Archive for June, 2014

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, June 30th, 2014

DOMESTIC ASSAULT

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports this morning a 39-year-old Vader woman was arrested for second-degree assault for allegedly trying to choke her husband on Saturday evening at the 500 block of A. Street in Vader. Tiffanie M. Russo was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown says Russo spit at the deputy and also kicked a rear passenger window out of a patrol car.

THEFT

• Someone broke into a shed on undeveloped vacation property at the end of Churchel Road in Randle and stole two five-gallon cans of gas and a saw, according to a report made to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office yesterday morning.

• A deputy took a report yesterday of three watches valued at $500 missing from a home on the 100 block of Enchanted Valley Drive near Vader and subsequently arrested the 33-year-old boyfriend of a niece who had been staying at the property. Richard N. Woodward turned over the watches and was booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree theft, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

STRANGER IN THE NIGHT

• Deputies were called to the 200 block of Birley Road near Mossyrock about 12:25 a.m. today after a resident who got up to use the bathroom saw a stranger on her back porch. The woman’s husband yelled out the front door and the man fled, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. He was described as 6-feet 2-inches tall with shoulder length hair and a light blue shirt, according to the sheriff’s office.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police took a report just after 8 o’clock yesterday morning of a door kicked in at a building on the 300 block of North Tower Avenue.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license, driving without a license; responses for alarm, suspicious circumstances, misdemeanor assault, collision on city street, disorderly person at hospital … and more.

Marijuana trade: All eyes will be on Centralia with legal fight in federal court

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The nearly three dozen page lawsuit filed against the city of Centralia regarding its stance on marijuana businesses talks about many issues, but boils down to one thing: making the city make a decision.

“What we really want is to light a fire under their butts, essentially,” the petitioner’s attorney Elizabeth Hallock said.

Her client, Perry Nelson, would-be proprietor of a retail store RIU420, has been selected by the Washington State Liquor Control Board to receive a license, but he can’t move forward because the city won’t take any applications, Hallock said.

She called Nelson a law abiding citizen caught in the middle of a political game.

A hearing date was set for next month in Lewis County Superior Court, but the city this past week gave notice it would like the case to be heard in federal court.

Nelson’s lawyer’s reaction:

“The federal question has to be decided for the country one way or another,” Hallock said. “What happens in Centralia not only affects the state, now the entire country is watching.”

The lawsuit filed on June 10 is the second in the state regarding local governments and their positions on recreational marijuana businesses. The Wenatchee lawsuit focuses on the federal law issue, Hallock said, and Centralia’s is more about state law.

Centralia’s City Attorney Shannon Murphy-Olson said like every other jurisdiction, Centralia has been studying the issue.

The city put a moratorium in place in November and renewed it in April. The hold on marijuana businesses runs into October, she said.

City planners created a zoning ordinance that was tentatively approved by the city council, which then turned around and re-enacted the moratorium, she said.

“If you look at the votes, the council is split.” Murphy-Olson said. “It’s a very difficult issue.”

Nelson filed the complaint asking a judge for for declaratory, injunctive and mandamus relief regarding what it calls the city’s prohibition.

The court documents say he is a resident of Lewis County, but also give a “Tulalup” address for him. Hallock said she doesn’t know much about her client, but noted he had also put in an application in Everett, so he may have been jurisdiction shopping.

He turned to Hallock, who practices in Clark and Klickitat counties, because he knew she was very dedicated to the issue, she said. She currently running for District Court judge in Klickitat.

She’s already been involved in one marijuana battle in Cowlitz County Superior Court, she said.

Voters passed Initiative 502 in 2012, legalizing possession of small amounts for those 21 and over, and the Washington State Liquor Control Board has been issuing licenses to grow, process and sell.

But her client can’t move forward.

“He has also spent countless hours preparing his operating plans, business plans, employee handbook, filling out applications, and paying licensing fees,” Hallock wrote in the complaint. “Without permission to operate or even do construction on his site from the city, all of his time, money, and efforts will have been and will continue to be wasted.”

The suit claims the city has mis-used moratorium law – a land use decision-making tool –  saying the city’s rolling moratorium is essentially a permanent ban and a pretext for assuaging community opposition.

Nelson argues doing so based on the criminal illegality of marijuana at the federal level is wrong.

“The fear of federal enforcement of federal criminal law against a tightly-controlled, state-regulated recreational marijuana system is unfounded,” Hallock writes.

The lawyer goes into a great amount of detail about how the city’s ban encourages a black market, in contradiction to the Department of Justice directives which prefer a tightly regulated state controlled system.

Finally, she speaks of I-502 as exclusively a matter of state concern.

The state attorney general issued an opinion that local jurisdictions have implied power to zone out marijuana businesses, since that wasn’t addressed in I-502, Hallock said.

But they don’t, she claims.

It’s clear based what’s called a “pregnant silence,” according to Hallock.

“The law did not address the role of cities because it did not intend for cities to be able to ban it,” she said.

Murphy-Olson has filed a notice of appearance on behalf of the city. Olympia attorney Jeffrey Myers has filed a notice of association with the city.

Hallock and attorney Jerrie Paine have filed notices of appearance on behalf of Nelson.

Hallock said she’s charging non-profit rates, because the issue is that important to her.

“They can spend all the tax dollars they want,” Hallock said. “We think the best thing is the city should just adopt the ordinance that allows the state law to proceed.”

The city has not yet filed an answer to the lawsuit, something it had 20 days to do. Instead, on Thursday, it filed the notice the case is removed to U.S. District Court.
•••

Read the initial filing in the lawsuit here

Stolen burrito leads to fatal shooting in Centralia

Sunday, June 29th, 2014
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A 43-year-old Centralia man lays dead in the Anchor Bank parking lot this morning.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia police officer shot and killed a man suspected of shoplifting a burrito from a gas station this morning as the subject reportedly reached for a handgun as he was being detained.

Police say an officer and his K-9 partner caught up with the suspect in the parking lot across the street and a fight ensued, during which the police dog grabbed the suspect’s arm preventing him from pulling his hand out of his pocket, but then briefly released his hold and the officer saw a firearm.

“The officer then drew his duty weapon and fired at least one round striking the suspect,” Centralia Police Department spokesperson Officer John Panco said.

A clerk at the Chevron service station on the corner of South Tower Avenue and East Cherry Street said she heard one gunshot and peeked outside to see someone laying on the ground outside Anchor Bank.

“The dog was still on him,” Rosie Lopez said.

The call to to the shoplifting incident at the Chevron mini mart came at 9:58 a.m. Firefighters arriving at 10:14 a.m. concluded the patient was deceased; he had a gunshot wound in the center of his chest, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

Across Tower Avenue, a clerk at the Shell station said she had gone out the door when she was told by a customer someone was getting arrested. Nicole Escalante said she watched as the officer struggled to handcuff a man.

“I called 911 cause I thought oh my God, he can’t get this guy under control,” Escalante said. “The guy kept getting back up, the guy was all over the place.”

It seemed like a long 10 minutes, Escalante said.

“He was telling the guy to stop, he kept screaming stop,” she said. “(The officer) reached and pulled his gun and ‘boom’, that was it.”

The dead man is a 43-year-old with a Centralia address, according to police. Escalante said she recognized him as someone who sometimes panhandles outside her store.

The officer, whose name has not been released, has been with the department 15 years.

A group of detectives from outside police agencies arrived to investigate the shooting. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and his chief criminal deputy prosecutor joined Police Chief Bob Berg at the scene.

The perimeter of the bank was blocked off with yellow police tape. Yellow markers were set next to items of interest, including on two patrol cars.

A blue tarp portable tent was in place before noon, to conceal the body from passersby.

Panco said the subject was belligerent from the start, when the officer exited his patrol car and that the officer called for backup as they fought.

He described the final moments as the police dog biting onto the man’s arm after the man pulled the handgun from his pocket. Panco said he was told the firearm was multi-colored, as in perhaps black and silver or “blue” and silver.

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A team of detectives begins its investigation into an officer involved shooting in Centralia.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

MAN IN BLACK HOLDS UP CENTRALIA STORE

• Police are looking for a skinny white male in his 50s after an armed robbery at a convenience store yesterday evening at the 800 block of West First Street in Centralia. Officers summoned by an alarm learned the man came into the business brandishing a silver handgun and demanded cash, according to police. The 28-year-old clerk gave it to him and was unhurt, Sgt. Kurt Reichert said. The subject has a gray mustache and wore dark sunglasses with a black bandana around his neck, according to police. He also wore a dark hooded sweatshirt, police said.

FIGHT AT PEPPERTREE

• A 28-year-old man was punched several times when an acquaintance took his cell phone yesterday morning at the Peppertree Motel and RV Park in Centralia. Officers called about 10:45 a.m. subsequently arrested Gregory S. Schroeder, 28, from Chehalis, for second-degree robbery and booked him into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

FIGHT AT PEPPERTREE

• A 50-year-old Raymond man was thrown to the ground and struck with something sharp during a dispute at the Peppertree Motel in Centralia on Friday afternoon and police are looking for his assailant in order to arrest him for second-degree assault. Officers responding about 2 p.m. to the 1200 block of Alder Street don’t know if the cut above the eye was caused by a knife or perhaps a piece of glass, according to the Centralia Police Department.

OOPS

• Centralia police were called about 9 p.m. yesterday after a male reportedly stole the product known as Spice from behind the counter at the Shell gas station on the 600 block of South Tower Avenue. Officers are looking for a 28-year-old Centralia man as he left his driver’s license on the counter, according to the Centralia Police Department.

TRICKERY

• Centralia police called to Providence Centralia Hospital last night about a DUI because a patient had driven away after being given narcotics learned the individual had been treated under two different names, one of them belonging to a deceased person. The male currently known as John Doe faces possible arrest for forgery, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Someone broke a window on a porch at the 1100 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday morning.

• Police took a report about 2:20 a.m. today regarding the back window smashed out of a car at the 300 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia.

DO-IT-YOURSELF FIREFIGHTING MISSES THE MARK

• Firefighters were called about 3:15 a.m. today to the 200 block of West Oakview Avenue in Centralia where a fire was smoldering in an attic following a small kitchen fire hours earlier. “He had a grease fire about 10:30 p.m. and had already repainted everything,” Riverside Fire Authority Capt. Tim Adolphsen said. “And he felt there was a problem in the ceiling, and there was.” Adolphsen said the man’s wife came home and pointed out the new paint was turning brown, and they could feel the heat on the sheetrock. Crews tore out the ceiling and discovered the earlier fire must have traveled up the stove vent duct and burned an approximately 10 foot by 10 foot area of the attic space, including blown in insulation, he said. The damage was estimated at about $9,000. “Luckily it all was slow,” Adolphsen said.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, misdemeanor assault, driving under the influence; responses for misdemeanor theft, collision on city street … and more.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, June 27th, 2014

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

• A Vancouver woman was arrested overnight after she allegedly walked into a Centralia convenience store cracked open a beer and threatened to cut the clerk with a knife when she was told she couldn’t do that, according to police. It happened about 2:40 a.m. at the Chevron on the 1200 block of Mellen Street, according to the Centralia Police Department. The clerk backed off and called 911, and the suspect was found over at the nearby motel, police said. A spilled large container of the malt liquor beverage 4Loko was found in her room, Sgt. Kurt Reichert said. Michelle M. Milligan was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree robbery, he said. Prosecutors declined to file that charge.

• An 18-year-old driver and his 13-year-old relative were both intoxicated when a deputy pulled over a truck after watching it spin out, drive through a grassy area at the exit 72 interchange and speed north onto Interstate 5 into Chehalis overnight, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. It was about 3 o’clock this morning. The deputy followed and caught up with the truck that blew the stop sign at the 13th Street exit which finally stopped along the 600 block of Southwest Cascade Avenue, Cmdr. Steve Aust said. Isaac R. Kennedy said he’d been drinking moonshine, Aust said. He was arrested and booked into the Lewis County jail for driving under the influence and reckless endangerment, according to Aust. The girl was taken to the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center and booked for minor in possession or consumption of alcohol.

COMPUTER STOLEN FROM SCHOOL

• Someone broke into a building at the Onalaska school and stole an Apple MacBook laptop computer and two Sony camcorders, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responding to the 500 block of Carlisle Avenue yesterday morning learned it happened around 2:15 a.m., sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said. The loss is estimated at $1,200.

HEAVY DUTY SHOPLIFTING

• Two individual were arrested for organized retail theft yesterday evening after they were caught allegedly stealing items from multiple stores in the 1300 block of Lum Road in Centralia. Booked into the Lewis County Jail were Jade N. Vanauken, 18 of Centralia and Aonoauaalofagia Vagatai, 20 of Hawaii, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• Four teenagers were arrested yesterday afternoon after they were discovered allegedly smoking marijuana inside a vehicle at Fort Borst Park in Centralia. The underage individuals, ages 18, 17 and 16, were arrested and then released, according to the Centralia Police Department.

OTHER THEFT

• Police were called about 6:20 p.m. yesterday to the 1500 block of Delaware Avenue in Centralia regarding parts taken from a vehicle.

VANDALISM

• Two windows were broken out of a business at the 200 block of West Main Street in Centralia, and discovered during the night.

• A window was broken out of a parked car at the 100 block of South Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police about 6:15 a.m. today.

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday of the outside portions of three large double-paned windows being broken at Thorbekes on Southwest Chehalis Avenue. It happened last weekend and  caused $1,600 damage, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

WRECK

• A 23-year-old Oakville resident was injured when he fell asleep while driving along state Route 8 just outside McCleary last night. Troopers called about 8:50 p.m. determined Trenton G. Darnell was westbound and gradually left the roadway, entering a ditch and then striking a fence and a road sign before rolling, according to the Washington State Patrol. The 1989 Oldsmobile Cutless came to rest on its top and was described as totaled. Darnell was transported by aid to Summit Pacific Medical Center, according to the state patrol. He had been seat belted in and no alcohol or drugs are suspected, the state patrol reports.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, violation of protection order, third-degree possession of stolen property, misdemeanor assault; responses for alarms, shoplifting, suspicious circumstances, collision on city street … and more.

Stranger with knife walks into rural Centralia home

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Updated at 7:23 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A rural Centralia man grabbed his shotgun and pushed an intruder out the door this morning and held him at gunpoint until deputies arrived.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office was called about 7:30 a.m. to a home near the far end of Little Hanaford Road, roughly 10 miles east of town. They learned the residents, a man and woman, were sitting in their house when a stranger walked in with a serrated steak knife in his hand, according to Cmdr. Steve Aust.

The 62-year-old man grabbed his gun and shoved the stranger outside, and then pushed him a little farther out, Aust said.

“He held him at gunpoint until our guys arrived; he didn’t offer any resistance at that point,” Aust said.

The only injury was the intruder had to get a couple of stitches in his head because the resident hit him at some point with the butt end of the gun, Aust said.

The man, Sean M. Ferrel, 43, from Bremerton, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital and then was to be booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree burglary, Aust said.

Aust said it’s not clear what he would have been doing in the area, or why he entered someone else’s house.

“The guy’s not local either,” he said. “It sounds like one of these high on drugs (things).”

Aust said that at some point there also may have been a machete involved, but further details weren’t yet available.

Judge: No crime for founder of House of The Rising Son

Thursday, June 26th, 2014
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Judy Chafin hears a judge proclaim her not guilty in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Chehalis woman accused of wrongly collecting more than $90,000 in benefits – supposedly working while receiving payments for a 2006 on-the-job injury was found not guilty today.

Judy Chafin, 62, wiped tears from her face as the judge announced his decision.

Prosecutors said the operator of controversial halfway houses performed landlord-like services for the newly released prisoners who lived in the various residences, part of her House of the Rising Son organization. Her attorney said the activities didn’t meet the definition of work from the state Department of Labor and Industries which paid out the funds.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler said the case came down to whether it was work and if she intended to commit theft.

“The witnesses were all over the board as to what work meant in this case,” Lawler said. “I simply cannot find that has been proven here.”

The trial that began on Monday was decided by the judge; there was no jury.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg had suggested that a 2010 investigation into her activities that went nowhere and her subsequent expansion of the number of homes indicated she must have known what she was doing was work.

Judge Lawler said defense attorney Sam Groberg’s argument was more reasonable, that Chafin continued what she was doing after L&I had knowledge of the House of the Rising Son.

Chafin’s benefits were stopped and then reinstated, he said.

“To put criminal liability on that once that question has already come up, does not make sense to me,” Lawler said.

Chafin was acquitted of 30 counts of forgery and two counts of first-degree theft; one count of theft was related to Social Security disability payments.

She was visibly relived and thanked the judge.

“I’m not guilty, and I never was,” she said outside the courtroom. “So I’m very happy about the decision that shows God is standing there.”

The Chehalis woman suffered an on-the-job injury in September 2006, while working as a certified nursing assistant at  Tiffin House in Centralia. She founded the organization  between 2006 and 2007.

At its height, there were as many as 10 similar homes.

Chafin began to get a lot of attention from law enforcement and then city and county officials beginning about two years ago when residents on a rural Chehalis road complained they didn’t want multiple felons, especially registered sex offenders, living together under one roof in their neighborhood. Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield vowed to do everything he could to shut her down.

Earlier this year, she said she chose not to fight the various zoning actions and found places for her various tenants to live.

Attorney Groberg said it was a different kind of case, that no one alleged his client didn’t have a real injury, his client didn’t hide what she was doing, and she didn’t earn any money doing it. She lost money, he said.

“Judy’s a good person, trying to do good things,” he said.

He said the case was political in some aspects.

“Not on Eric’s (the deputy prosecuting attorney) part,” he said. “But with Brad Reynolds, the neighbor and another neighbor was Chehalis’ code enforcement officer.”

And he noted the politics in Olympia with a push for L&I to privatize, that the agency is looking harder to find fraud to justify such a change.

“And one example of trying to find fraud, Judy’s an example of that,” he said.

The L&I investigator who handled the case said he couldn’t say who made the initial complaint. It was anonymous, he said.

•••

For background, read:

• “Discord on Nix Road: Newest arrivals unwelcome” from Saturday March 3, 2012, here

• “The backstory: Intelligence gathering, possible fines and code enforcement tools “not normally used” from Sunday March 4, 2012, here

• “The sun sets on House of the Rising Son” from Thursday March 20, 2014, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Updated at 1:25 p.m.

SCARE AT PET STORE

• A 45-year-old Winlock man was taken into custody yesterday at Lincoln Creek Lumber in Centralia following an incident involving a knife at a nearby business. Police were called about 4 p.m. to the 1400 block of Harrison Avenue where employees at a pet store were holding a door shut because a man who had been hanging around pulled out a pocket-type knife, according to the Centralia Police Department. Several officers responded and the suspect was discovered up the street at the hardware store on the corner of Harrison and Galvin Road, Officer John Panco said. He had reportedly kicked out a door there and was seen exiting the store, Panco said. Brian T. Bircher wasn’t particularly cooperative as far as talking with police, Panco said. He was arrested for first-degree burglary and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police. Panco said it wasn’t clear why Bircher was behaving the way he was at the pet store.

THEFT

• Someone took a blue mountain bike from an unlocked shed at the 1100 block of West First Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday morning.

BOOM

• An individual on Southwest William Avenue in Chehalis called police yesterday after finding suspicious remnants of something beneath their truck. An overnight explosion and the debris were most likely fireworks, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

‘VERY LUCKY’

• A wrong way driver on the freeway yesterday afternoon was suffering from blood sugar so low it didn’t even register on a testing device. The Washington State Patrol reported it was around 2 p.m. when the Ford Explorer traveled south in the northbound lanes in Centralia but managed to pull to the righthand side of the road without running in to anyone else. The Chehalis Fire Department was called over to the state patrol detachment because troopers didn’t know if the 49-year-old man was suffering from a medical or drug-related issue, Fire Capt. Ted McCarty said. The driver was fairly incoherent, handcuffed and on the ground outside as they’d tried to take him inside to interview him, McCarty said. “He was kind of fighting a little, but that’s because with low blood sugar, you don’t know where you’re at or what you’re doing,” McCarty said. Medics administered treatment and took him to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to responders. The state patrol yesterday indicated it didn’t know if any citation would be issued.

SHERIFF TO DRIVERS: WE’RE WATCHING YOU

• Extra pairs of law enforcement eyes will be watching drivers and crosswalks around the Law and Justice Center on Main Street in Chehalis again. The sheriff’s office announced yesterday deputies would be conducting another emphasis over the next week, a second attempt to make the area safer for pedestrians. They did it in mid-May in response to a request from county employees and other citizens who said the crosswalks in the area were unsafe. Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said the idea wasn’t so much about writing tickets, but about education and encouraging motorists to slow down. Nine warnings were given and five infractions handed out. Deputies witnessed two boys almost get hit in a nearby crosswalk. Mansfield said it was a real eye opener and clearly related to distracted driving and cell phones. “Drivers need to slow down and pay attention, especially in areas in which there is a lot of pedestrian traffic,” Mansfield stated. “If we can prevent serious injury or even death by conducting these emphases we will continue to do so.”

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, resisting arrest, reckless driving, misdemeanor assault, driving with suspended license; responses for alarms, disputes, harassment, collision on city street … and more.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Updated at 10:16 p.m.

ANTIQUE RIFLE WITH BAYONET STOLEN

• A 37-year-old Chehalis man called police yesterday after he was burglarized for the third time in two months. Police were told that sometime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. someone stole a WWII rifle with bayonet and also took a jar of coins from the residence on the 600 block of Northwest St. Helens Avenue. He said he’d changed the locks but his girlfriend advised him the back door was unlocked, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The rifle has a value of about $250, according to police.

NOT MY DRUGS

• A 40-year-old Centralia woman was arrested yesterday afternoon when she reportedly confessed to a police officer she had someone else’s property in her purse while the officer waited for her to produce her identification. She produced a pipe, which had residue that field-tested positive for methamphetamine, according to police. Officer John Panco said an officer driving through the parking lot at the Pepper Tree Motel on Alder Street around 3:45 p.m. saw Traci J. Zollinger-Miller who seemed to be trying to hide behind a bush. When he approached her, she ran and when contacted, told the officer she thought she had a warrant, Panco said. As she got out her identification, the officer observed a syringe in the purse – which she said was someone else’s –  Panco said, and when asked if there was anything else, produced the pipe. Zollinger-Miller was booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession of methamphetamine, according to the Centralia Police Department.

SLIDING OFF THE ROAD

• A 20-year-old Toledo resident said he was unfamiliar with the area when he left the roadway at a curve, sheering off both a fire hydrant and a utility pole and damaging a fence yesterday. Deputies called about 4:55 p.m. to the 3700 block of Cooks Hill Road noted the 2005 Dodge Ram sustained major damage but nobody was injured, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The driver was issued a citation for speeds too fast, according to the sheriff’s office.

CAR HITS SEMI, SECOND SEMI SCRAPES CAR

• A 42-year-old motorist escaped injury when he slammed into the back of a semi truck which had slowed for traffic early yesterday morning on Interstate 5 in Centralia but his car was totaled and he was to be issued citations for following too closely and not having insurance, according to the Washington State Patrol. Troopers called about 6:40 a.m. to the sound bound lanes near milepost 82 noted that the big rig pulled to the shoulder and when a second semi truck tried to pass on the left, it scraped the side of the Toyota Camry. “We tried to push the car clear, but it was too damaged to move,” Trooper Torson Iverson said. One lane was closed for about a half an hour, Iverson said. The car belonging to Robert H. Ginter, 42, of Centralia, was towed, according to the state patrol.

OH MY

• A wrong way driver on the freeway in Centralia who was able to pull over safely without any collisions or injuries occurring this afternoon was taken to the hospital and it was discovered the incident was caused by a medical condition, according to the Washington State Patrol. It happened about 2 p.m. on Interstate 5 near milepost 80, south of town, according to the state patrol.The investigating trooper reports Darren M. Lumbert, 49, of Centralia, traveled southbound in the northbound lanes in a Ford Explorer. Whether any citation will be issued is under consideration. Further details were not readily available.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, misdemeanor assault, protection order violation, driving with suspended license, driving with no license, allowing unlicensed person to drive; responses for alarms, trespassing, fraudulent checks … and more.

Accidental free night out for jail inmate

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Updated at 1:13 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – An inmate was accidentally released from the Lewis County Jail last night, a 25-year-old man charged just yesterday with harassment, threat to kill.

Joshua E. Blankenship was arrested on Monday afternoon after allegedly pointing an imaginary gun at grocery store employees who detained him for stealing pre-packaged biscuits and gravy in Centralia.

Police said he mimicked shooting sounds at the same time, saying “Pow, pow, pow,” while staff held him down.

Jail Chief Kevin Hanson said he learned of the error this morning.

“We had law enforcement all over searching for him,” Hanson said.

Centralia police located Blankenship and returned him to the Chehalis facility at about noon today.

Blankenship has been described by local police as both a Chehalis resident and a transient.

He was arrested a week ago in Chehalis for allegedly stealing a backpack and attempting to steal a bicycle chained up on a porch. A caller to 911 said he seemed to be speaking in tongues.

On Monday, Centralia officers were called to Fuller’s Shop ‘n Kart on the the 500 block of South Tower Avenue where they were told he was seen walking into the restroom with a food item in his hand, but when he came out he didn’t have it.

He allegedly shoved an employee who tried to block his path and then during an ensuing tussle, the biscuits and gravy fell from his pocket.

Threatening the workers with his pretend gun brought him a charge yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court of harassment. The shove elevated what would have been a shoplifting charge to second-degree robbery.

A judge yesterday afternoon ordered Blankenship held on $10,000 bail.

Hanson said he was let go from the jail yesterday evening because his paperwork wasn’t properly processed.

“My staff read the paperwork wrong and released him,” Hanson said.

Jail staff thought Blankenship could get out on a signature bond, a promise to appear in court, according to Hanson.

Hanson said he didn’t know how dangerous Blankenship is or isn’t, as he hasn’t met him.

Mistakes are bound to happen, with a hugely convoluted paperwork system, Hanson said.

“What I can tell you is nobody’s perfect,” he said. “We process thousands of releases and bookings each year, and it’s not always easy to decipher.”

A Centralia Police Department spokesperson said he didn’t yet know the details, but believed Blankenship was found standing on a street in town and an officer spotted him.

His arraignment is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, when a judge may be asked to consider a lower bail amount, according to defense attorney Bob Schroeter who represented him temporarily at yesterday’s hearing.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

LARGE MUSICAL INSTRUMENT VANISHES FROM HOME

• A cello and a 12-gauge shotgun are among the nearly $2,000 worth of valuables missing after a burglary at a north Centralia home. A deputy dispatched yesterday to contact the 36-year-old victim learned the man left his home on the 500 block of Haliday Road about 11 a.m. on Saturday and when he returned at midnight, discovered the thefts, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy was able to locate a forced entry point, but the victim also thought it was possible the front doors hadn’t been properly locked, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. Also taken were a Toshiba laptop computer and external hard drive, a digital video camera, costume jewelry and other property, according to Brown. The gun is a model 350 Savage, she said.

OUTDOOR THEFT

• Someone stole a U.S. flag from the front porch of a home on the 500 block of West Pine Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday evening. It is described as approximately 4 feet by 5 feet in size, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 30-foot extension ladder was reported missing from a yard on the 200 block of First Street in Morton on Friday morning.

USED GAME WAS STOLEN

• A 23-year-old Centralia man who showed identification when he sold an X-box to a Chehalis game store on Friday was arrested yesterday for trafficking stolen property. Police followed up after learning the item had been stolen in Thurston County. Booked into the Lewis County Jail was Nicholas R. Dafoe, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

DRUGS

• A pair of underage Centralia men were arrested about 12:20 a.m. today for possession of marijuana at the 2000 block of Borst Avenue in Centralia. Trenton J. Hall, 20, and Donald J. Johnson, 19, were cited also for possession of drug paraphernalia and then released, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police took a report yesterday of a broken window on a car that occurred overnight at the 300 block of Centralia College Boulevard.

JUST CALM DOWN

• Morton police responded to a residence in the 700 block of Main Avenue about 8:35 p.m. on Thursday regarding a verbal dispute. After speaking with the parties involved, it was determined that one of them would spend the night at a different location in order to calm down, police report.

CRIME STOPPERS

• Lewis County Crime Stoppers is looking for tips regarding a burglary from April 30 at the 2300 block of state Route 505 near Toledo in which witnesses saw a dark colored Nissan or Ford Ranger truck leaving the area with flatbed trailer carrying a John Deere riding lawnmower. The trailer was recovered in Cowlitz County, but the mower is still missing, according to Crime Stoppers. The loss is more than $2,500.  Crime Stoppers pays up to $1,000 for information leading to the clearance of crimes. Anonymous calls can be made to 1-800-748-6422 or information may be shared online at www.lewiscountycrimestoppers.org

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, driving with suspended license; responses for alarms, disputes, suspicious circumstances,   collision in parking lot; complaint a paycheck couldn’t be cashed because of non-sufficient funds… and more.

No lunch for Chehalis man with imaginary firearm

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A grocery customer who allegedly tried to shoplift pre-packaged biscuits and gravy yesterday found himself arrested for more serious charges after he reportedly made a motion with his hand as though he had a gun, saying “Pow, pow, pow,” while staff held him down.

Police called just before 1 p.m. to the 500 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia were told a suspicious employee tried to block the path of Joshua E. Blankenship who then shoved the employee, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Fuller’s Shop ‘n Kart workers were able to stop him, Officer John Panco said, and when Blankenship then slipped and fell, he spilled his cup of coffee and the food item dropped out of his pocket.

That’s when he made the threat to kill the two employees by drawing his non-existent gun, according to Panco.

Blankenship, 25, from Chehalis, was arrested for second-degree robbery, felony harassment and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

Attorney: House of The Rising Son founder innocent of fraud

Monday, June 23rd, 2014
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Judy Chafin, right, and her lawyer Sam Groberg listen as L&I investigator Russell Gow testifies in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Chehalis woman who operated what became controversial halfway houses in Lewis County for newly released prisoners and homeless persons contends she’s innocent of the latest charges against her, allegedly working at the same time she was collecting payments for an on-the-job injury.

A judge will decide.

Judy Chafin, 62, was in Lewis County Superior Court this morning when a bench trial began that is scheduled for three days.

Chafin is charged with 30 counts of forgery and two counts of first-degree theft, based on benefits received from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries and Social Security disability.

Defense attorney Sam Groberg said the state agency had already investigated and decided not to pursue charges against his client before a second investigation was conducted, leading to the current case which was filed in September.

“She doesn’t dispute she applied for and received benefits from L&I and Social Security,” Groberg told the judge. “The dispute we have today revolves around whether or not this is work.”

Groberg said Chafin’s activities didn’t amount to work, as defined by the state agency.

His client’s position is that she wasn’t working, never worked and didn’t receive any money, he said.

“Also the fact that she didn’t disclose 100 percent fully, doesn’t rise to theft first,” Groberg said.

Chafin founded she called the House of the Rising Son in Chehalis between 2006 and 2007 and in subsequent years, managed other similar homes around the county, according to authorities. She suffered an on-the-job injury in September 2006, while working as a certified nursing assistant at  Tiffin House in Centralia.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg said the L&I disability payments she received were called time loss benefits, based on the idea she could not perform any work.

“Ms. Chafin was supposed to report if she worked at all, no matter how little,” Eisenberg told the judge.

Eisenberg said she started as treasurer of the House of The Rising Son but eventually took over the entire organization.

She performed landlord-like services, such as collecting rent, paying utilities and was responsible for evictions, he said.

Charging documents alleged that since 2006, Chafin wrongly received in excess of $90,000 in benefits.

Eisenberg told the judge she also negotiated a contract with two individuals to perform activities similar to those she provided when working at Tiffin House.

Eisenberg said the organization expanded during 2010, 2011 and 2012 to as many as 10 other similar homes.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler is hearing the case.

Chafin began to get a lot of attention from law enforcement and then city and county officials beginning about two years ago when residents on a rural Chehalis road complained they didn’t want multiple felons, especially registered sex offenders, living together under one roof in their neighborhood. Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield vowed to do everything he could to shut her down.

Earlier this year, she was sentenced  to 30 days of house arrest, for a prescription drug offense, she said was simply an oversight on her part. Prosecutors had initially charged her also with delivery of drugs and with a forgery, but dropped all but the possession of seven and half pills of morphine charge before her trial began.

At the time, she said she was entirely done with what she called her mission, having chosen not to fight the various zoning actions and finding places for the various tenants to live.

She has described the home owners of the various House of The Rising Son properties as individuals who got tired of renting to drug addicts, and said her number one house rule was no drugs or alcohol.

•••

For background, read:

• “Discord on Nix Road: Newest arrivals unwelcome” from Saturday March 3, 2012, here

• “The backstory: Intelligence gathering, possible fines and code enforcement tools “not normally used” from Sunday March 4, 2012, here

• “The sun sets on House of the Rising Son” from Thursday March 20, 2014, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

MOTORCYCLIST HURT IN CHEHALIS

• A 33-year-old motorcyclist was airlifted after a collision yesterday on the 1100 block of North National Avenue in Chehalis when he hit the rear of a flatbed tow truck which was backing onto the street. Firefighters called about 2:30 p.m. found the man with broken leg bones, possibly a broken shoulder and not very responsive, Chehalis Fire Department Capt. Casey Beck said. Chehalis police detective Sgt. Gary Wilson said the rider was traveling northbound and the tow truck had been attempting to turn around and its back end was in the street. The Chehalis area man was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital and then flown to Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, according to responders. He’s currently listed in stable, serious condition, according to a hospital spokesperson. Wilson said the wreck remains under investigation.

ON THE LOOKOUT FOR JIM BOB

• Deputies yesterday got a break in a hit and run case from Friday night in Onalaska in which a driver who slowed then stopped for loose pigs in the roadway was struck in the rear end, totaling her Toyota Camry. The 67-year-old woman said it was about 8:30 p.m. at the 300 block of Leonard Road and the white van simply drove around her and continued south, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A similarly described van was later found parked behind an outbuilding off Gore Road and its owner called the sheriff’s office yesterday to say they had brought home a hitchhiker named Jim Bob, who had borrowed the vehicle go buy cigarettes and said he’d run into a ditch, according to the sheriff’s office. The case remains under investigation, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

WINLOCK BURGLARY

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports this morning that a 61-year-old Winlock-area man believes he was either laying down or perhaps was gone to the store when someone came into his residence and stole an HP laptop computer and a digital camera. It happened on then 900 block of Byham Road sometime between 9 a.m. last Tuesday and 2 p.m. on Thursday, according to the sheriff’s office. The loss is estimated at $680.

MISSING XBOX TURNS UP AT GAME STORE

• Chehalis police were called on Friday afternoon to a game shop on the 1600 block of Northwest Louisiana Avenue in Chehalis when an individual called saying they found their stolen X-box there. The item was taken back to the police department and officers will be working with law enforcement in Thurston County regarding follow up, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Chehalis police detective Sgt. Gary Wilson said it appeared someone sold it to the business which would then resell it.

MISSING MEDS

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday from a customer who said she accidentally left her pain meds at a restaurant on Southwest Interstate Avenue and when she returned to retrieve them, they were gone. The case is under investigation, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

SUSPICIOUS FIRE

• Police are investigating a brush fire that broke out behind the former Chehalis Inn on Friday, prompting 911 calls from motorists on Interstate 5 who reported flames about 10 feet tall along a fence. Firefighters called about 1:10 p.m. to the 100 block of Southwest Interstate Avenue said a maintenance person got out a garden hose and prevented any damage to the wood fence. The burned area was about 10 feet in diameter, Chehalis Fire Department Capt. Kevin Curfman said. The motel is now a Howard Johnson’s.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license,  trespassing; responses for alarms, disputes, misdemeanor theft, misdemeanor assault, collision on city street, german shepherd biting a passing bicyclist, vehicles driving off county roads into yards, unattended backpack in Wal-Mart’s parking lot, an inmate upset about being in jail who smashed a sprinkler head and flooded the floor; complaints of the smell of marijuana in an apartment building, a man at a bar yelling, screaming and dancing around, a large man observed with his jeans around his ankles masturbating on the Lewis County Community Trail off Cabe Road west of Chehalis … and more.

Notes from behind the news: What did we do before there was Lewis County Sirens?

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Well, many of you know I really, really like gathering information and writing news stories about crime, cops, courts, fire, and what-have-you in greater Lewis County.

It’s something I’ve done here for more than a dozen years.

When I decided to launch an independent online-only news site, I was able to re-double my dedication to providing news that is accurate, timely, fair, balanced, and most of all, newsworthy.

I work hard to avoid disappointing my readers.

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Sharyn L. Decker

Often that means I’m punching away at the keyboard at 9 o’clock at night. Sometimes it means I set my alarm for 5 a.m.

It always means I ask myself, what do readers want to know about this? And I reach out to get answers; and confirm the “facts” that I’m not certain about.

Well, it’s been four years now.

That’s right.

Lewis County Sirens celebrates its four-year-anniversary this month.

I still enjoy very much getting up each morning and digging up what no other news outlet has found.

Sometimes it’s just a snippet, or a snapshot of the previous 24 hours as in Sharyn’s Sirens Roundup where you can read about select calls and encounters involving local police and fire departments.

Sometimes it’s in-depth coverage over time of a significant event: think John Booth triple murder on Wings Way, or Ronda Reynolds suicide or homicide with court case and coroner’s inquest, or Ronald Brady and the intruders outside his Onalaska house.

And then other times, it’s every kind of thing in between.

I don’t know who said it first, but it stuck in my mind; that news reporters are the ones who bring us the first draft of history. What a tremendous responsibility that is.

It’s been rewarding for me, and I’m pretty sure its been a refreshing bit of reading for many who live in, work in or care about this area.

I actually had 1,000 readers the same month I launched, June 2010. By the end of that year, Lewis County Sirens.com was approaching the circulation of the local daily newspaper here.

Twelve months later, my number of readers had more than tripled.

Today, Lewis County Sirens.com has well over 50,000 readers. That’s huge in a county with a population of somewhere around 75,000 people.

That’s more than five times the number of people who subscribe to the newspaper here.

Really, it’s not surprising it has become wildly popular, because crime (and high school sports) are the most-read parts of any newspaper. Plus, and mainly, I think, my reputation as a trusted news source is solid.

Readers spend an average of about five minutes navigating around my news site during each visit. And best of all, what has really grown is how readers contribute through their comments.

It along with its companion Facebook page – which is a horse of a different color really, but is also a wealth of reader contributed information and commentary – have grown into something I wouldn’t quite have imagined four years ago.

Lewis County Sirens has found a bit of time to reach further out into the community, through an opportunity to support Centralia’s live theater, in a small way. And now, as co-media sponsor of the upcoming DB Cooper Music Festival. Doing my part to help give us all a break from the trauma, drama and disaster that comes with focusing on crime daily, and when it happens.

Will Lewis County Sirens be around four years from now?

It’s hard to say.

As many of you know, being an entrepreneur has its challenges. Me, I’m that and a dedicated news reporter. Those are two tall pairs of boots to fill at the same time.

And I’m just one human. I really do only have two feet.

So, as Lewis County Sirens celebrates four years, I’m going to suggest that any of you who find it a truly valuable resource in our community consider what, if anything, you might do to ensure its continued publication.

Feel free to simply keep reading and enjoying it for no charge. I grew up with the idea of free news, and I like that. In fact, absolutely do continue reading. The larger the number of readers, of visits, of page views, the more valuable the advertising space is to those who want to promote what they do.

And that’s what supports Lewis County Sirens when it comes right down to it, the advertising.

While I think I’m a pretty terrific news reporter, the one who fills the boots in the ad sales department hasn’t done a whole lot to make sure that area businesses, organizations and other enterprises know what an amazing opportunity exists with an ad on the news site.

There simply is nowhere else locally to reach so many people, for so little money. We get hundreds of thousands of page views each month.

So readers, I’m asking you, if you’re a fan, if you are someone who really wants to help, then think about your own business, or someone close to you, who could benefit from placing an ad on the most-read local news site. And then tell them about it.

I’m feeling so good on this fourth “birthday” that I’ve come up with a special pricing deal – a super good one, actually – for anyone who launches an ad before June 30. Ask me about it.

Also, there’s that little yellow “donate” button on the right hand side of the news site. This may sound like a public television pitch, but if you like what you are reading, and feel it’s worth paying for, and can afford to, consider making an ongoing small donation, or consider a one-time contribution.

Whatever suits you. Whatever feels right.

If money is too tight, but you still feel like you really want to contribute to the ongoing success of this resource, one way to do that, if you happen to be on Facebook, is whenever you read a particularly interesting news item, hit the share button and blast a link to all your friends.

That’s pretty much it for Lewis County Sirens’ birthday wish list.

Well, okay, there is one other thing, for anyone who may be feeling a bit of appreciation and can’t think of any other way to show it. Since you asked …

You could send me a Starbuck’s gift card, and consider the caffeine an investment in helping me get through one of the coming news cycles. 😉