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News brief: Centralia standoff target’s cause of death concluded to be suicide

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 2:22 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The suicidal man who was found dead after an hours-long standoff with police in Centralia last month did indeed take his own life, according to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office.

Coroner Warren McLeod said today the results of the toxicology report show 58-year-old William L. Thomas died of an overdose of two prescription medications.

Back on Feb. 9, police went to a house on North Tower Avenue for a suicidal subject who reportedly threatened his wife and sister with a knife. Thomas emerged with a butcher knife and then retreated inside.

For the rest of the afternoon, officers used a loudspeaker and various other means to coax him out. Police launched 11 rounds of a type of pepper spray powder into the home.

Thomas was discovered dead by SWAT team members who finally stormed his house about 5:30 p.m. The main route through town was barricaded off until early that evening.

McLeod said he concluded the death was suicide, because of how much Hydrocodone and Trazadone Thomas ingested.

“These were lethal amounts, way above a therapeutic dose,” McLeod said.

Hydrocodone is a heavy-duty pain narcotic and Trazadone is used as an antidepressant or for anxiety and helps people sleep, according to McLeod.

•••

For background, read “Centralia man dead after allegedly displaying a knife” from Saturday February 9, 2013 at 7:22 p.m., here

 

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Read about county wants to take Centralia man’s land because of accumulation of junk…

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 9:07 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Kirotv.com reports the county is prepared to possibly foreclose on a Centralia man’s property they say is a breeding ground for rats, mice and other health issues.

Vic Bonagofski tells reporter Richard Thompson it’s not a health issue if people stay off his land.

Read about it here

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Montesano courthouse shooting victim tells of looking up at her own gun

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm
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Deputy Polly Davin testifies about the moments on March 9 of last year when she wrestled with a man and was shot.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Deputy Polly Davin told jurors of the moments before and after a man she approached inside the Grays Harbor County Courthouse twisted her duty weapon out of her hand and pointed it at her; she was laying on the floor and he was standing within kicking distance.

“The muzzle of the gun never stopped moving,” Davin said. “From my chest, up to my face.”

“I heard two shots,” she said.

One bullet went through her forearm, the other missed, according to attorneys who addressed a jury of four men and eight women today.

Davin said her assailant then looked around for a few seconds, and walked out the courthouse door.

The case of Steven Daniel Kravetz comes from the day a little more than a year ago that Davin was shot and a judge was stabbed inside the courthouse in Montesano in Grays Harbor County.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey is presiding, since judges in Grays Harbor recused themselves. A Lewis County jury is hearing the case in Chehalis.

Kravetz, 35, is charged with attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

This afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court, Grays Harbor County Prosecutor H. Steward Menefee in opening statements described how Kravetz had been frustrated, for a long time. He was frustrated with sheriff’s office employees, district court officials, and hospital staff about how he’d been treated.

“Finally he decided he’d had enough,” Menefee said.

Menefee said Kravetz had begun to believe there was a conspiracy, conducted research to identify those involved and finally on March 9 of last year, took a bus from Olympia to the courthouse.

“He decided there must be some documents in the prosecutor’s office to prove the conspiracy,” Menefee said.

Jury selection began this morning; the prosecution began putting on its case late this afternoon.

Centralia defense attorney David Arcuri took only about seven minutes to open, conceding the basic facts about the struggle, the gun and the knife.

Arcuri suggested jurors listen closely to what is presented about what Kravetz was thinking at the time of the incident.

“What the state is not going to be able to prove to you is intent,” Arcuri told jurors.

Jurors heard this afternoon about a court employee spotting a man who seemed to be loitering, seemed to have no official business and appeared as though he didn’t want his face to be seen.

Deputy Davin responded from the sheriff’s office to look for the subject she said was described as dressed professionally in slacks and a blue shirt, and carrying a brief case.

Davin said she entered at the lower level, went upstairs and then had returned to the top of the stairway when she finally saw the subject ahead of her.

She asked what he was up to, asked him for identification, and when she started to put her hand on his elbow, he suddenly turned and attacked her, she said.

The man put his arm around her neck and pulled her close to him, and as she struggled to reach her radio, she put her right arm against her gun, Davin testified.

“I felt him get a sudden surge of energy, is what it felt like to me,” Davin said. “Then he took me to the ground, he threw me to the ground.”

He was on top of her, she was flailing, she said.

Then Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge David L. Edwards appeared, grabbed the man and shoved him away, Menefee had already told jurors.

Davin said as the judge was trying to fight the man off, she saw stabbing motions.

“I was still on he ground, I drew my gun, pointed it in their direction and I said stop,” Davin testified.

The man stopped stabbing the judge, Davin said, but he turned toward her, wrenched the gun from her grip and pointed it.

Her survival instincts took over, and she was kicking at his legs, she said.

“I couldn’t get a good kick in,” Davin said.

Menefee asked her what she was thinking.

“When the shot hit me, I remember it was pretty painful,” she said. “I was immobilized.”

After the gunshots, according to Menefee, the judge believed the deputy was dead and retreated upstairs to hide. Davin said she lay on the floor for awhile, with her Taser, in case the assailant came back.

Davin’s .45 caliber Glock was found when a search was conducted at Kravetz mother’s home in Olympia, according to Menefee. Kravetz had called his mother to come and get him from the courthouse, Menefee said.

Judge Edwards is expected to take the witness stand in the morning.

The trial could last into Tuesday.

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Steven Daniel Kravetz listens to his attorney David Arcuri as the first day of trial comes to a close.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 11:36 am

Updated at 5:37 p.m.

POLICE: SUSPECTED DRUG DEALER ARRESTED IN CENTRALIA

• A 30-year-old Centralia man was arrested after multiple officers from Chehalis and Centralia visited a home on the 800 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia yesterday morning to serve a search warrant. Anthony B. Velazquez, who was staying at the home, was found in the bathroom, according to police. There were several other individuals present who were questioned and then released, Chehalis Police Department detective Sg. Gary Wilson said. Wilson said officers found in Velazquez’s room drugs and items that led them to arrest him for possession of drugs with intent to deliver. Among the items found were scales, plastic bags which could be used for packaging, and about 26 grams of suspected methamphetamine along with about one and a half grams of heroin, according to Wilson. Velazquez was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

MEDS AND JEWELRY MISSING

• Patricia M. Horrace, was arrested yesterday by Morton police for allegedly going into her neighbor’s home on Westlake Avenue the day before and taking aspirin, cough syrup and some jewelry. Horrace was booked for second-degree burglary, according to the Morton Police Department.

MORTON STORE BREAK-IN

• A 52-year-old man was arrested on Saturday night for allegedly burglarizing a Morton business, Jan’s Lost and Found. Mark E. Clevenger, of Morton, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

JAIL BREAK-IN ATTEMPT MADE

• A deputy was called about 9 p.m. yesterday to the old Vader Jail on the 500 block of A Street where someone apparently tried to break in again. A muddy shoe print was discovered on the outside of a locked door which was kicked in, but they didn’t get inside because of numerous items stacked behind the door, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

VEHICLE THEFT

• Morton police were called Thursday night by a woman who said she found her pickup truck about three blocks away from her home (where it should have been) and its stereo was missing. There were no signs of forced entry to the vehicle, according to police.

YOUTH FOUND TRESPASSING IN VACANT HOUSE

• Police were called about 5:25 p.m. yesterday to the 1700 block of Juneman Street in Centralia after a representative of a bank on a foreclosed home discovered a 12-year-old boy inside, doing unspecified damage. The case is being referred for a possible charge of second-degree burglary, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Police took a report of graffiti spray painted on a garage at the 200 block of South Diamond Street in Centralia yesterday morning.

SPECIAL DELIVERY BY POLICE: A BABY

• Centralia police responded to a report of an apparent verbal dispute yesterday but instead found a screaming pregnant woman in labor. As officers were enroute about 12:25 p.m. to the home on West Roanoke at Ahlers Avenue, they were told by the 911 caller his neighbor woman had come outside onto he front lawn and it turned out she was shouting because she was about to give birth, according to police. She was home alone, Sgt. Carl Buster said. The two male officers sped up and when they arrived, tried to stall her until the ambulance showed up, to no avail, according to Buster. The infant’s head had already “crowned” so they helped her to the ground and assisted with the delivery, he said. “One little push, and he was out,” Buster said. Aid then arrived and took the mother and infant to Providence Centralia Hospital. They were doing fine as far as he knew, Fire Capt. Erik Olson said. It’s a boy.

AND MORE

• And more, such as arrests for warrant, violation of no contact order, driving with a suspended license, reports of stolen bicycles, wandering dogs, verbal disputes, disagreement between two businesses about a sandwich sign, a reportedly out of control student at a high school, complaint someone else seems to be using another individual’s account, and, someone who arrived at a house he’d just bought and saw smoke was coming from the chimney and someone was looking out the window, even though nobody should be there  … and more.

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Read about at least seven bald eagles accidentally poisoned in Winlock …

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 8:48 am
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Courtesy photo by West Sound Wildlife Shelter

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News reports that seven seriously sickened bald eagles’ illnesses were traced to a Winlock property where the birds fed on the carcasses of horses which had been euthanized early last week.

Horse owner Debra Dwelly told reporters she had no idea delaying the animals’ burial could create the toxic hazard, until federal wildlife officials visited her on Sunday, according to The Daily News.

Read about it here

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Courtesy photo by West Sound Wildlife Shelter

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, March 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Updated

HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS LOST

• A 40-year-old man called Chehalis police yesterday morning when he discovered he’d lost $1,600 cash sometime the afternoon before while he was out and about at various businesses in Chehalis and Centralia. The money was in a bank envelope in his pocket before it disappeared, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

SCISSOR THREAT

• A 29-year-old Onalaska man was arrested for allegedly waving scissors at his mother and threatening to kill her on Friday night at the 100 block of Hogue Road, Zim I. Hall was booked into the Lewis County Jail for felony harassment, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

WARRANT ARRESTS IN WINLOCK

• Officers from three police agencies converged up a residence on the 400 block of Hawkins Road in Winlock at about 11:30 p.m. on Friday to arrest two subjects who were targets of the “South County Task Force” for several weeks, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Zachery E. Torres and Jessica D. Church, both 23 and from Winlock, were found hiding in a bathroom and both were wanted for unspecified warrants, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

MANY BREAK-INS, LITTLE IF ANYTHING STOLEN

• A woman returned home about 6:15 p.m. yesterday to the 2000 block of Jackson Highway in Chehalis to find her door off its hinges, according to police. Nothing seemed to be missing.

• Police were called about 10:25 a.m. on Friday to the 600 block of South Cedar Street where a resident said someone entered his home while he was away and left it in disarray. Nothing appeared to be missing, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police took a report on Saturday morning that someone had broken in to a vacant house on the 900 block of North Washington Avenue. It did not appear anything was taken, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police are investigating someone burglarizing an unoccupied home on the 100 block of East Oakview Avenue in Centralia. It was reported on Friday night. Police did not specify what might have been missing.

CAR PROWL

• Someone stole an EBT card from a vehicle on the 1600 block of North Pearl Street in centralia, according to a report made to police on Friday morning.

VANDALISM

• Police were called about 4:20 a.m. on Saturday when a window was broken at a residence on the 1600 block of Windsor Avenue in Centralia. The subject or subjects fled before officers arrived,  according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A man called police about 3:45 p.m. on Saturday regarding someone breaking the window his vehicle at the 1100 block of Northwest Cedar Way in Chehalis.

CHIMNEY FIRE EXTINGUISHED

• Firefighters were called just before 8 p.m. on Saturday to a chimney fire at the 400 block of Southwest Canyon Loop in Winlock. The residents were home when it occurred but nobody was hurt and the damage was minimal, according to Lewis County Fire District 15.

COUNTY SHOP FIRE UNDER INVESTIGATION

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports this morning it is assisting with the investigation into the fire that burned the Kiona Road County Shop at the 8900 block of U.S. Highway 12 on Friday evening. Firefighters from Glenoma and five neighboring districts extinguished the blaze that was reported about 6:15 p.m. and destroyed the building and various equipment. A passerby had advised seeing a fire in one of the shop bays and that it appeared a piece of equipment was ablaze, according to the sheriff’s office.

WRECK

• A 23-year-old Randle woman was reportedly uninjured when she drove around a curve, lost control of her car and traveled down an embankment on Friday morning on Cispus Road near Randle. A deputy responding about 9:30 a.m. to the area near mile market 5 noted it had been snowing, with slush and snow on the road. The 2001 Subaru Outback sustained major damage, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The car was impounded and the driver cited for speeds too fast for conditions, according to the sheriff’s office.

AND MORE …

• And more, such as arrests for warrants, driving with suspended licenses; reports of stolen bicycles, suspected fights, light fixtures stolen from a rental home by former tenants, a $250 carburetor vanishing from an estate sale, someone  driving in the parking lot at K-Mart with a subject on their hood and a vehicle that seemed to have been stolen while its owner was shopping at the Lewis County Mall but was just temporarily misplaced … and more.

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News brief: Trial starts tomorrow in Chehalis for Montesano courthouse attack case

Monday, March 25, 2013 at 9:50 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The trial for the man accused of attacking a judge and a deputy at the courthouse in Montesano last March is set for this week in Lewis County Superior Court.

Judge Richard Brosey will preside. Centralia defense attorney David Arcuri is representing Steven Daniel Kravetz.

Proceedings begin tomorrow morning and are expected to last at least until the end of this week.

The (Aberdeen) Daily World reports Arcuri will argue his 35-year-old client has diminished capacity.

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News brief: County roads shop in Glenoma burns

Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 11:05 am
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The county shop off U.S. Highway 12 near Kiona Creek smolders. / Courtesy photo by Bill Serrahn

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters from six agencies battled a blaze last night that swept through a Lewis County road department shop in Glenoma.

Nobody was injured but the building was destroyed, according to Lewis County Fire District 18 Chief Ed Lowe.

“It’s going to be a total loss,” Lowe said.

Lowe was at the scene this morning with fire investigators looking into the cause.

“Two here now and more coming,” he said.

Crews called around 6:15 p.m. to the structure off U.S. Highway near near Bowen Road were joined by firefighters from Mossyrock, Morton, Mineral and Packwood, Lowe said. They were out there until after midnight, he said.

He estimated the metal-sided shop was about 150 feet by 30 feet.

“They lost some of their trucks, equipment, snow plows and such,” he said.

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Koralynn Fister: Dead toddler’s mother pleads innocent to putting little one in harm’s way

Friday, March 22, 2013 at 7:09 pm
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Becky M. Heupel prepares to leave the courtroom after bail was settled with a $10,000 signature bond today.

Updated at 8:18 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Almost a year after losing her 2-year-old daughter to torturous sexual abuse of a new live-in boyfriend, Becky M. Heupel today faced a judge, charged with failing to protect the little girl.

Heupel, 31, admitted to police, according to prosecutors, that if she had witnessed injuries on someone else’s child that she saw on her own daughter, she would have called the police.

The Centralia woman pleaded not guilty this afternoon to second-degree criminal mistreatment in Lewis County Superior Court. It’s a class C felony.

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Koralynn Fister

Koralynn Fister died last May 24 of head injuries and drowning; the boyfriend James Reeder said he found her face down in the bathtub when he stepped out to get a towel.

Flanked by two women in the Chehalis courtroom described by Koralynn’s father as Heupel’s advocates, the mother did her best to avoid news cameras, and said very little during the brief hearing.

Heupel, who is partially deaf, used a hearing device provided by courtroom staff.

“I think it’s bogus,” her father Terry Heupel said of the criminal charge. “She ended up with a bad fellow she trusted. She was like a mother hen to those kids.”

Becky Heupel has a 4-year-old daughter who was put into foster care by the state when Koralynn died.

Heupel’s step-mother, sister, grandmother and other apparent supporters were among those who attended the proceedings. David Fister, father of Koralynn, was present as well.

Fister said he preferred not to comment, wishing to stay out of the spotlight.

Koralynn would have turned 3 years old two weeks ago, the toddler’s grandfather said.

“For her birthday, instead of gearing up up for a celebration, we went to the cemetery,” Terry Heupel said. “That was hard.”

Charges were filed two weeks ago, and Heupel was summonsed by mail to appear for today’s hearing.

Prosecutors allege the mother recklessly created an imminent and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm through her inaction.

When interviewed by Centralia police this past January, Heupel confirmed she wanted a relationship with Reeder and ignored warnings from others about the relationship, as well as signs she saw herself, such as controlling behavior and signs of abuse to the child, according to prosecutors.

Her attorney, Paul Strophy, said he was only hired this week and didn’t have enough information yet to make any statements outside the courtroom.

“It’s premature to make any comments on the case,” Strophy said.

Charging documents for Heupel repeat in a fair amount of detail the injuries, new and old, that medical personnel discovered on the little girl’s body. When he charged Reeder last May, Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer called it the the worst case of child abuse and neglect he’d seen in his career.

The charging documents do not specify what signs of abuse prosecutors allege Heupel saw on her daughter.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead earlier this month told a judge nobody else really knew what was happening to Koralynn other than Reeder as he had isolated the child; he’d change her diapers and give her baths.

Among the injuries noted were palm-sized pieces of skin missing from her buttocks, consistent with rubbing over time, according to Halstead.

Prosecutors allege that the day before Koralynn died, her aunt noticed an injury on the toddler’s behind and told Heupel she needed to have it looked at.

Charging documents state that Heupel told police she met Reeder online and he moved into the home off  West Oakview Avenue about 10 weeks before Koralynn’s death.

She admitted to police she had issues setting boundaries in relationships, according to charging documents.

About one month before the death, Reeder suggested parenting duties should be divided up, and as a result he spent a significant amount of time alone with the toddler, documents state. When Heupel would leave, he’d insist she take the older daughter, Meyer wrote.

Heupel and her 4-year-old left the house about 12:30 p.m. the day Koralynn died, less than three hours before Reeder carried the naked and unbreathing child to neighbors across the street asking them to call 911.

Meyer contends the mother chose to ignore the risks so her relationship with Reeder could continue.

Meyer requested, and Judge James Lawler agreed, today that Heupel remain out of jail pending trial on a $10,000 signature bond.

The judge also ordered she have no contact with children, except for the two hour once a visit allowed by Child Protective Services with her remaining daughter.

A trial was set for the week of June 10
•••

For background, read “Centralia man gets maximum prison term for sexual abuse, death of toddler” from Wednesday March 6, 2013, here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, March 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Updated at 1:26 p.m.

COURT APPEARANCE TODAY FOR MOTHER OF SLAIN 2-YEAR-OLD

• The mother of Koralynn Fister, who was charged with a criminal mistreatment earlier this month after her former live-in boyfriend was sent to prison in connection with the toddler’s death, is scheduled to make her first appearance before a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court. Becky Heupel is not in custody but was summonsed to court to face a charge in which the prosecutor alleges she recklessly created a substantial risk of death to her child, having been warned by others her new boyfriend was abusive. James M. Reeder, 26, was convicted for the rape, assault and death of 2-year-old Koralynn last May at her Centralia home. He had only lived with the family about 10 weeks when it happened.

WOMAN FLEES ASSAULTIVE BOYFRIEND THROUGH WINDOW

• Deputies were called about 6:30 p.m. yesterday to the 100 block of Loop Road outside Centralia after a 42-year-old escaped her angry boyfriend by crawling out a window. Deputies were told the two got into an argument and when she tried to leave, he kept her in the living room and then punched her in the mouth. She managed to get away and go to her mother’s home, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A K-9 track was conduced without success, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. Law enforcement is looking for John T. Malanitch, 37, for several warrants and potential arrest for unlawful imprisonment and fourth-degree assault, according to Brown.

STOLEN CAR, OTHER ITEMS FROM NIX ROAD

• A deputy took a report yesterday from a 51-year-old Lewis County Jail inmate who said while he’s been locked up, someone stole his 1989 Honda Accord, a red rollaway toolbox, tools and 18 fishing poles from his residence at the 100 block of Nix Road west of Chehalis. The deputy was told the theft occurred sometime between Feb. 10 and 20, but the inmate could not verify all that is missing until he is released, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office did not release the name of the theft victim, but the age, location and timing correlate to Brian L. Creed who was during that period hospitalized but in sheriff’s office custody after he was shot inside someone else’s nearby residence.

BURGLARY CENTRALIA

• A deputy took a report about 11:10 p.m. yesterday of a burglary that occurred that day at a residence on the 100 block of Tri Mountain Drive outside Centralia. Someone forced their way inside and pilfered through the home, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Two suspicious vehicles had reportedly been seen in the area, according to the sheriff’s office. The victim wasn’t able to say what was missing was she was not in the area when she called, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown.

FRAUD

• Centralia police say they took a report yesterday from the 200 block of West Oakview Avenue in which a female reported someone used her PayPal internet account to fraudulently spend about $2,000. PayPal investigated and reversed the transaction, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• A 47-year-old homeless man contacted about 7:30 a.m. today at the 2000 block of Borst Avenue in  Centralia was arrested for a warrant and possession of methamphetamine. Rodney D. Oleachea was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police served a search warrant at the 1000 block of Eckerson Road on a room where a 26-year-old local resident was staying overnight, arresting him for possession of methamphetamine.  It happened about 1:30 a.m. Daniel Castro was booked into the Lewis County Jail, as was a 24-year-old Centralia man – Spencer R. Barney – with outstanding warrants, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VEHICLE PROWL

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday from an individual who said their car was prowled while parked at Jack-in-the Box on Southwest Interstate Avenue on Sunday morning.

VANDALISM

• Police were called about 10:35 p.m. yesterday regarding tires slashed on a work van at the 1000 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia. The case is under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.

BIRDWELL AUTO SALES TRIAL POSTPONED

• Attorneys in the case of the Toledo couple charged with major theft in connection with their used car business got permission yesterday to push the trial out to this summer. Keith A. and Lorrine D. Birdwell have pleaded not guilty in the case in which prosecutors allege the couple used various deceptions to avoid paying back a local bank on loans for the vehicles at Birdwell Brothers Auto Sales. A new trial date has been set for the week of August 26 in Lewis County Superior Court.

AND MORE …

• And more, such as arrest for misdemeanor domestic assault, shoplifting, multiple citations for driving with a suspended license; responses about suspicious circumstances  … and more.

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Read about drug suspect drives into undercover police vehicle …

Friday, March 22, 2013 at 11:04 am

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian reports a drug dealing suspect used his car to run into an undercover Centralia police van during a buy-bust operation in Olympia on Wednesday.

News reporter Jeremy Pawloski writes the officer was unhurt but two suspects were jailed for allegedly trying to sell about 1,000 Oxycodone pills.

Read about it here

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Bookkeeper accused of theft of thousands of dollars from Morton business

Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Updated

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A bookkeeper from Raintree Nursery in the Morton area is charged with stealing more than $12,000 from her employer.

Debora S. Barnett, 55, was fired after suspicious transactions on the business credit account were reported to the owners and subsequently to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Barnett made a first appearance before a judge yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court. She is not in custody. Criminal charges were filed earlier this month.

She is charged with one count of first-degree theft.

The owners of the nursery, Maida Richman and Samuel Benowitz, told a deputy in June 2011 they were contacted by a representative of Merchant Card Services, who said the company was alarmed by unusual activity they found, according to charging documents.

Merchant Card Services is the credit card company Raintree used to make refunds to customers.

Raintree is well-known for its mail order business of fruit trees and other edible vines, bushes and plants. It is located on the 300 block of Butts Road west of Morton.

According to charging documents, the owners were told that 18 times between October 2010 and May 2011, refunds went from Raintree, via Merchant Card Services, to a TwinStar Credit Union account which had never made purchases from the nursery. The TwinStar account belonged to Barnett, according to the documents.

The allegations go on to give the following account: The Merchant Card Services representative said she called the nursery several times about it and spoke with Barnett.

When confronted by her bosses, Barnett said there must be some mistake and vowed to investigate. Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg writes that Barnett was hostile, combative and showed no remorse about the situation.

Benowitz fired her and said if she discovered a mistake, she could come back to work and he would apologize.

When contacted by a deputy, Barnett said she was aware of unusually high amounts of money coming into her account, but did not ask any questions about it; and spent it.

“Barnett had no explanation for why the deposits were made to her account, why she spent it or what she spent it on,” Eisenberg wrote.

The sheriff’s office was notified of the discrepancies in June 2011, the day after Raintree was contacted by its credit card service. Barnett was fired and then interviewed by the sheriff’s office that same month but the results of an examination of a computer didn’t come back to local authorities until this past October, according to Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.

The Washington State Patrol’s crime lab took 11 months to analyze the computer, Meyer said. Charges were filed on March 5 of this year.

Defense attorney Bob Schroeter told a judge yesterday afternoon that Barnett lives in Morton, where she collects about $1,400 a month of unemployment checks, as well as food stamps.

The charges against her include so-called aggravating circumstances of using a position of trust, involving a high degree of sophistication and displaying an egregious lack of remorse.

Barnett’s arraignment is scheduled for March 28.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 3:36 pm

THEFT OF TV

• Centralia police were called about 3 p.m. yesterday to the 1200 block of Harrison Avenue about a shoplift involving a flat screen television.

CAR PROWL

• An officer was called yesterday regarding an overnight vehicle prowl at Southwest First Street in Chehalis. A black attache case was stolen from an unlocked vehicle, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

OOPS

• Police were called about 10:20 p.m. yesterday by a woman who said she accidentally put her bank deposit in to the mail slot at the Chehalis Post Office. Detective Sgt. Gay Wilson said when that sort of thing occurs, all an officer can do is advise people to contact postal staff in the morning.

VEHICLE VERSUS PEDESTRIAN

• Chehalis police were called about 4:45 p.m. yesterday to Providence Centralia Hospital about a teenage patient who had been reportedly hit by a truck earlier in the day. Further details were not readily available.

INMATE ARRESTED FOR BREAKING GUARD’S FINGER

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning that a jail corrections officer’s finger was broken when he was kicked in the hand by an inmate. Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said staff was trying to move the 25-year-old woman to a medical observation cell but she got upset, was uncooperative and refused to follow directions. It happened on Tuesday evening at the Lewis County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office. Felicia Lane, who appeared before a judge yesterday seven and half months pregnant on a charge of possession of methamphetamine, was re-booked for second-degree assault, according to Brown. A deputy prosecutor yesterday attempting to get her held on high bail told a judge Lane assaulted a number of corrections officers, but Brown indicates only one victim.

AND MORE …

• And more, such as arrest for warrant; responses for multiple non-injury collisions; complaints about neighbors cats, neighbor’s trash; calls about suspicious circumstances such as a woman who said her car was stolen in January and yesterday saw a customer at a local nail salon with what looked like her missing purse and keychain; another woman who thinks someone is repeatedly stealing her car during the night … and more.

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Chehalis police point to forged checks in high school senior class fund

Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 10:48 am

Updated at 11:25 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Police have asked prosecutors to charge a 43-year-old Chehalis man with multiple counts of forgery and theft in connection with W.F. West High School’s senior class fund.

Detectives have been investigating a complaint from students’ parents the account had less money in it than they thought there ought to be, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

The fund comes from a tradition of parents collectively starting fundraising during their children’s freshman year to pay for graduation-related activities. The school is not involved in the account.

Detective Sgt. Gary Wilson this morning issued a news release stating police discovered the husband of a woman in charge of the money signed 14 checks from the account totaling $8,200. The wife replaced the money back into the account after she learned of the losses, according to Wilson.

An independent audit will be conducted, according to Wilson.

Wilson states that Robert N. Downs Jr., a Chehalis resident, wrote checks from the account between last June and September in amounts ranging from $275 to $950. He wrote them out to himself and signed his wife’s name, WIlson said.

Police are asking the Lewis County Prosecutors Office to consider 14 counts of forgery and 14 counts of theft, according to Wilson.

Tonya Burk, a Chehalis woman whose son is a senior, said parents were surprised a few months ago to learn there was less than $8,000 saved up, when they thought it would be closer to $16,000.

Burk said she conducted an audit which she turned over to police. She said the account wasn’t set up with a requirement of having two signers for withdrawals, which she called a mistake.

Parents began more aggressively fundraising in January, and now have more than $14,000, according to Burk.

Police said their investigation began Jan. 22. The account was closed and a new account opened, according to Wilson.

•••

For background read “High school senior class fund in Chehalis under scrutiny” from Tuesday March 19, 2013 at 9:45 p.m., here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm

MAN BLAMED, ARRESTED FOR $10,000 MISSING CASH

• The 51-year-old man arrested Monday evening at his home on the 200 block of Young Road in Mossyrock for first-degree theft was picked up because he was suspected in an incident in which $10,000 cash went missing from his 89-year-old employer, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The theft victim, a Morton resident, had contacted the sheriff’s office on Aug. 25 and said he had $38,000 with him to purchase a new truck that day. He’d stashed the cash in what he thought was a safe place, in a tool bag behind the seat of his vehicle, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. He told a deputy he suspected Daniel S. Beaty, who he’d hired to do grounds maintenance, Brown said. A subsequent investigation showed Beaty used hundred dollar bills to purchase $200 in lottery tickets and cigarettes at a Morton service station, as well as paid his electric bill with hundred dollar bills, according to Brown. An examination of his bank account suggested Beaty’s spending habits had changed noticeably, Brown said this morning. Deputies couldn’t find Beaty until Monday, when they booked him into the Lewis County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office. He was also booked for first-degree trafficking in stolen property because he spent some of the cash on lottery tickets, Brown said.

POLICE: MAN TRIED TO SELL STOLEN GOODS

• A 21-year-old Centralia man was arrested yesterday afternoon in an ongoing case for alleged shoplifting at Wal-Mart in Chehalis and attempting to sell the merchandise to a video game retailer across the street. Aaron M. Perez was booked into the Lewis County Jail for first-degree trafficking in stolen property and charged today in Lewis County Superior Court with two counts of the same offense. A judge was told he works for and lives at housing associated with Reliable Enterprises, and earns less than $1,000 per month. Perez qualified for a court-appointed attorney and bail was set with an unsecured $5,000 signature bond.

JAIL ASSAULT BY PREGNANT WOMAN ALLEGED

•  A judge was told today a 26-year-old pregnant inmate at the Lewis County Jail reportedly assaulted a number of corrections officers, even breaking someone’s finger. Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke asked for Felicia D. Lane to be held on $100,000 bail, even though he was not yet charging her with assault, but had charged her with possession of methamphetamine from her arrest yesterday morning at a Centralia motel. O’Rourke said he only learned of the jail incident late this afternoon. Lane, who is said to be seven and a half months pregnant, was brought to the courtroom in a wheelchair. Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler set her bail at $25,000.

FROZEN FOOD BANDIT

• Chehalis police were called just before 1 p.m. yesterday when someone came home for lunch and found a strange man rummaging through a freezer in the garage at a residence on Southeast Magnolia Drive. The intruder, who was a white male about 30 years old, took off running, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The resident said he had previously noticed a tool bag missing, according to police.

BREAK-IN AT AUCTION BUSINESS

• Centralia police were called about 8:45 p.m. yesterday to a burglary at an auction yard on the 1100 block of North Pearl Street. Some equipment and keys were missing, and a list is still being compiled of what was taken, according to the Centralia Police Department.

RECOVERED STOLEN VEHICLE

• A 2011 Hyundai Sonata stolen in December from a Shelton resident was reported found yesterday parked in a field behind a gas station at U.S. Highway 12 and Interstate 5, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

CAR PROWL

• Centralia police took a report about 2:30 p.m. yesterday regarding a car prowl at the 100 block of South Washington Avenue in which a purse was stolen from a locked vehicle.

VANDALISM

• Chehalis police were called about 7 a.m. today when an employee at the Holiday Inn  Express discovered the window to her car shattered at the 700 block of Northwest Liberty Place.

• Police were called about 2 p.m. yesterday about a grave stone vandalized at the 1800 block of Van Wormer Street in Centralia. The complaint was turned over to the cemetery authorities, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WALKING IN THE ROADWAY LANDS WOMAN IN JAIL, AGAIN

• A 49-year-old Centralia woman was arrested for disorderly conduct around 11:20 a.m. yesterday when police discovered she was walking in the middle of the street at the 300 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia. Barbara A. Heppe was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WRECK

• A collision this afternoon on a state highway about 10 miles west of Hoquiam sent a 47-year-old Centralia resident to the hospital. Troopers called about 1:30 p.m. learned that Anthony M. Fruchella was traveling southbound on state Route 109 in a Ford Escort when a northbound pickup truck turned left in front of him. The Escort was described as totaled; the Chevrolet Silverado described as having “reportable” damage. The pickup driver, a 75-year-old Hoquiam resident, was uninjured, according to the Washington State Patrol.

AND MORE …

• And more, such as arrests for DUI, warrants, violation of no contact order; responses for possibly suicidal subject, fender bender, hit and run, misdemeanor thefts, threatening note left on a building, reported assault between two youths at Green Hill School; and complaints of cars idling or parking in no parking zones, as well as a trash can stolen one day and returned the following day … and more.