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Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm
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•••

DISTURBANCE CENTRALIA

• A 16-year-old boy was booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center for harassment related to allegedly making threats at the 1000 block of Scammon Creek Road yesterday afternoon. Officers called at 4:24 p.m. report they also had probable cause for second-degree assault related to a previous incident and a different victim, according to the Centralia Police Department.

FRAUD CENTRALIA

• Joshua D. Ward, 29 of Randle, was arrested and booked into jail after allegedly trying to cash a forged check at a local bank. Police called just before 1:30 p.m. to the 200 block of West Main Street in Centralia booked him in to the Lewis County Jail for forgery, according to the Centralia Police Department.

FRAUD CHEHALIS

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday from an individual who said he got a message from a tax business telling him his refund had been credited to his account; he said he believed his W-2 form had been stolen, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

TOOLS TAKEN

• Police were called just after 7:30 a.m. yesterday to the 900 block of Orton Street in Centralia where someone had stolen tools from a building which was being renovated, according to the Centralia Police Department.

MISSING MEDS

• Centralia police were called about 9:15 p.m. yesterday to a report of the theft of medication at the 900 block of South Scheuber Road.

VEHICLE PROWL

• Chehalis police were called to the 2100 block of North National Avenue at 10 a.m. yesterday where someone had tried to siphon fuel from someone else’s vehicle. A siphoning hose was left behind in a gas tank, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

KIDS AND KNIVES

• Officers responded to the 400 block of Main Avenue in Morton about 5:05 p.m. on Friday to a juvenile reportedly chasing a group of kids with a knife. The situation is pending further investigation, according to the Morton Police Department.

AND MORE

• And, as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, dispute, vandalism, third-degree theft, civil issue, runaway teen, vehicle collision, suspicious circumstances … and more among 140 calls for local law enforcement and / or fire-emergency medical services in the 24-hour period ending about 7 a.m. today.

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Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, February 13, 2017 at 3:06 pm
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•••

INTRUDER HEARING VOICES

• Chehalis police were called about 3:45 p.m. on Saturday to the 900 block of Northwest State Avenue where a friend of the store’s owner was holding a man at gunpoint, a man they said had refused to leave. An arriving officer noted Austin D. Wood, 33, of Napavine, appeared to be under the influence and thought he was hearing voices, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Wood was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree burglary, according to police. A case for a possible charge of fourth-degree was also to be referred, according to police.

BREAK-IN CENTRALIA

• Police were called about 11:10 a.m. on Saturday to the 500 block of South Silver Street following the discovery someone had entered a residence and ransacked it. Nothing initially seemed to be missing, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CARGO TRAILER STOLEN

• A deputy responded on Saturday morning to the 100 block of Dieckman Road west of Chehalis where a 40-year-old man said he had parked his 2008 International utility cargo trailer, filled with $5,000 worth of furniture, across the street the night before and it had disappeared. The trailer is valued at $3,000, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

SHED BURGLED

• Centralia police were called to the 100 block of Eckerson Road on Saturday someone had broken into a shed during the night. Missing are a Ridged chop saw, a Stihl 22 chainsaw and a worm drive saw, according to the Centralia Police Department.

FIREARM STOLEN

• The owner of a .380 ACP Makarov pistol contacted police on Saturday afternoon to report that sometime in recent days someone had removed it and their wallet from their vehicle parked at the 2900 block of Mount Vista Road in Centralia.

OTHER THEFT

• Chehalis police were called to the 2100 block of North National Avenue abut 2:48 p.m. on Friday where someone had stolen a Dell Laptop computer, a Dell Vastro laptop computer and a Stihl MS310 chainsaw.

• Chehalis police took a report on Friday evening from the 500 block of Southwest Cascade Avenue where an individual said package tracking showed her item was delivered but she did not get it.

DRUGS

• A 16-year-old Chehalis boy was arrested for a violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act after he said he had some prescription medication not prescribed to him last night when a deputy responded to the 3400 block of Prill Road in Centralia for a call about a dispute. He was booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Chehalis police were called to the treatment facility on the 500 block of Southeast Washington Avenue on Saturday afternoon to arrest one of their clients for possession of methamphetamine. Richard J.D. Bagley, 31, from Milton, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Sarah A. Horr, 39 of Rochester, arrested by Tumwater Police Department for an outstanding warrant from Centralia Municipal Court was allegedly found in possession of methamphetamine upon arrival to the Lewis County Jail, about 10:20 a.m. on Saturday.

AND MORE

• And, as usual, other incidents such as arrests for drugs, warrants, shoplifting, misdemeanor assault, malicious mischief, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, dispute, third-degree theft, civil issue, hit and run, suspicious circumstances … and more among 265 calls for local law enforcement and / or fire-emergency medical services in the 48-hour period ending about 7 a.m. today.

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Centralian accused of taking advantage of multiple younger women

Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 7:55 pm
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Keith D. Keene prepares to go in front of a judge in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 49-year-old Centralia man was charged yesterday for allegedly molesting three women on separate occasions who he allowed to use his bed when they were either nodded off after using heroin or sleeping while withdrawing from drugs.

Keith D. Keene told a detective when he was arrested he knew their fathers or parents and never touched them.

Keene was arrested on Thursday night when detectives went to the Scammon Creek Apartments in Centralia and spoke to the third alleged victim and then him, according to court documents.

A detective searched Keene’s bedroom and reportedly found a glass smoking device and a small baggie, both with white residue. He was not charged with any drug crime.

When Keene was brought before a judge yesterday afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court, Deputy Prosecutor Joel DeFazio asked for $100,000 bail, suggesting a public safety risk.

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller requested the amount of bail be lower, as Keene has no felony history, resides locally and is employed locally by Sterling Breen. His only non-traffic misdemeanor was a fourth-degree assault from 1997.

Judge Joely O’Rourke chose $25,000 bail and signed sexual assault protection orders that require Keene not to go within 1,000 feet of the alleged victims.

Charging documents in the case indicate an inmate at the Lewis County Jail asked to speak with Centralia Police Department detective Adam Haggerty last July, and told him of at least four females who may have been sexually assaulted by Keene.

The documents go on to give the following account of interviews he subsequently conducted:

Later that month, the detective talked with a 21-year-old who at first said nothing happened and she wasn’t a snitch. “(Her) eyes welled up with tears and she looked away,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Bohm wrote.

However, the young woman contacted the detective later that night and said she would talk.

She said it happened in mid-May when she and a friend went to Keene’s fifth-wheel trailer and she injected heroin and nodded off. When she came to, her friend was gone and Keene told her she could use his bedroom and rest while she waited.

The 21-year-old said she woke up to her pants being pulled down to her ankles and Keene next to her in bed, with his finger inside her. She jumped up, fixed her clothes and left.

For that, prosecutors charged him with second-degree rape, an offense that has a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Detective Haggerty next interviewed a 20-year-old who described a somewhat similar scenario she said occurred in November 2015, a visit with friends to the fifth-wheel trailer. She said she woke up and Keene was behind her – clothed in boxer shorts and a wife beater T-shirt – rubbing himself against her. She said she got up and immediately went outside.

On Thursday night, detectives got a tip a recent victim of Keene’s was at the Scammon Creek Apartments, and found she had an outstanding warrant. Members of the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team and state Department of Corrections went there, arrested her and then Haggerty interviewed her. The 29-year-old said that in early February, Keene told her she could lay down on his bed and sleep as she was coming down from a several day drug binge.

The 29-year-old said she woke up to find Keene spooning her, rubbing himself against her backside and had one hand inside her panties.

For those incidents, Keene is charged with indecent liberties, crimes with maximum penalties of 10 years in prison.

“Detective Haggerty told Keene that he needed to speak with him about a serious matter,” Bohm wrote in the charging documents.

Before the detective could ask a question, Keene blurted out that a girl accused him of touching her and it was not true, the court documents relate.

Keene’s arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court.

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Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 5:35 pm
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•••

FIREARM, ALCOHOL TAKEN IN BREAK-IN

• A pair of 14-year-old girls from Doty were arrested for allegedly burglarizing a home on the 200 block of Stevens Road and taking a handgun, soda pop and beer, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday. A deputy investigating the Thursday incident discovered the girls had used the phone at the home to call their mother, Chief Deputy Dusty Breen said. The teens were booked into the Lewis County Juvenile Detention Center, according to Breen. The gun was recovered, he said.

CENTRALIA BURGLARY AND THEFT

• Centralia police were called at 7:50 a.m. yesterday to the 900 block of Johnson Road regarding the theft of merchandise from the concession stand.

• Centralia police took a report yesterday afternoon of the theft of mail from the 1000 block of North Scheuber Road. The mail box was damaged too, according to the Centralia Police Department.

UNRULY CUSTOMER

• A 41-year-old Chehalis resident was jailed yesterday after allegedly assaulting a clerk who had asked him to leave after he passed out in the bathroom and was belligerent with employees at the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia. Officers called just before 4:30 p.m. indicated Maalgeney R. Denetclaw was highly intoxicated and arrested him for fourth-degree assault, according to the Centralia Police Department.

FAKE BILLS LEAD TO ARREST

• A 24-year-old Centralia resident was arrested for forgery on Thursday in connection with a Jan. 22 call to a business on the 1600 block of Northwest Louisiana Avenue about the receipt of four counterfeit $20 bills, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Dillion S. Simmons was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

DRUGS

• A case involving a 14-year-old boy at the 900 block of Johnson Road yesterday morning resulted in a referral to juvenile prosecutors for a charge of possession of marijuana, according to the Centralia Police Department.

AND MORE

• And, as usual, other incidents such as arrests for drugs, warrants, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, dispute, shoplifting, civil issue, hit and run, vandalism, vehicle collision, suspicious circumstances … and more among 273 calls for local law enforcement and / or fire-emergency medical services in the 48-hour period ending about 7 a.m. today.

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Two arrested in Centralia rooftop burglary cases

Friday, February 10, 2017 at 6:43 pm
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Alexis Cardenas, left, and Morelia V. Ayala Garcia await their turn to go before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Centralia College student and his 19-year-old girlfriend were charged today in connection with a string of fast food establishment burglaries, two of which the thieves broke in by cutting a hole through the roof.

Alexis Cardenas, 26, of Centralia, came to the attention of local police after he was caught red-handed breaking in to the Taco Bell in Olympia the other night, according to Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

In one case, the intruders had the combination to the safe, Halstead said.

His alleged accomplice, Morelia V. Ayala Garcia, 19, also of Centralia, was a manager at the McDonalds in Centralia, according to authorities. She no longer works there, police said.

Both were arrested on Wednesday and held in the Lewis County Jail until charges were filed today in Lewis County Superior Court.

In one case, about $2,800 was stolen, in another it was $5,700, according to Halstead. He wasn’t certain this afternoon of the amount in the third case. The incidents all happened in the late spring of 2015 in Centralia.

Arby’s on the 1200 block of Belmont Avenue was hit on April 14, 2015. In that case, some broke out a window to get inside, according to charging documents.

Thieves struck at McDonalds on the 1200 block of Lum Road on May 28, 2015. Then they struck again at the Centralia Wendy’s on the 800 block of Harrison Avenue on June 13, 2015. In both cases they got inside by by cutting a hole in the roof, according to police.

Police are looking for four other suspects they believe were involved.

Cardenas is charged with three counts of second-degree burglary and three counts of first-degree malicious mischief.

Halstead told a judge this afternoon that even though Cardenas was incarcerated when the McDonalds break-in occurred, they believe he directed it.

Ayala Garcia is charged in only the McDonalds case.

Halstead said the crimes involved a high degree of sophistication. He asked that Cardenas be held on $300,000 bail, out of concern about  interfering with the administration of justice by trying to contact witnesses.

While he was released on $20,000 bail in Thurston County after the Olympia burglary, Halstead said that amount was “a joke.”

Temporary defense attorney Rachael Tiller argued for a lesser amount, noting Cardenas is a student at Centralia College, employed at a local auto dealership and resides in Centralia. Lewis County Superior Court Judge Joely O’Rourke said she considered him a very serious threat to community safety and ordered the high bail.

Halstead asked that Ayala Garcia be held on $25,000 bail, noting her situation was different in that she allegedly participated only in one burglary and had nothing more than a speeding ticket on her record. He also said Ayala Garcia didn’t appear to be a citizen, but may have a work permit.

Tiller noted to the judge Ayala Garcia has a 7-month-old baby, works as an insurance agent, had family in the courtroom and wasn’t a flight risk. O’Rourke set her bail at $25,000, noting she was not concerned about Ayala Garcia returning to court as ordered.

Halstead asked the judge to sign an order allowing DNA samples to be taken from the suspects.

The Olympia Police Department Tweeted on Monday they caught a burglar during the night trying to break in to a safe, noting an alarm, the sounds of a grinder being used and foot prints in the snow which led to a rooftop ladder and their suspect at Taco Bell.

Their arraignments are set for next Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court.

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Glenoma fire, death investigation continues

Friday, February 10, 2017 at 2:10 pm
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A woman who said she was the daughter, sister of victims and her companions enter the home after investigators leave.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

GLENOMA – Investigators didn’t find any particular surprises as they examined the scene of a house fire with three deaths in Glenoma yesterday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Chief Deputy Dusty Breen said the home on the 100 block of Frost Creek Road was occupied by a husband, his wife and adult son. Three adult bodies were removed by the coroner’s office and autopsies will be conducted, he said.

The small house built in 1940 sits on a moderate-sized parcel just north of U.S. Highway 12  with neighboring homes close by. The community of Glenoma is just seven miles east of Morton, both of which are surrounded by the foot hills of the Cascade Mountains.

Dan Powell who lives across the street said he was awakened by one of his neighbors beating on his door, saying he couldn’t get through to 911.

Powell put on his pants, grabbed his 25-pound fire extinguisher and headed over. Another neighbor from up the road, a volunteer firefighter, was already on the scene, he said.

“He told me he went around and tried to rouse someone from the windows, but he didn’t get any response,” Powell said.

Already they could see flames from the kitchen and living room area, as well as a window on the opposite side of the house.

“Like I said, we couldn’t get close to it,” Powell said.

There were multiple 911 calls that came in around 3:23 a.m. yesterday. Four fire departments responded to put out the blaze.

The house is still standing, but Breen late yesterday afternoon pointed to area to the right of the front door, where the kitchen’s wall would have been, next to the garage-carport area. Pieces of metal roofing hung in front of the carport.

Where specifically the fire seems to have originated, they aren’t yet saying, Breen said.

“They do not have a definite conclusion yet,” Breen said as detectives and a fire investigator prepared to clear the scene.

Their task yesterday was to conduct two investigations, one for what caused the fire and another for what caused the deaths, Breen said.

He said they spoke to family asking questions about the electrical and what the residents used for heating, he said.

“They had propane at one time, but that’s shut off,” Breen said. “It sounds like they had electric heaters.”

Investigators didn’t find any smoke detectors, he said.

The victims were found in different areas of the home, Breen said, a bedroom, the hallway and the living room.

Powell and his fiancee, Judy Nelson said the elderly couple had lived there more than a decade. Neither one of them drove, he said.

It wasn’t too long ago the son came to live with them, Powell said. And they lost their daughter about a year ago, he said.

“He was very helpful with his parents, like he built a ramp for them,” Nelson said.

Powell knows fires well, as he is the chief for Lewis County Fire District 4, which protects the area surrounding Morton.

He’s been with his department 45 years and during that time, they’ve never had a fatal fire, he said.

“I just hope they went to sleep and slept right through it,” Powell said.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Nelson said.

Once identification and next of kin notification are made, the victim’s identities will be released by the Lewis County Coroner’s Office.
•••

For background, read, “Three dead in Glenoma residential structure fire” from Thursday February 9, 2017, here

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Deputies and fire investigator left tape blocking the front yard of the Frost Creek Road home.

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News brief: Car vs. bus north of Centralia

Friday, February 10, 2017 at 8:18 am

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Firefighters were called out about 7:15 a.m. today after a car spun out and struck a school bus on state Route 507 between Centralia and Bucoda.

Tina Vanderhoof, administrative chief for Thurston County Fire District 12, said nobody was transported to the hospital, as far as she knew.

She said it happened in the curves around the 21000 block of state Route 507.

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News brief: Minor to moderate flooding on the menu

Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Flood warnings continue for area rivers including the Skookumchuck River near Bucoda, the Chehalis River around Doty and Grand Mound as well as the Newaukum River near Chehalis.

Late this afternoon, the National Weather Service advised a flood watch in Lewis County for the Skookumchuck, other portions of the Chehalis River and even East Lewis County.

In the past 24 hours, as much as two and a half inches of rain has fallen over some of the lowlands, with three to six inches dropping over the Cascade and Olympic mountains, according to the weather service.

A wind advisory is in place for tomorrow in the Southwest Interior.

The city of Centralia this afternoon reports the heavy rains have caused local rivers and streams to rise and some streets have been closed.

“There is a sand bag station open in the large parking lot behind the Bethel Church located near the corner of Center Street and North Pearl Street,” Centralia Police Department Public Information Officer John Panco stated in a press release.

The city asks motorists if they must drive through water over the roadway, to please go slow.

“The wake from vehicles may cause water to flow into houses and cause damage to property,” Panco stated.

The city does not expect the water to rise significantly, but will monitor for changes, according to Panco.

Haliday Road this afternoon has water over it but remained passable, Panco said.

Due to China Creek rising, the intersection of West Magnolia and North Iron streets has water covering the roadway. Also East Third at North Gold street is covered by water. Both have been closed off by the street department.

“If the road has been closed off by road closed signs do not drive past the signs. This is dangerous and it’s against the law.”

Minor flooding is occurring and both minor and moderate flooding are in the forecast.

Today’s  rain will lead to an increase in threat of landslides in Western Washington, which has already occurred in some places. State Route 7 was blocked by a mudslide this afternoon at Mineral Road South.

U.S. Highway 12 is closed in both directions around White Pass, because of multiple snow slides, and will remain shut down through the night, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The closures are at milepost 138 to 183.

WSDOT will evaluate conditions and provide an update by 10 am tomorrow.

The public can monitor the changing conditions for their area by checking the the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Seattle. Information on current and forecasted river levels can be found here.

 

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Three dead in Glenoma residential structure fire

Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 12:36 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Three people have been found dead after a house fire early this morning in Glenoma.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dusty Breen said personnel are on the scene and just now getting inside to examine the situation.

“We’re just getting in there now to look around in what remains of the structure,” Breen said.

They know three people live at the single-story house on the 100 block of Frost Creek Road and responders have confirmed three bodies inside, Breen said.

There were multiple 911 calls that came in around 3:23 a.m. and firefighters from Glenoma, Randle, Morton and Mossyrock responded, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office and a fire investigator are there now, along with fire personnel and sheriff’s detectives, according to Breen.

“This is a tragic situation, and we are working diligently with our public safety partners to find answers for the family and our community,” said Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza stated in a news release.

Identification of the deceased has not yet been confirmed, Breen said.

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Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 12:06 pm
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•••

ATTEMPTED ROBBERY

• Centralia police were called just after 5 o’clock this morning to the 1000 block of Belmont Avenue where they were told a man in his late 20s to early 30s walked into the store and demanded money. The clerk refused and the subject fled, according to the Centralia Police Department. The suspect is a white male with a tattoo of a cross on his face, according to police. No arrest had been made as of this morning.

BURGLARY CENTRALIA

• Centralia police were called about 3:10 p.m. yesterday and told jewelry had been stolen from a house damaged by fire at the 400 block of South Oak Street.

MOM TRACKS STOLEN PHONE

• Chehalis police were called just after 4 p.m. yesterday by a parent who had used GPS to track down a child’s stolen iPhone 6 near the 500 block of Cascade Avenue. An arriving officer contacted a 14-year-old girl and retrieved the phone, according to the Chehalis Police Department. A case for theft will be forwarded to juvenile prosecutors, a department spokesperson said.

ATTEMPTED FRAUD

• Centralia police were called at 2:24 p.m. yesterday to the 500 block of Harrison Avenue where an unidentified male had allegedly attempted to cash a stolen check.

AUTO THEFT

• A stolen vehicle was located in a motel parking lot at the 700 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia about 1 p.m. yesterday. A second stolen vehicle was found there about an hour later, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CAR PROWL

• Chehalis police were called to the 1500 block of North National Avenue about 8:15 a.m. yesterday following the discovery someone had prowled a work truck during the night, stealing a generator and a gas can. It was a Smarter Tolls AP2000, valued at $1,000, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• Police were called just before 5 p.m. yesterday to the 300 block of West Pear Street to take a report of overnight prowls of two vehicles. Missing are speakers, an amplifier and LED off-road lights,  according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police responded to a call yesterday to take a report of a vehicle prowl that had occurred more than a week earlier at the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue. A Kindle and tablet were stolen, according to the Centralia Police Department.

AND MORE

• And, as usual, other incidents such as arrests for drugs, warrants, third-degree malicious mischief, driving with suspended license, protection order violation; responses for alarm, dispute, harassment, civil issue, vandalism, vehicle collision, suspicious circumstances … and more among 125 calls for local law enforcement and / or fire-emergency medical services in the 24-hour period ending about 7 a.m. today.

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Rain, snowmelt: Minor flooding expected

Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 10:16 am

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The National Weather Service this morning issued a flood warning for the Newaukum River near Chehalis, expecting it will overflow its banks today.

Minor flooding is forecast, which will inundate many roads as well as residential and commercial areas along the river and its forks, according to the weather service.

Later this morning flood warnings were issued for the Skookumchuck River near Bucoda and the Chehalis River around Doty and Grand Mound.

Heavy rain last night and today, with a little boost from melting
lowland snow, will drive the several rivers in southwest Washington
over flood stage today, according to the weather service.

A flood watch remains in effect for other areas of Lewis and surrounding counties with a weather system moving through the region and snow levels dropping.

“Those living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action should flooding develop,” the weather service states.

Today’s  rain will lead to an increase in threat of landslides in Western Washington.

A winter storm warning and avalanche warning are in effect in East Lewis County, with freezing rain expected. U.S. Highway 12 is closed in both directions around White Pas, because of multiple snow slides, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The public can monitor the changing conditions for their area by checking the the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Seattle. Information on current and forecasted river levels can be found here.

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Former social services manager gets three years in prison for theft of money

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 6:58 pm
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April K. Kelley says her goodbyes while a corrections officer waits to escort her down to the Lewis County Jail.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The 35-year-old married mother of two and former county employee was dressed in black as she tearfully received hugs from arriving supporters in the hall outside the courtroom.

She knew prosecutors would be asking the judge to sentence her to 10 years in prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from an association in which she served as treasurer.

April K. Kelley knew her attorney would request a special sentence available for first time offenders, which could amount to 90 days in jail.

Seven rows of benches behind her were filled, when Kelley sat before Judge Andrew Toynbee this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

“I’m not proud of what I did by any means, but I’m proud of how I handled it,” Kelly said as she stood reading from a piece of paper. “What I did was a terrible thing; I wake up every morning shocked that it happened.”

Kelley worked at the Lewis County Department of Public Health & Social Services, and in that capacity, served as treasurer for the Association of County Human Services. When a new treasurer took over last year, the books were reviewed and money was missing. She was arrested in September after an investigation conducted by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

She pleaded guilty last month to  eight counts of first-degree theft, committed over a less than four-year period ending in the spring of 2014.

The standard sentencing range for her crimes was 22 to 29 months.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer addressed the court, saying there are times when that would be appropriate, but this was not one of those times.

“The defendant admitted she violated a position of trust,” Meyer said.

ACHS is a non-profit group with members who provide or administer programs related to chemical dependency, mental health and developmental disabilities. Kelley was  social services manager for Lewis County.

Meyer estimates Kelley stole about $143,000.

“Something that sets Ms. Kelley apart, is she stole from every taxpayer in the state of Washington,” he said. “She spent it on lavish things that she was not willing to work for.”

Meyer noted over $1,000 in tickets to events, and shopping in Las Vegas, Canada and California.

She stole 90 percent of ACHS’s revenue during one year and about 75 percent of it in another year, he said.

The prosecutor suggested the judge should not give much weight to a letter in her court file that says she is bipolar, nor should he offer leniency because of an impact on her children.

Meyer raised the issue of a letter of support from Lewis County Commissioner Bobby Jackson, which he called inappropriate.

“It shows the manipulative nature of the defendant,” he said.

Defense attorney Shane O’Rourke acknowledged to the court it was a lot of money and there was no good or acceptable explanation for his client’s conduct.

“I think we’re in a difficult position, me and Ms. Kelley,” he said. “Not from a sympathetic perspective.”

O’Rourke pointed out there was no loss of life, no violence.

“Ultimately, we’re considering a property crime,” he said.

O’Rourke and Meyer had both submitted written briefs ahead of time, and he spoke to some of the comparisons to other cases involving large thefts of money in recent years.

His client is saying she’s sorry because she is sorry, he said. And she voluntarily paid $10,000 back the day before, which is as much as she possibly could, he said.

O’Rourke requested she be given 90 days in jail, which would be a punishment for someone who has never been to jail, he said.

Toynbee considered aloud the various aspects he would or would not consider, noting her sentence could be as little as zero days or as long as 80 years. He noted she has no criminal background.

The judge acknowledged the defendant has incredible community support, but that individuals don’t get a break because they are a good person.

“People are sentenced based on their actions, not their value in the communities eyes,” he said.

Toynbee concluded by telling Kelley he was sentencing her to 36 months with the Department of Corrections.

The parties agreed to return to court at 1 p.m. tomorrow, to fill out and file the written judgement and sentence. Kelley was to be taken down to the jail at the end of the hearing.

The judge left the bench and eventually a corrections officer arrived to retrieve her. For more than 10 minutes, Kelley accepted hugs from her supporters who lined up in the aisle.

Kelley was escorted, unhand-cuffed, by a corrections officer out of the room just before 2 p.m.

Lewis County Commissioner Jackson outside the courtroom declined to comment on his Dec. 28 letter submitted in support of the now-former county employee, in which he asked for leniency.
•••

For background, read “Ex-government employee admits stealing thousands from account she managed” from Friday January 20, 2017, here

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Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 3:45 pm
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•••

BIKE THEFT

• A black with green stripes Mongoose mountain bike was stolen between 11 p.m. on Monday and 6 p.m. yesterday from the 800 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police were called about 12:40 p.m. yesterday regarding a bicycle stolen from the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue. The victims friend recovered the bike later in the day and may have gotten a photo of the person riding it, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CUSTODIAL ASSAULT

• A Chehalis police officer was called to Green Hill School just after 10 p.m. yesterday to take a report of a student-inmate assaulting a staff member. The police department is awaiting statements in order to proceed, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

AND MORE

• And, as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, probation violation, driving under the influence, misdemeanor domestic assault; responses for alarm, dispute, civil issue, vehicle collision, suspicious circumstances … and more among 121 calls for local law enforcement and / or fire-emergency medical services in the 24-hour period ending about 7 a.m. today.

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Centralia house fire sends family to hospital

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 8:55 am
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South Oak Street, Centralia. / Courtesy photo by Daniel Hansen

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A family of five was hospitalized after a house fire in a Centralia neighborhood overnight that almost completely destroyed the residence.

Firefighters called to the 400 block of South Oak Street about 12:45 a.m. found the home heavily involved in flames and threatening two adjacent homes, according to authorities.

“Crews deployed hose lines for suppression of the affected residence and protection of the adjacent properties,” Riverside Fire Authority Capt. Scott Weinert stated.

The residence to the north was also occupied by a family of five, but both families got out prior to the arrival of firefighters, according to Weinert.

The five occupants from the primary house affected were transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, and then three of them transferred to a Seattle Hospital, according to Weinert. Airlifted were a man, a woman and a 17-year-old boy. The remaining two are children believed to be younger than 10, he indicated.

Weinert did not indicate what type of injuries they sustained.

Riverside Fire Authority was joined by members of the Chehalis Fire Department. The cause is under investigation.

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South Oak Street, Centralia. / Courtesy photo by Riverside Fire Authority