Archive for October, 2010

Prosecutor election: Why Meyer, Golden want the job

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

In mid-August, I wrote about the race for Lewis County prosecutor, primarily focusing on the money raised and spent in the race along with what supporters of Michael Golden and Jonathan Meyer said about each of the two men.

What I didn’t write much about is what they say about themselves.

What motivated Meyer, a Centralia defense attorney, to run for office? What has Golden, the incumbent, done in the past four years that he thinks merits him a second term?

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Jonathan Meyer

The picture of their campaign finances hasn’t changed a great deal since just before the primary. Combined, they had spent almost $40,000. As of today, more than $50,000 has been spent by the two candidates, according to the most recent numbers available from the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Meyer has raised roughly $32,500 and Golden has accumulated some $21,300.

However, a closer look shows Golden’s cash contributions are only about $10,180. The rest comes from in-kind contributions of about $7,600 and personal contributions of some $3,100.

Meyer’s total includes about $2,300 in-kind contributions, although his campaign has some $2,800 debt.

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Michael Golden

When the counting ended on primary election night, challenger Meyer had attracted 63.2 percent of the votes, compared with 36.1 percent for Golden. When the final tally was done, Meyer’s numbers rose. He secured about 64.9 percent in contrast to Golden’s 35.2 percent, according to the numbers from the Lewis County Auditor’s election department.

Golden attributed his low showing to not very many people knowing very much about the race.

Election day is Tuesday. Ballots can be returned anytime up through election day. In case you haven’t yet made up your mind here’s a little bit more to ponder …

Jonathan Meyer decided about a year ago to run for prosecutor.

The 39-year-old Centralia defense attorney says the main reason, is for his young daughters.

“We live in a changing world, they deserve to live in a safe community,” Meyer said in an interview. “I look and I see there’s something lacking out there.”

The Centralia resident said he supported Michael Golden four years ago, but shortly after Golden was elected, he saw some signs of problems. At first he wrote it off to Golden settling in to new responsibilities, he said. But he finally decided he just didn’t think the job of prosecuting criminals was getting done.

“This isn’t some beef I have as a defense attorney, this is a beef I have as a citizen,” Meyer said. “The fact that I’m an attorney means I can do something about it.”

After a lot of thought and prayer, he announced his candidacy last November.

Meyer began working in a Centralia law firm in 1996, before he finished law school. He had just completed a judicial internship in Grays Harbor Superior Court when he met attorney Don McConnell.

“He said, if I ever need a job, let him know,” Meyer said. “I came here thinking it would be like six months.”

But he stayed with McConnell. Meyer said he got more experience in what is now McConnell, Meyer and Associates than most people get in their first two years of practice. He made partner in 2002.

Meyer practices in courts in Lewis, Cowlitz, Thurston and Grays Harbor counties, with some cases in superior courts, some municipal courts. Some of his work involves being a court-appointed defense attorney, something he began doing about a decade ago.

He’s also served as a substitute judge and substitute prosecutor in municipal courts.

Primarily, he says, it’s his courtroom experience that would put him in a good position to lead the prosecutor’s office.

“I’ve done it and seen it at the different levels,” Meyer said. “I’ve made the motions, argued the motions. I know what the people, the jury, the judges, need and want to hear.”

He shrugs off the suggested contradiction that a defense attorney could be a good prosecuting attorney. The job of prosecutor is protecting the county legally, he says.

“It’s still a process where you’re trying to prove your case,” it’s just a different client, he said.

Meyer mainly wants to reverse what he describes as a pattern of failures after former Lewis County Prosecutor Jeremy Randolph left and Golden stepped in almost four years ago.

“I will do everything I can to lead the prosecutor’s office back to where it should be and continue to lead it where it needs to go,” Meyer said.

L. Michael Golden, who worked as a civil deputy prosecutor in the office before an overwhelming victory four years ago to the top job, wants to continue doing it.

“I care about this community, and I want to make a difference,” Golden said. “That’s why I’m in the office, that’s why I’m running, that’s why I’m active in the flood issues.”

Over the past almost four years, his office has handled some 10,000 criminal cases, the rural Chehalis resident says.

“There are cases I don’t like the outcome, and I expect my opponent focuses on those cases,” Golden said. “If he points out a half dozen, that he can only point out that many is a testimony to how good a job my office does every day.”

Meyer points to a Packwood robbery case in which two suspects were fatally shot that was dismissed two months into Golden’s term, due to what a judge called gross mismanagement on the part of prosecutors.

The defendants – Jason Brooks and Natalie Pitts-Brooks – were set free before any trial because the prosecutor’s office failed to turn over sheriff’s office reports to the defense attorneys, Meyer and Don Blair.

Golden says that issue has been resolved by upgrading their case management software so law enforcement reports – at least from police departments in Centralia Chehalis and the sheriff’s office – are now transmitted electronically to his office. Now his employees can more easily know when and what necessary reports are available, he says.

The November 2008 armed robbery of a Toledo pharmacy and the plea deals of no more than a year of incarceration in exchange for helping recover more than 800 stolen Oxycontin pills is another case that troubled Meyer.

The agreed upon sentences for the defendants were so low, Meyer said it made him hang his head, even though he represented one of them.

Golden says he wasn’t pleased about that outcome either. Since then, to prevent such a reoccurrence, he eliminated his chief criminal deputy position, something he called a filter between him an his deputy prosecutors that he can do without.

“It works better this way, there’s also a budget savings,” Golden said.

Golden has focused on standardizing the way in which plea agreements are made, he said.

“That’s been a big issue, that was a big issue before,” he said. “Previously different deputies had their own style, there was no office-wide style.”

His philosophy now, he says, is “charge what you believe you can prove at trial”, hold to a firm deadline for any plea offers which are made and, he almost never agrees to so-called Alford pleas, where the defendant pleads guilty but doesn’t admit guilt.

“I’ve transformed it from an office that pled out 95 percent of its cases to now, we take more to trial,” he said.

Golden says his office takes some 12 precent of felony cases to trial while the state average is just less than 5 percent.

Meyer doesn’t think benefits of that many trials outweigh the costs.

“He tries nearly two times the state average and in return, gets about 10 percent more convictions,” Meyer said when he addressed the Lewis County Deputies Guild in July. “That’s not a very good use of resources.”

In reflecting on his term as elected prosecutor, Golden said something more challenging than he had expected has been “the insiders, the system, what often gets called the good ‘ole boys was much better entrenched than I’d realized.”

“There was an expectation that who you are, who you are as a family would affect the way you were treated,” he said. “I don’t believe that’s the way it should be done.”

Golden lists a number of accomplishments over the past almost four years he’s most proud of.

“On the criminal side, I think an overall felony conviction ratio that exceeds the state average is something of which I’m justifiable proud,” he says.

He counts as a plus that he more than doubled the number of sex offenders he charged in his first year, primarily for failing to register their addresses.

“I’m very proud of the outcome of the Hammock (murder) case … and gang cases,” he said. “With Centralia, we prosecuted a drive-by shooting that resulted in a very sharp down turn in gang activities.”

On the down side, he said he hasn’t been able to do as much as he would like in drug cases, because of the lack of a federally funded drug task force. It’s something he wants to work toward.

And on the civil side:

“One of our greatest successes on the civil side was getting Lewis County out of invalidity and getting the (development) moratorium lifted.” Golden said. “Now we’re able to issue building permits and allow development, that’s a major victory.”

His office has evaluated and worked through issues with the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and others to assist the county board of commissioners in making policy decisions on flooding, he said.

“That has helped a lot, an awful lot, towards flood solutions that are basin-wide,” Golden said.

The two men have gone back and forth since mid-July about statistics and it’s not easy to see how meaningful or accurate the numbers thrown around are.

Meyer told the deputies guild Golden’s office had a 23 percent higher dismissal rate than the state average during 2007, 2008 and 2009. And he vowed to ensure that number would go down. He looked at the number of criminal counts dismissed.

Golden disputes that and says his office’s dismissal rate is below state average. He looked at criminal case outcomes not involving trials. Last year, according to Golden, the statewide dismissal rate was about 21.7 percent and his office’s was 21.4 percent.

He said he uses the same formula as the researcher for the Administrative Office of Washington Courts.

“We’re right there, dead center,” Golden says.

Meyer also said Golden’s office has lost 37 percent more cases once they go to trial.

Golden answers by saying the former Prosecutor Randolph’s office was below the state average in that regard.

“In 2007, mine was still below, in 2008 it was still below, and in 2009, it was about state average,” Golden said.

Meyer says also during the last three years, 22 percent fewer people on average have gone to prison than under former Prosecutor Randolph’s final three years. That’s rough on the sheriff’s budget because they end up in the county jail instead, according to Meyer.

Golden offers that Lewis County’s overall felony conviction ratios exceed the state average. While Lewis County is 15th in the state when ranked by population, it’s felony conviction ratio is 10th, according to Golden.

Ballots have to be postmarked on or before Tuesday, or delivered to the Lewis County Auditors Office before 8 p.m. Tuesday.

•••

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Wins at trial in select Superior Courts

•••

You can look here at the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office criminal division report for 2009 compiled early this year.

You can look at the numbers compiled by the Administrative Office of Washington Courts here, or by going to Washington State Courts, then Judicial Info Systems, then Caseload Reports, then Superior Court, then annual, then criminal.

Read Lewis County Sirens’ story about the race for Lewis County prosecutor from just before the August primary election here.

Preliminary election results should be available online shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Auditors Office website.

Full disclosure: Jonathan Meyer’s campaign manager Brittany Voie is signed up as the individual who handles advertising for Lewis County Sirens.
•••

Quick details on the prosecutor candidates

Who: Jonathan Meyer
Political party: Republican
How old:  39
Home:
Born Granite City, Ill. and raised in New Lennox, Ill. until eighth grade then family moved to Aberdeen. Moved to Olympia during college and then to Centralia where he bought a home in 1999.
Profession: Lawyer, Centralia law firm of McConnell, Meyer and Associates
Education: A.A. Grays Harbor Community College; B.A. St. Martin’s University 1995, major of political science; law school, Seattle University (Tacoma campus) 1998, juris doctorate
Previous political experience: none unless you count student body representative in eighth grade and then selected by secret ballot to become president of Lewis County Bar, until the end of this year
Other activities: president of Centralia Christian School, board member Lewis County Bar Legal Aid, president of Girls Softball Association
Campaign manager: Brittany Voie, of Voie Media Development
Campaign treasurer:
wife Michelle Meyer
Money raised for campaign:
$32,528
Family: Married wife Michelle in 1991, two daughters; Payton, 10, and Emily, 8. Has several older half and step siblings, but raised like an only child
Websites: on Facebook at “jonathan meyer for lewis county prosecutor” and www.meyerforprosecutor.com/

Who: L. Michael Golden
Political party:
Republican
How old:  45
Home: Born in Mississippi and grew up in Pullman. As an adult moved to Tacoma. Moved to Lewis County in 2003, briefly back to Tacoma, and then to rural Chehalis in 2005.
Profession:
Lawyer, the elected Lewis County prosecutor
Education: B.A. Washington State University 1993, major of political science, graduated summa cum laude; law school Seattle University (Tacoma campus) 1996, juris doctorate
Previous political experience:
won a contested race in 2006 to become Lewis County prosecutor
Other activities:
board member Lewis County United Way, board member Lewis County Bar Legal Aid, member of Chehalis Rotary
Campaign manager: wife Lisa Golden
Campaign treasurer: wife Lisa Golden
Money raised for campaign: $21,341
Family: Married wife Lisa in 1990, divorced and remarried Lisa in May 2008; two sons, Conor, 11, and Ryan, 9
Websites: on Facebook at “re-elect Michael Golden” and www.goldenforprosecutor.com

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.

Read about police pursuit through soccer fields …

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian is reporting today about a Rochester man who led two  patrol cars through a soccer field in Lacey.

Read news reporter Jeremy Pawloski’s story here.

Cessna and bodies recovered today

Friday, October 29th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Chehalis Cessna that crashed Monday northeast of Morton was recovered today, NTSB senior air safety investigator Wayne Pollack reported tonight.

Because of the prevailing weather conditions today, the airplane was recovered and well as the bodies, according to Pollack.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator in charge of the downed plane from the Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute said his team was able to complete their documentation of the accident site.

The wreckage will be examined in detail next week, Pollack said in an email message.

Recovery of Chehalis plane waits for safe weather conditions

Friday, October 29th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator in charge of the downed Cessna from Chehalis says they likely will have to use a helicopter to remove the wreckage from the mountains but he still doesn’t know when that will be.

It normally would take place within a few days to a week, but snowy conditions and safety concerns have put retrieval attempts on hold, according to Wayne Pollack, a senior air safety investigator with the NTSB’s Western Pacific Region.

“In this case, as soon as the weather is good enough,” Pollack said yesterday afternoon. “That may be tomorrow, it may be next week.”

Pollack spoke from Los Angeles yesterday. He’s in charge of coordinating the recovery of the plane from Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute that crashed Monday morning northeast of Morton.

Chehalis pilot Ken Sabin, technician Rod Rinta and ophthalmologist Dr. Paul Shenk were onboard the Cessna 340A traveling to Lewiston, Idaho when Sabin reported one engine was down and then radio contact was lost.

Pollack said the NTSB will oversee a contractor which will remove the wreckage to a facility, and there it will be partially reconstructed and scrutinized. The NTSB will conduct a structural, engine and systems examination, Pollack said.

When complete, they will issue a finding of the facts, conditions and circumstances of the accident.

The aircraft was found Tuesday at an elevation of about 3,500 feet in a rugged, wooded area some nine miles northeast of Morton. Approximately a foot of snow was covering it then.

It’s a foot hike in from forest roads on property owned by West Fork Timber. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has described the plane as spread over some 75 to 100 yards.

Pollack said when they are able to get in, they must account for the nose, tail, wings, engines and cockpit.

He said he’s waiting for word from the Lewis County Coroner’s Office that the bodies are removed.

“They’re going to go in first and report back,” he said. “We may have a small (contingent) go with them.”

Morton’s elevation is approximately 900 feet. The National Weather Service forecast for Morton includes various chances of rain or showers through Tuesday and lows in the mid-40s with highs in the mid 50s.

The forecast for the west slopes of the central Cascade Mountains shows snow levels dropping to 4,000 feet on Sunday and headed back up to 9000 to 10,000 feet early next week.

•••

CORRECTION: This news story was modified at 11 p.m. Friday Oct. 29, 2010 as it initially erroneously attributed the overseeing of a contractor to remove the wreckage, the conducting of an examination and determining the cause of the crash to the wrong agency.

•••

Read previous news story on the plane crash here

Police officer’s firearms recovered with arrest, badges still missing

Friday, October 29th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Even though an arrest was made overnight of the person suspected of stealing police badges and guns from Mossyrock’s top law enforcement officer, authorities are still concerned because not everything has been recovered.

Longtime interim Mossyrock Police Department Chief Jeremy Stamper was out of town hunting last weekend when somebody broke into the home on 300 block of Bear Ridge Road and made off with two silver badges, an old police uniform shirt with a patch, three firearms and a broken Tazer gun.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 20-year-old in Vader overnight who they say admitted burglarizing the home.

Jeremy Reeves Elliott was booked into the Lewis County Jail  for first-degree burglary, theft of firearms and third-degree theft, according to the sheriff’s office. Deputies recovered the guns and some other valuables but Elliott denied taking the badges, uniform and Tazer, the sheriff’s office reported this morning.

“We are still looking for the badges and uniform and asking the public to call the sheriff’s office if they have any information,” Sheriff Steve Mansfield said in a prepared statement this morning.

Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said it’s a concern, as they don’t want anybody impersonating a police officer.

It’s unlikely anyone could get away with that in the small town of Mossyrock, since most people know what Stamper looks like, she said.

However, she offered this advice: “If somebody has a feeling that something’s not right, that somebody is not a police officer, or if they’re not sure, they could call 911 or ask to see identification,” Brown said.

Brown said Elliott was arrested at his father’s house without incident.

Information from people in the area led deputies to Elliott, and he had previously been renting a room at a home on Bear Ridge Road, she said.

The house is in a remote area where it’s probably not hard to see when residents are home and when they are not, according to Brown.

The family is in the process of moving and Stamper’s wife had been staying in the new home. She returned on Monday to discover the burglary.

The sheriff’s office also recovered the children’s Wii game system and a hunting coat. But still missing are women’s hair accessories, underclothes, children’s’ coats and prescription sleeping pills.

Stamper said yesterday he still has a badge to wear, although not his wallet badge.

It was stolen the week before while he was deer hunting in Chelan County and somebody made off with everything from his campsite, before setting his tent on fire. He doesn’t think the two events are related.

•••

Read yesterday’s news story on the burglary here

Resident from Ethel’s fatal house fire was a “good guy”

Friday, October 29th, 2010
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The cause of the fatal fire at Gary Ike's home north of Toledo is still under investigation.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

This news story was updated at 10:24 a.m.

TOLEDO – The cause of the blaze that decimated the small wood-frame house where Gary Ike lived and died is still unknown but one detail stands out: “We have yet to find a smoke detector,” fire investigator Derrick Paul said yesterday.

Paul and fellow investigators were on the scene for hours yesterday looking for what sparked the fire where a man he said was well known in the community, throughout the county, was found dead. He called it a tragedy.

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Gary Allen Ike

“(This) is the case in just about every fatality we see, the lack of a working smoke detector,” Paul. “That’s the consistent factor in all of them.”

The two-bedroom home on the 100 block of Nicholson Road in Ethel still stands, but is a total loss after the late Wednesday night fire. Nicholson is a dead-end road off of Oyler Road about a half mile east of Lewis and Clark State Park, north of Toledo.

Gary Allen Ike, 54, lived there alone, according to neighbors. He worked at Home Depot.

Francine Smiley, who has lived around the corner for more than three decades remembers when it was the home of Ike’s father, David Ike – the last full-blooded Cowlitz Indian.

Many are mourning Gary Ike’s passing, she said. “He’s a good guy,” she said yesterday afternoon as she picked up her mail in front of Ike’s house.

The Toledo area fire department was called out at 11:20 p.m. and when the first engine company of volunteers arrived nine minutes later from the Tucker Road station, the structure was fully engulfed in flames, according to fire authorities.

A neighbor across the road smelled smoke and pounded on the front door as he called 911, but the smoke was too thick for him to do more, according to Paul.

Firefighters from Winlock, Vader, Napavine and Salkum joined Lewis County Fire District 2 and worked until almost 3:45 a.m. extinguishing the fire.

Neighbor Diane Sinner said she was just dropping off to sleep when she heard a “boom.”

“I jumped out of bed, my window was just glowing,” she said. “I looked out the window and saw flames,” Sinner said. “We stood out there and watched, and I just prayed I could see him out there. It’s so sad.”

Paul said Ike was found in the rear of the house where the kitchen is.

“The evidence is consistent with someone who’s trying to exit the residence, just couldn’t make it, just couldn’t get to the door,” Paul said.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office confirmed Ike’s identity and scheduled an autopsy for Monday to determine the cause of his death.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is working closely with the fire investigators because it was a fatality, according to Paul.

At the nearby St. Mary’s Mission – where Cowlitz Indian Tribal Housing is headquartered – employees were preparing to extend hospitality to Ike’s family, expected to arrive this weekend from all over, according to Bob Bouchard a manager there.

The gathering will likely be large. Ike did volunteer work “everywhere” according to Sheryl Bertucci.

“He’s a member of the Lions Club in Toledo and some other clubs.” Bertucci said. “Everybody knows Gary.”

Fred Eckenberg recalled Ike’s dedication in helping out during pow wows and other tribal activities, being especially dedicated to tribal youngsters.

“He would keep watch over the kids,” Eckenberg said. “He had a manner the kids respected.”

A cousin of Gary Ike’s is among those traveling to Toledo today.

“He’s always happy, always willing to help out, kind to everybody and will – would – do anything for his family,” Suzanne Donaldson-Stephens said as she prepared to depart her home in Washougal.

Ike has a brother and a sister. He had no children, she said.

Services are expected to be announced next week, after the coroner’s office releases her cousin, she said.

They will be held in the gym at St. Mary’s Mission at 107 Spencer Road in Toledo.

•••

Read yesterday morning’s news story on the fire here.

Read about Toledo football scout, volunteer, dies in house fire …

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

I’ve been doing some reporting this afternoon on last night’s fatal house fire in Ethel, and I haven’t written anything on it yet but I see The (Longview) Daily News has posted a really nice story about Gary Allen Ike, the 54-year-old man who perished.

More later from me, but meanwhile read about a man someone today said had a heart the size of Texas.

Read The (Longview) Daily News reporter Greg Garrison’s news story from today here.
•••

Read this morning’s news story on the fire here

Stolen police badges, firearms, belong to Mossyrock chief

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Somebody broke into the house of Mossyrock’s top law enforcement officer and stole his police badges and guns.

Longtime Mossyrock Police Department interim Chief Jeremy Stamper said  he was out of town hunting and his wife was staying at the new home when it happened sometime over the weekend. The family is in the process of moving, he said.

Sometime between Friday and Monday, somebody forced their way into the basement and forced their way into the upstairs at the home on 300 block of bear Ridge Road in Mossyrock.

Taken along with two silver badges, were an old police uniform shirt, two .22 caliber revolvers, a .22 rifle and a broken Tazer gun. Several other things were stolen, such as  women’s hair accessories, underclothes, coats, the children’s Wii games and prescription medication, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning.

The fear is someone might use them to impersonate a police officer, Stamper said this afternoon.

That’s why the sheriff’s office and myself are concerned,” he said. “That’s the last thing we want.”

Stamper said just the week before, while he was deer hunting in Chelan County, somebody stole all his clothing, gear and wallet, with $400 or $500 cash – and his wallet badge – and then set fire to his camp.

He returned to his camp site on 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 to find someone had thrown gasoline on the side of a brand new, expensive wall tent and lit it, he said. He was left with only his rifle because he had that with him, he said.

Stamper doesn’t think the two events are connected.

“I could see maybe stealing stuff, but I don’t see burning my camp down,” he said. “Nobody knows me over there.”

However, he made sure law enforcement in Chelan County is aware of the burglary and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the camp incident.

The sheriff’s office has a suspect in mind concerning the Mossyrock burglary, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

UNRULY WOMEN ARRESTED FOLLOWING FEUD WITH BARTENDER

• Two women were arrested last night after a tiff with a Centralia bartender over giving up their drinks at closing time, according to police. An officer called just before 2 a.m. to the Tower Tavern was told the pair were made to leave but stood outside the South Tower Avenue business pounding on the door and being disorderly. After Heike Uhlig, 41, of Seattle was put in the back of a patrol car, she reportedly kicked at the head of an officer trying to close the door, Centralia Police Department Officer John Panco said. Uhlig was arrested for attempted third-degree assault. Her companion, Beatriz Villaba-Velasquez, 34, also of Seattle, was arrested for fourth-degree assault as she had allegedly shoved the bartender, according to Panco.

POLICE BADGES, GUNS STOLEN

• Two Mossyrock police department badges were reported stolen in a burglary, along with guns and several other items, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. Also missing from the home on the 300 block of Bear Ridge Road in Mossyrock were two .22 caliber revolvers, a .22 rifle, a broken Tazer gun, a police uniform shirt and women’s hair accessories, underclothes, coats and prescription medication, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. The 33-year-old victim called the sheriff’s office on Tuesday and said somebody had come into the home she was moving out from sometime between Friday and Monday, Brown said. The sheriff’s office has a suspect in mind, according to Brown.

MAN PAWNS ROOMMATE’S STUFF, SHERIFF’S OFFICE SAYS

• A Centralia man was arrested yesterday for first-degree trafficking in stolen property after he allegedly pawning items belonging to a former roommate. Kevin K. Trudeau, 23, was booked into jail after the victim found her belongings. They had been sold to a business called Legends Video on South Tower Avenue in Centralia, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. What was stolen and its value was not reported by the sheriff’s office.

SAFE STOLEN

• An antique safe is apparently missing following a burglary to an unoccupied residence on the 1100 block of Eckerson Road in Centralia. At least one door had been kicked in, according to a summary of the police report from yesterday.

UTILITY TRAILER TAKEN

• A black dump trailer was reported stolen from a fenced area on the 400 block of South Silver Street in Centralia, according to a report made yesterday morning to police. It has the words “Little Dumper” on its side, according to police.

TOOLS TAKEN IN TRUCK PROWL

• Centralia police took a vehicle prowl report yesterday from the 1100 block of West Chestnut Street. Tools were taken overnight from a pickup truck, according to a summary of the police report.

News brief: One dead after Ethel-area house fire

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

One person is dead after a house fire overnight in the Ethel area.

Lewis County Fire District 2 Chief Grant Wiltbank said a male was found deceased in the home on Nicholson Road, about a half mile east of Lewis and Clark State Park.

The cause is under investigation.

District 2 was called just before midnight and found the residence fully involved in flames when they arrived, Wiltbank said.

“The first engine company got there and fire was coming out all the openings, all the windows and doors,” he said.

A neighbor had smelled smoke, looked outside and saw the fire, he said.

The chief didn’t say where in the home the individual was found. He wasn’t there. District 2 Assistant Chief Mike Dorothy was the incident commander.

Nicholson Road is a dead-end road off of Oyler Road.

About thirty firefighters from four departments responded, Wiltbank said.

A Napavine area firefighter who assisted described the residence as a smaller single-story wood frame house.

Bad weather prevents recovery of plane crash victims

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
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Poor weather conditions in the hills above Morton forced a helicopter to shut down its search Monday, and today severe weather is preventing the recovery of the three victims of the Cessna crash.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

This news story was updated at 8:45 p.m.

CHEHALIS – Severe weather conditions and rough terrain are hampering the recovery of the victims of the downed Cessna located yesterday in the mountains northeast of Morton.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office says there is approximately a foot of snow covering the wreckage of the plane from the Chehalis-based Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute.

“As soon as the weather improves, recovery efforts will be made,” Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said in a news release.

The aircraft was found yesterday morning. None of three men on board survived the crash. The Cessna 340A lost radio contact with air traffic control about 7:45 a.m on Monday after the pilot reported one engine was down.

Co-workers are grieving the loss of the two Pacific Cataract employees and their pilot, according to Debbie Eldredge of Pacific Cataract.

“It is hard to find words to adequately express the grief we feel for the families involved,” Eldredge and president of the company, Dr. Robert O. Ford, said to encourage their staff yesterday in a written statement. “Please continue to hold them up in prayer. We are determined to trust God in every circumstance.”

Ken Sabin of Chehalis was their contract pilot. Rod Rinta, 43, a laser technician, is from Chehalis and Dr. Paul Shenk, 69, comes from Woodland.

Eighty ground teams from five counties assisted yesterday in a search and rescue effort led by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The crash site is at an elevation of 3,500 feet in a rugged, wooded area some nine miles northeast of Morton. Snow was falling when they found it and continued yesterday. The plane broke apart on impact and is spread over some 75 to 100 yards, according to Brown.

It’s on private forest land, owned by West Fork Timber, Brown said. Their employees, along with workers from Port Blakely joined the search dogs, ATVs and others in the efforts at rescue and recovery.

Four Lewis County Coroner’s Office employees in a four-wheel drive Ford Explorer were led up a slippery logging road yesterday when the weather turned and they were told to turn around.

“We got three to four miles from the site and got word to head out,” Chief Deputy Coroner Dawn Harris said.

It remains unsafe to make another attempt today, according to the sheriff’s office.

The news of no survivors was a devastating blow to a close-knit company, according to Eldredge.

Pacific Cataract keeps a handful of planes at the Chehalis-Centralia Airport to fly surgeons to satellite clinics. The twin-engine plane was heading for Lewiston, Idaho.

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Laser technician Rod Rinta

Rinta is remembered for his energy and enthusiasm for life, his cheerful outlook and love of working on and maintaining the lasers used throughout the organization, Eldredge said in a news release yesterday.

Dr. Shenk, an ophthalmologist, was one of the most experienced LASIK surgeons in the country, according to Eldredge.

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Dr. Paul Shenk

“(He) is remembered for his soft-spoken words and kindness to everyone, his humble manner and how he made people feel special and earned their trust,” she wrote.

Pacific Cataract called Sabin a dependable pilot who was more than trustworthy.

“Ken Sabin is remembered for his professional conduct at all time, his gentle manner, punctuality and conscientious attention to detail,” Eldredge wrote.

Sabin, who retired from Security State Bank in recent years, has more than 40 years experience as a pilot and has been a member of the Centralia-Chehalis Airport Governing Board for about five years, according to airport manager Allyn Roe.

In a prepared statement today, the board wrote: “Ken’s life was one of selfless giving to his community and love of aviation, and while we celebrate a wonderful life and salute his achievements – we will miss him tremendously.”

No accident of this magnitude has been connected with the airport since Roe was hired in 2007, the airport manager said.

On Monday morning, after the office was notified by the Federal Aviation Administration, one of the first things Roe did was check an online flight tracking system to see the altitude, speed and other details recorded for the Cessna’s flight.

It’s a useful web site the airport uses daily – flightaware.com – but in this case the information was flawed, Roe said.

“Sometimes it does get anomalies and in this case there is an anomaly,” he said.

The six-seater plane would have been expected to travel at about 15,000 feet, according to Roe.

While Pacific Cataract has some jets in its fleet, this was not one of them, he said. The FAA registry shows the Cessna was manufactured in 1982.

FAA Regional spokesperson Allen Kenitzer said today investigators from both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will go to the crash scene, as soon as conditions allow.

“Not much is known at this time,” Kenitzer said.

The FAA will check the plane, its logs, the pilot logs and pilot’s history and turn its information over to the  NTSB, he said.

The NTSB will examine the aircraft and determine the likely cause of the crash, he said.

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A Cessna 340A similar to the one that went down Monday in East Lewis County.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
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A Mossyrock school bus and car are pictured after they collide on Kjesbu Road yesterday. / Courtesy photo by Matt Hadaller

CAR VERSUS SCHOOL BUS

• Lewis County Fire District 3 responded to a collision between a car and a school bus about noontime yesterday north of Mossyrock. Fire Chief Matt Hadaller said it happened on the 100 block of Kjesbu Road. There were about nine younger grade school-age children on the bus and they were unhurt, according to Hadaller. The bus driver was sore but okay and the young man driving the car had minor cuts, he said. The sheriff’s office reported that Abraham H. Snodgrass, 19, of Mossyrock, came around a corner in the bus’s lane of travel and hit the bus. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said Snodgrass was to be cited for negligent driving.

MISSING HUNTER, MUSHROOM PICKER FOUND

• A sheriff’s deputy used lights and sirens to guide a lost hunter out of the woods near Doty over the weekend, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said yesterday a 39-year-old Rochester man failed to meet back up with his hunting companion at dark on Sunday evening. They were in the area between Lincoln Creek Road and Doty, she said. The sheriff’s office was called just after 9:30 and the man, whose name was not reported, was found about 11:15 p.m. on the 550 Road, across from where he had been, according to Brown. He was wet and cold but otherwise okay, she said.

• The Pacific County Sheriff’s Office reported today that after several hours of searching on Sunday for a missing mushroom picker in the Elk Creek area just west of Pe Ell they discovered the missing man was located in Chehalis. Authorities were notified about 5:50 p.m. on Saturday a 42-year-old man had gotten separated from his group. An effort that included individuals from Pacific, Lewis, Thurston and three other counties on Sunday included vehicle patrols dog teams and foot searches, according to a news release. After several hours, they concluded he must have left the wooded area and as they were planning for the next day, the sheriff’s office got word he was found by Chehalis police, according to the news release. The man, whose identity was not reported, was described as being in good health and without injury, the news release stated.

BICYCLIST ARRESTED WITH DRUGS, POLICE SAY

• A Centralia man riding a bicycle without a headlamp last night was stopped by a police officer and subsequently found to be in possession of methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana, according to the Centralia Police Department. Christian D. Brown, 23, was booked into the Lewis County Jail after his contact with an officer about midnight on the 600 block of Harrison Avenue, according to police.

MAN FIRES GUN INTO DITCH, GETS ARRESTED

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday an 18-year-old man was arrested for malicious harassment for allegedly firing two rounds from a .22 rifle to scare people on Saturday. A deputy called just after 5 p.m. took a report of a dispute earlier in the day involving a Toledo man and neighbors. When it was over, Dillen Marshall, 18, the son of one of the parties involved, reportedly drove to the other person’s address, peeled out damaging a fence and fired two shot into a ditch. Marshall was booked for harassment and also malicious mischief, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

BURGLARIES

• Centralia police took a report of a flat screen TV stolen from a residence on the 800 block of North Pearl Street on Sunday.

• A resident of the 200 block of Skate Creek Road reported a burglary on Saturday in which more than $3,000 of valuables were taken, including a .45 caliber pistol, two shotguns, a rifle, computer equipment and Black Hills gold jewelry. Also stolen while the victim was working out of town was a 1990 Geo Metro, but it was recovered by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s office.

• Centralia police were called about a burglary to a business on the 100 block of West Walnut Street on Saturday morning.

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday that somebody broke into a vacant house and several outbuildings on the 200 block of Carroll Road south of Chehalis. The report made on Thursday noted that several hasps were broken.

• Chehalis police were called about a vehicle missing from an impound yard on Saturday morning.

• Centralia police were called about the theft of a van from the 500 block of North Tower Avenue on Friday afternoon. The missing vehicle is a metallic blue 1990 Plymouth Voyager with a Washington license plate.

• A backpack, CD player and other items were reported stolen from an unlocked  vehicle on the 300 block of East Chestnut Street in Centralia yesterday, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police were called about 7:40 a.m. on Sunday after a male allegedly smashed a windshield and fled in a vehicle from the 400 block of West Main Street.

• Chehalis police were called Monday about tires on a vehicle being slashed.

• Centralia police were called just before midnight on Saturday to the 100 block of South Tower Avenue where a woman said her ex-boyfriend slashed her car tires while she was at one of the local clubs.

CAR VERSUS DEER

• Centralia police were called just before 6:30 p.m. yesterday about a car and deer collision on the 2000 block of Cooks Hill Road.