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Notes from behind the news: What readers wanted to know in 2011

Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm
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Members of the news media swarm around Barb Thompson as she exits the courthouse after the inquest jury concluded her daughter's death was homicide. / Courtesy photo by Bradd Reynolds

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

I think it’s a little bit lame to write about the top news stories of the year after the year has ended and a new one has already begun.

But I’m going to do it anyhow.

I got busy the past several days and, I can’t bring myself to forego a look-back.

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Ronda Reynolds, case

Once again, I can’t say for sure exactly what the most read news stories were on Lewis County Sirens, because if they are ranked somewhere in my web sites statistics, I still haven’t found that part.

But I can see the numbers for what people are searching for on the Internet when they end up on the news site.

Overwhelming, the October coroner’s inquest into former trooper Ronda Reynolds’ death in Toledo in 1998 comes out on top, with the startling outcome of her husband Ron Reynolds and his son, Jonathan Reynolds, being named responsible.

Search terms like “Ronda Reynolds”, “Ron Reynolds”, Barb Thompson” and “coroner’s inquest” number in the hundreds, and hundreds and hundreds.

Not too far behind is news about John Allen Booth Jr. and his triple murder trial last month, where prosecutors said he executed David West Sr. 52, 16-year-old David West Jr., 16, Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle, and tried to do away with Denise Salts, then 51, at the West’s Salkum-area home.

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Kayla Croft-Payne, still missing

Based on reader searches, the next most popular story was the missing Kayla Croft-Payne from Vader, who more than a year after she vanished at age 18 remained much on many people’s minds.

The fourth most sought out story was about Robert Maddaus who last February was found guilty of murder as he tried to recover cash and methamphetamine stolen from his Rochester trailer home. He was sentenced to life for the death of Shaun Peterson, who was found handcuffed and fatally shot on Capitol Way in Olympia in November 2009.

Next it’s kind of a tossup (based on reader searches) between three stories:

Kenneth Varner, arrested in April for allegedly helping his father – James E. Varner, 49, a former Washington state trooper – carry out a suicide plan in Packwood five years earlier and making it look like homicide so the family could collect insurance money. Charges were dismissed in October following a deal in which the now 35-year-old son pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in an unrelated case. He was sentenced to time served – about six months;

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Ronald A. Brady, convicted

Laura L. Hickey, the the 25-year-old Centralia woman accused of decapitating her premature newborn in a trailer park in March. Her trial is currently scheduled for next month;

Ronald A. Brady who was convicted in July of manslaughter for fatally shooting suspected burglar Thomas McKenzie of Morton outside his Onalaska house.

So those are the top several stories readers were looking for when they came to Lewis County Sirens.

However, all that still doesn’t really tell me what people have read the most or enjoyed reading the best, because the majority of visitors have bookmarked Lewis County Sirens and presumably just look over whatever news appears on the homepage.

What I do know for sure, is the news site has grown so much richer with the increase of readers commenting and adding their opinions. A whole other set of dialogue – sometimes even more spirited – has swelled on Lewis County Sirens Facebook group page.

And traffic to Lewis County Sirens has grown tremendously.

A year ago at this time, Lewis County Sirens’ number of readers was approaching the circulation of the local daily newspaper here. The number of readers has more than doubled since then. I like that.

I’d sure appreciate hearing what readers liked, didn’t like or would hope to see written about in 2012. Myself, I’d like to see more guest columns in the coming year, because more voices are more interesting.

Feel free to send me a note or comment.

Your news reporter,
Sharyn L. Decker

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Nine month sentence for Randle beating death

Friday, January 6, 2012 at 9:11 pm
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Right to left, Guy LaFontaine's daughter Kandace Barton, son Eric LaFontaine and family friend William Young listen as Gail LaFontaine speaks to the court about her husband's death

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Gail LaFontaine’s husband had been badly beaten.

The 58-year-old welder from Federal Way had broken ribs, broken eye sockets, a broken forearm and what a sheriff’s detective described as a shoe or boot print on his head.

After spending some five hours in the emergency room at Morton General Hospital, where they sewed up a gash in his head, Guy LaFontaine’s wife was given a CD, an appointment for the following Monday with a facial re-constructionist and hope, lots of hope.

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Guy LaFontaine

The 60-year-old woman took her husband and headed home in the middle of the night to Federal Way, on the back roads, she said.

Her daughter Kandace Barton followed them. The three had been together at the Randle home of taxidermist Erik Massa.

“He said, ‘Gail, I’m hot’, and I rolled the window down,” Gail LaFontaine said of her ailing husband. “And he grabbed my thumb.”

“Then he said, ‘Gail, I’m cold’,” she said. She turned on the heat.

“He laid back and I thought, good, he’s resting,” she said. “And he squeezed my thumb.”

When they pulled off the freeway, her daughter rolled her car window down and said ‘Mom, I don’t think he’s moving right, we’re going to St. Francis (Hospital)”, according to Gail LaFontaine.

When they arrived at the hospital, her husband of some 30 years was dead.

Massa, 44, was charged with second-degree murder in the March 14, 2010 death.

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Erik R. Massa

Under an arrangement formalized today, his case was  pleaded down to second-degree assault and he was sentenced to as much as the judge could give someone with no criminal history – nine months in jail.

LaFontaine, who worked at Todd Shipyard in Seattle, was described in court today as a union representative so beloved, some of the Korean workers he assisted would literally bow to him and his wife.

Lewis County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told a judge this afternoon there were no marks on the defendant; it was not a neutral fight.

“This is a particularly brutal beating, and there seems to be no reason for it,” Meagher said.

However, Meagher said, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy suggested LaFontaine’s death involved the altercation as well as heart disease and diabetes.

“And for whatever reason, Mr. LaFontaine was either forced to go or checked out of the hospital,” Meagher said.

Meagher said he would have had a hard time proving the cause of death at trial. Also, one witness has died and a significant piece of evidence had been suppressed – a broken shotgun found in a silo on Massa’s property, according to Meagher.

The standard sentencing range for second-degree assault is three to nine months in jail. Meagher recommended nine months. Defense attorney Chris Baum recommended three months.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler chose nine months and ordered the defendant to be evaluated – and treated if necessary- for drug and alcohol abuse.

Massa spoke in court to the judge and his father-in-law’s family saying it is a family tragedy he will live with for the rest of his life.

“I did love him and I’m very sorry for what happened,” Massa said.

He admitted only to punching his father-in-law in the ribs.

Almost an hour was spent listening to family tell the judge what the sentence should be and addressing Massa, who wouldn’t look at the speakers.

Gail LaFontaine accused him of beating to death a crippled old man.

“My life is over, it’s done,” she said.

She held a photo of her smiling husband up and spoke of how much her husband adored his son-in-law.

All a person would have to do to get Guy LaFontaine to back off is remove his glasses, Massa was told.

“Erik, you’re getting out in nine months and I have terminal cancer,” she said. “You’re coming with me.”

Massa was told when one of Guy LaFontaine’s daughters heard the “worst news ever, she thought it would be her sister” – Massa’s wife who was dead.

The details of what occurred at the 11,000 block of U.S. Highway 12 in Randle won’t be heard in a trial, but bit and pieces emerged during the hearing today.

Defense attorney Baum told the judge his client didn’t hit Guy LaFontaine over the head with a shotgun.

“LaFontaine grabbed that shotgun, pointed it at my client and threatened to kill him,” Baum said. “My client wrestled the shotgun away and took it and broke it.”

There were allegations both men had been drinking.

Massa’s wife spoke of her husband’s drinking problem, and said she, her husband and both her parents were at the property that night.

It was all over the farm, it wasn’t just one spot, there was blood everywhere,” Barton said.

She described the trauma of seeing her father laying on the taxidermy shop floor, his face is smashed, and her “holding the blood in the back of his head.”

She persuaded her husband to leave, so she could get away with her toddler, she said. She wondered if they would get out alive, she told the judge.

“To know my husband is going to out in nine months and mad at me for doing this, that’s even scarier,” she said.

Massa will be subject to 18 months community custody after his release, $1,800 in financial obligations, and 10-year no contact orders with his wife and mother-in-law.

Barton filed for divorce shortly after her father died.

Massa took only one brief look toward his father-in-law’s family as he was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.

Exactly the circumstances under which Guy LaFontaine was discharged from Morton General Hospital aren’t clear.

“It’s very sad the hospital in Morton let him leave,” defense attorney Baum said.

A sheriff’s deputy who had gone to the emergency room that night noted Guy LaFontaine’s substantial injuries, and later was notified by the hospital they couldn’t keep LaFontaine in his bed so they were releasing him.

Gail LaFontaine, who said the emergency room had lined up a LifeFlight at one point that night, characterized it this way: The doctor told her husband, “Guy, I’m tired of f-ing with you, get out.”

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office listed Guy Lafontaine’s death as a homicide caused by blunt force injuries to his head, torso and extremities.

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Breaking news: Plea offered in Randle beating death

Friday, January 6, 2012 at 11:54 am

This was updated at 6:30 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Randle taxidermist charged with second-degree murder is expected in court today following a plea offer in the case of his father-in-law who died after injuries that included  broken eye sockets.

Erik R. Massa, 44, was charged almost a year ago in the death of Guy W. LaFontaine, a 58-year-old welder, from Federal Way.

Massa’s trial is currently set for the week after next in Lewis County Superior Court.

Update: Massa’s case was pleaded down to second-degree assault and he was sentenced this afternoon to as much as the judge could give someone with no criminal history – nine months in jail.

He was taken directly into custody.

More to come. See it here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, January 6, 2012 at 9:58 am

DRUGS

• A 44-year-old Chehalis resident was arrested for possession of methamphetamine last night in Centralia, according to police. Ronnie L. Lawrence was booked into the Lewis County Jail after contact with an officer about 7:15 p.m. at North Gold Street and Roswell Road,  according to the Centralia Police Department. Lawrence’s case was also referred for a potential charge of driving under the influence, according to police.

• A 50-year-old Rochester man was booked for possession of controlled substance after a traffic stop about 9 o’clock last night at Southwest 11th Street and Cascade Avenues in Chehalis. Stephen D. Gentz was found to have a warrant and a syringe was subsequently found on him, according to police. A drug dog “alerted” on is car and a search turned up some “crystalline matter and some vegetable matter”, Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

THEFT

• Grounding wire was cut from a power pole at the 1000 block of Davis Lake Road in Morton, according to a report made to the sheriff’s office yesterday. It happened sometime between Dec. 1 and yesterday. The loss is estimated at $150, according to the Lewis County Sherif’s Office.

• Centralia police were called about 10:50 a.m. yesterday to the 300 block of North Tower Avenue where someone had broken out a window of a vehicle and stolen an HP laptop computer.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm
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Firefighters used water and foam to extinguish a burning truck on Interstate 5 north of Toledo. / Courtesy photo by District 5 Chief Eric Linn

TRUCK FIRE SLOWS TRAFFIC ON I-5

• Firefighters called about 1 p.m. today to Interstate 5 just north of the Winlock-Toledo interchange found the cab of a semi-truck fully engulfed in flames, but the driver had already exited the vehicle. Nobody was injured, according to Lewis County Fire District 15. The northbound lanes were shut down to just one lane until the fire was knocked down, Firefighter Patrick Jacobson said. Jacobson said he did not know what ignited the blaze.

THEFT

• A deputy took a report yesterday of a burglary at the 100 block of Lacey Lane near Toledo in which an estimated $2,300 of valuables were stolen. Taken sometime since last Thursday were a 3000-watt generator, a John Deere mower, a Franklin wood stove, a camp griddle and other items, according to the Lewis County Sherif’s Office.

• A brass plumbing fixture was stolen when someone broke into an unoccupied house on the 1000 block of Roosevelt Avenue in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday afternoon.

• Police were called yesterday morning about an apartment burglary on the 3000 block of Borst Avenue in Centralia where appliances and unspecified fixtures were taken, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Somebody snipped neutral lines inside locked junction boxes to shut off power before stealing copper wire south of Glenoma early yesterday morning, according to the Lewis County Sherif’s Office. It happened sometime between 3:30 a.m. and 4:45 a.m. along Conlay Road, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. It also started a small fire, she said. The loss, including 24 feet of wire, amounts to about $5,800, Brown said.

• Centralia police were called yesterday evening about the theft of a wallet from a locker at the 2000 block of Borst Avenue in Centralia.

• Chehalis police were called just before 3 a.m. today to the parking lot at Wal-Mart on Northwest Louisiana Avenue where a driver found someone had tried to break in to his car. An old worn out gold Honda key as found in the passenger door of the parked Honda, the window was down a little bit and there some damage but it didn’t appear they got inside, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called about 3:15 p.m. yesterday to the 1400 block of Northwest Louisiana Avenue when a woman returned to her vehicle after paying for her gasoline and discovered her purse with a large amount of cash was missing. She said she might have left her door open a bit and wasn’t positive it happened there, police said.

VANDALISM

• Centralia police took a report about 9:30 a.m. yesterday of a window being broken out of a vehicle at the 200 block of East Summa Street.

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News brief: Police seeking missing Napavine man

Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm

This was updated at 5:50 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Update: Officer Elwood says Taylor has been found; his truck was spotted by the sheriff’s office plane on a logging road in the Pe Ell area.

Police are looking for a 67-year-old Napavine man who left home the day before yesterday and hasn’t been seen since.

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Michael A. Taylor

Napavine Police Department Officer-in-charge Silas Elwood said Michael A. Taylor’s family is worried something might have happened to him or he might possibly be suicidal.

Taylor was last seen at 2 p.m. on Tuesday leaving his home driving a black 1990 Chevrolet Sport pickup, according to Elwood.

Taylor vanished one a year or so ago and Elwood tracked him through his cell phone, but this time Taylor left his cell phone behind, Elwood said.

He was spotted earlier Tuesday at the Lucky Eagle Casino, leaving police to suspect he could be staying at a motel or a casino.

“He might in like the Pe Ell, Doty or Dryad area, the family is from there, so people out there should really be on the lookout,” Elwood said.

Anyone with any information is asked to call Elwood at 360-880-0113 any time of day or night.

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Taylor's black 1990 Chevrolet Sport pickup is similar to this one, except Taylor's does not have a spoiler.

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News brief: Commissioners: Get Uncle Sam to let you grow weed

Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 8:56 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – If a person can get a federal permit to grow marijuana, then Lewis County officials will allow them to apply for a local permit to create a so-called collective medical marijuana garden in unincorporated portions of the county.

That’s the gist of the proposal Lewis County commissioners will take public comment upon and then vote on Jan. 23.

A draft of the expected new ordinance should be available on Jan. 11, county commissioners said yesterday.

A state law went into effect last summer allowing up to 10 medical marijuana patients to grow their cannabis in a single plot, but county officials put a moratorium in place while they studied the issue.

While state law allows it, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, a contradiction commissioners say they were attempting to address.

Lewis County Civil Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Carter told the three commissioners yesterday federal permission is hard to get, but named at least one facility in the country which has obtained one.

Commissioner Bill Schulte said the “climate” for such approval by the federal government could change in the future.

•••

For background, read “County leaders want your opinions on how to grow (medical) marijuana” from Tuesday August 2, 2011, here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:59 am

THEFT

• A deputy was called about 2 o’clock this morning to the 2200 block of Seminary Hill Road outside Centralia where someone stole $900 out of an unlocked parked truck. Also missing was an Eclipse CD player and CDs, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Morton police reported yesterday a purse was stolen from an unlocked vehicle on the 400 block of Second Street sometime before 3 p.m. on Dec. 27. The loss is estimated at $50.

• Tools and gasoline were stolen from a city of Toledo shop on the 1100 block of state Rout 505, according to a report made yesterday morning to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Also taken in the burglary that occurred sometime since Dec. 30 was a “Chicago” welder belonging to a city employee valued at $220, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

• Someone stole a $1,000 solar panel from a flashing a school zone speed sign in Boistfort, again, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday. It happened sometime between Thursday and Friday, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown, and happened before in mid-August.

VANDALISM

• Somebody shot two pellet holes into a window at the Onalaska School District Office on the 500 block of Carlisle Avenue sometime between Dec. 20 and yesterday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

DRUGS

• Centralia police arrested a 31-year-old man for possession of heroin after contact on the 500 block of Northeast Washington Avenue in Centralia about 7:30 p.m. yesterday. Eathon A. Wesen, no hometown noted, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

SMOKE IN HOUSE, NEW FIRE CHIEF

• Lewis County Fire District 6 called about 7:45 a.m. today to a house on the 600 block of Logan Hill Road outside Chehalis found a malfunctioning heat pump that spread light smoke throughout the home, according to new Fire Chief Tim Kinder. Kinder, 49, said this morning he took on the new role in the middle of last month after 10 years as a firefighter-paramedic with the mostly volunteer department. Kinder has been a paramedic for 27 years.

TRIPLE-FATALITY: DRIVER INTOXICATED

• The Grays Harbor County Coroner said the driver in the New Year’s Eve day crash that left him and two others dead died from blunt force injuries, but alcohol intoxication as well as cardiovascular disease were significant conditions that contributed to Gregory D. Martin’s death. Martin, 49, was driving a small pickup truck along the 400 block of Brooklyn Road west of Oakville when it ran off the road into some trees. Dead at the scene were Martin, of Rochester; Travis W. Bennett, 26, and Jessica L. Brick, 22, both of Centralia. Passenger Colleen L. Stuart, 49, of Rochester, was flown to to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after the 5 p.m. wreck, but has been released. Coroner Dan Burns said he wouldn’t know the level of alcohol in Martin’s system until after toxicology reports come back.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm
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Deputy Chris Fulton, right, and Ransom pose with cash and drugs found in a vehicle on Saturday in Ethel. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff's Office

DRUGS, DRUGS, DRUGS

• Eight thousand dollars cash wrapped with a rubber band and six and half ounces of suspected methamphetamine were seized after a 31-year-old Chehalis man was contacted by a deputy on Saturday afternoon at the 700 block of U.S. Highway 12 in Ethel, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. John D. Lopez was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession with intent to deliver and violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. Lopez was contacted during a traffic stop regarding a possible malicious mischief, Brown said. Deputy Chris Fulton and Ransom, the sheriffs office’s fairly new 2-year-old drug-detecting Shepherd-mix canine have only been working together a few weeks and Ransom “alerted” on the scent of drugs in the car which was subsequently searched. Lopez’s vehicle was also seized.

• A quarter pound of suspected methamphetamine was found after a 35-year-old Chehalis man was stopped for driving with a suspended license in Centralia last night, according to police. A drug dog called after the incident about 9:15 p.m. on the 1200 block of Harrison Avenue sniffed around and the four ounces of suspected drugs were discovered in a a backpack in the trunk, according to police Sgt. Carl Buster. Jose F. Lopez Jr. was booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession with intent to deliver, according to Centralia police.

• A 29-year-old woman was arrested on Saturday for allegedly stealing a large amount of narcotics from the Onalaska veterinary clinic where she worked. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said Melissa Jo Baier, employed at the Timberland Veterinary Clinic between October of 2010 and last month, stole more than 2,800 tablets of a drug called “Tussigon.” The Onalaska resident was arrested late Saturday afternoon for first-degree theft, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning. The value of the missing medications is estimated at more than $2,000, Brown said.

• Steven P. Kirby, 35, of Centralia, was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and a small amount of marijuana when he was contacted by police about 9:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Sixth Street viaduct in Centralia, according to police. After a struggle, Kirby was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Centralia police.

• A 41-year-old driver was arrested for possession of methamphetamine following a traffic stop on the 100 block of Cope Road in Winlock about 11:30 p.m. on Friday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A small baggie of suspected meth was found on the vehicle’s transmission “hump”, according to the sheriff’s office. Kelly W. Benefield was booked into the Lewis County Jail, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. He is being released with no charges.

• A 28-year-old Rochester man was arrested for violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act after a traffic stop about 9:45 p.m. Friday at the 3700 block of Harrison Avenue outside Centralia. David L. Denton was found to have a baggie of prescription pills in his pocket, plus a small amount of marijuana, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

WRECKS

• A 31-year-old Randle man was arrested for eluding after an attempted traffic stop near the 900 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia about 12:20 a.m. on Sunday. Centralia police reported the driver sped through a parking lot, crashed his vehicle onto a sidewalk and then fled on foot, leaving his passengers behind. A police dog sniffed out a jacket Robert J. Spradlin reportedly dropped and followed its scent down the block to where Spradlin was walking “like nothing happened,” according to the Centralia Police Department. Police say he fought and resisted, fearing arrest because he was driving with a suspended license and was under the influence of drugs. Spradlin was booked into the Lewis County Jail for attempting to elude, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A pair of Puyallup residents escaped serious injuries when the GMC Yukon they were traveling in spun out on some ice, went over an embankment and struck a tree near Packwood on Saturday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called just before 11 a.m. to the Butter Creek Bridge on the 400 block of Cannon Road found the vehicle sustained major damage but the 39-year-old driver and her 41-year-old passenger declined aid, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

CAR PROWL

• Centralia police were called just before 4:15 a.m. today about a stereo stolen out of a vehicle on the 1400 block of Lewis Street.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, NOW GET DOWN!

• Chehalis police were called just after midnight Sunday to a home on Southwest Fourth Street when four small children were seen playing on the roof. A warning was issued.

LOST AND FOUND

• Search and rescue personnel joined members of three fire departments when a 5-year-old girl was reported missing on Sunday afternoon from a trailer park on the 2900 block of U.S. Highway 12 in Silver Creek. The child was found about 45 minutes later hiding under a tarp in the park, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning.

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News brief: South Chehalis house rammed by vehicle, again

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Chehalis home that was hit by a bus early last year was the scene of another vehicle collision last night.

Nobody inside was injured but two little girls from the offending vehicle were taken to the hospital with scrapes, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

Police and aid were called about 9:10 p.m. to the split-level home on the 100 block of 13th Street, near William Avenue, according to Fire Capt. Kevin Curfman.

A pickup truck drove through a fence into the driveway, where it ran into two parked vehicles shoving one of them several feet through the closed garage doors, Curfman said.

Curfman said it didn’t appear the driver put on his brakes. The children, ages 4 and 5, had been buckled into car seats and their injuries were minor, he said.

There was lots of broken glass, he said.

Chehalis police did not have a completed report this morning, although Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said the driver was checked and found not to be under the influence.

Residents Hieu Duong and Liu Li were home last February with their children and mother when a Twin Transit bus plowed through a fence and the yard before striking the house. None of them were hurt then either.

“The poor home owner, I really feel for him,” Curfman said.

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Read about Ranger shot at Mount Rainier …

Sunday, January 1, 2012 at 11:44 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Update 11:15 a.m. Monday January 2, 2012: The Seattle Times reports the suspected gunman may be dead as a body was found about 10:20 a.m.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune reports a park ranger at Longmire at Mount Rainier has been shot.

The newspaper’s web site says the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department reported at 11:25 a.m. on Sunday an officer was down and a suspect with a long rifle was on foot.

Read their breaking news here

The Seattle Times is continuing to report tonight on a manhunt in the National Park with more than 100 law enforcement officers. Read their coverage, here

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Victims in Oakville area fatal crash are from Rochester, Centralia

Sunday, January 1, 2012 at 10:53 am

This was updated at 2:02 p.m. and 3:56 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Beer cans were found at the scene of a wreck that left three people dead yesterday evening southwest of Oakville, the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office said this morning.

A 49-year-old Rochester woman was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after the single-vehicle collision on the 400 block of Brooklyn Road, sheriff’s Lt. Matt Stowers said.

Colleen L. Stuart is listed in serious condition this afternoon in the intensive care unit, according to a nursing supervisor.

The small pickup was headed toward Oakville when it ran off the road down an embankment and its cab was crushed by a tree, according to Stowers.

Dead at the scene were the driver, 52-year-old Rochester resident Gregory D. Martin who is the boyfriend of the survivor; Travis W. Bennett, 26, and Jessica L. Brick, 22, both of Centralia, Stowers said.

None were wearing seat belts, according to Stowers.

“Not that it would have done them any good,” he said. “Although it might have helped the surviving passenger some.”

The  2004 Toyota Tacoma was an extended cab with two jump seats in the back, he said. The truck slid on its side and the damage was primarily to the cab, he said.

Stuart was riding behind the driver and that’s the area that had the most headroom left, he said.

Firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to open a door and extricate Stuart.

She was conscious and taken to Oakville High School School where a helicopter picked her up, according to Grays Harbor Fire District 1.

The roadway which runs between Garrard Creek Road and the town of Brooklyn in Pacific County was closed until about 10:30 p.m. as the sheriff’s office investigated.

Update Tuesday January 3, 2012 at 9:17 a.m.: Stuart has been discharged from the hospital, the Grays Harbor County undersheriff said this morning.

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Breaking news: Wreck west of Oakville claims three lives

Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 9:09 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Three people were killed in a single-vehicle collision west of Oakville this evening.

Firefighters were called about 5 p.m. to the 400 block of Brooklyn Road, six or so miles southwest of Oakville, according to Grays Harbor Fire District 1.

There were two men and two women in a small pickup truck which ran into some trees, Fire Capt. Ryan Graham said.

Firefighters from District 1 as well as Riverside Fire Authority used the Jaws of Life to extricate the adult female who survived, Graham said. She was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, he said.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm

THEFT

• Centralia police were called to the 800 block of South Pearl Street around 9:30 a.m. yesterday about a burglary to a shed. Somebody cut a lock and stole a compressor, a ‘reciprocating” saw and other tools, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WITNESS TAMPERING

• One of the individuals charged last week with dealing methamphetamine in the east end of Lewis County was back in front of a judge yesterday after allegedly scaring an informant in the case. James D. Hamrick, 29, was charged with witness tampering. Lewis County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said Hamrick made a phone call from the jail to someone wanting the informant to be picked up and taken somewhere. “He’s now in hiding and we’re real concerned about the “CI’s” safety in the case,” Meagher told the judge. Hamrick was charged last week with two counts of delivery of methamphetamine and one count of possession with intent to deliver. He is already being held on $50,000 bail, but yesterday Judge Richard Brosey ordered him held on the new charge on $100,000 bail.

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Read about Rochester 4-year-old shot in arm …

Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 4:48 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian reports a 4-year-old Rochester boy apparently shot himself in the arm at a home on Guava Street on Friday afternoon.

News reporter Jeremy Pawloski writes the child was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with a wound that started at his wrist an ended at his elbow.

Read more here

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Read about medical marijuana gardens in Castle Rock restricted to two spots …

Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 4:45 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports collective medical marijuana gardens will be limited to two commercially zoned locations near Interstate 5 in Castle Rock.

News reporter Barbara LaBoe writes the new zoning rules mandate the gardens must be secured and may not be visible from public streets.

Read more here

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Prosecutor: Former museum director gave herself thousands of dollars in fraudulent payroll draws

Friday, December 30, 2011 at 6:34 pm
2011.1230.deborah.knapp_2

Deborah Sue Knapp listens to her attorney during an appearance in Lewis County Superior Court.

This was updated at 8:59 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – If the allegations turn out to be true, the former director of the Lewis County Historical Museum routinely issued herself payroll draws and used the museum debit card to pay personal expenses at places such as a furniture store, a grocery store and even to pay her home’s electric bill – totaling more than $137,000.

Chehalis police and the Lewis County prosecutor both say they expect to find more wrongdoing as two more years of financial records are reviewed.

Deborah Sue Knapp, 52, of Chehalis, was handcuffed and wearing green and white striped jail garb as she appeared in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon.

Knapp is charged with 10 counts of first-degree theft.

She was arrested yesterday at the end of an investigation into revelations the museum’s endowment fund of more than $460,000 was drained in less than four years. Knapp was hired in July 2006.

“I’m shocked at how much,” museum member Susan Gonzales said after the hearing.

Gonzales said she was not entirely surprised when Knapp’s arrest was announced because everyone knew a police investigation was underway. But she finds it implausible one person could have made off with all that money alone, she said.

“I thought there would be more people (arrested),” Gonzales said. “How could the board not know this was happening?”

The Chehalis woman finds herself in the unique position, she said, of considering Knapp a friend, and also a tenant who has left her rent unpaid in recent months.

Last month, after museum members learned there was no money left in the endowment fund, four officers on the 13-member board were replaced, the accounts were closed and the museum was shut down temporarily. Police were asked to investigate.

The current criminal charges cover the years 2008 through this year. The investigation into 2007 and 2006 is still underway.

Knapp attempted to keep her face turned away from news cameras and spectators in the Chehalis courtroom as attorneys read the charges and discussed bail.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer called them “egregious facts” and a violation of trust.

“We expect additional charges,” Meyer said.

Meyer asked for bail of $50,000 noting Knapp and her husband have moved in a motor home in Centralia, suggesting she is a flight risk.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter pointed out his client is someone who has been an integral part of the community and requested an unsecured bond.

Judge Richard Brosey agreed Knapp could be released if her husband co-signed a $25,000 unsecured note.

Knapp’s husband, daughter and other family members were in the courtroom, but declined any comment.

According to charging documents, Knapp was paid a salary of $43,000 a year and did not receive overtime pay or so-called comp time.

Her responsibilities included overseeing the day-to-day operations of the museum in downtown Chehalis and supervising three part time employees and the volunteers.

Prosecutors allege Knapp routinely obtained “draws” from her employer but failed to account for them in subsequent paychecks. They go on to allege she wrote many of her own payroll draw checks without any one else’s knowledge, and many times listed them in the check register as voided although she cashed them.

For example, one of the theft counts alleges that in January and February 2008, she received more than $5,000 in payrolls draws in addition to her regular salary. It continued until Oct. 28, 2011, allegedly, adding up to more than $44,000.

“Knapp was questioned by law enforcement regarding the payroll draws she obtained and initially denied knowing she was overpaid, but later acknowledged she knew she had been overpaid,” prosecutors wrote.

Charging documents go on to describe it appears Knapp was using the museum debit card to pay personal expenses at Aaron’s Furniture, AGIA Insurance, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, K-Mart, Walgreens, Safeway, Staples and Lewis County PUD.

Prosecutors wrote it appears she used the card to pay her power bill on Fineview Road for the previous two years.

The personal debit card amounts total $92,000 over the last four years, according to prosecutors. The total figure is still under investigation, according to charging documents.

No other individuals associated with the museum are suspected to be involved, according to police.

New museum board president John Panesko said on his talk radio show this morning nobody other than Knapp ever looked at the original records – the bank statements.

This afternoon Panesko said that was his understanding, and he could not explain how the board treasurer could have compiled her reports to the board without those records – even as she was also the paid part-time bookkeeper.

The dual-role is something the new board officers have eliminated, along with implementing several other layers of security relating to money, according to Panesko.

“No one who was involved in finances before is involved in it again,” he said. “Just for safety.”

He expected a decision to terminate Knapp would be made at next week’s board meeting, he said.

The museum has been operating with only volunteers, but Panesko said they expect next month to bring back the part-time curator and bring in a part-time director.

“We don’t now who that is yet,” he said.

The museum is open and its incoming revenue roughly matches its expenses now, according to Panesko.

“We have enough money to operate, now that we’ve plugged the leak,” he said.

Knapp’s opportunity to make her plea comes on Jan. 12.

Her income and assets are such she was assigned a court-appointed attorney, Ken Johnson.

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