Archive for October, 2011

Salkum triple murder trial begins next week, in Chehalis

Monday, October 31st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Judge Richard Brosey said most potential jurors don’t read the news as much as some lawyers seem to think when he denied a motion that John A. Booth Jr.’s upcoming triple-murder trial be moved out of Lewis County.

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Three fatally shot, Salkum

Roger Hunko, attorney for Booth, had asked that his client’s trial be changed to a different venue because of so much pre-trial publicity by the news media.

Brosey on Friday denied the motion, although he noted it could be revisited if attorneys encounter difficulties during jury selection.

“There was no waving of the bloody shirt” by the news media, Brosey said, noting he thought most reporting was on the basic facts.

Booth is scheduled to be tried starting Monday in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis.

The 32-year-old former Onalaskan is charged with murder and other offenses related to the August 2010 gunshot deaths of two men and a teenage boy inside a Salkum-Onalaska area home. Booth is also charged with attempted murder a woman in the same house the same night.

Hunko and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher went before the judge on Friday, to finalize details for next week’s trial.

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John A. Booth Jr.

Hunko made a motion to dismiss the attempted extortion charge, saying most of the evidence was circumstantial. Brosey denied the motion.

The judge also denied Hunko’s request for a lengthy questionnaire to be given to potential jurors.

Brosey did say he would make accommodations to ensure a fair trial such as bringing in a larger than usual group of potential jurors. He’s asked that as many as 160 people are available, he said.

Meagher told the judge he has lined up 23 witnesses. The judge said he thought the trial might last a week to 10 days.

Prosecutors allege Booth and Ryan J. McCarthy visited the house on Wings Way in connection with collecting money for drug debts or a “perceived” debt owed to Robert “Robbie” S. Russell. One of the victims, David West Sr. 52, was a witness in a pending case against Russell.

Also shot dead were David West Jr., 16, and a friend Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle. Denise Salts, then 51, survived a gunshot wound to her face.

McCarthy was sentenced late last month to a little more than 14 years following a plea deal. He denies being guilty of the crimes he pleaded guilty to.

Booth’s defense, according to documents in the court file, include general denial,and self defense / defense of others.
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Read most recent story, “Court hearing reveals more details about Salkum triple slaying” from Saturday Oct. 1,  2011, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, October 31st, 2011

THEFT

• A 19-year-old Chehalis resident was arrested for first-degree robbery after he allegedly stole cell phone chargers from Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon and gave an employee a bloody lip before fleeing the store. Zachary J. Johnston-Penrose was picked up less than an hour later at a residence after an officer recognized two of his companions on security video, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Centralia police took a report on Saturday of the theft of pain medication from the 200 block of Oakview Avenue.

• A 41-year-old Centralia woman was arrested for third-degree theft after she allegedly put $1 into a newspaper box and removed 11 copies of the paper just before 4 a.m. on Saturday at the 300 block of North Pearl Street in Centralia.

• Chehalis police are investigating the fraudulent use of a debit card that was stolen in a vehicle prowl in Centralia, used in Chehalis and reported on Friday morning.

• Centralia police were called to five car prowls on Friday between about 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Among the items stolen: a purse from a vehicle parked at a motel on Belmont Avenue; a purse and three canes from a vehicle parked on the 900 block of South Schueber Road; a purse from the 1200 block of Mellen Street; a purse containing medication from the 2800 block of Russell Road and a stereo from the 400 block of Lakeshore Drive.

PRANK

• Chehalis police were called about 5 p.m. on Saturday after two little children reportedly vandalized a neighbor’s Halloween decorations on Southwest Third Street. The subjects were 6 and 7 years old, and legally not capable of committing a crime, so an officer spoke with their parents, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

GOOD DEED

• A money bag containing about $7,000 in cash and checks belonging to a Centralia church reportedly fell off a vehicle near Harrison Avenue and West First Street in Centralia on Thursday, according to police. A citizen found the bag and contacted the church about returning it, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WRECKS

• Two women were taken to Providence Centralia Hospital after a two-car crash in Adna this morning, according to Lewis County Fire District 6. Firefighters were called about 7 a.m. to the wreck at state Route 6 near Highway 603, according to Firefighter Mike Goodwillie.

• Riverside Fire Authority was called about 2:30 a.m. today to the 1600 block of Cooks Hill Road where a vehicle drive through a fence and struck a house. The damage to the house and vehicle was minimal, according to Fire Capt. Tim Adolphsen. Centralia police however arrested a 26-year-old Rochester resident, Francis E. Metcalf, for driving under the influence.

• A 23-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for hit and run as well as driving under the influence after a vehicle ran into a tree on Centralia College Boulevard and South Pear Street in Centralia about 1:40 a.m. yesterday. Terra M. Fager was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 20-year-old Centralia man was cited for reckless driving after he reportedly ran into a building on the 1000 block of Eckerson Road in Centralia about 9 p.m. on Friday, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 41-year-old Onalaska woman was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle yesterday after a single-vehicle collision on the 100 block of View Ridge Road in Onalaska, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responding about 2:20 p.m. yesterday to a report of an abandoned, wrecked car found the woman had crashed around 4:30 a.m. and called her son to take her to the hospital, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. She was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital and she was flown by helicopter to Harborview about 10 o’clock yesterday morning, according to the sheriff’s office.

MORTON CHILD LURING UPDATE

• Morton police continue to investigate the attempted child luring of a school children reported the Friday before last near Morton Elementary School. An 11-year-old boy told police a man driving a white pickup truck offered him $20 if he would get into the vehicle. A 12-year-old boy at the same time told an officer a similar incident that occurred the day before. The Morton Police Department this morning said they are following up on leads as they come in, but offered no other update.

News brief: Suspicious fire breaks out at Boistfort home

Monday, October 31st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The sheriff’s office is investigating an arson that destroyed a Boistfort-area home on Saturday night.

Firefighters from Lewis County Fire District 13 were called about 10 p.m. to a double-wide mobile home on the 500 block of Boistfort Road. The 46-year-old woman who lives there heard two loud bangs or booms and discovered flames on her front porch, according to authorities.

She woke up her companion and they tried using a garden hose on the flames which spread into the attic and collapsed about half the roof, fire investigator Jay Birley said.

A passerby called 911. Nobody was injured.

Birley said it’s possible what sounded like explosions were a light bulb and a plate glass window breaking.

There are no suspects at this time, but anyone with information is asked to call 911, Crime Stoppers or the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning.

Breaking news: Ron, Jonathan Reynolds arrested, and released

Friday, October 28th, 2011
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Jonathan, left, and his father Ron Reynolds enter a Chehalis courtroom this morning

Updated at 6:10 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lawyers and the sheriff arranged for Ron and Jonathan Reynolds to go before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court within less than two hours of their warrants being re-issued this morning.

After hearing briefly from the prosecutor, Judge James Lawler ordered the two men to be released immediately.

“The matter is over unless and until the prosecutor decides to file criminal charges, and none are pending at this time,” Lawler said.

Chehalis attorney Joe Mano had no comment about his client, Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds.

Olympia attorney Rick Cordes, representing Jonathan Reynolds, called it a travesty.

This may or may not be the final turn in the case of Ronda Reynolds, a 33-year-old former trooper found shot to death in a closet of the Toledo home she shared with her new husband and his sons in December 1998.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod issued the arrest warrants based on his inquest jury’s unanimous finding last week the pair were responsible for the homicide of Ronda Reynolds.

While the coroner said he was fulfilling his statutory obligation, elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told the judge this morning the same as he announced to the press yesterday:

There is not enough admissible evidence to prosecute them criminally.

The inquest jury only had to make its finding based on a preponderance of evidence, but much of what they heard would not be allowed in a court of law, Meyer said.

Following the very brief hearing in the Chehalis courthouse, Cordes spoke publicly for the first time on the matter.

The process he called a waste of time and money has torn up Ron and Jonathan Reynolds, he said.

“It’s devastating. Ron is in the process of losing his job and Jonathan can’t get a job,” Cordes said.

The two “absolutely” believe Ronda Reynolds committed suicide, and he’s not sure they can ever clear their names, he said.

“The paper has now come out and accused them basically of murder, something they didn’t do, something they had no involvement in,” Cordes said. “And that’s been hanging over them for 13 years.”

Cordes said they are considering holding a press conference of their own sometime next week, and another thought is the possibility of a lawsuit against the county and the coroner, “among others.”

The lawyer said he doesn’t agree the coroner ought to have had them arrested, after knowing the prosecutor would not file charges

The statute was originally adopted around 1850, he said, and was designed for the coroner to act when the sheriff was unavailable, he said.

The influence that Barb Thompson and Ann Rule have had on the community has led to something that’s ruined many lives in the Reynolds’ family, he said.

“People know who they are so they associate some terrible thing that they had nothing to do with, with them,” he said.

Jonathan Reynolds was 17 at the time of Ronda Reynolds’ death.

Ron Reynolds remains on administrative leave from his job as a school principal in Toledo.
•••

Read this morning’s news when the coroner reversed his decision from the night before to quash the warrants, here

Read Prosecutor Meyer’s announcement from yesterday on why he isn’t filing criminal charges, here

Read about the coroner’s inquest, and find links to the stories filed each day during the proceedings, here

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Judge James Lawler's courtroom is full when Ron and Jonathan Reynolds appear briefly

•••

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Barb Thompson, mother of Ronda Reynolds, waits for the appearance of Ron and Jonathan Reynolds

Breaking news: Arrest warrants back on for the Reynolds’s

Friday, October 28th, 2011
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Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod speaks with some of his staff as he leaves the courthouse.

Updated at 10:52 a.m. and 7:37 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The coroner stayed awake all night struggling about the arrest warrants for Ron and Jonathan Reynolds.

Yesterday he quashed them, saying they served no purpose after the Lewis County prosecutor announced no criminal charges would be filed.

This morning, Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod reversed himself and is heading back to his office now to issue arrest warrants for the pair.

This is just the latest turn in the case of Ronda Reynolds, a 33-year-old former trooper found shot to death in a closet of the Toledo home she shared with her new husband and his sons in December 1998.

Initially believed by the sheriff’s office and then-Coroner Terry Wilson to be a suicide, the manner of death has been changed repeatedly over the years back and forth between undetermined and suicide as it was reinvestigated, moved through a civil suit brought by Ronda Reynolds’ mother and finally this month was the subject of a rare coroner’s inquest under a new county coroner.

An inquest jury ruled unanimously last week the manner of death was homicide and named Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds and his son as responsible for the death.

McLeod, a college forensics instructor who came to Chehalis from the coroner’s office in Las Vegas, Nevada, campaigned last year in part on the issue of the controversial death. He promised to change the death certificate to undetermined and review it.

This morning in the Chehalis courtroom where the seven-day inquest was held, McLeod  spoke to a small audience of spectators when he formally finalized and closed the inquest for the record.

He said he reflected all evening, and all night on his reasons for canceling the warrants, and then reviewed, and reviewed and reviewed the state law that says the coroner shall issue a warrant if the inquest jury ascertains it is a homicide and identifies who is responsible.

“My decision is the jury’s decision is representative of the citizens of Lewis County, and they expect me to follow through with their decision,” he said this morning.

The applicable statute reads “…the coroner shall issue a warrant for the arrest of the person charged, returnable forthwith to the nearest magistrate.”

What happens next is in the hands of others, according to McLeod.

The coroner read his final order into the record.

He is changing the manner of death on Ronda Reynolds’ death certificate from undetermined to homicide.

McLeod said he was satisfied the purposes of the inquest were met.

Among his stated goals: “To satisfy the community that the circumstances surrounding the death of no one of its members will be overlooked, concealed or ignored.”

Barb Thompson, mother of Ronda Reynolds, was present and feeling very good about McLeod’s choice to issue the arrest warrants and allow the process to play out before a judge.

It gave her a feeling of confidence in public officials she hasn’t had in 13 years, the Spokane resident said.

“These guys are studying the law you know, Lewis County has come so far,” Thompson said. “They’ve got a good prosecutor and a good coroner.”

Coroner McLeod too was much more relaxed as he left the courthouse to head back to his own office.

He conversed casually with Thompson, something he’s been careful about since he became coroner, given he and she both have issues pending in the Washington State Court of Appeals.

The three-judge panel put the case on hold, waiting to see what the outcome of McLeod’s inquest would be.

Former Lewis County Coroner Terry Wilson appealed a 2009 judge’s order to remove suicide from Reynolds’ death certificate and Thompson filed a cross appeal asking them to clarify what can happen under a judicial review of a coroner’s decision.

McLeod said he’s no longer interested in pursuing the former coroner’s battle. He’s curious how the appeal will end, he said.

“I’m interested if the appeal judges say yes, a judge ought to be able to tell a coroner what to change a death certificate to,” McLeod said.

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Barb Thompson speaks with a reporter from the television show 48 Hours, whose team has been chronicling the events around the inquest, which will likely air next spring.

News brief: Centralia driver dies after medical issue, wreck on I-5

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters and troopers called to a motor vehicle accident on northbound Interstate 5 in Centralia this afternoon found the driver had suffered an apparent cardiac event before his car slid along the inside concrete barrier and came to a stop.

The 79-year-old Centralia man was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital where he was declared dead, according to the Washington State Patrol.

His wife was with him and was not injured, responders said.

It happened just before 2:30 p.m. near milepost 81.

Richard A. Pliska, 79, had no apparent injury from the collision, according to the state patrol.

Their 1998 Mercury Marquise sustained an estimated $1,000 damage.

Breaking news: Coroner cancels arrest warrants for Reynolds’s

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

This was updated at 7:40 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County coroner canceled his arrest warrants for Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds and his son Jonathan Reynolds saying there’s no reason to arrest the pair.

“There is no purpose in having the warrants served when no criminal charges will be brought against them due to a lack of evidence,” Coroner Warren McLeod stated in a news release this afternoon.

McLeod said the manner of death for former trooper Ronda Reynolds will be changed from undetermined to homicide within two or three days.

The coroner’s announcement followed Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer’s decision this morning not to file charges against the former husband and steps-son of the 33-year-old woman.

Ronda Reynolds was found fatally shot in the head, on the floor of her walk-in closet in their Toledo home on Dec. 16, 1998.

McLeod will reconvene his coroner’s inquest tomorrow morning to read his closing orders on the record.

Update: 7:40 p.m.: Barb Thompson’s lawyer Royce Ferguson this evening opened his email and found Coroner McLeod had notified him just before 4 p.m. he was going to quash the arrest warrants.

Ferguson said he wrote to McLeod urging him not to do that, but didn’t know if it was too late.

He shared the letter he emailed McLeod this evening. It is below.

Dear Coroner McLeod,

Please do not quash the arrest warrants! I have just talked to Barb Thompson.  We are flabbergasted! To quash the warrants is acting short of your statutory duty requiring you to (“shall”) issue warrants following the inquest verdicts. By issuing the warrants, you would be done with the case (following changing of the death certificate to homicide). The burden of proceeding would then be on the sheriff to make the arrest, the courts to release the arrestees, and then on the prosecutor to decide to charge or not. By quashing the warrants you are relieving the sheriff of any responsibility to act, as well as the other officials “downstream.” In all candor, it greatly tarnishes what has been stellar performance by you. It will expose you to criticism you need not endure or suffer. Please do not quash the warrants. Additionally, where in the statute does it say you may ignore the duty to issue the warrants because another official elects to not perform his or her duty? You are relinquishing and ceding your authority to them. Again, please complete your statutory duty.

Royce Ferguson
Attorney for Barb Thompson

•••

Read more about today’s events related to the case, here

News brief: Attempted child luring in Mossyrock unfounded

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Mossyrock Police Department issued a news release this afternoon saying they investigated an alleged child luring case in town and determined no crime was committed.

“While parents and community members should always be observant of unusual behavior we are glad in the instance there was no criminal activity found,” Officer Rebecca Sutherland stated.

The Mossyrock Elementary School principal encouraged teachers to talk with students Tuesday about stranger danger after learning of an incident the evening before in which a fifth-grade girl  said she was approached by a male while she was at Smith and Son Grocery.

The report followed two incidents in Morton in which a children told police of a man driving a white pickup truck offering them money if they would get into his vehicle.

Sutherland thanked the public for its diligence and encourages folks to call 911 immediately to report suspicious activity.

•••

Read “News brief: Attempted child lurings reported in Mossyrock, Morton” from Tuesday October 25, 2011 at 12:51 p.m., here