Archive for January, 2012

Crime in Centralia: Back on downward track, chief says

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia last year experienced its lowest per capita crime rate in more than 50 years, returning to a downward trend Police Chief Bob Berg says began in 2005.

The overall crime rate in Lewis County’s largest city decreased by almost one-third from the year before, although 2010 had featured a huge spike in the level of crime, according to Berg.

The chief, hired in early 2004, last week released figures compiled for the Washington State Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program which are forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

WASPC expects to publish its 2011 Crime in Washington report with statistics from most police agencies around the state by mid-April.

Berg called the department’s targeted work during the past year outstanding.

“Aggressive police work and incarceration of several local career criminals, coupled with support and cooperation from the community no doubt contributed to the decrease,” Berg wrote in a news release.

Centralia officers made 508 felony arrests in 2011 compared with 302 in 2010, he wrote.

Berg’s numbers show 53.16 so-called part one crimes per 1,000 residents last year.

While overall rates for both violent and property crime decreased last year, three of the measured offenses rose compared to 2010, according to Berg.

Forcible rape was up 45 percent, from 11 incidents to 16; robbery was up 14 percent, from 14 to 16; and murder went up 100 percent, from zero to one.

A premature newborn was found decapitated last March in the trailer park home of its mother, Laura L. Hickey. A murder trial for the 25-year-old woman is scheduled for next month.

The remaining part one offenses have decreased compared with 2010. They are:

• Felony assault: down 25 percent (from 69 incidents to 52)
• Burglary: down 23 percent (from 211 incidents to 163)
• Theft: down 31 percent (from 841 incidents to 579)
• Motor vehicle theft: down 9.2 percent (from 65 incidents to 59)
• Arson: down 86 percent (from 7 to 1)

The statistical probability of a Centralia resident becoming the victim of a violent crime is less than one percent and the likelihood of being the victim of a property crime is 4.8 percent (compared with 7.8 percent the year before), according to Berg.

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UCR rate 2004 to 2011 in Centralia / Courtesy graphic by Centralia Police Department

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For last year’s story about area crime based on WASPC’s annual report, read “Crime up in Lewis County” from  Friday May 20, 2011, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

CHEHALIS WOMAN OUT $5,500 IN SCAM

• The sheriff’s office this morning reported a 71-year-old Chehalis woman was tricked into wiring thousands of dollars to a stranger who convinced her that her grandson was in jail in Mexico and needed bail money. A deputy who contacted the victim yesterday was told she sent $5,500 via Western Union, over a three-day period ending on Saturday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The Bishop Road resident subsequently learned her grandson had not even been in Mexico, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. Brown said it’s unlikely the money can be recovered as the woman did not know where the call even originated from.

THEFT

• Officers were called just before 2 o’clock this morning to an attempted break-in at a store in north Centralia. When police arrived at the 200 block of Downing Road, pry marks were found on a door and surveillance video showed several subjects must have been scared off when an alarm sounded, according to Officer John Panco.

• Centralia police were called about 7:40 a.m. today to a car prowl on the 500 block of Woodland Avenue. A checkbook was taken, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Mail was stolen from a vehicle when its windows were broken out overnight, according to a report made to police yesterday from the 100 block of Jalyn Street in Centralia.

UNRULY CITIZENS

• Three people were arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and one of them for resisting arrest about 1:30 p.m. yesterday at the 700 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia, according to police. Niko J. Wilson, 19, of Centralia, would not exit the vehicle when told to do so and after he was pulled out continued to try to avoid being handcuffed, according to Officer John Panco. Wilson was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police. A 21-year-old from Olympia and the 20-year-old driver from Centralia were released after being cited, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• After police were called to the 1200 block of Alder Street in Centralia yesterday morning to a report of someone possibly trying to hurt themselves, officers arrested a 43-year-old Centralia woman for obstruction. Officers had ordered her to leave the home because they wanted to get inside and she was in their way, Officer John Panco said.

UNWANTED HOUSE GUEST

• A Chehalis resident called police when she discovered someone might be living in her basement. An officer responding to the home on Northeast Franklin Avenue on Saturday was told the woman found items there that did not belong to her, such as a sleeping bag and bedding, according to police Sgt. Gary Wilson.

WRECK

• A 31-year-old driver was arrested for driving under the influence last night after he drove off the road and into a power pole in Winlock. The approximately 8 p.m. wreck on the 1400 block of Ferrier Road left the vehicle with only minor damage, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Jesse L. Peppers, of Winlock, told a deputy he was reaching for something in his glove box and when he looked up, he was hitting the pole, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

WINLOCK GARAGE CATCHES FIRE

• It was likely spontaneous combustion amongst items left on a floor that ignited a fire inside a Winlock garage yesterday. Lewis County Fire District 15 was alerted by a police officer on patrol to smoke and flames coming from a structure on the 300 block of Northwest Benton Avenue at about 2:40 p.m., according to Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Anderson. It was extinguished with one hose and did not spread to the rest of the house, according to Anderson. Nobody was injured and the garage’s contents sustained just minor heat damage, Anderson wrote in a news release.

Read about Toledo warehouse fire was arson …

Monday, January 30th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports the fire that destroyed a downtown Toledo warehouse in August was an arson.

The building belonged to volunteer Firefighter Nicholas Delin, of Toledo, who had recently shut down Toledo Hardware around the corner.

News reporter Natalie St. John writes that Toledo Police Chief John Brockmueller reported to the city council the Seattle-based company which investigated the blaze concluded it was likely started by an arsonist; and that the chief has several suspects.

Delin lost a similar building in a fire in Winlock about three years earlier.

Read more here.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, January 30th, 2012

HARASSMENT

• A 61-year-old Winlock man was arrested early Sunday at the 200 block of Markum Lane in Winlock after allegedly holding a gun and threatening to shoot holes in a roof. When a deputy arrived the gun had been taken away from Lonnie C. Cureton Sr. who was asleep on a couch, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Cureton was booked into the Lewis County Jail for harassment, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

ELUDING POLICE

• A 43-year-old resident of Centralia and Fort Lewis was arrested early Saturday after a pursuit by multiple police agencies that ended on Old Highway 99 Southwest in Tenino. Lewis County sheriff’s deputies were called about 7 p.m. the night before to the 1500 block of Farmview Avenue in Centralia where a woman said her husband was present in violation of a no-contact order, according to the sheriff’s office. Matthew R. Mecham had allegedly threatened his wife as well, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. Deputies were called again just after 2 a.m. and Mecham was pursued out Little and Big Hanaford roads and onto state Route 507, Brown said. His tires were flattened by a “spike strip” but he continued driving until his transmission “blew up,” according to Brown. In the back of his vehicle, a gun locker and gun case taken from his wife’s house were found, Brown said, Mecham was booked into the Lewis County jail for burglary, theft of firearms and a violation of a no-contact order, Brown said.

• A 50-year-old Winlock resident was arrested and booked early Saturday for attempting to elude after failing to stop for a deputy on Friday night along North Military Road, according to the sheriff’s office. Shawn H. Boren reportedly drove across a lawn into the brush and fled on foot before being found by police dog Leko a short time later, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning.

• A 41-year-old Ethel resident was arrested for attempting to elude following a Friday afternoon call about a disorderly person at the 100 block of Pinkerton Road in Ethel, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Lynn K. Jorgensen Jr. was found driving a motorcycle on the 1500 block of U.S. Highway 12 where he made a dangerous U-turn, and then returned to a field at the original address and tried to hide in a shop, the sheriff’s office reported.

THEFT

• A 21-year-old man was arrested yesterday afternoon in connection with the theft of jewelry from the 700 block of K Street in Centralia. The theft was reported to police about 1 a.m. Joshua M. Reetz, of Silver Lake, was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree theft, according to the Centralia Police Department. He was scheduled to be released without charges pending further investigation.

• A Toyota pickup reported as abandoned on Friday at West First and F streets in Centralia was found to be stolen out of Olympia, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• An estimated $6,000 of items were reported stolen from the 400 block of Independence Road, in Rochester the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. Among the items taken sometime between Jan. 10 and 19th were a pressure washer and a tool box, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

• Centralia police were called Friday morning to the 200 block of South Pearl Street about the theft of sterling silver flat wear from a display case.

• Police were called just before 11 p.m. on Friday about a television stolen from the 200 block of Jackson Street in Centralia.

• A Centralia teenager who said he tripped and then opened a door to a vehicle to break his fall was arrested for second-degree vehicle prowl and minor in possession of alcohol after a deputy was called about 8 a.m. on Sunday to a parking lot on the 1100 block of Spencer Road outside Toledo. Arrested at the same time as Devon J.M. Munsey, 18, was a 43-year-old Centralia resident, Christopher Couch, for attempted vehicle prowl, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• An officer took a report about 12:30 p.m. on Saturday of a car prowl on the 1100 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia. A CD player was taken from an unlocked vehicle overnight, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WRECK

• Troopers were called about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday to single-vehicle collision at U.S. Highway 12 just west of White Pass where 57-year-old Wenatchee man was injured. Ira D. Suesserman had been traveling westbound when his pickup truck struck a snowbank on the shoulder and rolled onto its top, according to the Washington State Patrol. Suesserman was taken to Morton General Hospital with a possible neck injury, according to the state patrol. His 1997 Ford F150 was described as totaled.

DRUGS

• A deputy called Friday night to the 300 block of South Military Road in Winlock to a complaint a drug pipe had been left in someone’s garage learned the pipe was gone but its owner’s truck was parked down the road, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. About an hour later, a Winlock police officer found Darold G. Teitzel, 46, of Winlock hiding under a truck next to the garage with the pipe and other items including a small baggie of suspected methamphetamine with him, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. Teitzel was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for a warrant, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia, Brown said.

Cooking fire destroys Chehalis house

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A two-story house ravaged by fire in Chehalis yesterday evening apparently started with a man cooking french fries in his kitchen.

Nobody was injured, but a dog and cat were unaccounted for at the home on the 500 block of Riverside Drive, Chehalis Firefighter Kevin Reynolds said.

It’s the second time in less than two months Reynolds and fellow firefighter Pat Gilligan have been the lone two members of the department on duty and responding as a crew of just two.

It was quite the fire for two people,” Reynolds said. “Once we had the manpower, we went upstairs with hoses.”

The Chehalis Fire Department was called around 5 p.m. and when they arrived, flames were coming out the kitchen door and window, as heavy smoke flowed out of the second floor, Reynolds said this morning.

An adult male got out safely; Reynolds wasn’t sure if anyone else was home at the time. The Red Cross responded to assist with finding a place to stay, he said.

Members of Riverside Fire Authority in Centralia and Lewis County Fire District 6 arrived to assist, and ultimately off-duty Chehalis firefighters with their ladder truck, according to Reynolds.

Their staffing usually consists of a team of three on duty, but nowadays if one is sick or on vacation, “you do what you can with what you’ve got” Reynolds said. He called it un-nerving.

He called the older, but sturdy home on Riverside Drive a total loss.

Reynolds, who has been with the department since 2001, the past nearly four years as paid member, said he doubts the house could have been saved even if a third firefighter was on duty, but a blaze the day after Thanksgiving is a different story.

“This one, for whatever reason, was going really hard and fast when we got there,” he said. “But on North Street, I know the outcome would have been different if we’ve had a third guy.”

On November 25, crews responded to Northeast North Street in between Market and Washington where a woman who pulled her pets out of her burning home suffered smoke inhalation.

Eventually some 25 to 30 firefighters joined them from three other departments but that home and its contents were also described as likely a total loss.

The changed staffing situation is a growing concern at the city department, according to Reynolds. It leaves him hoping the future holds a merger with surrounding departments.

“The thing to remember is s fire doubles in size every 60 seconds,” he said. “It’s everything we can do with two people just to stabilize a fire.”

•••

Read “News brief: Chehalis house burns” from Friday November 25,  2011, here

Read about preferred pain drug – methadone – now called last resort …

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Seattle Times reports doctors are receiving stark warnings that methadone is riskier and more dangerous than previously believed because it’s unpredictable and poses a heightened risk of accidental death.

Methadone is the same drug that got Toledo’s Dr. Lance Christansen in trouble after a string of patient deaths primarily attributed by authorities to over-prescribing methadone.

Two Seattle Times reporters wrote back in December about a “preferred” drug list that took effect in 2004 for doctors prescribing to those covered under injured workers claims, state workers and Medicaid.

That was the same year complaints began about Christiansen after four Lewis County residents died.

Among those who raised alarms about Christiansen, was the state Department of Labor and Industries, sparked by a call from the Lewis County Coroner’s Office about suspicious deaths.

In one of those deaths, the state alleged Christiansen prescribed five to 10 times the appropriate amount. His license to practice was subsequently taken away.
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Read  The Seattle Times story “Preferred pain drug now called last resort” from The Seattle Times on  Saturday January 27, 2012 at 8:59 p.m., here

State Supreme Court sides with defendant in Lewis County case

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The state Supreme Court has tossed out a man’s DUI conviction and part of his vehicular assault conviction saying prosecutors didn’t prove he was advised of his right to seek an independent blood alcohol test.

A trooper asked an interpreter to read the special warning and his rights in Spanish to Jose Matilde Morales at the hospital, but the state didn’t call the interpreter at trial to attest to that, nor was the signed form introduced into evidence, according to Thursday’s decision.

Morales, 51, was arrested in November 2004 after he “rolled the stop sign” and collided with another car at Big Hanaford Road and state Route 507 outside Centralia. A Bucoda woman and her elderly mother were injured.

He was convicted in Lewis County Superior Court of hit and run, driving under the influence and vehicular assault.

The vehicular assault charge included all three alternatives; DUI, driving recklessly and driving with disregard for the safety of others.

Morales’ lawyer had objected to the admission of the blood test because the only evidence regarding the special warning was the trooper’s testimony he had handed the form to the interpreter and listened while the interpreter spoke to Morales in a language the trooper did not understand, Supreme Court Justice Charles K. Wiggins wrote in the majority opinion. The blood test was admitted.

Judge Pro Tem R.W. Buzzard presided at the trial.

Morales appealed the DUI as well as the parts of the vehicular assault based on driving under the influence and driving recklessly.

The appeals court sided with prosecutors, and then the state Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

The knowledge of the right of independent testing of blood is especially important to a person’s defense because evidence that can prove or disprove the charge will disappear within a relatively short time, Justice Wiggins wrote.

The blood tests were erroneously admitted, the court decided.

The Supreme Court reversed the  DUI conviction and the parts of his vehicular assault conviction based on DUI and reckless driving.

The justices ruled eight to one in favor of Morales. Justice James M. Johnson wrote a dissent.

For Morales, the decision means only those convictions will be removed from his criminal record; he’s already served all his time, Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh said on Friday.

Elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said he and his staff talked about the case on Friday.

“Hindsight being 20-20, that witness should have been called,” Meyer said.

Meyer, who took office a year ago, pointed out the original deputy prosecutor who handled the case during its appeal also failed to brief the Supreme Court on the matter.

The trial and the appeal were handled by two deputy prosecutors Meyer didn’t invite to stay with the office after he was elected, he said.

•••

Read the Supreme Court decision, here

Read the dissenting opinion, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, January 27th, 2012

HIT AND RUN

• Deputies are looking for the driver of a stolen truck who crashed head-on into a van early this morning at Harrison Avenue and Foron Road in Centralia. Aid and the sheriff’s office called about 4:50 a.m. learned the driver of a white 1987 GMC truck had been turning right onto Harrison into the wrong lane when he ran into the van, according to the sheriff’s office. The truck driver fled on foot and could not be found even after a police dog track, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. The van’s driver, a 53-year-old Rochester resident, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with minor injuries, responders said. The pickup truck had been stolen sometime earlier in the night from Van Wormer Street in Centralia, Brown said. Brown is asking anyone with information about the truck or its driver to call 911 or Lewis County Crime Stoppers.

DRUGS AT GREEN HILL

• Chehalis police were called yesterday to Green Hill School where authorities said one of their residents was found in possession of a small amount of marijuana. The 16-year-old being held in the state juvenile detention facility didn’t have anything to say about where it came from, police detective Sgt. Rick McNamara said. The teen was arrested and then released since he’s already in the custody of Green Hill, McNamara said. How drugs could have gotten inside Green Hill is a good question, McNamara said. Police have found that sometimes it could be brought in, mailed in or even tossed over the fence, he said. The case will be referred for a possible felony charge of possession of a controlled substance in a prison facility.

ATTEMPTED BURGLARY

• Two 16-year-old Chehalis boys were arrested yesterday after they allegedly climbed over a fence and tried to get in through the side door of a home on the 2000 block of Jackson Highway in Chehalis yesterday. A deputy was called about 11:30 a.m. about prowlers in a backyard who apparently ran when they were startled by a resident and her neighbor, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.  Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said one was found walking up the road and the other returned to the scene. They were arrested and booked into Lewis County Juvenile Detention for attempted burglary, Brown said.

COMPUTER THEFT

• Centralia police were called about 4 p.m. yesterday about a laptop computer stolen from the room of a patient at a nursing home on the 1300 block of Alexander Street.

• A Dell laptop computer and an iPad were reported stolen from a home on the 1400 block of Oxford Avenue in Centralia last night. Police, called just after 8 p.m., could find no signs of forced entry, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WRECKS

• A 29-year-old Mossyrock man reportedly escaped injury when he lost control of his car yesterday on Cinebar Road and wrecked it into a ditch. A deputy responding around noontime reported the Chevrolet Cobalt sustained major damage to its front end, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• The Washington State Patrol reports the driver of the car that wrecked Tuesday morning on Interstate 5 south of Chehalis was Manuel L. Lara-Fregoso, 57, of Onalaska. Lara-Fregoso was northbound near milepost 73 about 10 a.m. when he lost control of his vehicle and hit the center barrier before crossing all three lanes to the shoulder where he struck a light pole and then a tree, according to the state patrol. The 1997 Chevrolet was described as totaled. Lara-Fregoso was treated and has been released from the hospital.

Drive-by shooting defendant gets 18-plus years

Thursday, January 26th, 2012
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Colbert A. Salmeron apologizes to Brandon Cagle for firing a gun toward him almost six years ago

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Twenty-five-year-old Colbert A. Salmeron’s eyes eventually welled up as he spoke in court yesterday pleading for leniency, forgiveness and apologizing for firing a gun toward a group of people in downtown Centralia more than five years ago.

“I never wanted to kill him, I did shoot that way, but I didn’t want to hurt them,” Salmeron said as he addressed Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler.

Salmeron said he was young, jealous and had been drinking, but now he’s a father with five children and knows what he did was wrong.

“I want to become a better person, be a better citizen,” he said.

It was August 2006 when at least four individuals were standing next to a pickup truck in a parking lot on North Tower Avenue and Salmeron pulled up and fired six shots striking vehicles, according to law enforcement. No persons were hit.

Salmeron was facing multiple charges of first-degree assault and hiding out in El Salvador when he was captured last year. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of first-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault and bail jumping.

He was a gang member, but the incident was over a woman with whom he and the target of his anger – Brandon Cagle – both had a relationship with, defense attorney James Dixon said.

In the Chehalis courtroom yesterday, some 15 supporters sat behind the defendant while Cagle was the lone victim who attended the hearing.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes and Dixon had worked out a plea deal in which Salmeron faced a sentence of somewhere between about 14 years and a little more than 19 years in prison.

Dixon asked for the low end of the sentence and Hayes asked for 17 years.

Lawler said he had it in his mind when he came to work he would impose the high end of the range, but aimed closer to the middle when it was all said and done.

“You could have killed a number of people with bullets flying all over the place,” Lawler said.

And you ran, he said.

Lawler noted Salmeron’s family support and said he was satisfied “what you can be is different from what you were.”

And, he sentenced Salmeron to 18 years and four months in prison, with credit for time served.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

POLICE DOG TRACKS WANTED MAN TO BACK YARD

• A police dog was called to the 1000 block of B Street in Centralia about 7:40 p.m. yesterday after a man wanted for a warrant was seen there by deputies but then fled on foot. Kayo and his partner Sgt. Brian Warren conducted a 20 minute track and found Marcus E. Prince, 39, behind a house a few blocks away, according to the Centralia Police Department. Prince, a Centralia resident, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital to get a bite wound on his arm stitched up and then taken to the Lewis County Jail, police Sgt. Carl Buster said. He was booked for a violation of a no-contact order as well, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

NEIGHBOR DOG VERSUS 76-YEAR-OLD MAN

• A 76-year-old Glenoma resident taking his nightly walk was attacked by a dog near the 200 block of Meade Hill Road, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. It happened about 7 p.m. last night, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. The man tried punching the Pit Bull but that didn’t stop it from biting him, according to Brown. He suffered five puncture wounds on his right hand, Brown said. The owners reportedly “put the dog down” before the victim returned home from his walk.

STRANGER ATTACK UNCONFIRMED

• Centralia police took a report just after 8 o’clock last night about a female being attacked by stranger at the 1200 block of Harrison Avenue but could not confirm an assault had occurred, according to Centralia police.

MAN ON PORCH WITH GUN ARRESTED

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday about a pair of men, one armed, trespassing on property on the 2300 block of Woodhaven Lane outside Centralia. A deputy was called just before 9 p.m. because Michael C. Brown, 27 and Randy D. Brown, 30, were reportedly taking photographs of a vehicle behind a house without permission, according to the sheriff’s office. The older Brown allegedly was also locking and unlocking the snap on his pistol’s shoulder holster while at the front door, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. The confrontation involved some type of dispute related to insurance, according to Chief Brown. Randy Brown was arrested for unlawful display of a firearm and booked into the Lewis County Jail,  Chief Brown said. Both Brown’s were cited for trespassing, she said.

THEFT

• A 19-year-old reported to the sheriff’s office yesterday that his laptop computer went missing while he stayed over a friend’s parents house in Winlock over the weekend. The young man and his friend had invited people over, some of whom they did not know, to the 300 block of Hawkins Road and Toshiba satellite computer he had taken with him disappeared, according to the sheriff’s office.

• Police were told an individual at the 1600 block of North Schueber Road in Centralia awoke after consuming alcoholic beverages to discover his video game system and other items had been stolen from his home. It was reported about 12:40 p.m. on Tuesday. The victim said he had left his front door unlocked for a friend, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Tools and other items were reported stolen when someone broke into property of Stihl Northwest on Hamilton Road North outside Chehalis about 4:30 a.m. on Monday, according to a report made to the sheriff’s office.

• A UPS packaged delivered to the front porch of a home on the 1200 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia was stolen, according to a report made to police on Tuesday.

• Police were called about 1:40 p.m. yesterday to the 1500 block of View Avenue in Centralia where someone had broken into a car and damaged its steering column.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police took a report of numerous types of gang graffiti tagged on a building on the 400 block of Kearney Street on Tuesday.

STUDIO BURNS DOWN

• Firefighters called about 7:45 p.m. yesterday to the 200 block of Rosebrook Road outside Chehalis found an outbuilding used an art studio on fire. The approximately 20 foot by 20 foot wood structure burnt to the ground pretty quickly, according to Lewis County Fire District 5. Nobody was injured, Fire Chief Eric Linn said. The cause is under investigation.

Read about former Chehalis police chief seeking Yakima chief job …

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that former Chehalis Police Chief Dale Miller is among six candidates to lead the Yakima Police Department.

Miller, 47, moved to Ellensburg to take over the chief position in the summer of 2006 after almost two decades with the Chehalis Police Department, the last two in the top post.

Yakima Herald-Republic news reporter Mark Morey writes the Yakima department employs more than 130 officers and operates with a $24 million budget.

Read more here

Breaking news: Two die in Interstate 5 wreck near Winlock

Thursday, January 26th, 2012
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A father and son from Vancouver died at the scene this morning when they collided with a big rig. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol.

Updated at 10:22 a.m. and 2:58 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A pickup truck that slammed into the rear of a semi truck on Interstate 5 this morning near the Toledo-Winlock state Route 505 interchange left two people dead.

The northbound lanes of the freeway remain closed after the approximately 8 a.m. wreck.

Traffic was being detoured around the closure, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Lewis County Fire District 15 was called just after 8 a.m. to the collision near milepost 63.

A helicopter landed on the freeway to transport one of the two male victims but he became deceased, Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Anderson said.

Anderson called it a very violent collision into the back of the big rig.

The Washington State Patrol identified the pair as a father and his teenage son from Vancouver, Wash.

Antoliy P. Kovalchuk, 43, and 15-year-old Mark Kovalchuk were at the end of of an approximately four-mile backup from an earlier wreck farther north when their Toyota T-100 pickup struck the rear of a Kenworth semi with a flatbed trailer, according to Trooper Ryan Tanner.

Neither were wearing a seat belt, according to Tanner.

The blockage was expected to continue until as late as 11:30 a.m., according to the state Department of Transportation.

News brief: Semi truck, van wreck on Interstate 5 south of Chehalis

Thursday, January 26th, 2012
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A semi truck lays on its side in the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 near about eight miles south of Chehalis. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol.

Updated 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A semi truck traveling northbound on Interstate 5 lost control of its trailer and slid on its side some 150 yards, blocking the roadway earlier this morning.

The 2005 International truck with two trailers was totaled as was a van that ran into one of the trailers, according to the Washington State Patrol.

It happened about 3 a.m. near milepost 68 south of Chehalis.

The state patrol reported the van’s driver, Michael H. Houseman, 42, of Rochester, was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital with chest pain as well as cuts to his face and arms. However, Lewis County Fire District 15 said he was picked up by a helicopter at Winlock High School and taken elsewhere.

The state patrol said his passenger, Gregory L. Aline, 20, also of Rochester, was unhurt, but District 15 Assistant Chief Kevin Anderson said the passenger was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital.

The semi truck driver, from Kent, is said to be uninjured.

The cause of the wreck is under investigation.

Trooper Ryan Tanner said at 8:30 a.m. the freeway lanes just re-opened.

However, another collision at about 8 o’clock this morning has shut down the northbound lanes at milepost 63, near the Toledo-Winlock state Route 505 interchange, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Traffic is being detoured around the closure, according to DOT spokesperson Heidi Sause.

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A 1990 Plymouth Voyager van crashed into one of the trailers. / Courtesy photo by Washington State Patrol.

Read about outlook grim for four missing at Mount Rainier …

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Tacoma) News Tribune reports a spokesperson for Mount Rainier National Park says the likelihood of the four people missing on the mountain being found alive is slim.

Read about it here

Read about Rochester residents get good news about power outages …

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian reports that after almost a week without electricity, Rochester-area residents were told they should get their power restored by today.

Read about it here

Read about small earthquake south of Morton …

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports a magnitude 3.4 earthquake occurred about 2:51 a.m. on Wednesday about 10 miles north of Mount St. Helens.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network described the quake as centered about 15 miles south of Morton and a little more than five miles deep.

Denise Salts: Drug charge decreased to misdemeanor

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
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Denise Salts, 52, was taken into custody this morning after pleading guilty to use of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor.

Updated at 4:05 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Prosecutors made a plea deal with Denise R. Salts to drop a delivery of methamphetamine charge admitting they were holding it over her head until after she testified in a triple-murder trial in which she was the only surviving victim.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt expressed his displeasure with the attorneys’ agreement Salts should serve no time on a lesser charge, and sent her to jail for eight days this morning.

Salts, 52, was shot in the face when her boyfriend David West Sr. and two others were slain in August 2010 inside her Salkum-Onalaska area home.

Then, the following June she was labeled one of the main narcotics distributors in East Lewis County when the sheriff’s office arrested her, alleging she gave a small baggie of methamphetamine to an informant in exchange for a $20 bill.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher amended the charge to unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor that comes with a sentence of zero to 90 days in jail.

He and defense attorney Michael Underwood agreed to recommend Salts get credit for the two days she served when she was arrested and no more time.

Both said there was no deal in place when she testified last month against John A. Booth Jr.

Meagher did not say Salts was unwilling to testify, only that he had lost track of her and didn’t know where she was. It was always his intent to reward her, he told the judge.

Hunt asked why they made a plea agreement.

“To be quite candid your honor, I felt sorry for her,” Meagher said.

Salts had no criminal history and is a former successful graduate of Lewis County Drug Court.

Hunt calmly blasted Salts for using the resources of his drug court and returning old habits, calling it beyond explanation.

She replied, “I don’t know, I can’t even tell you … I don’t know.”

The judge sentenced her 90 days in jail, with 80 days suspended and gave her credit for two days served.

•••

For background, read:

• “News brief: “Big” drug dealers in court tomorrow” from Wednesday June 22, 2011, here

• “Salkum triple murder: Victims cry, defendant lashes out at sentence hearing” from  Friday December 16, 2011, here

News brief: Driver injured south of Chehalis on I-5

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
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Responders at one-car crash off Interstate 5 near exit 72 / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 5

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Firefighters called to a single-vehicle accident on Interstate 5 south of Chehalis this morning found a car that had collided with a light pole and several trees, according to Lewis County Fire District 5.

It happened just before 10 a.m. in the northbound lanes near exit 72, according to Fire Lt. Laura Hanson.

The driver – the car’s only occupant – was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with injuries that called for an ambulance staffed with advanced life support personnel, according to Hanson.