Evidence from Salkum murders found in coroner’s office locker

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Evidence from the triple murder in Salkum has turned up in the Lewis County Coroner’s Office, apparently never getting into the hands of law enforcement or attorneys in the case.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said finger nail clippings and hair trimmings from all three victims were found in a sealed bag in the work locker of a former deputy coroner.

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John Allen Booth Jr.

He said today he thought it turned up about a month ago.

John A. Booth Jr., 32, was tried, convicted and sent to prison for life in December for the fatal shootings of David West Sr., 52,  David “D.J.” West Jr., 16, and 50-year-old Tony Williams of Randle.

The three, along with Denise Salts who survived, were found in the home Salts and the Wests shared on Wings Way in the Onalaska-Salkum area on August 21, 2010.

Defense attorney Roger Hunko – who represented Booth – said today he didn’t know anything about it but said he was dumbfounded.

“It sounds interesting,” Hunko said.

Both Hunko and elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer say it is a potential appeal issue for Booth.

Normally defense attorneys get to look at all of the prosecution’s evidence in a case.

“Can they try to make an issue? They can try,” Meyer said this afternoon.

Meyer said however, in this case he doesn’t see it as a problem, as the items were mentioned in reports.

Meyer said he plans to disclose the fact to both Hunko and Booth’s appeal attorney they now have this evidence and “see what the defense wants to do about it.”

The evidence was collected at the coroner’s office during the autopsies, according to McLeod.

He said he didn’t know why it wasn’t taken away by the sheriff’s office representative he presumed was in attendance or why it ended up in an employee locker.

McLeod said he called Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher after the discovery.

It’s not clear if anyone knew the evidence was missing.

McLeod was elected the November after the homicides and took office officially in January 2011.

“What we have in place now, if law enforcement is not present we’ll notify them to come over and collect that (kind of evidence),” McLeod said.

There’s no “chain of custody” documentation with it, according to McLeod.

McLeod said his staff had cut the locks from previous employee’s lockers to get inside them and that’s when it was found.

Both Meyer and McLeod said they expect something like this won’t happen again.

“We’ve worked out the issues and I hope we won’t have similar problems in the future,” Meyer said.

Booth’s attorney filed a notice of appeal the day he was convicted.

The former Onalaska resident who was sentenced under the so-called three strikes law said in a jail house interview after his conviction he could “guarantee” he would have a new trial within the next five years.

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7 Responses to “Evidence from Salkum murders found in coroner’s office locker”

  1. diane says:

    This is just another murder case screw up. They seem to be pretty consistent in doing this in lewis county. These people are suppose to be trained professionals at their jobs after all peoples life’s depend and can hang on this fact. Nothing like this should ever happen especially something so basic and important as this kind of evidence. They seem to be either screwing up the evidence at a crime scene or like now not even noticing when important evidence is missing. This kind of professionalism or lack of is nothing short of scary!

  2. Still Waiting says:

    I am still waiting to hear what happened to the Chief Deputy Coroner, (under Wilson) who was arrested for Driving While Under Influence of Drugs, while she was going to work. This was seems to have been swept under the rug. Ahhh, Lewis County.

  3. Free Air says:

    It sounds more like a forgotten souvenir from a former or dismissed employee than a mismanagement of evidence to me.

  4. Shann says:

    Why is there no mention of questioning the employee of the locker ? It sure does look very much like evidence tampering to me. And why why wouldnt it be noticed before or even during the trial that they that they were missing ? Isn’t it one of the most common pieces of evidence? This is about 3 people mudered and 1 attempted murder by this man, I was hoping that our county judicial system would not fail these people this time but it appears I was mistaken! Hopefully there is a way to make this all right without Booth getting any kind of retribution. Lets all hope that we get the proper outcome from this!

  5. denise says:

    sounds to me like the county might have screwed up. but whats new

  6. Troy H. says:

    This is typical of Lewis County to prosecute with out all of the evidence in the trail. This is evidence that should be available in all cases like this. Some one was not on the ball. Election is coming up again. This could reflect on everyone one from the top to the bottom of the ladder.

  7. Joe says:

    “McLeod said his staff had cut the locks from previous employee’s lockers to get inside them and that’s when it was found.”

    Hmmmm……sound like evidence tampering. Isn’t that an arrestable offense?.

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