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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, October 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm

THEFT

• A 19-year-old Chehalis resident was arrested for first-degree robbery after he allegedly stole cell phone chargers from Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon and gave an employee a bloody lip before fleeing the store. Zachary J. Johnston-Penrose was picked up less than an hour later at a residence after an officer recognized two of his companions on security video, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Centralia police took a report on Saturday of the theft of pain medication from the 200 block of Oakview Avenue.

• A 41-year-old Centralia woman was arrested for third-degree theft after she allegedly put $1 into a newspaper box and removed 11 copies of the paper just before 4 a.m. on Saturday at the 300 block of North Pearl Street in Centralia.

• Chehalis police are investigating the fraudulent use of a debit card that was stolen in a vehicle prowl in Centralia, used in Chehalis and reported on Friday morning.

• Centralia police were called to five car prowls on Friday between about 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Among the items stolen: a purse from a vehicle parked at a motel on Belmont Avenue; a purse and three canes from a vehicle parked on the 900 block of South Schueber Road; a purse from the 1200 block of Mellen Street; a purse containing medication from the 2800 block of Russell Road and a stereo from the 400 block of Lakeshore Drive.

PRANK

• Chehalis police were called about 5 p.m. on Saturday after two little children reportedly vandalized a neighbor’s Halloween decorations on Southwest Third Street. The subjects were 6 and 7 years old, and legally not capable of committing a crime, so an officer spoke with their parents, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

GOOD DEED

• A money bag containing about $7,000 in cash and checks belonging to a Centralia church reportedly fell off a vehicle near Harrison Avenue and West First Street in Centralia on Thursday, according to police. A citizen found the bag and contacted the church about returning it, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WRECKS

• Two women were taken to Providence Centralia Hospital after a two-car crash in Adna this morning, according to Lewis County Fire District 6. Firefighters were called about 7 a.m. to the wreck at state Route 6 near Highway 603, according to Firefighter Mike Goodwillie.

• Riverside Fire Authority was called about 2:30 a.m. today to the 1600 block of Cooks Hill Road where a vehicle drive through a fence and struck a house. The damage to the house and vehicle was minimal, according to Fire Capt. Tim Adolphsen. Centralia police however arrested a 26-year-old Rochester resident, Francis E. Metcalf, for driving under the influence.

• A 23-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for hit and run as well as driving under the influence after a vehicle ran into a tree on Centralia College Boulevard and South Pear Street in Centralia about 1:40 a.m. yesterday. Terra M. Fager was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 20-year-old Centralia man was cited for reckless driving after he reportedly ran into a building on the 1000 block of Eckerson Road in Centralia about 9 p.m. on Friday, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 41-year-old Onalaska woman was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle yesterday after a single-vehicle collision on the 100 block of View Ridge Road in Onalaska, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responding about 2:20 p.m. yesterday to a report of an abandoned, wrecked car found the woman had crashed around 4:30 a.m. and called her son to take her to the hospital, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. She was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital and she was flown by helicopter to Harborview about 10 o’clock yesterday morning, according to the sheriff’s office.

MORTON CHILD LURING UPDATE

• Morton police continue to investigate the attempted child luring of a school children reported the Friday before last near Morton Elementary School. An 11-year-old boy told police a man driving a white pickup truck offered him $20 if he would get into the vehicle. A 12-year-old boy at the same time told an officer a similar incident that occurred the day before. The Morton Police Department this morning said they are following up on leads as they come in, but offered no other update.

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News brief: Suspicious fire breaks out at Boistfort home

Monday, October 31, 2011 at 11:57 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The sheriff’s office is investigating an arson that destroyed a Boistfort-area home on Saturday night.

Firefighters from Lewis County Fire District 13 were called about 10 p.m. to a double-wide mobile home on the 500 block of Boistfort Road. The 46-year-old woman who lives there heard two loud bangs or booms and discovered flames on her front porch, according to authorities.

She woke up her companion and they tried using a garden hose on the flames which spread into the attic and collapsed about half the roof, fire investigator Jay Birley said.

A passerby called 911. Nobody was injured.

Birley said it’s possible what sounded like explosions were a light bulb and a plate glass window breaking.

There are no suspects at this time, but anyone with information is asked to call 911, Crime Stoppers or the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning.

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Breaking news: Ron, Jonathan Reynolds arrested, and released

Friday, October 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm
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Jonathan, left, and his father Ron Reynolds enter a Chehalis courtroom this morning

Updated at 6:10 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lawyers and the sheriff arranged for Ron and Jonathan Reynolds to go before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court within less than two hours of their warrants being re-issued this morning.

After hearing briefly from the prosecutor, Judge James Lawler ordered the two men to be released immediately.

“The matter is over unless and until the prosecutor decides to file criminal charges, and none are pending at this time,” Lawler said.

Chehalis attorney Joe Mano had no comment about his client, Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds.

Olympia attorney Rick Cordes, representing Jonathan Reynolds, called it a travesty.

This may or may not be the final turn in the case of Ronda Reynolds, a 33-year-old former trooper found shot to death in a closet of the Toledo home she shared with her new husband and his sons in December 1998.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod issued the arrest warrants based on his inquest jury’s unanimous finding last week the pair were responsible for the homicide of Ronda Reynolds.

While the coroner said he was fulfilling his statutory obligation, elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer told the judge this morning the same as he announced to the press yesterday:

There is not enough admissible evidence to prosecute them criminally.

The inquest jury only had to make its finding based on a preponderance of evidence, but much of what they heard would not be allowed in a court of law, Meyer said.

Following the very brief hearing in the Chehalis courthouse, Cordes spoke publicly for the first time on the matter.

The process he called a waste of time and money has torn up Ron and Jonathan Reynolds, he said.

“It’s devastating. Ron is in the process of losing his job and Jonathan can’t get a job,” Cordes said.

The two “absolutely” believe Ronda Reynolds committed suicide, and he’s not sure they can ever clear their names, he said.

“The paper has now come out and accused them basically of murder, something they didn’t do, something they had no involvement in,” Cordes said. “And that’s been hanging over them for 13 years.”

Cordes said they are considering holding a press conference of their own sometime next week, and another thought is the possibility of a lawsuit against the county and the coroner, “among others.”

The lawyer said he doesn’t agree the coroner ought to have had them arrested, after knowing the prosecutor would not file charges

The statute was originally adopted around 1850, he said, and was designed for the coroner to act when the sheriff was unavailable, he said.

The influence that Barb Thompson and Ann Rule have had on the community has led to something that’s ruined many lives in the Reynolds’ family, he said.

“People know who they are so they associate some terrible thing that they had nothing to do with, with them,” he said.

Jonathan Reynolds was 17 at the time of Ronda Reynolds’ death.

Ron Reynolds remains on administrative leave from his job as a school principal in Toledo.
•••

Read this morning’s news when the coroner reversed his decision from the night before to quash the warrants, here

Read Prosecutor Meyer’s announcement from yesterday on why he isn’t filing criminal charges, here

Read about the coroner’s inquest, and find links to the stories filed each day during the proceedings, here

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Judge James Lawler's courtroom is full when Ron and Jonathan Reynolds appear briefly

•••

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Barb Thompson, mother of Ronda Reynolds, waits for the appearance of Ron and Jonathan Reynolds

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Breaking news: Arrest warrants back on for the Reynolds’s

Friday, October 28, 2011 at 10:04 am
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Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod speaks with some of his staff as he leaves the courthouse.

Updated at 10:52 a.m. and 7:37 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The coroner stayed awake all night struggling about the arrest warrants for Ron and Jonathan Reynolds.

Yesterday he quashed them, saying they served no purpose after the Lewis County prosecutor announced no criminal charges would be filed.

This morning, Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod reversed himself and is heading back to his office now to issue arrest warrants for the pair.

This is just the latest turn in the case of Ronda Reynolds, a 33-year-old former trooper found shot to death in a closet of the Toledo home she shared with her new husband and his sons in December 1998.

Initially believed by the sheriff’s office and then-Coroner Terry Wilson to be a suicide, the manner of death has been changed repeatedly over the years back and forth between undetermined and suicide as it was reinvestigated, moved through a civil suit brought by Ronda Reynolds’ mother and finally this month was the subject of a rare coroner’s inquest under a new county coroner.

An inquest jury ruled unanimously last week the manner of death was homicide and named Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds and his son as responsible for the death.

McLeod, a college forensics instructor who came to Chehalis from the coroner’s office in Las Vegas, Nevada, campaigned last year in part on the issue of the controversial death. He promised to change the death certificate to undetermined and review it.

This morning in the Chehalis courtroom where the seven-day inquest was held, McLeod  spoke to a small audience of spectators when he formally finalized and closed the inquest for the record.

He said he reflected all evening, and all night on his reasons for canceling the warrants, and then reviewed, and reviewed and reviewed the state law that says the coroner shall issue a warrant if the inquest jury ascertains it is a homicide and identifies who is responsible.

“My decision is the jury’s decision is representative of the citizens of Lewis County, and they expect me to follow through with their decision,” he said this morning.

The applicable statute reads “…the coroner shall issue a warrant for the arrest of the person charged, returnable forthwith to the nearest magistrate.”

What happens next is in the hands of others, according to McLeod.

The coroner read his final order into the record.

He is changing the manner of death on Ronda Reynolds’ death certificate from undetermined to homicide.

McLeod said he was satisfied the purposes of the inquest were met.

Among his stated goals: “To satisfy the community that the circumstances surrounding the death of no one of its members will be overlooked, concealed or ignored.”

Barb Thompson, mother of Ronda Reynolds, was present and feeling very good about McLeod’s choice to issue the arrest warrants and allow the process to play out before a judge.

It gave her a feeling of confidence in public officials she hasn’t had in 13 years, the Spokane resident said.

“These guys are studying the law you know, Lewis County has come so far,” Thompson said. “They’ve got a good prosecutor and a good coroner.”

Coroner McLeod too was much more relaxed as he left the courthouse to head back to his own office.

He conversed casually with Thompson, something he’s been careful about since he became coroner, given he and she both have issues pending in the Washington State Court of Appeals.

The three-judge panel put the case on hold, waiting to see what the outcome of McLeod’s inquest would be.

Former Lewis County Coroner Terry Wilson appealed a 2009 judge’s order to remove suicide from Reynolds’ death certificate and Thompson filed a cross appeal asking them to clarify what can happen under a judicial review of a coroner’s decision.

McLeod said he’s no longer interested in pursuing the former coroner’s battle. He’s curious how the appeal will end, he said.

“I’m interested if the appeal judges say yes, a judge ought to be able to tell a coroner what to change a death certificate to,” McLeod said.

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Barb Thompson speaks with a reporter from the television show 48 Hours, whose team has been chronicling the events around the inquest, which will likely air next spring.

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News brief: Centralia driver dies after medical issue, wreck on I-5

Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters and troopers called to a motor vehicle accident on northbound Interstate 5 in Centralia this afternoon found the driver had suffered an apparent cardiac event before his car slid along the inside concrete barrier and came to a stop.

The 79-year-old Centralia man was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital where he was declared dead, according to the Washington State Patrol.

His wife was with him and was not injured, responders said.

It happened just before 2:30 p.m. near milepost 81.

Richard A. Pliska, 79, had no apparent injury from the collision, according to the state patrol.

Their 1998 Mercury Marquise sustained an estimated $1,000 damage.

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Breaking news: Coroner cancels arrest warrants for Reynolds’s

Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm

This was updated at 7:40 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County coroner canceled his arrest warrants for Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds and his son Jonathan Reynolds saying there’s no reason to arrest the pair.

“There is no purpose in having the warrants served when no criminal charges will be brought against them due to a lack of evidence,” Coroner Warren McLeod stated in a news release this afternoon.

McLeod said the manner of death for former trooper Ronda Reynolds will be changed from undetermined to homicide within two or three days.

The coroner’s announcement followed Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer’s decision this morning not to file charges against the former husband and steps-son of the 33-year-old woman.

Ronda Reynolds was found fatally shot in the head, on the floor of her walk-in closet in their Toledo home on Dec. 16, 1998.

McLeod will reconvene his coroner’s inquest tomorrow morning to read his closing orders on the record.

Update: 7:40 p.m.: Barb Thompson’s lawyer Royce Ferguson this evening opened his email and found Coroner McLeod had notified him just before 4 p.m. he was going to quash the arrest warrants.

Ferguson said he wrote to McLeod urging him not to do that, but didn’t know if it was too late.

He shared the letter he emailed McLeod this evening. It is below.

Dear Coroner McLeod,

Please do not quash the arrest warrants! I have just talked to Barb Thompson.  We are flabbergasted! To quash the warrants is acting short of your statutory duty requiring you to (“shall”) issue warrants following the inquest verdicts. By issuing the warrants, you would be done with the case (following changing of the death certificate to homicide). The burden of proceeding would then be on the sheriff to make the arrest, the courts to release the arrestees, and then on the prosecutor to decide to charge or not. By quashing the warrants you are relieving the sheriff of any responsibility to act, as well as the other officials “downstream.” In all candor, it greatly tarnishes what has been stellar performance by you. It will expose you to criticism you need not endure or suffer. Please do not quash the warrants. Additionally, where in the statute does it say you may ignore the duty to issue the warrants because another official elects to not perform his or her duty? You are relinquishing and ceding your authority to them. Again, please complete your statutory duty.

Royce Ferguson
Attorney for Barb Thompson

•••

Read more about today’s events related to the case, here

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News brief: Attempted child luring in Mossyrock unfounded

Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Mossyrock Police Department issued a news release this afternoon saying they investigated an alleged child luring case in town and determined no crime was committed.

“While parents and community members should always be observant of unusual behavior we are glad in the instance there was no criminal activity found,” Officer Rebecca Sutherland stated.

The Mossyrock Elementary School principal encouraged teachers to talk with students Tuesday about stranger danger after learning of an incident the evening before in which a fifth-grade girl  said she was approached by a male while she was at Smith and Son Grocery.

The report followed two incidents in Morton in which a children told police of a man driving a white pickup truck offering them money if they would get into his vehicle.

Sutherland thanked the public for its diligence and encourages folks to call 911 immediately to report suspicious activity.

•••

Read “News brief: Attempted child lurings reported in Mossyrock, Morton” from Tuesday October 25, 2011 at 12:51 p.m., here

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Breaking news: No charges in Ronda Reynolds homicide “at this time”

Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 11:04 am
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Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer announces no charges against Ron Reynolds, Jonathan Reynolds, at the Lewis County courthouse this morning

Updated at 2:15 p.m. and 8:50 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer will not file criminal charges against the husband and step-son of former trooper Ronda Reynolds despite them being named as responsible for her homicide during the recently concluded coroner’s inquest into the December 1998 death.

But murder knows no statute of limitations, Meyer said at a press conference this morning at the Lewis County courthouse.

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Ronda Reynolds

The elected prosecutor cited a lack of physical evidence available for a trial, as most was released after the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office early on decided the death was a suicide.

He also noted a higher standard he must adhere to if choosing to prosecute criminally, relative the rules that pertained to Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod’s inquest.

One issue is the obvious foreseeable defense he must consider in making a charging decision, Meyer said. The inquest jury named Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds and his son Jonathan Reynolds.

“There is some evidence to suggest Ms. Reynolds was murdered; however there is also evidence to suggest she killed herself,” Meyer said.

However, he left the door open to further inquiry.

Meyer said he will be talking with the sheriff and discuss options for obtaining information he thinks is important for closure of the matter one way or the other.

Barb Thompson, who has battled for almost 13 years to see justice in her daughter’s case, repeatedly said this morning she is fine with the outcome and now can go on with her life.

“I’m okay with this decision,” Thompson told news reporters.

Following the eight-day inquest that concluded last week the coroner issued arrest warrants for the two men as required by state law, but recalled them to investigate an issue and then re-issued them again the night before last.

Prosecutor Meyer said he believes the sheriff is still obligated to serve the warrants, but doesn’t know what will occur when the Reynolds’s are brought before a judge.

“The statute is completely silent as to the process,” Meyer said, adding he will be prepared to answer any questions the judge has.

Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield has remained tight-lipped throughout the inquest and since.

Mansfield stated publicly the day the inquest began that its outcome would not cause him to reopen their case or change its disposition in his office – suicide – unless clear and compelling new information arose.

Despite the sheriff’s office stance in the case, Meyer said he has confidence the sheriff will assist him in getting the answers he wants.

“Had they not followed up on some leads given to them by Barb and her team, I might have that concern, but they have followed up on several leads they’ve been given,” Meyer said.

Meyer said his ethical obligations as a prosecutor prevent him at this point from simply letting a jury decide if there is enough evidence.

The prosecutor said he has to have substantial admissible evidence, be able to convict, and in this case, and also consider a foreseeable defense.

“And in this case, I don’t think we’d be able to meet that burden,” he said.

Thompson said she was disappointed but has faith in Meyer as a prosecutor, and as new information comes in, she’ll work with him for as long as he allows her to do that.

“I think he’s going to keep that door open for me,” Thompson said.

She reminded a small crowd of news reporters that true crime author Ann Rule has offered a $30,000 reward for anyone who comes forward with information that ends in a conviction of the person responsible for her daughter’s death.

“Thirty-thousand dollars is a lot of money,” he said.

“We still think some may,” she said. “We know they know. There’s people out there that know.”

Regardless of today’s announcement of no charges, Thompson is feeling a great deal of finality knowing the suicide label will be replaced with that of homicide.

She has been keeping her daughter’s ashes at home, and now feels free to scatter them, she said.

“You know, I needed that, I needed that determination to do that,” she said.

•••

Read background on the coroner’s inquest, here

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Barb Thompson, of Spokane, answers reporter's questions after the prosecutor's announcement.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm

MOSSYROCK DRIVER HURT BY FLYING WHEEL ASSEMBLY

• A 21-year-old woman from Mossyrock was hospitalized  after a dual tire wheel assembly broke off from a log truck and struck her car’s windshield and roof on Interstate 5 near Woodland this morning, according to the Washington State Patrol. Troopers were called to the northbound lanes near milepost 20 just after 7 o’clock today. Kayla A. Roque Villatoro was transported to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver with possible upper body and facial lacerations, the state patrol reported. Her Honda Accord sustained an estimated $5,000 damage. It happened in a construction zone. A Jeep Cherokee that ran over part of the assembly became disabled, according to the state patrol. The 42-year-old truck driver from Corbett, Ore. was cited for a defective wheel.

THEFT

• Centralia police were called yesterday to a business on the 1200 block of Mellen Street to take a report somebody went in overnight and took “items”. Further details were not available.

• An unlocked car with its keys left inside was stolen from the 400 block of Tucker Road in Toledo sometime between 8 p.m. on Monday and 5 o’clock yesterday morning, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The 1996 four-door Dodge Neon is valued at $1,000 and belonged to the wife of a Napavine man who reported it was taken from his workplace, the sheriff’s office said today. It has a license plate reading VAE 623.

• A pair of newlyweds returning home from their honeymoon discovered on a ring they had hidden in a closet missing from their home on the 100 block of Brockway Road in Chehalis, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. It was reported yesterday. The loss is $2,500 and the sheriff’s office has s suspect in mind, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said today.

• A deputy took a report yesterday of a John Deere riding lawn mower stolen from the 200 block of Macomber Road in Chehalis. It disappeared sometime on Friday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Centralia police took a report yesterday of a welder stolen from a garage on the 1900 block of Foxglove Lane. It went missing sometime during the previous week, according to the Centralia Police Department.

PICKUP RAMS LOG TRUCK

• The state patrol blames inattention for a wreck last evening on Interstate 5 in Chehalis in which a pickup truck struck a log truck that was on the shoulder. Trooper were called just before 5 p.m. to the southbound lanes near the Chamber of Commerce Way interchange. Mark R. Schley, 40, of Wenatchee, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with injuries to his head, neck and abdomen, according to the state patrol. His 1995 Chevrolet pickup was described as totaled. The tractor and its trailer, driven by Patrick Eberle of Salkum, sustained an estimated $10,000 damage, the state patrol said. Drugs or alcohol were believed to be involved, according to the patrol.

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Littlerock man given three-plus years for injury hit and run at scouting event

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Twenty-four-year-old Kody Chipman was sentenced today to just under three and a half years in prison for a March hit and run in which two men were seriously injured.

The south Thurston county resident, who most recently lived in Littlerock, was found guilty last week by a jury of two counts of vehicular assault and also hit and run.

Dee L. Cooper, 70, of Olympia, and Daniel I. Kitchings, 37, of Rainier, were attending a scout meeting off of South Bay Road when Chipman put his car in reverse and drove off following a confrontation about Chipman speeding, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Chipman’s grandmother, Sharon Hallman, was at Thurston County Superior Court this morning when a judge gave her grandson a 40 month sentence.

“We think the sentence is fair,” Hallman stated.
•••

Read background here

Read more here

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Read about attorney for 13-year-old said fatal shooting of father was accident …

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 12:57 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian reports the grandfather and an attorney say it was an accident when a 13-year-old Littlerock boy fatally shot his sleeping father on Sunday night.

News reporter Jeremy Pawloski writes the boy went before a commissioner in Thurston County Juvenile Court yesterday following the death of his father, Jimmie Asher Jr, 39.

Read more here

And even more from this afternoon, here

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Fiery night in south Thurston County

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 12:22 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Two women were hospitalized for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out  in their home north of Littlerock early this morning.

Members of West Thurston Regional Fire Authority were joined by two other fire departments at the home on the 2800 block of 76th Avenue Southwest just after 4 a.m., according to Fire Chief Robert Scott.

The fire was contained to the furnace area and determined to be electrical, Scott said. The women’s condition’s were not life-threatening, he said.

Less than two hours later, firefighters were called to a home in Rochester in which a couple woke up to smoke detectors; crews found fire coming out of a wall behind a chimney, Scott said.

The wood stove had not been used in a day or two, but apparently a build-up of creosote has been smoldering and ignited two walls, he said.

Crews opened up the wall to extinguish the flames and evacuated the smoke from the single-story residence, according to Scott. It happened on the 9100 block of 173rd Avenue Southwest.

The two house fires followed a barn-shop fire west of Tenino last night on the 16800 block of Tilley Road South.

Thurston County Fire District 12 was joined by Rochester-area firefighters after the 9:23 p.m. call.

Scott said there was significant damage to the building.

“On arrival, it was about 50 percent involved, the knock-down was real fast,” District 12 Battalion Chief Jim Fowler said this morning. “They did overhaul for about two hours.”

No injuries were reported.

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Woman robbed at knifepoint in Centralia

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 10:59 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia woman fought off a knife-wielding purse snatcher who confronted her when she pulled into the driveway of her home last night, according to police.

Officers were called just before 10 p.m. to the 1000 block of Alder Street and conducted a search with a police dog but didn’t find the male subject, Officer John Panco said this morning.

There was no indication in the police report either the 45-year-old woman or her attacker were hurt, he said.

Panco said he confronted her as she exited her vehicle, put a knife to her chest or neck and demanded her purse.

“At first, she thought it was a joke,” Panco said.

The woman grabbed the knife or his hand, they fought a little bit, going to the ground and he got up and took off, with the purse, according to Panco.

The male was described as wearing a gray or brown “hoodie” and she thought he was about 5-feet 7-inches tall, Panco said.

The search did lead to possible suspects, but no arrest has been made, according to police.

Panco said he didn’t know if the woman chose to fight to try to keep her purse or to defend herself from the knife.

“We never ever recommend putting yourself in a position where you’re going to get hurt, but people react differently in different situations,” he said.

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Breaking news: Arrest warrants re-issued for Ron Reynolds and son

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Updated at 9:03 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod has reissued the arrest warrants for Ron and Jonathan Reynolds after investigating the possibility of juror misconduct.

McLeod, in a news release this evening, said the allegation of misconduct was unfounded.

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Ron Reynolds

The warrants were issued last Wednesday evening,  following the conclusion by an inquest jury the pair were responsible for the homicide of the former state trooper Ronda Reynolds in 1998.

McLeod quashed them on Thursday to investigate what he called a legal issue that was brought to his attention.

McLeod tonight said he investigated the matter: A witness had reported seeing a woman in the lobby of the Lewis County Law and Justice Center putting a book about the Ronda Reynolds case in her purse between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on either last Tuesday or Wednesday, McLeod wrote in a news release.

The inquest jury had been instructed not to read up on the case.

McLeod stated the “witness” was unable to pick out a juror as being the person they had seen – from a photo montage. Also, the “witness” could not say if the woman had been wearing a jurors badge.

Also, McLeod wrote, he concluded the alleged misconduct could not have occurred on either of those days during those times because the jurors were in the jury room.

The warrants were signed this evening and will be delivered to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office in the morning so they can be served, according to McLeod.

The coroner said he had planned to ask each juror – and the two alternates – about the matter under oath on Friday morning in open court.

He will still reconvene the inquest at 9 a.m. on Friday, and read his final orders on the coroner’s inquest into the record. The jurors won’t have to come back in, he said.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm

COUGAR SIGHTING AT WHITE PASS SCHOOL

• It was business as usual today at White Pass schools after a cougar came onto the campus yesterday morning. School District Superintendent Rebecca Miner said the transportation director arriving about 6:10 a.m. yesterday spotted the animal heading down over the bus lane and then cross Silverbrook Road and go into the woods. Elementary students were not allowed outside yesterday morning, she said. Staff members “swept” the campus throughout the day, and again this morning, she said. It’s not something Miner has experienced there before, as she only took the post last July, she said. But she’s told cougars are seen in the Randle community periodically, she said.

THEFT

• Centralia police were called yesterday morning to the 1900 block of Johnson Road to take a report that someone had used an individual’s debit card and spent about $900. The investigation is ongoing, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called yesterday afternoon to the 500 block of Ohio Avenue about the theft of power tools, including a Craftsman router, from a garage. It happened sometime since Oct. 17, according to Chehalis police.

• A deputy took a report yesterday of someone entering a barn on the 600 block of Centralia-Alpha Road and stealing a Stihl pole saw. The saw and its various pieces are inscribed with the name “Norm Brown” according to the Lewis County Sheriff’ Office. The loss is estimated at $800.

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday morning of two vehicles prowled at the 1000 block of Southeast Adams Avenue. A purse was taken from an unlocked car and another vehicle had been gone through but nothing was missing, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

WOMAN NOTIFIES POLICE OF NAUGHTY PICTURE

• Police were called yesterday by a Chehalis woman who got a new cell phone and then was receiving text messages from a man, including a picture of his private parts. Chehalis Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said officers believe the caller is in Arkansas, but Kaut wasn’t quite sure yet what their next step would be.

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News brief: Attempted child lurings reported in Mossyrock, Morton

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Three grade school children in Morton and Mossyrock have reported a man driving a white pickup truck offering them money over the past several days, according to police and school officials.

It came to the attention of police on Friday afternoon when an 11-year-old boy said the man stopped near Morton Elementary School and offered him $20 if he would get into the vehicle, according to Morton Police Department.

The boy took off running into the school and reported it, according to police. While officers spoke to the boy, a 12-year-old boy told them the same man offered him $20 the day before for the same reason, police reported.

Morton police describe the truck as a white Ford pickup with a wide black stripe running down its side. The boys said there were large “mud tires” in the bed of the truck.

The male is described only as unshaven with dark hair.

In Mossyrock, the elementary school principal was notified this morning by police of an incident early yesterday evening in which a fifth-grade girl  said she was approached by a male while she was at Smith and Son Grocery.

He initiated a conversation with her and gave her $3 and was driving a white truck with a thick black stripe as well, according to Principal Randy Torrey.

Torrey is sending a letter with details home with students today.

Teachers in both districts have been speaking to students about never getting into a vehicle with a stranger.

“We’re reminding them if someone tries to lure you, or talk to you, run away, yell, maybe even ‘stranger danger’ and get to an adult,” Torrey said.

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News brief: Overnight house fire in Onalaska

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 10:53 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A family of four escaped a house fire in Onalaska overnight and the cause is under investigation.

Lewis County Fire Districts 1 and 8 called about 2:15 a.m. to the home on 1800 block of state Route 508 spotted flames coming out a window and roof vents in the front corner of the upper level, according to District 1 Chief Mark Conner.

A teenage girl awakened to the smell of smoke and saw fire in her closet, Fire Investigator Ted McCarty said.

“She told her sister sleeping in the next bedroom and they ran downstairs and woke up mom and the younger brother,” he said.

The fire was contained to the bedroom and closet, but it left lots of heat and smoke damage upstairs, according to McCarty.

Both the chief and the investigator said there was a wall heater in there, but it didn’t seem to be the problem.

McCarty planned to return in the daylight to try to pinpoint the cause.

The family is staying with relatives and the Red Cross was called to assist, the chief said.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, October 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm

ASSAULT IN EMERGENCY ROOM

• Police were called to the emergency room at Providence Centralia Hospital just before midnight on Saturday after a patient allegedly struck a staff member with her fist. Robin L. Wright, 46, of Centralia, was arrested for misdemeanor assault after the incident on the 900 block of South Schueber Road, according to the Centralia Police Department.

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS, POLICE DOG, SEARCH FOR MAN IN CHEHALIS

• A 23-year-old man arrested about 4 o’clock this morning in Centralia was the subject of a search with a K-9 in Chehalis on Friday afternoon. An officer saw Brandon Stray standing in a doorway on the 500 block of Southwest William Avenue just after 12:00 o’clock on Friday and found he had outstanding warrants, according to police. After the officer knocked on the door, Stray had vanished. Police searched the area for about 45 minutes on Friday without success, according to detective Sgt. Rick McNamara. When officers went inside the home to look, they did find a 47-year-old Centralia man with a warrant for failing to appear in court. He was arrested. Stray was picked up by Centralia police this morning at Mellen Street and Airpot Road. Stray had four warrants for failing to appear in court and a felony warrant out of Thurston County, according to McNamara.

THEFT

• Police arrested a 38-year-old Centralia man for second-degree burglary after he was found in a garage at home on the 1200 block of Mellen Street in Centralia about 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. David H. Beck is accused of stripping electrical wiring and was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police took a report from the 1300 block of View Avenue on Friday of someone using someone else’s debit card to make $3,500 in purchases on the Internet. Police are investigating.

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning a resident on the 300 block of Blanchard Road outside Centralia discovered last Wednesday that his Remington 700, bolt-action rifle was missing from where he had placed it on a bench in his garage. The gun, valued at $1,200, had a Leopold mounted scope, according to the sheriff’s office.

DRUGS AND ALCOHOL

• A 24-year-old Lakewood woman was arrested for drugs when police went to remove her from a motel room in Centralia late Friday afternoon. Management at the Peppertree Motel on Alder Street had asked that Terry Couch be removed and when an officer contacted her, there was a baggie containing suspected methamphetamine next to her, according to Officer John Panco. Couch was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

• A 44-year-old Centralia man was arrested for possession of methamphetamine  after an officer contacted him in a “suspicious” vehicle parked on the 1100 block of Borthwick Street about 6:25 p.m. on Saturday. The officer smelled marijuana  and subsequently Darren G. Waller admitted he had meth; a small clear baggie of suspected meth was seized, according to police. Waller was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department. The case is also being referred for a possible charge of misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

• A 28-year-old Centralia man who ran away from a passing patrol car  ran into another about a block away and was arrested for an outstanding warrant and possession of methamphetamine, according to police. It happened about 12:25 p.m. on Saturday in the area of the 1300 block of Windsor Avenue. Esteban E. Perkins allegedly tried to drop a plastic baggie of suspected meth, according to police. He was  booked into the Lewis County Jail. The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to charge Perkins with possession.

• An individual was arrested early Sunday morning following a traffic stop in Chehalis for a drug violation; he had a prescription pill in his pocket not in its prescription container, according to police. The man was connected at Northwest Boistfort Street for driving with a suspended license, according to police. He had a prescription for the drug, so he was arrested and then released, police said.

• A teenager was arrested at a football game at W.F. West High School on Friday night for allegedly being intoxicated. The 18-year-old was arrested and then released.

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Read about 13-year-old arrested after fatal shooting in Littlerock …

Monday, October 24, 2011 at 10:38 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Tacoma) News Tribune reports a 13-year-old Littlerock boy was taken into custody after he allegedly shot and killed his sleeping father overnight at their home.

Read more, here

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Breaking news: Fear of lawsuit halted service of arrest warrants after Ron Reynolds, son, named in 1998 death

Monday, October 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

Updated 6:43 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod quashed his own arrest warrants following the coroner’s inquest into Ronda Reynolds death out of concern of getting sued, he indicated in a news release yesterday.

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Warren McLeod, Lewis County Coroner

McLeod said he issued arrest warrants for her husband, Ron Reynolds, and his son, Jonathan Reynolds, last Wednesday evening, following the conclusion by the inquest jury the pair were responsible for the homicide of the former state trooper in 1998.

He delivered the warrants to the sheriff’s office that night so they could be served, he said.

McLeod said he was notified first thing Thursday morning by the prosecutor’s office a legal issue had been brought to their attention.

“I was also advised that if the warrants were served prior to the legal issue being investigated and resolved the county could be liable for lawsuits,” McLeod wrote. “Based on this information I quashed the warrants and began an investigation into the legal issue.”

The coroner won’t reveal what the issue is.

He does say he will disclose it on Friday morning, speak about his investigation into it and it will be resolved that day.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer has given himself until Thursday morning to decide if any criminal charges will be filed against the Reynolds’ men. He’s said he’s spent numerous hours going through the sheriff’s office case file and the evidence heard by the inquest jury.

Meyer plans to announce his decision on Thursday morning at the Lewis County Law and Justice Center.

Under state law regarding coroner’s inquests, if a jury panel returns with a conclusion of homicide and also names the person or person responsible, the coroner is required to issue an arrest warrant, unless they are already in custody.

McLeod didn’t say who might sue Lewis County. He said today he’s not even sure who raised the issue with the prosecutor’s office.

It wasn’t attorneys for Ron or Jonathan Reynolds, he said.

McLeod, elected last November, conducted the inquest – a rarity in Washington state – in hopes of finding a resolution in the controversial case.

Reynolds, 33, was preparing to leave her husband of less than a year when she was found fatally shot in the head, on the floor of their walk-in closet, with a turned-on electric blanket covering her in their Toledo home.

Ron Reynolds, principal at Toledo Elementary School, told authorities he was asleep and did not hear the gunshot.

The Dec. 16, 1998 death was closed as suicide despite protests from Lewis County Sheriff’s Office lead detective Jerry Berry, and within a week after Ron Reynolds’ attorney had threatened to file a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office if they didn’t cease the investigation.

McLeod today called it a “major” legal issue, perhaps better described as a constitutional issue.

“It there is a multi-million dollar lawsuit and we lose, it could bankrupt the county,” McLeod said. “Just defending those can bankrupt the county.”

The coroner indicated he’s not comfortable having set aside his statutory obligation.

“Let’s just say had the arrest warrants been served, and the folks gone before a judicial officer, a judge, and the legal issue brought up, more likely than not the judge would have put everything on hold,” he said.

The coroner said his suspension of the warrant process and his decision to sort through it publicly on Friday is entirely independent of the Prosecutor Meyer’s timing and decision about any potential criminal charges.

“Even if he announces on Thursday he will not prosecute, that does not relive me of my statutory obligation to issue the warrants,” McLeod said.

McLeod plans to reconvene the inquest at 9 a.m. on Friday.

He’s not asking the jury to deliberate further.

He plans to disclose the details of the legal issue, and put any offering of information about it on the record and have it given under oath.

He said he could have done it sooner, but chose Friday in part to lessen the hardship on the inquest jurors “employment-wise.”

“If it turns out it’s not an issue at all, the warrants will go forward,” he said.
•••

Read background on the inquest, here

Read state statutes regarding county coroner, here

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Coroner’s inquest: Prosecutor, coroner, to reveal answers next week

Friday, October 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer issued a statement today assuring the public he is working diligently to make a charging decision in Ronda Reynolds’ death, and he will announce it the day before the coroner’s announcement explaining why the arrest warrants were suspended.

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Jonathan Meyer, Lewis County Prosecutor

After telling a packed courtroom on Wednesday afternoon he would issue arrest warrants within 24 hours for the two men just named as responsible for Reynolds’ 1998 homicide, Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod suddenly this morning announced he put the warrants on hold.

McLeod said only a legal issue “came to light”.

The seven-day coroner’s inquest in Chehalis ended this week with a panel of five concluding the death almost 13 years ago was homicide; and Ron Reynolds and his son Jonathan Reynolds were responsible.

McLeod acknowledged this morning he is required under state law to issue the warrants.

The attorney representing Jonathan Reynolds, indicated today he didn’t file any legal documents to stop the process. Ron Reynolds’ attorney hasn’t returned calls for comment.

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Warren McLeod, Lewis County Coroner

The attorney representing Ronda Reynolds’ mother, Barbara Thompson, said he had no idea what was going on.

Royce Ferguson, designated by the coroner as “an especially interested party” to the inquest, sent an electronic letter to McLeod’s legal counsel today inquiring about the delay.

In it, Ferguson noted, state statute provides that following a finding of homicide by an inquest jury, “the coroner shall issue a warrant for the arrest of the person charged, returnable forthwith to the nearest magistrate.”

“Forthwith commonly means ‘without delay’,” Ferguson wrote.

Ferguson’s inquiry didn’t get him any answers.

Coroner McLeod has said he would provide the answers a week from today in a courtroom when his inquest is “reconvened.”

That is scheduled for 9 a.m. next Friday morning in a Lewis County District Courtroom.

Prosecutor Meyer in his news release today said he has not made a charging decision in the case.

He’s spent numerous hours reviewing the case file and inquest materials and will continue to use the “methodical and diligent process” his office strives for in every case, he wrote.

But Meyer will know his answer by next Thursday, he wrote.

He will announce it at a press conference on the ground floor of the same building at 10 a.m. that day.
•••

Read background on the inquest, here

Read state statutes regarding county coroner, here

Read “Ex-trooper’s husband put on leave from school principal post” from KOMOnews.com today at 2:41 p.m., here

Read “Ruling on trooper’s death: more suspense in unprecedented case” from Crosscut.com today, here

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News brief: Trial in Randle beating death postponed

Friday, October 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The trial expected next week for the Randle taxidermist accused in the beating death of his father-in-law has been postponed.

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Erik R. Massa

Erik R. Massa, 43, was charged in February with second-degree murder in the death of Guy W. LaFontaine, a 58-year-old welder, from Federal Way.

The trial, expected to last five days, is now scheduled for the week of January 17.

LaFontaine ended up at Morton General Hospital on March 13, 2010 with two broken eye sockets and other injuries, but was released, because they couldn’t keep him in his bed, according to charging documents. LaFontaine’s wife took him to St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way where he was pronounced dead.

Massa has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $25,000 bail.
•••

Read background on the case:

“Randle taxidermist to face murder charge” from Tuesday Feb. 8, 2011, here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, October 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm

ALLEGED FONDLING AND GROPING BY SCHOOL BUS DRIVER LEADS TO ARREST

• A school bus driver was arrested yesterday for allegedly groping four teenage girls after their volleyball game in Onalaska. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said the 51-year-old man drives for the Rainier School District and was off-duty but had gone to the game Tuesday in Onalaska to support the Rainier team. Kenneth W. Sands reportedly grabbed a 15-year-old volleyball players buttocks as she waiting to board the bus to go home with the team, slapped a 16-year-old on the buttocks and after he got on the bus, touched the breasts of a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, according to the sheriff’s office. The bus driver kicked him off the bus, the sheriff’s office reported. He also allegedly had repeatedly fondled an adult female spectator during the game, according to the sheriff’s office. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said Sands drives both school routes and for the volleyball team. Sands was booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree child molestation and referred for possible charges of sexual misconduct and fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, according to Brown.

MAN BIT, HIT BY SPOUSE

• Centralia police were called yesterday morning to the 1200 block of Alder Street where an individual told them their estranged spouse came into the home, hit him with a phone and bit him in the arm. An investigation was underway; further details were not readily available.

THEFT

• A 26-year-old woman was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle overnight at Northeast Cascade and Fifth avenues in Chehalis. Mary J. Quinn was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The vehicle was stolen out of Lakewood.

• Centralia police took a report yesterday afternoon of vehicle prowl from the 200 block of East Maple Street in which a purse was stolen and the bank cards used.

DRUGS

• Chehalis police called about 10:30 a.m. yesterday to W.F. West High School on Southwest 16th Street arrested a 15-year-old boy for possession of marijuana.