Archive for August, 2010

Slow-speed collision derails freight train cars in Centralia

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
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Police and rail workers respond to a derailment in the north end of Centralia tonight.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Police responding about 7:30 tonight to a report of a train derailment in Centralia found what appeared to be about five cars damaged north of the Sixth Street Viaduct.

There were no reports of injuries and officers quickly concluded the freight train cars were not carrying hazardous materials.

“If there’s anything in it, it’s grain and the other one looks empty,” Centralia Police officer Buddy Croy said of the two cars most obviously awry.

One tanker-type car was partially tipped over and and the side of another was torn off, Croy said.

It happened at a switching yard near Kearney Street and Prospect Avenue, adjacent to the main north-south route upon which Amtrak and freight trains travel between Seattle and Portland.

He said he didn’t know what happened, but expected BNSF would be investigating. It appeared one train was moving and the other cars were parked, he said.

Workers at the rail yard were on the scene and said they sometimes get kids coming through and switching lines, Croy said.

Corrie Aker was inside her home next to the tracks watching a movie with her family when she heard the noise. They ran outside to see two cars wobbling over, she said.

“I kept telling the girls, ‘stay back, stay back’, because you don’t know what’s in there,” Aker said.

BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas said a freight train was pulling onto the mainline when the slow-speed collision occurred. It happened during a routine switching movement, he said.

Melonas expected that line would be reopened by about 10:30 p.m. Rail operations were not significantly affected because traffic was able to continue moving on the second mainline, he said.

BNSF is bringing in equipment from Pasco to either re-rail or remove the damaged cars. Tracks there were damaged, but switching operations are continuing, he said about 10 p.m.

Neighbors Sheila Shiminesky and Jean Heier walked over from B Street to see what caused the rumbling they said just went on and on.

Both women have lived near the tracks for more than four decades and worry some about the potential for spills from the various cargo hauled through the area.

“I’ve always wondered, what if something like this happened and it had poisonous gas or something,” Shiminesky said.

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A tanker-type rail car is tipped over north of Centralia

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Looking north from the Sixth Street Viaduct in Centralia at the railroad tracks.

John Booth Jr.: Prosecutors considering charging capital crimes for triple-homicide suspect with lengthy criminal history

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
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John Allen Booth Jr. sits with defense attorney Bob Schroeter in a Chehalis courtroom Monday afternoon.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Prosecutors increased the charges when triple-homicide suspect John Allen Booth Jr. appeared in court yesterday and said they may do so again, possibly charging the Onalaska man with aggravated first-degree murders, making it a potential death penalty case.

“I think we’ve indicated to the court we’re seriously considering that,” Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told the judge Monday afternoon in the Chehalis courtroom.

Booth was shackled and wearing red and white striped jail garb when he faced Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey.

Booth, 31, is accused in last weekend’s slayings inside a Onalaska-Salkum area home that left three people dead and one seriously wounded. Sheriff Steve Mansfield has said he believes the shootings were related to a drug debt collection.

The details of what detectives believed happened before they were called around 2 o’clock in the morning on Aug. 21, remain sketchy, as a primary document in Booth’s court file was ordered sealed by a judge.

The victims include David J. West Jr., 16, his father David J. West Sr. 52, and Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle. Each died of a gunshot in the head, according to the coroner’s office. The senior West’s live-in girlfriend, Denise Salts, 51, survived a gunshot wound to her face.

Booth was charged last week while he was still at large with first-degree murders in the deaths of the teenager and Williams who was visiting the home off Gore Road. The charge related to West Sr., a friend or acquaintance of Booth’s, was second-degree murder.

However, the amended information filed Monday added one count of first-degree murder in the death of West. Sr. Deputy Prosecutor Meagher also added the option of so-called felony murder for each of the three victims.

The new allegation means that while Booth was committing, or attempting to commit burglary, he caused the death of another person. All have a maximum penalty of life in prison. Booth is also charged with extortion and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The small courtroom was nearly filled and included several members of the sheriff’s office, the news media and family and friends of both the accused and the victims. The defendant appeared to listen attentively to the proceedings. He didn’t speak.

A primary reason for the brief hearing was to address Booth’s bail.

Temporary defense attorney Bob Schroeter asked the judge to reduce bail from $10 million to $100,000. Judge Brosey said no.

Schroeter, who said he met with Booth at the jail earlier in the day, indicated his client had no income or assets and would qualify for a court-appointed attorney to represent him.

Brosey said he wouldn’t appoint any of the usual Lewis County defense attorneys, indicating that was because of conflicts they or their firms had from representing various subjects in the case.

If the charges are increased to aggravated murder, Brosey said, he would appoint two lawyers from the Washington State Supreme Court list of those qualified to handle potential death penalty cases.

The judge also addressed his order sealing the affidavit of probable cause. The document, filed with the charges last Monday, presumably outlines the details of what detectives believe occurred at the rental house where the shootings took place.

Meagher requested it remain unavailable to all but the attorneys involved for another week or two, in part to protect persons named and unnamed in it who might be questioned.

“The investigation is ongoing and there is the potential for the charges to be elevated to aggravated murder,” Meagher said.

Judge Brosey said the document would remain sealed until noon on Sept. 7.

Booth’s opportunity to make his plea won’t come until a week from Thursday.

Outside the courtroom, a group of seven people who said they were family and friends there in support of Booth, declined to comment.

Victim Tony Williams’ mother and brother were accompanied by eight other of his family members, including his 12-year-old son. The 50-year-old carpenter and painter lived in Randle with his mother.

Juanita Williams suggested her grown son was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“I just know Tony didn’t deserve this,” she said. “He just went out there to help Dave move.”

What does Booth’s criminal past include?

CROWBAR TO THE HEAD

Booth was just released in December from his second prison term for assault.

He had served about five and a half years after a spring 2004 incident in which allegedly he hit a man in the head with a crowbar at a Saturday night dance in downtown Centralia, and then struck a bouncer in the forearm when he was chased down an alley behind the Aerie building where the event was held.

The Onalaska man pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree assault and was sentenced to eight years by then-Lewis County Superior Court Judge David Draper, according to court documents. Booth, through his attorney, appealed the sentence, but lost.

He got out of prison early, because he earned nearly all of his so-called “good conduct time” while he was incarcerated, according to a state Department of Corrections spokesperson.

“Typically, you can earn up to one-third of your time,” spokesperson Chad Lewis said.

Offenders can lose good time if they do such things as get violent infractions and can gain good time if they engage in positive activities such as earning their GED, Lewis said.

Part of the reasoning behind giving good time is to reduce prison violence, according to Lewis.

“One reason is if you’re an offender in there with nothing to lose, they just watch the clock, watch the calendar,” Lewis said. “There’s no incentive to do any work while there.”

Booth only lost 15 days of good time for a January 2009 infraction of “strong arming”, according to Lewis.

His sentence, however, also included at least 18 months of supervision by a DOC community corrections officer following his Dec. 21 release. As a high risk violent offender, he and the officer were required to have a minimum of four contacts each month.

DOC is currently investigating a gap of several months in which the two perhaps didn’t even meet. The Tacoma-based community corrections officer responsible for Booth has been put on administrative leave.

HAMMER TO THE FACE

Booth’s first prison stay for assault lasted almost four years and ended in June 2003. Court documents give the following accounts of the crime and his previous run ins with the law.

He was arrested after a July 1999 incident in which he was accused of walking into a Toledo-area home with another individual and hitting a man in the side of the head with a claw hammer after allegedly saying they had come to “take all their dope.”

He pleaded guilty as charged – to one count of second-degree assault and one count of burglary – and the judge accepted the prosecutor’s recommended sentence of 75 months.

Booth appealed and won. His sentence was reduced to 46 months, because authorities had miscalculated his “offender score”, a measure of previous criminal convictions which influence the length of time a person can be locked up for a given charge.

In both those cases, and in a another one which got Booth a little over three months in county jail, Booth made a so-called Alford plea, meaning he didn’t admit guilt, but agreed if the prosecutor’s evidence were assumed to be fact, he would be found guilty.

POINTING GUN TOWARD MAN

That third felony case occurred in the summer of 2003, when he’d been out of prison less than a year.

He pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and witness tampering. He allegedly went to a Salkum residence and pulled a pistol from beneath the hood of his car and threatened a man, saying “this was for his father.” Booth had been initially charged with second-degree assault in that case. He got 107 days.

STOLEN GUNS

Booth’s first adult felony conviction got him a prison stay in 1998 of some seven months. He was charged when he was 18 years old with four counts of possessing stolen firearms. The guns had been stolen from an Onalaska home almost across the street from Booth’s Middle Fork Road residence.

Court documents in that case state that Booth’s criminal history already included such convictions as misdemeanor assaults, burglary, theft, attempt to elude, obstructing police, harassment and trespass.

•••
Read “John Booth Jr.: State prison doesn’t know if it was closely enough monitoring ex-convict charged in triple homicide” here

Read “‘Robbie’ Russell” Person of interest in slayings is a danger to witnesses, authorities say” here

Read “Breaking news: Triple murder suspect captured in Spokane” here.
Read “Two were murdered to eliminate witnesses” here.
Read “Slain teenager described as tight with father” here.
Read “Manhunt spreads to Spokane and beyond after three fatally shot in Onalaska” here

John Booth Jr.: Prosecutors considering increasing charges to capital crimes

Monday, August 30th, 2010
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John Allen Booth Jr. sits with defense attorney Bob Schroeter in a Chehalis courtroom this afternoon.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Prosecutors upgraded the charges when triple-homicide suspect John Allen Booth Jr. appeared in court today and said they may do so again, possibly charging the Onalaska man with aggravated first-degree murders, making it a potential death penalty case.

“I think we’ve indicated to the court we’re seriously considering that,” Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told the judge this afternoon in the Chehalis courtroom.

Booth was shackled and wearing red and white striped jail garb when he faced Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey.

Booth, 31, is accused in last weekend’s slayings inside a Onalaska-Salkum area home that left three people dead and one seriously wounded. The sheriff has said he believe the shootings were related to a drug debt collection.

The victims include David J. West Sr. 52, his son David J. West Jr., 16, and Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle. Each died of a gunshot in the head, according to the coroner’s office.

The senior West’s live-in girlfriend, Denise Salts, 51, survived a gunshot wound to her face.

Booth remains held on $10 million bail.

His arraignment is scheduled for one week from this coming Thursday.

•••
More later.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read Lewis County Sirens’ weekend story about how the state Department of Corrections revealed after the shootings that Booth and his community corrections officer didn’t meet for several months – when the minimum number of contacts required for a high risk violent offender is four times each month – click here.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER PUNCHED WHEN TRYING TO ROUSE UNRESPONSIVE PATIENT

• A 25-year-old Chehalis man who said he must have pulled his motorcycle off the road and fallen asleep near the 300 block of Ingalls Road west of Centralia was arrested after a responding firefighter tried to check on him and he allegedly punched the volunteer firefighter in the chin. Riverside Fire Authority called about 9:40 p.m. last Sunday found a man laying on the ground with a motorcycle parked nearby, according to the sheriff’s office. David R. Little smelled of alcohol and when Firefighter Wade Snow went to roll him over, he opened his eyes, looked at the firefighter and punched him in the face, according to an incident report from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Little was arrested and charged with third-degree assault. He pleaded not guilty on Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court.

LOCAL FIREFIGHTERS HELPING IN EASTERN WASH. WILDFIRE

• The Rochester-area fire department sent three fire department vehicles and six people to help battle a grasslands fire that covered three-square miles and was threatening 80 structures last night in Klickitat County. The team from West Thurston Regional Fire Authority left Thursday evening, according to fire Lt. Eric Smith. The fire near the town of Lyle along the Columbia River started on Thursday and was 40 percent contained last night, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

OUTLET MALL STORE HEIST

• Two teenage males reportedly fled from one of the Centralia Outlet Mall stores with three mesh bags full of merchandise and got into tan-colored van with Arkansas license plates last night. Police called about 8:15 p.m. to the business on the 100 block of High Street noted it was a Chevrolet Astro van and was not found.

PURSE LIFTED FROM SHOPPING CART IN CENTRALIA

• Centralia police were called Friday afternoon to the 100 block of High Street where somebody had stolen a purse from a customer’s shopping cart and soon afterward used used one of the credit cards at a nearby convenience store.

WANDERING NAKED TODDLER REMOVED FROM HOME, PARENTS ARRESTED

• Police called after a toddler was found wandering alone and naked on a Centralia sidewalk arrested a couple for criminal mistreatment when they finally found the parents at the boy’s home a block or so away on Wednesday. When officers finally got someone to come to the door at the 900 block of B Street, they discovered a residence so “foul” and unsafe, the little boy was taken into protective custody, according to the Centralia Police Department. Sgt. Kurt Reichert said there were knives within reach of the boy on the kitchen table and dozens of uninflated balloons laying on the floor, along with feces embedded in the carpet and urine on the kitchen floor. Kacey J. Ganas, 28, and Jared C. Penfield, 25, were booked into the Lewis County Jail.

TEEN BOOKED FOR SECOND-DEGREE ASSAULT

• A 15-year-old boy was arrested for second-degree assault after allegedly swinging the power head of a vacuum cleaner at his mother’s head in Centralia on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Centralia Police Department.

HEROIN ARREST

• A 34-year-old Centralia man was arrested on Saturday for possession of heroin. Police contacted Michael J. Pae just before 1 p.m. at the 900 block of L Street in Centralia and booked him into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

YIKES, HE DID IT AGAIN?

• An officer was called Saturday afternoon to the 700 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia where they cited a 49-year-old Centralia man after he exposed himself during a verbal dispute, according to the Centralia Police Department. The same individual was arrested for the same violation a little more than a week earlier during an argument over a property line between two businesses, according to police. He had allegedly made a rude suggestion which he emphasized by presenting a body part usually kept inside the trousers in public.

STOLEN STUFF

• Chehalis police took a report somebody burglarized a residence and took video games and electronics on Friday. An officer called to the apartment on the 500 block of Jefferson Avenue was told the break-in occurred sometime between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. the day before.

• Centralia police were called Thursday afternoon about the theft of a TV from a home on the 1100 block of Woodland Avenue.

• A green 1999 Toyota Sienna van was reported stolen in Chehalis on Thursday morning.

• Chehalis police were called to Northeast Washington Avenue on Wednesday evening about the theft of a debit card.

• Chehalis police took a report of a burglary to a business on Northeast Median Street on Tuesday afternoon.

SMASHING WINDSHIELDS, SPRAY PAINTING VEHICLES

• Police were called to three incidents of vandalism to vehicles in Centralia on Friday, including one on the 800 block of Park Way in which somebody spray painted a car overnight. One was on the 700 block of North Washington Avenue and another on the 1000 block of Eckerson Road. The day before, an officer took a report of a windshield being broken out of a vehicle on the 100 block of North Buckner Street.

BAIL STAYS AT $500,000 FOR MUFFLER MAN

• The 65-year-old owner of a Centralia muffler shop pleaded not guilty to charges of three times selling methamphetamine to a police informant when he appeared in court on Thursday. Frank Eugene Willis was arrested Aug. 19 at his Muffler Hut on the 1400 block of South Gold Street when police searched the property for stolen property following an ongoing investigation by the Centralia Police Department. Willis also pleaded not guilty to possession of roughly one ounce of the drug which was found in various places, possession of a stolen vehicle and of a stolen firearm, according to authorities. Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh said a detective was still checking the roughly other 40 firearms seized to see any of them were stolen. The apartment on the premises in which he lived with his wife has been posted as uninhabitable by the city, according to Beigh. Willis’s temporary defense attorney had argued for less than $500,000 bail, saying Willis had as strong of community ties as one can find, but Judge Nelson Hunt on Thursday declined to reduce the bail.

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Muffler shop owner Frank Eugene Willis consults with his attorney during his first appearance in court on Aug. 20 after being arrested for allegedly selling methamphetamine to a police informant.

News brief: Coroner concludes Lewis County Jail inmate’s death was suicide

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office determined an inmate found dead in his cell Wednesday at the Lewis County Jail died from asphyxia due to ligature strangulation.

That means something around his neck cut off his air supply, Chief Deputy Coroner Dawn Harris said. An autopsy was conducted on Friday.

The 40-year-old dead man is Daniel Wolfgang Fish, Harris said. The coroner concluded the death was a suicide.

The Mossyrock, and former Morton, resident was isolated in a high-security cell by himself, at his request, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Fish was arrested and booked Tuesday in connection with several incidents of past sexual abuse of a female relative which had been recently reported to the Morton Police Department.

Jail staff found him Wednesday evening after he had apparently strangled himself using bedding, according to the sheriff’s office. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown reported suicide notes were found in Fish’s cell.

It was the third inmate suicide in the Lewis County Jail in the last four years.

John Booth Jr.: State prison doesn’t know if it was closely enough monitoring ex-convict charged in triple homicide

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An initial review of the state prison system’s supervision of triple murder suspect John Allen Booth Jr. after his December release suggested there were several months when the 31-year-old Onalaska man and his community corrections officer didn’t meet.

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John A. Booth Jr.

The minimum number of contacts required for a high risk violent offender is four times each month.

“This is a case where, at first glance, it does not look like we did everything right,” Department of Corrections spokesperson Chad Lewis said yesterday.

Booth is charged with last weekend’s shooting of four people – including a 16-year-old boy – inside an Onalaska area home. Detectives believe the slayings were related to a drug debt collection.

Booth had served about five and a half years for assault after he hit a man in the head with a crowbar at a Saturday night dance in downtown Centralia, and then struck a bouncer in the forearm when he was chased down an alley behind the Aerie building where the event was held. It was his second prison term for assault.

The 2004 sentence from Lewis County Superior Court included at least 18 months of supervision from DOC after Booth’s release from prison.

Lewis said a look at the computer records documenting Booth’s supervision showed the last contact was in April.

The community corrections officer responsible for Booth was put on administrative leave on Wednesday, Lewis said.

The state agency doesn’t know if he didn’t meet with the ex-convict or if he just didn’t record the interactions into the database.

“We asked him and he said he had some contacts, he just had not entered it,” Lewis said.

The officer, Seth Skipworth, has been in trouble with his bosses before for not following proper policies and procedures in documenting his work, according to Lewis.

Skipworth has been given two “memos of concern” from his supervisor; one in October 2008 and the last one just a few days before the shootings, according to Lewis.

Community corrections officers are required to enter information about a contact within 72 hours.

The Secretary of Corrections, Eldon Vail, has requested what he described in a Friday memo to all DOC employees as a complete and thorough review, not just of front line workers but of all levels of the agency.

Vail noted in the memo he is concerned about the initial findings, and particularly the limited contact with Booth between April and August.

Booth was being supervised out of a DOC Tacoma office. He worked in Tacoma, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Skipworth has been a full time community corrections officer since July 2006.

On Monday and Tuesday, under the supervision of a superior, Skipworth retroactively entered information about contacts with Booth, ones which could be independently verified, into the database, according to Lewis.

The last entry, on Aug. 6, shows Booth was living with a girlfriend in Lakewood.

Skipworth had a caseload of more than 40 offenders, a number Lewis called a lot, but typical.

There are about 19,000 offenders across the state who are supervised by some 800 community corrections officers, according to DOC.

The DOC’s investigation will also be reviewing its supervision history of Ryan Joseph McCarthy, 28, one of two other people implicated in the case. McCarthy got out of prison about three weeks before the slayings.

Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield has named McCarthy and Robert Shawn Russell, 46, of Centralia, persons of interest in the case.

All three men are being held in the Lewis County Jail.

The victims include David J. West Sr. 52, his son David J. West Jr., 16, and Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle. Each died of a gunshot in the head, according to the coroner’s office.

The senior West’s live-in girlfriend, Denise Salts, 51, survived a gunshot wound to her face.

•••

Read “Breaking news: Triple murder suspect captured in Spokane” here.
Read “Two were murdered to eliminate witnesses” here.
Read “Slain teenager described as tight with father” here.
Read “Manhunt spreads to Spokane and beyond after three fatally shot in Onalaska” here

All three slaying victims were fatally shot in the head, authorities say

Friday, August 27th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The three individuals slain in the Salkum-Onalaska area home early Saturday morning each died of a gunshot wound to the head.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office released the information this afternoon, although they knew by Wednesday the preliminary cause and manner of deaths, according to Coroner Terry Wilson. The three autopsies were conducted on Monday.

“They didn’t want us to release anything so that it would interfere with their investigation,” Wilson said on Wednesday.

The coroner’s office chief deputy coroner, Dawn Harris, called the sheriff’s office this afternoon to see if it was okay to reveal. The manner of death is homicide, she said.

The suspect and two person’s of interest were all in custody by last night.

John Allen Booth Jr., 31, of Onalaska, was captured Wednesday night by federal marshals at a Spokane home where he was hiding.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield, along with several deputies, brought Booth back to the Lewis County Jail today, according to a news release.

Booth, the only person charged in the case, was booked into the Chehalis facility about 5 p.m.

Centralia resident, Robert “Robbie” Shawn Russell, 46, described as a person of interest, was picked up last night in the Tumwater area by a bail bondsman and two of his agents.

John Wickert, who owns the Chehalis-based Jail Sucks Bail Bonds, said he decided to revoke the $50,000 bond he had posted for a 2009 case of Russell’s.

A second person of interest Ryan Joseph McCarthy, 28, was picked up early on Sunday in Redmond on a Department of Corrections warrant.

Booth has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 16-year-old David J. West Jr., and Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle.

He is charged with second-degree murder in the of David J. West Sr. 52; and with attempted first-degree murder for the shooting of Denise Salts, 51, the senior West’s girlfriend who also lived in the home.

Booth is also charged with first-degree extortion and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Wilson, the elected coroner, said this is the only triple homicide in Lewis County he can recall during his 28 years as coroner.

Booth is expected to go before a Lewis County Superior Court judge on Monday.

Chehalis National Guardsman pleads not guilty to assaulting child

Friday, August 27th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  The Chehalis National Guardsman accused of assault of his girlfriend’s 7-year-old son pleaded not guilty yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court.

The mother of the child and the accused man’s mother were in the Chehalis courtroom to support him.

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Steven Grant Williams

Steven Grant Williams didn’t do what they say he did, his mother said outside the courtroom after the brief hearing.

“I know him. I know that’s not his way,” Nadine Cotter said. “I know that … that’s just not my son.”

Authorities last week described the injuries to the 39-year-old man’s girlfriend’s son as two black eyes and including bruises on his back and buttocks. The child told a police officer his mother’s boyfriend had bound him with black tape, covered his eyes and mouth and beat him with a belt, according to charging documents.

Cotter, who lives in Centralia, said watching her son’s situation made her realize the meaning of people being presumed innocent.

“I would ask people to stop and think; charges does not mean guilty,” she said.

Williams was arrested by Chehalis police last week after the mother Sarra Dennis returned her son to his paternal grandmother who he lives with. The child was taken to a hospital and his body was found covered in bruises, according to police.

Deputy Police Chief Randy Kaut said after the arrest it was one of the most extensive child abuse cases he’s seen in his career.

The boy had just finished a two or three week visit in Chehalis with his mother and Williams, the first they’d had with him since they moved back to Washington from southern California. Dennis, 27, said she sent him to live with his grandmother in Davenport because she had financial difficulties.

Williams just returned five months ago from deployment in Kosovo, according to Dennis. His temporary defense attorney was mistaken when he said last week Williams was just discharged from the Army, she said.

He remains in the Lewis County Jail, held on $25,000 bail neither woman thought they could raise for his release.

Dennis, who is also a member of the National Guard, said they moved to Chehalis to be closer to family. She is from Yelm and Tumwater.

Williams is charged with second-degree assault of a child. His trial was set for the week of Oct. 18.

•••
To read a previous news story on this, click here.

Read about a suspected pot growing ring …

Friday, August 27th, 2010

The (Tacoma) News Tribune is reporting today about the arrest of a former musician Pierce County authorities say led a three-county marijuana growing operation that included a residence in Lewis County.

Read news reporter Stacey Mulick’s story here.

“Robbie” Russell: Arrested in Tumwater tonight

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that Robert “Robbie” Shawn Russell was picked up about 6 p.m. this evening.

The bond company which posted Russell’s bail in his previous case arrested him  in Tumwater, according to sheriff’s Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. It is Jail Suck’s Bail Bond Company.

•••

KOMO TV news talked to the bond company owner about the capture. Read their story here.

•••

Read about the capture of John Booth Jr. by clicking here.

Read Lewis County Sirens’ story about Russell by either scrolling down or clicking here.

“Robbie” Russell: Person of interest in slayings is a danger to witnesses, authorities say

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A declaration filed to bring a Centralia man into custody three days after a triple homicide suggests witnesses may not only be in danger from the weekend slaying suspect John Allen Booth Jr, but from 46-year-old Robert “Robbie” Shawn Russell.

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Robert "Robbie" Shawn Russell

A no-bail warrant was issued Tuesday for Russell at the request of the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office.

The Centralia man is named as a “person of interest” in the case where early Saturday morning four people were shot – three fatally – inside a home off Gore Road in Onalaska.

Authorities have not suggested Russell was present.

However, the declaration describes that one of the victims, David J. West Sr. was a witness in a pending case against Russell.

The two men were charged in June of last year after several teenagers camping outside Winlock were ambushed, allegedly because West Sr. was trying to get back money he believed some of them had stolen from him. West. Sr. admitted hitting a 17-year-old boy with a jack handle, and retrieving $4,000, according to charging documents in his case. Russell, allegedly brandished a handgun and fired a shot during the incident.

Russell’s case is set to go to trial the week of Oct. 18.

He faces first-degree robbery, seven counts of second-degree assault and several other charges.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield today said he won’t talk about Russell, beyond saying he’s a person of interest and deputies are looking for him.

The declaration filed in Russell’s June 2009 case however is blunt:

“Given that Mr. West is now a victim of a particularly violent murder, the state firmly believes that other witnesses may be at risk, not only from Mr. Booth, but from Mr. Russell,” Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher wrote in the document.

Meagher is asking that Russell be brought before a judge to have his $50,000 bail increased to half a million dollars. The deputy prosecutor was granted a bench warrant for Russell’s immediate arrest, serviceable in the continental U.S.

The stated reason includes a violation of Russell’s conditions of release on the June charges; that Russell had contact with one of the witnesses in the case after he was ordered not to.

Russell visited West Sr.’s house about two weeks prior to the shooting, the declaration says.

The declaration reveals some details of both last year’s campsite ambush and last weekend’s slayings that left West Sr., his 16-year-old son D.J. West Jr. and another man dead.

The fourth person wounded by gunfire early Saturday morning is Denise Salts, the 51-year-old live-in girlfriend of West Sr., according to the declaration.

She was shot her in the face by Booth, the document alleges.

Sheriff Mansfield has not publicly identified Salts as one of the victims, only that the survivor was airlifted by Life Flight to a hospital. On Monday the sheriff said she was in stable condition in a “secure” facility.

Mansfield today is asking anyone with any information on Russell’s whereabouts to call 911 or Lewis County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-748-6422.

He is described as a white male who is 6 feet tall and weighing 190 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. The sheriff’s office says he is currently growing a mustache and could be bald now. He’s been known to wear wigs to disguise his identity, according to Mansfield.

Booth was captured last night in Spokane by federal marshals and a number of law enforcement officers from state and local agencies. He being held in the Spokane County Jail and will be brought to Lewis County sometime within the next week, according to Mansfield.

The 31-year-old Onalaska man is charged with the murders of West Sr., D.J. West Jr. and 50-year-old Tony E. Williams, who the sheriff’s office reported was from Mineral. William’s actually lived with his mother in Randle, according to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office who notified her of the death.

Booth is also charged with attempted murder for the shooting of Salts.

Ryan Joseph McCarthy, 28, is being held in the Lewis County Jail, and is also named as a “person of interest” in the case. He was picked up early Sunday.

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Read more about the weekend triple murder by clicking here.

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What witnesses say about the campsite ambush last summer

Charging documents in Lewis County Superior Court allege the following account:

A Lewis County sheriff’s deputy was called to Providence Centralia Hospital June 18, 2009, where a doctor said Emily Smith was there with her 17-year-old son who had been assaulted.

Smith told the deputy she, her son, her 15-year-old daughter and two other teenagers, along with Ricardo Inez Gomez and Alexander Ross were camping off King Road near Winlock.

Three men showed up in a black Suburban. A man – identified by others as David West Sr. – approached her 17-year-old son D.J.M. and demanded his money back.

When D.J.M. refused to cooperate, West began to strike him with a metal bar. When Smith stepped in to stop the attack, one of the other men pulled out a gun and pointed it at her, she said. He fired a bullet that went right beside her head. She was told to stay back.

That man was identified as Robert Shawn Russell.

Witnesses told detectives Russell then pointed the gun in the direction of the other five people at the campsite and told them to stay back.

At one point Ross approached Russell and told him to put the gun away; Russell then jabbed the barrel of the gun into Ross’s throat.

Smith told her son to give West back his money; he did and the three men left. West later told detectives he got $2,000 from D.J.M. and $2,000 from another one of the teens, 17-year-old A.G.V.

In follow up interviews, detectives were told 15-year-old J.O.S. had set up a burglary at the Silver Creek house of his step-father, West Sr.

Detectives were told Smith’s 17-year-old son D.J.M., her 15-year-old daughter T.B.M. and 17-year-old A.G.V. went to the house and stole the cash, but J.O.S.’s mother returned home and then his step-father West Sr. returned home. D.J.M. blamed it on J.O.S. and then left.

West Sr. told his step-son to get the money back. The step-son went to the campsite and then contacted his step-father.

When West Sr. was interviewed by detectives, he admitted hitting the boy with a jack handle. He said he was angry about the theft and wanted his money back. West Sr. admitted to detectives that Russell fired a round, but said he hadn’t known Russell was armed.

When Russell was contacted by detectives, he admitted he went out to King Road to help a friend get back some money stolen from him. He said things got out of control, but wouldn’t answer any more questions.

Russell was initially charged only with unlawful possession of a firearm. Later the charges were increased.

West Sr. pleaded guilty to his charges last September. His sentencing had been repeatedly postponed, but he would be going to prison, according to court records. He was a witness in the upcoming trial against Russell.

News brief: Two suspects from drive-by shooting still at large

Thursday, August 26th, 2010
2010.0811.mug.andrew.morales.loberg

Andrew Morales-Loberg

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Chehalis police are still looking for two young men wanted in connection with the drive-by shooting earlier this month.

Andrew Morales-Loberg, 19, of Chehalis; and Juan Valentino Vasquez, also known by his street name “Grover”, 24, of Centralia, are believed to have been inside a red Chevrolet Blazer when someone stuck a pistol out the window and fired a round that struck an unoccupied vehicle on Southwest William Street in Chehalis early on Aug 7.

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Juan Valentino Vasquez

Warrants were issued for the pair. Bail is set at $500,000.

A Tenino couple, Ruben Alberto Palomares G., 25, and Christina Palomares, 24, have been charged in the case.

Police are asking anyone with information to call them at 360-748-8605 during regular business hours; and otherwise call 911.
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To read the most recent news story on the incident, “Tenino couple’s arraignment for Chehalis drive-by shooting set for today”, click here.

News brief: Another man sought in connection with weekend triple homicide case

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A second “person of interest” has been named by the sheriff’s office in connection with the weekend triple homicide in the Onalaska-Salkum area.

Robert “Robbie” Shawn Russell, 46, is wanted by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, according to a news release this morning.

2010.0826.mug.robbie.russell

Robert "Robbie" Shawn Russell

The Centralia resident is being sought on a no-bail warrant issued on Tuesday.

He is described as a white male who is 6 feet tall and weighing 190 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

The sheriff’s office says he is currently growing a mustache and could be bald now. He’s been known to wear wigs.

The sheriff’s office is asking anyone with information on his whereabouts to call 911 or Lewis County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-748-6422. Tips can also be reported online at http://tips.lewiscountywa.gov

The man named as the suspect – John Allen Booth Jr., 31, of Onalaska – was captured last night in Spokane.

One person of interest was picked up early Sunday morning and taken to the Lewis County Jail. He is 28-year-old Ryan Joseph McCarthy.

•••
Read more about the weekend triple murder by clicking here.

Inmate strangles self in Lewis County Jail, authorities say

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A man arrested Tuesday for rape of a child was found dead of an apparent suicide in the Lewis County Jail last night, according to the sheriff’s office.

Jail staff found the 40-year-old inmate yesterday evening had apparently strangled himself using bedding in his cell, according to a news release. He was originally from Morton, the sheriff’s office reported.

The man was isolated in a high-security cell by himself. He had requested that, said Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. Suicide notes were found in his cell, according to Brown.

Corrections officers indicated there were no signs of suicidal behavior from him, according to Brown.

An autopsy will be conducted. His identity was not released.

However, Daniel W. Fish, 40, was booked Tuesday for  third-degree rape of a child, second-degree rape of a child and indecent liberties after he was arrested by the Morton Police Department.

Police Chief Dan Mortensen said yesterday Fish was a Mossyrock resident.

Fish’s arrest was in connection with several incidents of sexual abuse of a female relative over the years that were recently reported to police, according to Mortensen. Most of the alleged incidents occurred when the victim was 14 or 15 years old and one when she was 12 or 13, the chief said.

Medical personnel were summoned by jail staff after the discovery. The inmate was pronounced dead at the scene. Deputies were called to the jail just after 6:30 p.m., according to Brown.

It’s the third inmate suicide in the jail in the last four years, Brown said.

Brown said they don’t believe he hanged himself, he apparently strangled himself with the bedding, she said.

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This news story was updated at 8:14 a.m. on Thursday Aug. 26, 2010