Posts Tagged ‘news reporter’

DNA on discarded cigarettes lead to burglary suspects

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

One of two cigarette butts picked up by a deputy near the Padrick Road burglary scene. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A stolen credit card used at a 7-11 store with surveillance video, a pair of cigarette butts with DNA and nearly three months of interviews and investigating led to the recovery of four vehicles and more than $10,000 worth of stolen property, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Two men from Burien have been implicated in burglaries in Lewis County, one of whom is being held in the Lewis County Jail and the other in the King County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office said one of them has relatives in Centralia and they targeted random homes.

On July 27, a house on the 2000 block of Padrick Road near Centralia was ransacked and the residents discovered more than $20,000 worth of valuables had been taken, including a handgun and bank cards, according to authorities. Less than a week later, a motor home and a Ford Mustang were stolen from a shop building where they were stored on Middle Fork Road.

According to court documents, in mid-August, sheriff’s detective Gene Seiber took the case over and began tracking the numerous purchases made with the victim’s credit card.

After some of the Padrick Road couple’s stolen property turned up in the vehicle of a man arrested in King County, Seiber put together a photo montage and showed it to the clerk at 7-11, according to the document.

Jared M. Bruce, 26, from Burien, denied involvement, and blamed his friend, 37-year-old Jack E. Grier, according to Chief Deputy Stacy Brown.

Detectives visited Grier’s apartment, found some of the missing property and arrested him on Wednesday, Brown indicated.

Two fairly fresh cigarette butts picked up by a deputy from near a gate at Padrick Road sent to the crime lab for testing show matches made with Bruce and Grier, according to Brown.

Grier was brought before a judge yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court

He has not been charged but was ordered held on $100,000 bail.

Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Weirth told the judge Grier has a criminal history that includes several burglaries, theft and drug possession; and that he was just released from prison last October. Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke said Grier has a stable address with his wife and two children.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, when Grier spoke with detective Seiber, he said he was sorry and that he had a drug problem.

He is scheduled to go before a judge again the afternoon. Criminal charges are pending against his friend Bruce, according to the sheriff’s office.

The documents offer information on only the two burglaries, but Brown stated in a news release this morning that six burglaries in the case have been solved.

The Winnebago and the Mustang were recovered in King County, according to court documents.

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza said in a printed statement he is very proud of the deputies and detectives and their tenacity.

“This investigation took a lot of time to complete, but it is worth every minute when we are able to return property back to rightful owners, and hold criminals accountable for their behavior,” Snaza said.

News brief: Coroner rules Silver Creek death an accident

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County coroner has concluded the Silver Creek man whose truck was found wrecked not far from his home on Monday night died from injuries caused by the accident.

Paul L. Halstead, 63, left home that morning and when he didn’t return as expected, family and friends began searching for him, according to authorities.

His family found him inside his Ford Ranger pickup on its top, down an embankment off of state Route 122, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The state patrol suspected inattention may have been to blame, but then changed the cause of the collision to the less specific “wheels off the roadway”.

Coroner Warren McLeod said today that Halstead died from blunt force trauma to his head and neck.

Troopers concluded the wreck probably occurred about 7:10 a.m. that day.

News brief: Suspect in break-in to Centralia police chief’s home arrested

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 42-year-old Olympia man was arrested last night for his alleged involvement in 11 burglaries last year in Lewis County including the home of then Centralia Police Chief Bob Berg.

Christopher G. Oberst was contacted at his residence yesterday evening and then booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said a 38-year-old man who is currently an inmate at the Thurston County Jail confessed to the burglaries and named Oberst as someone who committed the crimes with him. He gave information including the various locations, the property taken and the method of entry, Brown said.

Oberst was booked for 11 counts of residential burglary, according to Brown. The investigation regarding the inmate is ongoing, she said.

The sheriff’s office is looking into three additional suspects related to the cases and their involvement with nine other local burglaries, Brown said.

Local drug team catches firearms trafficking case in Pierce County

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Tacoma resident Rebecca J. Coleman consults with a defense attorney in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 53-year-old mother and grandmother was brought before a judge today in Chehalis in a case that began with a local detective’s undercover operation purchase of a stolen handgun and led to the seizure of 38 firearms, thousands of rounds of assorted ammunition and drugs in Tacoma.

Four improvised explosive devices also located at the residence drew ordinance disposal technicians consisting of members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the Washington State Patrol, according to authorities.

Rebecca J. Coleman, 53, of Tacoma, was charged today in Lewis County Superior Court with numerous offenses related to the case.

Coleman was arrested on Tuesday, the day the search warrant was served at her home, and a judge yesterday allowed local prosecutors to hold her uncharged while the investigation continued.

According to charging documents, Lewis County sheriff’s detective Duke Adkisson learned last month from an unnamed individual that he or she could purchase guns and methamphetamine from Coleman, and he began investigating Coleman for trafficking in stolen firearms.

The relatively new local Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team issued a news release today describing how its members followed up on a tip from a Lewis County resident, and how some of the firearms Coleman allegedly sold were being transported back to Lewis County.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Stacy Brown distributed the press release on behalf of JNET’s leaders.

Sheriff Rob Snaza in a printed statement explained why local detectives made an arrest in another jurisdiction.

“Criminals don’t have physical boundaries, they travel in and out of our county,” Snaza stated. “Even though the arrest and seizure occurred in Pierce County, we stopped the flow of criminal activity from coming into our county.”

Snaza shares overseeing JNET with Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen and Chehalis Police Chief Glenn Schaffer as each agency has law enforcement officers on the team. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer’s name is also on JNET”s letterhead.

Charging documents state that sometime between Sept. 30 and this past Monday, detective Adkisson gave money to an informant to go buy one of Coleman’s guns and to tell Coleman that he or she was a convicted felon and not allowed to possess a firearm.

During the transaction, Coleman allegedly implied some of her firearms could be stolen firearms, the documents state.

The gun brought back to Adkisson did turn out to have been stolen last December.

According to JNET and the court documents, also seized from Coleman’s residence was $1,258 cash, two baggies of suspected methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, mortars, tank simulators and other items consistent with explosives.

The home is located in the south end of Tacoma at the 2400 block of 155th Street Court East.

The explosives were taken off site by the technicians to be detonated, according to Chief Brown’s summary.

Coleman’s bail was set yesterday at $150,000.

Defense attorney Joely O’Rourke told the judge Coleman has only one felony conviction – possession of a controlled substance from last year – and it was a deferred prosecution with a plan for her to withdraw her plea shortly.

Coleman was charged today with four felonies in Lewis County Superior Court.

They are: first-degree trafficking in stolen property, delivery of a firearm to an ineligible person, possession of a stolen firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm in the second-degree and possession of methamphetamine.

She qualified for a court-appointed attorney as she is currently unemployed and receives social security disability payments, according to O’Rourke.

Her arraignment is scheduled for next Thursday.


Property seized from Tacoma residence is displayed. / Courtesy photo by Lewis County Sheriff’s Office

Lewis County detective meets with Green River killer, probes for links to local cases

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Gary Leon Ridgway’s mugshot is among the materials inside three unsolved case files at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Finally, more than a decade after his convictions for the murders of dozens of women in King County, serial killer Gary Ridgway was interviewed about three homicide victims whose bodies turned up along the Interstate 5 corridor in Lewis County.

Longtime Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective Bruce Kimsey isn’t writing him off as a viable suspect, but Ridgway didn’t confess.

“When I asked him an hour’s worth of questions on the victims, he denied it and said, why would I take someone to Lewis County,” Kimsey said. “I’m not saying I believe him; I’m just saying what he said.”

Kimsey traveled to the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado at the end of September. He was joined by Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead for the two-day visit.


Chief Criminal Deputy Bruce Kimsey

They were only allowed to bring a pen and paper into the room. The serial killer had handcuffs chained to his waist. On the first day he wore leg irons as well, Meyer said.

“We spent several hours both days, four to six hours each day,” Meyer said. “There wasn’t a clock in the room, I didn’t have my watch.”

Meyer said they’ve been trying for several years to meet with Ridgway, and the answer before from his attorney had alway been no. When he got a yes answer, they jumped at the opportunity right away, he said.

The victimology in the three local cases is such that Ridgway has been a suspect, alluding to patterns in who Ridgway targeted.

Both Kimsey and Meyer took note of how short the infamous killer was.

“I expected him to be more physically imposing,” Meyer said. “He’s kind of meek, mild-mannered. He doesn’t have, ‘this guy’s gonna attack me’ vibe.”

It’s easy to see how someone would get into a truck with him, Meyer said.

The Auburn resident was convicted of murdering 49 women, but has admitted to killing 80, Meyer said. He was arrested in December 2001, at age 52.

There’s no physical evidence tying him to the Lewis County cases, and Ridgway didn’t have any particular facts about the three, the prosecutor said.

And at one point, he suggested he wouldn’t mind taking credit to “get his numbers up.”

“He understands what he’s done, and I think he likes the notoriety,” Meyer said. “He told us, there’s more written about me than Jack the Ripper.”

Much of their time was spent building rapport, talking about his work, marriage and hobbies and then after that, learning details about the crimes he committed in King County.

Ridgway worked at Kenworth for 30 years. He was married three times.

He became known as the Green River Killer, because that’s where some of the first bodies were discovered, Kimsey said.

That’s one of the similarities between the women he’s admitted to killing, and the women whose bodies were discovered locally starting in 1984, according to the detective.

Two of the bodies in Lewis County were found near waterways, he said. Two of the three had ties to prostitution, like Ridgway’s victims, according to Kimsey. And some of the known Green River victims went missing from the same area as did the women found in Lewis County.

What they do know for sure, is the three women were murdered and their bodies were discovered in Lewis County, Meyer said.

On August 12, 1984, Monica Anderson, 32, of Tacoma, was found by a fisherman in the Chehalis River west of Centralia below the Galvin Road bridge. She was last seen June 25 in Tacoma, getting into a brown van on Commerce Way. She died of asphyxiation, Kimsey said.

On May 5 1985, Susan L. Krueger, 42, was found along Lacamas Creek at Drews Prairie Road near Interstate 5 west of Toledo. She was last seen March 11 after she was released from the Pierce County Jail. She died of  blows to the head.

On August 5, 1991, Mignon S. Hensley, 21, was found in a brushy area about a mile east of Interstate 5 along U.S. Highway 12. She was last seen June 19 leaving a Deja Vu strip club in Federal Way. She was about eight months pregnant at the time. She died from homicidal violence.

Kimsey, who was promoted to chief criminal deputy when newly elected Sheriff Rob Snaza took office in January has studied the three case files.

“I would say a reasonable person would say there was sexual assault, or sexual motivation on these crimes,” Kimsey said of the evidence.

Ridgeway indicated to his interviewers he had nothing to do with the three deaths and that it wouldn’t make sense for him dump a body in Lewis County.

Part of Ridgway’s crimes involved returning to the dump sites to visit the bodies, and engage them sexually again, according to Kimsey.

He knew King County like the back of his hand, and said, he wouldn’t go to Lewis County and screw it up, Meyer said.

But, Ridgway did take some of his victims from King County all the way to Oregon, Kimsey said. He told his three interviewers he took bones down there after digging them up, to get the FBI involved and throw off the Green River Task Force.

They three men spent some of their time orienting Ridgway to the boundaries of Lewis County, and learned he’d been to Yard Birds and the the Centralia Outlets.

When the conversation turned to Ridgway’s time in the Navy, overseas, Ridgway’s comment was, “that would open up a can of worms,” Meyer said. A person could speculate about what that means, he said.

“Ridgway will say every one of his victims, he strangled,” Kimsey said.

The takeaway for Kimsey, is what he learned about what Ridgway did to his victims, for example, details of how he left the bodies, Kimsey said.

“I’m going to go back and look again at our cases to see if they match up, if there’s some matchup,” he said.

Meyer said he left feeling like Ridgway would readily admit if he’d killed the women, but then wonders, if he says there’s 80 victims, does he remember every one?

Kimsey has the same question.

“The problem, is he doesn’t remember names and faces,” Kimsey said. “He said he lost count after like two dozen.”

The detective asked one of the most infamous serial killers ever why he did what he did.

“He told us he felt a sense of power over women, and why he didn’t like these women,” Kimsey said. “He saw prostitutes as basically trash.”

He knew the women he victimized weren’t likely to be reported missing, at least not right away, and, he didn’t have to pay them, Kimsey said.

It was almost like a game, where he could take out his negative energy, Kimsey said.

“The things that he’s saying, no normal person could understand,” Kimsey said. “It’s pure evil and horrific, the things he’s done to women.”

Kimsey, Meyer and Halstead also spoke with Ridgway about the unsolved homicides of two other women during the same time period. Kimsey said he doesn’t think he was involved in their deaths.

Roberta D. Strasbaugh, 18, was found October 18, 1985 on the north side of Lincoln Creek Road at its junction with Manner’s Road, about three weeks after her truck ran out of gas along Old Highway 99.

Diana Robertson’s body was found in 1986, about three miles south of Elbe.

It’s obvious there’s been more than one serial killer operating in the region, Kimsey said.

One of them, Robert L. Yates is also on Kimsey’s list to talk with, although he’s a serial killer with limited activity in Western Washington, and Kimsey said he believes his victims were shot with a firearm.

The goal is to get answers, for families who don’t know what happened to their loved ones, according to Meyer.

For Kimsey, continuing to work the cases is a duty owed to their families. He’ll keep going through the files, trying to match some evidence to a suspect, he said.

Ridgway is not eliminated as a suspect, and certainly not based on his denials, according to the detective.

“I’m not convinced he has nothing to do with these, I’m not convinced he does,” Kimsey said. “I’m going to take the information and keep working these cases.” “Maybe the technology one day will be there.”

News brief: Centralia resident jailed after samurai sword attack

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 46-year-old Centralia man was arrested overnight for allegedly thrusting a samurai sword through the side of a trailer nearly stabbing a woman inside.

Police say Norman R. Pedigo also used the 28-inch long weapon in an attempt to stab the victim through an open window.

Officers called about 12:15 a.m. to a gas station on the 1200 block of Mellen Street learned Pedigo and his brother had been involved in a dispute at the nearby trailer park. They spoke with Pedigo there and then spoke to the brother, according to the Centralia Police Department.

According to police, the two men who reside together were arguing and the brother went next door to get away from the situation. That’s when Pedigo became so enraged, he attacked the neighbor woman’s trailer, according to police.

The woman was not injured, but the brother was allegedly punched in the face by Pedigo, according to police.

The suspect was arrested first-degree assault and fourth-degree assault, and booked into the Lewis County Jail.

News brief: Bicyclist saved from oncoming train in Centralia

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A woman who crashed her bicycle on the tracks in front of an approaching train was rescued by bystanders overnight in downtown Centralia.

Police were called at 2 a.m. to the 200 block of North Railroad Avenue where they found the woman with a small cut on her head from the fall, according to the Centralia Police Department.

While the woman was helped to safety, there wasn’t enough time to move her bike and belongings from the tracks before the train passed, according to police.

She was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital where she was treated and given stitches in her forehead, according to police.

It wasn’t that long ago when a Centralia man wrecked his bike on the tracks in the same area, and was fatally struck by a train.

Victor J. Bonagofski, 72, lost his life when he fell off his bicycle on the railroad tracks at Locust Street and was hit by a freight train the night of Aug. 12.

Cowlitz Tale: Rogue fisherman sent to prison

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 56-year-old man caught fishing when he shouldn’t have been on the Cowlitz River was sentenced yesterday to almost two years in prison.

Robert L. Niquette was on the water near the Blue Creek boat launch out of Salkum at about 10 o’clock one night this past December when a Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife officer on patrol recognized the lone vehicle in the parking lot.

The officer heard a motorboat and watched for awhile as two individuals fished in the dark.

Yesterday, in Lewis County Superior Court, a judge imposed a 22-month sentence on the Vancouver, Washington resident.

“It’s not just fishing without a license,” Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg said today. “But fishing when his right to fish had been revoked for life.

“This is his third conviction for that.”

Eisenberg said Niquette pleaded guilty on the morning his trial was to begin last month.

When they went before a judge yesterday, even Eisenberg thought the potential penalty was awfully high.

The standard sentencing range, given Niquette’s number of previous convictions, was 22 to 29 months, Eisenberg said.

“My recommendation was 15, cause that’s really a lot,” he said. “And in fact, he did not catch anything.”

Judge James Lawler gave the defendant five days credit for time already served in the jail

Dallas man gets 66 months for virtual relationship with teen

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Lavon S. Sellers and his lawyer Jacob Clark face the judge for Sellers’ sentencing hearing in Lewis County Superior Court.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A Texas man who engaged in an online sexual relationship with a Lewis County boy who initially said he was 16 will be off to prison to serve a five and a half year sentence.

Lavon S. Sellers and the teen met on a website called “Hot or Not” in the summer of 2014 and eventually the boy confessed he was only 14 years old, according to lawyers handling the case.

There’s no indication the two met, but they made a plan where Sellers would come to Washington and they would spend time in Seattle together, according to court documents and the boy’s mother.

“When Mr. Sellers found out he was 14, that’s when things should have stopped, and it didn’t,” defense attorney Jacob Clark said. “Mr. Sellers and this teen believed they loved each other.”

The boy attempted suicide after the relationship came to light and then he was caught Skyping with Sellers after being ordered by his father not to.

Sellers, now 32, was brought to the Lewis County at the beginning of last month and held on $100,000 bail.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of luring four weeks ago and yesterday was back in Lewis County Superior Court.

Under the plea deal, both sides agreed to recommend to the judge he get 66 months in prison.

“I know Mr. Sellers never meant to hurt anyone by these actions,” Clark told the judge. “He’s been a law abiding citizen all his life.”

The boy’s mother told the judge her son is about two years behind his peers, and has always been vulnerable and trusting. And now, the mother said, he’s a young boy with no spirit, no excitement for life, no self-esteem and remains confused by what Sellers taught him.

Lewis County is not naming the mother, to avoid identifying the victim.

Judge Nelson Hunt agreed with the sentence recommended by Clark and Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

“Well, it wasn’t the intention, but it did, it did hurt a whole lot of people,” Hunt said.

Sellers was ordered to have no contact with the boy, and to pay about $3,200 in fines and fees including the extradition costs.

Outside the courtroom, Clark said the people and businesses who make the sort of online applications where the two communicated are immune to prosecution, even though they are made accessible to both adults and children.

“That is the travesty,” Clark said.

For background, read “Lewis County Sheriff’s Office arrests man in Dallas for long-distance sexploitation of local teen” from Sunday September 6, 2015, here

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015



• Centralia police were called at 7:10 p.m. yesterday to the 500 block of Harrison Avenue where an individual reported someone broke into their vehicle an stole “items,” according to the Centralia Police Department.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault; responses for alarm, dispute, misdemeanor theft, suicidal person, suspicious circumstances, collision on city street … and more.

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015


Updated at 6:40 p.m.


• Authorities are hoping someone can help them find the driver of a pickup truck found wrecked overnight, since there was blood in the truck but nobody around. There is suspected injury, however, the registration for the vehicle is expired and its owner unknown, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responded about 1 a.m. to the 4300 block of Jackson Highway south of U.S. Highway 12 and found the 1980 Ford F250 flatbed that appeared to be totaled, according to the sheriff’s office. Anyone who has information about its owner or the driver is asked to contact the sheriff’s office, Cmdr. Dusty Breen said this morning.


• A deputy called about 10:10 p.m. yesterday regarding a possible vehicle prowl at the 3300 block of Harrison Avenue outside Centralia found the windows broken on two vehicles and blood smeared on the vehicles. The owner said she’d been having problems with her ex, and that he might be responsible, leading to an unsuccessful search of the area, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. However, a short time later, a deputy was advised of a possible burglary in progress in the same area and suspecting the ex may be involved, a police dog was called in, Cmdr. Dusty Breen said. Centralia Police Department Officer Ruben Ramirez and his partner Lobo tracked down George F. Jones, 49, of Rochester, in a briar patch along the 2900 block of Harrison Avenue, according to police. Jones was apprehended by the dog and subsequently booked into the Lewis County Jail for two counts of second-degree malicious mischief, according to Breen. Breen said the victim of the possible burglary could not be located. The damage to the windows is listed at about $1,000.


• A 16-year-old Chehalis boy was pulled out from under a recreational vehicle in a backyard by a police dog after he bolted as he was being placed in the back of a patrol car for allegedly shoplifting beef jerky. Police called about 4:25 a.m. on Sunday about the incident at a convenience store on the 600 block of West Main Street detained the teen, but he took off running, handcuffed, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Citizens pointed officers in the direction of the suspect and he was found hiding at the 300 block of Southwest Chehalis Avenue, according to police. The youngster was arrested for third-degree theft, escape and for minor in possession and/or consumption of alcohol because he had allegedly been drinking, police said. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for the dog bite, detective Sgt. Gary Wilson said.


• Someone raided an Interstate 5 construction site and made off with about $1,200 worth of copper wiring. Centralia police called about 11:30 a.m. yesterday to the area of the exit 81 northbound offramp found someone had unscrewed the top of an electrical box and pulled out about 2500 feet of eight-gauge wire, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Centralia police reported this morning that a 37-year-old man was arrested yesterday afternoon for a warrant from the state Department of Corrections and possession of methamphetamine.  Lance J. Myhre was contacted by police after 4 p.m. at the 1000 block of Roosevelt Avenue, according to police. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail.


• Chehalis police were called this morning to Walgreens on Louisiana Avenue for a woman found unconscious in the restroom who had apparently taken something off a shelf and was inhaling it. The same woman was arrested yesterday afternoon after an officer responded to a report a woman was “huffing” a can of aerosol at a bus stop near Wal-Mart, according to the Chehalis Police Department. And on Saturday morning, the same individual, 31-year-old Maria E. Hazzard, was found in the woman’s bathroom at Rite Aid on South Market Boulevard allegedly sniffing on something similar, police said. Each time, aid was called and the Chehalis woman was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, issued her citations for inhaling toxic fumes, given a court date and then released, detective Sgt. Gary Wilson said.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assault, protection order violation, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, dispute, tagging, hit and run, possible assault, parking complaint, telephone harassment, misdemeanor theft, suspicious circumstances, collision on city street, concern that as the weather changes people might begin taking up camp inside old busses and motorhomes parked behind a storage business … and more.

News brief: Missing man found at scene of fatal wreck

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Silver Creek area man who went missing yesterday was found dead last night inside his wrecked truck twenty to thirty feet down an embankment not far from his home.

Paul L. Halstead, 63, had left home yesterday morning and by afternoon, his family and deputies were looking for him because he hadn’t returned, according to responders.

His family found his Ford Ranger pickup on its top off of  state Route 122, about two miles northwest of Mossyrock, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Troopers and aid responded to the scene just west of Steelhead Drive about 8 p.m., Washington State Patrol Sgt. Mike Cournyer said.

Cournyer said he believes the crash occurred in the morning.

It had rained, so there weren’t tire marks on the road and the vehicle was such that a person wouldn’t have seen it unless they were in exactly the right spot, Cournyer said.

Troopers concluded Halstead was westbound from Steelhead Drive and drifted to the right, and then overcorrected causing his truck to leave the roadway, roll down the embankment and come to rest on its top. He was seat belted in, responders said.

Cournyer said it’s a narrow and curvy road and the cause of the crash seemed to be inattention, but the coroner should be able to determine for sure what happened.

The 2007 Ford Ranger was described as totaled.

News brief: Rochester chicken barn goes up in smoke

Monday, October 19th, 2015
2015.1018.chickenbarnleitner.robgordon copy 2

Flames rise from a huge metal and wood structure used for storage. / Courtesy photo by Rob Gordon

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters weren’t able to determine what caused a blaze yesterday morning that destroyed a former chicken barn in South Thurston County.

Crews called at 6:50 a.m. to the corner of Leitner Road Southwest at Danby Drive found the large wood and metal building fully involved in flames, according to Thurston County Fire District 12.

They were joined by six neighboring fire departments and on the scene until almost noon, Battalion Chief James Fowler said.

The structure was about 200 feet long and 50 feet wide, Fowler said.

“There were no chickens in it, they were using it for storage, like old tractors and a car,” he said. “The owner said he had a brand new table saw he never got to use yet.”

Nobody was injured.

Fowler said the destruction was such there was no way to even be certain where the fire originated, let alone what caused it. He’s putting it down as undetermined, he said.

The property has a Rochester address, but is east of Interstate 5 and north of the Old Highway 99.

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, October 19th, 2015



• Centralia police detectives were called in to assist with a burglary last night at the 100 block of West High Street in which a pair of individuals crawled through a ceiling. Officers responded to an alarm at the Nike store at the Centralia Outlets about 8:20 p.m., according to the Centralia Police Department. The suspect and his accomplice managed to escape before police arrived, but, their images were captured on surveillance video according to police.


• Centralia police were contacted about 8 p.m. yesterday by an individual who reported they were robbed on Friday morning in Centralia. The case is associated with a location at or near Main and Yew streets and remains under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department. Further details were not readily available.


• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning that a burglary was discovered on Friday morning at a thrift store on the 100 block of Salkum Road in Salkum. Sometime between Oct. 10 and Tuesday, someone apparently slipped through a gap in the fence at God’s Closet and then slit a tarp to get into an outdoor storage area where they were able to break windows on the southwest side of the building, according to the sheriff’s office. Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said it’s not yet known what is missing, other than keys to the padlocks on the dumpsters.


• Chehalis police were called at 6 p.m. yesterday regarding a burglary from earlier in the day at North National Avenue. It turned out to be an unfounded report.


• A 28-year-old Centralia resident was arrested last night for allegedly taking her parents’ vehicle without permission. Lacey A. Buzzard was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 25-year-old Rochester man was arrested around 1:20 a.m. yesterday for allegedly being in possession of a vehicle stolen out of California. Jesus K. J. Angulo-Delong was contacted by police near the 400 block of West Main Street in Centralia and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department Kevin J.J. DeLong is being released with no charges filed pending further investigation.


• Chehalis police were called at 12:40 p.m. on Friday about a vehicle prowl on the 1900 block of South Market Boulevard.


• Centralia police were called on Friday morning to the 200 block of Tilley Avenue where sometime the evening before, someone stole a mailbox from in front of a home.


• Centralia police took a report on Saturday morning regarding graffiti on a garage door at the 600 block of F Street.

• Someone slashed a vehicle’s tires at the 100 block of North Railroad Avenue in Centralia, according to a report made to police on Friday afternoon.


• A Centralia officer on Friday night took a report about a possible intimate relationship between an 18-year-old man and a 13-year-old girl. The case is under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Officers were advised of an erratically driven vehicle that almost struck a pedestrian in the area of the Skookumchuck River Bridge on North Pearl Street at about 2 p.m. yesterday. Officers located the vehicle a short time later and a short pursuit ensued, according to the Centralia Police Department. The vehicle was located later, abandoned, according to police.  The investigation is ongoing.

• Firefighters called about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday to the 2400 block of state Route 508 in Onalaska about a child on a motorbike getting hit by a vehicle transported the patient to the hospital with what were described as moderate injuries. Lewis County Fire District 1 Chief Andrew Martin said it sounded as though a mechanical issue, like maybe with the throttle, caused the rider to come out of his driveway onto the road.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, trespassing, resisting arrest, misdemeanor assault, protection order violation, driving under the influence, driving with suspended license, providing false information to police officer; responses for alarm, dispute, bad checks, hit and run, loud neighbor party, vandalism, misdemeanor theft, suspicious circumstances, collision on city street, person in public that seems to be intoxicated … and more.

News brief: East Lewis County man dies after Pierce County collision

Monday, October 19th, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 20-year-old Randle resident died following a head-on crash in Pierce County on Saturday night that authorities blamed on driving too fast for conditions.

Three occupants of the other car were also hospitalized after the highway wreck that shut down the roadway for three hours and 45 minutes, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Raymond R. Craig, 20, of Randle, was transported to Tacoma General Hospital but passed away there at 9:40 a.m. on Sunday, according to the state patrol.

Troopers called at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday determined Craig had been northbound on state Route 161 and crossed in to the southbound lane at a curve where his 1992 Mitsubishi GT struck an oncoming 2013 Nissan four-door.

It happened near Thomas Road, about eight miles south of Graham.

No alcohol was involved and everyone was wearing their seat belts.

The three in the Nissan were injured and taken to Good Samaritan Hospital.

They are, the driver, Ramon J. Becerrabecerra, 26, of Fresno; passenger, Jose A. Becerrabecerra, 21, from Eatonville; and passenger Carlos A. Becerrabecerra,20, of Puyallup.

Both vehicles were totaled and impounded, but no charges are expected.

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, October 16th, 2015



• A corrections officer was allegedly bit in the hand by a Lewis County Jail inmate who was subsequently forcibly brought up to court in a restraint chair, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office reported this morning that 26-year-old Rebecca L. Higgins was incommunicative on Wednesday afternoon when a guard went into her cell to tell her to get ready to go to court. As the guard gave up and walked out, Higgins allegedly jumped up and tried to assault him. Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said when the guard escorted her back to her bunk, Higgins bit him, leaving him with three punctures to the “web” of his right hand. Brown said the following morning, when a corrections officer informed Higgins a judge ordered her to brought up to court whether or not she wanted to, Higgins allegedly punched that guard in the chest. She has been arrested for two counts of third-degree assault and remains jailed. Higgins, whose hometown is given as Puyallup, was booked into the jail at the end of August for allegedly assaulting a Centralia police officer who tried to remove her from a locked bathroom.


• Chehalis police were called just before midnight after an injured man was found laying on the road at the 1000 block of Southwest 12th Street. The 48-year-old Chehalis resident was transported to the hospital for trauma to his left eye, according to the Chehalis Police Department. An initial report indicates he would not provide information to the officer, according to police. An officer has learned the the man was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and the case is pending an interview with him, police said.


• According to the Centralia Police Department, the owner of a stolen vehicle found the vehicle parked in an alley last night in a case associated with the 800 block of H Street.


• Chehalis police were called at 8:50 a.m. yesterday to the 1000 block of Evergreen Way about an overnight prowl of an unlocked vehicle. Among the items missing are clothing, a flashlight and a battery jump box, according to the Chehalis Police Department.


• Chehalis police were called yesterday morning to the 200 block of Southeast Ninth Street regarding a fence tagged with yellow graffiti, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

• An officer responded to a report yesterday morning of a business painted with graffiti overnight at the 700 block of West Main Street in Centralia, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, protection order violation, failure to transfer title; responses for dispute, vandalism, misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor theft, receipt of counterfeit bill, collision on city street … and more.

News brief: No evidence found of missing mom in Cowlitz River

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Detectives continue actively investigating the disappearance of a Centralia mother of three who spent time on Saturday at and around freeway exits near Vader wearing pajama bottoms and no shoes, after leaving her car on Interstate 5.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has said Elizabeth A. Pham, 33, may be suffering from from postpartum depression.


Elizabeth A. Pham

Yesterday after lunchtime, Chief Deputy Stacy Brown indicated that while Pham came into contact with several individuals at a gas station, a truck stop and a restaurant, the last sighting of her appears to have been around noon on Saturday sitting beneath the overpass at exit 59 staring into the Cowlitz River.

Members of the sheriff’s office Swift Water Team spent five and half hours yesterday scouring the river. They searched to an area approximately two miles downstream from the Mandy Road overpass, according to Brown.

Team members stated the visibility, in the areas searched, was good as the river is fairly shallow and slow moving, Brown indicated.

They stopped at the point they did, because the river was too shallow in many places to continue downstream, according to Brown.

They didn’t find any evidence she actually went into the river.

Her makeup bag was turned into police on Sunday, having been discovered by a fisherman near the fork in the Cowlitz and Toutle Rivers. That’s close to a bridge that crosses the river at milepost 52 on the freeway.

Pham had tried to get a ride with a truck driver who was heading to California, but also asked a taxi driver to take her to Olympia, before she was spotted gazing into the Cowlitz on Saturday.

She resides in Centralia with her three children and her husband, a local dentist with whom she works, according to Brown. She was reported missing on Sunday morning.

Chief Deputy Bruce Kimsey stated yesterday their hope is someone will see Pham and call them.

The sheriff’s office number is 360-748-9286.

If tipsters wish to remain anonymous, they can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-748-6422. Private messages can also be sent through their Facebook page “Lewis County Sheriff’s Office”.

For background, read “Missing mother’s makeup bag fished out of Cowlitz River” from Tuesday October 13, 2015, here

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, October 15th, 2015



• Centralia police were called just after noon yesterday regarding the ongoing theft of cigarettes from the front porch area of a house on the 1300 block of Rose Street.


• Chehalis police were called yesterday morning by the owner of a vacant house on Southwest Sixth Street who said about  week earlier, it appeared someone tried to break in. An officer took photos and a report, according to the Chehalis Police Department.


• A coat and a backpack containing toiletries and other items were found in the middle of the street near the post office in Chehalis at about 5:15 a.m. today.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, driving under the influence, protection order violation, failure to transfer title, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, dispute, disorderly person, misdemeanor theft, landlord-tenant issues, suspicious circumstances … and more.

Astonishing humans: Twin sheriffs catch the attention of Believe It or Not! publisher

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza, left, and his brother Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza. / Courtesy photo by Jennie Snaza

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza and his twin sheriff brother have the shocking, incredible, but true honor of being featured among the “eye-popping oddities” of a new book.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is more than an iconic Sunday newspaper comic feature, it’s museums, traveling shows, videos and books.

Each year, Ripleys puts out puts out a new edition of strange stories, fun facts, oddities, curiosities, and this year, the Snazas are among them.

Sheriff Snaza, who learned of his inclusion from a newspaper reporter, said he thinks it’s pretty cool.


The new edition

“I just think it’s an honor, I’m excited about it,” he said yesterday. “It’s something to show your kids, your grandkids.”

The entry can be found on page 20, of the 256-page volume overflowing with “mind-blowing stories” of animals, feats, art, pop culture, the human body, and more, according to the publisher.

“In November 2014, twin brothers Rob and John Snaza were elected sheriffs in neighboring southwest Washington counties,” the publicist writes.”Voters elected Rob to become sheriff of Lewis County while John was re-elected sheriff of Thurston County.”

Their recognition is tucked into the edition that includes among its collection of thousands of all-new stories, the lowdown on a goldfish that underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor and a 40-inch-long piece of (alleged) fossilized dinosaur poop, found in Washington State, that sold for $8,500 in 2014.

The book, titled “Eye-Popping Oddities” came out on Sept. 8 and is available through all major book sellers, according to its publicist.

Robert L. Ripley’s first Believe It or Not! books, collections of his newspaper cartoon drawings, appeared in 1929 and 1931.

Sheriff Rob Snaza, of Napavine, who turned 50 earlier this year, ran as a Republican last fall and took 77 percent of the vote.

He said he hadn’t yet had a chance to talk with his brother, to find out if he knew how they caught they attention of the book’s authors.

He said he’s pretty sure it’s probably a first. He’s heard of fathers and sons, such as former Lewis County Sheriff Bill Wiester Sr. whose son became Grant County sheriff, he said, but not twin brothers.

Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza, ran as an Independent in 2010, and last November won another four-year term. He also turned 50 this year.

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015



• A Winlock man arrived home yesterday afternoon to find  a fire had destroyed his shed and it contents, that included thousands of dollars worth of tools. Sixty-two-year-old Craig Ryder said he used to work construction and had lots stored in the building. He doesn’t have insurance, he said. “There was so much, I couldn’t even think how to list it,” he said. The fire was so hot, it broke a window on his home, on the 200 block of Bay Road, Ryder said. Also ruined was the canopy for his truck and an antique wooden boat he’d recently refinished, he said. He was told the cause was probably electrical, as it started near his workbench.


• Chehalis police were called at 6:40 a.m. today to the 200 block of Southwest William Avenue after the owner of a green 1997 Honda Accord discovered the car missing. It has a license plate reading 684 ZSM and also some damage above the driver’s side door from a previous vehicle prowl, according to the Chehalis Police Department.


• Centralia police were called at 3:30 p.m. yesterday to the 2300 block of Sirkka Avenue where someone had reportedly entered the home during the night and removed unspecified items. An investigation continues, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Someone broke into a vehicle parked at the 900 block of G Street in Centralia stealing sunglasses as well as the registration, proof of insurance and other paperwork, according to a report made to the Centralia Police Department yesterday morning. Also stolen was the shifter knob, police reported.


• Centralia police took a report last night regarding graffiti on a fence at the 600 block of K Street.


• A 50-year-old was injured when he lost control of his motorized bicycle near Randle yesterday afternoon. Troopers called about 4:15 p.m. report that Tad C. Stuck was traveling northbound on the 100 block of Gharet Road and failed to negotiate a curve when he fell off his bike. Stuck was transported to Morton General Hospital, according to the Washington State Patrol. The modified Huffy bicycle fitted with a 66 cc motor was undamaged, according to the state patrol. The Randle resident was cited for driving with a suspended license, not having a motorcycle endorsement, not wearing a helmet and an equipment violation, according to the investigating trooper.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting, trespassing, misdemeanor assault, malicious mischief, driving with suspended license; responses for alarm, misdemeanor theft, suspicious circumstances, a seemingly homeless person hanging around a business, a seemingly homeless person pooping in a city park … and more.

Missing mother’s makeup bag fished out of Cowlitz River

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office continues to look for a Centralia mother of three who went missing on Saturday, with plans to review surveillance videos from businesses as well as search the Cowlitz River and its banks.

The sheriff’s office said a makeup bag identified as belonging to Elizabeth A. Pham was turned in to the Castle Rock Police Department on Sunday by a fisherman who located it downstream from where Pham was last seen.


Elizabeth A. Pham

Also, a witness reported seeing a woman matching her description sitting beneath the overpass at exit 59 staring into the Cowlitz River, according to the sheriff’s office.

The 33-year-old woman’s car was found on southbound Interstate 5 near Vader’s exit 59, unlocked with the keys in it by a trooper on Saturday evening.

“At this time, we do not know what happened to Elizabeth; there are a lot of possibilities that need to be examined,” Chief Deputy Bruce Kimsey stated in a news release around noon today. “Elizabeth may have gotten a ride out of the area, and be gone on her own volition, we just don’t know at this time.”

Chief Deputy Stacy Brown indicated today Pham’s family says she may be suffering from postpartum depression.

They are still asking for anyone who has seen her, or has information, to call them.

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza said he has four detectives assigned to the case, and they have set aside everything else.

“My hope is, it’s just a young female who wanted to get away for awhile,” Snaza said.

Detectives believe Pham left her vehicle along the freeway on Saturday morning and walked to Gee Cees truck stop, where she tried to get a ride with a truck driver who was headed to Redding, California. A Gee Cee’s employee stopped Pham from getting into the truck and called a taxi for her, according to Brown.

Detectives have learned Pham asked the taxi driver to take her to Olympia, but they stopped by her vehicle to get some personal items and then she was dropped off at the Shell station off exit 59, according to Brown.

The taxi driver described her behavior as unusual and confused.

She went into the store and stayed for about 20 minutes without buying anything, and then witnesses say she walked over to the nearby Beasley’s Restaurant and placed an order, according to Brown.

It was after that someone saw the woman under the overpass, according to Brown.

Pham was reported missing at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

When last seen, she was wearing purple pajama bottoms, a pinkish red shirt and socks but no shoes. Pham is described as 5-feet 6-inches tall and weighing 122 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact sheriff’s detective Jeremy Almond at 360-748-9286 or


For background, read “News brief: Missing woman’s car found abandoned near Vader” from Monday October 12, 2015, here

Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015


Updated at 2:37 p.m.


• Two people were arrested after a citizen reported seeing a male steal several packages from the doorstep of a business south of Chehalis at 12:30 a.m. today. Deputies told he left in a red Jeep subsequently located the vehicle and spoke with Jerry G. Sword, 46, of Centralia, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The items belonging to the Water Doctor of Washington at the 2500 block of Jackson Highway were located in the Jeep, Chief Deputy Stacy Brown said. Sword was cited for third-degree theft and then released, according to Brown. His passenger, Tammy M. Callahan, 44, also from Centralia, was taken to the Lewis County Jail where a plastic bag containing suspected methamphetamine was found in her mouth, Brown said. Callahan was booked for a violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act and the sheriff’s office is recommending a charge also of third-degree theft, according to Brown.


• Chehalis police were called about 8:25 .m. yesterday following the discovery that a Yorkshire Terrier was missing from its fenced backyard at the 700 block of Northwest New York Avenue. It had been on a cable, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The officer subsequently got a message the pet had been located on Louisiana Avenue, according to police.


• Centralia police were called just before 4 o’clock this morning to the 1700 block of Cooks Hill Road to take a report of missing medication and money. The case is under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• An individual reported the theft of medications yesterday afternoon from the 600 block of G Street in Centralia, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Police were called at 7:45 p.m. yesterday about a house and vehicle getting egged at the 400 block of East Pine Street in Centralia.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrant, trespassing, misdemeanor assault; responses for alarm, dispute, vandalism, misdemeanor  theft, suspicious circumstances, loud neighbor party, collision on city street … and more.

News brief: Police shoot pit bull in Centralia

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Updated at 10:11 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A dog who reportedly charged officers preparing to make a warrant arrest at a vacant Centralia house was shot last night.

The animal’s condition is unknown this morning.

Centralia Police Department detective Patty Finch said police went to the residence on the 100 block of South Cedar Street because they knew a 31-year-old Onalaska woman with a felony warrant was there.

It was about 7:50 p.m. and officers found three or four individuals who shouldn’t have been at the house because it’s condemned, according to police.

The dog was shot once, with the officer’s handgun, in the front shoulder-leg area, Finch said.

The animal – described as a large white pit bull – was taken to Cascade Veterinary Clinic, she said.

“To my understanding, the dog is still there, I don’t know the condition,” Finch said this morning.

According to Finch, as officers contacted the individuals inside, the dog exited the house and charged at Sgt. Carl Buster.

Buster feared he was going to be attacked and fired one shot, according to Finch.

Alisha M. Rowley, 31 of Onalaska, was booked in to the Lewis County Jail for her warrant. Richard D. Thoreson, 42, of Centralia and John R. Cabell, 23, of Olympia, were booked for trespassing, according to police.

Detectives and police commanders were called to the scene last night, Finch said.