Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Centralia rape case comes up short on evidence

Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 7:18 pm
2015.1209.wellington.waggener8173

Wellington M. Waggener looks toward his lawyer and his father at the conclusion of his hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County prosecutors told a judge they dropped a felony charge against a man who was arrested for rape this summer, because of a lack of evidence.

The 6-foot 9-inch tall former Centralia College basketball player was arrested by Centralia police in July, after a 28-year-old local woman told officers a black man entered her motel room and forced sex on her.

Wellington M. Waggener, 26, was detained at the Travelodge and has held been in the Lewis County Jail ever since.

Waggener went before a judge this week, after a plea deal was reached regarding unrelated incidents that occurred while he was locked up.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead recommended Waggener be given a 9-month sentence, the bottom of the standard range for the offenses.

Defense attorney Don Blair asked for five months with credit for time served, given his client’s mental issues.

He’s been evaluated and treated at Western State Hospital and was just released from a Portland hospital shortly before the July incident, according to the two lawyers.

“He’s medicated now, but having him sit in custody – I know he doesn’t like to be in custody,” Blair said. “But I don’t think that’s going to have an effect on anything with his mental health.”

While being housed in the medical observation portion of the jail in July, Waggener allegedly spit in a corrections officer’s face as he was being served dinner.

Then two days later, he allegedly threatened to kill two other of the officers, telling one of them that he would kill her if he saw her outside the jail and telling the other he wanted to slit his throat.

He’s the same person Lewis County paid $300,000 not to sue, because he was left to suffer for more than five hours without any kind water or decontamination after a jail guard discharged a can of pepper spray into his cell 18 months earlier, trying to get him to give a set of keys back.

In court on Wednesday morning this week, Waggener made Alford pleas to custodial assault and felony harassment. He contends he doesn’t recall the events.

He admitted no guilt, but agreed with Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt that he would be reasonably likely to be convicted if a jury heard the facts prosecutors would present.

Hunt ordered a sentence of nine months, with credit for time served, saying he didn’t see a compelling reason to go lower.

He also ordered a year of what’s called community custody after release, in which Waggener would be supervised or monitored by the state Department of Corrections.

About $4,000 of fines and fees were imposed, including repayment for a court-appointed lawyer.

Judge Hunt queried Blair about how much of the $300,000 settlement with the county the defendant received and was told it was being held in trust for him.

The judge also ordered Waggener to undergo evaluations for both his mental health and for alcohol and marijuana use, and to follow through any treatment recommended.

While one of the two harassment charged was dropped as part of the plea deal, the sex crime charge was dismissed by prosecutors.

When police booked Waggener in July, it was for second-degree rape.

Prosecutors subsequently filed a different felony charge – residential burglary with sexual motivation – alleging in court documents only that the woman told an officer she woke up in bed and her clothes had been removed, and a strange male in her bed was touching her body with his hands.

Halstead said then it was investigated a little more, and the case lacked evidence.
•••

For background, read “Court cases stalled for Centralia man while mental evaluation sought” from Saturday July 18, 2015, here

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Pearl Street: Child, patrol car and bicyclist struck in separate incidents

Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 12:41 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 7-year-old boy struck by a passenger car next to the Centralia fire station yesterday afternoon was described as in serious but stable condition.

Firefighters responding at 3:20 p.m. found the child standing on the sidewalk along Center Street, off North Pearl Street, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

The Centralia resident was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital with traumatic injuries, according to the fire department. The police department summarized the little boy’s injury as a slightly bloody nose and minor.

About 10 minutes later at the other end of downtown, a deputy’s patrol car was T-boned, sending the deputy to the hospital to be checked for possible back injuries.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports the 17-year-old Tenino boy whose Ford Ranger hit the Ford Crown Victoria was uninjured.

That happened at the intersection of South Pearl and Cherry streets, according to the sheriff’s office.

A post made on the sheriff’s office Facebook page states the patrol car’s damage was major requiring it to be towed and said the Ranger’s damage was minor.

The deputy was traveling eastbound on Cherry and the teen south on Pearl, with the impact occurring at the driver’s side door and front quarter panel, according to the sheriff’s office.

The collision is being investigated by the Washington State Patrol, but the sheriff’s office expects a citation will be issued to the teen driver.

Earlier in the day in the same area, officers were summoned to a report of a bicyclist versus vehicle collision.

Police say the bicyclist took off and when he was found a short time later, he was unhurt but they discovered he had a warrant for his arrest. Brian M. Williams, 27, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, December 11, 2015 at 3:31 pm
2015.0518.2013.1113.sirenslights5860.secondone

•••

NIGHTTIME DISTURBANCE

• Centralia police called at 2:30 a.m. today about an unknown person banging on someone’s door on the 200 block of Jackson Street subsequently arrested a 38-year-old man described as highly intoxicated for third-degree malicious mischief. John C. Ellison allegedly broke the window of a vehicle’s canopy when he was banging on things. Ellison was issued a citation and then released, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• Chehalis police were called just after 9 o’clock yesterday morning to a drug and alcohol treatment center on the 500 block of Southeast Washington Avenue where they arrested a 47-year-old man from Kent for possession of methamphetamine. Michael MacDonald was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• A 57-year-old woman who turned herself into the jail in Chehalis last night was found to have two small plastic baggies hidden in her underwear containing what she said was Oxycontin, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called to the Lewis County Jail about 2 a.m. today contacted Tanya L. Parker, from Sedro-Woolley, and learned she did not have a prescription, according to the sheriff’s office. Parker was booked additionally for unlawful possession of a legend drug and introduction of a controlled substance into the jail, Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said. However, criminal charges are not being filed pending investigation.

CENTRALIA FIRE

• A $10,000 detached outbuilding behind a Centralia home was destroyed by fire overnight. Firefighters called at 2:30 a.m. to the 100 block of South Cedar Street found the structure fully involved in flames but extinguished it before it could spread to the house and a nearby garage, according to Riverside Fire Authority. Its cause is under investigation, according to the fire department. Nobody was injured.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, domestic malicious mischief, driving with suspend license; responses for alarm, dispute, hit and run, collision on city street, a request to check on the welfare of a man not seemingly present at his flooded tent-home under a bridge, request to check on a seemingly drunk and irritable man begging for food, request to remove a man wrapped in plastic bags – yelling at people and talking to self – from a parking lot … and more.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 7:17 pm
2015.1209.munn.mellen.wreck.image1

Responders work to extricate a motorist from his vehicle after it collides with a tree on Mellen Street. / Courtesy photo by Jessica Munn

VAN HITS TREE

• A driver who became unconscious because of a medical condition was trapped in his van after it ran off the road, sheared off a power pole and ran into a tree, leaving utility lines on the ground in Centralia yesterday. “He appeared to be okay, definitely shaken up,” said Jessica Munn who watched the vehicle drive up onto the sidewalk on the 1100 block of Mellen Street. Munn said she pulled over to check and see if the man was alright and watched as crews cut his vehicle to extricate him. Police, firefighters and personnel from Centralia City Light responded to the approximately 10 a.m. wreck. The pole was stabilized and the patient transported by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to Riverside Fire Authority and the Centralia Police Department. All lanes of Mellen Street were closed during emergency operations.

ON THE ROAD, OFF THE ROAD

• A 24-year-old woman from Florida was arrested for eluding and related offenses after her 2014 Mercedes collided with a traffic island and curb at the LaBree Road interchange of Interstate 5 south of Chehalis last night. It was about 11:20 p.m. and the car was carrying two passengers, from Fort Lauderdale, according to the Washington State Patrol. The southbound car exited the freeway and continued through the intersection, speeding and failing to yield to a traffic device, according to the state patrol. Information released by the state patrol didn’t address why the car was being pursued but indicated a male and a female in their mid-20s were taken to Providence Centralia Hospital. One was injured and the other was transported for precautionary reasons, according to the state patrol. The driver, Georgina M. Jadgeosingh, was booked into the Lewis County Jail also for vehicular assault.

ATTEMPTED FRAUD

• Chehalis police were contacted by an individual yesterday who reported someone attempted to hack into their computer and get them to pay money to protect it.

DISPUTE

• Nobody was arrested, nobody was assaulted and someone may or may not have pointed a gun at someone yesterday on Southwest Pacific Avenue in Chehalis, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Officers were called about 5:30 p.m. for a disturbance where people had been arguing and both sides were pointing fingers at each other, detective Sgt. Gary Wilson said.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, driving under the influence, driving with suspend license; responses for alarm, dispute, hit and run, collision on city street … and more.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Burglary suspect found hiding in Chehalis resident’s basement

Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 3:21 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A pair of suspected burglars fleeing a patrol deputy, hit water on South Market Boulevard in Chehalis, spun out and wrecked earlier today, with one detained and the second one subsequently found hiding in the basement of a home.

The resident was at home 200 block of Washington Avenue,  but not aware a stranger was in his house, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident began around 11 a.m. when an individual reported seeing a suspicious man and woman in and around her neighbor’s house on Linda Vista Drive south of Chehalis, according to the sheriff’s office.

The couple left when they realized they’d been spotted but a responding deputy stopped the car on the 2100 block of Jackson Highway, Chief Deputy Stacy Brown indicated.

As a Chehalis police officer arrived for back up, the Honda Accord took off, according to Brown.

Brown said the fleeing Honda nearly struck a Chehalis police vehicle before losing control and striking a concrete pillar in a business parking lot near Second Street.

The two jumped out and began running, she said, with the driver finally being found as law enforcement officers along with Chehalis K-9 Reign conducted a track.

Russell L. Cobb, 44, of Kent, was arrested and faces numerous possible charges including burglary, eluding and unlawful possession of a firearm, according to Brown. Theresa L. St. Clair, 30, of Renton, was arrested for burglary. Both were booked into the Lewis County Jail.

Cobb had two outstanding felony warrants for his arrest, she said.

Brown said numerous items, including credit cards, seen in the car appeared to be stolen.

At the home on  Linda Vista Drive, someone had had stacked up firearms inside the residence in apparent preparation to take them, before getting spooked, according to Brown.

The Honda Accord was stolen in Fife.

•••

CORRECTION: This news story has been updated to correctly reflect which police dog was tracking the suspect.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Court grapples with release of senior citizen inmate with nowhere to go

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 9:09 pm
2015.1208.nelson.berquist.8163

A corrections officer prepares to take Nelson R. Berquist back down to the Lewis County Jail, even though the prosecutor recommended release.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 77-year-old resident of a Centralia retirement home questioned by police about a small baggie of methamphetamine he told them he had in his room said he puts it in his coffee in the morning.

Nelson R. Berquist was arrested after the confession he gave at Cooks Hill Manor and then booked into the Lewis County Jail.

The Centralia man who lives on social security was brought to court in a wheelchair yesterday, charged with two felonies.

Lewis County Prosecutor Paul Masiello was prepared to allow Berquist to be released pending trial on a $10,000 signature bond, saying he had no real criminal history. Masiello called it sort of an unusual case.

Temporary defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge she’d never before recommended her client stay in custody, but the assisted living facility had informed her that due to state regulations, they would not allow him back.

“I certainly don’t want to turn him out on the street,” O’Rourke said. “But he’s diabetic, he can barely walk and he needs his medications.”

According to charging documents filed yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court, Centralia police were called to the 2000 block of Cooks Hill Road on Monday for a report a resident was delivering meth to other residents.

Detectives spoke to a woman, not identified as to whether she was a resident or an employee, who told them Berquist met her in a common area, gave her the drug and told her to give it to her son.

They interviewed Berquist, told them why they were there and advised him of his Miranda warnings.

“Berquist admitted to giving Fletcher methamphetamine and he had more in his room,” the documents relate.

Police obtained a search warrant and found a small baggie in a wicker basket.

He said he gave half to her and that was the other half, according to the court documents.

Berquist told the detective he puts meth in his morning coffee, a detective who noted the arrestee seemed to be under the influence of the drug.

The senior citizen is charged with one count of delivery, an offense with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and one count of possession, which could bring as much as five years of incarceration if he were convicted.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt queried the two lawyers yesterday afternoon.

“If he leaves the jail, where does he go?” Hunt asked.

O’Rourke advised the judge she’d also spoken to her client’s son, and her client couldn’t stay there either.

“What about adult protective services? Cascade Mental Health?” Hunt said. “There’s got to be some resource.”

The seeming predicament ended with Hunt reluctantly signing a no-bail hold – meaning a possible second night in lockup – and the lawyers agreeing to make some phone calls together.

Judge Hunt advised them as soon as they found someone to take the defendant, they could come back before him so he could set  bail.

O’Rourke said later last night, she’d found there was a social worker – whether from the nursing home or the Department of Social and Health Services, she didn’t know – who planned to hold a debriefing about Berquist today.

Berquist was found to qualify for a court-appointed lawyer and his arraignment was scheduled for a week from tomorrow.

He was released today from the Lewis County Jail, according to its online roster.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 4:22 pm
2015.0518.2013.1113.sirenslights5860.secondone

•••

BREAK-IN CENTRALIA

• An alarm drew deputies to a business on the 2800 block of Harrison Avenue about 11:30 p.m. yesterday where they found a large broken window on the east side of the building and discovered a $100 was stolen from an office, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

BREAK-IN CHEHALIS

• Police were called yesterday afternoon about a garage burglary at the 100 block of Northeast Summit Road in Chehalis. A tool box is missing, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called at 8:50 a.m. yesterday about a break-in to a garage on the 100 block of Northeast Fair Oaks Terrace. A bicycle and a cart were stolen, but were found a short distance away, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

PORCH PILFERING

• A jacket, a radio and a machete were stolen from a back porch on the 1300 block of Central Boulevard in Centralia, according to a report made to police at 10:30 a.m. yesterday.

CAR PROWL

• Someone got inside a vehicle at the 1100 block of Mellen Street and stole the registration, according to the Centralia Police Department. The vehicle was locked inside a garage at the time, according to police.

• Centralia police were called about 4:30 p.m. yesterday to the 400 block of Yew Street where someone prowled a vehicle. There are no suspects, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• Police were called to Chehalis Middle School yesterday regarding two girls allegedly in possession of marijuana. They were released into the custody of the school and their cases are being forwarded to juvenile prosecutors for charging, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

ON THE ROAD, OFF THE ROAD

• Two people were hurt and four vehicles damaged when an oversized load on a semi truck hit the Koontz Road overpass on Interstate 5 in Napavine yesterday. Troopers called about 11:30 a.m. found that concrete from the bridge fell onto or collided with the 2016 Kenworth, a motorhome, a sport utility vehicle and also a car driven by a 55-year-old Toledo woman. A man from Victoria British Columbia and his passenger were injured, but not transported to the hospital, according to the Washington State Patrol. Debris from the overpass blocked two of the southbound lanes and the bridge shut down for inspection, according to the state patrol. Mark J. Lautenslager, 53, from Tacoma, was to be cited for first-degree negligent driving, the investigating trooper reports.

• Firefighters and deputies were called about 6:20 p.m. yesterday after a car missed a stop sign in Onalaska and drove down a ravine. It happened at Jorgensen and Burnt Ridge roads and a passerby had already rescued the driver, according to Lewis County Fire District 1. “I guess she happened to come up on it and helped the guy out of the car,” Fire Chief Andrew Martin said. “Which was fairly unstable and 10 to 15 feet down there.” The driver was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, mainly as a precaution, Martin said.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for drugs, warrants, reckless driving; responses for alarm, dispute, shoplifting, hit and run, misdemeanor theft, domestic malicious mischief, credit card fraud, unfounded reports, suspicious circumstances, collision on county road … and more.

2015.1208.burntridge.jorgensenwreck

One lane was shut down for about an hour while the car was pulled from a ravine in Onalaska. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Fire District 1

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Rain slows, flood warnings continue

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 9:17 am
2015.1209.nwsimage

Watch for the latest information from the National Weather Service, here

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – While the rain is coming to an end this morning, flooding has affected many Lewis County residents and could affect more people over the next day or so.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputies rescued several people in the east end of the county overnight because of water in or around their homes and while the Cowlitz River at Packwood is receding, it continues to rise downstream at Randle.

The predicted record flooding on the Newaukum River in the west end did not materialize.

Still, many roads are closed, including a 45-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 12 beginning east of Packwood and into Yakima County due to mud and debris across the road in multiple locations.

In Centralia, several city streets are closed this morning, including where there is approximately 6 inches of water over Kresky Avenue at Scott Johnson Road.

The Chehalis River at Doty appears to have crested lower than expected, so the flooding forecast for Chehalis and Centralia beginning later today is expected to be minor.

The Skookumchuck and Chehalis Rivers at Centralia are still being monitored for possible flood warnings.

The National Weather Service reports that rain, heavy at times, is coming to an end early this morning in the central and southern Cascades. Rivers in the region will crest today with the exception of the lower reaches of the Chehalis.

In the Randle area, the Cowlitz River river will continue to rise and crest just below 24 feet around 10 o’clock this morning. The river should fall below flood stage Thursday night.

The public is urged to continue to monitor the weather and river levels.

For photos and ongoing reports from members of the community, if you are on Facebook, check Lewis County Sirens on Facebook, here

•••
For background, and useful links, read “Officials watching waterways, preparing for flooding” from  Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 3:12 p.m., here

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Chehalis hotel cited for exposing staff to infectious diseases and other dangers

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 7:59 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The state has fined a Chehalis hotel more than $97,000 for worker safety and health violations, including exposing employees to infectious diseases, an issue they have been warned of previously.

The Department of Labor and Industries cited the Chehalis Inn & Suites for a total of 31 violations,  according to the state agency. The citations are the result of two inspections that began in August.

A clerk who answered the phone this evening said the business on Southwest Interstate Avenue is currently an Econo Lodge. The manager was not available for comment.

Three of the issues are considered “repeat serious” violations, regarding potential exposure to blood-borne pathogens from hypodermic needles or other infectious material, according to L&I.

A fourth “repeat serious” violation involves the lack of an emergency eyewash and training for employees who work with corrosive cleaning products and pool chemicals.

Agency spokesperson Elaine Fischer indicates those are the exact same violations that were found during a July 2013 inspection

The workplace regulators also cited the facility for 11 serious violations related to asbestos exposure during renovation work at the hotel.

Serious violations are cited for hazards where there’s a possibility of serious injury or death.

The inspections also uncovered an unstable second-floor walkway with damaged railing and rotted areas that exposed workers to the possibility of a fall of over eight feet as well as exposed wires, improperly grounded electrical equipment and other electrical hazards, according to Fischer.

The employer has 15 working days to appeal the citation.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Officials watching waterways, preparing for flooding

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Updated at 7:20 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The city of Centralia has opened a sandbag station in the expectation that localized flooding will become an issue.

Moderate to heavy rain is expected to continue for the next 12 hours.

Flood warnings are already in place around greater Lewis County, including on the Cowlitz River at Packwood and Randle, the Chehalis River near Doty and Grand Mound and on the Nisqually River near National.

Additionally, record flooding is predicted on the Newaukum River affecting the Chehalis area, according to the National Weather Service.

For Centralia, the forecasts are suggesting rivers will reach flood stage in the early morning hours on Wednesday, according to Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen. The city is monitoring the river levels.

Centralia police detective Patty Finch indicates sand, bags and shovels are available for citizens at the parking lot kitty corner from City Hall on North Pearl Street.

A second sand bag station is set to open tomorrow around 3 p.m. at the city maintenance shop, 2600 Reynolds Road in Centralia, near the Fords Prairie Grange. More may be established if the need arises.

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza this morning said they will have rescue operations available on both the east end and the west side of the county.

“The creeks are already full, the ground is already saturated,” Snaza said.

The weather service says the rainfall could lead to flooding on small streams or creeks, as well as the threat of more landslides.

The county has also set up sand bag stations for the public at some of the public works shops as well as next to the post office in Galvin.

The public is advised to be alert for rapid changes and monitor developments by listening to NOAA Weather radio or other local media.

Individuals can follow the National Weather Service reports directly, online as well.

The Lewis County Board of Commissioner signed a declaration of emergency at 1 p.m. today because of the the potential effects to life and property, and the move allows them to distribute sand bags to private citizens.

Steve Mansfield of Lewis County Emergency Management is advising all citizens to check their supplies and preparations to be ready to respond quickly as this current weather front unfolds.

“Every flooding event is different and people, especially those in flood-prone areas, need be ready to move quickly as the water rises,” Mansfield stated.

Just after 5 p.m. today, the city of Centralia declared a local emergency. They plan to open their emergency operations center on a limited basis at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

“A special advisory is being issued for the area south of Summa Street / Salzer Valley Road and east of Kresky Avenue / National Avenue which may experience overnight flooding, detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald stated in a news release.

For weather alerts and forecasts, the National Weather Service’s Forecast Office in Seattle page can be found here.

For river levels, the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrological Prediction Services page can be found here

Both links are always available on the right hand side bar of this news site.

Also, Lewis County provides a web page showing the status of county roads. It can be found here.

The sand bags stations provided by Lewis County offer sand and bags at no charge to the public, but individuals will need to fill the bags themselves.

They are located at:

• Public Works Area Seven Shop at 8911 U.S. Highway 12 near Randle and Glenoma. Hours: 6:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

• Public Works Central Shop at 111 Forest-Napavine Road East. Hours: Until 6 p.m. tonight

• Public Works Area One Shop at 148 Big Hanaford Road in the Centralia area. Hours: Accessible 24 hours each day, at the driveway approach just before the main entrance to the facility

• Next to the Galvin Post Office on Galvin Road and Cleveland Street. Hours: Accessible 24 hours each day.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 2:30 pm
2015.0518.2013.1113.sirenslights5860.secondone

•••

SENIOR CITIZEN JAILED FOR METH

• A 77-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for both possession and delivery of methamphetamine yesterday afternoon at the 2000 block of Cooks Hill Road in Centralia. Nelson R. Berquist was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

FRAUD

• Centralia police were called about 4:30 p.m. yesterday regarding fraudulent activity on a credit card in connection with a location on the 1300 block of Lum Road.

FREEWAY TRAFFIC IMPACTED

• Two lanes of southbound Interstate were closed near Napavine after a vehicle hauling an oversized load struck the Koontz Road overpass just before noon today. Additionally, Koontz Road at the bridge was shut down, according to the state Department of Transportation. Engineers will inspect the structure and determine if repairs are needed before it reopens to traffic, according to DOT. Drivers were advised to use alternate routes and plan for extended delays through the area.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, driving under the influence; responses for shoplifting, hit and run, graffiti on a fence … and more.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

News brief: Driver hits freeway divider, passes away

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Responders were called for a cardiac arrest involving a motorist whose car came to rest along the center barrier on Interstate 5 in Napavine yesterday evening.

Troopers called at 7:53 p.m. determined the 2009 Chevrolet Aveo entered the northbound lanes at Rush Road, and crossed two lanes of traffic, continuing down along the concrete barrier until it came to a stop, according to the Washington State Patrol.

No other vehicles were hit.

The state patrol indicated the 68-year-old man from Enumclaw died from a possible medical event. Newaukum Valley Fire and Rescue described the call as for a cardiac arrest.

Kenneth W. Smith’s next-of-kin was notified and his car impounded, according to the state patrol.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Toledo lottery theft convict gets reprieve

Monday, December 7, 2015 at 7:46 pm
2015.1207.katrina.bowen.free8146

Katrina M. Bowen waits for her hearing to start, to find out what her revised sentence will be.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Winlock mother whose sentence for stealing thousands of dollars from her employer was deemed by an appeals court to be too harsh got it cut in half today.

Katrina M. Bowen was back in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon, in front of the same judge who gave her four years for the crime, twice what prosecutors recommended at the time.

The victims, the owners of the Flying K store and gas station in Toledo, Gordon and Tonya Lovell, attended the hearing as well.

Gordon Lovell told the judge they are still in business, but almost decided to call it quits last year because of the financial devastation.

“It’s been two years, and I still owe back taxes and still haven’t been able to pay some of my creditors,” he said.

The court previously concluded Bowen owed them $137,000 in restitution.

Bowen worked for the couple for eight or nine years, but they only collected data from the two years before the theft was discovered and they fired her, he said.

“For those two years, she was stealing from us every single day that she worked,” Lovell said.

Bowen, then 37, admitted to the police chief to pocketing money from beer sales and to helping herself to as many as 500 $5 lottery scratch tickets each shift during the previous six months. She said she was keeping track of them in her head, and then admitted she had a gambling problem.

She pleaded guilty in January of last year to first-degree theft with an aggravating factor that it was a major economic offense, meaning the judge would be free to hand down an exceptionally long sentence.

In its opinion issued in September, the Washington State Court of Appeals said Judge Richard Brosey abused his discretion, and four years was clearly excessive.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg recommended 24 months at her first sentencing, and recommended the same today.

Defense attorney Don Blair the first time asked that she get 90 days, the top of the standard sentencing range for a person with no criminal history.

Blair reminded the judge he’d previously argued his client only stole around $20,000.

He didn’t specify today what he thought her new sentence should be, but offered the court a listing of Bowen’s accomplishments.

While incarcerated, she has completed a two-year business technical degree, participated in an A.A. 12-step program, and taken courses in parenting, nonviolent relations and stress management, he said.

She works in the prison kitchen and also on a crew that works outside the institution four days a week, according to Blair.

“Katrina realizes she has a gambling problem and was in treatment up until the time she went in,” Blair said.

Judge Brosey said those were commendable steps, but don’t help the victims.

He pointed out that he believed before, and still does, that the problem with this type of theft is it can drive a small business entirely out of business.

The judge also said he felt the Court of Appeals focused too much on the lottery ticket theft and not the rest of it, because the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office didn’t make it clear enough.

“This was bigger than lottery tickets,” Brosey said.

He agreed with a 24-month sentence.

“That should result in her being released, with credit for time served and with good time, immediately, if not sooner,” Brosey said..

Bowen has been ordered to make payments of $25 per month for her financial legal obligations, including restitution.

The Lovells said they haven’t seen any of it yet, and estimate it will take her more than 400 years to pay off what she owes.

•••
For background, read “Appeals court says Toledo lottery theft sentence is too long” from Wednesday September 30, 2015, here

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, December 7, 2015 at 4:39 pm
2015.0518.2013.1113.sirenslights5860.secondone

•••

ON THE ROAD, OFF THE ROAD

• It was a medical issue that caused an elderly woman leaving the gas pumps at the 600 block of Harrison Avenue to accelerate and crash into the back end of a taco bus late Friday afternoon, according to the Centralia Police Department. The impact was great enough the driver’s air bags deployed and the bus was knocked sideways, according to the Centralia Police Department. There was damage both inside and outside the bus, but the person inside was not hurt, according to police. The driver, in her 80s, was transported to the hospital, police said.

• Police were called about 6:10 p.m. on Friday after a train struck a vehicle near Northwest Prindle and Front streets in Chehalis. Aid was not needed because nobody was injured, according to authorities. Further details were not readily available.

• A 12-year-old boy was hospitalized with a possible concussion after an incident inside a school bus in which his head was struck on a part of the bus. Police called about 11:45 a.m. on Friday were investigating the case as a fourth-degree assault, according to the Centralia Police Department. It occurred between the middle school and high school in Centralia, according to police.

THEFT, THEFT, THEFT

• Centralia police contacted a 30-year-old Tacoma resident yesterday in connection with alleged trafficking of stolen property. Ryan A. Nayran was booked into the Lewis County Jail in the case associated with the 1000 block of South Tower Avenue, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called just after 6 o’clock this morning by a female who reported someone used her debit card in an attempt to make purchases of more than $600 on Northwest Louisiana Avenue.

• A ring was reported stolen from the 800 block of Eshom Road in Centralia on Friday, according to the Centralia Police Department.

AUTO THEFT

• A truck reported stolen in Chehalis turned up abandoned in a parking lot on the 1800 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia on Saturday, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CAR PROWL

• Police were called about 9:30 a.m. yesterday about a nail gun stolen from the trunk of a vehicle at the 1300 block of Rose Street in Centralia.

• Chehalis police were called Friday night to the 400 block of Southwest McFadden Avenue in Chehalis regarding a vehicle prowl.

ALLEGATION INVESTIGATED

• Chehalis police were called about 8:35 p.m. on Friday about possible sexual misconduct involving a teenage girl. A possible incident from a couple of months ago is being investigated, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

AND FROM MORTON

• Officers responded to a complaint of a suspicious person at the 200 block of Westlake Avenue in Morton at about 2 o’clock last Thursday morning.  The reporting party thought they heard a loud noise in the room next door, according to police.  After officers contacted the individual next door, it was determined that they had just shut the door too hard. The officer cleared the area.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, trespassing, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, misdemeanor assault, attempt to elude, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, dispute, disorderly persons, hit and run, civil issue, harassment, runaway juvenile, suspected panhandling, suspicious circumstances, collision on city street, vehicle into ditch off county road … and more.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

News brief: Thousands of dollars worth of stolen vehicle parts recovered for Toledo business

Monday, December 7, 2015 at 10:54 am

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 44-year-old Kelso man is facing possible theft charges after allegedly stealing as much as $30,000 worth of truck equipment and classic car parts belonging to his Toledo-area employer and selling some of them on the eBay auction site.

An investigation began last month, the day after the suspect and another employee were fired when some missing parts were found in one of their vehicles, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The business on the 100 block of Mulford Road primarily rebuilds semi trucks, according to sheriff’s Cmdr. Dusty Breen.

The sheriff’s office special enforcement team was assigned the case last week and on Saturday contacted the suspect in the Kelso area, Breen said. Most of the missing property was recovered, he said.

Deputies believe the thefts began in April and at this point, the second employee doesn’t appear to be involved, according to Breen.

The case is being forwarded to prosecutors for possible charges of first-degree theft and trafficking in stolen property, Breen said.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, December 4, 2015 at 1:02 pm
2015.0518.2013.1113.sirenslights5860.secondone

•••

REPEAT AUTO THEFT

• Chehalis police were called just before 9 p.m. yesterday by a 40-year-old woman who said her 1995 Dodge Ram pickup truck had been stolen. A department spokesperson said that according to the officer’s written report, the woman said it happened between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and she had been out looking for it and found it, but couldn’t get it started. The report says she went to get help and when she returned, it had been stolen again, spokesperson Linda Bailey said. It’s not clear where it was taken from in either instance, but it’s description has been entered into a law enforcement database for stolen vehicles, according to Bailey. The license plate reads C75070D, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

WARRANT, GUN AND DRUGS

• A 29-year-old Centralia man picked up on a warrant yesterday was also found in possession of a suspected stolen rifle and drugs, according to the Centralia Police Department. Francisco T. Lamas was contacted about 11:25 a.m. at the 700 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia and then booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

WARRANT AND DRUGS

• A 47-year-old man walking along the 1700 block of state Route 508 in Onalaska at about 4:20 p.m. yesterday turned out to have a warrant and when he was searched, a small baggie with suspected methamphetamine turned up, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Steve W. Tower, described as transient, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office.

DRUGS

• A 26-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for possession of methamphetamine after contact with an officer about 9:30 p.m. yesterday at the 100 block of North Tower Avenue. Tristan House booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

ON THE ROAD

• A 24-year-old Centralia man sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries yesterday morning when the vehicle in which he was a passenger collided with a tree on South Street near Woodland Avenue in Centralia. Firefighters responding at 9:20 a.m. learned the driver of the sport utility vehicle had left the scene, according to Riverside Fire Authority. The patient was extricated and transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the fire department.

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, harassment, shoplifting, collision on city street, suspicious circumstances … and more.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

News brief: Three hurt and one arrested following freeway wreck

Friday, December 4, 2015 at 9:06 am

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 36-year-old motorist is jailed after he allegedly tried to fight multiple individuals at the scene of a serious two vehicle collision on Interstate 5 south of Chehalis yesterday morning.

Casey M. Specht, 36, from Puyallup, was behind the wheel of a 2012 Chrysler 300 that rear-ended Ford F350 pickup, knocking the truck off the shoulder and into a tree, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Both vehicles were totaled. The freeway was closed so a LifeFlight helicopter could pickup the most seriously injured patient, according to the state patrol.

It happened about 7:10 a.m. in the southbound lanes near the exit 68 interchange.

Trooper Brian Ashley said even a semi truck driver and other passerby’s who stopped to help were threatened. Specht reportedly assaulted a trooper and was Tased so he could be taken into custody, according to Ashley.

They believe alcohol was involved, and the cause was speeding, according to the state patrol

Specht, who was reportedly uninjured, was arrested for third-degree assault, fourth-degree assault and three counts of vehicular assault.

Ashley said one of the victims appeared to have a major back injury and another a broken arm.

One of the two truck passengers, William A. Boley, 27, from Elma, was flown to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, in Vancouver.

The other passenger, Jason McMeekin, 30, from Elma, and the driver, Jaymee J. McMeekin, 60, of Aberdeen, were both transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the investigating trooper.

The two vehicles were impounded and Specht was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 1:35 pm
2015.0518.2013.1113.sirenslights5860.secondone

•••

Updated at 2:31 p.m.

THEFT CENTRALIA

• Centralia police were called just before noon yesterday to a business at the 1100 block of View Avenue where a tip jar had been stolen. A suspect was observed on security video taking the money, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police yesterday arrested a suspect in connection with a wallet lost and then picked up the day before at a convenience store on the 400 block of West Main Street. Victor A.L. Whalen, 49, from Centralia, was was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree theft, according to the Centralia Police Department. Whalen was identified while officers were at a residence looking for other people, according to police.

THEFT CHEHALIS

• Chehalis police were called just before 11 p.m. yesterday when a male reported a missing bank card and money removed from his account.

DRUGS

• A 36-year-old Toledo man was arrested for possession of methamphetamine after being contacted by an officer about 11:25 p.m. yesterday at the 700 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia. Joshua Williams was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called about 8:20 a.m. yesterday to W.F. West High School in Chehalis regarding a student who allegedly was in possession of marijuana. The case was forwarded to prosecutors for charging, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Someone slashed three tires on a vehicle parked at the 700 block of North Pearl Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday.

ON THE ROAD

• Police and aid responded about 4:10 p.m. yesterday after a driver suffering a medical issue struck several parked cars and did significant damage to a porch on a home on the 800 block of Southwest Chehalis Avenue, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Aid and troopers responded to a collision about 7:15 a.m. today on southbound Interstate 5 near milepost 68. Further information was not readily available.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, protection order violation, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, hit and run, reckless driver, misdemeanor theft, suspicious circumstances … and more.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Accidentally shooting girlfriend brings criminal charge for Centralia teen

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 8:14 pm
2015.1203.austin.courtright.8143

Austin C. Courtright, in red, consults with his lawyer during his bail hearing.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It may have been an accident, but it was also negligent so a charge of third-degree assault was filed against the Centralia resident whose pistol in his pocket discharged, striking his girlfriend in the leg, according to prosecutors.

Austin C. Courtright, 18, was arrested on Monday and brought before a judge yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

Judge Nelson Hunt set his bail at $25,000.

Centralia police learned of the incident very early on Monday morning when they were summoned to an Olympia hospital for the 21-year-old gunshot victim.

According to authorities, it happened in Centralia, but the victim and Courtright chose Providence St. Peter Hospital, hoping to avoid arrest for warrants.

Charging documents relate that they were in the basement of a house on First Street in Centralia, with at least two other people.

Kristina Bailey was sitting on Courtright’s lap, legs straddled and facing him, when the gun went off, hitting her in her inner right thigh, according to statements given to police.

Courtright said his hand was on the gun when it fired, but he thought it was unloaded because he had removed the bullets from the clip, according to the statements.

The group took her to someone else’s house and then to the hospital.

Police recovered the bullet, which fell out of her pants while they were in the car, according to court documents. Centralia detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald described the weapon as a small caliber handgun.

Bailey was treated and released from the hospital the same day.

Courtright told police he didn’t know what happened to the gun or other bullets, but thought maybe they fell out of his pocket between the house and the car, court documents relate. It hadn’t been located as of yesterday.

Courtright was also charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

He’s not allowed to possess firearms because of a felony conviction earlier this year for first-degree malicious mischief and juvenile convictions for second-degree escape and fourth-degree assault domestic violence, according to Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Weirth.

“The defendant said he knew he should not have the gun, but was afraid of being victimized by gang members who used to be his friends,” Weirth wrote in charging documents.

He also has a juvenile conviction from 2012 for second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Prosecutors asked for much higher bail, citing a community safety risk, but defense attorney Joely O’Rourke asked for her client to be released as his mother, who was in the courtroom, was willing to co-sign a signature bond.

There was a hold on him from JRA, the state Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, and he wanted to take care of that issue, O’Rourke said.

“It looks like he’s going to be serving about four months,” she said.

Judge Hunt said no, he didn’t want to take a chance on some other state agency taking the defendant away, and Lewis County not getting him back.

The offenses Courtright is charged with are class C felonies, with maximum penalties of five years in prison.
•••

For background, read “Police: Handgun in Centralia teen’s pocket accidentally fired, wounding girlfriend” from Monday November 30, 2015, here

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

News brief: Questions remain about Centralia mom who drowned near Vader

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 6:36 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Coroner’s Office has completed its investigation into the death of the 33-year-old Centralia woman whose body was found in the Cowlitz River in October and confirmed she drowned, but they don’t know why.

2015.1012.elizabeth.pham.small

Elizabeth A. Pham

Coroner Warren McLeod is listing the manner of death for Elizabeth Pham as undetermined, he said today.

The married mother of three had been missing for 17 days when a pair of fisherman found her about two miles downriver from where she had last been seen.

She was last seen sitting beneath the overpass at exit 59 staring into the Cowlitz River on Oct. 10, and described as behaving unusual and confused by at least one person who saw her that day. Her car was discovered nearby on the freeway, unlocked with the keys in it.

Her makeup bag was turned into police the next day, having been discovered by a fisherman near the fork in the Cowlitz and Toutle Rivers.

McLeod said: “We just don’t know; no one saw her go into the water.”

A spokesperson for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said today their case is not yet closed, but there were no signs of foul play.

The sheriff’s office has said Pham may have been suffering from from postpartum depression following the birth of her third child.
•••

For background, read “News brief: Coroner confirms body is missing mom” from Thursday October 29, 2015, here

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 1:36 pm
2015.0518.2013.1113.sirenslights5860.secondone

•••

KNIFE THREAT IN ALLEY LEADS TO ARREST

• A 35-year-old man who allegedly pulled out a hunting-type knife with a 10- to 12-inch blade during an argument with three individuals in an alley way yesterday in Centralia was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail. Officers called about 10:30 a.m. to the area off the 500 block of North Tower Avenue were told he made threats to kill them, according to the Centralia Police Department. Officer Buddy Croy said he didn’t know exactly what was said, but the disagreement had to do with someone not liking the way somebody talked to each other. “At some point, someone was able to get it out of his hand, and that stopped everything,” Croy said. The suspect walked off but was located, according to Croy. Nobody was injured, he said. Jesse O. Martin, from Sedro Woolley, was arrested for attempted first-degree assault and felony harassment.

STOLEN CREDIT CARD LOCATED ON ARRESTEE

• A suspected shoplifter at the 500 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia yesterday was found in possession of a stolen credit card and methamphetamine, according to the Centralia Police Department. The suspect gave an arriving officer someone else’s name instead of his own, according to police. Daryl P. McCrory, 25, of Oakville, was arrested following the approximately 11 a.m. contact, according to police. The officer figured out it was the wrong name based on previous contacts. McCrory was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree theft, identity theft and possession of methamphetamine.

STOLEN WALLETS

• Centralia police called about 11:15 a.m. yesterday by a male who noticed his wallet was no longer in his pocket located security video at a convenience store that showed it fell out and someone else picked it up. The images from the business on the 400 block of West Main Street show the male handed it to another male inside the store who was observed rummaging through the wallet and taking items, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called to a restaurant on the 1500 block of Northwest Louisiana Avenue about 10 p.m. yesterday after an employee discovered her wallet was missing out of her purse.

VANDALISM

• A shopper at the 1600 block of Northwest Louisiana Avenue contacted police about 3:15 a.m. today after finding two tires on his sport utility vehicle had been slashed, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for drugs, warrants, resisting arrest, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license, failure to transfer vehicle title, operating motor vehicle with required interlock device; responses for alarm, dispute, hit and run, civil problems, collision on city street, suspicious circumstances … and more.

Printer friendly version of the post below Printer friendly version of the post below

News brief: Unoccupied Centralia residence burns

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 12:21 pm
2015.1201.toweravehousefire

Centralia’s North Tower Avenue is closed as firefighters extinguish a residential structure fire. / Courtesy photo by David Haladay

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The cause of a fire that heavily damaged a vacant Centralia house yesterday afternoon is under investigation.

Nobody was hurt but the 900 block of North Tower Avenue was closed for an extended time due to fire fighting operations, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

Crews responding to the 2:10 p.m. call found heavy flames from the back of the single-story home, according to the fire department.

Members of the Chehalis Fire Department assisted, to stop the fire from spreading to neighboring residences.