Archive for August, 2011

Breaking news: Witnesses subpoenaed for Reynolds’ coroner’s inquest

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Updated at 6:47 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The preliminary witness list for the coroner’s inquest into the 1998 death of former Trooper Ronda Reynolds in Toledo was released today by Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod.


Ronda Reynolds

Not on the list is former Lewis County Coroner Terry Wilson, but McLeod said in a news release any potential witnesses who have not yet been subpoenaed are not listed.

He expects the list to be complete by Sept. 9.

The inquest is currently scheduled for the second week in October, to be held in Lewis County District Court in Chehalis. McLeod will be the presiding officer.

Reynolds, 33, was found with a bullet in her head and covered by a turned-on electric blanket on the floor of a closet in the home she shared with her husband of less than a year, Ron Reynolds, in December 1998.

Among those McLeod has subpoenaed to testify are Ron Reynolds and his three sons who were present when the first sheriff’s deputy arrived, the deputies and detectives who examined the scene, and two of their superiors from the sheriff’s office.

Others include an outside former homicide detective who reviewed the case for the sheriff’s office and concluded it was a homicide, and two outside investigators who reviewed it after that and concurred with then-Sheriff John McCroskey that the determination of suicide was appropriate.

The case was the subject of a judicial review in Lewis County in November 2009 after which a panel of citizens concluded then-Coroner Wilson’s determination that Reynolds died of suicide was arbitrary, capricious and incorrect. A judge ordered Wilson to change the manner of death, but Wilson appealed.

One of McLeod’s first acts after he took office in January was to change Reynolds’ death certificate from suicide to undetermined and announce he wanted to hold a coroner’s inquest.

McLeod has said an inquest is an investigation, not a trial.

The coroner’s jury will consist of five individuals plus two alternates. They will be encouraged to reach a unanimous decision about the cause and manner of death, but will be permitted to make a determination by majority vote, according to the rules McLeod has adopted.

If they determine it to be homicide, they will be asked to determine whether by a preponderance of evidence they can identity the person or person’s responsible for the death.

If someone is named as causing the death, Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer has said he would have to decide what to do next. One of the RCWs states the coroner shall issue a warrant if the person committing the homicide is ascertained by the inquisition.

The inquest jury’s determinations are not binding, but McLeod has said he will abide by them.

The courtroom is expected to have seating for 60 persons, with as many as 20 allocated for the news media.

The witness names are as follows:

• Gary Holt – retired Lewis County sheriff’s deputy
• Robert Bishop – former Lewis County sheriff’s deputy
• Dave Neiser – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective
• Jerry Berry – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective
• Joe Doench – retired Lewis County sheriff’s chief criminal deputy
• Glade Austin – retired Lewis County sheriff’s detective’s sergeant
• Steve Aust – Lewis County Sheriff’s Office commander
• Carmen Brunton – former Lewis County coroner’s chief deputy
• Laurie Hull – friend
• David Bell – friend
• Ron Reynolds – husband of decedent
• Joshua Reynolds – son of Ron Reynolds
• David Reynolds – son of Ron Reynolds
• Jonathan Reynolds – son of Ron Reynolds
• Tom Lahmman – former Toledo School District superintendent
• Kathryn Hatulla (sp) – Ron Reynolds’ ex-wife
• Dr. Daniel Selove – forensic pathologist
• Barbara Thompson – decedent’s mother
• Marty Hayes – firearms examination
• Mark Liburdi – decedent’s ex-husband
• Richard Underwood – polygraph expert
• Terry Ball – polygraph expert
• Steve Birley – polygraph review
• Joe Upton – handwriting examiner
• Vernon Geberth – consulted
• Rod Englert – consulted
• Raymond Pierce – consulted
• George Fox – former Attorney General’s Office investigator
• Richard Steiner – former Attorney General’s Office investigator
• Gary Aschenbach – forensic statement analyst
• David Stritzke – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Matthew Noedel – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Kenneth McDermott – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Ronald Wojciechowski – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Raymond Kusumi – Washington State Patrol crime lab
• Jill Bartlett – Washington State Patrol fingerprint division


See the rules governing the procedures for McLeod’s coroner’s inquest, here


For some background and to see the roles some of the above individuals may have played, read “Jury finds coroner erred in ruling former trooper’s death a suicide”, here

Centralia man realizes piece of “junk” in garage is pipe bomb

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – A small object at a Centralia residence that its owner thought looked like a pipe bomb, was a pipe bomb.

Police were called about 9:40 a.m. today to a house on the 1300 block of Crescent Avenue in the north end of town, and summoned a bomb squad from the Washington State Patrol.

Law enforcement was there for two to three hours, eventually taking the item into his backyard and detonating it, home owner Robert Knutz said.

Nobody was hurt and nobody was in too much danger, according to Centralia police.

It was a working pipe bomb, Officer John Panco said.

It’s a mystery who built it or who it belonged to; and, according to Panco, not one that’s likely to be solved.

It was amongst a box of junk given to Knutz by a friend who cleaned out a house at the Greenwood Cemetery along Van Wormer Street in Centralia, Knutz said.

The rental house is owned by cemetery owner John Baker, but has been in the possession of the woman he assigned to take care of the properties while he was in prison.

Knutz said he put it in his garage weeks ago, and didn’t look closely at it until last night.

That’s when he noticed a fuse, he said.

Panco described it as about three-quarters of an inch in diameter and about two and a half inches long.

Panco this afternoon said he was told by the investigating officer there have been so many people in an out of the Van Wormer house, they didn’t expect to be able to pin down the pipe bomb’s owner.

Police would like to know why someone had a bomb, he said, but at this point they don’t know.

News brief: Locals travel to Eastern Wash. to battle wild land fires

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Local firefighters have gone to assist in fighting wildfires in Eastern Washington.

Two members of Lewis County Fire District 5 were asked early Monday morning to take their brush truck and join a strike team in the southeast corner of the state where lightening started a large fire on Sunday evening.

They are Raymond Smerek and Kevin Van Egdom, according to District 5.

As of last night, the fire near Pomeroy in Garfield County had spread over almost 6,000 acres but is expected to be contained by the end of today, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

On Monday evening, District 5’s Brad Bozarth was assigned to a water tender as part of a team headed to Wishram in Klickitat County, according to Megan Van Egdom of District 5.

That fire as of yesterday evening had consumed more than 1,000 acres of grass and sage and firefighters there are expected to be in “mop up” mode today, according to the Coordination Center.

Firefighters from the Rochester area’s West Thurston Regional Fire Authority left on Monday as well to assist. Four members of the Toledo area fire department have also gone.

The center reports about 300 firefighters are working the two wild land fires.

Read about Grays Harbor County deputy accused of sexual extortion …

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter reports the operator of a now-closed Oakville medical marijuana dispensary has filed suit, claiming a Grays Harbor County sheriff’s deputy threatened to arrest him if he didn’t provide the deputy sexual favors.

News reporter Drew Mikkelsen reports the lawsuit was filed Monday in Grays Harbor County and outside agency – Lewis County – is investigating the claims.

Read about it here has a story as well, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011


• A computer, a radio and pain medication were reported taken in a burglary at a residence on the 2400 block of North Pearl Street, according to Centralia police. The break-in was reported about 1:50 p.m. yesterday.

• A 28-year-old Centralia man was arrested yesterday for theft and trafficking in stolen property for allegedly stealing an unassembled metal shed from his father’s shed and selling it a recycler, according to Centralia police. The discovery of the missing item from the 400 block of Hemlock Street was reported to police yesterday morning. The loss is estimated at $300, Officer John Panco said. Wesley W. Mitchem was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A car sitting in a driveway on the 700 block of West Reynolds Avenue in Centralia yesterday and checked by a police officer there on another matter turned out to be stolen, according to the Centralia Police Department. It was an El Camino previously reported to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office as stolen, according to police. The resident told the officer someone had left it there, Officer John Panco said.

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning deputies have learned the names of local youngsters suspected in a break-in to a Mossyrock area concession stand, that was hit twice in the same week. Sometime on Aug. 14 or 15, someone went inside the stand on the 200 block of Ajlune Road and stole candy and Monster energy drinks, according to the sheriff’s office. A window was replaced and then on Aug 19, it happened again, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. This time money and firewood were missing, as well as snacks, according to Brown. The investigation continues, Brown said.


• Firefighters from three departments extinguished several brush fires that broke out on the northbound shoulder of Interstate 5 south of Winlock yesterday afternoon. One of the fires had grown to about 60 feet long, according to Lewis County Fire District 2. Chief Grant Wiltbank said he believed they were probably caused accidentally, likely by something such as a vehicle dragging a chain and throwing sparks.

News brief: Bucoda man captured after shooting at vehicle occupied by wife, toddler

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 31-year-old man was arrested in north Centralia last night after he allegedly shot at a truck occupied by his wife and young son in Bucoda during an argument.

Deputies called to the Bucoda home were told that Michael J. Thorson then grabbed two hand guns and fled, saying he knew the cops were coming and he planned to get in a shootout with them and die, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

A deputy caught up with Thorson’s vehicle when it pulled into a convenience store parking lot at North Pearl Street and Zenkner Valley Road, sheriff’s Lt. Greg Elwin said this morning. The deputy, who was alone, asserted himself “pretty strongly,” Elwin said.

“The bad guy just essentially gives up right there,” Elwin said.

Thorson said he was upset because his wife was taking his child and he was afraid he would never see him again, according to Elwin. He said he knew he screwed up and he was sorry, Elwin said.

It began with a call to 911 about 7:50 p.m. to the couple’s home on the 100 block of Perkins Street in Bucoda.

The wife said her husband pointed a shotgun at her, Elwin said.

She told a deputy she had put their toddler in a truck and was leaving, when Thorson allegedly fired the shotgun at two of its tires. Thorson then left, and the first arriving deputy went after him, Elwin said.

Two loaded handguns were recovered from Thorson’s vehicle, according to Elwin. He said he decided at the last second not to draw his weapons, Elwin said.

Thorson was booked into the Thurston County Jail for second-degree assault, domestic violence, and for unlawful possession of a firearm. He is prohibited from having guns because of his criminal history, according to the sheriff’s office.

News brief: Head-on collision near Oakville sends two to hospital

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Four people, including two small children, escaped serious injury after a head-on crash on U.S. Highway 12 near Oakville last night.

Troopers called about 7:45 p.m. to the scene two miles north of town found both vehicles totaled, according to the Washington State Patrol.

A 2-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy in a Dodge Caravan were reportedly uninjured.

According to the state patrol, Joseph H. Bannwarth, 59, of Rochester, was traveling westbound near milepost 34 when his car ran into the guard rail, then struck a part of the bridge on the opposite side of the highway before colliding with the eastbound van.

Bannwarth was taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia where this morning he is listed in good condition.

The driver of the van, Davette R. Lahaie, 46, of Elma, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the state patrol. She was treated and has been released.

Bannwarth’s 2006 Chrysler Sebring was impounded.

The cause of the wreck remains under investigation.


Correction: This news story has been updated to reflect the correct time troopers were called to the collision. The Washington State Patrol incorrectly reported to the news media it was 11:15 p.m., but it was actually 7:46 p.m.

Read about defense says Steven Moulton is unfit to stand trial …

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports that a psychologist’s report on 22-year-old Steven Moulton of Morton says he mentally retarded and unfit to stand trial.

Moulton is being held in the Cowlitz County Jail, charged with attacking an  8-year-old boy in a ballpark restroom in Castle Rock in July.

He also has a pending case in Lewis County from last summer when he was found inside a park bathroom stall in Morton with an 8-year-old boy.

A judge won’t decide until next month if he is competent for trial in Cowlitz County.

Read Lystra’s news story from The (Longview) Daily News from Monday Aug. 29, 2011 at 8:30 p.m., here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, August 29th, 2011


• Deputies called to a dispute in Toledo on Friday evening finally entered a home and arrested  21-year-old man who had allegedly threatened to shoot deputies if they didn’t leave, saying he had a rifle and knew how to use it, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. Law was called about 5:15 p.m. to the 400 block of Collins Road by a man who said his son was drunk and out of control, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. Darrell R. Jackson refused to come out of the house, also saying he would die protecting his house, Brown said. Jackson was arrested without further incident and booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree malicious mischief, domestic violence, according to Brown. A large picture window was broken during the incident, she said.


• A 24-year-old man was arrested for harassment on Sunday after he allegedly threatened to kill a woman and her daughter. Seth T. Lloyd, who lives at various times in both Centralia and Chehalis according to police, was booked into the Lewis County Jail. The woman was an acquaintance who had let Lloyd stay at her home in Chehalis, according to the Chehalis Police Department.


• A 41-year-old man from Oakville was arrested for first-degree theft after he allegedly took a cutting torch into the woods near Garrard Creek Road and took apart a piece of logging equipment, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. The item, called a “log bunker” is valued at about $8,000, and the scrap value of its metal estimated at $500, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. The theft occurred between July 18 and 19, and on Friday, deputies arrested Mark Schweitzer, according to Brown. He reportedly sold the material belonging to Weyerhaeuser to a scrap yard in Thurston County. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail.


• Police were called about 10:25 p.m. yesterday about a burglary on the 2300 block of Schueber Ridge Court in Centralia. Missing from sometime during the previous three days were two Rolex watches and a gold cross, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging people to lock their car doors when they park, especially at the Rails to Trails parking area off Highway 603 as they’ve had numerous reports of thefts there. Sometime between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday, a Centralia man found someone had gotten inside his vehicle and taken his wallet and other items; it was not locked, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning.

• Somebody stole two tires, with their rims, and several items from inside a car – among them a CD player and approximately 1,100 CDs and DVDs – at the 500 block of the Toledo-Vader Road, according to a report made to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office on Friday. It happened sometime between Wednesday and Thursday, according to the sheriff’s office.

• Medication was stolen in a car prowl on the 600 block of Temple Avenue in Morton, according to a report made to police on Wednesday.

• A car stereo and gasoline were taken from a vehicle stored at the 800 block of Adams Avenue in Morton, according to a report made to police on Wednesday.

• Police called to the 600 block of Adams Avenue in Morton were told someone took a purse from the front seat of a vehicle there, the Morton Police Department reported today. It was reported last Monday.


• A 28-year-old Centralia resident was arrested about 3:40 a.m. on Sunday after he allegedly broke a window out of a vacant house on the 900 block of North Pearl Street in Centralia while intoxicated. Aaron S. VanTuyl was cited for third-degree malicious and then released, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police were called Saturday afternoon to the 300 block of Southwest Ninth Street in Chehalis where someone had slashed all four tires on a vehicle and scratched the word “hore” in the paint.


• A 19-year-old Centralia man was arrested for “dangerous weapon” after a pistol was discovered on his person early Sunday morning in Centralia, according to police. Tanner Z. R. Russell was booked into the Lewis County Jail also for possession of marijuana and burglary tools after contact with an officer about 2 a.m. at the 700 block of Harrison Avenue, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Police were called about 4:40 p.m. yesterday to McDonalds on the 1200 block of Lum Road in Centralia after a driver ran into the side of the building. The driver thought the vehicle was in reverse but it was not, according to police. There were only minor injuries and minimal damage, according to authorities.


• A woman said her floor mat lodged against the accelerator as she was traveling down a hill on the 100 block of Nikula Road in Winlock on Saturday night causing her to run into a power pole and a guard rail, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called about 10:30 p.m. reported the 44-year-old driver was uninjured, according to the sheriff’s office

Child arrested for setting fire during church in Pe Ell

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Updated 1:13 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Pe Ell church was evacuated during Sunday morning services yesterday when a fire broke out in a classroom area used for storage.

Nobody was injured but the blaze did an estimated $10,000 damage at the New Harvest Assembly of God Church on the 100 block of Mauermann Road, according to authorities.

An 11-year-old boy believed to have started the fire was arrested.

Three members of the fire department were at church when it happened about 10:30 a.m., according to Lewis County Fire District 11 Chief Michael Krafczyk.

One left and got the ambulance, another retrieved the fire engine and Assistant Chief Michael Davis used a fire extinguisher and then a garden hose through a window to knock down the flames, Krafczyk said.

The chief estimated 150 individuals were inside when it occurred. The pastor is a firefighter from a nearby district as well, he said.

“Everybody stayed real calm, got everybody out in an orderly fashion,” Krafczyk said. “Nobody got hurt, that was the important thing.”

The room that burned was across from the nursery, Krafczyk said.

A plastic tree caught fire, light fixtures melted and flames spread up the wall, according to Fire Investigator Jay Birley. The person who discovered it saw smoke all the way down to about three feet above the floor level, he said.

Firefighters got out their big hose, but didn’t need to use it, according to the chief. They borrowed a thermal imaging camera from District 16 and tore out some of the ceiling to make sure nothing more was smoldering, he said.

The storage room will likely need new sheetrock, and some of the rest of the building will probably need repainting because of smoke damage, according to Krafczyk.

A sheriff’s deputy was called as it was suspected to have been intentionally set and the deputy interviewed the 11-year-old boy, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said this morning.

The child admitted he started the fire with matches he found in one of the rooms, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

He was arrested for second-degree arson and booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center, Brown said.

Brown said the boy did not say why he did it, but he has had some problems with starting fires at home previously.

Read about Steven Moulton’s competency for trial still a question …

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports a judge won’t decide until next month if 22-year-old Steven Moulton of Morton is mentally competent to stand trial for his alleged July attack on an  8-year-old boy in a ballpark restroom in Castle Rock.

News reporter Tony Lystra writes the evaluation from Western State Hospital has been completed.

A hearing was set for Thursday, but was put over until Sept. 22 in Cowlitz County Superior Court, according to Cowlitz County Prosecutor Sue Baur.

Moulton has a pending case in Lewis County from last summer when he was found inside a park bathroom stall in Morton with an 8-year-old boy.

He is also accused of a June 27 incident at the Maytown rest area north of Centralia in which authorities say he groped and kissed a 9-year-old boy.

Moulton has previously been found not competent due to a developmental disability.

Read Lystra’s news story from The (Longview) Daily News on Sunday August 28, 2011 at 8:30 p.m., here


• “Breaking news: Morton’s Steve Moulton a suspect in a third bathroom assault” from Friday July 15, 2011, here
• “Castle Rock public bathroom attack suspect charged with kidnap, assault, molestation” from Thursday July 14, 2011, here
• ” ‘Developmental delays’ may put alleged attack in Morton park restroom case on hold” from Friday Nov. 26, 2010, here

Lewis County public works director sued for gender, age discrimination

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A former Lewis County employee has filed a lawsuit against the county’s director of public works alleging discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation.

Cyndi Ticknor names Lewis County, its Department of Public Works and its director, Tim Elsea, in the suit filed earlier this month in Lewis County Superior Court.

Ticknor, according to court documents, is the former Lewis County Maintenance and Operations Superintendent, a job from which Elsea demoted her in June of last year.

Her attorney writes she was the first woman to hold the position, and the alleged unprofessional behavior that led to her demotion was similar to conduct condoned by or ignored by superiors when engaged in by male co-workers.

When he disciplined her, Elsea was “well aware many male employees had exhibited similar if not more egregious behavior and not been subject to discipline,” her attorney alleges.

Ticknor, 48, is asking for damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

She didn’t respond to attempts to contact her for comment. Elsea said last week he isn’t in a position to speak about the lawsuit.

Lewis County commissioners have approved a resolution providing Elsea legal representation by a Seattle law firm.

Ticknor’s Olympia attorney Christopher Coker writes in the complaint that prior to the demotion, during her 15-year tenure, Ticknor’s personnel record was impeccable.

According to Coker, Ticknor worked as a senior transportation dispatcher for the county, and through her “hard work and determination” was promoted several times.

In 2002, she was made fleet manager, the first woman to hold the position, and in 2007, promoted to Lewis County maintenance and operations superintendent, also the first female to hold that job, according to Coker.

She worked in a male-dominated environment, often exposed to yelling, profanity and similar behaviors, he writes. She acted in a manner consistent to her male co-workers to fit in and earn their respect, he writes.

“She admits at times her language was strong, but no different than any of her male co-workers,” Coker writes.

Tim Elsea was hired June 1, 2010 as public works director and county engineer.

Elsea said last week Ticknor was on leave when he was hired, and he completed the investigation that led to her demotion.

The document outlines Ticknor’s responses to the demotion as her submission of written responses, which her attorney says resulted in escalating harassment, bullying and retaliation.

After she finally saw a copy of the investigation, she was disturbed by the “baseless and unfounded allegations” against her and last August, she submitted a rebuttal document to the county risk management department, Coker writes.

The lawyer writes that on Sept. 2, Elsea took her out a training session and into a meeting room at the fairgrounds where he “proceeded to intimidate, threaten and verbally abuse” her about her rebuttal. The same day, Elsea followed her to lunch and waited in parking lot, something she thought was meant to further intimidate her, Coker writes.

Ticknor applied for leave, and in October filed a formal complaint with the county alleging retaliation, harassment, age and gender discrimination.

On Nov. 24, 2010, she was terminated

Ticknor’s civil complaint alleges Elsea and the county failed to adequately investigate her allegations, but instead put her on leave and investigated her.

Her attorney claims she suffered damages – including prolonged stress and humiliation – and is asking for compensation for various damages, among them lost wages, benefits and attorney fees.

Elsea is required to file an answer in Lewis County Superior Court to her complaint by the end of the month.