Archive for February, 2011

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, February 28th, 2011


• Firefighters were called this morning to a structure fire in Rochester that burned a small outbuilding where chicks were being raised. The 7 a.m. call took personnel from West Thurston Regional Fire Authority to 201st Avenue Southwest and Ashbrook, according to Battalion Chief Jacob Yake. The chicks inside perished, he said. He didn’t say how many. The cause was not released.


• Centralia police arrested a man on Saturday evening at Harrison Avenue and N Street following a vehicle accident. Officers concluded Jovanny Montenegro Perez, 20, of Centralia, was under the influence of alcohol and booked him into the Lewis County Jail for two counts of vehicular assault. Perez was not charged, pending further investigation.


• Centralia police on Friday afternoon were looking for Joshua D. C. Rhoades, a 30-year-old they suspect in a road rage incident that included racial slurs and an assault near Bryden Avenue and Mount Vista Road. Police note the Centralia man is a member of the LVL gang who was last seen driving a dark colored SUV.

• Chehalis police were called Friday evening to an assault on an officer from a detainee at the Lewis County Juvenile Justice Center. Further details were not readily available.

• Police were called about 2 a.m. on Saturday to an individual outside a bar on the 300 block of Northwest Chehalis Avenue about a misdemeanor assault. Further details were not readily available.


• A Toledo woman called 911 after seeing somebody drive off in her 1999 Honda Civic about 4:45 p.m. on Saturday from a parking lot at Lucky Shot Archery on the 400 block of Coal Creek Road, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The car has a license plate of 100 YFB.


• Chehalis police were called to the 300 block of Southwest Ninth Street just before 9 a.m. on Saturday where an individual known to the resident had kicked in the door. A male was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail. Further details were not readily available.


• Crime Stoppers of Lewis County is looking for information on a Jan. 8 break-in at Famous Footwear at the Centralia Outlets in which somebody caused several thousand dollars damage and stole a black safe with a digital keypad. The amount of cash inside was not disclosed. Crime Stoppers asks that anyone with information call 1-800-748-6422.

Family wakes up to fire this morning in Toledo home

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A father and his two teenage sons escaped an overnight house fire in Toledo which virtually destroyed a two-story home.

Volunteers from five departments answered the 4:11 a.m. call to Blakeley Lane, about three miles east of town, according to Lewis County Fire District 2 Chief Grant Wiltbank.

The two boys were sleeping downstairs where the fire is suspected to have begun, Wiltbank said.

“From what I understand, one of them smelled smoke and raised the alarm,” he said.

The father had to get out through a second-story sliding window, he said.

No injuries were reported.

The house was probably about 75 percent involved when crews arrived and even though it was knocked down rather quickly, it took until almost 9 o’clock this morning to chase down and root out fire in various spots above the wood ceiling, Wiltbank said.

Wiltbank, who was at his regular job out of town until this morning, was quick to offer high praise for Assistant Chief Mike Dorothy, who was incident commander, and the 25 personnel who responded.

He said he just couldn’t be more impressed with the caliber of people – volunteers – who answer these calls.

“Everybody did an extraordinarily good job, particularly working in sub-freezing conditions for several hours …” he said. “My hat goes off to all of them.”

The last of the District 2 firefighters didn’t finish up and leave the station until 11:30 a.m., he said.

The cause is being investigated, but appears to be accidental, appearing to have originated in an area on the ground floor near the stairway, several feet from a wood stove, Wiltbank said.

Trial for Chehalis shooting death of Sara Whitson to begin Monday

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Chehalis National Guardsman who said he accidentally shot his girlfriend while cleaning a gun is set to go to trial next week in Lewis County Superior Court.

Jesse P. Karr, now 31, is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the September 2009 death of Sara M. Whitson.

The trial begins Monday and attorneys estimate it could last up to five days.

Police and aid responded about 4 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2009 to a report of an accidental shooting on the 1700 block of South Market Boulevard at the Chehalis apartment the two shared.

Whitson was on the floor in the main bedroom with a small towel covering her abdomen and appeared unresponsive, according to charging documents.

Karr had been shot in the pinky; he told police he went to clear a round and when he let go of the slide, the gun went off in his hand, charging documents say. She was reportedly about five feet away.

Karr, who had just returned from Iraq about a month earlier, told officers he had offered to clean Whitson’s .22 caliber Walther Smith and Wesson pistol, and she told him it was loaded.

A Chehalis police detective learned the following morning Whitson had died during emergency surgery, of a gunshot to her abdomen, according to charging documents.

Centralia defense attorney Don McConnell is representing Karr. Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes is handling the case.

Charges were filed a year ago. Karr has pleaded not guilty.

First-degree manslaughter means recklessly causing the death of another. The offense has a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Because the case involves McConnell – the newly elected prosecutor’s former law partner – Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer arranged for Hayes to communicate about the case not with him, but with Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher, according to documents filed in early January.

News brief: Man crawls away from overnight wreck in ravine near Mossyrock

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 22-year-old Silver Creek man survived an overnight crash in which his pickup truck traveled down an embankment striking several trees and came to rest in a creek bed, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Daniel R. McKechnie crawled out of the vehicle and walked to a friend’s house to get help, responders said.

Lewis County Fire District 3 Chief Matt Hadaller estimated the truck landed about 50 yards off state Route 122.

McKechnie was taken to Morton General Hospital with cuts to his hands and head, the state patrol reported.

“Yeah, he was a lucky guy,” Hadaller said this morning.

Troopers were called about 2:35 a.m. to the scene west of Mossyrock near Lake Road.

The 1995 Ford pickup was described as totaled. Hadaller said he didn’t notice any water in the creek, calling it a ravine where the vehicle landed.

The investigating trooper blamed driving too fast on a curve and indicated McKechnie was to be cited for driving under the influence. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and said he was ejected from the truck, according to responders.

Read about road rage shooting ends in conviction …

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian reports a 22-year-old Olympia man was found guilty yesterday in an October road rage incident in which multiple shots were fired at a pickup truck driven by a 58-year-old man from Ethel.

Donald Palmer of Ethel, and his passenger, Margaret Eldridge of Elma, reported the incident happened about 9 p.m. on Oct. 31.

It began on state Route 101 in Mason County and ended near the Black Lake Boulevard exit in west Thurston County, according to the Washington State Patrol.

News reporter Jeremy Pawloski notes that Reed C. Boysen, 22, was convicted yesterday in Thurston County Superior Court of two counts of second-degree assault and one count of drive by shooting.

Read Pawloski’s news story here

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

Friday, February 25th, 2011

By Royce Ferguson
Attorney at Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Fire burns through dog’s tether, setting it free from overnight blaze

Friday, February 25th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A heat lamp for a dog might have been what sparked an overnight fire in an outbuilding in Napavine overnight, according to Lewis County Fire District 5.

Firefighters called just before 3 a.m. to Caporale Lane southeast of town found the metal-roofed structure fully engulfed in flames, Firefighter Brad Bozarth said this morning.

The blaze damaged several motorcycles, ATVs and two pickup trucks, Bozarth said.

A Golden Retriever-type dog tied up inside escaped with no apparent injuries, he said.

“The fire burned through the rope before it burned the dog, so the dog got free,” Bozarth said.

Phyllis Zion said the dog is one the family adopted several months ago after neighbors moved and left it behind. “Ginger” has been tied up all her life and has just been learning to enjoy “the country life” with their black Labrador, she said.

It was scary, Zion said, waking up to dogs barking and an orange glow outside.

Her son discovered Ginger running around, dragging her rope behind her, she said.

“Yeah, we lost a lot of stuff, but we’re just glad she’s okay,” Zion said this morning.

Seven firefighters from District 5 were on the scene until about 4:30 a.m. Bozarth said they planned to return today to work on determining the cause.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, February 25th, 2011


• A Chehalis police officer alerted to a stolen vehicle through their automatic license plate reader device in the Wal-Mart parking lot last night arrested a 28-year-old Kelso resident. The officer got a “hit” on the 1990 Honda Accord and waited until its driver returned to the car around 11:40 p.m., according to Chehalis police. The automobile had been reported stolen from Kelso. Terry S. Dunivin was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of methamphetamine, according to Deputy Chief Randy Kaut.


• Chehalis police were called yesterday evening about the theft of a .22 rifle from a home on the 700 block of Southwest Chehalis Avenue. There was no indication of forced entry and the gun had been taken sometime since the weekend, according to police.


• Centralia police took a report yesterday morning of a car prowl at the 1200 block of Lum Road. The stereo and some paperwork were taken, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Two semi-trucks tangled up on Harrison Avenue near the Skookumchuck bridge in Centralia yesterday but there no injuries, according to Riverside Fire Authority. One of them had to be towed, Fire Capt. Erik Olson said.

• Firefighters were called to a chain reaction collision on Interstate 5 north of Harrison Avenue about 8 p.m. last night in which a half dozen vehicles were involved, according to Riverside Fire Authority. No one was injured, Fire Capt. Erik Olson said.

• A 20-year-old Winlock man was jailed after he slid through a stop sign nearly colliding with a sheriff’s deputy in Winlock on Wednesday night. The detective was traveling  north on North Military Road in a marked patrol car about 8 p.m. and slowed to prevent a collision with a vehicle traveling fast eastbound on Anterim Road, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The vehicle missed the detective’s driver’s side door by about four feet and then accelerated away after the detective activated his lights, Chief Criminal Deputy Stacy Brown said. The fleeing vehicle finally stopped about three miles away at Tory Lynn Drive, Brown said. A struggle ensued and Colton W. Stevens, 20, was taken into custody, she said. He was intoxicated, and booked into the Lewis County Jail for attempting to elude, resisting arrest and reckless driving, according to Brown.


• Lewis County Fire District 15 was called about 6 p.m. last night to a chimney fire at a home on state Route 505 near Morton Road in Winlock. Firefighters were able to “steam it out” from inside the house and prevent it from spreading, according to Firefighter Patrick Jacobson.

News brief: Randle man pleads not guilty to murder

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Erik R. Massa waits after his court appearance to talk with his attorney.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Randle taxidermist Erik R. Massa pleaded not guilty today to second-degree murder in the apparent beating death of a 58-year-old welder from Federal Way.

Massa, 43, was in Lewis County Superior Court this morning for the brief hearing. He remains free on $25,000 bail.

Massa was charged two and a half weeks ago in the March 14 death of Guy W. LaFontaine.


Guy LaFontaine

LaFontaine died with two broken eye sockets and other blunt force injuries to his torso and extremities. Detectives found a broken shotgun with blood on it in an empty silo next to Massa’s shop, according to charging documents.

The two men are related by marriage.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher this morning told the judge Massa and his wife are going through a “bitter divorce” and asked the judge to remind him he’s prohibited from having contact with potential witnesses in the case.

Massa’s attorney, Chris Baum, asked Judge Richard Brosey if his client’s conditions of release could be changed, so he would be free to leave Lewis County to visit his children in Pierce County and for church in Longview. Brosey said yes.

The trial was scheduled for the week of Sept. 19

Both attorneys said they expected it would last five days.

Read background on the case, here

Read Randle man who died over the weekend was witness in murder case” here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, February 24th, 2011


• Law enforcement officers from four agencies were drawn to Morton General Hospital yesterday after an intoxicated man in a restroom there made a phone call to a friend rambling about being armed and “testing himself and others”, according to police. Morton Police Chief Dan Mortensen said the man was locked in a stall, the officers talked him out and he was taken into custody without further incident. He was armed with what Mortensen described as a 14-inch bayonette-type knife. It happened about 3:30 p.m. Tim Cournyer, an executive at the medical facility, said the incident was not disruptive, and probably hardly noticed by those inside the hospital. John D. Tulley, a Morton resident, was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession of a dangerous weapon and interfering with a health care facility, according to Mortensen. Both offenses are gross misdemeanors, he said.


• Centralia police were called to the 1100 block of West Main Street after a vehicle prowl about 6:20 a.m. today. A neighbor heard the window breaking and spotted a subject in the vehicle, but the subject had run away before police arrived, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• A watch with a platinum band valued at more than $1,500 was reported stolen yesterday from the 700 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia.

Onalaskan offers mixed pleas in teen’s alcohol poisoning death

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Onalaskan James W. Taylor yesterday admitted providing alcohol to minors but didn’t admit to failing to summon assistance for 15-year-old Nickolas Barnes who died of alcohol poisoning after an underage party at Taylor’s home in Sept. 2009.

2010.0921.Nick.barnes Copying_2

Nickolas Barnes

Taylor, 29, was in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis yesterday morning following a plea agreement in the case.

He was initially charged with second-degree manslaughter, but pleaded guilty instead to second-degree assault, pursuant to a doctrine referred to as “In re Barr”.

Judge Richard Brosey put it this way, as he questioned Taylor about the guilty plea:

“The evidence does not establish assault second, rather it establishes manslaughter second, but you’re pleading to it to escape the stigma of pleading guilty to manslaughter, right?”

“Yes,” Taylor replied.

The guilty pleas end a case that began after the Onalaska High School sophomore died on Sept. 21, 2009, with a blood alcohol level of .32.


James W. Taylor

Prosecutors alleged Nickolas and another teenage boy downed more than 11 shots of vodka, Nickolas passed out in the front yard and Taylor told the teenagers to “let him sleep it off.”

“Even tho the defendant knew he was out there in the yard, he did absolutely nothing to assist him and let him lay out there in the elements,” until he was urged by someone else to take him to the hospital, newly elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer recited in court yesterday.

Taylor, a father of four according to his lawyer, wasn’t charged until this past September, and has been free on $10,000 bail.

Taylor yesterday also made a so-called Alford plea to failing to summon assistance, pleading guilty but not admitting guilt.

He also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of furnishing liquor to minors.

The arrangement means Taylor faces a sentence between three and nine months in jail, as opposed to as long as 27 months if he had been convicted on the original charges.

Nickolas’s family called it a bitter day, and were especially disheartened that instead of being locked up immediately, Taylor was allowed to go home after the hearing, and return on May 11 to be sentenced.

None of the court proceedings can change the facts of the tragedy, Nickolas’s grandmother Susan Patterson suggested.

“It’s still the same thing,” Patterson said. “Two families are destroyed because nobody decided to call 911.”

“But at least something’s going to happen,” she said.

Meyer said afterward the agreement brings closure and “gets it done”.

“There were proof issues,” Meyer said. “This was a way we could get a definite result.”


CORRECTION: This news story was corrected on Wednesday April 27, 2011 to reflect the correct name of James W. Taylor.


Read background on the case “Remembering Nickolas Barnes” from Thursday Sept. 23, 2010 here

Morning snow and ice leads to minor spinouts

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Responders removed the windshield of a Chevrolet Aveo to extricate the driver after a wreck yesterday morning on state Route 505 in Winlock. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 15

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Troopers responded to a small flurry of minor spinouts on snow and ice yesterday morning in western Lewis County and two more this morning, but no serious collisions, according to the Washington State Patrol.

“(Drivers) seem to realize that you’re not going to get anywhere fast today,” State Patrol Sgt. Ted DeHart said.

One vehicle on state Route 505 in Winlock hit a large landscaping rock and rolled over about 8:30 a.m. yesterday, but didn’t result in serious injuries, according to responders.

In the east end, there is compact snow and ice on the roads, but very little traffic, State Patrol Sgt. Jason Ashley said this morning.

Snow showers are expected to continue this morning with localized accumulations of up to two inches possible, according to the National Weather Service. Up to six inches could fall in the Cascade Mountain, forecasters say.

The snow level is at sea level.

Ashley’s suggestion for today: “If people don’t have to go anywhere, they should just stay home.”