By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Convicted triple murderer John Allen Booth Jr. was escorted by three jail guards when he returned to a Lewis County courtroom today, casting grins to a small sprinkling of acquaintances who were seated in the otherwise mostly empty gallery.
The former Onalaskan was sentenced a little more than a year ago to life without the possibility of release for the August 2010 slayings of two men and a teenage boy, as well as shooting a woman in the face. Prosecutors said it came about because Booth and his former cell mate were “taxing” 52-year-old David West Sr. on behalf of Lewis County drug dealer Robbie Russell.
Booth, 33, filed a post-trial motion from prison asking a judge to vacate his judgement and sentence.
He appeared in Lewis County Superior Court today to set a date for a hearing. His lawyer said it could last for two days.
“Definitely I’m comfortable setting this even in September,” defense attorney Erik Kupka told the judge. “First of all, I don’t know exactly yet what I’m getting into.”
Kupka and an office partner of his, both based in Aberdeen, were appointed by the court just last week to represent Booth in his challenge.
The attorney said he met with his new client for the previous hour inside the jail, and indicated there was a lot of material to digest.
Judge Richard Brosey scheduled the hearings for the week of Sept. 2.
“That works for me, I guess, I’m kind locked up,” Booth offered to the judge.
Booth continued on addressing the judge directly, asking what was going to be done about undisclosed DNA evidence and other issues.
Brosey told Booth to speak to his attorney, not to him.
Booth is incarcerated at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. The judge offered to hold him in the local jail for a week, so his lawyers could have easier access to meet with him.
According to testimony and evidence in the eight-day trial, Booth was visiting West Sr. at West’s Salkum-Onalaska area home when West brought out a shotgun to get him to leave and Booth shot him with a 9 mm handgun. Prosecutors said the shootings that followed were executions to eliminate witnesses.
Losing their lives that day, along with West Sr., were 16-year-old David “D.J.” West Jr. and 50-year-old Tony Williams of Randle. West Sr.’s girlfriend, Denise Salts, survived.
Booth denied even being present, but a jury took only two hours to convict him of murder, attempted murder, attempted extortion and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
He was sentenced under the state’s so-called three strikes law.
For background, read “Salkum triple murder: Victims cry, defendant lashes out at sentence hearing” from Friday December 16, 2011, here