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News brief: Coroner says Centralia’s man’s death was accidental

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 7:09 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lester S. Thomsen’s death on the railroad tracks in Centralia last week was accidental, according to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office.

2015.0403.lester.s.thomsen.small

Lester Stephen Thomsen

Chief Deputy Coroner Dawn Harris said an autopsy conducted yesterday showed the 65-year-old man died of internal injuries, secondary to blunt force trauma.

The Centralia man was struck by an Amtrak passenger train about 11:30 a.m. last Thursday, a few blocks north of the train depot.

The southbound train came up behind Thomsen who was walking on the tracks. Police said Thomsen looked over his shoulder and was moving toward the side of the tracks when he was hit.

The coroner’s office listed Thomsen as transient because that’s what police officers at the scene indicated, and his grown son didn’t object to the information, Harris said.

Friends and family said he was born in Centralia and most recently lived in the B Street neighborhood with roommates.
•••

For background, read “Friends, family puzzle over death on the train tracks,” from Saturday April 4, 2015, here

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Microsoft tip leads to child porn arrest of Tenino officer, prison system employee

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Updated at 8:41 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A reserve police officer for the city of Tenino was arrested today for possession of child porn.

The 38-year-old Olympia resident is also currently employed as a community corrections officer with the state Department of Corrections, according to the Washington State Patrol.

State patrol detectives searched his home computer today after getting a search warrant.

Michael C. Boone, 38, Olympia, was arrested after being interviewed at his workplace in Olympia today, according to Sgt. James Mjor.

The case was handled by the state patrol’s Missing and Exploited Childrens Task Force. Mjor is the current acting lieutenant for the unit.

The investigation began with a tip from Microsoft.

Security officers at the Redmond company noticed the electronic signature of well-known and frequently-traded images of child pornography on Boone’s Microsoft SkyDrive account, according to the Washington State Patrol.

SkyDrive is like cloud storage for a person’s photos, documents and other files, which one can access from multiple of their devices.

They turned the information over to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who forwarded it to the state patrol task force, Mjor said.

The task force said this afternoon it had no indication any child porn was stored on Boone’s work computer, but seized it for a forensic examination, and also seized his Tenino Police Department-issued smart phone.

The tip came in last week and initially was just an IP address, Mjor said.

Detectives went to speak with Boone, to see if he had any information he could help them out with, he said. While they were talking with him, other detectives were serving the search warrant at his home for his computer, he said.

Boone was booked into the Thurston County Jail for possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Tenino Mayor Bret Brodersen placed Boone on administrative leave.

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Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 5:00 pm

ELDERLY GLENOMA RESIDENT VICTIMIZED BY BURGLAR

• Someone stole a substantial amount of cash, 10 handguns and other valuables including an antique stethoscope when they burglarized the Glenoma home of an 82-year-old man sometime between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responding yesterday to the residence on the 8300 block of U.S. Highway 12 found an unknown person had entered through an unsecured door, according to the sheriff’s office. Also missing are four wrist watches, four knives, 20 silver dollars and jewelry, Cmdr. Dusty Breen said. The loss is estimated at $14,000. Breen is hoping anyone with information about the break-in will contact authorities.

MASS VANDALISM DOWNTOWN CENTRALIA

• Centralia police yesterday morning took a report of a rock thrown through a window of a building on the 200 block of West Maple Street and before the day ended, learned of windows broken at the 200 block of East Maple Street and at the 300 block of North Tower Avenue. At the 500 block of North Gold Street, they took a report of a broken window on a vehicle as well,  according to the Centralia Police Department. On Sunday night, an officer was called when someone threw a rock through a window at the 400 block of North Tower Avenue.

TOOLS TAKEN CENTRALIA

• Somebody got into a shed on the 900 block of G Street in Centralia and stole a radio as well as various hand and power tools, according to a report made to police yesterday evening.

AUTO THEFT

• Chehalis police were called about 2:45 p.m. yesterday when a 1997 Honda Civic was stolen from the 200 block of South Market Boulevard. The vehicle was spotted later on U.S. Highway 12 and a Chehalis police officer subsequently located it parked at the Best Western on Interstate Avenue, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

MAIL THEFT

• Chehalis police were called yesterday and asked for extra patrol in the area of Southwest 18th Street, where someone has been stealing out of mailboxes.

RACING

• Police say Emmanuel Torrez-Ramirez, 20 of Centralia, and Jorge I. Garcia-Ambriz, 19 of Winlock, were were caught racing about 3:40 a.m. today in Centralia in the area of Cherry and South Pearl streets. They were cited for reckless driving and then released, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• A 38-year-old Centralia resident was arrested yesterday afternoon for possession of methamphetamine after contact with an officer at the 2100 block of North National Avenue. Nativadad N. Luna-Morale  was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 35-year-old Chehalis woman was arrested for possession of heroin following a suspected shoplifting incident at Wal-Mart in Chehalis on Friday night. Police called about 7:45 p.m. located a suspect vehicle in a nearby parking and subsequently booked Dawn M. Morningstar Barnett into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

OUTBUILDING CATCHES FIRE

• A pump-house that doubled as a storage building was damaged by fire yesterday afternoon, as was a pickup truck parked next to it on the 100 block of Brier Road east of Centralia. Firefighters called about 2 p.m. report a large portion of the small outbuilding was already destroyed by flames when they arrived. The cause was under investigation, but the fire was not suspicious, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarms, disputes, disorderly person, irate customer, harassment, misdemeanor theft, collisions on city streets … and more.

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Chehalis fire chief search winding down

Monday, April 6, 2015 at 9:09 pm

2015.0406.chehalisfirechiefs_2-001By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS –  Chehalis City Manager Merlin MacReynold said the five finalists for fire chief interviewed today have a lot of experience, from different places, with different strengths.

They come from a much stronger pool of candidates than he saw last fall, he said.

“It’s going to make my decision a little bit harder,” he said. “But that’s a good thing.”

The city last had a full time fire chief two years ago, when Kelvin Johnson retired. Last spring, half-time Fire Chief Jim Walkowski moved to Spokane County to take a new job and an attempt in September to hire a new chief ended with no one chosen.

Today, the five men were interviewed by representatives of city management, the fire department, neighboring fire agencies and members of the community. MacReynold did a “debriefing” with the interviewers this afternoon, before a reception in the basement at Chehalis City Hall.

The city manager said he expects it could be two to three weeks until he makes an announcement.

These are the choices:

• Ken Cardinale, has lived in Kelso the past year and a half, moving to be closer to family after 29 years with the city of Palo Alto, California. Cardinale served in numerous positions including battalion chief, acting EMS chief and acting deputy chief.

• Jim McGarva is assistant chief at the Tumwater Fire Department, a position he’s held for seven years. He has worked there for 23 years and has 30 years in the fire service.

• Joseph Clow lives in Enumclaw and last summer left his longtime position as chief at King County Fire District 28. During his 35 year career, he has served as chief in three other states.

• Brad Paulson became a firefighter in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1986, and served 18 years as deputy fire chief there, before moving into his current position five years ago. He is the emergency services administrator for the entire borough, and also a volunteer battalion chief.

• John Banning retired after almost 25 years at the Austin Fire Department in Texas, and has spent much of career in command level positions. He is into his third year as chief of the Blue Ridge Fire Department in northern Arizona.

•••

For background, read : “Meet potential new fire chiefs for Chehalis on Monday” from Wednesday April 1, 2015, here

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Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, April 6, 2015 at 7:10 pm

FIREARMS TAKEN FROM PARKED VEHICLE

• Centralia police took a report about 9 o’clock yesterday morning after the discovery several guns had been stolen from a vehicle the night before at the 100 block of South Railroad Avenue. The case is currently under investigation and officers are attempting to identify the suspect, according to the Centralia Police Department.

MORE CAR PROWL

• Chehalis police were called on Friday regarding an overnight vehicle prowl on Southeast Adams Avenue.

VANDALISM

• Someone broke all the windows and lights out of a vehicle at the 1000 block of H Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday. Police have possible suspect information, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• A 48-year-old driver, wanted on a warrant for driving with a suspended license, and allegedly carrying methamphetamine in his jacket pocket, was pulled over for speeding on Saturday evening, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Anthony L. Nutter, from LaCenter, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, after the traffic stop on the 400 block of state Route 506 near Toledo, the sheriff’s office reported this morning.

NOT WELCOME

• Two Centralia residents were arrested for criminal trespassing in an abandoned house last night at the 2200 block of ninth Street in Centralia. Cited and then released were Rose A. Blanchett, 33, and Shawn E. Adams 43, according to the Centralia Police Department. Blanchett subsequently was booked into the Lewis County Jail for violation of a protection order, according to police.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, drug possession, misdemeanor assault, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarms, shoplifting, vandalism, harassment, runaway child, jail inmate breaks sprinkler head, suspected heroin left behind by a customer, barking dogs … and more.

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News brief: Centralia resident accosted in alley by tall thief with body odor

Monday, April 6, 2015 at 1:51 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 63-year-old woman was mugged when she walked out to take out the trash in an alley off the 800 block of H Street in Centralia overnight.

Officers called about 1:50 a.m. looked for a male dressed in dark clothing with a hood over his head, but have not located him as of this morning.

Police were told she was confronted by the male who demanded money and when she told him she had none, he pushed her against the garbage can and searched her pockets. He then ran away, according to police.

Centralia Police Department Sgt. Stacy Denham said it doesn’t sound as though she was hurt.

The victim said the perpetrator was tall, spoke with a Spanish accent and had body odor, according to the Centralia Police Department.

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News brief: Male victimized during motel room tryst

Monday, April 6, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Updated at 1:24 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Police arrested three women yesterday after an individual who thought he was getting sex in exchange for money found roughly $1,100 was taken from his wallet at a Centralia motel.

Officers called about 6:40 a.m. yesterday to the 1000 block of Eckerson Road concluded three females conspired to the theft, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Police say one or two of the females agreed to sleep with the victim  for money, and perhaps also his friend, and while the man was distracted a third female stole the money; then the women fled the motel.

Police Sgt. Stacy Denham said there was a language barrier, as well as the participants giving somewhat different versions of what specifically transpired. The victim is a local man in his in his 30s, who speaks Spanish, according to Denham.

When the suspects were subsequently located and arrested, almost all the cash was recovered, police report.

Arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree theft were Lucinda J. Fields, 43, and Jamie R. Wilson, 33, both of Centralia, according to police. Yolanda Ramirez, 26, also from Centralia, was arrested and released, Denham said.

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News brief: Arson investigation follows dumpster fire

Monday, April 6, 2015 at 12:10 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Authorities are investigating after an apparent intentionally set fire behind a downtown Centralia bank last night.

Police and firefighters were called about 9:20 p.m. to the corner of West Main and Pearl streets by an individual who found fire in a recycling dumpster behind Washington Federal. The 911 caller had pulled the container away from the building and the flames were quickly extinguished, according to responders.

A covered walkway sustained heat and smoke damage, as did the masonry exterior of the bank, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

It appears someone set the fire, according to the Centralia Police Department.

The incident is under investigation.

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Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Sunday, April 5, 2015 at 2:09 pm

ROBBERY IN CENTRALIA

• Centralia police were called to the 1000 block of Eckerson Road about 6:40 a.m. today on a report of several females working together to steal an individual’s wallet. The case is being investigated, according to the Centralia Police Department.

FRAUD

• An unknown suspect accessed another person’s credit card online in two cases reported to Centralia police on Friday morning. One was related to the 1400 block of View Avenue and the other to the 1000 block of North Schueber Road, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VEHICLE PROWL

• An individual report to police late Friday night that someone got into his unlocked vehicle and stole his iPhone at the 200 block of North Pearl Street in Centralia.

NO MONEY FOR CAB

• Centralia police responded about 3:30 a.m. today to the 1000 block of Eckerson Road after a report a woman got a taxi ride and failed to pay the fare. Janie S. Weibling, was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree theft, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Police were called yesterday to the 300 block of East Main Street in Centralia to take a report of tires getting slashed on a vehicle overnight.

DRYER LINT TUBE IGNITES DAMAGING CHEHALIS RESIDENCE

• Fire broke out in a laundry room in a home on Gails Avenue in Chehalis on Friday evening causing an estimated $20,000 damage, according to the Chehalis Fire Department. Firefighters called about 6 p.m. learned the resident, home with his kids, had smelled smoke and heard the alarms. Arriving crews had to tear into a wall and the floor to extinguish the flames, Firefighter Derrick Paul said. It started in the dryer’s lint tube, Paul said. “The only thing good I can say is it happened during the day when they were home and every smoke detector in the home was working,” he said.

TOUTLE RESIDENTS FIND PILES OF DEAD, ROTTING REPTILES

• A Toutle woman found a huge pile of dead and rotting reptiles while on a walk in the woods near her home, some skinned, some missing their heads and others with their guts hanging out, according to The (Longview) Daily News. Reporter Lauren Kronebusch writes that Shaylee Antila and her husband discovered snakes, lizards and even what they described as the carcasses of four-foot long crocodiles; and the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office thinks they were put there within the last week.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license, possession of marijuana; responses for vandalism, misdemeanor theft, collisions on city streets … and more.

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Friends, family puzzle over death on the train tracks

Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 8:01 pm
2015.0403.lester.thompsoncopy

Lester S. Thomsen, in an undated photo, on the porch of the house on Kearney Street where he lived a few years back.

Updated

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – The B Street area is in mourning.

Mourning for a man said to have been born 65 years ago in the Centralia Hospital.

An early riser, who’d given up on driving, but rarely stayed home.

Duane Thornton said it was about a year and a half ago that Lester Thomsen asked if he could rent a room at his house on Crescent Avenue. Thomsen had been living around the corner with the neighbors on Kearney Street, but they got tired of his drinking, he said.

Thomsen had a bicycle, and he rode the bus.

He did a lot of visiting, Thornton said.

“He would go hang out at the depot, at Wal-Mart, he’d go to the senior citizen’s place, the Salvation Army; he did all that stuff,” Thornton said. “And he was a big man. His hands were twice the size of mine.”

Thornton yesterday was trying to figure out where Thomsen was headed, or what he was doing walking on the railroad tracks just a few blocks south of home.

“We don’t know exactly what happened,” he said.

Police say it was just before 11:30 a.m. on Thursday when a southbound passenger train coming into the station was trying to slow, hitting the horn for the man walking with his back to the train.

The engineer said the man looked over his shoulder and began to leave the track at an angle, instead of just jumping off it directly sideways, according to police.

“This morning was the first morning I didn’t hear Les stumbling around the house making coffee,” Thornton said. “And he always wanted a coffee royal, just a splash of whiskey.”

He was one smart man, with a heart of gold, he said.

The two of them were 10 years apart, but both used to be loggers, so they were really tight, he said.

Thornton assumed his older roommate had ridden his bike to the train depot, to catch the city bus to Wal-Mart, he said. But he didn’t keep tabs on him on his daily outings.

“He’d say, ‘I’m going to go check out the lay of the land’,” Thornton said. “Or, ‘I’m going to go whoring around’. He loved to say that.”

On Kearney Street, James and Corrie Aker offered comfort to Thomsen’s grown son.

James Aker said Thomsen in his last years had lived in three  different houses in the neighborhood he called the B Street area, just west of the railroad tracks at the north end of town.

Back in the day, James Aker said, Thomsen had a nice house with property on a hill in town.

“He went into the Army, because he got caught moonshining,” Corrie Aker said. “He told me that story 100,000 times.”

Thomsen was proud of his past as a diesel mechanic and a logger, she said.

Thirty-two-year-old Thomas Simpson sat in the Aker’s living room, petting his black lab and absorbing the loss of his father.

“Walking on the tracks,” Simpson exclaimed. “Why would you walk on the tracks, especially if you can’t hear?”

Simpson was angry, mad at the coroner who wouldn’t let him see his dad, he said.

Corrie Aker dug out a photo she’d taken one summer when Thomsen had recently moved in with them, he and her husband sitting on their front porch playing cribbage.

She said she’d known Thomsen probably four years, and his son should try to remember him him the way he looked in the photo.

He had a lot of friends everywhere, Corrie Aker said.

“And he could ride his bike straight as an arrow on rum,” she said.

Yeah, someone repeated, he could ride his bike straight as an arrow on rum.
•••

CORRECTION: This news story has been updated to correct the spelling of Lester Stephen Thomsen’s last name.
•••

For background, read “Man fatally struck by train in Centralia” from Thursday April 2, 2015, here

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Chehalis schools on edge as more threatening phone calls received

Friday, April 3, 2015 at 10:24 pm
2015.0403.olympic.schoolsout7341

Fourth and fifth graders head home after school today at Olympic Elementary School in Chehalis.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Just three days after a threatening anonymous phone call to a Chehalis school, it happened again.

Twice yesterday.

Chehalis police were contacted shortly after 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon because a call came in at the high school which said only that the caller had automatic weapons, and another was made to Olympic Elementary School which claimed an attacker was in a second grade classroom.

Olympic doesn’t have second graders, only fourth and fifth graders.

Still, this afternoon, a police officer parked outside the entrance to the elementary school on the Southwest Salsbury Avenue at dismissal time.

Children boarded their busses as parents parked waiting at the curb to pick up others.

Tylar Sickel said he and his wife kept their two grade schoolers home on Tuesday, because it was an option they were given. There wasn’t a lot of information to judge the situation, he said.

But last night after learning it happened again, and reading the superintendent’s message, the couple was not too worried, he said.

“We figured if it was that big of a concern, the school district would have made it apparent the kids should stay home,” Sickel said.

When it occurred on Monday at Olympic, it was the end of the school day. Police came and searched the building found nothing suspicious. The school district used their automated system to inform parents that afternoon of what happened.

Chehalis police described it as a vague threat, with something about an attack, and not specific as to the date, time and location.

Police increased their presence at the schools in the Chehalis District this week, as well as at St. Joseph Catholic School.

Chehalis School District Superintendent Ed Rothlin today described the calls as using technology to disguise the voice and also hiding the incoming phone number.

Chehalis Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said there’s some kind of electronics involved and indications the call is probably a recorded message, not a real person. When the person who answers the phone speaks, it seems to activate the message, and if they speak again, the same message is repeated, he said.

Rothlin issued a lengthy memo yesterday for students, parents and staff that states Chehalis doesn’t seem to be alone in this. Two schools in Thurston County and two in Spokane have received similar recorded anonymous calls this week, according to Rothlin.

The superintendent said they take the calls seriously, but his memo also went on to offer parents a resource for evaluating for themselves what to do, and it ends with his hope they continue to send their children to school.

Attendance was about 60 percent of normal today, according to Rothlin.

Rothlin this morning was on the phone with school officials in Spokane. Their police department is involved as well, he said.

Kaut said at mid-day today, he didn’t know if Chehalis’s calls were related to the others. Detectives are still investigating.

“We’re following up on some leads locally,” Kaut said.

Rothlin described today the changing feelings through the week about the disruption.

“The first call we got, earlier this week, it was very scary, we just don’t get those,” Rothlin said. “Yesterday, well, it still makes us nervous, but we’re really angry, because of the disruption.”

“It’s just not a good thing,” he said.

Chehalis School District students will be out of school all next week for spring break.
•••

For background, read,:

• “Anonymous threat to Chehalis grade school increases police presence” from Tuesday March 31, 2015, here

• Chehalis School District’s memo from yesterday, here

• The report Rothlin referred parents to from the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education: “Threat Assessment in Schools”, here

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Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, April 3, 2015 at 12:52 pm

DOMESTIC DISPUTE WITH KNIFE CENTRALIA

• A 17-year-old boy was arrested overnight after he allegedly pulled a knife on a relative and threatened to stab him if he didn’t give him what he wanted. Officers called just before midnight to the 900 block of South Pearl Street say the teen wanted $50 from his great uncle, according to the Centralia Police Department. Another family member was able to call police before anyone got hurt, according to police. The boy was arrested for attempted robbery and booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention center, according to police.

WRECK INTERSTATE 5

• A 44-year-old driver was hospitalized after his car struck the rear of a second car on Interstate 5 and then traveled up an embankment, hit a water-filled ditch and crossed back over both lanes and ran into the center barrier. Gregory A. Mueller, 44, of Poulsbo, had been northbound at a high rate of speed when it happened, according to the Washington State Patrol. Troopers called about 9:05 p.m. to the scene near the interchange for state Route 505 to Winlock found his 2013 Toyota Camry was totaled, according to the state patrol. Mueller was transported by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital with unspecified injuries where he was treated and then transferred to an undisclosed hospital, according to authorities. Russell W. Rowland, 32, from Randle, was driving the Ford Escort which was hit and was reportedly uninjured, the investigating trooper reports. Mueller is to be issued a citation for reckless driving.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, dispute, runaway child, trespassing, misdemeanor theft, suspicious circumstances, someone offering to clean someone else’s carpet for free … and more.

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Onalaska illegal marijuana enterprise case headed toward plea deal instead of trial

Friday, April 3, 2015 at 11:41 am

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Onalaska couple arrested in February for an overgrown personal medicinal marijuana operation are working on a plea deal, the details of which will be revealed when they return to court in two weeks.

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James and Laveta Arnold

James L. Arnold and Laveta L. Arnold have been free on bail, but were charged with money laundering, manufacture of marijuana and possession with intent to to deliver.

Centralia Police Department’s Anti-Crime Team and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the pair late last year and in mid-February searched their property on the 200 block of Griel Road and seized 40 pounds of marijuana and 614 plants from an indoor garden, along with  cars, trucks, firearms and a den full of mounted animal heads, according to authorities.

The couple ages 55 and 52, have no previous criminal history, according to their court files.

The Arnolds appeared in Lewis County Superior Court yesterday afternoon where lawyers asked for a hearing at 10 a.m. on April 15 in front of Judge James Lawler.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Masiello said he and their attorney have a tentative agreement.

“We have a working idea in place, I can’t really get into it,” Masiello said.

Police said the illicit business was generating approximately $136,000 per year, and that James Arnold admitted to  purchasing all or part of several vehicles with proceeds, as well as financing numerous hunting safari trips to Africa to hunt large trophy animals.

Whether the couple can expect to get back any property that was confiscated is a different issue, Masiello said.

Masiello said that is a civil forfeiture case, and he understands they are working on that with Centralia police.
•••

For background, read “News brief: Griel Road residents plead not guilty in marijuana case” from Thursday February 19, 2015, here

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Chehalis man gets five-plus years in overdose death case

Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Robert T. Lusk sits in between attorneys Thomas Keehan, on his right, and Erik Kupka, not pictured, in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – His lawyer assured the judge his client has taken full responsibility for his actions, for providing the heroin to 23-year-old Tyson J. Anderson who died of an overdose.

“Mr. Lusk learned something very important,” Defense attorney Erik Kupka said. “He lost a friend; he lost a companion.”

Anderson died April 22, 2013 at a Centralia apartment where he was staying with his girlfriend. She called 911 when she awoke after the two shared drugs, and found him unconscious, according to court papers. Arriving medics could not save him.

Robert T. Lusk, now 37, was arrested and charged last summer with controlled substance homicide. The Chehalis man pleaded guilty two weeks ago.

Even though attorneys on the two sides agreed about how much time he should spend in prison, they went into detail to Judge James Lawler about their recommendation yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

Kupka told the judge he’d learned some about the heroin drug culture.

“People help each other in this culture, they help each other with their addictions,” he said.

When asked if he’d like to speak on his own behalf, Lusk stood and addressed the judge.

Nobody was supposed to get hurt, he said.

“It’s hard to explain how bad I hate heroin now,” Lusk said. “It’s tragic.”

The offense doesn’t include any elements of maliciousness or intent for a person to die. Only that one delivered the heroin to a person, that the person used the heroin and the person died from the heroin.

While the maximum penalty is 10 years, Lusk faced a standard sentencing range, given his criminal history, of 68 to 100 months of incarceration.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead indicated to the judge the lawyers believed the low end of the range was appropriate, because the same range also applied to individuals with more significant criminal backgrounds.

Lawler, when he prepared to decide the sentence, explained what that meant to persons in the audience. Present were Lusk’s parents, but not Anderson’s parents.

The judge said he knew the attorneys worked to make a deal for both sides.

“I will respect that process and follow the agreed recommendation,” Lawler said.

Lusk was given the five years and eight months, with credit for the more than nine months he has been held in the Lewis County Jail since his arrest.

For the deal, a charge of delivery of heroin related to the same incident was dropped, a charge Halstead said would have been “folded in” anyhow.

He was also given 364 days, with 70 of them suspended, for first-degree driving with a suspended license, to be served concurrently.
•••

For background, read “Heroin overdose for one leads to prison for another” from Thursday March 19, 2015, here