Archive for December, 2011

Breaking news: Wreck west of Oakville claims three lives

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Three people were killed in a single-vehicle collision west of Oakville this evening.

Firefighters were called about 5 p.m. to the 400 block of Brooklyn Road, six or so miles southwest of Oakville, according to Grays Harbor Fire District 1.

There were two men and two women in a small pickup truck which ran into some trees, Fire Capt. Ryan Graham said.

Firefighters from District 1 as well as Riverside Fire Authority used the Jaws of Life to extricate the adult female who survived, Graham said. She was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, he said.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

THEFT

• Centralia police were called to the 800 block of South Pearl Street around 9:30 a.m. yesterday about a burglary to a shed. Somebody cut a lock and stole a compressor, a ‘reciprocating” saw and other tools, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WITNESS TAMPERING

• One of the individuals charged last week with dealing methamphetamine in the east end of Lewis County was back in front of a judge yesterday after allegedly scaring an informant in the case. James D. Hamrick, 29, was charged with witness tampering. Lewis County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said Hamrick made a phone call from the jail to someone wanting the informant to be picked up and taken somewhere. “He’s now in hiding and we’re real concerned about the “CI’s” safety in the case,” Meagher told the judge. Hamrick was charged last week with two counts of delivery of methamphetamine and one count of possession with intent to deliver. He is already being held on $50,000 bail, but yesterday Judge Richard Brosey ordered him held on the new charge on $100,000 bail.

Read about Rochester 4-year-old shot in arm …

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian reports a 4-year-old Rochester boy apparently shot himself in the arm at a home on Guava Street on Friday afternoon.

News reporter Jeremy Pawloski writes the child was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with a wound that started at his wrist an ended at his elbow.

Read more here

Read about medical marijuana gardens in Castle Rock restricted to two spots …

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports collective medical marijuana gardens will be limited to two commercially zoned locations near Interstate 5 in Castle Rock.

News reporter Barbara LaBoe writes the new zoning rules mandate the gardens must be secured and may not be visible from public streets.

Read more here

Prosecutor: Former museum director gave herself thousands of dollars in fraudulent payroll draws

Friday, December 30th, 2011
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Deborah Sue Knapp listens to her attorney during an appearance in Lewis County Superior Court.

This was updated at 8:59 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – If the allegations turn out to be true, the former director of the Lewis County Historical Museum routinely issued herself payroll draws and used the museum debit card to pay personal expenses at places such as a furniture store, a grocery store and even to pay her home’s electric bill – totaling more than $137,000.

Chehalis police and the Lewis County prosecutor both say they expect to find more wrongdoing as two more years of financial records are reviewed.

Deborah Sue Knapp, 52, of Chehalis, was handcuffed and wearing green and white striped jail garb as she appeared in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon.

Knapp is charged with 10 counts of first-degree theft.

She was arrested yesterday at the end of an investigation into revelations the museum’s endowment fund of more than $460,000 was drained in less than four years. Knapp was hired in July 2006.

“I’m shocked at how much,” museum member Susan Gonzales said after the hearing.

Gonzales said she was not entirely surprised when Knapp’s arrest was announced because everyone knew a police investigation was underway. But she finds it implausible one person could have made off with all that money alone, she said.

“I thought there would be more people (arrested),” Gonzales said. “How could the board not know this was happening?”

The Chehalis woman finds herself in the unique position, she said, of considering Knapp a friend, and also a tenant who has left her rent unpaid in recent months.

Last month, after museum members learned there was no money left in the endowment fund, four officers on the 13-member board were replaced, the accounts were closed and the museum was shut down temporarily. Police were asked to investigate.

The current criminal charges cover the years 2008 through this year. The investigation into 2007 and 2006 is still underway.

Knapp attempted to keep her face turned away from news cameras and spectators in the Chehalis courtroom as attorneys read the charges and discussed bail.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer called them “egregious facts” and a violation of trust.

“We expect additional charges,” Meyer said.

Meyer asked for bail of $50,000 noting Knapp and her husband have moved in a motor home in Centralia, suggesting she is a flight risk.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter pointed out his client is someone who has been an integral part of the community and requested an unsecured bond.

Judge Richard Brosey agreed Knapp could be released if her husband co-signed a $25,000 unsecured note.

Knapp’s husband, daughter and other family members were in the courtroom, but declined any comment.

According to charging documents, Knapp was paid a salary of $43,000 a year and did not receive overtime pay or so-called comp time.

Her responsibilities included overseeing the day-to-day operations of the museum in downtown Chehalis and supervising three part time employees and the volunteers.

Prosecutors allege Knapp routinely obtained “draws” from her employer but failed to account for them in subsequent paychecks. They go on to allege she wrote many of her own payroll draw checks without any one else’s knowledge, and many times listed them in the check register as voided although she cashed them.

For example, one of the theft counts alleges that in January and February 2008, she received more than $5,000 in payrolls draws in addition to her regular salary. It continued until Oct. 28, 2011, allegedly, adding up to more than $44,000.

“Knapp was questioned by law enforcement regarding the payroll draws she obtained and initially denied knowing she was overpaid, but later acknowledged she knew she had been overpaid,” prosecutors wrote.

Charging documents go on to describe it appears Knapp was using the museum debit card to pay personal expenses at Aaron’s Furniture, AGIA Insurance, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, K-Mart, Walgreens, Safeway, Staples and Lewis County PUD.

Prosecutors wrote it appears she used the card to pay her power bill on Fineview Road for the previous two years.

The personal debit card amounts total $92,000 over the last four years, according to prosecutors. The total figure is still under investigation, according to charging documents.

No other individuals associated with the museum are suspected to be involved, according to police.

New museum board president John Panesko said on his talk radio show this morning nobody other than Knapp ever looked at the original records – the bank statements.

This afternoon Panesko said that was his understanding, and he could not explain how the board treasurer could have compiled her reports to the board without those records – even as she was also the paid part-time bookkeeper.

The dual-role is something the new board officers have eliminated, along with implementing several other layers of security relating to money, according to Panesko.

“No one who was involved in finances before is involved in it again,” he said. “Just for safety.”

He expected a decision to terminate Knapp would be made at next week’s board meeting, he said.

The museum has been operating with only volunteers, but Panesko said they expect next month to bring back the part-time curator and bring in a part-time director.

“We don’t now who that is yet,” he said.

The museum is open and its incoming revenue roughly matches its expenses now, according to Panesko.

“We have enough money to operate, now that we’ve plugged the leak,” he said.

Knapp’s opportunity to make her plea comes on Jan. 12.

Her income and assets are such she was assigned a court-appointed attorney, Ken Johnson.

•••

Read “Police asked to investigate finances of Lewis County Historical Museum” from Wednesday November 16  2011 for background, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, December 30th, 2011

THEFT

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office this morning reported they are investigating the theft of approximately $19,000 worth of jewelry from a residence on Bearview Drive east of Chehalis. It happened sometime between October and Dec. 17, according to the sheriff’s office. No other details were released.

• Someone stole the heater out of “Santa’s House” on the 300 block of Spooner Road outside Chehalis, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called to the address learned that the 150,000 BTU kerosene space heater went missing sometime between 3 p.m. and midnight on Christmas Eve, according to the sheriff’s office. Santa’s House is a holiday display on the edge of the property where the item was stored, sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said.

• Centralia police were called to the 800 block of South Tower Avenue about 5 p.m. Tuesday regarding a burglary to a garage. The case is still under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Some 50 feet of copper wire was cut down from power poles between Randle and Morton sometime between Dec. 22 and yesterday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The loss the Lewis County PUD is estimated at $800.

FAKE PRESCRIPTION

• Police were called to the 500 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday to a report of forged prescriptions.

VANDALISM

• A deputy took a report yesterday about two tires being punctured last night on Central Avenue in Onalaska, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Breaking news: Museum director arrested in connection with drained endowment fund

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

This news story was updated at 3:40 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The former director of the Lewis County Historical Museum was arrested today for theft in connection with the investigation of missing museum endowment funds.

Debbie Knapp, 52, of Chehalis, was brought into the Chehalis Police Department this morning for an interview and subsequently arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for 10 counts of first-degree theft, according to police.

The police department says the current amount of suspected fraudulently used funds is in excess of $100,000. The investigation isn’t finished however, according to police.

Chehalis police were asked in November to review the financial records of the museum, following revelations its endowment fund of more than $400,000 was spent.

It appears money was transferred from the endowment account to a museum bank account where a debit card was used to make personal purchases by Knapp of various goods from local businesses and services such as utility payments, Chehalis Officer Linda Bailey said this afternoon.

Police say Knapp signed for paychecks in excess of her salary as well, according to a news release from the Chehalis Police Department.

Last month, after museum members learned there was no money left in the endowment fund, four officers on the 13-member museum board were replaced, the accounts were closed and the museum was shut down temporarily. Police were asked to investigate.

At the time, new board president John Panesko said the fund was meant to be left untouched, so it could generate interest which could be spent. The museum’s budget was “in the red” and its books hadn’t been in balance since 2008, Panesko said.

Chehalis police say the current investigation covers the years 2008 through this year. The investigation into 2007 and 2006 is still underway, according to police.

No other individuals associated with the museum are suspected to be involved, according to police.

Knapp was hired as the director in July 2006, according to Officer Bailey.

Centralia men charged after apartment complex shooting

Thursday, December 29th, 2011
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Rolando Carrillo-Cruz, Javier E. Martinez, Ulises Carrillo-Cruz and Francisco J. Robles, left to right, sit in Lewis County Superior Court after seeing a judge Wednesday afternoon.

This was updated at 6:06 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Twenty-year-old Ulises Carrillo-Cruz was ordered held on $250,000 bail when he was charged yesterday with first-degree assault following Tuesday’s shooting at the Centralia apartment complex where he lives with his older brother.

Also charged yesterday with rendering criminal assistance were his brother Rolando Carrillo-Cruz, 25; Francisco J. Robles, 18; and Javier E. Martinez, 18, all Centralia residents.

All four wore red jail garb when they appeared before Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter argued unsuccessfully for lower bail on Ulises Carrillo-Cruz, noting he has been a local resident his entire life.

The other three men were ordered held on $50,000 bail.

Seven pages of charging documents describing interviews with the four as well as others involved and residents of the Edison Terrace Apartments contain conflicting accounts of exactly what transpired.

Three individuals said alleged gang member Joshua Rhoades showed up to the apartment complex with other people, Rhoades being someone who “tries to jump him,” Ulises Carrillo-Cruz told police.

Rolando Carrillo-Cruz told police he saw two fast-moving vehicles pull over on Ash Street and several individuals began walking then running towards them yelling “LVL and other gang slang” as well as making threatening gestures.

Ulises Carrillo-Cruz said he fired two rounds into the ground and claimed self defense, according to charging documents.

Charging documents contain the following information:

A green Ford Taurus that reportedly fled the scene was found at the emergency entrance at Providence Centralia Hospital, where Rhoades told an arriving officer Genevieve Purser had been shot. She was inside with a gunshot wound to her right shoulder.

With Rhoades were Richard Molina and Augustina Flores-Purser.

Flores-Purser told police she and Rhoades had driven to North Ash Street to pick up Molina and Purser who had been walking.

Purser was shot before she got into the vehicle, two of them told police.

The victim, 28-year-old Purser of Centralia, remained hospitalized this morning but has been upgraded to satisfactory condition.

What is clear is police responded about 1:15 p.m. to a report of shots fired at the 400 block of North Ash Street.

A divot found in the ground appeared to be from a bullet, and indications were the trajectory came from apartment 20, according to police. Police report a spent handgun cartridge was found there as well.

A 9 mm pistol was found in some brush west of the apartments near the railroad tracks. The slide was partially opened and a round jammed in the “action,” according to charging documents.

Witness accounts indicate the four who were eventually arrested fled to another apartment in the complex.

Three of them brought two baseball bats there, one of them had allegedly hidden the gun, one or two of them flushed shell casings down the toilet and one of them hid a pair of black gloves and some marijuana behind the toilet, according to charging documents.

Rolando Carrillo-Cruz told police he had purchased the loaded gun for $50 for protection at his apartment.

Rolando Carrillo-Cruz was the alleged intended target of an August 2010 drive-by shooting in Chehalis that authorities described as perpetrated by the LVL gang.

The apartment where the two live with a female roommate was the target of window and car smashing earlier this month.

Both Carrillo-Cruz’s are additionally charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.

Arraignments are all set for Jan. 5.

•••

Read yesterday’s story here

Centralia police: Apartment’s resident arrested after gang-related shooting

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Centralia woman shot yesterday in what police are calling a gang-related dispute at an apartment complex is listed in serious condition this morning and the man accused of firing the gun is expected to go before a judge this afternoon.

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Edison Terrace Apartments

Ulises Carrillo-Cruz, 20, confessed to shooting the woman, but police were told he wasn’t targeting her, according to the Centralia Police Department.

“There’s a claim he fired to scare them off, and rounds were fired into the ground,” police Sgt. Kurt Reichert said this morning.

Carrillo-Cruz, also of Centralia, was arrested yesterday at the apartments for first-degree assault and felon in possession of a firearm, according to police.

According to police, a group of at least four people – including 28-year-old Genevieve Purser who was shot – showed up at the complex on the 400 block of North Ash Street in Centralia.

“The short version is one group went to the other group’s apartment to raise hell,” Reichert said.

Officers were called just after 1:15 p.m. by the manager who heard two gun shots and then saw two males standing nearby at the corner of Ash Street and Park Way screaming and cussing toward one of the apartments.

Carrillo-Cruz and his brother Rolondo Carrillo-Cruz, 25, reside at the apartment with a young woman, according to the apartment managers.

Purser was taken to the Providence Centralia Hospital by friends, according to police. She had a gunshot wound to her shoulder, according to police which they described as non-life threatening.

Purser was then transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Centralia police reported they found a firearm yesterday hidden in some bushes near the scene. Police have not said how many shots were fired, only that it occurred in a “common area”.

Three other males were also arrested yesterday at the complex, called the Edison Terrace Apartments.

Rolondo Carrillo-Cruz was arrested and booked also for  first-degree assault and felon in possession of a firearm, according to police. It’s not clear what his role was.

Francisco J. Robles, 18, and Javier E. Martinez, 18, were arrested and booked for rendering criminal assistance; they are suspected of hiding evidence, according to Reichert.

Reichert said it was the same general group of people who showed up at the apartments earlier this month and took baseball bats to the windows of that apartment unit and a Kia car.

All four men are scheduled to go before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court at 4 p.m. today.

Breaking news: Woman wounded by gunfire at Centralia apartments

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
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Sheriff's deputies look around the patio of an apartment on Ash Street in Centralia.

This news story was updated at 3:13 a.m. Wednesday December 28, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – A 28-year-old woman was shot in Centralia this afternoon and police are investigating.

Officers were called at 1:16 p.m. about shots fired at the 400 block of North Ash Street.

A Centralia woman was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with a gunshot wound to her shoulder, described as non-life threatening, according to police.

However she was being airlifted this afternoon to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Officer Patricia Finch said.

Nobody has been arrested, Finch said about 3:30 p.m. today.

Yellow police tape was stretched around a grassy area behind a lower unit at the Edison Terrace Apartments.

Officers from Centralia and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office congregated there this afternoon.

Two young men were brought out of a nearby apartment and handcuffed by police and taken away.

Finch said she did not know if the injured woman lived at the apartments.

Finch said she did not know if the shooter was at large.

The couple who manage the complex didn’t know much either this afternoon.

“All I know is I heard gunshots, it was two gunshots,” said Gregg Zetz who manages the apartments with his wife.

Zetz said he saw two guys outside on the corner of Ash Street and Park Way screaming and cussing toward one of the apartments.

“My husband tells me to get the kids on the floor and call the cops,” Melissa Zetz said.

Melissa Zetz said the complex is usually fairly quiet, except about two weeks ago someone came to the same apartment with baseball bats and broke out windows and smashed up a car belonging to the resident.

On Dec. 4, four men were arrested in connection with baseball bats there, and police were told it was “gangsters.”

Gregg Zetz said he informed the tenant of the involved apartment today she must move out.

Update 10:06 p.m.: Centralia police report they have arrested four men – all Centralia residents – in connection with the shooting they are calling gang-related.

Twenty-year-old Ulises Carrillo-Cruz was booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree assault and felon in possession of a firearm, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Carrillo-Cruz confessed to shooting the woman, police say, who was not the intended target.

Rolondo Carrillo-Cruz, 25, was booked for  first-degree assault and felon in possession of a firearm, according to police.

Two others were booked for rendering criminal assistance. They are Francisco J. Robles, 18, and Javier E. Martinez, 18, according to police. Robles was also booked for possession of a firearm.

A firearm was found hidden in some bushes near the scene by police dog Kayo, according to police.

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Police officers look through the grass at the corner of Ash Street and Park Way in Centralia.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

CHRISTMAS DAY FIRE CHASES WINLOCK COUPLE OUTSIDE

• A Winlock couple awoke Christmas morning to a house filled with smoke and a fire burning items next to their gas fireplace. Firefighters from Lewis County Fire District 15 and three neighboring departments called about 5:30 a.m. to the single-story home on the 1100 block of Mill Street knocked down the flames fairly quickly, keeping the fire damage to a minimum, according to Firefighter Patrick Jacobson. However, the home sustained a lot of smoke damage, he said. No injuries were reported. The cause isn’t yet known, he said.

DRUGS

• A call about a man with a knife trying to break into a trailer on the 1200 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia early yesterday ended with an arrest for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, according to the Centralia Police Department. Officers called just before 3 a.m. reported that Jerome A. Markert, 36, threw down the knife, fled on foot and then fought with police when he was caught. Police say he also he also tossed a set of scales while he was being chased. Markert, a Chehalis resident, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 21-year-old Pe Ell resident was arrested for possession of methamphetamine yesterday evening after police contacted what they described as a suspicious vehicle in a motel parking lot on the 1300 block of Lakeshore Drive in Centralia. A drug sniffing dog from Winlock “alerted” on the vehicle, according to police and a subsequent search turned up drugs. Tyler P. Chavez was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police arrested a 48-year-old Olympia man around 8 p.m. on Sunday at the 1200 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia for a warrant and then possession of suspected methamphetamine and heroin with intent to deliver, according to the Centralia Police Department. Donald L. Peters was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A traffic stop about 10 p.m. on Saturday at Mellen Street and Interstate 5 ended with two individuals getting arrested for possession of methamphetamine, according to Centralia police.  Frank L. Mako, 27, of Chehalis, and Ashley A. Guntrum, 25, of Centralia, were booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 26-year-old Centralia man was arrested for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver after a traffic stop about 2 a.m. on Saturday along the 1100 block of South Market Boulevard in Chehalis, according to police. Douglas M. Capelli was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

THEFT

• A Matthews compound bow, a Mead telescope and a baby monitor were reported missing after a burglary on the 100 block of Kiona Road outside Randle, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. It happened sometime between 7 p.m. on Sunday and 5:30 a.m. yesterday, according to the sheriff’s office. The loss is estimated at $2,100.

• Police were called about 1 a.m. on Saturday about a residential burglary on Southwest 13th Street in Chehalis. Among the items missing were a television, a game system and a laptop computer, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Police were called on Saturday to the 700 block of South Gold Street in Centralia about an overnight burglary to a garage. Among the items missing were a table saw and a chain saw, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police took a report yesterday morning from the 1700 block of Midway Court where someone had broken into a truck over the weekend and stolen the battery and about four gallons of gas.

• Police called about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday to the 300 block of North Rock Street in Centralia were told a laptop computer was stolen from a vehicle.

• A GPS device, CDs and other items were reported missing from a car prowl on the 3000 block of Borst Avenue in Centralia on Saturday.

VANDALISM

• Two young women were jailed after allegedly taking baseball bats to a car early Saturday on the 400 block of Oakview Avenue East in Centralia. A deputy called about 4 a.m. was told the vandalism to the 1997 Buick Park Avenue was related to an argument over an ex-boyfriend, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Arrested and booked into the Lewis County jail for first-degree malicious mischief were Melissa R. Salazar, 20, and Mariann J. Hylton, 23, both of Centralia, according to the sheriff’s office.

• Centralia police were called Saturday morning to the 700 block of G Street in Centralia where someone had broken the windows out a vehicle.

• Chehalis police were called Friday to Southwest William Avenue and a complaint someone had thrown pudding on a house.

BARTENDER ASSAULTED

• A 33-year-old Centralia resident was arrested after an incident just before 2 a.m. on Saturday a the 500 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia in which police were told he refused to pay his tab and took a swing at a bartender. Shane P. Harless reportedly left the bar and was later located by police. Harless was booked into the Lewis County Jail for misdemeanor assault and third-degree theft, according to the Centralia Police Department.

OCTOBER CRANE ACCIDENT IN DRYAD PROMPTS CITATION

• The state Department of Labor and Industries fined another state agency after concluding the October accident in which a crane tipped over as it was removing the temporary bridge in the Dryad-Meskill was caused by failing to deploy the outriggers to the crane. Inspectors found the operator was attempting to lift a 577-pound section of the so-called Bailey Bridge, with the boom extended out about 77 feet, according to a Labor and Industries spokesperson. The state Department of Transportation was fined $4,550 and has appealed the citation, according to spokesperson Hector Castro. KOMOnews.com reported at the time three workers suffered minor injuries.

Read about evidence still being analyzed in Winlock murder-suicide …

Monday, December 26th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News writes once again yesterday about the Walter family who died in March in their Winlock home in what authorities called a murder-suicide, however, like the Daily News’ November follow up on the case, they report only that evidence is still being analyzed by experts to try to learn details about what occurred.

Rodney Walter, 57, Cathy Lee Walter, 65 and their 18-year-old son Devon Walter, along with their family pets, were found dead of apparent gunshots at their two-story log cabin on the 300 block of Frost Road.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office concluded the deaths of the Winlock father and son were homicide and the mother shot herself.

Read reporter Tony Lystra’s news item here.

Charges sorted out from east end arrests

Saturday, December 24th, 2011
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Brandon Piatt, of Glenoma, sits with defense attorney Bob Schroeter in Lewis County Superior Court. Behind him are James and Sherri Hamrick, both of Packwood.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Four of the individuals scooped up in a crack down on drug dealing in the east end of Lewis County were charged yesterday with delivery of methamphetamine; one young woman was released with no charges after spending a night in jail.

Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies, including the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team traveling in an armored personnel carrier, arrested eight people on Thursday in a sweep through Packwood and Morton.

The action followed a three-month investigation by the Lewis County Regional Drug Task Force, which had been conducting undercover drug buys, according Sheriff Steve Mansfield.

Officers served a search warrant that morning  at the 100 block of Edmonds Road in Packwood where they detained three people, James D. Hamrick, 29; Sherri J. Hamrick, 46; and Amaris R. Smith, 21, according to the sheriff’s office.

While Smith was arrested for alleged possession of methamphetamine, she was not charged because there were no drugs found on her, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke said.

The rest of those arrested appeared before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis yesterday afternoon.

James Hamrick was charged with two counts of delivery of methamphetamine and one count of possession with intent to deliver. He has several felony convictions from the past, according to O’Rourke; Judge James Lawler set his bail at $50,000.

Sherri Hamrick was charged with four counts of delivery of methamphetamine and one count  possession with intent to deliver. Her bail was set at $15,000. Prosecutors said she has no criminal history.

Venus D. Hamilton, 48, of Morton, was charged yesterday with delivery of methamphetamine.

In June, the sheriff’s office called Hamilton one of two main narcotics distributors in the east end when she was arrested and charged with selling methamphetamine, but those charges were dismissed after prosecutors has problems with the informant, according to O’Rourke.

“She lost her car and she was warned if she continued and persisted, she would be caught again,” O’Rourke told the judge.

Lawler set her bail on the new charge at $10,000.

Two of the eight were arrested only for unrelated warrants for failing to appear in court. The judge set bail at $10,000 for Effren E. Barron, 40, and at $3,000 for Bradley J. Miller, 35, of Packwood.

Two individuals were arrested around noon on Thursday on the 6300 block of U.S. Highway 12 in Morton.

Brandon Piatt, 31, of Glenoma was charged yesterday with four counts of delivery of methamphetamine and ordered held on $30,000 bail. Sheila Schmitt, 44, of Morton, was not charged in connection with his alleged drug dealing, according to O’Rourke.

However, charges were filed yesterday against both for drug possession related to a June arrest. Schmitt’s bail was set at $10,000, unsecured, for possession of methamphetamine. Piatt’s additional charges were for possession of methamphetamine, hyrocodone and another prescription drug, according to O’Rourke.

Piatt and James Hamrick remain in the Lewis County Jail.
•••

See Thursday’s news story, “Drug task force arrests eight in East End” here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

MAN HOSPITALIZED AFTER TENINO ATTACK WITH BAT

• A pair of Tenino men were jailed overnight after allegedly beating a 25-year-old man and hitting him in the head with a baseball bat. It happened about 12:45 a.m. on the 2800 block of Angus Drive Southeast outside Tenino, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. The victim, a 25-year-old Lacey resident, was taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia where he was treated and has been released, the sheriff’s office reported. Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Brady said the two confronted the victim about some “unkind things” said about his ex-girlfriend. The sheriff’s office said they met up with the victim as he was leaving his father’s residence and hit him, bit him and broke a window out of his vehicle before striking him with the aluminum bat. Arrested and booked into the Thurston County Jail for second-degree assault were Joel E. Lewis, 29, and Richard A. Mickelson, 27, both of Tenino, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.

SANTA, REINDEER, TREE STOLEN FROM CENTRALIA YARD

• Centralia police were called about 9:40 p.m. yesterday to the 100 block of East Fourth Street where someone had made off with several outdoor Christmas decorations including a lighted metal reindeer, an inflatable Santa snow globe and an inflatable tree which Santa pops out of, according to the Centralia Police Department.

THEFT

• Police were called about 11 p.m. yesterday to the 200 block of L Street in Centralia about a Browning 9 mm handgun taken from a vehicle.

• Archery equipment valued at $700 was stolen from an unlocked vehicle on Southwest 10th Street in Chehalis, according to a report taken yesterday morning by police. Missing is a Matthews Reezen bow and attachments.

• Centralia police took a report about 1:40 a.m. today about the theft of a camera from a vehicle yesterday.

• Chehalis police were contacted yesterday by an individual who learned that someone had created their own checks using the routing number for his Chehalis-based bank account. A small amount of money was stolen before the account was closed, according to police.

WRECK

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports a head-on collision yesterday evening at Graf and Scammon Creek roads outside Centralia was caused by a 73-year-old Centralia man driving under the influence. He was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital to be checked out so he was referred for a charge of DUI and not jailed, according to the sheriff’s office. There were no injuries but his truck was described as totaled and the other vehicle sustained major damage, according to the deputy’s report.

Drug task force arrests eight in East End

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
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The Lewis County Sheriff's Office's armored personnel carrier with its SWAT team rolled through the east end today. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff's Office

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Alleged drug dealers and users were swept up in Packwood and Morton today as the sheriff’s office and friends served search warrants.

Eight people were arrested altogether in what Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield is calling “Operation Merry Christmas”. Three of them were wanted on unrelated outstanding warrants, according to the sheriff’s office.

Mansfield said some 15 or more officers from four agencies participated starting at 9 a.m. at the 100 block of Edmonds Road in Packwood.

The action followed a three-month investigation by the Lewis County Regional Drug Task Force, which had been conducting undercover “buys”, according to the sheriff.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s office:

Arrested were Sherri J. Hamrick, 46, for four counts of delivery of methamphetamine; James D. Hamrick, 29, for two counts of delivery of methamphetamine and felon in possession of a firearm; and Amaris R. Smith, 21, for possession of methamphetamine. All are Packwood residents.

Two individuals were picked up in elsewhere for warrants. They are Bradley J. Miller, 35, of Packwood, found at the 100 block of Mount Rainier Drive; and Effren E. Barron, 40, found at the 12900 block of U.S. Highway 12.

Mansfield said officers came across a small marijuana grow today, and seized one-eighth of an ounce of suspected methamphetamine.

The news release went on to name:

Venus D. Hamilton, 48, was arrested in Morton on the 900 block of Davis Lake Road for delivery of methamphetamine.

Then law enforcement moved to another location on the 6300 block of U.S. Highway 12 in Morton where they picked up two others.

They are Brandon Piatt, 31, of Glenoma, for four counts of delivery of methamphetamine; and Sheila Schmitt, 44, of Morton, for possession of narcotics.

Mansfield said more arrests are expected in the East End over the next two weeks.

One Packwood resident on Edmonds Road told the sheriff she couldn’t thank him enough for cleaning up the drug dealers in her neighborhood, Mansfield said.

“It’s quite touching to have some hug you and say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’,” Mansfield said.

The sheriff credited Lewis County Sheriff’s office Sgt. Rob Snaza for putting together the operation.

Assisting the task force and other deputies were members of the Centralia Police Department, the state Department of Corrections and the Washington State Patrol.

All were booked into the Lewis County Jail.

“This Christmas they’ll be spending it in my jail, unless they find a way to bail out,” Mansfield said. “Which, I hope they don’t.”
•••

CORRECTION: This news story has been corrected to reflect the noontime arrests of Brandon Piatt and Sheila Schmitt on the 6300 block of U.S. Highway 12 took place in Morton, not Packwood as the sheriff’s office incorrectly reported to the news media.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

FIRE CLAIMS SALKUM HOUSE, PETS

• A Salkum family escaped a fire last night that destroyed their home and killed several pets. Firefighters from three departments called about 12:20 a.m. to the 100 block of Orchard Drive off Spencer Road found the two-story house fully engulfed in flames, according to Lewis County Fire District 8 Assistant Chief Don Taylor. It was an open loft-type construction so the fire had a lot of room to build, Taylor said. It was finally contained after about two hours, he said. One woman trying to get her animals out suffered smoke inhalation, but didn’t want to go the hospital, according to Taylor. Two other adults and three small children were fine, he said. A Labrador dog and one cat got out, but four small dogs were found deceased under a bed, he said. There was one bright spot, according to Taylor. “We assumed because of the intensity of the fire all the unaccounted-for pets had perished” but beneath the pile of dogs, a cat was found alive, he said. Firefighters administered oxygen to the singed cat and this morning it was going to be taken to a veterinarian, he said. The fire seemed to have begun in the garage area, he said.

ONALASKA PANTRY FIRE EXTINGUISHED

• Firefighters were called just before 1 o’clock this morning to a home off Middle Fork Road in Onalaska where wood stove ashes had begun smoldering in a waste basket in a pantry. A father got the family outside safely and the damage was minimal, Lewis County Fire District 1 Chief Mark Conner said.

THEFT

• A deputy took a report yesterday of several thousand dollars worth of tools and various equipment stolen from an outbuilding on the 5500 block of Jackson Highway near Toledo, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. It occurred sometime between Monday and Wednesday, according to the sheriff’s office.

• A Playstation and a compressor were among the items missing after a burglary to a house and garage on the 300 block of North Buckner Street in Centralia, according to the Centralia Police Department. It was reported at noon time yesterday.

• A Centralia man who got up early yesterday morning to walk his dog discovered both his $8,000 mower and the car trailer it had been loaded onto missing. A deputy called about 7 a.m. to the 1500 block of South Schueber Road was told they had been parked in front of the man’s shop the night before. The mower is red and the home made trailer is 18-feet long and black, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Centralia police took a report of a vehicle prowl to a motor home yesterday evening from the 1100 block of Crosby Avenue.

WOMAN ARRESTED AFTER SEEKING SHELTER IN TRAVEL TRAILER

• A 46-year-old woman was arrested overnight after she broke into a travel trailer in Centralia apparently seeking a warm place to stay, according to the Centralia Police Department. Police called just after midnight to the 300 block of North Iron Street found a heater inside had been turned on but nothing missing. Lisa A. Palmer, of Centralia, was booked into the Lewis County Jail for burglary, according to police.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE AND STUCK ON RAILROAD TRACKS

• A 70-year-old driver was arrested after he somehow got his vehicle stuck on railroad tracks in Centralia and was found to be driving under the influence of drugs. Police called about 7:15 p.m. yesterday to the 900 block of South Tower Avenue booked James G. Hangartner into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

THREE-YEAR-OLD PEDESTRIAN SURVIVES NEAR MISS BY PASSING VEHICLE

• A toddler escaped injury yesterday when she apparently got out of her father’s hand stepped into a Centralia street and was brushed by a passing vehicle. Police and aid called about 6:50 p.m. to Main and Rock streets said the 3-year-old girl was unhurt. The “bump” apparently spun her around but didn’t knock her down, Riverside Fire Authority Capt. Ken Colombo said. The driver was not cited, according to police.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

THEFT

• A pair of teenage brothers were arrested yesterday for second-degree burglary after they allegedly crawled through the  window of a neighbor’s mobile home in Centralia. Police, called about 12:30 p.m. to the 1700 block of Harrison Avenue, were told the boys were looking for batteries for a “remote control something”, police said. The 14-year-old and his 15-year-old brother were booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center.

• Centralia police were called about 6:30 a.m. today to the 100 block of Sunnyside Drive in Centralia where a .22 caliber rifle had been stolen from a vehicle overnight. The missing gun is a Winchester 77, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police took a report yesterday of a vehicle prowl on the 1000 block of South Schueber Road in Centralia in which a purse had been stolen  last Thursday. The vehicle had been unlocked, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Trusted Winlock grocery manager stole some $1 million from employer

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
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Benjamin C. Macy hangs his head as he listens to his former employer speak of the ongoing thefts from his grocery store.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The former Winlock grocery store manager accused of stealing lottery tickets was sentenced to prison today, as attorneys agreed the theft from his employer was closer to $1 million over the years.

Benjamin C. Macy, 52, was employed at the Cedar Village IGA some 30 years. He was arrested in May 2010 after a video surveillance camera showed him scratching off dozens of $20 tickets at 4:30 in the morning.

Macy hung his head as Cedar Village owner Raleigh Stone addressed him this morning in Lewis County Superior Court.

“Ben, you were one of the richest men I knew,” Stone said, reading from a page he’d written. “Rich in family, friends, community and co-workers who equally respected you for the man they thought you were.”

“I trusted you like a brother,” Stone said.

Stone went on to say Macy was named in his will, had delivered the eulogy for Stone’s mother, and continued to steal from the store even after knowing Stone withdrew $50,000 from his retirement in order to pay the bills.

“It’s a shame you and your family made more money off my business than my family did in 31 years,” Stone said.

Some 50 people packed the seats in the Chehalis courtroom this morning as Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and defense attorney Don McConnell told the judge what they felt the sentence should be.

Macy pleaded guilty in October to five counts of first-degree theft.

In a separate civil case, Macy agreed to pay Stone almost $305,000, and sign over his house, a $30,000 truck and coin collection.

“I gave all those last week to Mr. Stone,” attorney Don McConnell told the judge.

McConnell said he’d never met someone more sorry than his client.

Macy stood and turned toward his former employer when it was his turn to speak.

“It’s been going on a long time,” Macy said. “Way too long. Raleigh, I’m sorry,” he said.

The former Winlock resident apologized to Stone’s family, to his former co-workers and his own family for embarrassing them.

According to Stone, while people generally thought the theft was only lottery tickets, it was much more.

Since January 2005, the forensic accountant determined more than $900,000 was missing, and that was above and beyond thousands of dollars from the previous years in which the statute of limitations had passed, Stone said.

And then there was more than $538,000 in lottery winnings from stolen tickets, he said.

Halstead said the thefts added up to in excess of $1 million. McConnell said his accountant determined it was something less than that.

Th standard sentencing range, established by the legislature, is 12 to 14 months in prison. Halstead recommended 12 months and one day.

Judge Richard Brosey told Macy his actions could possibly had put the only grocery in Winlock out of business.

There’s no excuse, no justification, Brosey said.

He sentenced Macy to 14 months in prison.

Macy, who has been free on bail since his arrest, was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.

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Benjamin C. Macy is taken away by a corrections officer from the Lewis County Jail.

•••

Read background here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

SCHOOL BUS DRIVER QUITS AFTER ALCOHOL TEST

• Police were called after a Chehalis school bus driver finished her morning route reportedly smelling of alcohol last week. The driver, identified as a 58-year-old woman who has been driving a school bus for more than 20 years, resigned rather than be fired, Chehalis School District Superintendent Ed Rothlin said today. While she lost her job, she’s not likely to be arrested for driving under the influence because there was quite a time delay in the reporting, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Two employees reported to the transportation supervisor the driver smelled of alcohol about 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday and the driver was taken for a blood alcohol test in which she tested somewhere between .04 and .08, according to police and the school district. Rothlin didn’t divulge what the level was but said the drug and alcohol policy is strictly enforced and anything above .04 is grounds for discipline. Police weren’t called until about 11 a.m., after the driver had been tested and allowed to go home, according to Deputy Chief Randy Kaut. The school board held a special meeting on Friday to accept her resignation, Rothlin said.

FIGHTS

• A scuffle in a parking lot about 2 o’clock this morning on the 1000 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia ended with two reportedly intoxicated individuals arrested, a man for assaulting his girlfriend and the girlfriend for grabbing the officer to get the officer off her boyfriend, according to police. Police were called at about 2:10 a.m. when witnesses observed 27-year-old Darrell S. Maxfield assault a woman, according to the Centralia Police Department. Maxfield refused to comply with orders and was taken to the ground and the female repeated came at the officer, according to police. The un-named woman was booked for third-degree assault and Maxfield was booked for fourth-degree assault, according to Centralia Police Department.

• A 47-year-old Packwood man reportedly “squared off” with police and wound up getting taken to the ground and Tased yesterday evening on the 500 block of North Pearl Street,  according to Centralia Police Department. Charles A. Park was booked into the Lewis County Jail after the approximately 5 p.m. incident that involved a warrant arrest, according to police.

• A woman arrested for possession of marijuana after trying to pick a fight on the 400 block of West Third Street in Centralia last night was subsequently also arrested for second-degree malicious mischief when she used the backseat of a patrol car for a toilet, according to police. Lisa A. Palmer, 46, of Oakville,  was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Centralia Police Department. The patrol car was taken out of service so it could be sanitized, according to police. She was released without charging.

RESTAURANT CASH AND CHECKS STOLEN

• Police were called yesterday evening after two purses containing thousands of dollars in cash as well as customers checks were stolen from a restaurant on the 600 block of North National Avenue in Chehalis. A group of people had come in to the Ocean Sky inquiring about banquet facilities and it seems it they could have been intentionally distracting the employee while the purses were snagged, according to Chehalis police.

SHERIFF’S OFFICE: MOSSY STORE BURGLARIES SOLVED

• Four teenage boys are facing arrest for two August break-ins at a Mossyrock-area store in which cash, boxes of candy, cans of Monster energy drinks were stolen, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. Deputies followed up on local rumors and found a 14-year-old and three 15-year-olds who admitted to the burglaries at the Mossyrock Park store and cafe on the 200 block of Ajlune Road, according to the sheriff’s office. The loss is estimated to as much as $2,500, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. The case is being referred for possible charges, Brown said.

FRIEND EMPTIES, THEN REFILLS  MAN’S BANK ACCOUNT

• A 35-year-old Centralia man was arrested for 13 counts of forgery following a report taken Monday from a longtime friend and former roommate on West Roanoke Street that his checking account had been emptied. The victim thought the checks had been stolen sometime since Nov. 1, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. When Beau J. Armstrong was arrested, a deputy learned he had just deposited $3,225 into the account, possibly to cover up what he had done, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. Armstrong was booked into the Lewis County Jail, Brown said.

SISTER TAKES WOMAN’S CHECKS

• Tracy L. McPherson, 41, was arrested Thursday for second-degree theft after allegedly stealing a checkbook from her sister’s Onalaska home and writing some two dozen checks at grocery stores and Home Depot, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said yesterday. She said she was paying off debts, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

THEFT

• Centralia police on Friday took a report of a missing bank deposit bag containing more than $1,000. A business from out of the area contacted police about the possible theft after the money was not deposited into a Centralia bank, police said. The case is under investigation.

• Unspecified household items were stolen in a burglary at the 1100 block of Mellen Street in Centralia which was reported about 11:30 a.m. yesterday.

•  A 1991 Ford Ranger was reported stolen sometime between 10 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. on Saturday from the 900 block of state Route 7 outside Morton, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The truck has a license plates reading B744058, according to the sheriff’s office.

• A 2003 Ford F350 pickup stolen from the 300 block of Newaukum Valley Road outside Chehalis was found stuck in a creek off the same road on Saturday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• A Chehalis man called the sheriff’s office on Friday when he spotted his stolen utility trailer being pulled behind a pickup at the Rock Shop in Ethel and the truck was subsequently stopped on the 800 block of Gish Road in Onalaska, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. David Shive, 51, of Toledo, told the deputy he’d borrowed in from a friend on Tucker Road but the friend said he didn’t know anything about that, according to the sheriff’s office. Shive was booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession of stolen property, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning.

• Three surveillance cameras were reported stolen from a business and apartment building on the 500 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia on Sunday afternoon, according to police.

• Police were called about 5:20 p.m. yesterday to a car prowl on the 500 block of West Third Street in Centralia.

• Keys and a knife were reported stolen from a vehicle on the 100 block of Jalyn Street in Centralia on Friday afternoon.

DRUGS

• A 25-year-old Centralia woman was arrested about 8:30 p.m. yesterday for possession of methamphetamine, according to Centralia Police Department. Ericka D. Romero was booked into jail following her contact with police at Mellen and Alder streets, according to police.

• A 53-year-old Centralia man was arrested for possession of methadone and unspecified prescription pills following a traffic stop on the 500 block of South Rock Street in Centralia yesterday evening. Anthony L. Pender was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Centralia Police Department.

• A 24-year-old Rochester woman was arrested for possession of methamphetamine on Saturday night in Centralia, according to police. Shanna M. Rogers was booked into the Lewis County Jail following her contact with an officer on the 100 block of North Pearl Street, according to Centralia Police Department.

• A 44-year-old Centralia woman was arrested for possession of methamphetamine on Friday morning after contact with an officer at the 1300 block of Bayne Street in Centralia, according to police. Sara M. DeSalvo was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Centralia Police Department.

UNDERAGE DRINKING

• Eight individuals were arrested when deputies broke up a Friday night underage drinking party at a rock pit off Evans Road near Toledo, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Several people took off on foot but others, ages 17 to 20, were issued citations for being minors in possession of alcohol, according to the sheriff’s office.

JEWELRY STORE LOSS ABOUT $40,000

• Some $40,000 in jewelry was stolen from the antique store in Centralia that was burglarized last week, according to Centralia police. A witness who heard the alarm about 3:30 a.m. on Thursday on the 100 block of South Tower Avenue saw two males carrying items out of the shop and putting them in a silver sport utility vehicle, according to Centralia police. A police pursuit on northbound Interstate 5 reached speeds of more than 100 mph and continued north. The license plate of the suspect SUV turned out to have been stolen several blocks away from the jewelry store, according to Sgt. Kurt Reichert.

Report: Triple murderer surprisingly charming and well-mannered

Monday, December 19th, 2011

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John Allen Booth Jr. sits in a visiting area in the Lewis County Jail after his conviction in Salkum-area murders

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – So I interviewed convicted triple murderer John Allen Booth Jr. at the jail on Friday.

A personable enough guy, notwithstanding the fact he’d just been found guilty several hours earlier of shooting four people in the head, including a 16-year-old boy.

Of course, I suspect he was friendly towards me, given that he’s been locked alone in a jail cell for 16 months. Plus, I’m not somebody who chased him down, locked him up or got in his way when he was trying to collect drug money.

Charming is probably an overstatement, however, I’m guessing there are people who would use that description.

I thought it would be good to hear from the 32-year-old former Onalaska man directly, given two weeks of a trial where others were in charge of painting the picture of who he is and then his own testimony that left me – and I’m sure others – with several questions.

So what in the heck did that mean, after the jury announced its verdict Thursday, and you say, “And vote for Barack Obama”? I asked.

He laughed. He tends to say things just to get a reaction, he said.

“It was pretty much that, or tell ’em all to fuck off,” he said. “It didn’t mean nothing.”

This was no comprehensive interview.

I’d hoped to meet with Booth in the afternoon, after his sentencing was over and all that would be left was for him to pack up and get ready to go to prison for the rest of his life.

However, for whatever reason, my visit got arranged for early in the morning, before his 10 o’clock appearance in Lewis County Superior Court to be sentenced.

Really only enough time to ask a few questions, try to at least learn a couple of basic facts and make our acquaintance for perhaps another interview in the future.

So I asked, how do you suppose John Lindberg got out of that house alive; hiding in the bathroom while – as prosecutors described – everyone else was shot to get rid of witnesses?

“I don’t think that’s what was going on,” Booth began.

But he stopped before sharing his theory. He’d already testified he was not there.

“I’m gonna appeal, this is gonna have a new trial within the next five years,” he said. “That’s a guarantee, so I’m not gonna say too much.”

Ineffective assistance of counsel will be the main issue, he said.

“My lawyer was almost incompetent,” he said. “I mean, I like the guy, he’s a great guy.”

But Roger Hunko can’t put two sentences together, he said.

He offered this: Lindberg lied about what he said he saw, Linn Perry’s testimony didn’t match with what he said in police interviews, Denise Salts isn’t all there, she was shot in the head after all, he said.

Our visit in the Lewis County Jail lasted only about an hour, I mostly listened. Had to listen hard because we were separated by a glass partition.

The 6-foot 3-inch inmate sat on a ledge on the other side, handcuffed with his ankles shackled.

“That extortion case was bullshit, that’s not how I work,” he said. “Am I a big dude? Yes I am. But I never threaten anybody, I make them invite me to their homes.”

Booth described his “style” is more like sitting down and talking, giving people options.

“I don’t threaten people,” he said again. “Cause I know that I’m a three-striker. If I go to someone’s house and start slapping them around and taking their shit, I’m never getting out of prison.”

“Do I collect money? Yes I do,” he said. That’s business. My muscle’s my hustle.

“I got  a thousand one liners.” He smiled.

It’s something he’s done his whole life, he said. When he was young, he used to punch people in the mouth, but as he got older he found didn’t need to do it that way, he said.

Born in Centralia, by age 13 he was out there, running amok, a young gang member, he said.

“I don’t have regular contact with family members,” he said. “I’m from the streets, we kind create out own family.”

He’s not sure where his parents are, he said. His mother, Paula Wilson, came to see him one time, he said. His father has spent time in prison, and for all he knows, may be dead, he said.

Booth said he has one older brother who might live in Rainier, Ore.

Booth bounced around between his parents, and lived in a lot of places, like Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Federal Way, even southern California, he said. And was locked up in juvenile a lot, he said.

Said he became a member of the Crips gang before age 13. In the early 1990s, remember that gang-banging “was at it’s fullest,” he said.

At age 16, he moved  back to Onalaska, to what was his grandmother’s house on Middle Fork Road, he said.

“I was an athlete, so I always figured I’d be a pro boxer,” he said. “But then, once I got locked up all the time, I couldn’t get nobody to sponsor me. So it was all bad.”

By the time he was 31 years old, he’d been in prison three times. He got out in December 2009, after serving five and a half years for hitting a man in the head with a crowbar at a Saturday night dance in downtown Centralia.

He lived in the Tacoma area, and had 18 months of community supervision from the state Department of Corrections.

“When I was out there right now, I had a 9 to 5 job. I’m on parole, I had to have a job,” Booth said.

He was happy at the upholstery foam making business where he worked, he said. It was a good company.

But was also was a personal trainer, teaching people how to work out and to fight.

“I pretty much had it going on, I thought,” Booth said.

But as part of a gang, he pretty much had to sell drugs, he said.

So what about Robbie Russell, I asked, and the theory Russell had you extorting money from David West Sr., thinking West Sr. should owe him the money from his bail from the June 2009 incident when the two of them of in trouble attacking, threatening a group of teenagers in Winlock? (West Sr., who along with his teenage son D.J. and a friend Tony Williams were fatally shot inside the West’s Salkum-area home, made a plea deal and was a witness against Russell in an upcoming trial.)

“Basically what they say, I’m a goon for Robbie Russell … I don’t work for nobody ya know,” Booth said. “If you’re a friend of mine, I’m extremely loyal, I’m coming through for you no matter what.”

There were so many things going on that never came out, Booth said.

West Sr. was going to prison, he said.

“He owed me some money, he needed to pay that money, he was paying that money,” he said. “It was not a big deal.”

Booth’s red and white striped prison garb literally hangs on his lanky frame.

It wasn’t that way in August 25, 2010 when he was arrested some four days after the shootings. Then, he said he was 220 pounds but in jail he’s dropped 50 pounds – of muscle – he said.

No it’s not nerves or anything like that, he said.

They don’t feed him enough, he said. He’s allergic to pork, so instead he gets noodles, he said.

He’s only let out of his cell once every three days, and so he spends his time reading a lot, doing crosswords and push ups, he said.

And he slept fine the night before, he said. That was after the jury convicted him on every count, and knowing he would be going upstairs to a courtroom in less than an hour where he would be told the mandatory sentence was life with no possibility of release.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’ve known this was coming since the day I got arrested.”

He decided to turn himself in – before he was captured without incident in Spokane – to help out his friend, former cell mate, Ryan McCarthy, he said.

Only, Booth calls him by his nickname White Folks.

He compared it to Darcas Allen getting 490 (420) years for being a getaway driver for Maurice Clemmons who fatally shot four police officers in Lakewood and then was shot dead by an officer.

“On White Folks, they’d a hung him if they couldn’t get me,” he said.

I’m glad he’s going to see daylight again, so, whatever, Booth said.

Booth asked if I’d seen the toxicology reports.

“Everybody there was higher than a kite, with the exception of me,” he said. “I don’t do drugs. At all.”

“When you get all them tweekers, with guns and stuff, they’re unpredictable,” he said. “So am I surprised that that happened to ’em? Not a bit.”

Is it relevant? he asked. Kinda, he answered himself.

“Don’t’ get me wrong in this whole situation, you know what I’m saying. I feel for people’s losses,” he said.

He understands they lost loved ones and are lashing out, but he wasn’t there, he explained.

“The only thing I’m devastated about is I’m never getting out of prison,” Booth said. “And that actually hurts a little bit sometimes.”

“Hey, how come you didn’t report on me spitting in Dusty Breen’s and Dan Riordan’s faces?” Booth asked, referring to two Lewis County detectives.

I didn’t know, I told him.

It was coming back from court, a month or two ago, and he’d told Riordan to stop sitting behind him, he said. “And, I always do what I say, that’s me, no matter what,” Booth said.

He’d been sitting there for a reason, Booth said, and if anybody knows why I did it, he does.

Do you know what you’re going to say, when you get to speak at sentencing? I asked. Yeah, wanna know what I’m gonna say? he said.

“I can wait,” I answered.

Time was running out. Several times I said I had to leave, but I kept having just one more question.

“Hey, here’s my quote for the day,” Booth said. “Everyone out there that hates Big Six, to all of them fuck you.”

There’s more to the case than came in court, he said.

Like he has evidence he was in Rochester at about 2:18 that morning, Booth said.

“I was in Rochester when all this stuff went down,” he said. “They pinged me on my cell phone … which would be 40 something miles from Wings Way,” he said.

I had a bad jury, Booth said.

“Like I said, I’ll have a new trial in the next five years,” Booth said. “If anyone thinks they’ve seen the last of me, they’re sadly mistaken.

“I’ve never lost an appeal and I always come back. And in a case like this, you can’t help but to win.”

Salkum triple murder: Victims cry, defendant lashes out at sentence hearing

Friday, December 16th, 2011
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Denise Salts, left, has a victim's advocate read her statement to the court during John A. Booth's sentencing on Friday in Lewis County Superior Court. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

This was updated at 3:23 p.m. and 7:22 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Convicted triple murderer John Booth Jr. turned toward the packed courtroom benches this morning after he was sentenced to life in prison and loudly, clearly stated: “Fuck you.”

It wasn’t clear who he was specifically addressing, but he had just listened to victims and their families for some 20 minutes tell the court he was a loser who should never again see the light of day.

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David "D.J." West Jr.

Because Booth’s conviction yesterday gave him a “third strike”, the mandatory sentence he got today was life in prison with no chance for release.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey told the courtroom the slayings were among the most gruesome in modern Lewis County history.

“Your conduct was vicious,” Brosey said.

“If there’s a case that justifies the death penalty in Lewis County, this would have been it,” the judge said.

Three jail guards sat directly behind Booth, with at least two more in the room along with a large number of sheriff’s deputies.

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David West Sr.

The 32-year-old former Onalaskan was found guilty by a jury yesterday on all counts: first-degree murder for the deaths of 16-year-old David “D.J.” West Jr. and 50-year-old Tony Williams of Randle. He was also convicted of second-degree murder for David West Sr., 52, and the attempted murder of Denise R. Salts, 52, as well as attempted extortion and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Booth denied even being present when the four were shot in their heads, but the jury took less than two hours to make its decision.

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Tony Williams

Two people who survived the events of Aug. 21, 2010 inside the Salkum-Onalaska area home addressed the court before Booth was sentenced.

John Lindberg held a blue bandana-handkerchief in his hand as he came forward to speak.

He thanked the offices of the sheriff and prosecutor and apologized to the court for the profanity he repeated when he testified.

“I’d just like to say to Mr. Booth, thank you for not killing me,” Lindberg said.

The 59-year-old plumber hid in a back room in the house during the shootings.

Lindberg shared the prayer he says every morning and night: “I pray he should never see the light of day again,” he said. “For as long as you are on God’s green earth.”

Denise Salts sat with a victim’s advocate who read her statement.

Salts had written it’s her turn to smile, “you’re the loser now.”

“There’s an angry part of me that wants to curse, swear and yell at you,” the advocate read. But then she thinks of Dave, D.J. and Tony, she said.

Tony William’s brother’s girlfriend, who did not give her name, said she believed Williams laid down his life for a friend that night. She spoke of the man, whose 13-year-old son and brother sat in the audience listening.

“Tony was our brother and best friend and some killer took him away from his family,” she said.

Jessica Porter conveyed her anger directly to the defendant, in an exchange not everyone in the courtroom could hear but continued until the judge asked her to address him.

“You took my brother, my dad, and you still sit here smirking and smiling,” Porter said to Booth. “And what did you get out of that? Nothing.”

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Jessica Porter, left, addresses the court with her mother Jodi Porter by her side. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

David “D.J.” West Jr.’s mother, Jodi Porter, spoke just a few words.

“Life in prison is too good for you,” she said. “Not that it matters to you, but you will meet your maker.”

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher and Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead had argued to jurors Booth and his former cell mate Ryan McCarthy visited the Wings Way house because they were “taxing” West Sr. on behalf of Lewis County drug dealer Robbie Russell.

The prosecutors contended when West Sr. brought out a shotgun to get them to leave, Booth shot him with a 9 mm handgun. The shootings that followed were executions to eliminate witnesses, prosecutors argued.

Meagher gave his sentencing recommendation to the judge.

“I guess as we say, strike one, strike two and, my gosh, strike three, four, five and six,” Meagher said. “This man needs to be sent to prison without the possibility of release.”

Port Orchard-based defense attorney Roger Hunko agreed the life without parole was the sentence the judge would impose.

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John Booth Jr. listens to proceedings, seated next to his lawyer Roger Hunko. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

When Judge Brosey gave Booth his opportunity to speak, Booth just said: “How about some probation?”

“For what,” the judge asked.

“Probably for when you kick me loose,” Booth replied.

The judge moved on.

When the judge imposed the sentence, he told Booth he didn’t think anyone in the courtroom, with the exception of Booth, believed a word of his testimony.

Brosey called Booth’s actions senseless.

He told Booth he could expect his first year in Walla Walla at the state penitentiary to be locked up alone in a cell the size of the judge’s bench and then remain in prison for the rest of his life.

That’s what you deserve, Brosey said.

Booth refused to sign his judgement and sentence document.

The judge held Booth in contempt and threatened to take away his credit for 478 days he’s already served. Brosey also suggested guards should help him affix his fingerprints to the document down in the jail instead of in the courtroom.

When the judge was finished, Booth asked: “Do I get to say anything?”

“You’ve said all you’re gonna say,” Brosey said.

By then, a line of seven law enforcement officers had filled the aisle in between the rows of courtroom benches.

That’s when Booth turned to the audience and made his final statement: “F*** you.”

The outburst elicited at least one “Rot in hell” and several other remarks to the defendant.

Hunko filed a notice of appeal.

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Jail guards and sheriff's deputies keep close to John Booth Jr. and block a path towards audience members and the door. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

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The courtroom on the top floor of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center in Chehalis is filled during the sentencing. / Photo by Sharyn L. Decker

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Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher consults with Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead and sheriff's detective Bruce Kimsey. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

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Tony Williams' brother Danny Williams and son Cody Williams listen to court proceedings. / Photo by Sharyn L. Decker

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John Lindberg addresses the court. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

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Judge Richard Brosey presides over the murder case of John Allen Booth Jr. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

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John Allen Booth Jr. is led out of the courtroom and back down to the jail. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

Clothing caught in a machine killed saw mill worker

Friday, December 16th, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The 20-year-old employee at Hampton Mill in Morton died Tuesday after his clothing got caught on his neck cutting oxygen off to his brain, according to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office.

Dillan Davis, 20, of Randle, was last seen during a break between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday and was found on a conveyor fatally injured, according to authorities.

The state Department of Labor and Industries is investigating the death.

It happened at the saw mill on state Route 7 just north of town.

What time Davis was discovered or if he was working alone have not been released by authorities. Lewis County sheriff’s detectives were called to the scene about 11:15 a.m.

It was an accident, Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said yesterday. An autopsy concluded Davis died from cerebral anoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) secondary to external compression of his neck by clothing, McLeod said.

McLeod said the time of death on Davis’s death certificate is noted as 2:28 p.m., the time his deputy coroner “pronounced” Davis dead.

“It’s a shame, just a young kid,” McLeod said. “I don’t want to see this happen to anybody, but …”

The mill is owned by Portland, Ore.-based Hampton Affiliates.

Breaking news: Triple-murder: Booth found guilty on all counts

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Updated at 6:56 p.m. and 7:24 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Jurors took only two hours – over lunch – to decide John Allen Booth Jr. was guilty on all counts in his triple-murder trial in Lewis County Superior Court today.

Booth, 32, faces a sentence of life without the possibility of release under the state’s so-called three strikes law.

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John Allen Booth Jr.

The former Onalaskan was convicted of first-degree murders for the deaths of 16-year-old David “D.J.” West Jr. and 50-year-old Tony Williams of Randle. He was convicted of second-degree murder for David West Sr., 52, and the attempted murder of Denise R. Salts, 52.

All were shot in the head.

The shootings took place Aug. 21, 2010 inside the Salkum-area home where the Wests and Salts had lived less than a year.

Lewis County prosecutors described the shootings as attempts to eliminate witnesses after West Sr. brought out a shotgun which prompted Booth to shoot him with a 9 mm pistol. The visit by Booth and his former prison cell mate Ryan McCarthy was related to “taxing” West Sr. on behalf of drug dealer Robbie Russell, according to prosecutors.

The eight-man, four-woman jury also found Booth guilty of attempted extortion and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Booth stood quietly beside his lawyer facing the judge, hands in trouser pockets, as the court clerk read the verdict, his eye lids dropping for a slightly long blink when he heard the word guilty.

The jury found he committed the offenses with a firearm, which adds time to a sentence, as well as determining Booth displayed or demonstrated an egregious lack of remorse in the slayings of David Jr. and Williams.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher and Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead described those killings as executions.

The 6-foot-3 Booth leaned back, elbow on the defense table and turned his chair toward jurors as they were polled one by one on the verdict.

When it was over, he made the comment, “Vote for Barack Obama.” Nobody replied.

Afterward, outside the courtroom, Meagher said: “This victory goes to law enforcement.”

“They caught this guy after on a manhunt after a week,” Meagher said praising the detective work.

While jurors asked to confer with the attorneys when it was over, defense lawyer Roger Hunko left without speaking to them.

“I really don’t have anything to say,” Hunko said as he packed his files into his car’s trunk outside the courthouse. “It is what it is.”

His client already has two “strikes” so another serious felony means his sentence will be life without parole, Hunko said.

When Booth took the witness stand yesterday, he denied being at the house except for earlier in the evening when he visited to collect money for a pound of methamphetamine he said he had “fronted” West Sr.

He will be sentenced at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.