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Two separate trials on the docket in Salkum triple slaying

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 6:10 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Lewis County Superior Court judge today denied the prosecution’s request to consolidate two defendants’ cases from last summer’s triple slaying into one trial, saying in part, he didn’t want to give John Allen Booth Jr. grounds for a successful appeal.

Booth, 31, is scheduled for trial the week of May 16.

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John A. Booth Jr.

Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher suggested the judge could find that judicial economy was more important than Booth’s right to a speedy trial, and postpone it until October when 29-year-old Ryan J. McCarthy is set to be tried in the same deaths.

“One judge, one courtroom, one jury, which is a big deal in this case,” Meagher said.

Meagher said the trial is expected to last a minimum of two weeks and they have the same witnesses, same evidence and same crimes.

Defense attorney James Dixon opposed the move.

His client extended his right to a speedy trial once already, to prepare a response when the state was potentially going to seek the death penalty, he said.

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Ryan J. McCarthy

“Both of these defendants have been in jail for months and months and months,” Dixon said. “And they’ve not been joined as co-defendants.”

The hearing in the Chehalis courtroom this afternoon was well-attended; among those in the audience were the brother of one of the victims, McCarthy’s wife, Booth’s fiancee, elected Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and all the sheriff’s detectives.

Authorities have said they believe the two men’s Aug. 21 visit to the house on Wings Way off Gore Road was related to a drug debt collection.

McCarthy’s lawyer opposed the prosecution’s request as well. McCarthy’s trial is set for the week of Oct. 10.

Attorney Rick Cordes indicated his reasons for not wanting to move up that date.

“I’m surprised the state says they’re ready to go,” Cordes said.

Cordes said he is still waiting for reports from prosecutors involving DNA, fingerprints and ballistics.

“I’m not ready to go to trial without all that information,” Cordes said.

Judge Richard Brosey asked Cordes if he also didn’t want his client tried with Booth, because it might be confusing to a jury hearing evidence pertaining to both men when the two are not charged with identical crimes.

The men are charged with murder and extortion in connection with the shooting deaths of David West Sr. 52, his son David J. West Jr., 16, and Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle, at the West’s home in the Salkum-Onalaska area. Booth is also charged with the attempted murder of 51-year-old Denise Salts who lived there.

However, Booth is charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of West Jr. and Williams as well as unlawful possession of a firearm

McCarthy is charged with first-degree felony murder in the three deaths.

Brosey said he was concerned about what an appeals court might think of postponing Booth’s trial, concerned about confusion to a jury, and possible prejudice to McCarthy.

“I’m denying the motion,” he said.

•••

Read most recent previous story on the case, here

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

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News brief: Find out more about possible four fire department combo

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 12:19 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Members of the public curious about the possible creation of a super fire department along the I-5 corridor in the northern half of Lewis County are encouraged to sit in a meeting set for tomorrow evening in Chehalis.

Representatives from the cities of Chehalis and Centralia, as well as from fire departments in Centralia, Chehalis, rural Chehalis and the Napavine area have been gathering monthly to talk about the idea.

The group has named itself the Regional Fire Authority Planning Committee.

Lewis County Fire District 5′s Lt. Laura Hanson says the public and the news media are invited and encouraged to attend the monthly meetings.

On the agenda tomorrow night are presentations about operations, facilities and fleets.

The committee has selected Dennis Dawes – Chehalis city council member – as its chair and Greg Pulver – AMR, American Medical Response and Fire District 6 commissioner- as its vice chair, as well as adopted rules and procedures for operating the group.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Lewis County Fire District 6′s main station at 2123 Jackson Highway, Chehalis.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 10:42 am

MAN ARRESTED FOR ASSAULTING DETECTIVE INSIDE THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE

• A 31-year-old man was tackled by two detectives inside the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office yesterday morning when he tried to flee arrest for failing to register as a sex offender in a timely manner. The sheriff’s office said Brian A. Schweitzer was meeting with detective Jamey McGinty in his office about 9:45 a.m. about registering his new address after moving recently to Chehalis from California. Since he had arrived in early March and not registered within the three-day required timeline, McGinty went to arrest Schweitzer, who bolted and tried to run down the hallway, according to Chief Criminal Deputy Gene Seiber. When the detectives took him to the ground, Schweitzer reportedly elbowed on of them in the face. Schweitzer was walked over the the jail where he was booked for third-degree assault, resisting arrest, obstruction and failing to register, Seiber said.

THEFT

• A 32-year-old Centralia man was arrested yesterday after allegedly burglarizing a Centralia residence he was seen leaving. Centralia police reported some of the stolen goods were found when they searched the residence of James T. Taylor. Taylor was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree burglary, according to the Centralia Police Department. The incident is connected to an address on the 500 block of Jefferson Street.

• A deputy took a report on Sunday of the theft of approximately $10,000 of items from a shop on the 400 block of Short Road in Morton. Missing sometime since November were a boat motor, three chainsaws, three generators, camping equipment and fishing tackle, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• A deputy responding to a report of the theft in progress of scrap metal from the 12000 block of U.S. Highway 12 in Packwood on Friday made a traffic stop in the Randle area and arrested two individuals. Michael J. Folden, 40, and Oda Couch, 42, both of Randle, were escorted back to where the items were taken from and unloaded the approximately 800 pounds of metal. They were then booked into the Lewis County Jail for theft, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The value was about $150.

• An individual who left his wallet unattended on a computer in the library on the 100 block of South Silver Street in Centralia called police just before 3 p.m. yesterday after it disappeared, according to police.

COUNTERFEIT CASH

• Centralia police took a report yesterday evening of an individual who tried to make a purchase with a phony $100 bill at the 500 block of South Tower Avenue. The bill was easily recognized as counterfeit and the shopper gave the cashier three other bills who said he had found them, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WINDOWS SHOT AT CHEHALIS BUSINESS

• Chehalis police were called yesterday to Les Schwab Tire Center on North Market Boulevard about three bullet holes found in their front windows over the weekend.

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News brief: Arrest made in connection with stolen search and rescue equipment

Monday, April 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Search and Rescue got back its stolen Honda generator but is still looking for 18 portable radios and other equipment taken when its mobile command trailer was broken into out in Packwood.

A 19-year-old Packwood resident was arrested and charged last week for trafficking in stolen property after he allegedly offered to sell the generator to one individual and then did sell it to another person.

Jesse James Aalmo pleaded not guilty on Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court.

Search and rescue volunteers were preparing to train two weeks ago  when they discovered somebody had forced their way inside the trailer  parked at the former Hampton Mill in Packwood, and tried to break in to three cargo trailers where their equipment is stored.

Deputies arrested Aalmo on April 11 after talking with a man who said he bought the $550 generator from Aalmo for $100, according to charging documents.

Another man told deputies Aalmo offered to sell him a portable radio for $50, charges documents allege.

Chief Criminal Deputy Gene Seiber said Aalmo didn’t admit to the theft and the sheriff’s office is still hopeful the radios will turn up.

•••

Read “News brief: Lewis County search and rescue vehicles plundered” from Monday April 4, 2011, here

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News brief: Four hospitalized following Sunday crashes north of Castle Rock

Monday, April 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports a five-car wreck yesterday afternoon on Interstate 5 north of Castle Rock sent four people to the hospital.

The Washington State Patrol blamed hail for the approximately 5 p.m. collisions.

Read The Daily News’ story here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, April 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

WOMAN STABS BOYFRIEND IN CENTRALIA, POLICE SAY

• An 18-year-old Centralia woman was arrested yesterday evening in Centralia after she allegedly stabbed her boyfriend in the rib cage with a  pocket knife. Police, called about 6:20 p.m. about a dispute between a young couple, found them on foot near West Cherry and Yew streets. Bridget J. Parker, 18, was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree assault, according to the Centralia Police Department. Her boyfriend, T.J. Reynolds, 19, of Centralia, initially tried to flee but was detained and taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with what was described as a minor cut. Reynolds was arrested for misdemeanor assault, for allegedly pushing his girlfriend to the ground. He was subsequently released from the hospital not booked into jail, according to police. Update at 6:50 p.m.: The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office declined to charge Parker, as she was reportedly attacked first and repeatedly. She was released from jail today.

DRIVE-BY SHOOTING COMPLAINT

• Deputies were called yesterday when a man walking along the 900 block of Burnt Ridge Road near Onalaska said somebody passing by in pickup truck pointed a gun out the window and fired it. Lewis County sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said they think it was a shotgun, fired into the air and perhaps meant to scare the individual, not hit him. No suspect was found, according to Aust.

FIGHT OUTSIDE BAR

• Police and deputies responded about 2 a.m. on Saturday to a report of a large number of people fighting behind a bar in Chehalis. The individuals involved had left before officers arrived in the area of Northwest Pacific Avenue, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

ONLINE THREATS LEAD TO ARREST OF TEEN

• A 16-year-old Chehalis boy was arrested for harassment on Friday on Southwest 17th Street near W.F. West High School for allegedly making threat on Facebook toward another 16-year-old boy, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Police were called Saturday morning to the Lewis County Mall on Northeast Hampe Way in Chehalis where windows were broken out of five different vehicles belonging to mall tenants, including three belonging to the state Department of Corrections.

• Chehalis police were called Friday night to a report of slashed tires on Washington Avenue.

THEFT

• Police were called this morning to the 1100 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia where somebody had stolen the tires and rims from a parked car.

• Centralia police were called Saturday morning about a burglary to a residence on the 1500 block of Delaware Avenue. Somebody forced their way inside and stole cash, according to police.

NO THEFT

• Centralia police are looking for an individual they say falsely reported a robbery in progress to a business on the 500 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia just after 6 p.m. on Saturday.

DRUGS

• A 31-year-old man was arrested yesterday afternoon for allegedly trying to fill a forged prescription for Oxycodone at the Wal-Mart pharmacy in Chehalis. Wayne M. Jahner, of Spanaway, was booked into the Lewis County Jail for illegal possession of prescription drugs, according to Chehalis police.

FIRE CALL TO RETIREMENT COMPLEX

• Chehalis firefighters were called about 10:30 p.m. last night to the Vintage Apartments on the 1500 block of North National Avenue to a report of smoke on the third floor. They found a coffee pot had melted in one of the apartments. The resident woke up to a smoke alarm and was unharmed, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

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Former Centralia nursing home burnt down, on purpose

Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm
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Firefighters stand by on their ladder truck as the former Evergreen Centralia Health and Rehabilitation Center is intentionally destroyed by fire during a practice day

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – Almost 30 firefighters spent Saturday practicing at a former nursing home in Centralia, eventually allowing flames and an excavator to reduce the building to rubble.

Riverside Fire Authority conducted live fire training exercises on the 1000 block of Long Road, at the former home of Evergreen Centralia Health and Rehabilitation Center.

The building was vacated during the December 2007 flood and then donated to the city.

Fire Capt. Erik Olson said they have been able to train inside the structure during the past two years.

One of the things they practiced yesterday was “hose evolutions”, hooking up various sizes and great lengths of fire hose to extinguish burning pallets and hay inside the rambling commercial structure.

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Members of Riverside Fire Authority watch one end of the former nursing home burn while an excavator tears apart the other end.

2011.0416.Practice.Burn.2.excavator

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Breaking news: Man arrested for plotting to kill Thurston County sheriff’s detective

Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office says it thwarted a plot to murder one of their own detectives with an arrest this afternoon.

Royce Lynn Baxter, 59, of Long Beach, Wash., was already in the Thurston County Jail for burglary and stalking, and was planning to kill or have killed the detective who put him there, according to the sheriff’s office.

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Royce Lynn Baxter

Baxter had been arrested in December for first-degree burglary and stalking in connection with a woman who lives outside Tumwater, a woman he’d been infatuated with some dozen years, according to Lt. Greg Elwin.

The detective was tipped on Wednesday about Baxter’s plan, Elwin said.

“From jail, he was trying to, first of all, put in motion a plan from jail so once he made bail, to kill one witness and the detective in the case,” Elwin said.

Elwin said Baxter made arrangements to get an untraceable cell phone, a car not registered to him and to get guns to Olympia.

An undercover sheriff’s deputy acted as the potential hired killer during the investigation, Elwin said.

Elwin said the investigation showed at first Baxter wanted to do it himself, targeting detective Dave Haller and the husband of his stalking victim.

“But he didn’t have enough money to pay for both, so he called off the hit on the husband and put all his resources on Haller,” Elwin said.

Elwin said the investigation revealed Baxter had taken significant steps to include other people in his plan.

Baxter relayed a request to the person he thought he was hiring – which was actually an undercover deputy – to retrieve three guns from his home in Long Beach and put them in a car he could use to flee the area, according to Elwin. The firearms were seized.

Baxter was arrested about 4 p.m. today for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

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News brief: Skeletal remains from near Morton are not Tenino woman or McCleary girl

Friday, April 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said his office has not yet learned the identity of the skeletal remains found last week near Morton, but a forensic pathologist has ruled out two missing people.

Specialists have confirmed the remains are not those of Nancy Moyer from Tenino or Lindsey Baum of McCleary, Mansfield said today.

A motorist who pulled off U.S. Highway 12 near Morton to take a break spotted the remains off the side of a logging road about 5:30 p.m. on April 7, according to the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office at the time said they were hopeful it wouldn’t take long to figure out who the deceased was, based on dental work.

The remains were to be sent to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office for examination.

Both females vanished in 2009.

Moyer, 36, was last seen by a co-worker on March 6, 2009. The 5-foot tall mother of two was reported missing when her husband returned their children to her Tenino home two days later.

She was not there, but her purse and vehicle were.

Eleven-year-old Lindsey was last seen June 26, 2009, when she left a friend’s house in McCleary to walk home.

The walk should have taken 10 minutes, but she never arrived home.

The sheriff’s office released little information about last week’s find, but said it was doubtful the remains had been in the place they were found for very long, because it was a well-used logging road.

Sheriff Mansfield said they are also trying to determine the identity of the remains through DNA.

Dental work was used to find the identity of a skull found March 26 near Mineral.

It belonged to Michael Lloyd Riemer, a 36-year-old Pierce County man who went missing in December 1985.

•••

Read “Breaking news: Skeleton found near Morton” from Friday April 8, 2011, here

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News brief: Vacant Centralia nursing home will be site of fire training

Friday, April 15, 2011 at 11:17 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Neighbors and passing motorists on Interstate 5 can expect to see smoke and fire engines tomorrow when a shuttered nursing home on Long Road in Centralia is burned down.

Riverside Fire Authority will conduct live fire training exercises at the structure on the 1000 block of Long Road, the former home of Evergreen Centralia Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Traffic will be detoured from Long Road onto South Street during the training, according to Fire Chief Jim Walkowski.

Evergreen was home to some 40 individuals when the December 2007 flood forced their evacuation. It’s owners donated the one-story structure to the city, which in turn offered it to the fire department. It will be demolished afterward, according to Walkowski.

The chief said in a news release he is especially appreciative of getting a commercial building to practice with, as firefighters can gain the kind of experiences they cannot with a residential structure.

Some 30 personnel are expected to take part.

The exercises will take place from between approximately 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, April 15, 2011 at 11:01 am

REPORTED ROBBERY

• Police were called to 1100 block of West Chestnut Street in Centralia about 6:40 p.m. yesterday to a report by an individual they were robbed at knifepoint by a former roommate. Police, noting numerous inconsistencies in the allegations, have not yet contacted the suspect but are investigating the claim.

THEFT

• Centralia police were called about 1:45 p.m. yesterday to the 1000 block of Eckerson Road to take a report of stolen pain medication.

• Chehalis police were called late yesterday afternoon about the theft of prescription medication from a vehicle. The victim, however, wasn’t sure exactly where or when it occurred, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Centralia police were called just before 5 p.m. yesterday about a vehicle prowl on the 200 block of South Berry Street.

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Bail $500,000: Son wanted for allegedly helping former trooper in suicide, fraud, arrested in Mexico

Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm
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Kenneth R. Varner waits to see a judge in Lewis County Superior Court today.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A man wanted for allegedly helping his father – a former Washington state trooper – carry out a suicide plan and make it look like homicide so the family could collect insurance money was arrested in Mexico and delivered yesterday to the Lewis County Jail.

Authorities have sought 34-year-old Kenneth R. Varner, of Olympia, nearly a year.

His father, James E. Varner, 49, of Olympia, was found dead with a gunshot wound five years ago inside his car on a forest road near Packwood.

Detectives investigated the February 2006 death as suspicious; the deceased was in passenger seat and they did not locate a gun with the body.

James E. Varner

The firearm authorities believe was used was discovered later in Mayfield Lake by a fisherman, according to charging documents.

Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said Kenneth Varner was living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and the sheriff’s office was feeding information to U.S. Marshals, who worked with their contacts in Mexico. Kenneth Varner was deported and taken to Los Angeles on March 31 by the U.S. Marshal’s Service, according to Mansfield.

Lead detective Bruce Kimsey and another detective picked him up from the Los Angeles County Jail yesterday and flew him here last night, according to Mansfield.

The sheriff said there’s “a lot of fraud” involved.

“It’s been a very detailed, comprehensive investigation here,” Mansfield said. “It covers a lot of ground.”

Bail was set today at $500,000.

James Varner worked for the state Department of Labor and Industries and before that, was a trooper, employed from 1979 until 1997 mostly in Western Washington.

Charges of promoting a suicide attempt and conspiracy to commit theft in the first degree were filed against Kenneth Varner last May. Mansfield said they believe the son retrieved the weapon from the scene and got rid of it.

Kendra Varner, the widow of James Varner, said after the charges were filed she did not believe her husband would kill himself and ask his son to come and remove the gun.

The bulk of the more than $2.3 million in life insurance on the senior Varner was acquired in the last 18 or so months of his life, according to charging documents.

Shortly after James Varner ‘s death, authorities revealed he, his son and a third man were being investigated in an insurance fraud scheme related to a falsely-reported-as-stolen antique car.

Charging documents in the case include allegations the father facilitated bank transactions for his son’s business deals, which the son conducted under an alias. Detective Kimsey was told the younger Varner worked as a free-lance realtor in Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta has been Kenneth Varner’s home for several years.

Kenneth Varner was also wanted in an entirely separate case – for theft related to some $7,000 from a bid to replace a roof of a business partner’s building in Centralia in 2006.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter told a judge this afternoon said his client has no regular income, no liquid assets and qualified for a court-appointed lawyer.

Judge Nelson Hunt assigned the case to Centralia attorney J.P. Enbody.

Kenneth Varner is scheduled to for an arraignment next Thursday.

•••

Read background on the case, here

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News brief: Austin King; case could end with plea agreement

Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS -  The suspect in last summer’s death of 16-year-old Austin King in Morton appeared briefly in court today as his trial date nears, however, attorneys are moving toward a plea agreement instead.

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Jack A. Silverthorne

“We’re working towards settlement,” defense lawyer J.P. Enbody said outside the courtroom.

An acquaintance, Jack Arnold Silverthorne, of Renton, is charged with first-degree murder and remains held on $2 million bail.

Silverthorne spent his 21st birthday on Saturday in the Lewis County Jail.

He is charged with first-degree murder and remains held on $2 million bail. He has pleaded not guilty.

The judge signed an order today allowing a crime lab test which will “consume some trace evidence”. Neither attorney described in court what the evidence was or what article it was found on.

Austin King

Austin King

The 16-year-old vanished from his family’s home in the Tilton River Mobile Home Park early on June 23 and was the subject of a month-long search headed up by volunteers. His body was found some 10 miles away off a logging road outside Morton. His skull was cracked.

Authorities believe Silverthorne – who was staying in the trailer park with his grandmother at the time – took Austin up into the woods, and his motive was related to an attraction to a girl, the mother of Austin’s child, according to charging documents.

His trial remains scheduled for the week of June 6.
•••

Read more about the case in “Morton homicide: Suspect had broken hand, victim had cracked skull” from Wednesday Nov. 10, 2010, here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm

CAR VERSUS BICYCLE IN ONALASKA

• A 26-year-old Onalaska man on a bicycle escaped serious injury last night when he was hit by a car from behind along the 200 block of Gore Road. The driver fled the scene after the approximately 8:30 p.m. accident, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Several hours later, deputies arrested a suspect in the Morton area. Sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said they believe Joshua D. Kelly, 19, of Morton, didn’t stick around because he had a misdemeanor warrant. Kelly was booked into the Lewis County Jail for the warrant and for felony hit and run, Aust said.

FRAUD

• Centralia police were called yesterday morning by a man who said he discovered his credit card was used at several area businesses. It was stolen earlier this year in a vehicle prowl, according to the Centralia Police Department.

MAN ARRESTED AFTER ASSAULTING 91-YEAR-OLD WOMAN

• A 57-year-old man wanted for allegedly repeatedly choking his 91-year-old mother and preventing her from leaving her residence on the 2500 block of North Pearl Street last week was arrested yesterday by the Olympia Police Department. Joseph P. Berg was booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment, according to the sheriff’s office. The victim suffered what were described as minor injuries.

CHICKEN SHED FIRE

• Firefighters called just before 2 p.m. yesterday to the 1200 block of Lincoln Creek Road outside Centralia found a three-sided chicken shed burning. The flames were extinguished and all the adult chickens were spared, fire Capt. Erik Olson said. However, if there were any chicks inside, they weren’t found, he said. The cause is being investigated but could be related to a heating device, according to Olson.

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News brief: School pranks lead to arrests

Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 10:10 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 12-year-old student was arrested for making a bomb threat yesterday at Onalaska Elementary-Middle School.

Students were evacuated to the high school and deputies called about 9:40 a.m. searched the cafeteria and found nothing suspicious, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The seventh-grader allegedly had told friends he put a bomb in the cafeteria and it would go off in seven minutes. He told authorities he was just joking.

The student, whose name was not released, was booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center for making a bomb threat.

The arrest follows a similar incident at Adna Middle-High School on April Fools Day in which deputies were called to search a classroom after a student reportedly made comments on his Facebook page related to having a gun at school, according to sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust.

That student also said it was just a prank, Aust said.

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Son wanted for allegedly helping former trooper in suicide found in Mexico

Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 9:22 am

This news story was updated at 1 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A man wanted for allegedly helping his father – a former Washington state trooper – carry out a suicide plan and make it look like homicide so the family could collect insurance money was found in Mexico and delivered yesterday to the Lewis County Jail.

James E. Varner

Authorities have sought 34-year-old Kenneth R. Varner, of Olympia, for the past year.

His father, James E. Varner, 49, of Olympia, was found dead with a gunshot wound five years ago inside his car on a forest road near Packwood.

Detectives investigated the February 2006 death as suspicious; they did not locate a gun with the body.

The firearm authorities believe was used was discovered later in Mayfield Lake by a fisherman, according to charging documents.

Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said this morning Kenneth Varner was living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and was deported. He was taken into custody in Los Angeles on March 31 by the U.S. Marshal’s Service, according to Mansfield.

Lead detective Bruce Kimsey and another detective picked him up from the Los Angeles County Jail yesterday and flew him here last night, according to Mansfield.

The sheriff said there’s “a lot of fraud” involved.

“It’s been a very detailed, comprehensive investigation here,” Mansfield said. “It covers a lot of ground.”

James Varner worked for the state Department of Labor and Industries and before that, was a trooper, employed from 1979 until 1997 mostly in Western Washington.

Charges of promoting a suicide attempt and conspiracy to commit theft in the first degree were filed against Kenneth Varner last May. Mansfield said they believe the son retrieved the weapon from the scene and got rid of it.

Puerto Vallarta has been Kenneth Varner’s home for several years.

The bulk of the more than $2.3 million in life insurance on the senior Varner was acquired in the last 18 or so months of his life, according to charging documents.

Shortly after James Varner ‘s death, authorities revealed he, his son and a third man were being investigated in an insurance fraud scheme.

Kenneth Varner was also wanted for theft related to some $7,000 from a bid to replace a roof of a business partner’s building in Centralia in 2006.

He is scheduled to appear before a judge this afternoon.

•••

Read background on the case, here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 10:49 am

FELONY ASSAULT

• A Centralia youth was arrested for second-degree assault yesterday evening after he allegedly threatened his mother with a knife at the 1000 block of Scammon Creek Road in Centralia. The male, whose name and age were not reported by police, was booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VEHICLE TRASHED

• Police were looking for a black Volkswagen Jetta that was seen speeding away early this morning after all the windows were broken out a car parked at the 1700 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia.

FIREARM STOLEN FROM PACKWOOD HOME

• A 9 mm Smith and Wesson handgun was reported stolen from a residence in Packwood yesterday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called yesterday afternoon to the home on the 12000 block of U.S. Highway 12 was told by its owner the gun and one magazine was taken sometime since last October, Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said. The loss is estimated at $400.

SELLING MARIJUANA

• Three juveniles were arrested yesterday morning at the 800 block of Eshom Road in Centralia in connection with marijuana, according to the Centralia Police Department. One was arrested and booked for delivery of marijuana and two were arrested for possession and then released. No further details were released.

SMOKING MARIJUANA

• A police officer conducting a bar check at Bruno’s Pub in Chehalis last night asked a couple of guys on the sidewalk about the aroma of marijuana and was handed over a still-warm glass pipe, according to police. A 22-year-old Chehalis resident, Benjamin L. Darby, was arrested for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia and then released after the approximately 11 p.m. encounter on Pacific Avenue, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

CAR PROWL

• Police were called just before 10 a.m. yesterday to the 1200 block of South Gold Street in Centralia where a cell phone had been stolen from a vehicle.

ATTEMPTED KIDNAP ARREST

• A 29-year-old Centralia man was arrested yesterday afternoon on Grand Avenue in Centralia for attempted kidnapping, attempted robbery and burglary. David J. Montoya was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department. Further details were not readily available.

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News brief: Interview with confessed killer about missing Tenino woman turns up nothing

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 9:47 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

As expected, authorities questioned the 27-year-old man convicted of the August slaying of a woman on the Yelm to Tenino Trail looking for information about 36-year-old Nancy Moyer’s disappearance from her Tenino home in March 2009.

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Bernard K. Howell III

Moyer, a mother of two, was reported missing on March 8, 2009 by her ex-husband who went to her house and discovered she wasn’t there.

Nothing significant came out of the interview with Bernard K. Howell III, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

“He gave us nothing, denied any involvement,” Lt. Greg Elwin said.

Moyer’s home is less than a mile from where Howell lived with his father when he was arrested last summer with a dead woman inside his pickup truck.

Detectives were prevented from talking with him about other cases until the case involving the death of Vanda Boone was finished.

Howell confessed to killing Boone and was sentenced last Thursday to more than 26 years in prison. He was interviewed about Moyer late last week.

Moyer was last seen by co-workers two days before she was reported missing. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

The sheriff’s office has contacted the FBI to see if they can glean anything about the type of individual who might have been involved in Moyer’s disappearance, Elwin said.
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Read about Bernard K. Howell III, here

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Skull found near Mineral opens up new questions in old homicides

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 7:21 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Learning the identity of the man whose skull was found recently near Mineral now means revisiting decades-old cases, including a missing person, a stabbing death and possibly the homicides of another couple.

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Michael L. Riemer and Diana K. Robertson

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office this morning said the skull discovered  March 26 in a wooded area north of Mineral belongs to Michael Lloyd Riemer, a Pierce County man who was reported missing in December 1985.

Riemer’s significant other, Diana K. Robertson, went missing at the same time from Pierce County, and her body was found the following February. The 21-year-old woman’s death was determined to be a homicide and Riemer was considered a person of interest, according to authorities.

The sheriff’s office doesn’t yet know if Riemer died at his own hands or someone else’s, Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said today.

“We don’t know. In fact, it doesn’t really help or change the investigation because there are still so many unknowns,” Brown said.

The sheriff’s office announced the find two weeks ago, saying a partial skull was found by someone hiking in the Mineral area.

It was actually discovered by a man on property where he lives, on an abandoned logging road that goes through his property, Brown said today. It was in a brushy area on the ground, she said.

During detective’s follow up search, a mandible – the portion with the jaw and teeth – was found a little ways away from the skull, according to Brown.

The remains were sent to a specialist for identification, which was made through dental records, Brown said.

Brown said there was no trauma detected on Riemer’s skull and there was enough of the skull recovered they are also able to conclude he wasn’t shot in the head.

“There was a driver’s license found at the scene also, but we don’t know who it belongs to,” Brown said. It’s too weathered to read, she said.

Riemer was a person of interest in Robertson’s death since he vanished at the same time. He was 36 years old. One theory was he killed her and then took off, Brown said.

Their 2-year-old daughter was found wandering alone at a K-Mart in Spanaway on the day the pair went missing, according to Brown.

During 1986, there were several attempts made by searchers to find Riemer, according to the sheriff’s office.

His remains were found within a mile of where hers had been discovered in February 1986.

She was stabbed in the chest, Brown said.

Lewis County detectives will be conducting a joint investigation with Pierce County.

Unfortunately, all the detectives who worked the case have retired and answers aren’t expected be coming any time soon, according to detective Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

“Right now, we’re just pulling records, seeing what we have,” Troyer said today.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is aware this could be tied to other things and they will be checking with other agencies, checking on other homicides, he said.

“We’ve got to be careful, it’s still an ongoing investigation, if we’ve got a suspect out there, that’s yet to be determined,” he said.

One case they will look at is another couple killed around the same time, according to Troyer.

According to an item on the web site for the television show Unsolved Mysteries – which aired an episode on Robertson’s homicide in 1989 – just 15 miles away, a man named Stephen Harkins had been found in his sleeping bag, shot in the forehead; and his companion Ruth Cooper was found two months later, shot to death.

Lewis County’s Chief Brown said today, one of those victims had a ligature, like a sock, that was similar to one found with the body of Diana K. Robertson.

While it’s good Riemer was found, it still doesn’t bring a whole lot of new information to light, Brown said.

“Hopefully someone, somewhere, knows something and will call us,” she said.

Brown asks anyone with information about the case to call the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at 360-748-9286 or Lewis County Crime Stoppers at 1-800- 748-6422.