Archive for June, 2010

News brief: Downtown Randle fire: A little suspicious, investigator says

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A somewhat suspicious fire that destroyed a former gift shop in Randle has been handed over to the sheriff’s office to investigate.

The small wood-sided building on the 9700 block of U.S. Highway 12 was reported ablaze by a passerby about 2:30 a.m. on June 13, according to fire investigator Ted McCarty. An adjacent one-time beauty salon got scorched and sustained some smoke damage, McCarty said.

The former gift shop, which was assessed at $25,000, was a total loss, McCarty said this morning.

“It had been vacant for quite awhile, and it still had power, but the owner had shut all the breakers off before he left a couple months ago,” McCarty said. “That made it a little suspicious.”

The fire investigator said he just couldn’t pinpoint a cause and gave some leads to the Lewis County Sheriff’s office to follow up on.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010


• Somebody smashed a window and stole a computer out of a city-owned vehicle over on Mellen Street in Centralia, according to the Centralia Police Department. The 9:30 a.m. report was just one of four vehicle prowls reported yesterday around town. All of the vehicles were entered by breaking windows, according to police. A report of two prowls came just before 8 a.m. from  the 2800 block of Russell Road. Stereos, amplifiers and speakers were removed. At 5:15 p.m., an officer was called to the 1300 block of View Avenue where a Nokia flip phone and compact discs were missing, according to police.


• Chehalis police were called just before noon yesterday about a vehicle prowl in Chehalis.


• Chehalis police took a report about 4 o’clock this morning a red 1993 Honda was stolen from the 100 block of Southeast Sixth Street in Chehalis.


• Centralia police took a report yesterday evening from the 1800 block of Shamrock Drive in which somebody attempted to steal wheels from a Suburban and did steal a wheel cover, according to Centralia police.


• An Olympia man reported his pickup truck stolen about 1:30 a.m. today from the 18,400 block of Bucoda Highway Southeast outside Tenino, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. He said he parked the truck at a friend’s place and they left about 9 p.m. last night and when he returned, the gray 1985 Nissan XE pickup was gone, sheriff’ Lt. Chris Mealy said this morning. He said it was locked and he had the keys before he left it there, Mealy said.


• A police officer talking with an individual who was walking along the road at M and West First streets in Centralia around 3 a.m. today arrested him for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant and subsequently discovered he had a small amount of heroin on him, according to the Centralia Police Department. Aaron W. Brown, 21, of Centralia was booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession of heroin, according to police.

Fire departments, children rehearse for a scene they never want to see

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Twelve-year-old Kayla Colman from Pe Ell holds still as special makeup is applied to simulate scrapes on her cheek

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CURTIS – The sun was shining outside, but inside the Baw Faw Grange, some three dozen first responders and others listened quietly as the fire chief questioned them one by one on what they learned or how they felt during the just completed simulation of an emergency response to a head-on crash between a school bus and a loaded log truck.

Lewis County Fire District 13 Chief Gregg Peterson asked for feedback first from the children who played the roles of victims, some who had patiently waited to be “saved” as they lay on the pavement or in the brush along Lost Valley Road.


Fire Chief Gregg Peterson

“You liked how much you were checked on, even though you were dead,” Peterson said, repeating a comment from one of the youngsters.

Nearly all the pretend casualties echoed the sentiment, telling how a firefighter, EMT or paramedic was at their side during most of their time at the scene.

The debriefing was part of a long day on Saturday in the Boistfort Valley in which members of three fire departments, along with paramedics from American Medical Response, practiced how they would handle a mass casualty incident.

They started about 10:30 a.m.

Kids waited inside the Grange kitchen as 19-year-old Jennifer Peterson and Fire Capt. Ken Columbo sorted through their Hollywood makeup kits to apply “injuries” to faces, arms and other body parts. Each child had a card to describe their particular trauma.

“Minor cuts and scrapes,” Columbo read from 12-year-old Kayla Colman’s card. “Have a seat.”

Behind them, 15-year-old Sawyer Zock seemed almost pleased with the piece of wood that appeared to have impaled him through the chest.

Some 42 people took part in the exercise held in Curtis, in part, according to Chief Peterson, so the three volunteer fire departments in West Lewis County can find ways to work more closely with each other. It’s an ongoing process, and necessary, because when emergencies happen during the daytime, many of his 27 department members are at work and unavailable.

Members of Lewis County Fire District 11 from Pe Ell took part, but none were able to make it Saturday from Lewis County Fire District 16 out of Doty and Dryad.


Sawyer Zock, 15, of Pe Ell, pretends he is injured as firefighters tend to a girl in the brush during a mock school bus versus log truck crash on Saturday

They try to hold such multi-department drills about once each year, although this was the first since the December 2007 flood, Peterson said.

“This was the most complex one,” he said.

Peterson was quick to point to volunteer Fire Capt. Michele Hulbert as the organizer of the event.

The grange and adjacent District 13 fire station sit about 14 miles west and south of Chehalis. It’s a place that served as one of the hubs of activity during and after the flood that devastated so much of west Lewis County. Their parking lot on Saturday was packed with emergency vehicles.

Firefighters from Riverside Fire Authority in Centralia brought their MCI unit, a trailer packed with materials and equipment useful if any kind of incident resulted in a large number of victims. Assistant Fire Chief Mike Kytta said none of the four MCI trailers parked around Lewis County for about the past six years have yet been used in a real emergency but could be, for example, if an Amtrak train wrecked, a large building or stadium collapsed or a bus crashed.

“All it takes is one school bus or a Greyhound with 50 people, or 40 or 30,” Kytta said. “And we’re there.”

The radio call went out about 12:15 p.m.


Firefighters and medics tend to the "wounded" during a simulation on Saturday of a mass casualty incident along Lost Valley Road in the Boistfort Valley

About four miles up the twisting, two-lane Lost Valley Road a yellow school bus was sat cheek-to-cheek with a truck. (Masquerading as a log truck was a dump truck pulling a trailer, which served a dual purpose. It carried a working port-potty for participants.)

Responding personnel were told leaking fuel was running in streams down the roadway and caught on fire.

The complication meant emergency vehicles had to take a longer route, but soon a row of seven ambulances were parked and idling along the tree-lined road at the opposite side of the scene.

Firefighters and medics evaluated the 12 children and two adult drivers they found, conducted some on-scene treatment and packaged up several on backboards for transport.

Incident commander, District 13 volunteer Capt. Kurt Reichert directed their activities. Nearby, a responding pastor comforted and prayed with a girl sitting in the truck’s cab next to another girl who had assumed the role of a deceased driver.

Chief Peterson acted as an observer. He and Capt. Hulbert looked around and spoke of some of the challenges such an incident would create. They would need a human to be at each roadblock a little earlier if something like this really happened, they said.

It wouldn’t take long for a mob of frantic parents to appear, Hulbert said.

“We’re gonna have parents coming from both ends, we’re gonna have parents walking through the woods,” she said.


Emergency vehicles from four agencies respond on Saturday to the mock scenario of a log truck versus school bus collision about four miles up Lost Valley Road in West Lewis County

When they were all back inside the Grange discussing what they’d learned, some spoke of not having enough of certain equipment they needed nearby.

There was confusion initially about who was incident commander because the individual who arrived first hadn’t been slated for that task.

“People might hear a more senior officer ordering resources over the air, but the first person on the scene is in charge, even if they’ve only been working a week,” Peterson reminded them.

Kytta, a veteran professional firefighter and longtime chief in rural Centralia, offered praise all around, but noted there were some responders completely out of radio contact.

Pastor Rex Beresford, of Boistfort Community Church, was among the last to speak before the meeting broke up for the barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs waiting in the next room. His own daughter was one of the “victims”.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven those curves, that was our bus,” Beresford said. “That was about as real as I ever want to see it.”

Former West Lewis County resident Rob Keller played the role of a news photographer who shows up to the accident scene and said he plans to post his photographs on his web site,

News brief: Real Hero nominations due now

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The deadline is tomorrow (Wednesday June 30) for nominations as the local Red Cross seeks individuals to honor at its annual Red Cross Real Heroes Awards Breakfast of Lewis County later this summer.

The American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter wants to know about extraordinary people in the community, those who may have saved a life, performed a heroic act or made the extra effort to lend a hand.

A nominee might be a friend, family member, teacher, firefighter, police officer, member of the military or even a next-door neighbor, according to Karen Kim of the Mount Rainier chapter.

Nomination forms can be found at or by contacting the Red Cross office in Chehalis at 360-748-4607, ext. 7646 or 1817 S. Market Blvd., Suite F, in Chehalis.

News brief: New way to give crime tips to sheriff’s office

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The sheriff is urging the public to take advantage of his office’s new online crime tips reporting, an outlet to pass along information about suspicious activity, suspects or even traffic and parking concerns.

It doesn’t replace calling 911 or making an anonymous report to law enforcement through Crimes Stoppers of Lewis County, according to Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield.

They want the senders contact information in case they need to follow up, according to the sheriff. The information received will be processed daily, and passed along to the appropriate personnel, Mansfield said in a news release this morning.

It made its debut about two weeks ago on the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office website just as one of his detectives was appealing to the public to contact him with any tips about the missing 18-year-old Kayla Mae Croft-Payne.

Mansfield encourages the public’s participation and partnership by using the tips program.

“Together we can make a positive difference in efficiently and effectively addressing public safety issues in Lewis County,” Mansfield said in the news release.

It can be found at or on the sheriff’s office web site.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010


• A patrol officer spotting a suspicious vehicle near Wal-Mart about 6 o’clock yesterday morning led to a traffic stop, the arrest of three Longview residents and the recovery of two Hondas stolen overnight from Centralia. Chehalis police arrested Jeremiah J. O’Brien, 24, for second-degree possession of stolen property and Michael A. Jewett, 25, for first-degree driving without a license and an unspecified warrant, detective Sgt. Rick McNamara said this morning. There were five people in two cars and a 22-year-old Longview female among them was arrested on an outstanding warrant as well, he said. Officers found a stolen blue Honda del Sol and white Honda Civic, he said. McNamara said one was dumped in the Wal-Mart parking lot and officers found in the K-Mart parking lot a Honda sitting up on blocks and missing its tires and wheels.


• Centralia police were called about 8:20 p.m. last night about items stolen from an apartment on the 100 block of Virginia Drive in Centralia. Among the missing property were a Playstation and games, according to a summary of the incident report.

• Somebody used a woman’s stolen debit card at a “number of locations in the area”, according to a report made to Centralia police from the 100 block of South Tower Avenue about 2 p.m. yesterday. The victim told police her wallet was either lost or stolen over the weekend, according to Centralia police.

• Police were called to the 600 block of North Gold Street in Centralia about 10:50 a.m. yesterday where somebody had cut the lock to a storage unit. A summary of the police report from this morning said it’s not known at this time what was taken.

• Police were called just before 9 a.m. yesterday to the 200 block of West Hanson Street in Centralia where a stereo had been stolen from a vehicle. Police were told the vehicle was locked but there was no sign of forced entry, according to police.


• Centralia police responded about 12:30 a.m. today to a report of a misdemeanor assault at the 700 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia. Police noted the victim knew the two assailants but could not provide an officer with their names or a reason behind the incident.

News brief: State Patrol keeps busy with three weekend crashes

Monday, June 28th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Three crashes in South Lewis County on Saturday – including a head-on collision on state Route 506 near Vader – left all but one injured person with cuts, scrapes and sore necks or backs.

Rodney S. Creech, 18, of Chehalis, however, was airlifted with a broken arm and possible head and internal injuries after a single-vehicle wreck about three miles west of Winlock, according to responders.

Troopers were called about 8:30 p.m. to the gravel portion of Jones Road where the pickup in which Creech was a passenger, missed a curve, skidded broadside and rolled onto its top, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The 1996 Toyota was described as totaled and troopers blame speed for the incident. The investigating trooper reported he suspected alcohol or drugs might be involved.

The driver, Brandon M. Cruzan, 20, also of Chehalis, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital where he was treated and has been released, according to a hospital spokesperson. The state patrol reported Creech was flown to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. A spokesperson there said today he had no information a patient by that name was seen there, which either means he was taken somewhere else or he was seen there but requested no information be released about him.

Just a half hour later, an eastbound 2004 Dodge Neon on state Route 506 reportedly crossed the centerline and struck a 2002 Ford Taurus, the state patrol reported.

The crash, two and half miles east of Vader destroyed both cars and sent two Winlock residents to Providence Centralia Hospital. Thomas D. Rodriguez, 56, and Betty L. Hack, 78, who were traveling in the Taurus have both been released.

The occupants of the Neon – the driver Collin W. Rider, 21, and Nathaniel J. Moldenhauer, 19, both of Vader, were reportedly not injured.

And at about 3:20 p.m. on Saturday, troopers were called to Interstate 5 just north of the Winlock-Toledo exit where a northbound motorhome pulling a flatbed trailer tried to change lanes and forced a 2003 Honda CRV over, before the Honda lost control, struck the motorhome, rolled over and landed on its side, the state patrol reported.

The scene was somewhat chaotic, because the Honda was traveling with a large group and there were dozens of bystanders and vehicles that stopped, some in the inside shoulder and median, according to a responder.

Two women and a man in the Honda, from Shoreline, were taken to Providence Centralia Hospital. The 33-year-old female driver and a 68-year-old male were treated and have been released. Fifty-nine year-old Shoatsehay Bezabag was admitted to the hospital and was listed in good condition this morning.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, June 28th, 2010


• Members of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and the Centralia Police Department on Friday served search warrants and arrested men from two separate Centralia homes where they believe marijuana has been bought and sold, the sheriff’s office reported this morning. At 8:15 a.m. officers went to a residence on the 1300 block of Eckerson Road following a several-week investigation and seized 15 marijuana plants, $300 cash and several baggies of processed marijuana, according to sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust. They arrested and booked Brandon P. Seeger, 20, who lives there, Aust said. Both cases involved the Lewis Regional Crime Task Force and previous so-called controlled buys from the suspects, Aust said. At 6:45 p.m. officers were at the 800 block of South Tower Avenue where they confiscated one ounce of marijuana, illegal mushrooms and $300 cash. David P. Butler, 38, Centralia, was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Aust. He didn’t say if the two cases were related to each other.


• Centralia police took a report about 4:30 this morning of a white 1993 Honda Civic missing from its driveway on the 200 block of Yew Street. The vehicle was found within a few hours in the parking lot at Wal-Mart in Chehalis, according to the Centralia Police Department. Another Honda stolen overnight was found in the same general area, police Sgt. Stacy Denham said.

• Police are still looking for a green 1993 Honda Accord stolen from an automobile dealer on the 1200 block of Mellon Street in Centralia, and reported missing about 10:30 a.m. on Friday, police Sgt. Stacy Denham said this morning.


• A yellow 1966 Ford Thunderbird valued at $25,000 was spirited away from behind a locked gate at the 3200 block of Maytown Road Southwest, according to a report made on Sunday evening to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. The classic car, which belonged to an 80-year-old man from Port Ludlow, didn’t run and had to have been towed away, said sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy. It happened sometime between 8 p.m. on Friday night and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at L and L Machinery, where somebody also tried to steal a white 2006 Chevrolet pickup. The steering column in that vehicle was damaged, to the tune of about $1,000, Mealy said.


• Deputies took a report on Saturday afternoon of the theft of an estimated $3,600 of equipment from a shop in the Doty area. Taken sometime after 8 a.m. on Thursday from the 700 block of Leudinghaus Road were a John Deere riding mower, a six horsepower Suzuki outboard motor, a Stihl weed eater and a push mower, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• A burglary on the 600 block of Grove Street in Centralia sometime between 9 p.m. Saturday night and 2:15 a.m. on Sunday included the theft a bag of tattoo equipment and a Dell laptop computer, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The loss was estimated at $1,300.

• Sheriff’s deputies were called about 2:15 p.m. on Friday to the 400 block of West Reynolds Avenue outside Centralia where an estimated $1,275 theft occurred sometime the evening before, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. Missing were a Stihl chainsaw, a red Mongoose bicycle, a purple Nishiki bicycle and a purple Trek bicycle, Cmdr. Steve Aust said.


• A resident of the 17,300 block of Leitner Road in Rochester called the owner of neighboring property to tell him he saw a pair of young men in a light blue Ford pickup truck leave the property, its bed filled with fenders and other vehicle parts, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. It happened between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. last Tuesday. The 77-year-old Centralia man who owns the property and items called the sheriff’s office just before 3 p.m. that day. They have no suspects, sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy said this morning. A deputy then went to a scrap yard on the 180th Way Southwest where it was learned the scrap yard accepted the materials but didn’t recall much about the subject who sold the metal, Mealy said.


• An individual called police about 6:50 p.m. on Friday after returning home to find somebody had forced their way inside her residence on the 1200 block of Mellen Street, left items strewn about and stolen cash, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A resident of an apartment on the 1200 block of West Main Street in Centralia called police on Friday afternoon to report somebody broke in and took food, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called about 10:20 a.m. on Sunday to Stan Hedwall park on Rice Road where somebody tried to get inside the score keepers building. A screen was torn and a window broken, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office took a report on Saturday afternoon about a break-in to a home on the 12,900 block of Hunter Road Southwest in Rochester. A ladder from the barn was used, a window was destroyed and somebody got inside, but nothing seemed to be missing, according to Lt. Chris Mealy. The owner, a 52-year-old man who lives in Bellevue, said it was the second burglary to the residence which is only occupied on weekends, Mealy said. It must have happened sometime since 3 p.m. the previous Monday, according to Mealy.


• Centralia police arrested Samuel A. Costello, 30, of Centralia, about 2 a.m. on Sunday for driving under the influence. The arrest followed a stop for a traffic infraction on the 1200 block of North Pearl Street in Centralia, according to police. He was released after being cited, police reported.

• Barlow J. Noll, 59, of Centralia, was arrested for driving under the influence on Sunday by a Lewis County sheriff’s deputy. He was then booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.


• Centralia police responding to a complaint went to the 1300 block of Alexander Street in Centralia and arrested Darrell L. Martin, 56, of Centralia, for misdemeanor possession of marijuana at about 9 p.m. on Saturday night. He surrendered what was described as a very small amount to the officer and then was released, according to police.

Excavators and flames: From the ashes will rise a $3.5 million school outside Chehalis

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Firefighters from Lewis County fire districts 6, 5 and 8 keep watch and spray water onto the excavators and bulldozers moving the remains of the Lewis County Adventist School into a huge burn pile today west of Chehalis

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It was somewhat like an immense bonfire but flames flared mostly on one side while streams of water from firefighters’ hoses kept the opposite section smoldering as bulldozers took turns pushing the remains of the school into the pile.

Members of three area fire districts took the opportunity to practice today as they assisted the contractor in demolishing the Lewis County Adventist School west of Chehalis.

“Wow, it doesn’t even look like there was a school here now,” said Linda VanPuymbrouck, a Curtis resident who was among a small group of teachers, church members and parents who staked out a birds-eye view from the adjacent hillside.

While the original plan to make room for a new school on the site off of South Scheuber Road included various firefighter training exercises before the entire building would be set ablaze, the fire chief concluded certain construction peculiarities made that approach unsafe.

Less than three hours into the burning, the bulk of the structure was gone, said Lewis County Fire District 6 Chief Bud Goodwillie.

The chief supervised 32 firefighters who got to practice some of the basics, while the contractor Adam Kugel and his crew of three added to the burn pile. They began the demolition last night.

“It was blazing hot, almost unbearably hot,” Kugel said as he came off a shift of nearly an hour inside his excavator.

Firefighters worked in roughly 20-minute shifts keeping streams of water flowing to prevent the equipments’ hydraulic lines from igniting.

Some 60 students from kindergarten through tenth grade will attend classes next year at the Chehalis Seventh-day Adventist Church nearby on Chilvers Road.

The following school year, they should be inside a $3.5 million, new two-story building with the same views of Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and Mount Adams, according to church member Bill Hammond, chair of the building committee.

The structure, at 28,000 square-feet will be more than double the size of the  former school and will feature a full-sized gym.

Twenty-nine year-old Kugel, who is coordinating the work with another contractor, is an alumni of the private school. He was hot, but pleased as the work was winding down about 1 p.m.

“They still got something good out of it,” he said of the firefighters. “And so far, it’s been good.”

Notes from behind the news: Salkum boy recovering well

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

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

Just a quick note to tell you, the mother of the boy who was hit by a motorbike a little over two weeks ago at Orchard Drive in the Salkum area says he is doing great.

You can see her full comment by looking at the June 14 post, “Child airlifted after Salkum-area motorcycle accident”

You can find that by clicking on the category “News briefs” and moving backwards in time through “older entries” until you see that headline and then either click on the headline or click at the end where you see it says “1 comment”

Or, you should be able to search for that news story in the search box on the right side of the web site’s page.

Or, I could provide a link back to it I just now realized. Nearly all of this stuff doing a news web site is new to me. It’s a work in progress.

By the way, since I’m right here talking to you, I’ve been wanting to say thank you so much for reading the news here. Almost nothing makes me happier than when somebody reads a news story I write.

Lewis County Sirens so far has been just loads of fun to do. I’m not quite all the way up to speed yet, but am keeping so busy.

The news story you see here this weekend about the campaigns for sheriff, is just one of a handful of coming stories on the upcoming election. And today I was out off of South Scheuber Road where several fire departments and a contractor took care of demolishing a private school so a new one can be built.

I’m just now choosing a photograph and will post it all momentarily.

Yesterday I spent several hours working on a very … well, not exactly fun story, although I really enjoyed myself. I won’t tell you right now what it is, but expect it tomorrow.

Before I sign off here, I also want to say: if anybody has an idea for a news story, or if you simply have a news tip, don’t hesitate a minute to email me or call me. All my contact information is over there on the right side of the web page, under “Contact us at Lewis County Sirens”.

Back to work I go now.

Coming election: Sheriff Mansfield is challenged by one of his own deputies

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Deputy Sgt. Ken Cheeseman, running to unseat the elected sheriff of Lewis County, thinks it’s going to be an “extremely spirited” race.

Cheeseman speaks plainly about his challenge to Sheriff Steve Mansfield, who stepped into the office in early 2005.

“The hard thing is, he is my boss,” Cheeseman said. “I just don’t think he’s run the office right or he’s a person that should be in that office.”


Ken Cheeseman

The Randle-area resident and Mansfield both started their law enforcement careers at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office in the early 1980s. Both men are 53 years old.

The sergeant says he decided to run because of the controversy that erupted last year when deputies questioned Mansfield’s handling of a runaway girl report that brought deputies to the Mansfield’s property seeking the girlfriend of the sheriff’s teenage son.

The state Attorney General’s office examined the situation and last fall declined to file a charge of failure of duty by a public officer, a misdemeanor, against Mansfield.

Cheeseman, president of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Deputies Guild at the time, believes if a deputy had done what the sheriff had done, the deputy would have been arrested and jailed.


Steve Mansfield

Former Sheriff John McCroskey put it out there “plain as anybody could” in his column in The Chronicle in May, Cheeseman said.

“When the AG (Attorney General’s office) comes out and says, you could be charged with a crime, but we’re not going to do it, that person shouldn’t be in law enforcement,” Cheeseman said.

The report, dated Nov. 18, 2009, acknowledged the parents of the 16-year-old girl (who had just given birth to a baby) knew where she was and knew she didn’t want to go home, but faulted Mansfield and his sheriff’s office for the way it was handled.

The report blamed a lapse of three days in entering the girl’s name into the relevant computer databases for runaways, and the girl not being picked up and returned home, on Mansfield personally and on Mansfield’s decision not to ask an outside agency to handle the case. It happened the end of March 2009.

“In the end, the WSP (Washington State Patrol) investigation does not reveal any real criminal intent on the part of Sheriff Mansfield; rather, it reveals a father and grandfather who was embroiled in a tense family situation,” reads the summary the Attorney General’s office’s evaluation of that allegation. “… Given the circumstances and the charging discretion the state has, the AGO (Attorney General’s office) declines to file a charge of failure of duty against Sheriff Mansfield.”

Cheeseman, who has worked under four sheriffs can’t remember when a deputy has run against the incumbent sheriff. He resigned from his position with the deputies guild to enter the race.

“It’s really tense in our office right now, it’s exceptionally bad,” Cheeseman said.

While he’s willing to campaign against the sheriff, he said doesn’t plan to debate him, because “he’s my boss.”

The sheriff says he’s focused on the present, the future and on so many other things that need his attention.

“It comes down to this: this is a private matter, it has been resolved,” Mansfield said last week.

Some people are looking at the attorney general’s report as though it’s the Bible, Mansfield said. “There’s a lot more to it than what’s in that report,” he said.

The Winlock resident said he handed over decision-making about the case to one of his chief deputies, whose actions were based on the sheriff’s office mission and the security of the girl.

“I did what I could as a father and did what I could as sheriff, and I apologized for how people might have felt that was wrong,” Mansfield said.

Mansfield’s campaign manager, Fred Rider, said he hasn’t had many questions from citizens about the issue though he’s comfortable responding to the allegations about his candidate.

The sheriff turned the runaway case over to one of his command staff and then took care of his own family like any father should, Rider said.

“I don’t think the attorney general’s office would have not filed charges against Steve Mansfield if there were charges to be filed, ” Rider said last week.

The former Chehalis mayor who works as a sales representative for Access Security said he has been following the elections for sheriff since his father-in-law Bill Logan ran years ago. Rider worked for Logan’s campaign and for John McCroskey’s campaign after that.

“I’m working for Steve Mansfield for the same reason,” he said. “I appreciate his hard work and dedication.”

Two Republicans

Both candidates are Republicans.

Cheeseman said he doesn’t intend to ask the local Republican party for its support as he expects it will automatically endorse the incumbent.

Colleen Morse, chair of the central committee of the Lewis County Republican Party since December 2008, served as Mansfield’s treasurer for his previous campaigns. Morse says neither she nor the party have made any commitments.

“Now that there are two Republicans in the race, I’m basically neutral and will remain so until after the primary,” she said.

It’s pretty much been the policy of the local Republican party to let the people decide during the primary, she said. After the August 17 primary, the party may or may not endorse a candidate, she said.

Who is Ken Cheeseman?

Cheeseman spoke highly of the department when he held his campaign kickoff two weeks ago in Chehalis at Woodland Estates Retirement Center.

He told the breakfast gathering of about two dozen people – including a handful of deputies – they have a very good sheriff’s office, even as budgets are thin.

“We’ve got a great sex offender program, a great drug unit,” Cheeseman said. “There just isn’t the manpower to go farther. But I’ll tell you what, those guys out on the road, they work it hard.”

His philosophy is leaders should act as support behind the deputies who are on the front lines, deputies who know what they need to get the job done and know best what the public wants, he said.

He spoke of the critical need to work more collaboratively with financial institutions to get a handle on the swelling fraud epidemic and said he would like to implement – perhaps using volunteers – a better system to keep victims informed through the criminal justice system.

Sue English, Cheeseman’s campaign manager, told the group they’ve been family friends for 30 years, in part knowing Cheeseman through his work as a Scout leader and a football coach. She spoke of his generous spirit.

“When my husband was in the police academy and we had 50 acres of hay that needed to be cut, he volunteered to help with that,” the wife of retired Morton Police officer Ed English said. “Ken changes shifts with other officers so they can be home with their families on holidays.”

A current Morton police officer, Doug Osterdahl, echoed some of her sentiment after the event.

“If people knew him personally, there wouldn’t be an election, they’d just give him the job,” Osterdahl said.

Sheriff’s detective Dan Riordan sat in, representing the deputy’s guild. The labor group hasn’t made a decision yet about any endorsement, Riordan said.

How about Steve Mansfield?

Mansfield’s campaign kickoff event was back at the end of April.

They ordered 125 chairs and that wasn’t enough, he said. He has many of the same individuals who have helped him in past campaigns, but also a much broader group now, he said.

Among them, is Penny Mauel, a rural Chehalis resident who has been active in Republican campaigns. This week, Mauel repeated what she wrote in a letter to the editor last summer, offering her public support of Mansfield.

“Steve is a motivator who is recognized and respected, as a man of integrity and honesty. He is an individual who sets goals and works hard to achieve results,” Mauel wrote.

Mansfield says he sees the challenge by one of his own people as an opportunity to get information out to the public about his “excellent track record.”

“This office has done a very good job and the people are very appreciative,” Mansfield said. “We have met our mission in the last five years of delivering a feeling of safety and security, and quality service.”

His list of accomplishments is long: getting mobile computers in every patrol vehicle both for sheriff’s deputies and departments in other Lewis County cities and towns, utilizing a task force to get a handle on the meth epidemic, a strong sex offender registration program, educating the public about fraud and more.

“These are some of the challenges we’ve faced under my leadership, and we’ve excelled,” Mansfield said.

He praises his employees as problem solvers and innovators. Their strengths are best exemplified in the leadership role the sheriff’s office took with recovery after the disastrous floods of 2006 and 2007.

“If you want to know the thing I’m proudest of, it’s making the sheriff’s office more than just a sheriff’ office, it’s part of the community,” he said.

The issues now and coming aren’t going to be easy ones.

Law enforcement is dealing with a drain on resources with increasing numbers of mentally ill individuals held in jails, he said. Local law enforcers are considering their role in the federal law enforcement problem of illegal immigrants, he noted.

Mansfield, and his Chief of Staff Steve Walton, currently have four labor agreements in various states of negotiation and a constrained budget, he said.

“I don’t have to do this, I can retire at 53, and I’m 53,” he said. “This is what I love, this is where my family lives, this is where my friends are. This is what I’m good at.”

What about the money

Cheeseman’s campaign fundraising began just two weeks ago when donation envelopes were handed out during his kickoff. Mansfield had about $2,500 left over from his previous campaign he can use. He hasn’t spent any of his own money, he said.

The challenger’s summary of his most recent reports to the state Public Disclosure Commission shows $2,894 spent for buttons, lapel stickers, balloons and yard signs. The amount is listed as an in-kind contribution coming from Cheeseman.

The reports show contributions of $100 each coming from two individuals.

Mansfield has spent about the same amount, $2,943, mostly for his web site, campaign consulting and kickoff party.

The sheriff’s reports list contributions of about $3,693, mostly in amounts of $50 or $100 beginning on April 29 this year. The largest comes from Centralia attorney Don Blair, a $500 donation.

According to the PDC, Mansfield’s campaign spent $13,268 in 2006  when he ran unopposed.

Look up local candidates’ campaign finance information for the current election year submitted to the state Public Disclosure Commission at

Quick details on the candidates

Who: Ken Cheeseman
Political party: Republican
How old: 53
Home: Randle since the late 1970s. From Spokane and lived in many places around the state, including the Tacoma-Federal Way area, where he graduated from Highline High School in 1974
Profession: Sergeant with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office
Education: A.A. Centralia College, criminal justice; B.A. University of Phoenix, 2000, criminal justice administration
Previous political experience: Has never been through an election, but was one of four men who sought recommendation from the local Republicans in early 2005 to take over after Sheriff John McCroskey retired mid-term. He understands he came out a close second behind Mansfield when county commissioners made their final choice.
Campaign manager: Sue English, director of Cispus Center
Campaign treasurer: Daneen Lindh
Money in campaign fund:
Family: Mother and grandmother live in Puyallup, has one sister and two brothers
Websites: on Facebook at “Ken Cheeseman for Lewis County Sheriff” and

Who: Steve Mansfield
Political party: Republican
How old: 53
Home: Winlock area since about 1984. Born in Texas but grew up in the Edmonds-Woodway area
Profession: Sheriff, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office
Education: A.A. Shoreline Community College, criminal justice; B.A. University of Washington, about 1981, society and justice as well as sociology
Previous political experience: Appointed sheriff in January 2005 when Sheriff McCroskey stepped down. Ran unopposed that November and again in 2006.
Campaign manager: Fred Rider, former Chehalis mayor, council member
Campaign treasurer: Jill Mansfield
Money in campaign fund: $3,693
Family: Wife Jill and three children ages 19 through 26
Websites: on Facebook at “Re-elect Steve Mansfield for Lewis County Sheriff” and

News brief: Practice burn cancelled; Seventh Day Adventist School still to be demolished

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The practice burn at the Seventh Day Adventist School outside Chehalis for tomorrow has been called off, but firefighters will still be on the scene helping demolish the building.

Lewis County Fire District 6 Chief Bud Goodwillie said this evening that because of logistics and safety, some 50 firefighters who planned to train tomorrow, won’t be able to conduct any interior “sets”.

Goodwillie said they discovered issues with the construction, including several voids inside the building that mean if they set the school on fire, it could easily get away from them.

The school had offered the structure along the 2100 block of South Scheuber Road to Fire District 6, as it plans to build a new school on the site, according to Goodwillie.

He’s disappointed about the lost opportunity to practice.

However, the contractor will be using excavators and bulldozer, beginning tonight, to tear the school down. And firefighters will be there tomorrow to help, Goodwillie said.

It will be a lot of hard work still, and firefighters will be burning the remnants of the school in burn piles starting about 9:30 tomorrow morning, according to Goodwillie.

News brief: Lost Boy Scouts found after spending night outside near High Rock Lookout

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A pair of Boy Scouts who separated from their group Friday during a day hike south of Mount Rainier National Park spent the night outside but were found safe late this morning following a search by Lewis and Thurston county volunteers.

“They were not hurt, not injured,” Cmdr. Steve Aust of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said at mid-day.

The 13-year-old boys are part of a troop out of Olympia, Aust said.

The six Scouts and two adults were hiking in an area out of Ashford called the High Rock Lookout off of Forest Road 84, according to Aust.

At about 4 p.m. yesterday the two took an alternate route back to the trailhead, with the permission of the adults, he said, The rest of the group arrived about two hours later and the boys were not there, Aust said.

“My understanding is they spent the next several hours looking,” Aust said.

They notified authorities at 11 o’clock last night. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office launched their initial search and rescue about 2 a.m. and an estimated 35 searchers were scouring the area this morning.

The effort included volunteers from both counties, Jeeps, the Civil Air Patrol, eight K-9 teams from the two counties and retired sheriff’s detective Dave Neiser, a pilot who spotted the boys from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office airplane, Aust said. The pair was found around 11:15 a.m., he said.

Aust didn’t have further details.