Posts Tagged ‘news reporter’

Pe Ell rape trial: Guilty as charged

Friday, April 27th, 2012
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Deputies take Todd Phelps into custody after the jury verdict this morning in Lewis County Superior Court.

Updated at 3:18 p.m. on Saturday April 28, 2011

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The jury came back with guilty verdicts in the rape trial of former Pe Ell High School softball coach Todd Phelps.

It took six men and six women a little more than four hours between yesterday afternoon and this morning to make their decision.

Phelps, 52, was handcuffed and taken down to the jail.

The benches in the the courtroom in Lewis County Superior Court were packed, except for about half of them on the defendant’s side of the room.

Phelps faces as much as six years in prison when he is sentenced in the case involving a 16-year-old student player.

A sentencing date has not been set.

The expected four day trial that began last week extended into eight days as prosecutors attempted to prove Phelps gradually seduced a girl already troubled with low self esteem and depression and ultimately had sex with her they said was clearly against her wishes.

Jurors heard witnesses testify about thousands of texts exchanged between the two, before and after Phelps was forced to quit his coaching job because of boundary violations with the player.

Defense attorney Don Blair painted a picture of a caring father-figure who was attempting to prevent a suicide. Blair said his client never thought he did anything inappropriate.

The now-17-year-old girl spent a day and a half on the witness stand

Phelps did not testify.

He was found guilty of third-degree rape as well as second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor in connection with encounters last spring and summer with the high school student.

The jurors also found he used his position of trust with a particularly vulnerable victim, meaning the judge can sentence him above the standard sentencing range.

The potential sentence is anywhere between six months to six years, according to Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.

Phelps’ family and lawyer quickly vanished from the courthouse following the verdict.

The victim’s family slowly made their way out of the courtroom in Chehalis as they exchanged hugs with each other and others. It was very quiet.

Judge Nelson Hunt had warned spectators there should be no outbursts when the verdict was read.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said he had little to say since the sentencing is pending.

“As always, we have trust in the jury system,” Meyer said. “But the case isn’t over, so that’s all I can say.”

Before the jury began deliberating on Thursday afternoon, they heard an almost three hour summary from both sides about what they should consider.

Deputy Prosecutor Halstead spoke for more than two hours reminding jurors of the many details – lots of talk with sexual overtones – they’d heard that suggested Phelps had a different motive than helping a troubled teen.

In mid-April of last year, after the assistant coach was told by the school and her parents to stop having contact with her except at fast pitch, it continued with constant texting including one from him the following morning, according to Halstead.

“This should have been the end of all of this,” he said. “The state would submit to you he has a different agenda.”

Defense attorney Blair subtly told jurors it was her word against his.

None of the lawyers were involved in the situation when it was going on, he said.

“We can’t tell you, we have to rely on what everybody else said happened,” he said.

Blair agreed there were a lot of “contacts” but reminded jurors the content of the messages were unavailable, and said the prosecutor’s case relied upon a lot of smoke.

The defense attorney spoke of how Phelps had coached for as long as 18 years before “all of the sudden” something like this comes up.

His client was concerned because he learned the girl had been cutting on herself, something her father yelled at her about when it came to his attention, Blair said.

He made no secret he was trying to help her, Blair said.

Blair argued some of the prosecution’s witnesses were mistaken and that the April 2 incident at Phelps house about kissing and Phelps pressing his body against the girl’s did not happen.

“I’m not saying any of these folks did or did not lie,” Blair said. “But we know all of the stories can’t be true, because of the lack of consistency.”

The detectives found no blood on the carpet in Phelps’ brother’s house, which the girl said soaked through a towel, Phelps’ computer wasn’t analyzed and much of the prosecutor’s case relied upon what the girl and her friend said, the defense attorney said.

“Other than the contact, we don’t have that hard proof,” he said. “It’s just not there.”

On the topic of the alleged rape on July 27, Blair offered indications of both his client not even being present and if he was, that it did not amount to rape.

The defense attorney noted phone records that showed Phelps and his wife were texting late that afternoon.

“In order to get a text and reply 30 second later, one would think you’re at your phone, not committing a sex crime,” he said.

Deputy Prosecutor Halstead pointed out the records showed texts and phone calls, not all of which were answered immediately and argued they supported what the teenager told detectives.

“The defendant’s whereabouts, despite the testimony from his daughter, cannot be accounted for,” Halstead said.

Halstead reminded jurors of testimony from others that would help them understand why Phelps asked the teenager to meet him at his brother’s house the day of the rape.

He knows his brother is working out of town and his sister-in-law is going shopping with his wife, Halstead said.

“I guess he was either there, or he wasn’t,” he said. “If he was there, I guess you are to believe (the girl) consented.”

He detailed the girl’s actions and words that he said showed clearly she was not consenting to sex.

Consent is not an issue for the other charge, only that the girl was a student and the defendant was her coach, according to Halstead.

Halstead gave numerous examples of Phelps’ “grooming” the girl for sexual activity.

He also noted that after the April 2 kiss – when she was asked to show her coach the self-inflicted cuts on her thighs – a girl who had never been kissed told the youth pastor’s wife the very next day.

“She needs to express something to someone, but doesn’t want to get the defendant in trouble,” he said.

He pointed out another kiss, which Phelps said was on the forehead, was witnessed by Phelps’ daughter who told two individuals about it but denied it when she took the witness stand.

Halstead admitted the girl played a role in the continued contact between the two, although he blamed Phelps for isolating her from others, leaving him as a lone trusted confidante.

“I think it’s pretty clear she had a crush on him,” he said. “She trusts him, she probably likes the attention, she’s 16.”

Her reliance on her coach was part of why there was little physical evidence showing their conversations via text, according to Halstead.

For example, when she got caught texting him in class, she erased everything, according to Halstead.

“She’s upset, she didn’t want this to get out,” he said. “She deletes all heir texts from her iPod, her mom actually has to go under the stall (in the school bathroom) to grab the iPod.”

Halstead reminded jurors of corroborative testimony and evidence the two continued communicating after he was no longer her coach; through girls who said they acted as go-betweens, and when the teenager gave Phelps her password to him so he could message her using her hotmail account.

Two emails from September submitted as evidence were found inside a special folder called “For my little star” were important, according to the deputy prosecutor.

One was a love song by Mariah Carey called “Without you“, the other a frowning face with the words I’m sorry.

“Who is sorry? What are they sorry for?” Halstead asked.

He pointed out jurors had heard testimony the only individuals with the password were the girl, Phelps and Phelps’ daughter.

“Remember what he said to his co-worker, ‘My life would be over if they found my text messages’, ” Halstead said.

The same co-worker Mark Miller testified Phelps was “obsessed” with the teenager, Halstead reminded the jury.

“Mark warned him, stay away from her Dude, you’re a truck driver, not a shrink,” he said.

Halstead suggested Phelps misled his family, suggesting the girl was in imminent danger of harming herself and nobody was doing anything about it, when actually her family already knew about the cutting and had gotten her counseling.

He related that to a motive Phelps family members may have had to remember facts in a skewed manner when they testified, in particular Annette Phelps when she told what time she last saw he husband on July 27.

“She’s in denial, the reason she’s in denial is she doesn’t have all the information,” he said.

Halstead told the jury the girl told very detailed, consistent stories; that it took courage for her to testify.

“She was cross examined for four and a half hours,” he said. “Consistent. Nothing inconsistent with her story.”

Judge Hunt told the attorneys to return next Thursday when a sentencing date for Phelps would be set.

The second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor conviction is related to an incident that occurred on or about April 2, 2011. It is is a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail.

The third-degree rape conviction is related to July 27, 2011. It is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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Attorneys gave closing arguments in front of a large audience in Lewis County Superior Court.

Pe Ell rape trial: Family provides alibis for former coach

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Todd Phelps won’t be testifying in his rape trial, but the jury has heard from his family members they were well aware he was texting the 16-year-old girl and trying to save her life because she was suicidal.

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Todd D. Phelps

The former Pe Ell High School softball coach is charged with an incident or incidents of kissing and touching the team member before he was forced to resign a year ago. The 52-year-old is also charged with third-degree rape in connection with an encounter the girl described as taking place three months later at his brother’s house in Pe Ell.

The allegation regarding the rape charge is her lack of consent was clearly expressed by her words or conduct.

Phelps’ wife took took the witness stand yesterday, describing the girl as a talented ballplayer with little self worth who sometimes refused to talk.

“She needed encouragement,” Annette Phelps said.

She was virtually a part of their family during the summer of 2010 when they traveled often to softball tournaments, according to the Phelps’ daughter Angelina.

Angelina Phelps, now 20, said she tutored the girl in math.

“She would constantly talk about being ugly, say I cost that game for us, I can’t do this,” Angelina Phelps said.

Last spring their relationship became strained, she testified.

“She’ll wear you out,” Angelina Phelps said. “I mean, she has to have attention constantly.”

They are all residents of the small West Lewis County town of Pe Ell.

A jury of six women and six men are hearing the case in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis.

Because the expected four-day trial has already gone three days over, two jurors with previous commitments have been allowed to step down. The two alternates have stepped in.

Under questioning, Annette Phelps said she knew her husband began texting the teen in late March of last year, and he shared with his wife his dealings with the girl.

Her husband told her about the girl showing him self-inflicted cuts on her thighs she said.

“She said you can’t cry and lifted her shorts,” Annette Phelps said. Her daughter was home when it occurred, she said.

Annette Phelps recalled the girl spending the night once during spring break of last year, and being very upset and crying in the morning. The girl wouldn’t talk with her, she said, only her husband.

The teenager had stopped speaking to her father long before, she said, when he yelled at her about her cutting.

“She wanted to move out, she wanted to be emancipated,” she said. “She would tell us she didn’t even want to be home.”

Annette Phelps said her husband told her the teenager was troubled about a friend who experienced suicide in her life and another who was molested.

She said she told her husband he needed to get a hold of her parents, which he did in on April 9, she testified.

Annette Phelps testified she knew her husband had access to the teen’s hotmail account, but she never heard anything about a separate folder in there called “For my little star”. She also thought their texting ended in mid-April, she said.

In May of last year, she switched phones for her husband to keep the girl from calling, she said. She knew the girls’ parents had blocked the Phelps’ phone numbers from the girl’s phone.

Todd Phelps’ mother took the witness stand as well.

Jean Schmitt testified her son was with her at her Pe Ell home the day of the alleged incident sexual misconduct.

The 72-year-old mother of five boys said it stuck in her mind, because her daughter-in-law’s nephew had been in a very serious accident the day before and been hospitalized.

On April 2 of last year, Schmitt said, her daughter-in-law went Harborview in Seattle and Todd Phelps was with her from about 1 p.m. until 11 p.m., except when he left for five or 10 minutes to go get one of his daughters.

Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead asked Schmitt if she knew why her son was put on leave or why he resigned. She answered that he violated school policy to save the girl’s’ life and quit because it would be better for the girl.

Under questioning, Angelina Phelps confirmed she joined them at her grandmother’s that night.

Angelina Phelps also gave an accounting of her father’s whereabouts on July 27 of last year, the day of the alleged rape.

Her father worked that day she said. He got home about 3:30 p.m. and was still home after she drove to Chehalis in the late afternoon to drop her mother off at Starbucks, she said. He was mowing the grass when she returned and they spent the evening together, Angelina Pheps testified

Her father never goes anywhere alone now, because of this case, she said.

The prosecution originally alleged in charging documents the incident of second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor occurred on April 2, 2011. Last month, after getting new information, they ammended the charging documents to allege the incident occurred sometime between March 25 and April 3.

The teen has testified she may have gotten confused on her” timeline.”

Attorneys on both sides have said jurors won’t see much of the supposed thousands of texts exchanged between Phelps and the teenager, because they were deleted.

Defense attorney Don Blair finished calling witnesses yesterday.

Blair has told the jury he doesn’t know why the girl is saying these things about his client and Phelps at no time thought the relationship was inappropriate.

One or two rebuttal witnesses are expected to take the stand this morning.

Third-degree rape carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. There is no allegation of physical force.

Second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor is a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail.

If convicted, Phelps would be required to register as a sex offender.

Phelps remains free on a $25,000 unsecured bond.
•••

For background, read previous stories by scrolling down when on the homepage.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

VEHICLE PROWLERS HIT CHEHALIS OVERNIGHT

• Chehalis police responded yesterday to seven reports of car prowls, most occurring overnight and involving thefts or attempted thefts of stereo equipment and missing items such as CDs. Some windows were broken to gain access and some were not, according to Deputy Chief Randy Kaut. The calls began about 8:20 a.m. on South Market Boulevard and included locations such as Southeast Adams Avenue, Northeast Washington Avenue and Southeast Dobson Court. One individual heard a dog barking and saw two men walking up Adams Avenue but didn’t report it until later, Kaut said. He said it’s a lot for one time period and they are likely related to the same person. One attempt involved a delivery truck in the Twin City Town Center, according to the Chehalis Police Department. An officer was called just before 5 o’clock this morning to the area of South Market Boulevard near R.E. Bennett School where two subjects were observed looking inside cars, but no arrests were made, according to police.

DUMP TRAILER HAULED AWAY

• A dump-style construction trailer was reported stolen from the 1800 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia yesterday morning. The black 2007 trailer has a license plate of 4580TK, according to the Centralia Police Department.

BURGLARY

• An unspecified variety of home electronics were stolen from a home on the 1900 block of Ahlers Avenue in Centralia, according to a report made to police about 11:20 a.m. yesterday.

• Morton police investigated a burglary last Tuesday at a residence on the 300 block of First Street. Missing was a laptop computer and a Playstation, according to the Morton Police Department.

SUNFLOWER SEEDS PUT IN GAS TANK

• Police were called just before 6 p.m. yesterday to the 1000 block of Roosevelt Avenue in Centralia where a vehicle’s tires had been slashed and sunflower seeds place in the fuel tank.

DRUGS

• A traffic stop just after 4 p.m. yesterday at the 1500 block of Belmont Avenue in Centralia ended with two people getting arrested for possession of drugs. Charles Stilson, 37, no hometown noted, was driving with a suspended license and in his pocket an officer found a syringe and a baggie of suspected methamphetamine, according to officer John Panco. His passenger Diane Gange, 36,  no hometown noted, was found to have suspected heroin, Panco said. Both were booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRIVER OF ALL-TERRAIN VEHICLE ACCUSED OF ATTEMPTING TO RUN OVER DEPUTY

• A 23-year-old Tenino man was arrested for allegedly trying to run down a sheriff’s deputy with an ATV Sunday on the 7000 block of Skookumchuck Road, according to The Olympian. Read more here

Pe Ell rape trial: Teen answers questions from defense attorney

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
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Todd Phelps, 52, speaks with defense attorney Don Blair during a break in the trial.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Testimony continued all day on Monday from the now-17-year-old alleged rape victim in the trial of former Pe Ell High School softball coach Todd Phelps, under questioning from Phelps’ attorney.

Centralia lawyer Don Blair didn’t ask about the encounter last July between the two at Phelps’ brother’s house in Pe Ell until after lunchtime and spent only about 30 minutes on the topic.

“One of the things you told us is Todd asked if you wanted to have sex, and you shrugged your shoulders,” Blair said.

“Yes, he didn’t use those words,” the girl answered.

“When your underwear and pants were off, you didn’t say no?” Blair asked.

“I shrugged my shoulders,” the girl replied.

Blair went on to elicit agreement that the teen had previously testified her former coach had once said if they did ever have sex, he would use a towel.

“When you got into the bedroom, there was a towel on the floor,” Blair asked. She agreed that was true.

“How is it you got on the floor?” he asked.

“He picked me up and put me there,” she answered.

“And you didn’t say anything?” Blair asked.

The girl agreed.

The attorney showed her a report from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and asked why Deputy Matt Schlecht wrote that she told him: “I never said no, I never said no.”

The teen said she was talking to the deputy about what occurred on a couch before the two went into the bedroom.

But Schlecht is asking about the time period inside the bedroom, Blair said.

“After the thing started, I never said no,” the girl responded.

She agreed she told a friend it was not rape, saying she thought that because she did not fight and scream.

Some 30 spectators sat in on the trial yesterday that began last week in Lewis County Superior Court, only eight of them sitting in benches behind the defendant.

Many of the witnesses have been asked to remain outside the courtroom by Blair even after they’ve testified, as he may want to recall them to the stand.

Most of the hours of questioning from the defense attorney have involved who she told what and when regarding contact and communications with Phelps beginning in April of last year, as well as about her self-inflicted cutting, conversations about suicide and other topics.

A jury of six women and six men hearing the case were told by the judge they should get to begin deliberating no later than today.

Phelps, 52, is charged with third-degree rape as well as second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor in connection with encounters last spring and summer with the high school student.

The prosecution is arguing Phelps is a man who gradually seduced a girl already troubled with low self esteem and depression. She has testified she’d never even been kissed before a kiss from her coach.

Phelps, a log truck driver, resigned his assistant softball coach position at the end of April 2011 as he was investigated by school officials about “boundary issues” with the girl.

Blair in his opening statements spoke of a coach who became close to the girl because he was worried when he learned she was cutting on herself and thought she might even commit suicide.

Blair has told the jury he doesn’t know why she is saying these things about his client and Phelps at no time thought the relationship was inappropriate.
•••

For background, read:

• “Pe Ell rape trial: Teen testifies about alleged rape” from Saturday April 21, 2012, here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

LARGE MARIJUANA STASH DISCOVERED IN TIRE

• Chehalis police are trying to track down what they can after a call over the weekend from Les Schwab about a truck tired filled with marijuana. “It’s actually quite a large amount,” Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said. Kaut said a Centralia resident bought a truck a year or so ago with a spare tire in it he never used. He took it to the tire store on North Market Boulevard to have them destroy it, or whatever they do, Kaut said. That’s when the drugs were found, according to Kaut.

FOOT PURSUITS END WITH ARRESTS

• A Packwood man was booked into jail Saturday following a visit to Morton General Hospital after he was Tased by a deputy and fell to the ground, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies went to a residence late Friday night on the 13,000 block of U.S. Highway 12 looking for Efren E. Barron, wanted on a warrant, according to the sheriff’s office. Barron took off running and was chased, Cmdr. Steve Aust said. He was transported for treatment of what Aust described as minor cuts to his hands, knee and arm, before being booked into the Lewis County Jail for his warrant and obstruction, according to Aust.

• When Centralia police tried to contact a man wanted on a warrant about 8:20 p.m. on Friday in the 600 block of Harrison Avenue, he fled through a restaurant and was caught coming out the back door, according to the Centralia Police Department. Randy M. Haroldson, 29, of Centralia was found to be in possession of both methamphetamine and marijuana, according to police. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

VANDALISM

• Somebody threw a brick through the front window of a home on the 2900 block of Borst Avenue breaking a television set as well as the window, according to the Centralia Police Department. An officer was called to the scene just before 1 a.m. yesterday, according to police.

THEFT

• A blue scooter was reported taken from a garage on the 100 block of Haliday Road in Centralia on Saturday morning. It is a 202 Yamaha with a license plate reading 6A6980, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A deputy was called late Saturday afternoon to the 400 block of Jorgensen Road in Onalaska about the theft of a water pump and chain saw. The items were stolen sometime between April 12 and Thursday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The loss is estimated at $850, according to the sheriff’s office

• Police were called on Friday afternoon to the 1100 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia where an officer took a report that a 17-year-old boy stole medication and made unauthorized charges on a credit card including purchasing a cell phone, according to the Centralia Police Department

• Centralia police were called late Sunday afternoon about money stolen from a juke box at the 1200 block of Alder Street.

• Police were called about 11:50 p.m. on Saturday about a car prowl on the 1400 block of Johnson Road in Centralia. Someone rifled through some papers in the vehicle, but nothing appeared to be missing, according to police.

• A wallet was stolen from a vehicle parked on the 1400 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia, according to a report made to police Saturday afternoon. A passenger window was broken out to get inside, according to police.

DRUGS

• A 45-year-old motorist was arrested for possession of methamphetamine after he was pulled over about 4:40 a.m. today in Centralia for driving with a suspended license. Eugene Amburgy was booked into the Lewis County Jail following his contact with n officer on the 300 block of Centralia College Boulevard, according to the Centralia Police Department. He was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

• A 23-year-old Centralia woman was arrested for possession of heroin after she was detained for allegedly trying to steal a car cell phone charger about 7:20 p.m. on Friday at the 600 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia, according to police. Jennifer M. Smith was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WRECKS

• Centralia police assisted with a multiple vehicle collision on southbound Interstate 5 around 10 p.m. on Saturday that closed the freeway briefly. Nobody was seriously injured, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• A 39-year-old Onalaska woman was hospitalized after a two-vehicle collision about 7:30 a.m. today on U.S. Highway 12 at Morton, according to the Washington State Patrol. Debra Brehmeyer was traveling eastbound when she slowed to turn and her Jeep was struck by an eastbound Ford F350 pickup, according to the state patrol. Both vehicles were totaled, according to the patrol. Brehmeyer was transported to Morton General Hospital for back pain, according to the investigating trooper. The driver of the truck, 25-year-old Cody Carson of Oakland, Ore., was reportedly not injured.

CHILDREN SUSPECTED BEHIND SATURDAY’S SHOP FIRE IN CHEHALIS

• Three Chehalis boys detained after a fire on Saturday that destroyed a two-story shop building may have been playing with matches they found inside, according to police. Some kids were seen running away from the area of the Ohio Avenue fire and interviewed, according to Deputy Chief Randy Kaut. They are 10, 11 and 14 years old, he said. Kaut said it appeared, depending on which of the boys you talk to, it was either an accident or intentional igniting of items. A cardboard box caught fire and it sounds like they tried to put it out themselves, but then ran away, he said. The case is being referred to the Lewis County Prosecutors Office for possible charges of arson, he said.

News brief: Kids investigated after shop fire in Chehalis

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012
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Fire breaks out on Ohio Avenue in Chehalis. / Courtesy photo by Terrence Thompson

•••

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Fire put out on Ohio Avenue in Chehalis

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A large fiberglass boat was spared when a two-story shop building went up in flames yesterday in Chehalis.

Three Chehalis firefighters were joined by more than a dozen members of nearby fire departments when they were called around 5:30 p.m. to the 800 block of Ohio Avenue.

The wood structure was fully involved with 50-foot tall flames, and is a total loss, even though they knocked it down fairly quickly, Chehalis Fire Department Capt. Casey Beck said.

No injuries were reported, but Beck said he understood some kids seen in the area were rounded up by police and may have been playing with fire inside.

Firefighters used foam and kept the blaze from spreading to neighboring homes, he said.

The shop is owned by an individual who lives in Seattle, according to Beck.

The boat, parked right in front of the shop, and a nearby heavy duty mechanic’s truck were saved, he said.

“How it didn’t burn, I do not know,” Beck said of the boat. “It had a little tiny melting in the back.”

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Chehalis Firefighter Jay Birley adds foam to the fire

•••

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The burned building is fairly close to two residences.

Pe Ell rape trial: Teen testifies about alleged rape

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Caution: The following news story about the testimony of an alleged teenage rape victim contains passages that are graphic and not suitable reading for all audiences.

CHEHALIS – When the teenage girl from Pe Ell spoke yesterday in court about the day last summer when the 51-year-old man she knew as a softball coach and mentor allegedly had sex with her against her wishes, the prosecutor asked her: Why didn’t you leave?

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Todd D. Phelps

The now-17-year-old and the defendant Todd Phelps had been kissing on a couch after she pulled her pants partway down to show him the cuts she’d made on her upper thighs – because he’d asked – and he suddenly pulled off her pants and subsequently her panties, she testified.

“He asked if we were gonna have sex, I shrugged my shoulders,” she had just told Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead. “He asked me to follow him in the bedroom.”

Phelps had grabbed a towel and her pants and carried them with him, she told Halstead. She stayed on the couch for three or four minutes, she said.

“I’m thinking in my head I want to leave,” the girl testified. “But I can’t, because my pants aren’t there.

“I also didn’t want to hurt him, I didn’t want him to think I didn’t appreciate him, respect him.”

She went to the doorway of the bedroom, she said.

A jury of six women and six men are hearing the case in Lewis County Superior Court that began on Tuesday and will continue into next week.

Phelps is charged with third-degree rape as well as second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor in connection with encounters last spring and summer with the high school student.

The prosecution is arguing Phelps is a man who gradually seduced a girl already troubled with low self esteem and depression. She has testified she’d never even been kissed before the startling kiss from her coach.

The allegation regarding the rape charge is her lack of consent was clearly expressed by her words or conduct, according to charging documents.

Defense attorney Don Blair in his opening statements spoke of a coach who became close to the girl because he was worried when he learned she was cutting on herself and thought she might even commit suicide.

Blair has told the jury he doesn’t know why she is saying these things about his client and Phelps at no time thought the relationship was inappropriate.

When the teenager took the witness stand on Thursday afternoon, she spoke of “the kiss” and texting that led to the suspension and end of the assistant fast pitch coach’s job.

On Friday morning, when her testimony continued with questions from the prosecution, she spoke of mid-April of last year as rumors and taunting at school  followed Phelps’ suspension.

“Did you love him?” Halstead asked.

“Yes, as a “father”, as a mentor, as a, not a romantic love,” she said.

She had already testified she was angry at her parents, and at the youth pastor’s wife who broke her confidence and told the school about the kiss that ‘freaked her out.” She indicated she felt her coach was the only one she could still confide in.

Days later, however, Phelps and his wife met with her parents, she thought because he wanted to straighten things out so he could continue to coach, she testified.

Instead, he told them all her “secrets” like about her cutting, trying drugs, sneaking out and things she’d confided to him about a friend and rape, and about other friend and suicide, she told Halstead.

Phelps had told the school district superintendent the kiss was on her forehead and the texting would stop, that he was only trying to help the teen.

After the meeting, her father and Phelps appealed to the school, successfully, not to let him go.

At the next softball practice, she still was very angry at her coach, but he spoke to her in the dugout, she testified.

Phelps told her he’d been married twice and never loved anyone as much as her, the girl told Halstead under questioning.

“How does that make you feel?” the deputy prosecutor asked.

“I’m like flattered, at the same time scared, but not too scared,” she answered.

About a week later, she was caught in class texting with her coach, she testified. He was forced to quit.

She was upset, feeling like the team – which had taken the state championship the year before – would crumble and she would be blamed, she testified.

Under questioning, the girl described how for the next three months the two continued to communicate using her friends’ phones and also when she gave him the password to her email account, so he could use it to send messages to her on it.

“What did you think the relationship was?” Halstead asked her.

“I was really confused cause I didn’t know if it was like a romantic love, or coach,” she said. “I wanted it to be just friends.”

Halstead drew from her the content of some of the communications, that she had already told to a detective.

Her coach sent her a song called “Sex” and told her there were rumors they were doing it, and he wished it were true, she testified.

Phelps continued to talk about sex, saying things like orgasms fix migraines and how he would be gentle with her, she testified.

She testified Phelps told her the age of consent was 16, but she would be worth going to jail for.

“When he was saying all this stuff, I was trying to come up with ways to say no without hurting his feelings,” she said.

He told her to meet him one day last July to meet him at his brother’s house in Pe Ell, she testified. She walked there.

“I was like scared my parents would find out,” she testified.

Phelps asked if she was nervous, she told Halstead. “I said a little bit,” she said.

He held her hand, gave her a hug, she said.

They sat on a couch.

“He asked about cutting, he asked if I was going to show him,” she said.

He unbuttoned her pants, she stood up, he pulled her towards him and looked at them, felt them, she said.

“He says, I can’t believe you’re doing this to yourself,” she said.

“He says, why don’t you take these off,” she said. “I said no, I want to leave my pants on.”

The teenager testified Phelps pulled her pants down to her ankles, and then pulled her on top of him onto the couch.

“What happens next?” Halstead asked.

The girl said Phelps kissed her and she didn’t kiss him back. Then he kissed her more.

“I kissed him back a little,” she said.

She continued to testify: He put his hand down her panties, she pulled it out.

The second time he did it, he’s saying she should like it, she said. She pulled away, turned her face so he couldn’t kiss her and then sat up and got off of him, she said.

Phelps came her way and then laid her down on her back, she testified. He grabbed her panties and pulled them off, she said.

“I don’t think I said anything, but I covered up my private area,” she said.

He asks doesn’t she want him to see and she says no, she said.

“He says you can trust me,” she said. “So I’m like, trying to trust him.”

But instead, she said, he actually put his fingers inside of her and it hurt, she testified.

Warning number two: The story the girl told in court under oath may be troubling to readers. Any reader who doesn’t want to feel troubled, should stop reading. (more…)

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, April 20th, 2012

THEFT

• Centralia police were called yesterday morning to a vacant home that had been foreclosed on after someone made off with the stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, water heater and wood stove, according to the Centralia Police Department. The home is on the 300 block of Linda Lane.

• Chehalis police were called just after 6 p.m. yesterday to a burglary on Southwest Third Street. Further details were not readily available.

• Someone broke into a vehicle on the 1100 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia and stole an iPod and other items, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police were called to the  900 block of South Pearl Street in Centralia about 8:30 a.m. yesterday where someone had broken out a window of a parked vehicle.

• Centralia police are trying to link a man arrested for trafficking in stolen property with local burglaries they suspect he may have been involved in over the past two months. Solano R. Trevino, 51, was arrested last week at a motel on 1300 block of Lakeshore Drive where officers found suspected stolen goods, according to Officer John Panco. Panco says detectives have connected him to at least four burglaries. Police are asking anyone who may have been burglarized during that period but not reported it to do so. Panco says to contact detective Rick Hughes at 33-7680.

SHED FIRE

• Firefighters couldn’t find anything that pointed to the cause of a smokey fire yesterday in an RV park on the 1200 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia. Riverside Fire Authority called about 1 p.m. found smoke billowing from a shed, according to Capt. Ken Colombo. It was gutted. He estimated the loss at about $5,000.

Pe Ell rape trial: Girl tells of kissing

Friday, April 20th, 2012
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Todd Phelps leans over to talk with supporters during a break in his trial.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The alleged rape victim in the trial of former Pe Ell High School softball coach Todd Phelps took the witness stand yesterday.

She spoke of “the kiss” and answered numerous questions about herself and her interactions with her fast-pitch coach.

The now-17-year-old was not asked about the events that amounted to a third-degree rape charge; she is scheduled to continue testifying this morning.

Phelps, 52, is charged with rape as well as second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor in connection with encounters last spring and summer with the then-16-year-old student.

A jury of six women and six men are hearing the case in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis.

Jurors have already heard from a youth pastor’s wife and friends in whom the girl confided, as well as her parents, another coach and some who described inappropriate behavior on the part of Phelps.

All are witnesses for the prosecution. Phelps’ attorney has not yet called any witnesses.

The girl described the summer before her sophomore year as one in which she spent a great deal of time at the Phelps’ house. She and their daughters were friends and played on the softball team Phelps coached. She was close to his wife because they attended the same church, she said.

The teenager revealed under questioning that that autumn, her family sought help for her depression when they learned she had been cutting herself.

The following spring, when soft ball started up again and coach Phelps asked about it, she wanted to explain it to him, she testified.

He was driving her home after an outing to “scout” at a softball game in Adna, but he parked at the church in Pe Ell before dropping her off, she said.

He told her a story about an individual who’d gotten into an accident and said she was his second chance to help a teenager, the girl testified. And then he told her “lots of dirty stories” about sexual experiences in his past, she said.

Why? Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead asked.

“He said it was to reassure me he wouldn’t tell my secrets,” she said.

“He told me he was going to text me, so he could make sure I was not cutting myself,” she said.

She went to his house a few days later, because he wanted to see the cuts on her legs, she testified.

He had her go into the bedroom and asked her to pull her pants down, she said.

The cuts were on the front of her upper thighs, she said.

“I started crying because I don’t show many people,” she said.

The girl testified Phelps said come here, and he hugged her.

And then he pulled her down on top of him on the bed, she said.

Then they went into the living room, she said.

After, as they texted each other, Phelps told her she shouldn’t be dating her boyfriend, because he’s also “a cutter”, she said under questioning.

On April 1, she finally broke up with her boyfriend, which left her crying and upset, according to the girl.

“Why did you do that,” Halstead asked.

“Because he told me to,” she said. “I felt like what he had to say was best. I thought I should just listen to him.”

The girl testified she confided to Phelps she then cut herself again.

The next day, Phelps drove her to his house and the first thing he said was, you know I’m going to have to see those cuts, she testified.

She said no, just hold on as she didn’t want to go in the bedroom again, because that scared her before, she said.

But they did and the same thing happened again, according to the girl. But this time, he also kissed her, many times, she said. And pressed his body against her, she said.

She said she was nervous and scared and didn’t want to be there anymore.

“Why didn’t you leave?” Halstead asked.

“He was important in my life,” she said. “I didn’t want him to think less of me.

The girl was asked about another day during the first week in April in which she spent the night at the Phelps, and she and one of his daughters slept on the couch.

“The next morning I wake up and he is kissing me on the lips,” she testified.

His daughter woke up, and “he points to his forehead, like, just on the forehead,” she said.

She didn’t want to tell anyone, because it meant both of them would be in trouble, she testified. But she did, the day after the second incident in the bedroom, she said.

She confided in Melodie Porter, the wife of the youth pastor at her church, she said.

“Why did you tell Melodie?” Halstead asked.

“I was really freaked out about it, and I didn’t know what to do about it,” she said.

Phelps, a log truck driver, resigned his assistant softball coach position at the end of April 2011.

His resignation came when the school district superintendent told him he had two choices after being investigated for violating boundary policies including texting the student, being alone with the student and “the kiss” Phelps said was on the forehead.

Third-degree rape carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. There is no allegation of physical force or violence.

Second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor is a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail.

If convicted, Phelps would be required to register as a sex offender.

He remains free on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

Breaking news: Body found in Chehalis River

Thursday, April 19th, 2012
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Daniel Kuhn during his deployment in Iraq. / Courtesy photo

Updated at 9:37 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A deputy surveying an area for Sunday’s dive team search for the missing rafter found a body this evening in the Chehalis River in between Doty and Dryad.

“It matches the description, we believe it’s him,” Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Steve Aust said.

Twenty-four-year-old Daniel Kuhn took part in Saturday’s Pe Ell River Run and hasn’t been heard from since.

The coroner’s office and Aust were just departing the area off the 200 block of Doty-Dryad Road just before 8 p.m.

The body was found submerged in about five feet of water, Aust said.

Kuhn, who lives in Olympia, is from Michigan, according to one of his friends Tony Abbot.

He was rafting with several others on Saturday, but got separated from his group and indicated he would meet them down river. When he didn’t show up by about 8 p.m. that night, they departed thinking he must have  left with other friends, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

He wasn’t reported missing until Monday afternoon, according to the sheriff’s office.

He never retrieved his truck from where he had left it parked. The sheriff’s office yesterday said they learned a raft like his had been found on a gravel bar on Sunday.

Kuhn is a member of the National Guard, with the group based at the Centralia Armory, according to Abbott. Kuhn served in Iraq in 2008 and 2009, Abbott said.

The sheriff’s office was planning a search on Sunday by the dive team.

Aust said when the deputy went out there to scope out the area this evening, he decided to get in the water and look some more. It was about 6 p.m.

The spot is near the rails to trails trail, about 450 yards upstream from the trestle, according to Aust.

Aust met with Kuhn’s mother this evening, who flew in from Michigan last night.

Kuhn’s mother – after Aust visited – said she wanted to express her gratitude to the community, especially the soldiers.

“The military was Danny’s second life,” Deborah Rudisel said. “And he really did love Washington. I tried to get him to come home a couple of times.”

Abbott said he’s trying to “put something together” for his friend on Saturday.

“Danny was a great man,” he said. “He’ll never be replaced.”

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

THEFT

• Somebody stole a John Deere utility vehicle and the garden tools stored on it from the 200 block of Tennessee Road in Winlock sometime between Monday and yesterday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The loss is estimated at $4,700.

• Police were called about 12:30 p.m. yesterday about a burglary to a garage on the 700 block of Euclid Way, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Chehalis police were called just before 11 a.m. yesterday to a residence on Northeast Cascade Avenue near Main Street about a stolen .22 caliber gun. It had gone missing about two weeks earlier, according to the report.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

SLEEPING MOM, CHILD WAKE TO FIRE IN BEDROOM

• A Napavine mother and small child escaped from a burning home today when the sound of fire burning in the bedroom wall woke up the mom. Firefighters were called about 11 a.m. to the house on the 700 block of West Washington Street, according to Lewis County Fire District 5. Most of the fire damage is in the attic, but an estimated 60 percent of the 1200-square-foot home was damaged, according to District 5. The mom at first tried putting it out, so needed to be checked out for smoke inhalation, according to Firefighter Brad Bozarth. It appeared to have started near a wall outlet where a heater was plugged in, Bozarth said. The cause is being investigated. The family of four is being assisted with a place to stay by the Red Cross, he said.

BURGLARY

• Somone broke into a Curtis-area home sometime between Monday and yesterday and stole numerous household goods as well as three sheets of sheetrock, a band saw and tools, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called about 5 p.m. to the house on the 500 block of Lost Valley Road reported an estimated $1,000 loss, according to sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust.

THEFT OF DRUGS

• Centralia police said yesterday they were investigating a case in which an individual left his prescription at Rite Aid on Harrison Avenue to be filled and when he went to get it, was told someone else had already picked it up. The incident, reported Monday, is being looked at as a theft, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VEHICLE PROWL

• Chehalis police were called just before 2 p.m. yesterday about a vehicle prowl in the parking lot at the Twin City Towne Center on Northwest Louisiana Avenue.

BAD REQUEST

• Centralia police arrested a 53-year-old man for allegedly asking if he could photograph a 14-year-old boy’s genital area. Larry J. Fraley, of Centralia, was arrested late Monday night after a witness to the incident that reportedly occurred over the weekend called police, Officer John Panco said. Fraley was booked onto the Lewis County Jail for communication with a minor for immoral purposes, according to the Centralia Police Department.

Raft found on Chehalis River, but not rafter

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A raft found on a gravel bar in the Chehalis River at Dryad looks like the one used Saturday by a rafter who hasn’t been heard from since then, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

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Daniel Kuhn

Daniel Kuhn, 24, of Olympia, was among the many participating in the annual Pe Ell River run. He was last seen on the river about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“What with when he was last seen, we’re finding it grim,” his friend Tony Abbott said today. “We’re hoping he’s still there, but … yeah.”

The sheriff’s office took a missing person report on Monday from friends of Kuhn’s. He never retrieved his truck which he had left parked at the gas station on state Route 6 at Highway 603.

Kuhn is a member of the National Guard, with the group based at the Centralia Armory, according to Abbott.

“Him and I used to live together in Longview,” Abbott said. “Then he lived with us off and on while I lived in Chehalis.”

His Olympia roommate is another National Guard member who hasn’t seen him either, Abbott said.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust  said Kuhn was last seen near the Elk Creek Road Bridge and fell behind his group of friends. He said he’d meet them downriver near the Chandler Road bridge, according to Aust.

When he didn’t show up by 8 p.m., the group departed, thinking he might have left with other friends, Aust said.

Searchers were on the water yesterday with kayaks, but no formal searches are underway today, according to Aust.

The sheriff’s office learned yesterday afternoon  a local man found the raft on Sunday near the Chandler Road Bridge.

“People with him said that looks like his,” Aust said.

The sheriff’s office has asked land owners in the area to be on the lookout, Aust said.

Kuhn was in a tiny raft, had been drinking and had no life jacket, Aust said.

“With him being gone four days now …” he said.

It’s possible divers may go looking under log jams on Sunday, but that would be a recovery mission, according to Aust.

Abbott, who lives in Grand Mound and works in Curtis said Kuhn came here from Michigan four or five years ago. They both were in the National Guard, so they had that in common, he said.

Kuhn served in Iraq in 2008 and 2009, Abbott said.

Trial opens for former Pe Ell coach accused of sex crimes with teen

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – After repeated delays, the case of the Pe Ell softball coach accused of sex crimes involving a teenage team member is in court for a trial.

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Todd D. Phelps

Todd D. Phelps, 52, is charged with third-degree rape as well as second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor in connection with encounters last spring and summer with a 16-year-old girl.

They are both residents of the small West Lewis County town.

The prosecution told a story to jurors yesterday of a man who gradually seduced a girl already troubled with low self esteem and depression.

Phelps’ defense attorney spoke of a coach who became close to her because he was worried because she was cutting on herself and might even commit suicide.

“At no time did Todd commit or even think his relationship was inappropriate,” Defense attorney Don Blair told the jury.

It took most of yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court to whittle down almost 70 potential jurors to a panel of 12 with two alternates.

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Debra Eurich spoke for 40 minutes, telling jurors what they would hear in the following three days.

The incident of sexual misconduct occurred on or about April 2 of last year, while Phelps was employed by the high school as coach, Eurich said.

The alleged rape happened on July 27, she said, after Phelps had been forced to quit his job.

Eurich said Phelps talked her into breaking up with her boyfriend and then drove a wedge between her and her family, in attempts to isolate her.

“When you hear all the evidence, watch the witnesses, there’s not going to be any other verdict than guilty,” Eurich said.

Blair took only about 10 minutes in the Chehalis courtroom for opening statements.

He pointed out jurors would not see the emails or texts or any “hard” evidence.

His client was at work at Weyerhaeuser at the time the July incident supposedly occurred, Blair said. Until the girl learned that and changed her story, he said.

“What I’m trying to say is this; I don’t know why she is saying these things about Todd,” he said. “It could be because Todd revealed a bunch of her secrets to her parents, trying to get help for her.”

The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. today.
•••

For background, read “Former Pe Ell coach faces charge of third-degree rape of teenage student” from Tuesday November 29,  2011, here

Breaking news: Man missing after Pe Ell River Run

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Searchers were on the water today with kayaks looking for a 24-year-old Olympia man who hasn’t been seen since Saturday afternoon during the Pe Ell River run.

Daniel Kuhn was rafting with several other people on the Chehalis River and was last seen near the Elk Creek Road Bridge around 4:30 p.m., according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Aust said Kuhn fell behind the group and indicated he would meet them downriver near the Chandler Road Bridge, but never show up.

The group departed after 8 p.m. thinking he may have left with other friends, according to Aust. They did not realize he was missing until yesterday afternoon when they made the report, Aust said.

The river run is an annual event held on the second Saturday each April in which participants navigate the river from Pe Ell to Doty using various floatation devices.

Members of the Chehalis Fire Department’s swift water rescue team used kayaks to search a three-mile stretch of the river this afternoon looking for any sign of the missing man, according to Aust. They found nothing, he said.

Kuhn had been using a small rubber raft.

He never retrieved his truck which he had left parked at the gas station on state Route 6 at Highway 603, Aust said.

Sheriff’s deputies are following other potential leads to determine if Kuhn may have left the area, he said.

Ronda Reynolds’ husband, son to speak about 1998 Toledo death on national television

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Updated 7:56 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The first journalist to conduct a one on one interview with Toledo Elementary School Principal Ron Reynolds about the controversial 1998 death of his wife in Toledo says he was left thinking it was a mistake Reynolds chose to remain mum during last October’s coroner’s inquest.

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Ron Reynolds

Reynolds and his son Jonathan answered every question and told a very convincing story about what they say was the suicide of former trooper Ronda Reynolds, Peter Van Sant said yesterday.

“They look you in the eye, they didn’t shy away from anything,” Van Sant said. “They gave detailed answers.”

Van Sant spoke yesterday from his office in New York, in advance of this weekend’s airing of 48 Hours Mystery, featuring the Lewis County case that is now ruled a homicide.

Ronda Reynolds, 33, died with a bullet in her head in the home she shared with husband of less than a year, Ron Reynolds and his sons. She was found dead on the floor of a small walk-in closet, covered up by a turned-on electric blanket the morning of Dec. 16, 1998.

Her death was labeled by then-Coroner Terry Wilson and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office as a suicide, but her unconvinced mother Barbara Thompson battled for more than a decade for a more thorough investigation of what she believed was more likely murder.

A crew from the CBS true crime series 48 Hours Mystery joined local and regional reporters last autumn in Chehalis when the new coroner held an inquest.

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Ronda Reynolds

The five-member inquest jury was unanimous in its conclusions of homicide and named Ron and Jonathan Reynolds as responsible.

Van Sant arrived in town for the end of the inquest and the 24 hours before the two men were brought into a Chehalis courtroom.

In his 10 years with the show, he has never gone through such drama as that period, he said.

Their one-hour documentary on the case will run on Saturday at 10 p.m.

Van Sant, who spent about half his career doing CBS evening news, said he spoke with the main players in the case, keeping an open mind with all sides.

“Everyone knew going in I was going to hear their story, and challenge their story,” he said.

He met with Ron and Jonathan Reynolds at a restaurant in Olympia for their major interview, he said. Their attorney Rick Cordes was there, as were some of the family, he said.

“Jon and Ron spoke for themselves,” Van Sant said.

He called it a fascinating conversation.

“I was surprised they chose to stay away from the inquest,” he said. “The fact is, I thought that was a mistake.”

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Barb Thompson

Ron Reynolds, on the advice of attorneys, avoided testifying not only at the inquest, but at the 2009 judicial review in Chehalis. He’s spoken publicly only once before, when he answered numerous questions at a press conference in November.

Van Sant also traveled to Spokane to interview Barb Thompson, an individual he called a “wonderful salt of the earth woman.”

“We have been remarkably impressed with how dedicated to her family, dedicated to Ronda she is,” he said.

He called her quest to get the death certificate changed a testament to her determination and her heart.

“I thought it was interesting at the end of the day, Barb Thompson was not upset that these men were not prosecuted,” he said.

And although she doesn’t believe it, she did leave the door open to the possibility it was a suicide, he said.

His producer reached out to former coroner Wilson, but they ended up not meeting with him, he said.

Van Sant interviewed former sheriff’s detective Sgt. Glade Austin and former sheriff’s deputy Jerry Berry, two men who worked the investigation originally.

“Both make eloquent, convincing arguments for their side of the case,” he said. “There’s no one in this story we found to be unprofessional or a simpleton or anything like that,”

For those who have watched the case closely over the years, there won’t be really any surprises, he said. No definitive “gotcha” moment. No “smoking gun.”

They put it together in the way 48 Hours does so well, he said. The story unfolds and viewers won’t know the outcome until the end of the hour, according to Van Sant.

“It’s a classic mystery, with twists and turns, unexpected details and compelling characters,” he said.

Van Sant, who grew up in Seattle and Bellevue, and graduated from the Edward R. Murrow broadcast journalism program at Washington State University in 1975, said during much of the inquest he was elsewhere working on other stories.

But his field producer Susan Mallie would call him, he said.

“Her head was spinning throughout,” he said. First one way, and then the other, he said.

It’s the kind of story where you go back and forth in your feeling of what really happened, he said.

When it came time for a screening, with a corporate vice president, the attorney, interns and others, the room was pretty well divided between suicide and homicide, he said.

“That’s what makes this story so intriguing,” he said.

A total of 10 individuals worked on the piece in Chehalis, Seattle and Spokane, he said. They reviewed documents and did extensive background research.

Among their interviewees is Ann Rule, author from Seattle who published a book on the case. Also, firearms expert Marty Hayes gave them demonstrations in Onalaska, he said.

Most 48 Hours stories have a conclusive ending; this one does not, he said. Those watching will be left to make up their own minds, he said.

“I think the people of Lewis County will find it fascinating,” he said. “I’m sure around dinner tables people have debated this for years, and I’m sure after, that debate will go on.”
•••

Van Sant will be personally moderating a conversation on 48 Hours Mystery’s Facebook site during the show.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, April 16th, 2012

ASSAULTS

• Several individuals held a 22-year-old man down in a Centralia street until police arrived following an alleged assault in which he reportedly swung a wallet chain at a neighbor who tried to put a stop to an argument between the man and his girlfriend. Officers called just after 2 p.m. yesterday to the 1000 block of South Tower Avenue were told Jacob Holmgren’s chain hit the 36-year-old neighbor in the back, according to the Centralia Police Department. The injury was minor, according to police. Holmgren was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree assault, according to police.

• A 34-year-old Centralia man was arrested for second-degree assault after allegedly choking his girlfriend during a fight on Saturday night in Centralia, according to police. Jose L. Navarro Jr. was booked into the Lewis County Jail following the incident at the 1400 block of Johnson Road, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police are looking for a 29-year-old Centralia man after they learned his girlfriend was kicked in the head numerous times until she blacked out. Officers called Friday night about the assault at the 1400 block of Johnson Road were told he was upset because she didn’t bail him out of jail, according to the Centralia Police Department. She was taken to the hospital to be evaluated, Officer John Panco said.

• A 25-year-old woman was arrested for second-degree assault for allegedly using a pair of scissors to stab her boyfriend in the thigh in Packwood on Saturday. The victim told a deputy he thought she was intoxicated and was “out of control” during a dispute, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Amy L. Birka was arrested later in Glenoma and then booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. The prosecutor’s office declined to charge her with a felony, and is evaluating the case for a misdemeanor charge.

BURGLARY

• A resident of the 1300 block of West Main Street in Centralia returned home from work just before 7 a.m. yesterday to discover a burglary but then found police had already recovered the stolen property. Earlier, an officer had come upon a pair of teenage boys on South Tower Avenue carrying duffel bags with a bunch of stuff inside and found it unusual, according to, according to the Centralia Police Department. They said the binoculars, medication, jewelry box and other items belonged to a relative, but the officer took the bags and suggested they have the relative call the police department to claim the goods, Officer John Panco said. Someone had apparently gotten into the home through an unlocked door, according to police. No arrests had been made as of yesterday, police reported.

• Centralia police took a report of a burglary on Saturday evening from a home on the 900 block of Marion Street. “Various items” were taken, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police were called about 12:45 p.m. on Saturday to a burglary discovered at the 1200 block of Logan Street in Centralia. Among the missing items were jewelry, DVD movies and home electronics, according to police.

• A portable safe containing vehicle titles was stolen in a burglary on the 500 block of Burchett Road in Onalaska sometime between March 30 and last Wednesday, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning. It was reported on Friday night.

VEHICLE THEFT

• A $25,000 service truck discovered missing Friday from Miles and Sons on the 100 block of Labree Road was found on Saturday near Longview stripped and set on fire. Almost $9,000 worth of tools also missing were not recovered, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• The owner of a stolen pickup truck with a flatbed trailer carrying another vehicle called police on Saturday when she found them stuck and abandoned off Blair Road north of Centralia. The woman, who was at home on the 1000 block of F Street in Centralia, didn’t even know they were missing until someone came knocking on her door, according to the Centralia Police Department. A police department spokesperson said he didn’t know who the person was at the door was or how they knew where her vehicles were.

WALLET THEFT

• A 33-year-old man from Elma was arrested for theft and possession of stolen property on Saturday in connection with a reported visit earlier in the week to a home in an RV park on the 3300 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. An individual had invited Jeremy L. Keith in to talk about purchasing another trailer and Keith reportedly used the resident’s cell phone before leaving with it, a wallet and some keys, according to Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown. The victim found his debit card had been used at least five times at gas stations in the Centralia area, Brown said.

CAR PROWLS

• Police were called about 1:15 a.m. today after two individuals were seen near the 100 block of North Diamond Street in Centralia trying to get into several cars on the block. They were seen leaving in a red “import car” with an “off-color” left front fender, according to the Centralia Police Department. No arrests were made.

• Somebody threw a brick through the window of a vehicle parked on the 500 block of North Rock Street and stole a Carhart jacket from inside, according to a report made to Centralia police on Saturday morning.

DRUGS

• A drug sniffing dog from Winlock discovered suspected heroin in a vehicle following a attempted traffic stop late Friday afternoon on the 700 block of West Main Street in Centralia. The 24-year-old driver ran away from the vehicle and was not found, according to Centralia police.

WRECK

• A 52-year-old woman was hospitalized after her motorcycle wrecked just before 5 p.m. yesterday on Southwest Cascade Avenue at First Street. It appeared she hit a curb and suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

FIRE

• Lewis County Fire District 15 was called yesterday afternoon to a fire at one of their own firefighters homes. Assistant Chief Kevin Anderson said fellow firefighter Patrick Jacobson got a phone call from his fiancee who said there was fire in the furnace, told her to hang up and call 911. Jacobson called his step-father, Fire Chief Russ Larson, who arrived at the two-story house on the 500 block of Rhodes Road and used a fire extinguisher to put it out, Anderson said. It burned a little bit of a wall, Anderson said.

SELF-EXTRICATION

• Winlock firefighters were called on Saturday afternoon by a woman in a mobile home who said her washing machine walked across the hallway and blocked her in a bathroom. She called back and had gotten herself out, according to Lewis County Fire District 15.

News brief: Accidental shooting in Toledo

Monday, April 16th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Toledo man who said he had been smoking meth and target shooting with a friend called 911 and drove to the Toledo Police Department after he accidentally shot himself in the hand overnight.

It happened about 3 a.m. on a logging road at the end of the Toledo- Salmon Creek Road, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

The 31-year-old victim said he and his friend had just gotten back into their car when he slapped the back of his newly purchased .25 caliber pistol while it was pointed at his palm, Chief Civil Deputy Stacy Brown said.

The injury was not life threatening, Brown said.

The man, whose name was not released, was taken to the hospital, according to Lewis County Fire District 2.

News brief: Tenino man dies after motorcycle wreck

Monday, April 16th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 68-year-old man was killed when his motorcycle struck a mailbox north of Tenino late Saturday afternoon.

Lawrence K. Copelan Jr., of Tenino, was traveling southbound on Old Highway 99 near Angus Road when his motorcycle left the road to the right and crashed, according to authorities.

The cause is under investigation, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Troopers called at 5:35 p.m. reported Copelan died at the scene.

His 2010 Harley Davidson “Fat Boy” was impounded. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

News brief: Man knocked unconscious during home invasion robbery

Monday, April 16th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A Centralia man called police after he was assaulted and robbed by a stranger who came knocking at his door over the weekend.

Officers called to the 1200 block of Harrison Avenue about 8 a.m. on Saturday were told by the victim he opened the door to his motor home, was hit in the head and knocked unconscious.

“That’s the last thing he remembers,” Officer John Panco said.

It had happened earlier on Friday night in the RV park where he lives and he called 911 after he came to, according to police.

A bottle of prescription medication which had been sitting on his table was gone, Panco said. The police report did not note what kind of medicine it was, according to Panco.

The 53-year-old victim was taken to the hospital to be treated for a minor cut on his head, according to police.

He said he didn’t see anyone, Panco said.

“He couldn’t give us any idea who would do this, why they would do it, or anything,” Panco said.

The investigation is ongoing.

News brief: Earthquake drill coming

Friday, April 13th, 2012

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ross McDowell is once again reminding the public to store water, food, medicine and flashlights with batteries in case the “big one” hits.

It’s disaster preparedness month and Lewis County is part of a region vulnerable to earthquakes, according to McDowell.

His message is accompanied by a call for the folks to take part in a statewide “Drop, cover and hold” earthquake drill at 9:45 a.m. on April 25.

In the meantime, McDowell, the deputy director of Lewis County Emergency Management offers a short list of items people can put in their disaster emergency kits, with the expectation of having to be self-sufficient for at least three days following a disaster.

• A gallon of water per person, per day (a three-day supply for evacuation and a two-week supply at home)
• Nonperishable, easy-to-prepare food;
•  A flashlight;
• A week’s worth of medications and medical items;
• Hand-crank or battery-powered radio and extra batteries;
• Extra cell phone chargers;
• Emergency contact information;
• Important documents;
• And some cash.

Small earthquakes occur in Western Washington often. See how often and where by viewing a map and information using the link “Latest earthquakes” on the right hand sidebar of Lewis County Sirens.com