John A. Booth Jr., right, listens with his attorney Roger Hunko, as opening statements are made in his murder trial.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Almost 16 months after the three fatal shootings in Salkum, and following nearly two full days of jury selection in the Chehalis courthouse, the prosecution outlined what they believe the evidence will show about the deaths of David West Sr. 52, David West Jr., 16, and Tony E. Williams, 50, as well as the non-fatal shooting of Denise Salts, then 51.
John A. Booth Jr. was “taxing” various people on behalf of Robbie Russell, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told a jury this afternoon.
Meagher said Booth was at the West’s house on Aug. 21, 2010 trying to get money from West Sr., when West Sr. brought out a shotgun and then was shot dead.
“But then, he had to think about what to do after,” Meagher said. “What he did is started going around the house shooting witnesses.”
Salkum, Aug. 21, 2010
Booth, now 32, has pleaded not guilty to murder and other offenses related the only triple homicide in recent memory in Lewis County.
The former Onalaskan had been released from prison less than a year earlier, and lived and worked in the Tacoma area where he was supposed to still be under the supervision of a community corrections officer.
Today in Lewis County Superior Court, in between sessions that finally pared a jury pool from 170 individuals down to 12 plus three alternates, Booth’s lawyer continued to raise concerns about his client’s chance for a fair trial.
Attorney Roger Hunko, and Booth himself, spoke to the judge about the potential the jurors could be prejudiced given a large number law enforcement officers in the courtroom, as well as the possibility jurors might discern Booth is wearing restraints beneath his clothing.
Booth is outfitted with a “laser belt” and a leg brace.
“When he moves his legs (the strap) shows,” Hunko told the judge.
The defendant addressed Judge Richard Brosey directly, complaining that the day before there were “10 cops in the courtroom.”
“You know what I’m saying?” Booth asked the judge. “That kinda gives ‘em an idea I, John Booth, is too dangerous. He can’t be here without ‘em.”
Brosey replied he wasn’t going to tell the sheriff’s office security detail how to do its job and that the only reason the strap would show was if Booth moved around and let that happen.
The judge noted jurors might come to a similar conclusion anyhow, since the defendant is charged with three murders plus attempted murder.
When Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Meagher addressed the eight-man, four-woman jury, he graphically explained why the two charges of first-degree, premeditated and intentional, murder were filed on behalf of two of the victims.
“Tony Williams and David West Jr. weren’t just shot, they were executed,” Meagher said.
Williams was shot in the right eye, “showing he was looking right down the barrel of that gun when Mr. Booth shot him,” Meagher said. David Jr. was shot in his bedroom, and when he came out, was shot right down in his skull, Meagher said.
Meagher said one witness would describe being visited by Booth the same day because he owed Russell money.
“He will say he had been put on ‘unlimited status’ meaning anytime Booth shows up, you have to pay him,” Meagher said.
Another witness is going to testify he went to West Sr.’s house that afternoon, as West Sr. was attempting to sell a $6,000 boat for $1,000, Meagher said.
“Well, the reason he needed the money, is he knew Booth was coming to tax him,” Meagher said.
And Booth would be identified by two witnesses, Meagher said. West Sr.’s ‘significant other’, Salts, will describe how Booth put a gun to her face and shot her, Meagher said.
And John Lindberg will tell of arriving to the house on Wings Way off Gore Road at the same time as Booth and Ryan McCarthy, Meagher said.
Lindberg will testify West Sr. was really upset and asked him for money after West Sr. and Booth talked outside, he said. Lindberg only had $100, according to Meagher.
Jurors will hear how West Sr. then grabbed a shotgun and then Booth pulled a gun and shot West Sr., Meagher said.
Lindberg hid in the bathroom, thinking he was next, Meagher said. “There were more gunshots,” Meagher said.
“For whatever reason, they forgot about him when they left,” Meagher said.
Soon after, Lindberg met up with an approaching sheriff’s deputy and looked at a photo to identify Booth, according to Meagher.
In just a little more than 30 minutes of opening statements, Meagher also told jurors a fully loaded pistol found in the attic of the Spokane home where Booth was subsequently arrested, had Booth’s DNA on it.
Booth is also charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and attempted extortion.
“The reason for the ‘attempted’ is it wasn’t completed,” Meagher said. “He didn’t get any money out of these people. He shot them instead.”
Defense attorney Hunko deferred making an opening statement.
The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher waits for the jury to be seated.
Read from Saturday Aug. 21, 2010, “Manhunt spreads to Spokane and beyond after three fatally shot in Onalaska” on Lewis County Sirens, here