for each slap in the face from a female, three points for closed-fist punches from angry husbands, and so on.

Read the current issue of The Olimpian

Read The Olimpian from Dec. 2007

Guest column: Post-election party planned for first-time candidate, despite loss

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

By Micheal Hurley
Mossyrock, retired DEA agent

My heartfelt thanks to all who supported me in my run for Lewis County coroner. A very special thanks to all who worked so hard on my behalf.  You were the backbone of my campaign.

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Micheal Hurley

I consider myself a big winner in my first step into the political arena even though I lost the election. I met many wonderful people whom I will always hold dear and always work to defend.

I will remain involved in our political process and will continue to work hard to ensure it meets the needs of our people.

Elections are very divisive. I think we need to not only practice unity – not diversity – but to succeed at it.

We need to abandon the failed concept of political correctness. It is killing our nation and is not grounded in reality. We can honor our individual heritages by enjoying the humorous side of our different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. In the end, none of it will matter if we lose our core values and national identity.

You are all invited to join Carol and me for “Conversations Among Friends” – as a way to say “thanks for your support” – to be held on Saturday, November 27th from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Veterans’ Memorial Museum, 100 Veterans’ Way, Chehalis, Wash. Light snacks provided; great conversations anticipated. Won’t you join us?

Micheal and Carol Hurley

•••

Read the election coverage story “McLeod anxious to get started as Lewis County coroner; Hurley concedes race” from Wednesday Nov. 3, 2010 here

Column: How long does beef jerky really last?

Friday, November 12th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Perhaps after the last flood, you thought it would be wise to put copies of your car and house insurance in a ziplock baggie inside your freezer, just in case, but haven’t gotten around to it.

Maybe you actually have a 72-hour comfort kit in your home and in your car, but how old are those extra batteries for your flashlight?

Did you borrow that extra blanket when you went to beach this summer?

How long does beef jerky really last?

The package in the trunk of my car was purchased very shortly after spending a few hours in November 2006 stuck on U.S. Highway 12 in Randle.

The Washington State Emergency Management Division has put together a web page with reminders of what to do to be prepared for a flood and more.

A couple of easy items jumped out at me, like: It’s time to check to see if I need to update my out-of-area contact; a card for each household member with the name and phone number of someone who lives out of the local area because sometimes in a disaster, local phone calls aren’t possible.

Also, I can make sure I’m keeping the temperature in my refrigerator below 40 degrees and the freezer at zero degrees to minimize the loss of food if the power goes out. And, I should freeze a container of water so I could put it into the refrigerator to keep the food colder longer.

The EMD page’s links include items like a checklist for the important documents to copy, a checklist for a comfort kit, frequently asked questions about flood insurance, and, a one-click “rate the flood risk at your address” link.

They call it In Focus 2010, flood safety. It’s their November spotlight. See it here

Guest Column: Thanks, and we’re glad it’s over

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

By District 5 Lt. Laura Hanson, public information officer

Lewis County Fire District 5 would like to sincerely thank the voters who voted yes for our levy lid lift request. We appreciate their continued support as we move forward in these difficult economic times.

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Laura Hanson

That stated, we are relieved. Our staff have suffered from angry folks demanding we no longer run our vehicles in parades, that we don’t “deserve” a levy lid lift, and other clearly personal attacks.

It’s disappointing but the anger about “taxes” in general was clearly and resoundingly delivered.

We remain the third busiest fire district in Lewis County. That is an irrefutable fact. We have the lowest tax rate in the county. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements have decreased. Fuel and operating costs have and will continue to increase.

District 5 will continue to provide service within our boundaries with the funding appropriated.
•••

Note: Two fire measures falling short

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Napavine area fire department’s ballot measure was overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

Only about 27 percent of folks marked yes on their ballots for the fire levy lid increase. It needed just a simple majority to pass.

While 633 voters favored the measure, 1,731 said no.

The Randle area fire department’s EMS levy is failing as well, according to preliminary numbers released last night by the Lewis County Auditors Office election department.

Just over 56 percent of voters said yes to the request, but it needs a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

Some 354 citizens favored it and 277 rejected the regular levy for Lewis County Fire District 14.

There are still ballots to be counted and updated results will be released Friday, according to elections supervisor Mariann Zumbuhl.

Some 65 percent of Lewis County registered voters had returned their ballots through yesterday, but the counts released last night reflected only 55 percent of registered voters’ ballots.

The election will be certified and final on Nov. 23.

•••

Look at all the preliminary election results available on the Auditors Office website.

Commentary: Meet the author of book about former trooper’s Toledo death

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

True crime writer Ann Rule is holding a book-signing today in Tumwater, following the release of her story about the controversial 1998 death of Ronda Reynolds in Toledo.

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"In the Still of the Night" by Ann Rule

“In the Still of the Night: The strange death of Ronda Reynolds and her mother’s unceasing quest for the truth” went on sale earlier this month.

Rule, a Seattle area author best known for her book about serial killer Ted Bundy, is accompanied on her book tour by Reynolds’ mother Barb Thompson.

The pair will be at Costco at 5500 Littlerock Road Southwest today from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.

On Friday, Rule will be signing books at Fred Meyer in Lynnwood and the next day, Costco in Tukwila.

For those who would like to hear a presentation by Rule on the research she conducted in writing about the case, an event is scheduled next month at Centralia College.

Rule will speak at the college the evening of Nov. 17. It’s free and open to the public.

Her appearance is set for 7 p.m. in Corbet Theater, although Rule says there is talk about moving the function to the college gymnasium because of an expected large turnout.

I’ve read the book. It’s interesting.

Locals will see the names of places and people they know, or know of, from members of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and coroner’s office to Reynolds’ husband, Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds and his family.

As The Chronicle’s executive editor Michael Wagar wrote recently, however, the book is not so much a detailed journalistic account of the death and subsequent events but leans more toward an attempt at a suspenseful tale with heroes and villains.

Ronda Reynolds

“In the Still of the Night” opens in the Chehalis courtroom this past November and travels back more than a decade to the days in December 1998 when the former state trooper was found with a bullet in her head on the floor of a walk-in closet inside her home.

Was it suicide, or was it murder?

Rule’s narrative kept me reading several nights long past my bedtime.

A good portion of her tale was familiar to me, as I ‘m the news reporter who broke the story in early 2002 that the sheriff’s office had reopened a suicide case from three years earlier, and Lewis County Coroner Terry Wilson had changed the death certificate from suicide to undetermined.

Some of it was too familiar. I was really surprised to read a passage I wrote in The Chronicle more than eight years ago reprinted in Rule’s book without attribution as to its source.

And while I confess, it’s kind of a thrill to see my own name in a hard-cover book by a best-selling author, my heart sank when Rule mischaracterized me in a brief, but powerfully embarrassing sentence.

Rule wrote that I believed Ronda Reynolds did not kill herself and that I was a loyal supporter of Barb Thompson.

That’s not true.

Had Rule asked me, I would have told her I haven’t formed an opinion one way or the other.

And I’ve never told anyone otherwise.

It’s true that when I’ve been asked what I think, suicide or homicide, I have replied: “There have been times when it seems Ronda Reynolds could not have killed herself, and there have been times when I’ve thought, ‘you know, she may have’.”

Perhaps Rule’s main source – Barb Thompson – characterized me as a supporter. I know she is grateful to me for my efforts over the years in covering a story that she wanted the public to know about. I share that desire to inform the public – that’s what news reporters do.

I’m a loyal supporter of being a journalist who takes the time and care to come up with the most accurate, balanced and thorough accounts I can muster, from all sides in question.

Moving on.

Rule’s book includes last November’s civil hearings in Lewis County Superior Court in which a panel of citizens concluded and recommended to a judge that Coroner Wilson’s final conclusion of suicide was wrong – as well as arbitrary and capricious – and should be changed.

And then the author offers previously unpublished details on how the sheriff’s office this year has investigated tips about new information on the case.

There are individuals who have been interviewed who say there were more people at the Toledo house that night than were included in the sheriff’s office reports early on, according to Rule.

Rule ends with speculation about a handful of potential “murderers”, including one of the individuals she gave a fictitious name to.

It’s 400 pages about a death that likely won’t be forgotten about for a very long time.

Thompson’s civil case is still making its way through the courts, as Coroner Wilson has appealed an order to change the death certificate.

•••

Read my story about the five days in court last November after which “Jury finds coroner erred in ruling former troopers death a suicide

Barb Thompson put together a web site called “Justice for Ronda” where you can read her story about the case and see some excerpts from case reports and my very first news story on Jan. 10, 2002. She also added updates over the years to a site called “Real Crimes” which has a message board on it with reader comments.

Column: Rain, rain, go away; and other stuff

Monday, October 25th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The rain this weekend got me thinking about river levels.

Personally, I keep my eye on the Newaukum River, even though my neighbors tell me it’s never gotten so high as to cross the road where my house is.

A quick look this morning eased my mind, and reminded me I ought to share the web address to the National Weather Service’s river level observation and forecasts for Western Washington.

So I’ve added, under “Other useful web links” a new link called “River levels”

It has super good information. You can click on “Centralia-Mellon Street” for example and bring up a graph that shows you the Chehalis River at that spot has risen over the past two days to just over 51 feet and is expected to peak Tuesday afternoon at just under 54 feet.

But not to worry, since flood stage there is 65 feet.

It’s a great resource. You can of course see the same information about the Cowlitz River, the Skookumchuck River and more.

Right now, the only river showing near flood stage is the Skokomish northwest of here.

Another of my favorite places to check when mother nature starts getting squirrelly is the National Weather Service’s forecast office in Seattle.

Similarly is a map of Western Washington with colored areas for such things as winter storm warnings and flood advisories. Just click on your town and you can see a detailed seven-day forecast.

Today? Chehalis, rain. Morton, rain.

But also, in the east end, you’ll see a “winter storm warning” and see that very early this morning, the weather people posted an urgent message about the central and north Cascades seeing the first significant snowfall of the season.

So under “Other useful web links” on the right-hand column of Lewis County Sirens I’ve added “Weather forecasts”

Enjoy.

By the way, if my news stories have captivated you to the point you’ve never looked at the right-hand sidebar on this web site, take a looksie.

You can link to places to check who’s in the Lewis County Jail, the Thurston County Jail and even look up basic information about Superior Court cases.

You can jump to read local newspapers that surround Lewis County, plus a couple more.

If you have an idea about a web link you think would be useful, shoot me an email – sharyn.decker@lewiscountysirens.com

One more thing: my postings get stored under four basic categories; Top story of the day, Sharyn’s Sirens roundup, News briefs and Columns and commentary.

I rarely write anything like a column, but do publish occasional guest columns and commentary. If you have something to say that seems worthwhile and interesting for readers, let me know.

Column: A couple of things before I go take a nap …

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Hi readers. It’s me, news reporter Sharyn Decker.

I have to apologize you haven’t gotten a whole lot of news the last several days. I’ve been sicker than a dog for the past week.

I’m going to tell you about a couple of things before I go take another nap.

Some of you might know that Lewis County Sirens has a group page on Facebook.

It’s pretty darn cool. As I understand it, if you “friend” the page – join the group – then whenever I post a news item, my headline and an excerpt will pop up on your Facebook home page news feed.

For those who belong to Facebook and keep it open throughout the day, that means you don’t have to keep checking in at Lewis County Sirens to see if there are new news stories.

Just type “Lewis County Sirens” in the search box on your Facebook page and after you get to the Lewis County Sirens Facebook page, then click “join” near the top.

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

Also, there is this relatively new local web site called Lewis-County.org

I believe it was started mostly as a chat forum by former Lewis County Buzz and Lewis County Goes2Find chatters.

It has other stuff, like games I guess. But, at the bottom of its home page is a news feed where headlines with links pop up for Lewis County Sirens. I was really flattered when I discovered Lewis-County.org added an RSS feed from my news site to their web site.

So it’s the same idea as Facebook; if you happen to have their site open throughout the day, you will learn automatically when I have posted a new story.

On their forum page, under “main” and “news” you will see “Local News RSS“. That’s where they all discuss local news stories.

I don’t think you have to join to take advantage of these features on their site, although I suspect they’d like it if you did.

Neither of those web sites cost anything to use.

That’s it for now.

Guest column: Chehalis firefighters to the city: Public overwhelmingly supported current staffing

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Note: the following is the text of a presentation Chehalis Firefighter-investigator Adam Myer made to the Chehalis City Council on Monday evening.

By Adam Myer
Chehalis Fire Department
Vice president, IAFF Local 2510

When the city approached the public for support of the EMS levy in 2009, our city manager, Merlin MacReynold told The Chronicle one year ago, “The whole city had seen cuts of as much as 30 percent over the past year, but that the fire department could see layoffs in 2010 on top of furlough days they’ve already taken if it doesn’t pass.” The measure was to continue the levy for six years and tax 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. This was the message Chehalis firefighters were asked by the city to deliver in gathering support for the levy.

”People are concerned about tax change and increase. This isn’t an increase, though, the vote is to maintain a level of service that is already there. In 2008 the department fielded 1,228 emergency medical service calls, compared to 712 when the levy was last approved in 1998. This means the demand for service has continued to increase while staffing has remained at the same level. Cuts will impact who is available to respond. Without the levy, the department would have to cut up to $200,000, and money cannot be funneled from other struggling city departments. According to the 2010 budget, not having the levy could equal one or two firefighter positions in the department.” This is also the impact not passing the levy would have according to the city manager.

The public heard the message. The (headline) in The Chronicle was “Status Quo: Measure Would Maintain Level of Service and Tax Revenue already in Place”. The levy needed a supermajority of 60 percent to pass. It passed at 80.25 percent. We should call it more of an overwhelming supermajority, actually.

Full utilization of the EMS levy, in the manner the public overwhelmingly supported at 50 cents per thousand, will provide the funding to prevent a layoff.

The current level of staffing is 13 firefighters. When Chief Johnson was hired, a chief from outside the department, a chief hired by the city manager … put together his first budget, he asked for three additional firefighters. In 1993, as Dr. Pope and Mr. Spahr will remember, the council had a Fire Services Master Plan prepared for the city. The intent was to provide the city with an approach to identify the most appropriate level and best method of providing services. At the time of the study the call volume was 689 emergency medical calls for service. The plan projected with the addition of elderly care facilities in the city, along with an aging population, an increase in calls. In 2009 there were 1,338 calls for medical aid, that is 110 calls more than the year before. At the time of the study there was a staffing of 11 line personnel. The plan recommended an immediate hiring of two additional personnel, and an eventual third, funded by an EMS levy. The EMS levy was ran, passed, and two firefighters were added in 1996 bringing the staffing to 13. The plan also felt that the department was too “top heavy at the time”, and recommended elimination of a chief’s position.

The staffing level recommendations were based on the call volume at that moment in our city’s history. Since that time, the call volume has literally doubled. The addition of Wal-Mart, Home Depot, the enlarged jail, the Vintage retirement apartments, Woodland Estates, multiple adult family care homes, the increasing student populations in our schools, frequent large scale sports tournaments, the dialysis center, American Behavioral Health, and the expansion of Green Hill … that is a short list of contributing sources. These large scale operations that have moved to our city constitute an impact on services much greater than that of a residential home. The fire department continues to respond reliably and effectively to all of these calls with a current staffing of 13. At that level we are still able to get to all calls and maintain the city’s current ISO rating of 5, while surrounding areas are going to a 7 or even a 9. With the layoff the city now directs us to do this with staffing of 12.

The Chehalis firefighters ask the council to not eliminate the thirteenth firefighter position.

The Local invites the council to enter into a dialogue to seek additional efficiencies and funding sources to provide fire and EMS (services) to the city of Chehalis. Whether through meeting by committee or the whole council, we seek a more proactive partnership based on a transparent understanding of the problems and potential solutions. Combined we have over 200 years of experience providing fire and EMS protection to this community. As a department we have been doing it since 1893. With all due respect to Mr. Dawes statement regarding budgeting for equipment, we maintain the equipment, we operate it, we know the score where replacement is concerned, but empty engines don’t respond to calls. We ask that you please utilize the experts that you have in this field, namely the Chehalis firefighters, when analyzing the best ways to deliver fire and EMS services to the citizens of Chehalis.
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Read the story from Tuesday Aug. 24, 2010, “News brief: Job cuts announced for Chehalis police, fire departments” here