Sirens news highlights – and lowlights – from 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 9:47 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

What might the next 12 months bring on the streets, the backroads and in the courtrooms of Lewis County?

Imagine a week with no drug arrests or domestic violence, a month with no thievery or assault and what about a year without any violent deaths? How about no house fires?

While sharing the details from the world of cops, courts and fire departments, I have to confess at least some of my motivation is perhaps so some of us can learn some small something so if we end up in the news, it is for something wondrous and inspiring instead of Sharyn’s Sirens Roundup.

Here is a look back at some of the stories that topped the Sirens news during the year. If any of them bring to mind words of wisdom to share with the rest of us, please offer your thoughts in the comment section.

If any prompt predictions of what 2014 could hold, those would be nice to hear as well.


The year 2013 began with first-degree theft charges filed against the owners of Birdwell Brothers Auto Sales, alleging the couple used various deceptions to avoid paying back the Centralia-based Security State Bank for loans for vehicles, with losses alleged in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Keith A. Birdwell, 47, and Lorrine D. Birdwell, 44, pleaded not guilty.

The Toledo residents who operated the used car business with sites in Centralia and Lacey are awaiting separate trials early in 2014. The “bad checks” issue against Lorrine Birdwell has been dismissed.


The following month, a 24-year-old rural Chehalis resident shot and injured a nighttime intruder inside his house and was highly praised by the sheriff, except for that he didn’t fire more shots, fire sooner and use better ammunition.

Brian L. Creed, 51, who was high on methamphetamine when he encountered the just-awakened young man in the home on Highway 603 subsequently pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, and read aloud an apology before he was sentenced to just shy of three years in prison.


Almost a year after losing her 2-year-old daughter to torturous sexual abuse of a new live-in boyfriend, Becky M. Heupel of Centralia faced a judge, accused of failing to protect the little girl.

The 31-year-old subsequently pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal mistreatment, agreeing to pay with one year and a day of prison time for not acting on clues something was amiss.

Two-year-old Koralynn Fister died from drowning and head trauma while in the care of James M. Reeder, who was convicted but denied he was responsible.


A school bus carrying the Toledo-Winlock High School soccer team went airborne off Interstate 5 and came to rest wheels down at the bottom of a ravine on the night of April 9, with no serious injuries but conflicting reports as to whether its brakes failed.

Ronnie Withrow, the 53-year-old driver was praised by responders for guiding the 2009 Thomas full-sized yellow bus between a sign and a guard rail at the northbound exit to state Route 505.

An inspector with the Washington State Patrol found no mechanical failures although Withrow said the brakes went out. His ticket for failing to stop at the stop sign was eventually dismissed  replaced by an infraction for moving a defective vehicle.


Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey blasted board members of the Lewis County Historical Museum when he sentenced its former executive director for stealing at least $124,000 during her time at the helm.

Deborah Sue Knapp, 53, was given 14 months after pleading guilty to multiple counts of first-degree theft, apparently having routinely issued herself extra salary through payroll draws and using the museum debit card for personal expenses.

Knapp was arrested at the end of 2011 after revelations the non-profit’s endowment fund of more than $460,000 was drained, attributed mostly to the museum living beyond its means.


Some 25 law enforcement personnel took part in an operation in which numerous individuals in Randle were arrested following a months-long drug investigation.

The so-called Big Bottom Bust netted 10, seven of which were accused of selling mostly small amounts of methamphetamine with plea deals made in light of an unreliable informant with mental health issues.


A 48-year-old Chehalis area mother of two teenage daughters was beaten to death by her boyfriend, who initially told a story of wrecking his truck on a logging road near Morton, as they tried to escape three assailants.

Corey R. Morgan, 32, had been sentenced just two days earlier for a previous incident of domestic violence against Brenda Bail.

After Morgan pleaded guilty, his lawyer told the court both were bi-polar, both taking medication and both decided to go out drinking together. Then a judge sentenced him to just short of 23 years in prison.


A 39-year-old woman died eight days after she suffered burns in a fire in a Vader house fire, which had no electricity or running water.

Jeannette Dunivan-Spain told a deputy she tried to knock down flames from a knocked over candle that woke her up.

The one-time May Day queen from Vader suffered second-degree burns that led to an infection which killed her.


A 59-year-old motorcyclist who was struck by a bolt of lightning managed to pull off Interstate 5 into a Chehalis gas station and then delay his ambulance ride to the hospital while he arranged safekeeping for his bike.

Medics found minor burns on the side of the Tenino resident’s head and inside his helmet.


A huge news story from 1985 resurfaced last year and then dominated the local news scene with the six-week trial regarding the abduction and slayings of an elderly Ethel couple, Ed and Minnie Maurin.

Prosecutors persuaded a jury that former Mossyrock resident Ricky A. Riffe at the very least was an accomplice to their other longtime suspect who was deceased, the defendant’s younger brother John Gregory Riffe.

With no DNA evidence or fingerprints, but with nearly 100 individuals testifying, Riffe was convicted as charged in the case in which the Maurin’s were apparently forced to drive to their Chehalis bank and withdraw a sizable amount of cash before being shot in their backs and dumped on a logging road.


The Riffe trial ran into November and the 55-year-old, through his attorney, continued to deny he was responsible when he was sentenced to 103 years in prison.


Two brothers were charged after a raid of a Chehalis area home on Jackson Highway turned up freezer bags containing about $200,000 worth of methamphetamine, with crystals as long as a Sharpie felt pen.

The arrests of Randall D. Mauel, 42, and Ryan G. Mauel, 37, came out of fast-moving investigation by narcotics detectives in Thurston County within 24 hours of the local arrival of the drugs, which included  two baggies filled with heroin.


Fill in the blank. Please feel free to offer your predictions for what’s possible during the coming calendar year.

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8 Responses to “Sirens news highlights – and lowlights – from 2013”

  1. kimdonowrong says:

    I predict Lewis County will have more, Civil Rights, Using Contempt Of Court as a form of harassment, And Discrimination Law suits filed this year..

  2. StopInflation says:

    @amazed, I am not excusing any dealers or sticking up for drugs. I am simply pointing out that the people who we count on to uphold the law and be role models for our children are at best grossly exaggerating and at worst blatantly lying to us. My hunch is they do this to try and get more tax payers money thrown their way. In my book being deceitful for financial gain is the classic definition of FRAUD. So frankly, I am amazed at how people like yourself think that is acceptable behavior for law enforcement.

    Also, nowhere in my statement did I quote the street price of drugs. I went by the amounts that they themselves posted in the story and then used simple math to show that those numbers are ridiculously incorrect. I have a hard time believing meth is now worth 3 times the price of gold. The closest I came to quoting street prices was to say that those numbers were multiplied by about 10 times. I do not know this for a fact, but if you did some investigating (and I did ask a few people) you would find that my numbers are much closer to the truth than theirs.

    I am just curious why they are lying and if they are lying about this then what other lies have they gotten in the habit of throwing out there without anybody challenging them. That should be concerning to most I would think.

  3. Hernandez says:

    I would like to know where Thurston County gets off doing raids on Lewis County soil. Personally I am thankful for my sobriety every day. I have been clean for almost two years and one of these brothers was essential in providing me support in many ways. I would say there is more to the story so please hold your judgement. I wish Thurston County would allow Lewis County Officers to make their own judgment calls, after all they know the lay of the land.

  4. amazed says:

    Again I am amazed at how far people will go to excuse drug use and the dealers they know.

    The December bust is most interesting to me because it involved some home grown individuals pretty well known in the area. Not transients, or people who have recently moved here, but these are born and bred in the county. So while I am not surprised there are so many apologists for them, I am surprised at some of the ways people downplay the nature of their crime.

    I’m not sure what the going rate is for meth on the street, but then I am not involved in that market. Unless you are involved in some sort of research, I don’t think it reflects well on you if you can quote the street values of drugs and want to accuse law enforcement of sensationalizing meth costs.

    I’d prefer we calculated the value of drugs based on the healthcare costs related to treatment of it’s abuse. If that were the case, I actually think the numbers our inflation expert quoted would prove to be low.

  5. StopInflation says:

    Why do they lie so blatantly on the values of drugs and property that are seized in these raids? For example in the December raid on Jackson Hwy the value of what was supposedly found was multiplied nearly 10 fold from what it was REALLY worth. If you go by the 200,000 dollar for 2.7 lbs that would mean 1g = $166 , 1 “eight-ball”= $581 , 1oz = $4651 , or about $75,000lb.

    So they are now saying that METH is now WORTH roughly 3 TIMES THE PRICE OF GOLD? Why blow things that far out of proportion? Second thought, why are you lying to the public at all? If you have to lie that bad to get your state funding your ethics are in the gutter. I see no difference between that and those who commit insurance or welfare fraud. You are knowingly lying to deprive the state of its funds. Isn’t that the type of thing you are supposed to be combating and not participating in?

  6. lewiscountyElitesNotbetterthentherest says:

    ooops, crooked, not cooked

  7. lewiscountyElitesNotbetterthentherest says:

    Sharon if you are to take a look at the year in review, then by all means lets not forget about some of this fine Counties most cooked and criminal incidents. Like the Big Bottom Bust, when they wasted money on a “deemed incompetent (by the State) drug using, license suspending (yet aloud to drive) confidential informant. Thank goodness for the courts most of the arrested idiots took a plea, 8 persons arrested and only drugs found amounted to less then a $150.00 street value, well when it came down to it the one case that did not take a plea was dismissed, because, not only could they not use their choice informant, during this time in between court dates, (what I would consider an important player on the side of the law) Jeffery Humphrey (aka: in charge of Confidential Informants) decided to go out drink and what ever else he was high on, think he could drive and blow through a taped off police line (because he thought he was one) while under the influence at 3:40 am with 3 un-named persons in his F-150, 250, or 350…whatever, hats off to the Stater that swore to his oath and has a code of Ethics.
    You probably should not fail to remind the peeps of the other things, whether it makes them look bad or not. They already look bad on their own. Also Sharyn, was the Chehalis Officer Mrs Humphrey 2 weeks or so prior whom also got a DUI any relation to Jeffery?

  8. TongueInCheek says:

    After lengthy debate, a citizen’s committee from both cities, the county and local tribal government voted to fund a study of possible impacts of and solutions to local flooding along the Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers, with residents along the Cowlitz and Newaukum rivers protesting their apparent exclusion from the discussion and decision-making process. The Department of Transportation, also not invited to the discussion, sent a letter reiterating that their 75-year transportation plan does not include funding to raise or widen any part of the six-mile portion of the interstate impacted almost annually by river flooding and therefore will not be part of any study, nor will they comply with any recommendations frorm the Tri-Entity Flooding Committee. The study is partially funded by grant money from the Federal “No Dollar Goes Unspent” action fund and $4 in local matching funds raised by a bake sale and chili feed in June 2014. Study results are slated to be available prior to the next round of floods scheduled for November 2014.

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