By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – John A. Booth Jr.’s lawyer filed a motion today asking that his client’s triple murder trial be moved to a different county because of so much pre-trial publicity by the news media.
Booth, 32, is charged with murder and other offenses related to last summer’s gunshot deaths of two men and a teenage boy inside a Salkum-Onalaska area home.
The trial is scheduled to begin November 7 in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis.
Booth’s former cell mate Ryan J. McCarthy was sentenced last week to 14 years in prison, following a plea agreement, for his role in the events of August 21, 2010.
Defense attorney Roger Hunko said he wants a different jury, that hasn’t heard so much about the case.
Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher says lawyers always make that kind of request.
The two attorneys are set to go in front of a judge on Monday to hash out that and other disagreements such as jury questions, a request to dismiss the attempted extortion charge and what if any of Booth’s criminal past can be brought up at trial.
“The purpose of that (last issue) is so people can be tried not on what they’ve done before, but what they’re charged with,” Hunko said today.
Prosecutors allege Booth and McCarthy visited the house on Wings Way in connection with collecting money for drug debts or a “perceived” debt owed to Robert “Robbie” S. Russell. One of the victims, David West Sr. 52, was a witness in a pending case against Russell.
Also found dead were David West Jr., 16, and a friend Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle. Denise Salts, then 51, who was also at the home survived a gunshot wound to her face.
Booth, formerly of Onalaska, was picked up in Spokane on a $10 million warrant four days after the slayings.
He has since then been held in solitary confinement in the Lewis County Jail.
Twice last month, a sheriff’s detective visited Booth inside the jail and recommended new charges to the prosecutor, once after Booth allegedly “became enraged and began smashing windows” outside his cell and then after guards reportedly found a metal file portion of a fingernail clipper in Booth’s pocket.
Just days before lawyers finalized a plea agreement for McCarthy, Booth allegedly used a metal handle from a mop bucket to break four panes of safety glass, according to the sheriff’s office.
It happened about 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 1, and was captured on surveillance video, according an incident report.
The detective writes that Booth was on his “one hour out” of his cell that day when he walks around in the Pod (adjacent secure and otherwise vacant day room) and attempts to make a phone call.
He uses the broom and dust pan to clean out his cell and then returns to the mop bucket location, detective Dan Riordan writes.
“(H)e removes the yellow squeegee portion of (the mop bucket), examines it for some time and then begins to smash the windows,” Riordan writes.
Then Booth put the implement back down, went into his cell and closed the door, according to Riordan.
When asked about the windows, Booth stated it was “spontaneous combustion,” Riordan wrote.
Jail Chief Kevin Hanson said he didn’t have any reason to think his inmate was attempting to escape.
“I suspect he may have been angry about something,” Hanson said.
The shatter proof glass is three-quarters-inch thick and very durable, according to Hanson.
“I’ve seen people hit, kick, punch and throw stuff at them, but only on three occasions in my 20 years here have I seen the glass break,” he said.
The detective referred the report to the prosecutor for a charge of first-degree malicious mischief, but no charge had been filed as of yesterday.
Neither has a charge been filed of possession of a weapon by a prisoner, recommended by Riordan after a find on Sept. 10.
Jail guards were patting Booth down as they were returning him to his cell after a cell “shakedown” and discovered what appeared to be the file portion from a pair of finger nail clippers Booth had been allowed for temporary use, according to Riordan’s report. It was approximately two-inches long.
Booth said it was nothing and asked for it back, according to the report.
“This item is easily transformed into an instrument that can be used for stabbing, i.e., a prison shank,” the detective wrote.
Also seized by the detective were two handwritten notes from Booth’s cell, one that reads as a poem about a prison shank, and a similar writing about a rifle.
Booth didn’t want to talk with the detective about the nail file, according to the incident report.
Jail Chief Hanson said the replacement cost of the safety glass is close to $4,000 and the county would be seeking restitution from Booth.
Hanson also said Booth has lost all his privileges, such as being able to make purchases at the jail commissary.
He now is locked down in his cell 24 hours a day, except for one hour out every three days, Hanson said.
Booth is charged with attempted extortion, attempted murder of Salts, second-degree murder of West Sr. and first degree murder of David Jr. and Williams, as well as unlawful possession of a firearm.
Read most recent story, “Court hearing reveals more details about Salkum triple slaying” from Saturday October 1, 2011, here