By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
The year 2012 began with a 49-year-old Rochester woman being treated for serious injuries following a New Year’s Eve wreck on Brooklyn Road southwest of Oakville that fatally injured three of her companions.
Colleen L. Stuart was in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle while deputies investigated the single-vehicle collision that killed her boyfriend Gregory D. Martin, 52, of Rochester, as well as Travis W. Bennett, 26, and Jessica L. Brick, 22, both of Centralia.
Stuart died less than 11 months later after her truck ran into off the road into a fence on Old Highway 99 near Tenino.
An early morning fire on Valentines Day ravaged the Dr. Matz building in downtown Centralia displacing the residents of 12 upstairs apartments, Centralia Perk, an antique store, a tattoo shop, a barber shop, a hair salon and Curious Betty’s clothing boutique.
Linda Hamilton, owner of the oldest masonry structure in town, credited Jacob Dow for saving lives by pounding on doors to wake up the occupants. The fire marshal said a plausible possible cause was a candle burning on a desk inside Curious Betty’s, but the structure had to be demolished before a fire investigation was completed.
Twenty-five-year-old Joshua Vance was jailed for fatally attacking his father with a knife while he was asleep in bed in their Onalaska home.
Terry Vance, 58, was popular baseball coach. His son suffered from psychotic disorder and was said by his grandmother to have gone off his medication for a few days while his doctors were changing his prescription.
Joshua Vance was sentenced in October to 30 years in prison for first-degree murder.
Less than a week after Terry Vance’s death, Centralia police were investigating a homicide.
Weston G. Miller, a 29-year-old former welder, allegedly shot a houseguest twice, fleeing his B Street home while 43-year-old David Wayne Carson was dying.
Carson, who grew up in Centralia, had previously worked at Hardel Plywood and before that took care of expensive show dogs in California.
Miller has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and remains in jail awaiting a trial which is set for February.
Centralia City Council member and pastor of a downtown church Bill Bates was charged criminally for fatally shooting his neighbor’s cat with a pellet rifle, saying he was tired of the animal walking on his clean cars and messing in his beauty bark.
A deal was made so the 60-year-old – who said he was surprised the pet died as when he used the rifle on a possum in his yard, he had to shoot it three times to kill it – could keep his record clean if he paid restitution and refrained from shooting animals for six months.
After a trial that stretched over nearly two weeks, former Pe Ell High School softball coach Todd Phelps was convicted of third-degree rape involving a 16-year-old team member.
The attorney for the 52-year-old log truck driver painted a picture of a coach who became close to the girl because he was worried she was cutting on herself and might commit suicide. The prosecution told jurors of a man who gradually seduced a teen already troubled with low self esteem and depression.
Phelps was given a prison sentence two days shy of six years.
A 24-year-old member of the local National Guard drowned during the Pe Ell River run in mid-April.
Daniel Kuhn, of Olympia, wasn’t reported missing until two days after the annual event on the Chehalis River, but his body was found within days near the area he had last been seen in his small rubber raft between Doty and Dryad.
Tragic drownings on the Chehalis River continued with the early May loss of 8-year-old Nicholas Matchett when he apparently slipped off the steep bank behind his Boistfort area home.
Less than two weeks later, 16-year-old Christopher Puentes-Garay died while swimming southwest of Rochester.
The spring of 2012 was a deadly one for young people.
Another 16-year-old, Tyler S. Gonzalez, was killed when during an underage party, he drunkenly wandered onto Brockway Road and either laid down, passed out or went to sleep before he was run over by a full-sized SUV.
Well over 200 people came together in a Centralia park to raise candles for 2-year-old Koralynn Fister who died from head trauma and drowning while in the care of her mother’s boyfriend.
James M. Reeder, 25, claimed he found her face down in the bathtub and carried child to neighbors across the street from her house asking them to call 911 while he attempted CPR.
Prosecutors allege Reeder tortured and raped the toddler.
The lifelong Lewis County resident is charged with homicide by abuse and other related offenses. He remains held in the Lewis County Jail on $5 million bail awaiting a January trial.
An elderly retired businessman relocating to Arizona found a new friend – one that he called a hero – in Lewis County after his 31-foot travel trailer caught fire alongside Interstate 5 south of Chehalis.
Antonio Martinez of Napavine stopped to help the 79-year-old traveler rescue his dog from the far back of his SUV while numerous bystanders took photos and video. Firefighters miraculously found Ken Schumann’s cash savings among the ashes, but fortunately for Schumann, Martinez stuck around during the wait for the a tow truck.
When Schumann fell from the wreckage and gouged his wrist, Martinez was there to put pressure on the wound. Martinez took the dog to his home, and then went to the hospital to wait until Schumann was released.
Ed and Wilhelmina Maurin
News of an arrest from the 1985 slaying of an elderly Ethel couple took many by surprise.
Rick Riffe, 53, was brought from his home in Alaska to the Lewis County Jail and charged with the murder, kidnapping and robbery of Ed and Wilhelmina Maurin.
Sheriff Steve Mansfield described to a well-attended press conference how the sheriff’s office felt it had a strong case back in the early 1990s, but for whatever reason wasn’t able to persuade a prosecutor to file charges.
The Maurins were reported missing Dec. 19, 1985 after guests arriving for a Christmas party found nobody at their home. The following day, their car was found abandoned in the Yard Birds parking lot in Chehalis. Their bodies were discovered on Christmas Eve dumped near Adna.
Riffe has pleaded not guilty, but remains held in the Lewis County Jail on $5 million bail. His trial is scheduled for May.
It was so hot and dry, a red flag warning was put in place because of the potential for “explosive” fire growth.
While firefighters battled a blaze near Cle Elum that charred thousands of acres and carried a smokey haze over Lewis County, local crews were on edge with grass and brush fires from Toledo to Rochester.
In Mineral on Aug. 14, members of a half dozen fire departments spent six hours extinguishing fire that spread from a vacant building, to three outbuildings as well as brush and trees.
Two Lewis County men survived a deadly boat wreck near the entrance to Willapa Bay that took the life of 70-year-old rural Chehalis resident Robert “Tony” F. Garrity.
A Coast Guard helicopter from Astoria located the 24-foot vessel the morning of Sept. 5, after the trio didn’t return home the night before from a fishing trip.
Charlie Garrity, 26, of Chehalis, and Shad Hail, 30, from Centralia, were hoisted into the helicopter and taken to a nearby hospital. The Pacific County Sheriff’s Office said somehow the men strapped themselves to the overturned boat but sometime during the night the straps broke.
The month began with news of authorities seizing nine malnourished horses from a couple near Morton.
Joanne M. Simmons, 65, and Terry L. Simmons, 58, who live off of state Route 7, said they were in the process of giving the Kiger Mustangs away because they had too many. They were charged with animal cruelty.
Before the month ended, dozens of fox hounds were rounded up and confiscated from a 79-year-old Dryad woman’s property.
Nancy Punches was charged with animal cruelty as well as a violation of another state law regarding dog breeding.
Her 65 dogs were living in conditions described as deplorable, overrun with feces. Punches said she didn’t intend for them to multiply, but their fencing had deteriorated.
Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Wallace shot and killed an apparently suicidal motorist he stopped to help during the night at a gravel turnout along state Route 6 near Boistfort.
Sixty-four-year-old Gregory S. Kaufman of Napavine had superficial cuts to his neck and wrist and instead of laying his knife on the dashboard as asked, he got out of his car and advanced upon the deputy, according to authorities.
The Lewis County prosecutor concluded the shooting was justified.
Voters decriminalized recreational use of marijuana, leaving many dazed and confused about the historic changes.
While statewide the initiative passed by a little more than 55 percent, about that same proportion of Lewis County said no to the measure that still leaves no place to legally acquire weed.
After an approximately six-week long trial in Lewis County Superior Court, jurors returned a verdict in favor of Menasha Forest Products, saying it’s clear-cutting of trees above Glenoma was not to blame for mudslides that damaged properties belonging to 11 families.
The lawyer representing the plaintiffs said the timber company harvested on a steep, unstable slope causing the January 2009 destruction below. Menasha’s attorney said the company followed the logging rules set by the Department of Natural Resources.
A similar lawsuit involving seven other Glenoma property owners against Port Blakely is scheduled to go to trial in April.