By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – The top floor of the Lewis County courthouse was packed today with about twice as many potential jurors as usual in the attempt to seat a panel for a triple-murder trial that has seen extensive coverage in the news media for more than a year.
Former Onalaskan John A. Booth Jr. for the first time today shed his red and white striped jail garb and appeared in a navy jacket, slacks and a tie for the proceedings in Chehalis.
Booth, 32, is charged with murder and other offenses related to the August 2010 gunshot deaths in Salkum of David West Sr. 52, West’s 16-year-old son David West Jr. and a friend Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle. He is also charged with attempted murder of West Sr.’s girlfriend, Denise Salts, then 51 years old.
The potential jurors were pared from 170 down to 77 by the end of today. Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey told those remaining he thought jury selection was about halfway finished when he sent them home for the day.
Brosey warned them not talk about the case, read about the case or do any research on the Internet about it.
“Don’t do any “tweets”, don’t do any blogs, none of that ” Brosey said.
Booth’s lawyer, Roger Hunko of Port Orchard, had unsuccessfully attempted to get the trial moved to another county, citing extensive pre-trial publicity.
While a large number of potential jurors were excused citing work conflict issues with a trial the judge said could go until the end of next week, most of the courtroom time today was spent on individual voire dire.
About 28 individuals wrote in a questionnaire they had heard or read about the case and already formed an opinion.
They were brought into the courtroom one at a time so attorneys could inquire further, without having other potential jurors hearing any of the details they might bring up.
Nearly all of them were excused.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher is handling the case, with assistance from Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.
Prosecutors have alleged Booth and Ryan J. 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, West Sr. was a witness in a pending case against Russell.
The victims were all shot in the head.
McCarthy, 30, was sentenced in September to a little more than 14 years for his role following an Alford plea deal. Russell, early on named a person-of-interest in the triple homicide, was not charged in the case, but was sent to prison following unrelated convictions.
Booth is charged with:
• Second-degree murder in the death of David West Sr., while armed with a firearm.
• First-degree murder, premeditated, in the death of David West Jr., while armed with a firearm, and demonstrating an egregious lack of remorse.
• First-degree murder, premeditated, in the death of Tony E. Williams, while armed with a firearm, and demonstrating an egregious lack of remorse.
• Attempted first-degree murder, premeditated, in regard to Denise Salts, while armed with a firearm.
• Attempted extortion of David West Sr. between Aug 8 and Aug, 21, 2010.
• First-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
Correction: This news story has been updated to reflect Ryan McCarthy’s correct age.
Read background on the case:
• “West Sr. pointed shotgun telling pair of ex-cons to leave his house, triggering triple homicide, unsealed court documents allege” from Saturday Sept. 4, 2010 here
• “Unsealed document: More details on Salkum slayings” from Monday Sept. 6, 2010 here