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Centralia woman gets 30 years for decapitating premature infant

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm
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Laura Lynn Hickey looks back toward her family as she learns someone will address the judge on her behalf.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter


CHEHALIS – A judge gave Laura Lynn Hickey thirty years in prison today, for what her attorney said his client viewed as a mercy killing after her approximately 21-weeks-along fetus was unexpectedly delivered into a toilet.

Hickey, 25, admitted she cut off its head with a kitchen knife.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Nelson Hunt said the case set a new low, but declined to hand down the 80 year sentence the prosecutor asked for.

“In my view, the defendant is only a threat to her own children, and her release will be past her further ability to bear children,” Hunt said.

The Centralia woman had pleaded guilty second-degree murder.

The standard sentencing range for the crime was between about 12 years to 20 years, although because the victim was particularly vulnerable, Hickey could have been locked up for life.

Hickey was about halfway through her pregnancy last March when she gave birth alone in her Centralia trailer home. She told detectives she grabbed the baby from the toilet, saw he was gurgling and trying to take a breath, according to charging documents.

“She indicated to police she couldn’t stand by and watch it suffer, and die,” defense attorney Ken Johnson told the judge this morning.

Johnson noted his client’s state of mind was impaired, and not only from drugs.

Attorneys disagreed if the infant boy was far enough along it could have survived outside the womb.

It weighed .85 pound and was less than 10-inches long, according to the lawyers involved.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said the baby “had taken a breath, at least one breath.” Johnson said Dr. William Brady was of the opinion the baby would not have survived.

More than 30 people sat in the Chehalis courtroom this morning, including Hickey’s mother, step-father and other family.

Her grandmother Nancy Wood asked the judge for some leniency.

“Laura’s never been in trouble,” Wood said. “She was a good mother, a good provider, until drugs came into the factor.”

The father of the child, Matthew Emery recommended she serve 10 years.

His written comments to the judge were read aloud; he sat with red-rimmed eyes next to a jail guard in the courtroom. What he is in custody for wasn’t mentioned.

Emery said said he still loves Hickey, but he doesn’t think he will ever understand what she did.

“I forgive you for what have done, and I don’t say this lightly,” Emery wrote.

Prosecutor Meyer said it was a crime so heinous, Hickey should lose the ability to “walk among us.” He described to the judge a variety of excuses by Hickey, saying she did not want the child.

Defense attorney Johnson asked for the low end of the standard sentencing range, saying she is a good candidate for rehabilitation and all he was asking was for a second chance.

Johnson acknowledged calling it a mercy killing is not a defense, but said it was an explanation, if there was an explanation.

“Laura realizes her explanations are totally inadequate,” Johnson said. “She made a mistake and must pay the consequences.”

Hickey addressed Judge Hunt, although she was told she didn’t have to.

She apologized, but said she would accept whatever sentence he gave her. She asked him to give her a second chance at life.

“I’m sorry for what I’ve done, I’m sorry for the baby I never gave a chance,” she said. “I’m sorry for my drug use.”

Then she laid her head down on the defense table, and appeared to cry.

Hickey will also get a mandatory extra two years because the plea agreement included a deadly weapon enhancement.

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The family of Laura Lynn Hickey sit behind her as she is sentenced.

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Man wrestled to ground as he tries to firebomb Mossyrock house

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 10:25 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 51-year-old man was arrested yesterday after he allegedly tried to fire bomb his ex-wife’s home in the Mossyrock area.

Matthew P. White was subdued by his 23-year-old son, who at one point kicked away a device his father said was Napalm before it exploded in the kitchen.

No injuries were reported. White, who lives in Centralia, was booked into the Lewis County Jail on multiple offenses.

It happened on the 100 block of Koons Road, south of Mayfield Lake.

Deputies were called about 12:30 p.m. by the son, who said he was concerned about his father and followed him to the home, according to the Lewis County Sherif’s Office.

“The son watched his father carry a gas can and an incendiary device to the front door then kick in the door,” Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

Nobody was home at the time, according to Brown.

The son and his 22-year-old friend followed the father into the kitchen, where they found he had lit the device, Brown said.

Brown said White looked at the device and threw it at his son.

The friend grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out, while White and his son wrestled, Brown said.

White then allegedly came at the friend, pulling a large knife from the back of his coat.

The two young men finally subdued White and pulled him from the house, according to Brown.

The fire damage was apparently limited to a door jamb.

Brown said the device was found to be gas mixed with styrofoam. She said three more were found in White’s car.

White was booked for first-degree arson, first-degree assault, burglary and possession of an incendiary device, according to Brown.

He has not lived at the house since October, she said.

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Victim in Portland shipyard accident spoke of joy in church video

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Centralia Community Church of God are among those mourning the death of 57-year-old John Michael Summers.

Summers body was recovered Sunday from inside a chemical holding tank at a Portland area industrial site.

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John Michael Summers

“He’s Mike to everyone here,” Pastor Mark Fast said this afternoon. “Oh man, what a big-hearted guy.”

Portland Fire and Rescue was called just after 10 o’clock on Sunday morning to rescue a worker who had apparently fallen into a 20-foot deep holding tank on a barge, according to a news release from the fire department. It contained a toxic and corrosive agricultural material, according to the fire department.

Another employee had seen Summers near the hatch, turned away and when he looked back, Summers was gone, the fire department reported.

Rescuers concluded a person would have become unconscious right away because of the lack of oxygen in the tank.

Pastor Fast said he’s come to know Summers, his wife Sandy Summers and adult daughter Gillian Summers as they began attending the Borst Avenue church about a year and a half ago. They had lived in Centralia before moving to Doty, Fast said.

“Over and over again, the word I’ve used to describe Mike most is genuine,” Fast said.

Summers used to have a flooring company and was a successful business person, Fast said. It was his understanding Summers had taken a job with a Seattle shipyard, and was commuting every weekend, Fast said. The pastor said he was surprised to learn Summers was working in Portland.

It was just this past October, when fast invited Summers to speak about his transformation to the congregation, something the church videotaped and shares through its website. He spoke of the joy permeating his life, Fast said.

A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday at Church on the Hill in McMinnville, Ore., according to Fast. Much of Summers’ family lives there, the pastor said.

The accident occurred on Swan Island, at Cascade General Shipyard, according to a fire department spokesperson.

Oregon OSHA is investigating, Firefighter and Public Information Officer Paul Corah said.

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Courtesy photo by Portland Fire and Rescue

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Read about Yakima’s next police chief could be Chehalis’s former chief …

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that former Chehalis Police Chief Dale Miller is one of two remaining candidates to be the next police chief in Yakima.

Miller, 47, moved to Ellensburg to take over the chief position there in the summer of 2006 after almost two decades with the Chehalis Police Department, the last two in the top post.

Miller and a lieutenant from the Chicago Police Department remain in the running to fill the top spot in Yakima’s 130-officer department, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Read about it here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm

FISHERMAN RESCUED AFTER LANDSLIDE KNOCKS HIM INTO COWLITZ RIVER

• A 48-year-old fisherman called 911 after a landslide near the Blue Creek Boat Launch swept him into the Cowlitz River on Sunday afternoon. A deputy called about 4:30 p.m. was told the Bonney Lake man had been on the bank of the north side of the river when he heard trees snapping, looked behind him and saw a three- to four-foot high wave of debris coming at him, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. He tried to run but he was hit by branches and knocked into the water, the deputy was told. A boater picked the fisherman up downstream, Brown said. The man had no serious injuries, but he lost his fishing gear and a backpack, she said. The boat launch is south of Ethel. The loss is estimated at $1,000, according to the deputy’s report.

POLICE: INTOXICATED HIT AND RUN DRIVER ARRESTED

• A 32-year-old Centralia man was arrested about 10 p.m. last night for hit and run after his vehicle collided with a power pole on South Street in Centralia. When he was found on the 1100 block of Tower Avenue, he was cited also for driving under the influence and making a false statement to a police officer, according to the Centralia Police Department. Jaime Gariclazo-Avila was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

GUN AND BOOZE TAKEN FROM WINLOCK TRAILER

• A deputy was called late yesterday afternoon about a Winchester rifle stolen from a trailer at the 100 block of Wilson Road in Winlock. The owner said he’d last been there on Tuesday and when he returned, he discovered the theft, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Also missing was a bottle of Crown Royal whiskey and two boxes of ammunition, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

WHISKEY AND WOMEN’S CLOTHING STOLEN FROM WINLOCK HOME

• Two teenage girls were blamed for breaking into a Winlock residence and stealing a bottle of Fireball whiskey as well as a pink Victoria’s Secret jacket and jeans with rhinestones on their back pockets, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called just before 7 p.m. Friday to the home on the 1400 block of Ferrier Road was told the girls – ages 13 and 14 – had been seen there the previous Tuesday and told they were not welcome there, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. The teenagers were contacted and denied then admitted taking the items, Brown said. The case was referred for possible charges of residential burglary, Brown said.

SHED BURGLED OF EQUIPMENT

• Someone broke into an Onalaska shed while the resident was hospitalized and stole several items including a well pump and a Honda 3000 watt generator, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called on Saturday to the 2000 block of state Route 508 reported that also missing was a socket set and a Briggs and Stratton motor, according to the sheriff’s office. The loss is estimated at about $1,000, Chief Civl Deputy Stacy Brown said.

ART, ANTIQUE MIRROR STOLEN FROM SALKUM HOME

• A carved wooden statue and antique wall mirror were reported stolen in a burglary a the 100 block of Forest Retreat Drive in Salkum. The victim said it occurred sometime since the previous Saturday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

ALCOHOL THEFT

ª Police were called just before 9 p.m. last night to a grocery store on the 500 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia after a male shoplifted two bottles of alcohol and left.

PURSE SNATCHED FROM SHOPPING CART

• Police called around 2:30 p.m. on Friday about a purse stolen from a shopping cart a Wal-Mart in Chehalis subsequently viewed security video from the Chehalis store showing someone taking the purse. No suspect found, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

MISSING CAR FOUND

• A car reported stolen Thursday morning from the he 400 block of Ash Street in Centralia turned up on Saturday morning on the 1100 block of South Silver Street. The purple Saturn was found parked and unoccupied, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WANTED MAN FOUND HIDING IN VACANT HOUSE

• A K-9 track last Sunday turned up a man wanted on warrants hiding in an unoccupied house on the 1000 block of E Street in Centralia. Officers got information Craig D. Ballard, 25, was at the 900 block of H Street at about 6 p.m. and when officers arrived, he fled, according to Officer John Panco. Ballard was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WOMAN ANGRY WHEN NEW CELL PHONE OWNER GETS WRONG NUMBER, HERS

• An individual called Chehalis police on Friday to complain that she had been getting harassing phone calls from another woman. The first woman had bought a cell phone from Wal-Mart and the second woman was complaining she’d had her phone number for decades and now the other woman had been assigned the same telephone number, according to police. An officer determined it must be a mix up and advised the woman to return her new phone and get a different phone number, Sgt. Gary Wilson said.

UNDERAGE DRINKING CITATIONS

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning that seven young men and women were caught after a call about underage drinking last Tuesday night at the 600 block of Oppelt Road in Onalaska. The case of the youth, ages 16 through 20, was referred to the Lewis County Prosecutors Office for possible charges of minor in possession of alcohol, according to the sherif’s office.

GAS STOVE CAUSES INJURIES

• Lewis County Fire District 15 was called to the Frost Road Trailer Park in Winlock just after 5 p.m. on Saturday about an explosion inside a residence. Two individuals had been attempting to light a propane stove, it flashed and left them both with minor burns, according to Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Anderson. One declined treatment, but a 44-year-old woman was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital, Anderson said.

•••

Correction: The news item about the 25-year-old man found by police in a house on H Street  has been corrected to reflect it occurred Sunday night.

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News brief: Space heater blamed for yesterday’s fire in Centralia

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The fire that destroyed a north Centralia garage yesterday seemed to have started with a propane space heater, according to Riverside Fire Authority.

Assistant Chief Rick Mack said the resident was in the house waiting for the heater on to warm up the garage and when he observed flames emitting from the appliance, he shut off the fuel supply.

The fire off the 1900 block of Harrison Avenue was extinguished before it spread to the rest of the home, but a car and other contents of the garage were burned.

Mack said the heater was the probable cause.
•••

Read “Propane explosion, fire hits Centralia home” from Monday February 20, 2012 at 2:33 p.m., here

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Insurance won’t simply rebuild Matz building

Monday, February 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – The fate of the southwest corner of Tower Avenue and Main Street downtown is in the hands of the next generation.

Linda Hamilton’s historic building that burned last week was insured but it certainly can’t be just simply replaced.

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Linda Hamilton

Hamilton said with buildings that old, it’s hard to even get insurance, and what she had was capped.

The Dr. Matz building, the oldest masonry structure in Centralia, had a tax assessed value of almost $313,000.

“The cap, in 2012 replacement doesn’t build much,” Hamilton said today. “That part of it’s kind of sad.”

The Valentines Day fire displaced the tenants of a dozen apartments and five businesses, including Hamilton’s Centralia Perk coffee and antique shop and her upstairs residence.

Crews began demolishing what remained last week.

“The bank will be paid off, and happy,” Hamilton said.

The property will stay in the family; she’s letting her adult sons make the decision about what they want, she said.

“The building was their future, now the building lot is their future,” she said.

Her sons, J.J. and Ryan Hamilton, 29 and 31, are pretty excited, she said. If they want to go all out, and go in debt, that’s up to them, she said.

The insurance had a cap of $10,000 on the amount it would pay for tear the building down. The bid to do it was $90,000, according to Hamilton.

The Centralia Downtown Association is organizing a fundraiser to help her defray the costs of demolition.

Steve Koreis, vice president of the CDA, said Hamilton could have chosen to leave the hull of the building standing, but didn’t.

“It was her decision to make sure the building would be cleared completely,” Koreis said. “So we’re supporting her in that decision.”

Their focus is the best outcome for the downtown corridor, Koreis said.

The  Centralia Downtown Association is affiliated with the state Main Street program, which has a philosophy of promoting economic revitalization while preserving a city’s historic character.

Koreis said Hamilton is planning to make the soon-to-be empty lot available for downtown events and activities.

Hamilton said she’s not certain where her former business tenants will land.

She hasn’t spoken with Tony McNally, who operated his barbershop there, but she knows the owner of Phantom Tattoo is looking to stay in the area, she said.

She knows nothing about Rachel Thompson’s plans with her Curious Betty’s boutique, she said. And the woman who had Jody’s hair salon in the back of Centralia Perk, she has friends helping her out, Hamilton said.

The fundraiser to help pay for the Matz building demolition is set for 6 p.m. on March 1, a week from Thursday at the Aerie  Ballroom on South Tower Avenue.

It will include food, beverages, live entertainment and a silent auction, according to Koreis

The CDA is suggesting donations of $10 and up.

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Dr. Matz building

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Read about Pe Ell man falls into chemical tank, dies …

Monday, February 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Oregonian reports that Pe Ell man, John M. Summers, 57, was identified as the individual whose body was recovered yesterday from inside a chemical holding tank at a Portland-area industrial site.

Read about it here and here

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Propane explosion, fire hits Centralia home

Monday, February 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm
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The garage door burns off a home in north Centralia this morning / Courtesy photo by Jamie Kaiser

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Fire officials are looking into the cause of a blaze that ignited at a Centralia home this morning.

Nobody was hurt, but the interior of the garage off Harrison Avenue just three driveways north of Riverside Fire Authority’s main station was left blackened and charred.

“It went through the hallway and a little bit into the kitchen but we stopped it there,” Assistant Fire Chief Mike Kytta said.

Firefighters were called about 10:30 a.m. to the single-story house on the 1900 block of Harrison Avenue.

Kytta said he understood the resident had just returned home from taking his wife to work.

Across Harrison, neighbor Jamie Kaiser said he heard a loud noise and saw a plume of smoke.

“I dropped what I was doing and ran over there,” Kaiser said. “I tried to call 911, but I kept getting a busy signal.”

Another explosion almost took him off his feet, Kaiser said.

“It blew my hair back,” he said. “A propane canister came flying out into the driveway.”

Kaiser said he was trying to get a neighbor to move his car.

A Volkswagen Beetle inside the garage was ruined, according to Kytta.

The home is in a neighborhood called Golden Estates.

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Firefighters examine the garage area of the single-story house in north Centralia.

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Marijuana plants ripped off from Toledo residence turn up next door, burned

Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 8:06 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The medical marijuana plants stolen from a Toledo home earlier this week turned up, but who took them and why is still a mystery that remains to be solved.

Deputies were called about 8:50 p.m. on Wednesday night to the 500 block of Jackson Highway South when Gabe Kelly and his brother-in-law reported they had interrupted a burglary.

Kelly said he saw three or four people inside his house, who fled when they arrived, carrying his plants. The two men gave chase.

“They’re at a dead run, we’re kind of at a half jog, cause we really didn’t want to catch them,” Kelly said yesterday.

The pair stopped when they heard a gunshot, hid behind a woodpile and waited for deputies.

Kelly said the intruders had headed for his landlord’s shop building on neighboring property.

The chimney from the shop was “billowing with marijuana smoke,” Kelly said. And a trail of plant parts lay strewn between the two buildings, he said.

For whatever reason, the sheriff’s office didn’t get a search warrant, although they did bring in a K-9.

The following morning, when a second set of deputies returned to the scene, Kelly’s partially burned plants were found in the wood stove inside the shop.

And the bullet hole found in the shop’s roll-up door – large enough for Kelly to stick his finger through – leaves Kelly very much wanting to get to the bottom of the odd theft.

“Somebody tried to take my life,” Kelly said.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Steve Aust said finding the bullet hole changed the investigation.

And why someone would steal a dozen marijuana plants and try to incinerate them next door, he couldn’t say.

“I don’t know,” Aust said yesterday. “I guess when we find those people, we’ll have to ask them.”

The landlord said someone broke into his shop, Aust said. “He’s saying he didn’t burn ‘em, he doesn’t know how they got there.”

Kelly, 31, is married with two children, and another on the way. He and his family have rented the house – a former gas station – for the past two or so years, he said, from his mother’s husband.

The couple is in the process of moving out, as relations there soured when Kelly’s’ mother and her husband separated, he said.

Kelly is the designated medical marijuana provider for his mother.

He said he had 12 to 15 plants growing in a padlocked attic room. They ranged from two feet to four feet in height, and were “budding,” he said.

He’s frustrated because the loss means his mom will have to endure unnecessary pain and suffering, he said.

It’s not legal for him to go buy marijuana for her.

“The major loss here is obviously not a financial one,” he said. “But the loss of my mother’s and my, quality, organic, homegrown strains.”

He also is a medical marijuana user, saying it keeps him from having to take pills for pain for an old foot injury.

His mother uses it for pain and to improve her appetite, he said, as she suffers from something called wasting disease.

Kelly said he spent $450 to buy just 10 special seeds to grow his crop.

He said he was growing it with landlord’s blessing and kept it discreet, something his best friend didn’t even know about, he said.

When he returned this afternoon to check on the house, he found a cardboard box with the remains of the plants in his driveway. The sheriff’s office didn’t seize them because he has a valid authorization for medical marijuana.

It’s not really salvageable, he said.

“They destroyed the mature plants, I was able to retrieve some of the young plants from the driveway,” he said.

Cmdr. Aust said he didn’t have all the details yesterday, but deputies didn’t believe they had have enough evidence that night to get a search warrant.

However, the sheriff’s office has some leads they are following up on, he said.
•••

Side notes:

• Kelly said he guessed his plants would have yielded an average of two ounces each.
• There are roughly 28 grams in an ounce.
• Kelly estimated his species would be valued at $15 to $20 per gram.

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News brief: Voter fraud charge tossed out by prosecutor

Friday, February 17, 2012 at 6:09 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Thirty-five-year-old Marta Aglubi-Blomstrom was supposed to get her chance to make her plea to one count of voter fraud yesterday, but prosecutors dismissed the charge.

Aglubi-Blomstrom, a Glenoma resident, was summonsed to Lewis County Superior Court earlier this month for allegedly registering to vote and then voting even though she’s not a U.S. citizen. She is from Ghana, a West African country.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said yesterday he dropped the felony charge last week for two reasons.

When he saw her in court, he realized her command of the English language was limited, Meagher said.

“I doubt that she really knew what she was signing,” he said.

Charging papers had stated she filled out her voter registration form online, at first answering no when asked if she was a U.S. citizen, and then changing her response to yes.

Meagher said the other issue that prompted him to dismiss the charge was the Lewis County Auditor’s Office had provided information to law enforcement about the registration that turned out to be mistaken. Meagher couldn’t recall the details, he said.

False information on an application for voter registration is a class C felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison or $10,000.

The issue came to the attention of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office almost two years ago, when Aglubi-Blomstrom’s estranged husband contacted them about it, according to charging documents.

Charges were finally filed in December. Elected Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said it was among a backlog of some 400 cases he found when he took office in January of last year.
•••

Read ” ‘Rare’ voter fraud case making its way through local criminal justice system” from Monday February 6, 2012, here

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News brief: Origin of downtown fire pinned to Betty’s boutique

Friday, February 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm
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The Matz building from Tower Avenue side today. / Courtesy photo by Ali Hallam

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The downtown Centralia fire that left more than a dozen people homeless and destroyed five businesses did indeed originate in Curious Betty’s boutique, authorities said this afternoon.

After demolition crews made it safe to enter a portion of the formerly two-story building, investigators were able to take a closer look, according to city spokesperson Officer John Panco.

They already knew it began on the first floor, and now they have concluded it started at the location where the boutique once stood, Panco said in a news release.

The chief fire investigator has said it was possible a candle in the shop ignited Tuesday’s early morning blaze. The official cause however remains undetermined, according to Panco.

The masonry Dr. Matz building, erected in 1889 at the corner of Tower Avenue and Main Street, was the oldest non-wooden structure in Centralia.

Demolition crews are expected to continue working tomorrow, but will shut down on Sunday and resume on Monday, according to Panco.

One lane of South Tower Avenue – the primary route through downtown – has been reopened.

Main Street between Tower and Pearl Street will stay closed to vehicles to allow trucks to carry away debris, according to Panco.

•••

Watch video of the Matz building coming down posted Thursday February 16, at 6:21 p.m. on Lewis County Sirens Facebook group page by David Troglin, here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, February 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm

POLICE: THRIFT STORE INTRUDER WAS COLD

• A 20-year-old man was arrested yesterday after a short chase in Mossyrock and jailed for allegedly repeatedly sneaking into a thrift shop to spend the night. In early February, police were called to the 100 block of Williams Street where someone had broken in, taken a bath, slept in a makeshift bed and then departed with clothing, knives and about $15 cash. Police Chief Jeremy Stamper said it turns out the intruder has been staying there at other times, most recently Tuesday night. Stamper said he has been double checking to make sure the shop windows were locked up and surveillance cameras had been installed. They’ve even taken a K-9 through, he said. On Tuesday night, the wires to the cameras were cut, Stamper said. Yesterday afternoon, Stamper attempted to talk to a person of interest, who fled on foot from the 200 block of East Main Street. Stamper caught up to Adam I. McGowen, 20, and questioned him, the chief said. Stamper said McGowen admitted to staying in the shop four times. “The last few times he’s been cleaning up his bed, the first time, he didn’t have time cause he slept in,” Stamper said. McGowen was arrested and booked for burglary. McGowen also yesterday admitted, according to the sheriff’s office, to breaking into the St. Ives Church in Silver Creek, taking food and spending the night. Stamper said McGowen has an address at his parent’s home in Mossyrock. He said he did it because he was cold, according to Stamper.

THEFT

• A dark purple Saturn was reported stolen from the 400 block of Ash Street in Centralia just before 10 a.m. yesterday, according to police. It has a license plate of 079 TBA.

• A deputy took a report yesterday morning from King Road in Winlock about several parts stolen from a log loader on Port Blakely property, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. An oil cooler, two batteries and copper wiring were stripped from the piece of equipment, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. A CB was taken as well, according to Brown. The damage and loss were estimated at more than $7,000, Brown said.

• Police were called about 3:40 p.m. yesterday to a vehicle prowl on the 2700 block of Mount Vista Road in Centralia. A small amount of money was taken, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Someone broke the front and rear windows from a vehicle parked on  the 600 block of Alder Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police just before 1 o’clock this morning.

• Police took a report about 10:15 p.m. yesterday of a window shot out with a BB gun on the 100 block of Virginia Drive in Centralia.

SCHOOL BUS WRECKS TWICE IN ONE DAY

• An Onalaska school bus was involved in two accidents yesterday, but nobody was injured, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called about 2 p.m. to the 300 block of Burchett Road learned the driver had missed a bus stop so she activated her warning lights, backed up and struck a pickup truck behind her. The damage was limited to the truck’s bumper, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. A different driver drove the bus away, and at about 2:30 p.m. was attempting to turn the bus around and put it into a ditch on the 200 block of Jorgenson Road, Brown said. There were no children on board, she said. The damage to the undercarriage was estimated at $3,000, according to Brown.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 11:36 am

Updated at 1 p.m.

INTRUDERS ESCAPE WITH MARIJUANA PLANTS FROM TOLEDO HOME

• A Toledo-area man returned to his home last night to find three or four people in his house stealing his marijuana plants. The 31-year-old resident on the 500 block of Jackson Highway told deputies the intruders fled on foot into the woods, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The man and his friend gave chase but stopped when they heard what sounded like a gunshot and waited for deputies to arrive, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said this morning. It happened just before 9 p.m. The victim has an authorization for medical marijuana, according to Brown. He didn’t get a very good description of the thieves, but had the impression they were younger, she said. The loss is 12 marijuana plants, valued at $120, according to Brown.

FIRE BREAKS OUT IN CHEHALIS BEDROOM

• A family escaped a house fire last night in Chehalis without injury but their home sustained an estimated $10,000 damage. Firefighters called about 9:45 p.m. to the two-story home on the 600 block of Southwest McFadden Avenue found smoke coming out of the eves and the three occupants outside already, according to Chehalis Fire Department Capt. Kevin Curfman. “Fire had started in a bedroom near a (wall) heater and extended through the ceiling into the attic,” Curfman said. Chehalis was joined by members of Lewis County Fire District and Riverside Fire Authority, according to Curfman. The fire was under control by just after 10:20 p.m., he said. The damage was such they were able to stay in the home, he said.

CENTRALIA BEDROOM FIRE

• Firefighters were called just after 7 a.m. yesterday to the 900 block of Ham Hill Road in Centralia. They were able to douse the fire in an upstairs bedroom with less than 25 gallons of water, according to Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack. A bed was burned; the cause is under investigation, Mack said. The two occupants had been alerted by smoke alarms, according to Mack.

CAR CATCHES FIRE BY FIRE DEPARTMENT

• Firefighters were called about 8:40 p.m. yesterday when a car’s engine caught fire a block or so south of the fire station on North Pearl Street in Centralia. The driver said her vehicle had begun to run “rough” a couple of miles earlier and she pulled over and got out, Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack said. “It pretty well destroyed it,” he said.

BURGLARY

• An 81-year-old Vader woman called 911 yesterday after she discovered someone had ransacked her bedroom and stolen silver dollars and 50 cent coins. The burglary on the 900 block of state Route 506 occurred sometime between 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. yesterday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Police were called just after 7 p.m. last night to the 1100 block of G Street in Centralia where someone had gone inside a home and stolen a laptop computer and tools. It appeared they broke a small window to access the lock, according to the Centralia Police Department.

UNWELCOME VISITORS

• Police were called to the 2200 block of North Pearl Street in Centralia yesterday after a discovery intruders had been staying in a small apartment adjacent to a barn. The door had been kicked open and beer bottles and partially burned candles were found inside, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called late yesterday afternoon to a break-in to a vacant home on the 400 block of Riverside Drive in Chehalis. The front door was kicked in but nothing appeared to be missing, according to Sgt. Gary Wilson.

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Historic Centralia building will come down

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm
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Ayla Lukascik gets a final picture with her phone.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – As dusk approached, a fire truck’s engine idled and folks milled around the downtown intersection with the massive shell of the historic Matz building providing a backdrop.

Some were waiting for the word so they might bid on the demolition. Others came to see it one last time.

“My dad used to own the record store that was here, Rainbow Records,” Ayla Lukascik said after capturing some images with her phone.

“He closed it down in, ’88 or something,” she said. “I don’t really remember.”

Lukascik graduated from high school here, and moved to Seattle. But she returned today to visit her father, and the gray two-story structure on the corner of Tower Avenue and Main Street.

Crews are expected tomorrow to begin the process of tearing it down, according to city spokesperson Officer John Panco.

Yesterday’s fire nearly gutted the building, collapsing parts of its roof and floors.

The decision of whether to rebuild or demolish was between the owner and the insurance company, Centralia Building Official LG Nelson said. But what Nelson knew already is it might fall down with the slightest tremor.

“There’s no lateral connections to hold the walls up,” he said. “It’s so unsafe, we’re afraid of trains going by, or a 15 mph wind.”

A fence installed along two of its sides keeps parts of two main streets blocked, as a precaution.

Nelson and others met near the site shortly after 5 p.m. today and he shared that what needs to happen quickly, is at least one lane of Tower Avenue there has to be reopened, he said.

Owner Linda Hamilton was among those on the corner.

Earlier today, contractors removed her signature “Cafe” sign and the patio furniture that graced the sidewalk outside Centralia Perk’s entrance.

It will be stored for now, she said.

The claw foot bathtubs that each of the dozen apartments were furnished with will stay inside, she said. Along with all of their belongings.

Everything, she said.

“We left keys, money, we left with nothing,” Hamilton said.

Fire investigators were never able to go inside to do a complete investigation because the building was deemed unstable.

After the meeting that included city officials, Panco said the official cause of the blaze is “undetermined.”

They did conclude it originated on the main level, he said.

Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack this morning said a plausible possibility was a candle burning on a desk inside Curious Betty’s clothing boutique.

The masonry building, erected in 1889, originally housed National Bank and Dr. Matz, a dentist.

It is the oldest building in downtown Centralia, if one doesn’t count a wood structure that still stands at North Tower Avenue and First Street, and possibly a wood frame apartment building on South Tower Avenue near the viaduct, according to Jeff Miller, president of the Centralia Downtown Association.

The Matz building’s final tenants include the residents of 12 apartments, Centralia Perk, an antique store, a tattoo shop, a barber shop, a hair salon and Curious Betty’s.

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Cause of downtown Centralia fire may not be verifiable

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 12:07 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Authorities were expecting a structural engineer this morning to examine what remains of the burned out two-story building in downtown Centralia and determine if it must be torn down.

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Dr. Matz building

Firefighting crews were on the scene at Tower Avenue and Main Street overnight hitting hot spots with water, a spokesperson for the police and fire departments said this morning.

A meeting is scheduled for noon so that officials can make decisions about their next steps, according to Centralia Police Department Officer John Panco.

Fire swept through the historic Dr. Matz building early yesterday, devastating five businesses and leaving the inhabitants of a dozen second-floor apartments homeless.

The box-like gray building is probably best known for owner Linda Hamilton’s Centralia Perk coffee shop.

Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack said he and other investigators have not been able to go inside to determine the cause, but an interview yesterday with the couple associated with Curious Betty’s clothing boutique offered some possibilities.

One is a plug-in baseboard type space heater, which would be unusual if it had ignited, Mack said.

The other more likely source was a taper candle which was burning on a desk inside the shop, he said.

The couple had worked a long day and laid down and fallen asleep in the boutique when they awoke to intense heat and heavy smoke, Mack said.

They managed to find their way outside fortunately, he said.

“They are extremely lucky because there are no smoke alarms in that portion of the building,” Mack said. “That they woke up at all is a miracle.”

Investigators may or may not be able to get inside the building to determine the cause of the fire because of the structural integrity of the building, he said.

Fire Chief Jim Walkowski today said crews never made it inside the Matz building.

“There was a collapse of the floor section above Betty’s and we fought it from the outside,” Walkowski said.

Riverside was called at about 2:20 a.m. yesterday and joined by fire departments from Chehalis, Napavine, Rochester and Gibson Valley.

The fire wasn’t contained until 6 a.m., but they continued to pour water on it from ladder trucks throughout the day.

Firefighters did take hoses into an adjacent building, where they battled to keep the flames that tried to spread  south to the other businesses on the block, Walkowski said.

Even that was risky, according to the chief.

“We had a structural collapse as they were fighting fire inside (there),” he said. “It was really close.”

Walkowski said he believed there were smoke alarms in the apartment area but there was no monitored fire alarm system in the building.

The chief said some of those who were displaced were getting assistance from the Red Cross and some were staying with family.

Assistant Chief Mack still has a couple of possible other ignition sources to work on ruling in or out.

The official cause on his report is going to read undetermined, Mack said this morning, until and if he can get inside and hopefully find out for sure what happened.

He said he doesn’t have any reason to disbelieve the couple from Curious Betty’s.

“Like I said, and I’ll say it again,” Mack said. “It was a miracle they got out alive.”

•••

Watch a video from a circling helicopter yesterday by KATU.com out of Portland, here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 9:45 am

SHERIFF’S OFFICE: RANDLE MAN THREATENS TO KILL HIS FAMILY

• Deputies were called to the 100 block of Young Road in Randle about 12:30 a.m. today where a woman told them her ex-husband had threatened to shoot his entire family and then himself, or load them up in a car and drive them off a cliff. Deputies were also told the 43-year-old man had thrown a cell phone at his teenage step-daughter and shoved his ex-wife, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The suspect was not found so the sheriff’s office is asking the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office to file a charge against him of felony harassment, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

INTRUDER HELD AT GUNPOINT

• A 26-year-old Randle man was detained by a resident with a shotgun early Sunday morning after he was suspected of breaking into a pump house and allegedly trying to kick in a door of the nearby home on the 11,000 block of U.S. Highway 12, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Evan R. Tashelle said he was just trying to get warm, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. He was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree trespassing, Brown said.

DOGNAPPING ALLEGED

• The sheriff’s office reported yesterday the landlord of an Ethel-area rental home was arrested for allegedly sneaking into the home and stealing a puppy he told his tenant he could not keep there. A deputy called to the 2000 block of U.S. Highway 12 on Monday found footprints inside the home which matched the boots of the landlord, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. Arrested for residential burglary was Brian S. Steward, 46, Brown said. Steward denied going into the home, according to Brown. The 6-month old Pit Bull and Labrador mix has not been found, she said. A container of laundry detergent was missing as well, Brown said.

PUPPY STOLEN

• A deputy took a report on Monday from the area of Jackson Highway and state Route 508 that a man stole a black Heeler puppy valued at $300, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A 47-year-old man described as transient was selling puppies on the side of the road and said the prospective buyer took a dog, put it in a vehicle and drove away, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

THEFT

• The sheriff’s office reported yesterday that someone kicked open a door of a home on the 100 block of Roth Road in Winlock and stole a television, a laptop computer, a cell phone and eight boxes of ammunition. The break-in was discovered about 5 p.m. on Friday when the resident returned home, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday that a woman at the 1800 block of Van Wormer Street in Centralia discovered someone had broken into a locked box in her bedroom and stolen about $10,000.  It appeared someone used a key to get in it and it happened in the days before last Wednesday, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said. A deputy was told the woman’s son had had friends visiting the home, according to Brown.

• Centralia police were called about 11:50 p.m. yesterday to the 700 block of South Silver Street about someone breaking into a storage shed. It’s not clear what might have been taken, according to Centralia Police Department.

• A deputy was called to St. Ives Church in Silver Creek where someone had tried to force open a door sometime between Sunday night and Monday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• A deputy was called to the 2400 block of Lincoln Creek Road where someone had damaged a garage door trying to break in, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday. It occurred sometime last week, according to the sheriff’s office.