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News brief: Body discovered at Riffe Lake

Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 11:19 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Lewis County sheriff’s detectives are examining the scene on Riffe Lake where a body was found last evening.

The find on the shore’s edge of the East Lewis County lake was reported about 6 p.m. last night by boaters, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said it is badly decomposed and they have no idea who it is.

“We can’t tell if its a male or a female but it does appear to be an adult,” Aust said.

Deputies had to access the area, in a remote cove on the northwest portion of the lake, by boat, according to Aust. Detectives began processing the scene about 7 o’clock this morning, he said.

The west end of the 17-mile lake is about two and a half miles east of Mossyrock.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 11:36 am

CENTRALIA WOMAN ARRESTED FOR THREATENING NEIGHBOR

• A 38-year-old Centralia woman was jailed last night after she allegedly threatened bodily harm to her neighbor. Police were called about 8:15 p.m. to the dispute at South Silver and West Pear streets. Lori A. Stout, 38, was arrested for malicious harassment and booked into the Lewis County Jail., according to the Centralia Police Department. Police said several people in the area witnessed the incident. She reportedly used the “N” word, according to Officer Gary Byrnes. Because the racial slur was paired with a threat, the arrest is considered a hate crime, Byrnes said. He said this morning he didn’t know what the argument was about or what she threatened to do.

TEENS CAUGHT TRYING TO BREAK INTO HOUSE, SHERIFF’S OFFICE SAYS

• Two teenage boys were arrested after they reportedly tried to break in to a home on the 2000 block of Sandra Avenue outside Centralia and were spotted and chased by a resident. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office was called about 12:20 p.m. took a 15-year-old male and a 16-year-old male into custody. The Centralia residents were booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center for attempted residential burglary, sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said. Their names were not released because they are juveniles.

HAY FIELD FIRE

• About three quarters of an acre burned yesterday west of Chehalis at the 200 block of Bunker Creek Road. Five firefighters from Lewis County Fire District 6 responded to the approximately 2 p.m. call. District 6 Firefighter Mike Goodwillie said it was a hay field and might have begun in one of several small piles of cut hay pieces. No structures were threatened, Goodwillie said.

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News brief: Yet another motorist nods off and crashes

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 11:33 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The state patrol responded to a rollover crash on state Route 508 overnight, a wreck they blame on the driver falling asleep.

Troopers and aid were called about 3 o’clock this morning to the scene south of Chehalis, about two miles east of Interstate 5.

The 19-year-old driver, Daniel S. Holmes of Chehalis, suffered cuts to his head and hand and was taken by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the Washington State Patrol. He was treated and has been released, a hospital spokesperson said this morning.

Holmes’ 1993 Dodge Dakota was described as totaled.

The pickup truck was westbound and when Holmes nodded off, it drifted onto the left shoulder and rolled one time, coming to rest wheels down in a ditch, according to the investigating trooper.

The trooper reported he expected Holmes would be cited for wheels off the roadway.

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Ambulance service relocates near Winlock

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 7:34 am
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South Lewis County EMS's new base is now at the corner of state Route 505 and North Military Road in Winlock

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

WINLOCK – The paramedics who respond to 911 calls in South Lewis County have a new home, a new name and and an increased presence at night.

South Lewis County EMS has moved its quarters to a spot about a half mile west of Interstate 5, to the corner of state Route 505 and North Military Road, near Winlock High School.

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Fire Chief Grant Wiltbank

The group of eight medics will soon be known as Lewis County Medic 1. And they’ve altered their work schedule so two people will be on duty 24 hours a day at the new site.

The most visible change is their quarters. They began moving the Fourth of July weekend.

Lewis County Fire Districts 2 and 15 spent $300,000 out of their reserves to purchase the four acres which hold a newer three-bedroom house and a double garage tall enough to park the ambulance indoors, according to Grant Wiltbank, chief of the Toledo-area fire district and executive director of the shared ambulance service.

“The idea was to secure a site that might be used for a joint station in the future,” Wiltbank said last week.

The property sits immediately south of the vast acreage adjacent to Interstate 5 that is expected to one day grow into an industrial park.

It’s all zoned for industrial use and once the area gets water and sewer and development begins, it would have become prohibitively expensive to move there, Wiltbank said.

Their former base was a 1970s single-wide, one bedroom mobile home that was in rough shape when they got it, Wiltbank said. It sat just north of state Route 505 at exit 63 just west of the freeway.

“It worked for what we needed,” Paramedic Kirk Johnston said when he returned from a call to the 2,200-square-foot house one afternoon early last week. “This is just so much … there’s no comparison.”

A big change is being able to park the ambulance inside. The spacious garage will really help, especially in the winter time, said Paramedic Delaney Haddow.

“When it snowed and stuff, we’d have to unbury the ambulance to get out,” she said.

The group, officially named the Interlocal Organization of Lewis County Fire Districts 2, 7 and 15 serves the areas of Toledo, Vader and Winlock, and also responds in Ryderwood. It continues to house three of its paramedics next to the Lewis County Fire District 5 station on Jackson Highway at Avery Road East. Those crews serve the areas covered by fire districts in Napavine, Onalaska, Salkum and Mossyrock.

Inside the new place is a comfy couch and two recliners, and even a bonus room being furnished with hand-me-down exercise equipment. Outside the front door is South Military Road which drops directly into Vader.

Most of their medical calls are for problems such as difficulty breathing or chest pains, but in the summer the calls for trauma go up, the two paramedics said. The changes help carve seconds off response times, according to Wiltbank.

Call volume for the emergency responders feels like it’s at least doubled since she began with South Lewis County EMS in January 2002, Haddow said as she showed off the new quarters. That should only continue, they think. The long term growth in Lewis County is expected in the south portions, according to Wiltbank.

The schedule change means there will be two paramedics on duty at night, where before there was only one.

“We’re also doing transports from Morton General Hospital to wherever they need to go,” Haddow said. “So like last night, I took somebody from Morton to St. Pete’s, so that left a paramedic on duty.”

The groups’ revenue comes from the fees charged for transports.

They’re now doing business as Lewis County Medic 1, a change that should help the public more easily understand what they do, the two medics said.

That will show up on their paperwork, on new uniforms and over time, with the re-lettering of their rigs.

“South Lewis County EMS was just too long of a name,” Johnston said. “People would say, what’s that?”

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm

STABBING SUSPECT RELEASED WITH NO CHARGES

• The 19-year-old Centralia resident arrested Friday night for allegedly stabbing a 25-year-old Centralia man was released from the Lewis County Jail this morning without being charged. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday the two males got into a fight at a party on the the 200 block of Blanchard Road prompted by a fight between two females. It was a gathering of about 50 people. The victim, whose name was not released, was hospitalized and treated for four knife wounds to his abdomen before being booked into jail. A folding knife was recovered at the scene. Lewis County Prosecutor Michael Golden said his office didn’t want to let the suspect go, but there were questions of self-defense to be answered and he also didn’t have evidence from any witness putting the knife in the suspect’s hand. It will be tested for DNA, Golden said. The 19-year-old had been arrested and booked for first-degree assault. Golden said this morning the 25-year-old reportedly had the 19-year-old in a headlock and was punching him in the face, before the stabbing. While police can make an arrest if they have probable cause a person committed a crime, the prosecutor’s office decides whether to file a charge based on if they have evidence to prove a charge beyond a reasonable doubt, according to Golden. The case remains under investigation.

BREAK-INS

• Centralia police were called about 2:30 a.m. today to an unidentified business on the 700 block of Harrison Avenue and told somebody entered its office and removed cash and a computer, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police reported wire was stolen from a house under construction on the 600 block of South Ash Street. The call about the burglary came just before 9 a.m. yesterday.

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office was called about 3:30 p.m. yesterday to a report of a theft from the 5000 block of Jackson Highway outside Toledo. Taken from a storage shed sometime between Thursday and Sunday were golf clubs, a shop vac, a rolling tool box, another tool box with Craftsman tools and something sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust called a Craftsman combo kit saw, which included a drill. The loss is estimated at $750.

• The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office took a report yesterday afternoon that somebody broke a lock and entered a home on the 5500 block of 222nd Avenue Southwest north of Centralia that hadn’t been checked on for several days. The executor of the estate said nothing appeared to be missing, and items of value were untouched, according to the sheriff’s office. It happened sometime between last Tuesday and Sunday.

• Somebody cut a two foot by four foot hole into the side of a greenhouse at the Happy Hen Farm in Rochester, according to a report made to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. The vandalism at the 8600 block of 180th Way Southwest occurred sometime after 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday and 10 o’clock the following morning, sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy said this morning.

BROKE OUT WINDOWS

• Centralia police were called just after midnight last night to the 300 block of North Gold Street to take a report somebody had smashed several windows out a vehicle.

METH ARREST

• A 60-year-old man was arrested for possession of methamphetamine yesterday evening in Centralia following a traffic stop near South Silver and Jefferson streets, according to police. Dale R. Williamson, of Chehalis, was found to be driving with a suspended license and during a search as he was arrested, an officer discovered suspected methamphetamine in his clothing, according to the Centralia Police Department. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

CHEHALIS ARREST

• Chehalis police arrested an individual about 1:30 a.m. today for unlawful possession of a firearm. The name of the man arrested following contact with an officer at Northwest West Street and Northwest Rhode Island Place was not readily confirmable.

SECOND SKYDIVER INJURY IN TWO DAYS

• A 24-year-old skydiver was hospitalized with an injured ankle after a hard landing on Sunday at the Toledo Airport. It followed a similar accident the day before when a 25-year-old was hurt there. Aid was called about 7 p.m. Sunday and told by witnesses the man’s chute got tangled or something while he was still about 30 feet above the ground, according to South Lewis County Paramedic Delay Haddow. He was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital.

WEEKEND COLLISION NEAR EVALINE

• Two people were hospitalized after a collision near Evaline that left both vehicles with significant front end damage on Saturday night. Lewis County Fire District 5 was called just before 9 p.m. the area of Pleasant Valley and Conrad roads, according to District 5 Firefighter Brad Bozarth. The male driver of a Honda car and the female driver of a pickup truck were both taken to Providence Centralia Hospital, Bozarth said this morning. A passenger was reportedly uninjured.

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News brief: Top post at Littlerock prison changes

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 1:01 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Cedar Creek Corrections Center at Littlerock is getting a new superintendent next month, a man who also has been tapped to assist in finding a spot to build a new 1,000-bed prison for Washington state.

Doug Cole’s appointment takes effect August 15, according to the Washington State Department of Corrections.

Cole is currently the superintendent at the women’s prison at Purdy and previously served as an associate superintendent at McNeil Island Corrections Center, according to Belinda Stewart, a spokesperson for DOC. He has extensive experience in security management, Stewart said.

“He has been in corrections for a long time, he came up through the custody ranks,” Stewart said.

Cedar Creek’s current superintendent Jane Parnell will move to take Cole’s post at the Washington Corrections Center for Women near Gig Harbor.

Cedar Creek is a minimum security prison that houses offenders within four years of their release. The Bordeaux Road facility holds 480 inmates.

In addition to being in charge of Cedar Creek, Cole – a Mason County resident – will serve as the prison division’s liaison for the siting and design of a new facility.

DOC plans to construct a what it calls a new male reception center, in part because Washington Corrections Center in Shelton was never built for that purpose, which is currently serves, according to Stewart. A decision hasn’t yet been made about where it will go.

“We want it on the I-5 corridor,” Stewart said. “That just makes it easier for families to visit.”

Prisons Director Dick Morgan said in a news release Cole a good fit for his new duties.

“Doug has extensive experience with prison construction and his expertise will ensure progress is efficient and meets the needs of the agency,” Morgan stated. “This project is a huge undertaking and it’s critical that we have the right person heading up the effort for our division.”

DOC reports the prison population has changed drastically in the past year. The state agency has reduced 1,056 beds this year in response to a decreased offender population and a projected decline of incoming offenders in the future, according to the news release.

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Centralia Fire Chief: “There was a huge fire load inside that building.”

Monday, July 26, 2010 at 11:37 pm
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Riverside Fire Authority Chief Jim Walkoski said that firefighters battling the Saturday furniture store blaze reduced the heat on themselves as best they could by keeping themselves as low to the ground as possible. / Photo by Richard LaLonde

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

While the fire department has finished its part of the investigation into the cause of the weekend’s three-alarm fire at a Centralia furniture business, they will now wait for insurance company investigators to conduct tests on various machines from inside the building to look for a possible ignition source.

Riverside Fire Authority Chief Jim Walkowski said he estimated the loss at Just Wood Furniture at about $2 million.

They believe the area of origin was somewhere in the back of the 13,000 square-foot structure, Walkowski said today.

Just Wood – owned by Tom Nelson – manufactured, repaired and sold retail at the business on Harrison Avenue near Yew Street, according to the fire chief. It was a complete loss, as was separate business, Cascade Tax Service which was located inside the building.

“Fires like these take weeks, if not months before we get answers,” Walkowski said.

Firefighters were dispatched at 3:26 a.m. on Saturday after a police officer responded to a burglar alarm there, Walkowski said. The chief said not to read much into that, as fire activity can set off motion detectors.

It took two hours to get the blaze under control and until about 8 o’clock in the morning before it was fully extinguished, according to the chief.

Forty firefighters from six departments battled to keep it contained and prevent it from burning down a convenience store on one side, an accounting office on the other and a small house in the back, Walkowski said as he finished up reports today.

Besides the wood furniture, the business with an adjoining two-story shop contained wood, sawdust, solvents, lacquers and numerous propane cylinders.

“All very, very combustible,” Walkowski said. “There was a huge fire load inside that building.”

When firefighters pulled up, the roof had collapsed and flames had already ignited trees and the side of the Food Mart next door. They didn’t go inside the burning building, according to Walkowski.

“At the height of the firefight, we were pumping 8,000 gallons of water per minute; that is significant,” Walkowski said, noting one ladder truck can put out 1,000 gallons per minute. The city turned on additional pumps and valves to make that possible, he said.

They had police officers chasing down flying embers and nearly had to relocate the command post which was 60 to 80 feet away in a small parking lot across Harrison, the chief said.

“You couldn’t even put your hand on the side of the command vehicle, it was so hot,” Walkowski said.

Personnel and apparatus from departments in Chehalis, Napavine, Oakville and the city of Olympia assisted in fighting the fire. One firefighter was treated for an ankle injury.

The last three-alarm fire in Centralia was four years ago when half of Oakview Elementary School in the north end of town was destroyed by runaway fireworks.

Late Saturday afternoon, Harrison Avenue was reopened and a fence surrounded the blackened remains of the fire. A bulldozer-type machine was parked inside, and nearby was a Just Wood truck and trailer which were spared. File cabinets from the tax business had also been rescued, according to Chief Walkowski.

Centralia resident Jaspal Mohan said she had arrived about 6 a.m. that morning to open Centralia Food Mart, after closing about 11:30 p.m. the night before.

“I was worried, I saw flashing lights, from Mellen Street,” Mohan said.

She found her front door was open after firefighters broke into her convenience store to check in the attic for fire. There was none, but one exterior wall was left charred and an outside corner had burned.

Also Saturday afternoon, Richard LaLonde and a neighbor were pruning and removing bushes from in between their houses, a task prompted by the overnight experience.

The Rochester Primary School teacher said thankfully the wind was carrying embers the other way, because the vacant house in front and very close to theirs on Harrison Avenue is surrounded by tall, dry grass.

LaLonde and his wife were asleep when their children woke them about 3:30 a.m. They were among the crowd who watched for hours.

Cindy LaLonde said it seemed only minutes that the flames moved from the back of the building to the front.

“It all went up, and it went up fast,” Richard LaLonde said.
•••
To view several photos and read the original Saturday news story about the fire at Just Wood Furniture click here.

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News brief: Dry weather prompts Lewis County burn restrictions

Monday, July 26, 2010 at 2:32 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An outdoor burn ban will go into effect in Lewis County at one minute after midnight tonight.

Lewis County Building Official and Fire Marshal Fred Chapman said he expects it will remain until weather conditions change, probably sometime in October.

It’s a summertime restriction that means residents can’t burn brush outdoors, which they otherwise could have with a permit.

“This is the latest its gone into effect in my 10 years here,” Chapman said, noting that’s because June as such a wet month.

Small cooking campfires – no larger than three feet by three feet by two feet – are still allowed.

Thurston County implemented a similar ban on July 15.

Also on July 15, a burn ban went into effect statewide on all Department of Natural Resources-protected lands which include private forest lands and state-owned forest lands. An exception to those restrictions are recreational fires in approved fire pits in designated campgrounds. It is set to expire on Sept. 15.

In the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, campfires are currently allowed if certain safety measures are taken, such as using a ringed or grated fire pit and keeping tools such as a shovel nearby in case fire should escape, according to Ken Sandusky, a spokesperson for the National Forest.

The fire danger is currently listed as moderate in the Gifford Pinchot, and as the precaution level increases, so do the restrictions, Sandusky said.

Chapman said use common sense and enjoy the summer.

If a person builds a campfire, keep it at least 20 feet away from any structure, don’t do it under a tree and don’t leave it unattended, he said.

The end of July and the first of August often are accompanied by an increase in wildfire outbreaks, according to DNR. So far this year, as of last week, there have been more than 140 wildfires on the 12.7 million acres across Washington on land protected by DNR.

For more information check with your local fire department or the following:

• Lewis County Community Development – click here
• Washington State Department of Natural Resources – click here
• Gifford Pinchot National Forest – click here
• Southwest Washington Fire Prevention Council – click here
• Southwest Clean Air Agency – click here

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News brief: Weekend crashes

Monday, July 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A two-car crash on Interstate 5 near 13th Street in Chehalis sent two  women to the hospital yesterday afternoon.

The Washington State Patrol reported that a northbound Audi slammed into the rear of a Toyota Corolla which had braked hard to avoid traffic at about 2 p.m.

The impact forced the Toyota into the inside concrete barrier can caused it to flip onto its top, according to the state patrol.

The 2006 Toyota Corolla was totaled. The 2002 Audi A4 sustained an estimated $2,000 damage and was towed.

Lindsay A. Currier, 22, of Beaverton, Ore. and Alison L. Tuttle, 29, of Portland, Ore. were taken to Providence Centralia Hospital. Both were treated and have been released.

The investigating trooper blamed the collision on inattention.

Early the day before, three Randle residents were hospitalized after a car ran off U.S. Highway 12 east of Packwood, rolled and landed on its top blocking both east and westbound lanes.

Aid and troopers were called about 5:45 a.m. on Saturday to the crash about six miles this side of White Pass.

Taken to Morton General Hospital with what were described as minor injuries were the driver of the 2006 Chevrolet HHR, Robert Miller, 77, Beatrice A. Dean, 73, and Lois B. Jones, 76, according to the state patrol.

The car was described as a total loss.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, July 26, 2010 at 2:15 pm

MAN KNIFED AT CENTRALIA UNDERAGE PARTY

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning a 25-year-old man was knifed when a fight broke out at an underage drinking party outside Centralia late Friday night. Deputies were called about 11:40 p.m. to the 200 block of Blanchard Road and arrested a 19-year-old Centralia man, according to sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust. He said two females reportedly got into a fight which led to a fight between the suspect and the boyfriend of one of them. The 25-year-old Centralia resident, whose name was not released, suffered four knife wounds and was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Aust said. Jovanny Montenegro-Perez, 19,  also of Centralia, was arrested and booked into the Lewis County jail for first-degree assault, according to Aust.

DRUG ARRESTS

• Centralia police arrested Yolanda J. Ortivez, 34, of Oakville, for possession of heroin on Saturday afternoon at the 200 block of West Reynolds Avenue, according to the Centralia Police Department. She was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

• Centralia police arrested Nicholas M. Anderson, 22, of Centralia for possession of heroin on Saturday about 3:30 p.m. on the 1400 block of South Schueber Road, according to the Centralia Police Department. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

• Centralia police reported they arrested and booked an individual for possession of methamphetamine about 3:45 p.m. on Saturday at the 600 block of South Tower Avenue. No name was released.

THEFTS

• A blue Toshiba laptop computer was reported stolen from a home on the 100 block of North Buckner Street in Centralia. Police, called about 8 p.m. on Sunday believe a door was unlocked while the resident was away.

• Somebody broke into a Centralia home and stole car keys and then the truck parked outside, according to a report made to the Centralia Police Department on Friday afternoon. An officer who went to the 1300 block of St. Helens Street described the missing vehicle as a black 1997 Dodge Dakota pickup, with a license plate of A76273W.

JUST PLAIN MEAN STUFF

• Centralia police took a report about 2 p.m. on Saturday that somebody set off fireworks inside a woman’s car on the 1000 block of Elm Street. Police indicated the victim did not know who did it.

• Centralia police took a report over the weekend that somebody entered the compound of Twin City transit on East Locust Street and cut a bike rack off one of the busses and scratched another bus.

AND VEHICLE PROWLS

• Centralia police called to what appeared to be an attempted vehicle prowl about 2:15 a.m. on Saturday on the 1500 block of Pike Street reported the victims dog chased off the male and may have bit him.

• Somebody stole a stereo and related equipment from a vehicle parked on the 1000 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia, according to a  report made to police about 5:20 p.m. on Saturday.

• The Chehalis Police Department reported on Friday a vehicle prowl the afternoon before at South Market Boulevard and Southwest 16th Street.

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News flash: Photos added to “Centralia furniture store destroyed by fire”

Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 12:33 am
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The flames begin to consume the street side storefront of Just Wood Furniture. / Photo by Richard LaLonde

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Just added several photos to the Saturday news story about the fire at Just Wood furniture business on Harrison Avenue.

Check them out here.

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News brief: Parachutist injured in ‘hard landing’ at Toledo airport

Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 9:47 pm
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Part of a group holding a family gathering at the Toledo Airport prepare to take their turn at skydiving minutes after another parachutist is taken away by ambulance following a hard landing.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 25-year-old skydiver was hospitalized this afternoon after he had what was described as a hard landing in Toledo.

Lewis County Fire District 2 and paramedics were called about 4:30 p.m. to the Toledo Airport off Jackson Highway north of town.

Heather Whittaker of Skydive Toledo was among a number of professionals there – serving a group holding a family reunion – and taking some of them up in the air to parachute.

Five of them hopped in a truck and headed to the spot where the man came down, several hundred yards away between the runway and the taxi way.

“He had a hard landing,” Whittaker said.

The five are part of a group that train for just such emergencies, according to Whittaker.

The injured man, whose name was not released, was taken by ambulance to Providence Centralia. The nature of his injuries wasn’t available.

Whittaker said he wasn’t one of the clients Skydive Toledo was entertaining today. They didn’t see what happened, and she preferred they didn’t find out, she said, as a foursome arrived to the runway to go up in a small plane.

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Park filled with mourners for Morton teenager Austin King

Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 3:23 pm

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Family, friends and others gather with candles at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton on Friday night to honor 16-year-old Austin King.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

MORTON – A grass field at a Morton park drew more than 200  people last night, both individuals who knew and those who never knew 16-year-old Austin King.

The gathering came three days after the body of a young adult male was discovered off a logging road 10 miles away from the missing Morton boy’s home.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has not said the body is that of the teenager; it hasn’t been identified yet.

Hundreds of candles were lit and a handful of folks spoke before a prayer was recited.

“When I heard, I cried,” said one man who said he didn’t know Austin. “It could have been my boy.”

“We want to thank you from the bottom of our heart for bringing home our baby,” said another adult.

Another called whoever did this “monsters.”

Eloise Pugh from Glenoma whispered how unfortunate it was she didn’t see elected officials from Morton or members of the sheriff’s office present.

“It feels like they don’t care,” Pugh said quietly. “These people know their children, they know their child.”

Morton resident Jennifer Mau and women she called her “core” team coordinated blue ribbons for lapels, a jug to collect funds for funeral expenses, and balloons.

The 30-year-old is the local chapter founder of a Texas-based motorcycle group called Guardians of the Children. Their mission is to help protect abused kids, but Mau has become active in assisting and now in setting up searches for runaway children.

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Members of Guardians of the Children came from as far away as Tacoma to support Austin King's family.

She organized the search effort for Austin that began not long after he vanished sometime between June 23 and 24. The teenager was labeled by the sheriff’s office as a runaway, and two or three weeks later re-classified as endangered-missing.

What happened remains a mystery.

The sheriff’s office in talking Wednesday about the unidentified body said there was no initial obvious indication of an accident or suicide and none of foul play “at this time.” But it’s not clear what they had to work from.

After an autopsy was conducted on Thursday, the remains were taken to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office in Seattle, for additional examination by a forensic anthropologist.

Yesterday, the sheriff’s office released a statement that a high priority is being given to determining the identity, but DNA testing is necessary for that.

“It’s not expected to be completed for at least another week,” the statement read.

Austin’s mother, 35-year-old Christy Harper kept a low profile at Gust Backstrom Park last night. His father Shaun King lives in Chehalis and he has numerous brothers and sisters, according to family members.

One cousin from Randle and another from Onalaska were among the many relatives who were part of the convergence at the park.

“He’s 16 years old, it shouldn’t have happened,” said A.J. Spears a cousin who was at the teenager’s home in the Tilton River Mobile Home Park when his family realized he was gone.

Like others, he’s heard lots of stories, but doesn’t know anything for sure, Spears said.

“It’s crazy, I’ve never heard of it in this area,” he said. “And I’ve lived here all my life.”

•••
To read “Vigil for Morton teen still on; body found yesterday not identified” – click here – from Wednesday July 21, 2010 at 12:06 p.m.

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A collection of photographs of Austin King is displayed on a picnic table in the park in Morton on Friday night.

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News brief: Centralia furniture store destroyed by fire

Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 11:54 am
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A firefighter in front of Just Wood Furniture in Centralia is one of several putting water on the blaze that broke out around 3 o'clock Saturday morning. / Photo by Richard LaLonde

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A three-alarm fire ravaged a furniture store in Centralia overnight and spread to a neighboring former gas station before it was knocked down.

The Just Wood furniture business on Harrison Avenue near Yew Street sounds like it’s a complete loss, an assistant fire chief said this morning as he was coming on duty.

“The (convenience) store next door had already started burning when units were arriving, therefore, it was pretty advanced,” Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Mike Kytta said.

One firefighter sustained an ankle injury and was hospitalized, but he has since been treated and released, Kytta said.

Firefighters were called around 3 a.m. and found the business with an adjoining two-story shop ablaze, according to Kytta.

They kept the damage to the Centralia Food Mart to a minimum – its one wall was charred – and protected another nearby office building, he said. The Food Mart used to be a service station, but its gas pumps and tanks have been removed, according to Kytta.

The assistant chief said he expected the some of the department and investigators to be on site much of today.

Centralia police said Harrison Avenue between West First and Yew streets would be closed until 3 p.m.

The last three-alarm fire Kytta could recall was four years ago when half of Oakview Elementary School in north Centralia was destroyed by runaway fireworks.

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The flames begin to consume the street side storefront of Just Wood Furniture. / Photo by Richard LaLonde

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Fire trucks from Centralia and Chehalis sit on Harrison Avenue early Saturday morning. / Photo by Richard LaLonde

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Firefighters continue to put water on Just Wood Furniture as well as two adjacent buildings which were spared. / Photo by Richard LaLonde

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Firefighters battle the three-alarm fire well into Saturday morning. / Photo by Richard LaLonde

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News brief: Two vehicles run off U.S. Highway 12 yesterday in separate incidents

Friday, July 23, 2010 at 12:28 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An 89-year-old woman is in critical condition after a single-vehicle wreck on U.S. Highway 12 between Mayfield Lake and Mossyrock yesterday afternoon.

The Washington State Patrol reported a westbound 1986 Nissan pickup truck drove into a ditch on the right side of the road and rolled, coming to rest on its top.

May E. Buchanan, 89, and her daughter, Joyce M. Zelepuza, 69, both of Orting, were taken to the hospital with cuts and bruises, according to the state patrol. However, Buchanan this morning was in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Troopers and aid were called at 3 p.m. The truck was totaled, the rooftop was flattened but both woman were able to crawl out the windows, responders said.

The cause is under investigation, according to the state patrol.

About a half hour later, troopers were called to a different car that ran off the highway about six miles west of Packwood.

The investigating trooper blamed driver inattention when the eastbound Oldsmobile Cutlass drove off Highway 12 on the right and down an embankment before continuing parallel to the highway in the grass and driving back up to the gravel shoulder.

The car sustained an estimated $2,000 damage to its engine and undercarriage and had to be towed, according to the state patrol

Betty L. Kinnaman, 67, of College Place, escaped with just back pain, the patrol reported.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, July 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm

STEALING

• Centralia police reported this morning an officer took a report from a Harrison Avenue business yesterday of being victimized by a “quick change” scam. Police write in their summary: The suspect continues to change the money presented and confuses the clerk into giving too much money back.

STEALING

• Centralia police took a report yesterday from an individual who said a fraudulent cell phone account was opened in his name.

STEALING

• Police were called just before 11 a.m. yesterday by a woman who said her vehicle was stolen from in front of a business in South Tower Avenue in Centralia. It was found a block away unoccupied, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• Centralia police reported they arrested Gerald W. Parke, 55, of Centralia, for possession of methamphetamine yesterday about 7:45 a.m. near North Pearl and West Fourth streets.

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News brief: Two people hurt in Rochester residential fire

Friday, July 23, 2010 at 10:12 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Two people were injured when a mobile home in Rochester caught fire overnight.

Four adults escaped, but the home was a total loss, according to the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

“I’m not certain of the details, but the fire did wake them up and they were standing outside when we arrived,” Firefighter-EMT Rob Smith said this morning.

West Thurston was joined by the Tenino-area fire department in answering the approximately 2:30 a.m. call to 183rd Avenue Southwest and Sargent Road. It was a single-wide mobile home.

A female was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and a male for a minor burn, Smith said.

Flames were already shooting through the roof and out the windows when responders got there, he said. They fought the fire mostly defensively, but were able to save a three-car garage just 10 feet away, according to Smith.

About 20 firefighters were on the scene for roughly three hours, he said.

The Rochester-area fire department called the Red Cross to assist the residents.

The cause has not yet been determined, he said. Smith estimated the loss of the structure and contents at $60,000.

“It’s really too bad,” Smith said. “I’m just glad they were able to get out safely and relatively uninjured.”

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Notes from behind the news: Don’t thumb your nose at a judge

Friday, July 23, 2010 at 9:27 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

I wish I could tell you more about Karen Kristine Sudderth.

She’s the woman who was sentenced this week in connection with taking her young son out of the country – years ago – allegedly hiding him from his father.

During about 30 minutes of proceedings on Wednesday in Lewis County Superior Court, I learned the gist of the case, but not enough to write a news story.

I didn’t cover her trial in June, which ended in a hung jury. And I didn’t read through her court file.

But I’ll offer a small snapshot of what I did learn listening to lengthy, detailed and even passionate discourse from attorneys, and brief but telling comments from the defendant and Judge Nelson Hunt:

Disobey a court order at your own peril, and if you want to address the judge, take the opportunity when it’s offered to you.

The prosecutor and the defense attorney put together a plea agreement in exchange for not attempting a second trial.

Sudderth pleaded guilty Wednesday to a gross misdemeanor to avoid the possibility of a felony conviction. Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher and Tacoma attorney Bryan Hershman asked the judge for a 30-day sentence and for his blessing it could be fulfilled with house arrest.

It was a so-called Alford plea, meaning she didn’t actually admit guilt.

Local attorney Paul Dugaw addressed the court on behalf of Sudderth’s former husband. He called the deprivation of a father’s right to see his child grow into an adult a travesty. Her actions were egregious, he said.

“Ms. Sudderth made a calculated decision to flaunt the orders of the court,” Dugaw said.

An order for her arrest warrant was filed in January 1997. She was brought to court last October.

After Dugaw sat down, Judge Hunt was blunt.

She will be locked up for three months (specifically 88 days), no electronic home monitoring, and “jail starts now,” the judge pronounced.

“I have a very similar view as he has expressed,” Hunt said, referring to the father’s lawyer. “We can’t have people saying, I’m going to flaunt the law, thumb my nose at the court for 15 years, and then come back and get 30 days in jail.”

Hunt noted he didn’t give Sudderth the maximum sentence, and if I understood him correctly, that had to do with choosing an amount of time less than what she would have gotten if she were convicted of the higher charge.

Her attorney Hershman asked Hunt: She has pets in her apartment, may we start that in two days?

Hunt: No we may not.

Sudderth – who had previously answered each of the judge’s inquiries to her with “Yes, your honor”,  except for when he asked her before sentencing if there was anything she would like to say – stood up.

She waited.

I have to paraphrase here, but just a a little bit.

Sudderth: Your honor?

Hunt: What?

Sudderth: May I address the court?

Hunt: No.

She remains standing.

Hunt: You had your opportunity. There’s nothing you can say. The corrections officers are here for you now.

“Just sit down.”

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News Brief: Specialist to help examine body found near Morton

Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

An autopsy was scheduled for this morning on the body found off a logging road outside of Morton on Tuesday.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and Lewis County Coroner’s Office have still not said if they’ve concluded the body is that of missing Morton 16-year-old Austin King.

After the autopsy, the remains will be taken to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, where additional test will be conducted by a forensic anthropologist, according to sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust.

Austin was last seen by his mother early on the morning of June 23.

•••

Previous news stories on the Morton teenager can be found below:

• “Vigil for Morton teen still on; body found yesterday not identified” – click here – Wednesday July 21, 2010 at 12:06 p.m.

• News brief: “Body of a male found near logging road outside of Morton” -  click here – Tuesday July 20, 2010 at 11:55 p.m.

• News brief: “Sheriff’s office seeks tips to find missing teen” -  click here – Thursday July 1, 2010 at 5 p.m.

• “Morton teenager remains missing” -  click here – Thursday July 1, 2010 at 7:52 a.m.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

TEEN MOTORIST OUTRUNS DEPUTIES FOR MORE THAN HALF AN HOUR, THEN WRECKS

• A 16-year-old driver is in the hospital this morning after a police chase that began in Pierce County and continued for another 30 minutes through Thurston County and ended with the late model Ford Escort on its side in a field off Tilley Road, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy said he didn’t know why the Olympia resident was being pursued by a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy but but two Thurston deputies caught up to him in Yelm about 3:30 yesterday morning. The teenage driver reached speeds of 95 mph although he slowed to about 60 mph in Tenino, according to Mealy. He drove with no lights on, sometimes on the wrong side of the road and at one point nearly rear-ended a flat-bed tow truck, Mealy said. He avoided spike strips on Old 99 and jumped on Interstate 5 northbound up to the Maytown exit, Mealy said. A Thurston deputy on Tilley Road performed what Mealy called a “technical vehicle intervention” which spun the Escort off the road and into the field. The teen was ordered out of the car and taken by ambulance to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. The driver, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile, was arrested for eluding, Mealy said. The lieutenant said he didn’t know details about the teen’s injuries.

GRASS BURNS

• Firefighters in Winlock extinguished a grass fire yesterday afternoon along Kakela Road east of town that had grown to about 200 feet by 50 feet. Lewis County Fire District 15 Lt. Kevin Anderson said they suspected a cigarette may have ignited it but could not find an offending butt.

MAN DEMANDS MILLIONS FROM LAYWER

• A 48-year-old man was arrested at the Motel 6 in Centralia yesterday after he reportedly called 911 and made threats to kill a local attorney, according to the Centralia Police Department. It happened about 6:30 p.m. at the 1300 block of Belmont Avenue. Police Sgt. Kurt Reichert said Steve Fullerton, of Morton, called the lawyer a “jack-booted Nazi pig” and said he needed millions of dollars a day for his pain and suffering from the lawyer or he would kill him. Fullerton was booked into the Lewis County Jail for felony harassment. The identity of the attorney was not disclosed.

WANTED SUBJECT HIDES ON PORCH

• After a police officer during a traffic stop in Centralia yesterday recognized a passenger with an outstanding warrant, the passenger fled on foot but was found a short time later hiding on a porch, according to the Centralia Police Department. It happened around 2:25 p.m. near the 900 block of Marion Street. Richard R. Dahl, 26, of Centralia, was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

CUTTING AND BREAKING LOCKS

• Somebody stole a red and black Honda generator after they cut the padlock on a shed on the 13,400 block of Tilley Road South outside Tenino, according to a report made to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office yesterday. The victim told a deputy it must have happened while she was away between June 22 and July 7, the sheriff’s office said this morning. The loss was estimated at $3,500.

• The sheriff’s office took a report yesterday that a laptop was missing after a Rochester business was burglarized. Somebody broke through a deadbolt lock at “Uncle Howard’s” on the 18,200 block of Pendleton Street Southwest sometime between the evening of July 13 and the morning of July 20, according to sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy. Computer, tools and other items of value were left behind, Mealy said.

• Somebody cut a chain to get inside a Department of Fish and Wildlife barn on the 17,900 block of Guava Street in Rochester and took a weed trimmer, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office reported today. The report made yesterday noted it occurred sometime between 8 p.m. on July 13 and 9 a.m. on July 20.

• Centralia police reported yesterday forced entry was made to a residence on the 1000 block of Elm Street. Tools were taken in the theft that was reported to police Tuesday morning.

OPIUM POPPIES SEIZED

• The Olympian reported yesterday the Tenino Police Department found a variety of natural and made made drugs – including 52 opium poppies – when it served a search warrant at a local residence. Read news reporter Jeremy Pawloski’s story here.

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Firefighter hospitalized for heat exhaustion during Chehalis house fire

Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 10:17 am

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Firefighters prepare to put more water into the second story of a house on the 600 block of Northwest Folsom Street in Chehalis yesterday afternoon.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

One firefighter was hospitalized and another narrowly escaped a falling air conditioner unit during a fire in Chehalis yesterday that destroyed a two-story house.

Chehalis Fire Department Acting Capt. Pat Gilligan said this morning a volunteer from Lewis County Fire District 6 suffered heat exhaustion as five departments worked the blaze on Northwest Folsom Street.

Chehalis Fire Chief Kelvin Johnson said he could see the smoke as he left the station to answer the 2:10 p.m. call, and when he arrived, flames were shooting out the back of the wood-frame home.

It was vacant.

Investigators are returning today to figure out what sparked the blaze, according to Gilligan.

The 28-year-old volunteer was released from the hospital after spending about four hours there yesterday, District 6 Chief Bud Goodwillie said this morning.

He was among those spraying water on the adjoining structures to prevent them from catching fire, Gilligan said.

One one side, a garage housed a 1960 Corvette belonging to Chehalis Fire Capt. Casey Beck, who resides across the street. On the other side, the plastic clips melted from an air conditioning unit in a second-story window and it dropped to the ground, nearly striking Chehalis Assistant Chief Larry Allen, according to Gilligan.

The Chehalis Fire Department was joined by crews from Centralia, Rochester and Lewis County Fire districts 5 and 6, according to the chief.

Gilligan said the upstairs of the house was completely burned and the downstairs damaged by smoke and water. He said the $175,000 structure was likely a total loss.

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Firefighters douse blaze in Chehalis today

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm
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Five fire departments responded just after 2 p.m. today to the blaze on Northwest Folsom Street in Chehalis. Chehalis Fire Chief Kelvin Johnson said he could see smoke from the fire station and when he arrived, flames were shooting out the back of the vacant house.

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News brief: Firefighters will party to “help a brother”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 2:10 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters are rallying the troops to help a Winlock firefighter who was seriously hurt last month when a a pickup truck he was working on rolled over him and dragged him 25 to 35 yards.

Responders from Greg D’Adda’s own department, Lewis County Fire District 15, answered the evening call on Father’s Day to the scene at the 200 block of Burnett Road, off of Jones Road.

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Greg D'Adda benefit

D’Adda, 37, was flown by helicopter to a Seattle hospital after the accident.

Firefighter-EMT Patrick Jacobson is organizing a gathering next Wednesday night in Chehalis to raise money for the family’s mounting expenses.

“Just trying to help a brother out,” Jacobson said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

They’re calling it Pipes and Pints, because Chehalis firefighters Jay Birley and Rob Gebhart will entertain with their bagpipes and it will be held at the Market Street Pub.

Jacobson, 21, has known D’Adda for years, but said he has no idea if the firefighter has health insurance.

“I’m not sure if he does or doesn’t,” Jacobson said. “Being that we flew him to Harborview, that’s $15,000 or $20,000 and his wife has been driving back and forth to Harborview.”

They expect to put out a bucket – or a boot – for people to drop donations into, according to Jacobson. They’ve also been selling tickets for $10 pitchers of beer.

The benefit is set for 7 p.m. next Wednesday, at 523 N. Market Blvd.

Jacobson said D’Adda came down to watch firefighter training on Monday night and it seemed like he was doing “pretty good.” He’s not sure if D’Adda will attend the fundraiser.

•••
The (Longview) Daily News posted a story late Wednesday night about D’Adda. Read it here.

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News brief: Napavine and Rochester firefighters may return from Yakima wildfire today

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 2:06 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Three Rochester-area firefighters are among those helping with the huge Yakima-area wildfire and are expected to be demobilized today.

Firefighters Rob Smith, Jed Neumeier and Jennifer Belcher of the West  Thurston Regional Fire Authority took a brush truck to the east side of the mountains, according to Lt. Eric Smith. They were part of a group which responded on Monday with two volunteer firefighters from Lewis County Fire District 5, he said.

The majority of the Cowiche Mill fire, which spread across some nine square miles west of Yakima, is contained, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. It started on Sunday.

The Washington state Fire Marshals Office announced today the demobilization of extra resources is set for 2 p.m.

The Yakima Herald-Republic published a news story on the blaze late last night which can be found here.

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Vigil for Morton teen still on; body found yesterday not identified

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

While the sheriff’s office says it won’t speculate if the body found outside of Morton is missing teenager Austin King, the woman who has headed up the search spoke this morning as though it is Austin.

“I can’t say much because of the integrity of the investigation, but I know law enforcement spoke with Christy last night and she has accepted the fact and come to terms with it,” said Jennifer Mau of Morton.

Austin King

Austin King

About 25 individuals, mostly family, are gathered in Morton’s Gus Backstrom Park this morning including Mau and the 16-year-old boy’s mother Christy Harper. Harper and others have been staying day and night at the park which has been serving as a central point for the search.

Austin was last seen by his mother almost a month ago, when he said goodnight early in the morning of June 23. He was classified by the sheriff’s office as a runaway, and since been labeled endangered-missing.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office sent out a short news release last night, saying they got word at 2 p.m. yesterday the body of a male was found near a logging road outside Morton.

“There’s no way we can put a positive identification until we get dental records or even DNA,” sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said this morning.

Aust said he doesn’t have an idea of the age of the person found. The Lewis County Corner’s Office described the individual as a young adult.

Detectives were at the scene about 10 miles from the boys’ Chapman Road home until 9:30 or 10 p.m. last night. Aust said they are in Morton again today and hope to have some more answers by the end of the day.

“We’re treating it as a suspicious death until we know otherwise,” Aust said.

Aust said the remains were found on the ground, but not in plain sight. He declined to say how far off the logging road the find was made.

Mau, a 30-year-old Centralia College student, who organized searches for Austin, said the candle light vigil scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday in the park is still on. Anyone who wants to come is welcome, she said.

Austin, who his mother said is home schooled, is one of four children who live with her  in the Tilton River Mobile Home Park. His mother has described him as a boy who never took off without telling family where he was going, didn’t go out after dark or often even alone, and liked to spend time playing video games, listening to music and watching movies.

He slept in a small detached building he called his apartment, and that’s where he went off with two buddies to watch television a month ago after he said goodnight to his mom.

Mau said she wasn’t part of the search party of five who discovered the body, and attributed the find to the fact the search was moving to increasingly farther away areas, as well as a Portland woman she called a medium, or “an intuitive” named Sonya Grace.

“She worked with me on a map and came up with that point, that road.” Mau said. “She said that’s the road where we should send searchers.”

Mau got involved with the case because she is founder of the Mount St. Helens chapter of a Texas-based group called Guardians of the Children, an organization she says help with abused and missing kids.

“I really have a hard time because law enforcement stereotypes kids as runaways” she said this morning. “I don’t have any reason to think Austin ran away.”

The Camas-native, who moved to Morton 10 years ago, said she founded the local group in the fall of 2008 with her boyfriend.

“I have two children of my own,” she said. “I would be completely devastated if this was my kid, that’s why I’m out here.”
•••
Proceeds from T-shirts available Friday night will be used for funeral expenses, according to Mau.

Accounts had already been set up at Sterling Savings Bank in Austin’s and his mother’s names for a reward fund and to help pay for food for the people who have been searching.