Archive for March, 2013

High school senior class fund in Chehalis under scrutiny

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Chehalis police are investigating the possible theft of money from an account meant to cover expenses for the W.F. West High School class of 2013’s all-night party after commencement.

Tonya Burk, a Chehalis woman whose son is a senior, said some of the other parents recently asked her to audit the group’s records.

Burk said parents were surprised a few months ago to learn there was less than $8,000 saved up, when they thought it would be closer to $16,000.

A big red flag was raised when Security State Bank closed the account and contacted one of the parents in January, she said. Police were contacted shortly after that, she said.

Chehalis Police Department detective Sgt. Gary Wilson declined to offer much detail: “It’s an ongoing investigation,” Wilson said this morning.

Chehalis School District Superintendent Ed Rothlin said the school is not involved in the finances; it’s a privately held account that comes from a tradition of parents who collectively begin fundraising during their children’s freshman year to pay for graduation-related activities.

Burk said the efforts for her son’s class began when he was in eighth grade. Some parents paid “dues” each year, and they also held car washes and spaghetti feeds, conducted flower sales, put on haunted houses and did fireworks sales, she said.

She admitted it was somewhat of a loose-knit group, until recently. Since January, parents have pulled together and raised $7,000, she said.

“We don’t have enough totally, but we’re coming close, which is phenomenal,” Burk said.

The money this year is expected to pay for a mother-father barbecue, the baccalaureate gathering and the senior trip.

There are almost 270 seniors this year, according to Burk.

After graduation on June 8, the plan is to put them on charter busses and take them to a place called Bullwinkle’s near Portland, a venue with indoor laser tag, bowling, music and an arcade, she said.

Then they’ll travel to a trampoline park and return in the morning to a breakfast at the school, according to Burk.

“This is supposed to be a fun, safe trip where they can act like kids one last time,” she said.

Burk said the account wasn’t set up with a requirement of having two signers for withdrawals, which she called a mistake.

A one-time local volunteer of the year will be trying to work with school officials to find ways to pass along guidelines to the parents of future graduating classes, in hopes of preventing reoccurrences, she said.

News brief: Wayward cremated remains discovered at Centralia recycler reunited with family

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A nephew of Emmett Robert Nesteby, whose cremated remains were found at a Centralia recycling business, picked up his three family members’ remains yesterday but it’s still a mystery how they ended up where they did.

The ashes of three individuals were discovered at Hand ‘n Hand recycling last October and turned over to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office.

They were tucked inside the hollow space of what looked like it was a pedestal base for a sun dial or bird bath.

Coroner Warren McLeod said his staff tried to track down relatives, using funeral home labels attached to the three plastic bags. On Friday, McLeod asked the news media to publicize the names.

TV news reporters found the nephew in Walla Walla before the weekend began.

McLeod said the pedestal turned out to be a product distributed by funeral homes especially made to hold cremated remains. It’s something one might place in a garden.

The nephew traveled to Chehalis yesterday and was extremely grateful for those who returned the remains, McLeod said.

“He wasn’t sure which relative may have had them,” McLeod said.

Nesteby, 76 when he died 13 years ago, is the father of Wayne Nesteby, who was 43, when he died in 1997, according to McLeod. Marjorie Boyer, age 77 when she died in 2004, is the mother, he said.

The senior Nesteby was a decorated WWII veteran, and a memorial with full military honors is on the horizon, according to McLeod.

The coroner hypothesized the pedestal was inadvertently discarded by someone, at some point who probably didn’t know what it held.

The deceased were cremated in Oregon and Arizona, according to the labels.

The coroner’s office had learned of a daughter, Kathleen Colley, who more than a dozen years ago had an Oregon address and phone number. That’s where they hit the dead end.

McLeod said he has now learned Colley lived in Packwood but is dead also. She and her husband lost their property there last year to foreclosure, he said.

It still doesn’t answer the question of how the three ended up at a Centralia recycler though.

“The main thing is, we got them back to their family,” he said.


For background, read “News brief: Partial “urn” with cremated remains turns up at local recycler” from Friday March 15, 2013 at 9:54 a.m., here

News brief: Sunbird parking lot accidental shooting brings criminal charge for Centralia man

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 40-year-old Centralia man who accidentally sent a bullet through his hand and into his wife’s leg while handling a pistol in the Sunbird Shopping Center parking lot in late February is scheduled to be arraigned next month on a charge of reckless endangerment.

Mark D. Solomon was not arrested, but was summonsed to Chehalis Municipal Court with a letter.

Chehalis Police Department detective Sgt. Gary Wilson at the time said he wanted to let the couple “get fixed up” before reviewing any possible violations of the law.

Officers called the afternoon of Feb. 27 said Solomon had just purchased a new holster and was putting his gun inside it while standing next to his truck. Both were hospitalized; the 35-year-old wife was sent to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for surgery

Wilson said he didn’t see any intent to do harm, but recklessness that could have seriously injured or even killed others that day, whether Solomon’s wife or other individuals in a public parking lot. Wilson issued a criminal citation on March 4.

Reckless endangerment is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and / or a fine of $10,250.

Just two days after the Chehalis incident, a Vader man handling his 40 caliber handgun at home fired a round through his hand, sending pieces of debris flying that struck his 12-year-old son who was nearby.

None of the injuries were life threatening, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. No charges are being filed from that situation as there was no evidence of a crime, according to the sheriff’s office.

Solomon is scheduled to appear before a judge on April 3, when he can enter his plea.

For background, read “News brief: Two injured with accidental gunshot at Chehalis store” from Wednesday February 27, 2013, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013


• Someone cut the lock on the back door of a business on the 1100 block of West Main Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police about 3:20 a.m. today. The building was checked and nothing appeared to be missing, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Three rolls of barbed wire and 40 steel fence posts were discovered missing yesterday from property on the 100 block of Clinton Road outside Chehalis. The items were taken sometime during the previous eight days, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The loss is $00.


• A 51-year-old Mossyrock man was arrested last night for alleged theft and trafficking in stolen property, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Daniel S. Beaty was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office. Further details were not readily available.


• A deputy was called just before 9 a.m. yesterday about a car prowl in which a 22 caliber “Sterling Arms” pistol was stolen from an unlocked vehicle. Also missing at the 100 block of Harold Drive south of Chehalis from the SUV belonging to a 35-year-old man and 38-year-old woman were a checkbook, CDs, sunglasses, a chainsaw and other valuables, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A side window was broken as well, according to the sheriff’s office.


• Prescription medication was reported stolen from a vehicle at the 1600 block of Kresky Avenue in Centralia yesterday.


• Centralia police were called yesterday about 5:30 p.m. to the 400 block of South Silver Street where tires were slashed on a vehicle.


• Centralia police were called just before 6 a.m. to the Pepper Mill motel on the 1200 block of Alder Street to a complaint about a woman hanging out in the restroom. When officers contacted her, Felicia D. Lane had personal belongings spread about and among them were syringes that, when swabbed, field tested positive for methamphetamine, according to police. Lane was booked into the Lewis County Jail for drug possession, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• And more, such as arrests for misdemeanor assault, warrant; responses for fender benders, lost or stolen wallets, side mirror ripped from a vehicle, child butt dialing 911, a guy jailed after visiting the sheriff’s office and a discovery he had failed to connect with his probation officer; and requests for assistance with disorderly customers, a teen that ran away (for 45 minutes), sounds as though someone turning a door knob to a back door during the night … and more.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, March 18th, 2013


• A 27-year-old Onalaska man being detained after a family dispute at the 200 block of Guerrier Road found himself in more trouble after he allegedly struck a deputy in the face and head butted the back window of a patrol car, breaking it. It happened after deputies were called about 1:30 p.m. on Friday to a report Corey J. Hickman had assaulted a family member and slashed a tire on their vehicle, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The deputy sustained a cut above the eye and Hickman had an unspecified injury, both of which were treated at Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the sheriff’s office. Hickman was subsequently booked into the Lewis County Jail for two counts of third-degree assault plus malicious mischief, Cmdr. Steve Aust said.


• A 43-year-old Centralia man was arrested about 12:30 a.m. on Sunday for allegedly going into his ex-girlfriend’s home at the 3700 block of Prairie Avenue outside Centralia and getting into a fight with a male who was there. Both sustained minor injuries and James B. Westley was booked into the Lewis Count Jail for first-degree burglary, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.


• A burglary was reported about 2 p.m. yesterday at the 200 block of Kennedy Road in  Ethel in which numerous items were taken, including two televisions, alcohol, toys, a comic booked collection, a rock collection and  a package of frozen pork. The break-in happened sometime after 5 p.m. on Friday, resulting in a loss of more than $2,200, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.


• A cell phone and other items were stolen from a home on the 900 block of Ham Hill Road in Centralia as well as a white 1991 Buick out of its garage, according to a report made about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.


• Centralia police collected blood from a broken window for a DNA check following a burglary to a business at the 1000 block of Kresky Avenue reported on Saturday morning. Several items including electronics were missing from the driving school building, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Someone burglarized a shop on the 1000 block of state Route 6 west of Chehalis sometime after 4:15 p.m. on Thursday and early the following morning and made off with a 2004 Arctic Cat ATV, a Stihl chainsaw, a Stihl blower and a Craftsman air compressor, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.


• A powder blue Lexus was reported stolen from the 100 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia at about 2:40 a.m. on Saturday.


• A storage shed was burglarized at the 1400 block of South Gold Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police on Friday afternoon.


• Someone prowled a vehicle at the 100 block of Chilvers Road and stole an LA Lakers hat, the stereo, the radiator and the battery, according to a report made to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office yesterday morning.

• Chehalis police were called about 11:15 a.m. yesterday after a vehicle prowl at the park and ride on West Main Street. An air compressor was missing from the back of a truck, according to the Chehalis Police Department

• Numerous trucks inside a fenced compound were prowled at Johnson Road and Industrial Drive in Centralia, according to a report made to police about 8:30 a.m. on Friday. A police dog track helped recover some of the missing items in nearby bushes, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Morton police were called about 5 p.m. on Thursday when an individual was seen entering a home through a window at the 100 block of Collar Avenue. The resident had misplaced his house keys and was trying to get inside, according to the Morton Police Department.


• Centralia police were called yesterday about a window being broken out of a vehicle at the 600 block of West Center Street, another at the 400 block of Kearney Street, tires slashed overnight at the 500 block of West Fourth Street and finally, at the 500 block of North Iron Street, one vehicle with tires slashed and a window broken out.


• A 22-year-old Chehalis resident escaped serious injury when a vehicle moved into his lane and knocked him off his motorcycle at about 5:20 p.m. Friday at the 1700 block of North National Avenue, according to police. The victim was scraped up but didn’t need to go to the hospital, according to the Chehalis Police Department.


• Firefighters responded to an alarm about 7:30 a.n. today at Scot Industries on Foron Road outside Centralia when sparks ignited oil in an underground trough. Workers had put it out with fire extinguishers, according to Riverside Fire Authority.


• And more, such as arrests for warrants and DUIs, calls for  shoplifting (deodorant, underwear in two separate incidents), fender benders, verbal disputes, suspicious circumstances, bad check, graffiti on fences, asking for help with disobedient teens, removing an unwanted snake from a kitchen, complaints about loud music and a customer trying to pay for gas with change instead of real money … and more.

Driver plows into busy Outlet Mall store, three times

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

“Witnesses said they heard ‘bang, revving, bang, revving, then a crash’.” – Officer Buster. / Courtesy photo by Andy Jacaway

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An elderly driver accidentally rammed a building three times yesterday before the front end of his Cadillac broke through an exterior wall scattering shoppers at the VF Factory Outlet in Centralia.

Nobody was injured, even though it was a fairly busy day, according to Centralia Police Department Sgt. Carl Buster.

The Longview man, 90, and his wife were still sitting in the vehicle when police arrived, with the nose of the sedan inside the store, according to police.

“It was fortunate, not a single person got hurt,” Buster said.

Police were called about 2:15 p.m. to the 100 block of High Street, just east of Interstate 5.

The couple had finished shopping and were exiting a parking spot in front of the store, Buster said.

Witnesses outside told police the car backed up, struck a vehicle behind it, shoving it into a second vehicle and then the man put his car in drive and went forward, jumping over the curb and hitting the building, according to Buster.

Witnesses said the engine was revved up really high, Buster said.

“One witness said the guy backed up four or five feet and then hits the building a second time,” Buster said. “He backs up for a third time, and this time he goes through the wall like two feet into the store.”

People inside the store were crying, saying they had no idea what was happening, Buster said.

Sarah Cain said it seemed as though an angry customer had decided to ram the building on purpose, and she watched as items tumbled off a nearby shelf.

It sounded like a bomb going off, Cain said. She estimated there were about 50 customers inside.

“By the third time, people were running out of the building screaming,” she said.

The damage to the Cadillac was surprisingly minimal, but it left a hole in the stucco wall about the size of the hood of a car, Buster said.

The car was towed though, because it lost some fluids, he said.

Officers decided not to ticket the man because it was on private property and there was no criminality involved.

“He said, ‘That car is so quiet and sound proof; I couldn’t hear the engine revving’,” Buster said. “He thought he was pushing the brake.”



Damage to the car was minimal. “It would have been a great Cadillac commercial.” – Officer Buster. / Courtesy photo by Megan Wilber

News brief: Two injured, horses unhurt in I-5 wreck at Centralia

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Firefighters respond to truck versus semi collision on Interstate 5 at Centralia. / Courtesy photo by Riverside Fire Authority

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A loaded horse trailer broke loose from a truck on Interstate 5 in Centralia today, leading to the pickup swerving and then getting struck by a semi truck.

Troopers and aid called about 12:45 p.m. to the northbound lanes just south of the freeway exit to Harrison Avenue found the Ford pickup truck atop the concrete center barrier facing the wrong direction.

The horse trailer gradually parked itself about 100 yards away against a guard rail on the right shoulder, according to responders.

The passenger had only minor injuries but the driver was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with possible serious injuries, Riverside Fire Authority Capt. Terry Ternan said.

Crews had to cut him out of the vehicle, Ternan said.

The investigating trooper reports the horses were not injured and the cause of the incident was the hitch breaking.

Passenger Flora L. Wood, 64, of Graham, was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital. The driver, Donald R. Rackley, 68, of Graham, was airlifted from Providence with possible head and other injuries, according to responders.

The semi-truck driver, 66-year-old Arnold Horath of Tenino, was unhurt, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup – “Must-be-nearing-a-full-moon Edition”

Friday, March 15th, 2013


• A 33-year-old inmate reportedly upset about his medical treatment allegedly struck a corrections officer in the face with his fist yesterday morning at the Lewis County Jail in Chehalis. The jail employee ended up with a split lip and Adam T. Beaubien, from Yelm, was additionally booked for third-degree assault,  according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.


• Deputies called about 3:15 p.m. yesterday to the Toledo area about a man who may have had a gun and reportedly threatened to kill family members found the 37-year-old incoherent and curled up on the floor of a horse barn. When told to show his hands, he jumped up and approached a deputy so he was Tased, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. During the interaction at the 100 block of Smokey Valley Road, a deputy suffered a cut to the face which was treated at the scene, according to the sheriff’s office. Matthew H. Pettit, of Toledo, was arrested for harassment and third-degree assault and booked into the Lewis County Jail, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. He didn’t have a gun.


• A 28-year-old homeless person who allegedly stole a cup of coffee and took up a “fighting stance” when contacted by police was wrestled to the ground around 5 a.m. yesterday in the area of the 500 block of South Tower Avenue, according to the Centralia Police Department. Matthew E. Eastman was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.


• A 20-year-old homeless man was arrested after he reportedly stole soap from a vacant residence on the 2100 block of Southwest Salsbury Avenue in Chehalis yesterday evening. Marcus L. Day, from Auburn, said he was just trying to keep himself clean, according to police. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail for burglary, according to the Chehalis Police Department.


• A 49-year-old Centralia woman was arrested for disorderly conduct yesterday afternoon when police discovered she was walking in traffic at South Pearl Street and Centralia College Boulevard. Barbara A. Heppe was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• A 38-year-old Olympia woman was arrested for disorderly conduct around 11:15 a.m. yesterday after police were told she was screaming at unspecified citizens who feared she might assault them at the 700 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia. Jamielee Madsen was booked into the Lewis County Jail,  according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Two people were arrested at a motel on the 1300 block of Lakeshore Drive in Centralia around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, one of whom was a 47-year-old woman who allegedly stepped in front of officers when they attempted to arrest a 44-year-old man wanted on an outstanding warrant. Centralia police said Mitchell W. Sinclair hid under a bed and was Tased when he wouldn’t follow the officer’s instructions. Raelynn D. Gonzales was arrested for obstructing, according to police. Both are Centralia residents, according to police. Both were booked into the Lewis County Jail.


• Deputies called Wednesday night about obscene phone calls received at a Toledo area home arrested a 69-year-old neighbor at the 200 block of Drews Prairie Road. William M Bowers, was a former longtime friend of the couple he allegedly phoned, leaving lewd messages, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies said Bowers resisted arrest and was booked into the Lewis County Jail for telephone harassment and resisting, according to the sheriff’s office.


• Centralia police arrested a 25-year-old man last night who allegedly tried to grab money from another person at the 1200 block of Alder Street. Booked into the Lewis County Jail for misdemeanor assault and attempted robbery was Dominic L. Combs, a Centralia resident, according to the Centralia Police Department. Further details were not readily available.


• A white 1992 Honda Accord station wagon was reported stolen yesterday from the 100 block of Haliday Road in Centralia. It had been left unlocked with the keys in the ashtray, according to the Centralia Police Department. The license plate is AKJ 9239, according to police.


• Someone broke into the old Vader Jail sometime during the past year, a deputy was told on Wednesday. The building in the south Lewis County town is a museum and among the missing items are old “Little Falls bricks,” according to the sheriff’s office. A list of what’s missing is being compiled, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said yesterday. It’s unknown how they got inside, Brown said.


• Centralia police took a report about 1:20 p.m. yesterday about mail stolen from a mailbox at the 1200 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia.


• Police were called to an unoccupied residence on the 300 block of North Washington Avenue on Wednesday morning after the discovery someone had taken wiring and pipes, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Police were called about 3:15 p.m. yesterday regarding the theft of six pressure treated fence posts from the 900 block of Goff Street in Centralia.


• Centralia police took a report about 2 p.m. yesterday from the 1200 block of Prospect Avenue regarding the fraudulent use of a credit card.

• Centralia police are following up with suspect information after a report yesterday morning an individual cashed fraudulent checks in the amount of $500 at a bank on the 1200 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia.


• A man called police about 5:45 p.m. yesterday after he heard a loud noise and then discovered damage to the rear end of his vehicle at the 300 block of Southwest James Street in Chehalis.


• A 35-year-old Centralia man was hospitalized with minor injuries after a head-on collision yesterday morning on the 800 block of Centralia Alpha Road outside Chehalis, and then he was taken to jail. Firefighters called about 10 a.m. found both drivers had gotten themselves out of their vehicles, which were described as totaled. A 61-year-old Chehalis man traveling in the Dodge Dakota pickup was uninjured, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The Saturn’s driver was arrested because he had an outstanding warrant from California and initially gave a deputy his brother’s name instead of his own, according to the sheriff’s office. Chad R. Crow, 35, was booked for identity theft.


• And more, such as complaints of misdemeanor assaults, violations of protection orders, shoplifts, a folding chair missing from a porch, loud music, hypodermic needles found in a mailbox, cars left in a no-parking zone, a man panhandling, a car squirreling around a play field, a “big red-headed chick” who ran her grocery cart into someone’s leg, a “defiant” student in the vice principal’s office, a dog which might “mess” on a school playground, and fender benders including one at the 900 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia about 2:10 p.m. on Wednesday when a driver struck another vehicle and a building after failing to put her car in park and more …

News brief: Partial “urn” with cremated remains turns up at local recycler

Friday, March 15th, 2013

The hollow portion of what looks like stand for a bird bath contained the cremated remains of three individuals. / Courtesy photo Warren McLeod

Updated at 1:40 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Coroner’s Office is seeking the public’s assistance in locating the next-of-kin for three sets of cremated remains found at a Centralia recycling business.

Coroner Warren McLeod suspects they are from the same family and were inadvertently discarded. They were turned in to the coroner in October, who has run into a dead end.

The decedents are: Marjorie Boyer, age 77 when she died on Feb. 4, 2004; Emmett Robert Nesteby, age 76 when he died on Feb. 8, 2000; and Wayne Nesteby, 43, who died on Sept. 26, 1997, according to McLeod.

Th remains were inside three labeled plastic bags inside an ornate ceramic container which looks like a pedestal base to a sun dial or maybe a bird bath, according to McLeod.

The pedestal is light weight, about two and half feet tall and appears to be something one might place in a garden.

Information from a funeral home involved led to the name of a daughter, Kathleen Colley, who 13 years ago had an Oregon address and phone number, according to McLeod.

The labels are from funeral homes in Parker, Arizona; Gresham, Ore. and another city in Oregon, according to McLeod.

If anyone knows Colley or the others, they are asked to contact the coroner’s office at 360-740-1376.

Update at 7:38 p.m.: McLeod says a nephew has been located in Walla Walla and will be coming over on Monday to pick up his family members.

Knapp confesses she stole money from Chehalis museum as its director

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Deborah Knapp leaves the courtroom without comment after pleading guilty to four counts of first-degree theft.


By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Deborah Sue Knapp said very little today when she admitted stealing thousands of dollars from the Lewis County Historical Museum while she worked as its executive director.

Today’s hearing in a Chehalis courtroom was brief.

Knapp, 53, pleaded guilty pursuant to a deal in which she will pay restitution in exchange for a recommendation to the judge she serve 12 months in jail, which she could do on work release if she’s able to find a job.

What her actual sentence will be, will be up to a judge when Knapp returns to Lewis County Superior Court on the afternoon of May 3.

How much she stole and the amount she could be ordered to repay has not yet been agreed upon by attorneys on the two sides.

Knapp was arrested at the end of 2011 after revelations the non-profit’s endowment fund of more than $460,000 was gone and its other accounts were in the red by about $14,000

The four officers on the 13-member museum board were replaced and the new board president said at the time the books hadn’t been in balance since 2008. Knapp was hired as the director in July 2006.

Knapp’s lawyer said it’s hard to assess exactly how much his client is responsible for, but that it is much less than originally alleged.

“She did not steal all of it, or even most of it,” Chehalis attorney Ken Johnson said.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said he believes he could prove it was at least $137,000.

Part of the plea agreement required that Knapp pay $20,000 of the restitution by today, and that was done. The money was a loan from extended family of Knapp’s and was deposited with the county clerk’s office, Johnson said.

Johnson said his client moved to Clark County shortly after the case was filed. She and her husband are living in a mobile home and scraping by, he said.

The hope is she can find employment before her sentencing date, so she can serve her time with the Clark County Jail on work release, according to Johnson.

“She’s doing the best she can, she’s also had health problems,” he said.

Halstead said this is one of those cases in which the defendant needs to go to jail, but his office also wants to help the museum.

“If she goes to prison for a year or two, she’s not going to be making restitution payments,” Halstead said. “And after she got out, she would be paying back $25 a month.”

Prosecutors allege Knapp basically doubled her salary for a period of time, obtaining “draws” that weren’t subsequently accounted for, writing her own payroll draw checks without anyone else’s knowledge and many times listing them in the check register as voided.

Her salary was $43,000 per year. Her responsibilities included overseeing the day-to-day operations of the museum in downtown Chehalis and supervising three part time employees and the volunteers.

She used the museum’s debit card to pay personal expenses, including her power bill on Fineview Road for at least two years, according to prosecutors.

Among the odd debit card purchases were items for her daughter’s wedding and flowers for former prosecutor Michael Golden’s campaign, according to Halstead.

“It’s heart breaking, the breach of trust,” said Julie Zander, a museum board member for one year after the scandal came to light.

Zander, former museum board member Edna Fund and its new board president Peter Lahmann were among almost a dozen spectators who sat behind the prosecutor in the Chehalis courtroom this afternoon.

In the benches on the defense side, were just a small handful of women.

The modified charges state that Knapp wrongfully obtained more than $5,000 in each of four years, ending with 2011.

Judge Nelson Hunt read aloud Knapp’s brief statement admitting to four counts of first-degree theft and asked for her plea on each count.

Four times, Knapp simply answered “guilty”.

Although authorities had said they would continue delving into financial records going back to when Knapp was hired, that wasn’t done, leaving any misappropriations during 2006 and 2007 unknown, according to Halstead.

Lahmann, the apprenticeship coordinator for the Laborers Union, took time off work to be in court. He started in the position of museum board president in January.

“What can I say, it is what it is,” Lahmann said. “There’s no joy here, it’s just the legal system in action.

“Hopefully we can get the museum back on track. We have a good board, good volunteers, a good director. It’s a small organization.”

The museum, which resides in a former rail station on Northwest Front Way, remains open, although it did close its doors for a period in late 2011.

Lahmann said he thinks there are 10 or 12 individuals on the board now, but they are in the midst of rewriting the bylaws.

Marie Panesko, whose husband John Panesko sat as board president during the year following Knapp’s arrest, pointed out the current museum board has both new and old members.

“So there’s continuity, but a lot of new blood,” she said. “That’s important for the community to know.”

While prosecutors initially charged Knapp with 10 counts of first-degree theft and amended down the charges to four counts, the dollar loss they attribute to the former museum chief hasn’t changed.

Halstead still indicates roughly $45,000 in theft through her paychecks and $92,000 from personal use of the organization’s debit card.

His approximations of where the endowment fund went are $137,000 from Knapp’s theft, $150,000 spent to benefit the museum and $100,000 in losses to the account from a downturn in the market and penalties assessed for early withdrawals. The rest is unaccounted for, he said.

The endowment was a fund meant to be left untouched, so it could generate interest which could be spent. In January 2008, it contained $460,516. By Oct. 15, 2010, it had a zero balance.

Defense attorney Johnson said he pored through the records and could only find one withdrawal from the endowment that was properly board-authorized; it was a paving project, he said.

Johnson noted that sometimes with large thefts of money, one sees spending on big trips, new cars and such.

“That’s not what we have here,” he said, indicating Knapp wasn’t all that good with her own finances.

The two attorneys hope to come to a consensus about the amount Knapp should repay the museum by her sentencing date. If they don’t, and it goes to a hearing, the judge has the option of tripling whatever amount is determined, according to Halstead.

What’s problematic, is figuring out the debit card expenditures, according to Johnson, since there were multiple people with access to the museum debit cards.

“It’s hard to believe an organization like this would use debit cards,” he said. “How do you keep track of how much you’re spending?”

Johnson called the museum obviously poorly run and negligent in not following its own rules.

The bylaws said a committee should be organized to manage the endowment, he said. They had no committee, he said. It was supposed to take the authorization of two board members to withdraw funds from it, he said.

Johnson said his client took a certain amount of money that didn’t belong to her, and that’s what the criminal case is about, but the broader lesson is they were all operating with someone else’s money.

“They have a fiduciary responsibility to manage that money,” he said.

They didn’t have a budget, according to Johnson.

“Here’s an organization that had a paid bookkeeper and a paid (board) treasurer,” he said. “And they couldn’t seem to keep track of it.”

Johnson’s assessment is much of the endowment was used to make ends meet for the museum, which was living beyond its means.

Newly elected Lewis County Commissioner Fund is one person who was a museum board member from shortly after Knapp was hired and until this past December.

How the board was in the dark about museum finances is easier to see now, according to Fund.

The board treasurer did give reports to the board, Fund said.

“This is one of the curiosities, and I hate to dredge this up,” she said. “But the treasurer is like 80 or 78 years old.

“She would say, ‘what’s the balance Debbie? And (Debbie) would give it to her.”

Board approval was required for withdrawals from the endowment, but the requests were not made, according to Fund.

“Debbie controlled the information that went to the (board) treasurer, who was also the (museum) bookkeeper,” Fund said. “In hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to have that be the same person.”

Board meetings were held quarterly, and sometimes cancelled by the board officers, she said.

“When this all started, I thought, lessons learned,” Fund said.

Among those lessons, according to Fund, is she should have resigned from the board when she wasn’t able to be an active participant.

Fund said she and board member Dennis Dawes, began to get suspicious, and tried to get the board to agree to obtain the bank records, an idea the majority of the board rejected in October 2011.

Another lesson, according to Fund.

“Do not allow your friendships to affect checks and balances,” she said. “This is probably one of the biggest travesties to many of us; Debbie was our friend.”

Nobody but Knapp has been implicated in the losses, criminally, according to Halstead.

“I haven’t been presented with anything that would indicate anyone else was involved with the missing money, or the taking of funds,” Halstead said.

For background, read:

• “Prosecutor: Former museum director gave herself thousands of dollars in fraudulent payroll draws” from Friday December 30, 2011, here

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


Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013


• A 43-year-old Mossyrock man was arrested yesterday for allegedly head butting his girlfriend, leaving her with a broken nose. Deputies were in the area of Young Road on another matter and just happened to talk with the 36-year-old woman, noticed she had been hit in the nose and asked about it, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. She said that earlier in the day her boyfriend had head butted her and also choked her, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. Kenneth L. Thompson was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree assault, according to Brown.


• Centralia police were called about 4:40 p.m. yesterday to the 1900 block of Johnson Road in Centralia where they once again arrested 69-year-old John C. Baker. The Centralia man reportedly violated a no-contact order in which the petitioner is a 42-year-old woman and shoved her, according to the Centralia Police Department. A week ago, Baker was arrested for misdemeanor assault for grabbing a 42-year-old woman at the same address and allegedly threatening to snap her neck. Sgt. Stacy Denham said it’s Baker’s house where yesterday’s incident occurred and Baker is not supposed to be there as the victim resides there also.


• A 15-year-old student was suspended from Onalaska High School yesterday after the principal found a small amount of suspected marijuana in his backpack. A deputy called to the 500 block of Carlisle Avenue yesterday morning was told the principal did not believe the reason two boys said they were in the woods so brought them into the school and searched the backpack finding a glass pipe and marijuana, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. That teen was released to his mother and a charge will be recommended to prosecutors of possession, according to the sheriff’s office.


• Centralia police took a report from an individual about 7:20 p.m. yesterday who said someone stole the headlight and tail light off his bicycle while he was at the library on the 100 block of South Silver Street.


• Centralia police took a report about 12:45 p.m. yesterday about a vehicle prowl on the 300 block of South Street in which a wallet and purple Nikon Coolpix camera were taken.

• A deputy was called yesterday about an overnight vehicle prowl at the 100 block of North Prairie Road south of Chehalis in which a wallet with $250 cash, two credit cards and a social security card was stolen. A gas can with a gallon of fuel was missing as well, according to the sheriff’s office.


• A Centralia teenager was arrested for reportedly kicking his father’s truck and another Centralia teenager in a separate incident is in trouble for allegedly putting a dent in his father’s car door, tearing up a fence and overturning flower pots in their yard. His dad had told him he couldn’t use the car anymore and to get a job, according to the sheriff’s office. Neither young man was booked. Also, as usual, arrests for warrants, misdemeanor domestic assaults, complaint of loud music, report of shoplifting (frosted animal cookies) … and more.

News brief: Mom who allegedly gave pot to son faces serious charge

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Police say a cell phone video provided them shows mom offering son marijuana from bong. / Courtesy image Centralia Police Department. See video

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Prosecutors charged the Centralia mother accused of giving her toddler a hit from a marijuana water pipe with a crime today, one that could easily give her about five years in prison if she is convicted as charged.

Rachelle L. Braaten, 24, remains in the Lewis County Jail following her arrest on Friday. Prosecutors say an anonymous video provided to police shows her holding a so-called bong while her now 2-year-old son put his mouth near its top, then coughs.

She allegedly told officers it happened four or five months ago.

Braaten is charged with a class B felony, which for a person like Braaten who has no criminal history has a standard sentencing range of 51 to 68 months, according to Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke.

The offense has a long name: delivery of a controlled substance by a person over 18 to a person under 18, domestic violence.

It’s a serious charge, O’Rourke said.

The potential penalty is high because it involves a child, O’Rourke said. The maximum penalty is 10 years and a $20,000 fine.

The mother of two appeared briefly this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

O’Rourke told the judge the little boy is with his paternal grandmother. Both of her sons were taken by Child Protective Services on Friday. No mention was made today of the 5-year-old’s whereabouts.

Judge Nelson Hunt gave Braaten a court appointed defense attorney and scheduled her arraignment for Thursday.

She remains jailed on $20,000 bail.

For background, read “Prosecutors: Centralia father released, mother faces possible charge for alleged bong-smoking baby” from Monday March 11, 2013, here