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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for August 2009

Crime Stoppers mug shot matchup

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to the capture of these four people. Can you match the mug shot with the allegation? Click the link below for the answers.

Alleged crimes: second-degree theft, nine counts of forgery, first-degree possession of stolen property and second-degree burglary, first-degree malicious mischief.

Local politician accused of domestic violence

A former Liberty Lake city councilman was arrested Saturday after his estranged wife told police he’d assaulted her while still in office.

Brian A. Sayrs, 41, is charged with second-degree assault for an alleged incident in March at a home he shared with his wife in Liberty Lake.

He appeared in court today.

Read my story here.

SpoCannabis founder pleads innocent

The legal battles brewing in the city over medical marijuana continued today as Darren McCrea pleaded innocent to seven drug-related felonies.

Police raided McCrea’s home last year after months of investigation triggered by a tip that McCrea, the founder of the medical marijuana support group SpoCannabis, was “selling marijuana to anyone with a medical permit,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Read my story here.

Pinehurst man charged with child porn

A North Idaho man man was arrested today on suspicion of possessing child pornography.

Barry Buchmann, 57, is in Shoshone County Jail after a raid at his apartment at 610 Lewiston Ave. in Pinehurst, according to the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office and Pinehurst Police Department seized DVDs, CD and a computer from the apartment that will be sent to a state lab for testing, according to a new release.

Buchmann faces 10 counts of possession of child pornography. He’s due in court Tuesday.

Courthouse watch: 8.31.09

A woman who stole OxyContin from a pharmacy where she worked - and that closed after being inundated with prescription drug crime - will be on probation for the next year.

Lisa A. Roth pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance in an investigation that began while she was employed at the Altamont Pharmacy on South Perry Street.  

The pharmacy closed earlier this year after nearly 100 years in business.

The owner, Art Tyrrell, said he felt particularly burned by Roth, who said “snookered” him out of prescription pills for months. (Read a story on that here.) Roth was charged in October and fired shortly after.

The plea deal approved by Judge Maryann Moreno today credits Roth for one day served in jail and puts her on probation for 12 months. A restitution hearing is set for next month. 

She could be required to pay between $10,000 and $40,000.

Courthouse watch: 8.28.09

At least eight guards filled the room where inmates go for their first Superior Court appearances today.

They were there with murder defendant Cole K. Strandberg, and they’ll likely be back early next week: Strandberg’s probable cause papers weren’t complete, so his appearance was delayed.

Strandberg faces a new charge of custodial assault, according to the court docket. (He’s shown left in a December 2007 picture provided by his mother, but he’s lost a lot of weight in jail.)

Strandberg, who’s schizophrenic, has been escorted to court by deputies in riot gear after he attacked deputies last fall, triggering a lock down at the jail. One deputy fractured his neck.

Prior to that, Strandberg head-butted a visiting psychologist. Assistant Public Defender Al Rossi was removed as Strandberg’s lawyer because Strandberg had been calling from the jail and threatening to kill and sexually assault him.

Chris Bugbee is representing him. At a hearing in April, Strandberg told Judge Tari Etizen he wanted “to plead guilty to the death penalty.”

There’s a stay hearing in his case set for Sept. 26. Strandberg is charged with the brutal slaying of 22-year-old Jennifer M. Bergeron on Jan. 7, 2008.

Bergeron is the niece of a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy and struggled with drug addiction; Strandberg is the son of Curlew cattle farmers and struggled with mental illness most of his life.

Read past coverage here and here.

Spotlight: Eddie Ray Hall’s mullet

Eddie Ray Hall’s rise to fame can be traced to this article, published in 1998.

Authorities used him as an example of how much criminals cost society, estimating Hall cost about $1 million. Hall gave an extensive interview to the newspaper, and the power mullet showcased in his portrait (right) lives on in our archives.

Eleven years later, Hall is something of a legend in police and media circles. Somewhere, rumor has it, is a video montage of his mug shots set to this song by columnist Doug Clark.

In the 11 years since The Spokesman-Review detailed his criminal history, Hall (left, in 2008) has made the news dozens more times, mostly for theft, meth and burglary.

If police issued a warrant for his arrest, it typically made the newspaper.

We haven’t done a comprehensive look at Hall’s criminal history in a few years, but previous stories have set his felony convictions at “more than 20.”

Now Hall is up against federal charges.

Read Sara Leaming’s story here.

Do you recognize this man?

The company that makes OxyContin is offering a $1,000 reward for information that solves a Spokane pharmacy robbery Sunday.

A man in his 20s with dark stubble and possibly a black wig walked into Shopko, 4515 S. Regal Street, at 9:42 p.m. and handed the pharmacist a note demanding OxyContin.

He left with the note and an undisclosed amount of the drug, police said. Surveillance photos show the robber wore sunglasses, a black t-shirt, blue jeans, white sneakers and a dark baseball hat with a white logo.

No weapon was displayed, according to police. Witnesses described the robber as a white man in his 20s, about 6-foot-3. Purdue Pharma is offering the reward through Crime Stoppers. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS, or submit tips online at

Tipsters do not have to leave a name but should provide a code name or number.

Based in Stamford, Conn., Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin, a powerful pain killer, to the prescription drug market in 1996 and has come under scrutiny for lying about its addictiveness.

In 2003, the company created a program, RxPatrol, to help police and pharmacies track prescription drug robberies.

Courthouse watch: 8.27.09

A teen charged in the gruesome murder of his pregnant girlfriend appeared in court again today on a separate second-degree arson charge.

Robbie W. Bishop, 19, has already pleaded not guilty to the charge and had been released from Spokane County Jail, but his arrest Saturday for second-degree murder violated his release conditions, prosecutor Jeff Compton said.

It also showed the state he wasn’t living at the address he told the court he would be. Compton asked for $250,000 bond. Public defender Victoria Johnston didn’t address bond, and Judge Sam Cozza imposed $250,000.

That’s in addition to a $1 million bond imposed Monday at Bishop’s first appearance on the second-degree murder charge for the death of Robin M. Anderson, 33.

The second-degree arson charge stems from an incident June 21 in which firefighters say Bishop started a fire at Adams Elementary School in Spokane Valley.

Bishop was arrested in December after Anderson told police he’d hit her. He was charged with second-degree burglary, second-degree theft and second-degree malicious mischief, but those charges were dropped because there was no room in mental health services.

Read my story on that here.

Then and now: Scott Shupe

Before Scott Shupe made news for getting busted in Oregon with four pounds of marijuana, he was spotlighted for an unusual collection: more than 300,000 marbles.

The 54-year-old Spokane man faces drug charges after he was arrested Friday with a stash he said was meant for medical marijuana patients at the dispensary he co-owns in Spokane, Change.

But Shupe (pictured above in 2005) doesn’t have a medical marijuana card in Oregon.

Even if he did, police say the four pounds he was caught with exceeds the pound and a half limit in place in Oregon and Washington. (Read my story here.)

Shupe’s legal problems are a sharp change from his last news-making feat. Read a June 2005 story on his marble collection here.

911 call released in fatal fall at CdA Resort

A night of drinking and arguing at the Coeur d’Alene Resort culminated in a teary call to 911 moments after a woman fell 12 stories to her death.

The caller was the woman’s boyfriend, the only witness to an incident he said was a suicide but police are still investigating.

Read my story on Ian E. James’ conversation with a 911 dispatcher here.

Listen to the conversation here.

Courthouse watch: 8.26.09

A convicted sex offender who twice attacked victims in women’s bathrooms should remain in a secure facility for the rest of his life, a jury ruled today.

The decision classifies Shawn Dale Botner, 36, as a violently sexual predator who has a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes him likely to commit another sex crime.

Read my story here.

Courthouse watch: 8.25.09

Shawn Dale Botner’s adult life has been one of continual clashes with law enforcement.

The convicted sex offender, who twice attacked victims in women’s bathrooms, now awaits a jury’s decision on whether he ever will be a free man.

The jury went home Tuesday without deciding if Botner, 36, should be committed as a sexually violent predator and remain in a secure facility for life.

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Read his coverage of opening statements here.

Reward offered in road rage assault

The mystery of the road rage van continues.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives have been trying to track down the driver of a van who faces a vehicular assault charge for allegedly dragging a motorcyclist during a fight on North Division Street on Aug. 14.

Detectives found the van’s previous owner, a Spokane man, who said he sold the vehicle to a man he thought lived in Cheney, said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The van’s current license plate is Washington plate 102YVY, but it’s registered to a Post Falls church detectives don’t believe exists, Butch Stephen’s Organizational Church, Reagan said.

Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that solves the crime. “It would appear on it’s face that the van has been fraudulently registered, that’s why we’re having trouble tracking it down,” Reagan said. “We need help.”

The incident began when the van cut off a motorcycle while southbound on Newport Highway, according to the Sheriff’s Office

The motorcyclist and his passenger eventually parked when traffic was backed up on North Division and smashed out a side window on the van with his helmet before the van backed over the driver, dragging him about 20 feet.

The van is described as a 1986 full-size black and silver Chevrolet “beater” with a left rear side sanded down and primered. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (509) 327-5111 or submit tips online at

Thompson supporters rally on Facebook

 The evolution of Facebook over the years, particularly the last six months or so, has been astonishing.

When I learned of the social networking web site in 2004, it was reserved for students at specific universities.

An email address ending an .edu was required, and group pages were reserved for encouraging your least favorite professor to retire or admiring a friend’s mother.

Now, everyone and their mother is on Facebook, and groups have become gathering places for supporters of civic movements, political causes, and even judicial defense.

Case in point, Thomas Clouse’s story today on a Facebook page for supporters of Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson, who faces federal charges for his role in an encounter with Otto Zehm. Read Clouse’s story here.

Courthouse watch: 8.24.09

The teenager charged with stabbing his pregnant girlfriend to death was released from jail in the spring because there was no room in mental health services, court documents show.

Robbie W. Bishop, 19, appeared in court via video today, charged with second-degree murder for the brutal slaying of Robin M. Anderson, 33. He was held on $1 million bond.

Bishop is pictured above with public defender, Anna Nordtvedt.

Read the rest of my story here.


Charge upgraded in fatal boat crash

A man accused of causing a fatal boating accident on the Spokane River in Coeur d’Alene Saturday was charged Monday with manslaughter.

John F. Klinefelter, 45, of Coeur d’Alene, remains in Kootenai County Jail on $50,000 bond after a boat he was operating struck a stationary boat, killing Jack A. Miller, 30, of Stites, Idaho.

Klinefelter’s blood-alcohol level was .12, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

The legal limit for driving or operating a boat is .08. Miller and a friend were fishing when Klinefelter’s 1964 Larson motorboat struck their Blue Water and Miller, sending Miller into the water, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Miller’s death is the fourth fatal boating accident in Kootenai County this season. Klinefelter appeared today in Kootenai County District Court.

He originally faced a felony charge of operating a boat under the influence of alcohol.

Murder suspect, rape suspect due in court today

A teenager accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend will appear in court today on one count of second-degree murder.

Robbie W. Bishop, 19, has been in Spokane County Jail since Saturday night after police arrested him a couple blocks from the home he was staying at with his 33-year-old girlfriend, Robin Anderson.

Police responded to that home, located in the 900 block of North Bowman, after a relative called 911 and Bishop had called “and claimed to have killed his girlfriend,” according to a news release prepared by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Bishop is scheduled to appear in Judge Sam Cozza’s courtroom via video at 1:30 p.m.

Also scheduled to appear is Derrick Billy, 25.

Billy faces charges of first-degree rape and first-degree burglary after a police dog tracked him in early Saturday.

A woman in the 1400 block of East Rowan called police about a burglary about 12:17 a.m. When officers arrived, she said the burglar had raped her, police said.

Billy was arrested in an alley near North Avenue and Perry Street about 12:30 a.m.

Billy was sentenced to two years probation and credited for 10 days spent in jail after being convicted of violating a protection order in November, according to newspaper archives.

As for Bishop, newspaper archrives show he was arrested in June on suspicion of arson in a fire that month that caused an estimated $2,500 damage to Adams Elementary School, 14707 E. Eighth Ave. Spokane Valley Fire Department spokesman Bill Clifford said Bishop was identified through witness reports and surveillance videos.

Man who posed as DEA agent sentenced

He didn't mean any trouble when he told the guys he was with the Drug Enforcement Administration - he just wanted to mess with them.

But Steven E. Escallier's attempt to “have some fun,” as his lawyer put it, backfired when the men called police. He's been in Spokane County Jail since his arrest in March on charges of first-degree robbery and impersonating an officer, but Escallier, 40, will enter the state Department of Corrections' drug offender sentencing alternative program and avoid prison time if he stays out of trouble.

He took a plea deal and was sentenced today in Spokane County Superior Court. He pleaded guilty to second-degree theft, second-degree malicious mischief and second-degree criminal impersonation for a stunt that could have been well planned out but was actually just an impulsive move he made when he was drunk, he said today.

Escallier told police he thought the victims were drug dealers when he ordered one to “hand over his dope” after seeing the two arrive in a parking lot near Crestline and Empire in separate cars March 5.

The men were actually trying to complete a cell phone sale advertised on Craigslist and called police.

“I was just going to mess with them and it didn't turn out that way,” Escallier said. He recounted his addiction to drugs and vowed to change. “I bet you've said all these things in court before,” said Judge Maryann Moreno. “I hear it all the time…You've been doing this since 1985, at least. This has got to be old…You're going to figure it out or you're probably going to die.”

That last line is a reference to Escallier's drug use and the statistics regarding life expectancy of addicts.

Officials promise ‘boldness’ against Aryans

Criminal citations and civil lawsuits are options. But the recent surge in racist activity is best dealt with by a unified community dedicated to rejecting discrimination and hate, leaders from across the Inland Northwest said Friday.

“We have been vested with the authority and the power to take action and I assure you I will use that power and authority to take a stronger stance of boldness,” said Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. “People who are hateful are bold. But standby to standby, because we are more bold than they are.”

City leaders and law enforcement cities and towns around the region gathered with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations to respond to racist fliers that have been distributed in the region since April.

Read my story and check out photos from the event here.

Mullet’s full statement can be read by clicking on the link below. Warning, the content could be considered offensive.

Warrants give new details in Saturday’s stabbing

Police today released a sketch of a “person of interest” in the death of William O. Floyd, 22, early Saturday.

Detectives also filed search warrants seeking records for two cell phone numbers connected to the case.

Also, the man who was with Floyd was booked into Spokane County Jail on unrelated charges Tuesday.

Those details and more in my story here..

Courthouse watch 8.20.09

A 24-year-old convicted robber told a judge today how he went from living with his girlfriend and their 7-year-old daughter to putting a knife to a man’s throat to get a pharmacist to hand over a bag of OxyContin pills

“How did you get to this point?” Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno asked Michael A. Miller. “I wish I could tell you. It happened so fast,” replied Miller, who pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery with a deadly weapon. “The addiction really blindsided me. The next thing I knew, I had nothing.”

Miller’s victim in the case? Lawyer John R. Clark, husband of Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark. He spoke at Miller’s sentencing.

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Bloody knife could hold clue to March murder

A fatal stabbing in Spokane in March involved two knives - one of which is splattered with blood that could belong to the killer.

These details were revealed in a search warrant filed this week in Spokane County Superior Court that seeks DNA samples from Robert T. Waters, 27, Joseph T. Harper, 24, and Christopher R. Harper, 27. 

The men are charged with second-degree murder for the March 3 slaying of Michael “Mickey” Lyng, 19. (Read a story on the case here.)

Lyng died after stepping into a fight between Lucas Weatherford and Joseph Harper at Harper’s home at 1008 W. Spofford Ave., according to police. 

Weatherford and Lyng had a threatening phone conversation with one of the defendants after that fight, leading to a brawl in the street at 900 W. Augusta Ave., where Lyng died, according to a search warrant filed this week in Spokane County District Court.

Weatherford tried pulling Lying from the fight as he exchanged punches with the Harpers, the search warrant said. 

Another witness said he heard Chris Harper yell “get your knife” over and over again.

“Weatherford saw blood gushing from Lyng’s left side. Lyng collapsed and died,” the search warrant reads. “The three defendants ran away in the direction of their apartment.”

Detectives recovered two knives - one from underneath the Maple Street Bridge - believed to be used in the killing. One didn’t have any blood; the other had Lyng’s blood and that of an unknown man.

The three men remain in jail.

Amie C. Schott, 20, is charged with three counts for first-degree rending criminal assistance for allegedly driving them from the scene. Her trial is set for October.

Spokane has had four fatal stabbings this year. The most recent, the slaying of William “Billy” O. Floyd, 22, on Saturday, remains unsolved.


Crime Stoppers mug shot matchup

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to the capture of these four people. Can you match the mug shot with the allegation? Click the link below for the answers.

Alleged crimes: delivery of a controlled substance, harassment – threats to kill, second-degree possession of stolen property, second-degree identity theft.

Keller trial underway in Texas

The national spotlight in the legal world this week is on a Texas judge accused of blocking a death row inmate’s access to a last-minute appeal.

The trial of Sharon Keller has incensed both sides of the death penalty debate and is being covered heavily on legal junkie web sites like

Michael Brick of The New York Times offered this synopsis of the case.

Check out the fine prose he used to sum up a complex case: “The trial, expected to last most of the week, promises to unfold as a finely wrought dance around the details of an afternoon’s timeline.” Beautiful!

The death penalty is rarely used in Spokane County, though there is one case currently being prosecuted as a death penalty case.

That’s the case of Christopher H. Devlin, 56, who’s accused of killing a man who was scheduled to testify against him on an assault charge. Killing a state witness is an aggravating factor that can qualify a defendant for the death penalty.

Carl A. Hoskins, 57, is also charged with first-degree murder in the incident, but the state is not seeking the death penalty. Devlin’s trial is set for March. He’s represented by Mark Vovos. (Read a story on the case here.)

Prosecutors considered seeking the death penalty against accused double murderer Justin W. Crenshaw, 21, but opted not to, leading to several changes in his defense.

Crenshaw’s trial is set for Oct. 12 before Judge Tari Eitzen. He’s represented by Chris Bugbee.

Read past coverage here and here.

Bad day for STA

If the allegations are to believed, Spokane Transit Authority had a bad day yesterday.

Two men appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on felony charges related to two altercations involving STA buses that occurred two hours apart Tuesday evening.

Michael W. Maltos, 47, is charged with third-degree assault after a bus driver said he spit on him after the driver asked Maltos to leave. 

Maltos was arrested in the area of Indiana and cedar and said “maybe some spit came out of my mouth when I was yelling,” according to a probable cause affidavit. 

Maltos, who has 10 felony and 15 misdemeanor convictions, is being held on $3,000 bond.

Garion D. Herrold, 18, is charged with second-degree malicious mischief for an alleged incident about 5:30 p.m. near North Mayfair Road and West Hasting Road.

Herrold broke two windows on the bus after the driver refused to wait, according to a probable cause affidavit. 

Herrold was released on his own recognizance.

Man survives 3 crashes on 1 road

The only survivor of a crash on Lovell Valley Road near Plummer, Idaho has survived two other one-car crashes on that same road.

Joseph M. Matt, 24, of Worley, was thrown from a 1997 Jeep Cherokee about 1:10 p.m. on Tuesday after the car left the road and vaulted nearly 250 feet, taking off the tops of two trees.

William “Sonny” A. Davison, 22, of Desmet, was also ejected and died at the scene. Alcohol was a factor in the crash, according to Idaho State Police, and investigators haven’t determined who was driving.

Matt’s sister, Veronica J. Matt, died in a crash on Lovell Valley Road March 26, along with her mother, Juanita A. Garcia, 42, who was driving. Veronica was driving a 2003 Chevy Blazer when it veered off the road.

Joseph Matt was in the car, along with 25-year-old Dianna Matheson, of Worley, niece of tribal councilman David Matheson, tribal officials and the ISP said.

Joseph Matt and Diana Matheson were also injured on the road in a crash in October 2000, according to previously published reports. The two were passengers in a 1987 Chevy Cavalier that went off the road.

Lovell Valley Road stretches from Tekoa, Wash., to Highway 95 south of Plummer. It’s a relatively straight road, said Coeur d’Alene Tribe spokesman Marc Stewart, and the tribe has paid for paving improvements over the years. 

While the four deaths this year are alarming, they occurred on different stretches of the road. All were one-car crashes in which the driver lost control and veered off the road.

Courthouse watch: 8.19.09

A crime spree that saw a teen rob stores of thousands of dollars at gunpoint ended with a suspect crying in front of detectives after lying to protect his friends, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Daniel I. Neace, 19, appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on two counts of first degree robbery, two counts of second-degree assault, one count of attempted first-degree robbery and three counts of unlawful imprisonment. 

The charges are connected to robberies at Domino’s Pizza, 726 W. Third Ave., on July 11 and and Pizza Pipeline, 1724 W. Wellesley Ave., on July 19, and an attempted robbery at the Esmeralda Golf Course July 24.

Neace’s roommate, Michael J. Anderson, 21, appeared on the same charges. A third man, Nathan J. Molina, 21, is also charged. Neace, Molina and Anderson are also suspected of a robbery at Domino’s, 2901 N. Argonne Road, on July 15.

The alleged crime spree ended with a robbery at Check into Cash, 555 E. Francis, on July 27, according to the Spokane Police Department. Police say Neace admitted to the robberies in an interview the next day but said his accomplice was a “Russian or Arabic” kid names Resa. 

“It was at this time that Neace began to cry and sated he had lied,” according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by Detective John Miller.

Neace spoke privately with his public defender, Karie Reardon, then apologized to detectives, according to the affidavit.

Read past coverage of the case here and here.

Crime Stoppers mug shot matchup

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to the capture of these four people. Can you match the mug shot with the allegation? Click the link below for the answers.

Alleged crimes: second-degree malicious mischief and third-degree driving while license suspended, violation of a court order (a felony because of a prior conviction), second-degree theft, riot with a deadly weapon.

One still hospitalized after Sunday’s shooting

One of the men injured in a shooting in north Spokane Sunday remains hospitalized.

A bullet went through Scott R. Kober’s hand before entering John R. Scoles’ pelvis and exiting out one of his legs in what the pair said was an accidental shooting at Scoles’ home in the 5700 block of North Ash Street. 

Scoles is in stable condition at Deaconess Medical Center.

Scoles, 33, was selling Kober, 31, a Smith and Wesson for $500 when Kober took a Glock apart to show “how easy his Glock was to breakdown and clean,” according to a search warrant filed in Spokane County Superior Court by the Spokane Police Department.

You have to pull the trigger to take apart a Glock. 

Kober didn’t realize there was a round in the chamber when he did so, leading to the gunshot wounds, according to the warrant.

Scoles was prohibited from owning firearms because of an assault conviction in 1995. 

Police searched his home Sunday night as part of an investigation into third-degree assault and unlawful possession of firearms.

Documents give new details in fatal fall

The Louisiana couple involved in the fatal fall at the Coeur d’Alene Resort were arguing and drinking that night, court documents show.

Witnesses heard Lynea M. Sprung Hambrice, 36, telling Ian E. James, 38, to stop hurting her about 12:15 a.m. on July 30 - 19 minutes before James called 911 and said his girlfriend wanted to kill herself and had jumped off the balcony, according to minutes from a search warrant hearing.

Judge Scott Wayman authorized the search warrant that allowed detectives to scour room 1268 at the luxury lakeside resort.

The couple had checked in that afternoon and planed to stay four nights. James’ 20th high school reunion was that weekend in Kellogg. Police seized a laptop, a ring, a watch, a purse, a cell phone and a prescription bottle made out to Hambrice.

Minutes from the search warrant hearing show James told police the couple had argued about the lack of sex in their relationship and that they’d drank beer and wine that night. Hambrice’s blood alcohol level was .23, police said.

James told police he was inside when he heard a couple of thumps, then went outside and saw her lying on the first floor, where police declared her dead. Hambrice had been standing on the railing but James (left, in 1996) talked her down, then she went back outside, according to the minutes.

A couple staying in the room below said they heard the couple argue and heard furniture moving and the sliding door open again again before “they saw something fly past the balcony.”

That was Hambrice. One witness said James was sobbing and saying “Oh my God.”

The court minutes are in partial sentence form and end with a confusing reference to a text message found on James’ phone.

The message, left at 12:31 a.m. (three minutes before James called 911) stated “he may need his help she got drunk and got crazy,” according to court minutes.

Read past coverage here and here.

Courthouse watch: 8.18.09

A murderous road trip that saw a paranoid schizorphenic take the lives of two college students earned the man a lifetime in prison.

John Delling, 23, received two life sentences today from 4th District Judge Deborah Bail in Boise.

Delling pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of second-degree murder. One was for the shooting death of Bradley Morse in Boise; the other for the slaying of Delling’s childhood friend David Boss in Moscow.

Read past coverage here.

More trouble for accused cash store robber

Keeping with a trend exemplified by a young couple accused of robbing cash stores to get money for OxyContin, the young man accused of a recent string of robberies is also accused of selling drugs.

Daniel I. Neace, 19, is charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance (ecstasy) after a confidential informant set him up back in April, according to a probable cause affdavit.

Neace and two friends were arrested after a robbery at the Check into Cash at 555 E. Francis last month. Police think the men may be responsible for a three robberies at local pizza joints. Read about that here.

Neace is to be arraigned today on the ecstasy charges, which relate to two sales he’s accused of brokering with a police informant “attempting to work off criminal charges in hope of receiving favorable prosecutorial consideration,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

The case is similar to a string of cash store robberies that ended with the arrest of a young couple in February. 

Police say Zachary Allen was involved in the OxyContin trade when he was allegedly knocking off cash stores. 

A young man accused of driving him to one of the robberies was also charged with selling ecstasy. Read about that here.

Craigslist prostitution hits Wenatchee

In a nice underscore to my story last month that explored Craigslist prostitution stings in North Idaho, the Wenatchee World reports two Seattle-area women were arrested last week for working as prostitututes out of the Cedars Inn in East Wenatchee.

The AP’s pickup of the World story identifies the women only as a 22-year-old from Burien and a 24-year-old from Seattle and says they told officers “they came to the Wenatchee area because they could make more money here.”

Must be the vacationers.

Stabbing victim blames bowel syndrome, unhinged door

A man police think was stabbed by his girlfriend told officers he had irritable bowel syndrome and was in the bathroom with a knife when an unhinged door fell on him, causing the knife wounds, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Roxanne L. Cloud, 27, appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today via video, charged with one count of first-degree assault for an alleged attack on Michael J. Ellenwood Aug. 10.

Judge Ellen Kalama Clark found problems with the probable cause affidavit, and Cloud’s charge will likely be refiled.

Ellenwood’s mother called police and said Cloud had stabbed her son, but Ellenwood was
uncooperative with police.

The couple showed up at the Public Safety Building Aug. 14 and asked to talk to a detective about the case.

That’s when Ellenwood told detectives that he’d been preparing dinner and had taken the knife to the bathroom. Cloud was arrested that afternoon.

Police say the stabbing occurred at Ellenwood and Cloud’s apartment at 1112 N. Walnut.

Police first responded to Ellenwood’s mother’s home, the site of a fatal stabbing involving her other son last year.

Read about that here.

Courthouse watch: 8.17.09

Two men charged in a major cocaine ring were to appear in federal court today.

Maurisio Ramirez, 29, and Gilberto Acevedo-Adame, 31, have been in Spokane County Jail since Aug. 12 on three federal charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. 

Court documents allege the men conspired to distribute cocaine in Yellowstone and Carbon counties in Montana from January 2004 to September 2008. 

A third man, Domingo Baez, was charged in U.S District Court in Montana in December.

Ramirez’s and Acevedo-Adame’s bail hearing in Eastern Washington District Court was postponed to next week after the men obtained private defense lawyers. 

Senit Lutgen is representing Ramirez; Bryan Whitaker is representing Acevdo-Adame.

Baez is accused of being a major cocaine king pin who distributed drugs to even a county prosecutor. Read a story on that here.

One dead, one at large after knife fight

Police released a description of a suspected killer Monday, two days after a man was stabbed to death in a Spokane parking lot.

William “Billy” O. Floyd, 22, died after police found him unconscious and barely breathing in a parking lot at West Indiana Avenue and North Lincoln Street about 2 a.m., according to the Spokane Police Department.

Floyd’s death is Spokane’s seventh homicide this year and the fourth fatal stabbing. Read my story here.

Crime Stoppers mug shot matchup

Crime Stoppers is offering rewards for information that leads to the capture of the four pictured below.

In honor of this interactive feature from Newsweek magazine, can you match the crime with the mug shot? Click on the link below for the answers.

Alleged crimes: first-degree robbery, assault in violation of a domestic violence court order, second-degree theft, possession of a controlled substance.

Courthouse watch: 8.14.09

A Spokane man who stockpiled what federal prosecutors described as a “troubling” arsenal of illegal weapons will spend the next four years in prison.

Ronald L. Struve, 67, was also sentenced today in Seattle to two years probation and ordered to undergo mental health treatment. U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman said his arsenal posed “a huge danger to the community,” according to the Associated Press.

Struve, a legal stenographer, was arrested in Spokane in January after federal agents raided a storage locker in Bellevue, seizing 37 machine guns, 54 grenades, two grenade launchers and 7.5 pounds of C-4 plastic explosives.

The arsenal was discovered when rent wasn’t paid and the Bellevue unit’s contents were auctioned last November.

The agents also searched a stored vehicle and two rental units at 2814 N. Napa St. in Spokane leased by Struve, seizing seven machine guns, a Russian sniper rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle, and a host of machine gun parts that are illegal to own without proper federal licenses.

Agents also seized 33 other legal firearms for safekeeping from the north Spokane location, according to court documents. Prosecutors say many of the weapons had been stolen from the military.

The arsenal was discovered when rent wasn’t paid and the unit’s contents were auctioned last November. Struve was born in Los Angeles and worked as a court reporter in Eugene, Ore; King County Superior Court and as a freelance court reporter in Spokane, according to Stansell.

Struve’s lawyer, Jay Stansell, has described his client as “nothing more than a loner-type person with some unusual political ideas.”

In a sentencing memorandum, Stansell said Struve collected the weapons back in the 1970s for fear of a Cold War threat.

He bought the weapons over several years from a man he met at a gun show who claimed to be a Navy SEAL, Stansell wrote, as was “chagrined and embarrassed” to be facing prison time now.

“As time passed, and as the perceived imminent threat of communist invasion never materialized, Mr. Struve found himself encumbered by this long ago acquired arsenal,” Stransell wrote. “But he never attempted to dispose of it, because of the obvious, practical difficulties of doing so, as well as his personal inclination to never get rid of anything.”

Yawn in court gets man 3 weeks in jail

Courtroom dwellers, beware. That yawn could cost you.

Here’s the AP story of an Illinois man who discovered that first hand:

JOLIET, Ill. — An Illinois judge has freed a man who had been in jail for three weeks after letting loose a loud yawn in court.

Clifton Williams, 33, of Richton Park was found in contempt of court and jailed on July 23 after yawning in Will County Judge Daniel Rozak’s court.

He could have been jailed for six months. Williams was in court for his cousin’s sentencing on a drug charge.

A prosecutor in court at the time described the offending yawn as “loud and boisterous.”

As Williams stood before the bench in shackles on Thursday, the judge gave him a short lecture.

He told Williams he wasn’t in custody for simply yawning but for making a sound “that was offensive to the court.”

Courthouse watch: 8.13.09

A bondsman accused of forcing an old man to give him $6,000 appeared was scheduled to plead innocent today in Spokane County Superior Court. 

Ryan M. Holmes, 46, of Holmes Brothers Bail Bonds, was charged in a case his lawyer calls a “civil dispute run amok” while the prosecutor calls Holmes a threat to the administration of justice.

His arrest was an instant media circus as TV news crews followed a handcuffed Holmes through the courthouse as he was led to jail.

A bounty hunter, Brian Steenhard, is also charged.

Holmes is out on $20,000 bail; Steenhard was released on his own recognizance.

Twice the speed; triple the alcohol

The driver of a van that slammed into pickup last week, killing a Mead woman, was drunk and speeding at the time of the crash, according to a search warrant.

Lucian G. Brisan, 29, faces a vehicular homicide charge for the Aug. 7 crash that killed Janice M. Pulliam, 57. 

Pulliam was helping a friend move when Brisan’s Plymouth Voyager crossed the center line on Magnesium Road near Market Street and struck her pick up head on about 2:30 p.m., according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s office. She died the next day.

Investigators say Brisan was driving 70 to 75 mph with a blood alcohol level of .23. The legal limit for driving is .08. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 35 mph.

Brisan remains in critical condition at Deaconess Medical Center.

A search warrant filed Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court was used to obtain Brisan’s blood samples from Deaconess.

The hospital tested the sample, but police want to test the blood at the Washington State Toxicology Laboratory to ensure the results are admissible in court.

Landlord wanted on 20 theft charges

A scandal police say bilked a rental owner out of more than $15,000 ended with 20 theft charges filed against a husband and wife hired to managed two Spokane apartment complexes.

Trial for Theresa M. Walters, 33, scheduled to begin Aug. 21, but police can’t find her husband, Wesley O. Walters, 38. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to his capture.

The Walters managed the King’s Village Apartment Complex in the 12000 block of East Cataldo Avenue and King’s View Apartment Complex at 2309 E. Euclid Avenue from August 2007 until May 2008.

The owners, Leila and Marcus King, discovered that tenants had paid rent, but that money was never turned in to them, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Anyone with information about Wesley Walters’ whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS or submit the tip online at Tipsters do not have to give their name to the reward but should provide a code name or number.

The story is similar to an alleged apartment-related fraud I wrote about the other week. Check that out here.

The ‘big’ in big-time criminal history

A woman with a criminal history so extensive a prosecutor told a judge she has “more experience with misdemeanor citations than all of us combined” is back in jail on a charge she knows well: theft.

Nearly eights years after Lawanda R. Hopkins-Sparks, 57, stole a Red Cross donation jar set up for victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, she faces allegations of a low-level jewelry scam at a clothing store.

Hopkins-Sparks appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday on charges of third-degree theft and first-degree trafficking in stolen property. Crime Stoppers had offered a reward for information leading to her capture two days earlier.

She’s already been convicted of third-degree theft 13 times.

Four of those convictions came in the years between her arrest for stealing a 9-11 donation jar at a Spokane Valley Texaco station in October 2001 and her arrest yesterday for an alleged theft in May at the downtown Nordstrom.

Hopkins has at least 32 criminal convictions dating back to 1981, court documents show. In a Crime Stoppers news release, Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan called Hopkins-Sparks a fugitive who “puts the ‘big’ in big-time criminal history.” (That also may reference the fact that she’s 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, according to the news release.)

Most of her convictions are for theft and stolen property, including a first-degree theft conviction in 1988 for welfare fraud.

“Most of the gaps in her criminal history are due to her being incarcerated,” said Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens, adding that Hopkins-Sparks has also failed to appear in court 14 times and has had 20 felony warrants. “She’s a huge problem in the community and incredibly likely to reoffend.” Stevens asked for $50,000 bond.

Public Defender Victoria Johnston asked that Hopkins-Sparks be released on her own recognizance, noting she has surgery scheduled at the end of the month. Hopkins-Sparks attended her video first appearance in a wheelchair.

“She learned her lesson a long time ago about failing to appear,” Johnston said. “We’re here over $111.”

That’s the value of two pieces of jewelry Hopkins-Sparks is accused of stealing, then trying to exchange for cash, all in one store visit.

Judge Ellen Kalama Clark set bond at $25,000.

While Sparks has extensive experience with non-violent crimes, she also has experience as a victim of tragedy. In 2003, a man was sentenced to 25 years for murdering her son. Read a story on that here.

‘She sets fires to help ease the pain’

One woman. One trailer park. A string of suspicious fires.

These elements converged in a probable cause affidavit that led to the arrest of a Spokane woman Tuesday.

Carol J. Haloburdo, 53, is in Spokane County Jail on $20,000 bond, charged with second-degree reckless burning for a fire that threatened homes, business and heavy timber along Sunset Highway on the West Plains. She appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today.

Haloburdo told investigators she was in an abusive relationship and “when the cutting does not help she sets fires to help ease the pain,” according to the affidavit.

Read my story here.

‘A danger to women’

A Spokane jury got its first glimpse Wednesday of the past sex crimes and current violent sexual fantasies that persuaded state officials to try to keep Shawn Dale Botner in custody for the rest of his life.

The state wants to civilly commit Botner, 36, as a sexually violent predator, just as it did last year with South Hill rapist Kevin Coe.

“Shawn Botner is and always has been … a danger to women,” Assistant Attorney General Jana Franklin told the jury. “You will hear from Mr. Botner. He will tell you that for a number of years he has had a fantasy of violent rape against women. He has gone out at times and looked for victims.”

Read Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Courthouse watch: 8.13.09

A Spokane County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday there was no probable cause to charge a man arrested in connection with a shooting in a Spokane fast-food parking lot last week.

But Jason M. Giles will remain in Spokane County Jail on District Court charges.

His alleged accomplice, Toby L. Hunt, 31, is charged with first-degree attempted murder and drive-by shooting for sending bullets flying through a popular South Hill shopping area.

Read my story here.

Bearded woman back in court

A woman who sometimes grows a full beard as a symbol of her activism for human rights is back in the Spokane County Superior Court system after a police officer said she grabbed his left testicle.

Paula K. Reynolds-Eblacas, 42, was convicted of stalking in 2006 after a woman said she tried to end a friendship but was inundated with phone calls and others contacts by Reynolds-Eblacas.

Read Tom Clouse’s stories on that case here and here. (Reynolds-Eblacas entered an alford plea to violating a protection order and was credited for one day served in jail.)

Now Reynolds-Eblacas is facing a third-degree assault charge for an alleged attack while she was handcuffed last month.

Police were trying to transport her to a hospital for a mental evaluation when the officer “felt the pressure of Paula squeezing her fist and he thrust his hips away from her hand to break free,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

“The defendant said, ‘I was trying to grab your pant leg and your body got in the way,’” according to the affidavit.

Reynolds-Eblacas pleaded not guilty to the charge Monday.

Two stabbings; one family

Last night, police found a man with stab wounds his mother said were inflicted by his girlfriend.

Today, a 35-year-old man was sentenced for the stabbing death of his cousin last year.

In each case, police responded to the same location - the 1400 block of West Boone. The men are brothers.

The story of the Ellenwood brothers stabbings begins in May 2008, when the oldest, Adrian, was arrested for stabbing his cousin to death.  

Last night, the eve of his sentencing, police found his younger brother, Michael J. Ellenwood, at the West Boone home after the men’s mother, Peggy Ellenwood, reported a stabbing you can read about here.

Ellenwood had tried washing the blood from wounds on his head, neck and lips and told police several different stories about how his injuries occurred, according to a search warrant.

That search warrant was used to search an apartment in the 1100 block of North Walnut, where police believe the stabbing occurred. Ellenwood’s girlfriend, Roxanne Wood, 27, is considered a “person of interest” in the case, police said.

A man who answered the phone at the Ellenwood home tonight said Michael Ellenwood was in good condition. Adrian Ellenwood’s sentencing this afternoon ended with the judge accepting his plea of not guilty because of insanity.

But, as Tom Clouse explains in a story you can read here, he’ll probably be in a mental hospital for the rest of his life.

Courthouse watch: 8.11.09

 A bounty hunter accused of forcing an elderly Spokane man to give a bondsman thousands of dollars was released from jail on his own recognizance today.

Brian D. Steenhard, 38, is charged with first-degree theft and obtaining a signature by duress or deception after a 70-year-old man told police Steenhard and Ryan M. Holmes of Holmes Bails Bonds forced him to withdraw $6,000 to pay a bond debt. Police say the court had already reimbursed Holmes for that bond.

Holmes, who faces additional charges, posted a $20,000 bond last Thursday.

Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson asked for Steenhard’s bail to be set at $20,000, but Judge Ellen Kalama Clark ordered Steenhard released, noting that Steenhard had turned himself in.
Read my story on Holmes’ arrest here.

Also today, Clark ordered a level 3 sex offender arrested after he was stabbed released on his own recognizance, but only because the guy’s in the hospital and can’t be in jail.

Read my story here.

Man caught on camera with stolen check

Police say the man pictured above tried cashing a stolen check on July 16 using a identification from a wallet stolen five days earlier. Employees at Washington Trust Bank, 407 N. Sullivan Road, didn’t cash the check but found the man’s image in their security system. Anyone with information on the man’s identity is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Moore’s lawyer moves for dismissal of charges

 The prosecutor in the case against convicted killer Shellye L. Stark’s married boyfriend said after a judge denied him access to key witness material that he still has a case. (Read about that here.)

A judge will soon decide if that’s true.

Brian L. Moore’s lawyer is asking that charges against Moore, who’s accused of helping Stark with the plan to kill her husband, be dismissed because of lack of evidence.

Moore is being held in Spokane County Jail on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, accused of helping Stark plan her husband’s murder, then concocting a sordid tale of spousal abuse to try to dupe authorities into thinking the slaying was self defense.

A jury convicted Stark in March, and she’s serving 50 years in prison in Gig Harbor. Moore was arrested in California in April. (Read about it here.)

To hold Moore, prosecutors must show that there’s probable cause to believe he committed the crime.

Moore’s public defender, Jeff Compton, argues in a motion to dismiss that there’s just not enough evidence to keep Moore behind bars. His reasoning centers on a court decision July 30 regarding crucial material to the state’s case: investigative material from Ted Pulver, a private eye hired by Moore and Stark who went to police with his concerns.

“The defense is aware of no authority which allows a defendant to be held on probable cause based on information the State plans to develop,” Compton wrote. “Either the state has evidence which constitutes probable cause or it does not. The recent ruling concerning the evidence makes it clear the State does not have the evidence and may never get the evidence.”

Ouch! Read the motion here.

Included with it was a copy of Moore’s probable cause affidavit, which is probably the seediest court document I’ve ever read. Check it out here.

The state hasn’t filed its response yet.

As of now, the hearing is set for Thursday. Needless to say, stick with this blog for updates.

Medicaid fraud gets woman 2 1/2 years

A Spokane woman who defrauded the Idaho Medicaid program of more than $200,000 will spend 2 1/2 years in prison.

Candace J. Elmer, 53, operated a psychosocial rehabilitation center, Behavioral Intervention Services, which illegally billed Medicaid for services Elmer didn’t provide or wasn’t authorized to provide or that she wasn’t even providing, according to federal court documents.

The fraud began in November 2002, according to court documents. Elmer and her boyfriend, John C. Knudson, Jr. were charged in federal court in November 2007. 

Court documents shows Elmer tried to take back her guilty plea and fired a lawyer, R.D Watson, she said forced her to take the plea.

Watson denied pressuring Elmer and wrote in court documents that Elmer was upset because Knudson had received a lighter sentence. Knudson’s sentencing information is sealed in his federal court file. Spokane lawyer Bryan Whitaker now represents Elmer.

U.S District Judge Edward Lodge ordered Elmer to pay $217,000 in restitution at her sentencing Thursday, which he called a “conservative” estimate of her fraud’s cost, according to a news release.

Two accused of bachelor party brawl released

The wedding will go on.

A judge today ordered a groom released on his own recognizance after his bachelor party turned into a bar brawl early Sunday.

Groom Brandon N. Peterson, 27, and Shad E. Armstead, 22, were released from Spokane County Jail this evening after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court.

But a second groomsmen, Kershawn A. Grigsby, 24, remains in jail because of a civil bench warrant.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Armstead jumped on top of a car and “beat his chest like a gorilla” in the parking lot of Good Tymes before a huge brawl erupted.

Read Jody Lawrence-Turner’s story here.

Courthouse watch: 8.10.09

If it seems like just last week that Thomas Clouse was reporting on a former Spokesman-Review employee being sentenced for a sex-related crime, that’s because it was.

Here’s Clouse’s report on the sentencing of a former employee of The Spokesman-Review, who received a 12-month suspended sentence today when he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of possessing child pornography.

Zachary L. Likarich, 31, was charged in 2007 with 21 counts of possessing child pornography that investigators alleged he obtained while working as an online marketing developer for the company.

Likarich was fired from The Spokesman-Review Jan. 22, 2007, the same day the company’s former online publisher and an attorney contacted police after reviewing the contents of a computer that had been assigned to Likarich.

Superior Court Judge Michael Price sentenced Likarich to a 12-month suspended sentence, meaning he won’t serve any time in prison if he completes the conditions imposed by the court.

The sentence also includes three years supervision by the state Department of Corrections and he must register as a sex offender.

Read past coverage of the case here and here.

Also, a man accused of animal cruelty pleaded innocent to the charge today. Read Clouse’s report by clicking on the link below.

Aryans move to Athol

Not that there’s ever an appropriate place for the Aryan Nations, but if they’re going to insist on calling a North Idaho town home, a place called Athol seems a bit fitting. 

(This is not an affront to the fine people of the tiny town off Highway 95, rather, a nod to the self-deprecating merchandise sold there.)

The racist literature that’s been distributed in Coeur d’Alene the last couple of months resurfaced Saturday, but police caught the men doing it and ticketed them for littering.

The ringleader is not Jerald O’Brien but Paul Mullet, who made a reputation as a neo-Nazi in Minnesota. He told me he didn’t think O’Brien was doing enough for the Aryan movement and cut ties with him.

Read my story here.

Resort saw deadly fall on same floor in 1993

Police declared the man’s death an accident in less than a day.

After a night of hard partying in downtown Coeur d’Alene, four young people booked a room at The Coeur d’Alene Resort.

One, a 21-year-old Spokane man, never left. He fell to his death from a 12th story balcony. It was 1993 — 16 years before a woman fell to her death from the balcony of a neighboring room last week.

While detectives ruled Eric Hildahl’s Jan. 3, 1993 death an accident the next day, news archives show they never determined what caused the 1989 Shadle Park High School graduate (left) to fall.

“We were all kind of left wondering for sure what happened,” said his stepmother, Esther Hildahl. “We never really knew.”

The July 30 death of Lynea M. Sprung Hambrice, 36, reminded his family of the tragedy they say is still shrouded in mystery.

“It just kinda hit me like a wall of bricks when I saw that,” said Hildahl’s mother, Elizabeth Johnson. “Same floor and everything.”

While the cases are similar, detectives haven’t said whether they think Hambrice’s death was accidental.

Like Hildahl, she was drunk at the time of her death — police say her blood alcohol level was 0.23.

The incident’s only witness, Hambrice’s boyfriend, Ian E. James, 38, reported the death as a suicide to the 911 dispatcher, resort officials said.

But a coroner said Hambrice’s body landed in a manner consistent with a fall, and detectives have returned to the resort at least once to take measurements and interview witnesses.

Court documents show a history of violence between Hambrice and James (left, in 1996).

Read the rest of my story here.

Courthouse watch: 8.7.09

A landlord shot to death by a tenant in Coeur d’Alene two years ago should have been trained on how to deal with dangerous renters, a lawsuit filed this week claims.

Bette Fears, 67, died Aug. 8, 2007, when Evelyn Botto (right), 44, shot her in the office of the Park Place Apartments, 3825 Ramsey Road, then turned the gun on herself.

Coeur d’Alene lawyer Gary Amendola filed a lawsuit Aug. 4 against Black Realty Management in Kootenai County District Court on behalf of Fears’ husband, Otis L. Fears.

The property management company knew Botto had mental problems and a history of lodging unfounded noise complaints but never trained Fears on how to deal with her and never put a security system in place, according to the lawsuit.

A Black Realty Management representative was not immediately available for comment. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

The murder-suicide shook the quiet apartment complex in north Coeur d’Alene, where Otis and Bette Fears had lived for several years. Read a story on that here..

After the shooting, Botto’s family told The Spokesman-Review that her behavior had become increasingly erratic in the weeks before the killing.

Read a story on that here.

Girl admits to killing father

A teenage girl has admitted to killing her father in his Spokane home last year.

Jacqueline A. Wortham, 18, faces 22 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 16.

Daniel Wortham, 39, lived with his daughter on East Sharp Avenue when police say the girl and her boyfriend, Edmund D. Washington, 19, stabbed and beat him to death March 21, 2008.

Police found his body two days later after family reported his home was suspiciously quiet. Jacqueline Wortham and Washington were arrested at a South Hill home the next day. Wortham entered her plea on July 29.

Washington remains in Spokane County Jail on one count of first-degree murder. His trial is scheduled for November.

Read past coverage of the case here.

‘A threat to the administration of justice’

The prosecution calls him “a threat to the administration of justice.” His lawyer says he’s the victim of a civil dispute turned media circus.

Whatever the case, the legal problems for a Spokane bail bondsman accused of forcing a customer to give him thousands of dollars are only beginning.

Read my story on the case against Ryan M. Holmes, who appeared in court today, here.

Holmes’ first appearance was the liveliest first appearance I’ve seen.

His lawyer, Timothy Note, lambasted the case as a “civil dispute run amok” while Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor called Holmes “a threat to the administration of justice” and asked for $100,000 bail.

“When I look at the bond amount, words like ‘ridiculous’ come to mind,” Note said. “I represent people who have been charged with rape of a child who are out on $15,000 bond.”

Holmes has no criminal record, which Judge Clark noted when she set bond at $20,000. Jail records show he bonded out today.

Note questioned why Holmes was arrested at the courthouse Wednesday in front of television cameras when his office is right near the courthouse.

“It’s one thing for the court to be complicit in a media circus,” Note said. “It’s another thing to be an active participant.”

Johnson said the victim still fears Holmes. He mentioned the victim’s heart problems, which a probable cause affidavit said have been exacerbated by the situation.

He also said another victim, a retired lieutenant colonel from the Marine Corps, has come forward since learning of Holmes’ arrest, claiming he was intimidated into giving Holmes money, too, though Note said the sate Department of Licensing investigated that situation and found no wrongdoing.

Courthouse watch: 8.6.09

The former security supervisor for The Spokesman-Review pleaded guilty today to three sexual assault charges that could keep him in prison for life.

Robert J. Robel, 61, (right) pleaded guilty to first-degree rape of a child, second-degree rape of a child and first-degree child molestation.

Robel agreed to the plea after a second victim came forward, which could have produced more charges, Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Edward Hay said in court.

Read Thomas Clouse’s story here. Read the September 2008 story on Robel’s arrest here.

Also today, an OxyContin robber pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery.

Richard T. Ludvik, 23, (left) was on the lam for more than two weeks after he robbed the Walgreens at 2830 S. Grand Blvd. Jan 21.

His alleged accomplice, Joshua G. Dixon, 26, was arrested the night of the robbery and told police he’d driven Ludvik to the pharmacy in exchange for a couple of pills, court documents show.

The company that makes OxyContin and has come under scrutiny for lying about its addictiveness offered a $1,000 reward for his capture, and Ludvik turned himself in Feb. 10.

Dixon’s trial is set for Aug. 24. Ludvik is to be sentenced for second-degree robbery next Thursday.

Rolling Stone profiles jail suicide victim

He was known in Nelson, B.C, as the Man from the Bush - a thrill seeker who became a legend in the world of extreme mountain biking while still a teenager.

But Sam Brown’s young life ended tragically in the Spokane County Jail five months ago, when he was found hanged with a bed sheet. (His father, Lou Brown, is holding his picture in the AP photo posted above.)

Days earlier, DEA agents had busted him in the Colville National Forest with a helicopter packed with weed. They’d already arrested the men he was to meet with cocaine in Utah.

It wasn’t Brown’s first run, as an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone explains. After his arrest, the 24-year-old told public defenders, “It’s all about the adventure,” according to the Rolling Stone article.

The seven-page story, written by Jesse Hyde of Salt Lake City, is an in-depth profile of the jail’s most recent suicide victim. It includes interviews with Brown’s family and friends and explores his relationship with two women, including Lucretia James, who was busted in March 2008 transporting 74 kilos of cocaine on a California highway.

U.S Attorney James McDevitt, who hadn’t seen the article when I spoke with him earlier this week, described Brown’s death as “tragic.”

McDevitt recalled seeing Brown during his first court appearance - a nice-looking young man who could have made something out of life.

While the charges against Brown carried a 10-year prison term, “if he cooperated with us, I have the ability to determine what his sentence will be,” McDevitt said.

But as the article touches on, Brown could have faced retaliation and threats we’ll never know about.

Or, as one friend told Rolling Stone, even one day in jail may have been too much for him. I can’t find the article on Rolling Stone’s Web site, but it’s available on newsstands.

Also, Associated Press writer Gene Johnson wrote an article on drug smuggling that discusses the Brown case. Read it here.

Marijuana grow gets man 6 years in prison

A Mexican man will spend more than six years in prison for operating a large marijuana grow that did more than $10,000 damage to the Okanogan National Forest, according to the U.S attorney’s office.

Moyses Mesa-Barajas, 43, was arrested last August after federal and state officials found him in a grow complex with more than 10,000 plants.

Mesa-Barajas claimed ownership of more than 3,000 of the plants, according to federal court documents, and he pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to manufacture more than 1,000 marijuana plants and to destruction of government property wroth more than $1,000.

His arrest came after federal agents spotted grow operations in the forest connected by trails.

A search warrant served at the site resulted in Mesa-Barajas’ arrest, though several people escaped and were never found, according to a news release. There, federal agents found empty containers of fertilizer, pesticides and rat poison and determined the growers had re-routed streams, terraced mountain slopes, and generally just trashed the place.

On Tuesday, Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Mesa-Barajas to 75 months in prison.

He’s to pay about $7,300 in restitution. If he’s able to gain United States citizenship before he’s released, he’ll be on probation for five years, records show.

James McDevitt, U.S attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, praised the sentence in a prepared statement.

“Since no single agency has the manpower or resources to detect and dismantle large scale grow operations on public land, this case highlights the success that can be achieved with cooperative investigations by multiple state and federal agencies. Marijuana traffickers cause significant environmental damage to our public lands each year, not to mention the risk they pose to the public and recreationalists,” the statement reads.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Patrol, the Twisp Police Department, the Winthrop Marshal’s Office, North Central Washington Special Response Team, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Washington National Guard, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This case was prosecuted by Tim Ohms, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

Courthouse watch: 8.5.09

A 21-year-old Spokane man pleaded not guilty today to second-degree rape of a woman who said she was sexually assaulted at a party.

Here’s Thomas Clouse’s report:

“Anthony J. Wilson appeared before Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark, who ordered a sexual assault protection order against Wilson as he awaits trial, which is currently set for Oct, 26.

The alleged victim told police that she attended a party on Oct. 10 , 2008, in the 12200 block of East First Avenue.

After the encounter, she completed a rape kit at a hospital but did not immediately call law enforcement.

She called deputies a month later when she saw Wilson at a bar. During an interview with detectives, Wilson admitting having sex with a woman when she was unconscious but he couldn’t remember what happened, according to court records.

The rape charge was filed after a DNA sample was taken.”

‘If it were legal’

The Washington Department of Corrections has joined agencies in more than two dozen states in calling on the Federal Communications Commission to allow cell phone signals to be jammed in prisons.

Shortly after that was announced, the DOC scheduled media events to demonstrate how DOC dogs have been trained to sniff out the phones.

Airway Heights Superintendent Maggie Miller-Stout said she supports national efforts to jam the signals.

“Certainly, jamming phones, if it were legal, would be a good thing,” she said at Tuesday’s media event.

Read my story here.

Boyfriend of Resort victim ran for Idaho Senate

Check out my story here for new information on the tragic death at the Coeur d’Alene Resort last week. UPDATE: Hambrice’s blood-alcohol level was .23, police said Wednesday.

The article includes comments from a colleague of Lynea M. Sprung Hambrice at Louisiana State University.

What the article doesn’t include is more information on her boyfriend, identified by police as 38-year-old Ian E. James.

Space constraints prevented the info from making the print edition, but what we found portrays James as a real go-getter.

Newspaper archives show James, who lives in Baton Rouge with Hambrice and was in North Idaho to attend his 20th class reunion at Kellogg High School, ran for the Idaho state Senate in 1996, when he was a 25-year-old financial consultant with Metropolitan Life in Spokane.

He graduated from University of Idaho in 1994, interned for former Rep. Larry LaRocco, served as president of the UI political science student association, and was a UI students senator.

He was raised by Democrat parents in Kellogg and listed his issues as cutting government spending and increasing efficiency and combining Kootenai County’s school district into one district.

He supported a one-percent initiative, described himself as pro-business and a social moderate who favored abortion rights and a crackdown on welfare fraud.

James challenged District 2 state senator Clyde Boatright, a Republican, in the primary election and lost by a considerable margin, records show.

Courthouse watch: 8.4.09

The defendant seemed disgruntled as he said “not guilty” after each charge.

“Almost done,” his public defender whispered to David L. “Cowboy Dave” Harwood, 39.

It took Harwood saying “not guilty” 19 times, but eventually his arraignment for a bust connected to a major Sheriff’s SWAT team standoff in late May ended in Spokane County Superior Court Tuesday.

Harwood’s been in jail since his arrest May 27 near the Whitworth Arms apartments, the site of a Sheriff’s SWAT team standoff with Casey D. Beckham that same day.

Harwood told police he was to sell nearly a dozen stolen guns to Beckham to clear a drug debt. Beckham was arrested late that night.

Beckham’s also suspected of breaking into a Washington State Patrol evidence room in April and prowling vehicles, including one seized during the Joe Ward investigation.

Read a story on that here.

Harwood pleaded not guilty to eight counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, 10 counts of possession of a stolen firearm, and one count of possession of a controlled substance in Spokane County Superior Court Tuesday.

David Stevens is prosecuting the case.

Harwood’s public defender, Kevin Griffith, unsuccessfully asked Judge Ellen Kalama Clark to reduce his $50,000 bond, despite his six felony convictions. Clark declined, citing the 14 warrants that have been issued for Harwood’s arrest in the past for failing to follow his probation.

Alleged groping incident caught on tape

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A woman who claims a Coeur d’Alene police officer groped her during a drunken driving arrest last summer has video of the interaction from a police cruiser’s dash camera.

But what the 45-minute video (a segment is posted above) means for the lawsuit filed by Coeur d’Alene lawyer Larry Purviance on behalf of Natalie Jean Reighard is unclear.

Read my story here.

Courthouse watch: 8.3.09

A man accused of raping a woman in north Spokane was arrested on a similar charge last year but cleared after a jury couldn’t reach a verdict.

Justin L. Dehn, 22, remains in Spokane County Jail on $25,000 bail after appearing in Superior Court on one charge of second-degree rape and two charges of indecent liberties.

Spokane police responded to a rape call early Sunday and found Dehn walking a few blocks from 6700 N. Standard, where three women said Dehn had assaulted them after they returned from a party on the South Hill, according to a probable cause affidavit.

One woman told police she awoke to Dehn raping her; two others said he’d groped them, according to the affidavit.

The alleged rape victim’s boyfriend was sleeping next to the bed and called 911 when he awoke to her screaming that she’d been raped, according to the affidavit.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor John Love requested a $100,000 bail, citing Dehn’s previous arrest, but Judge Ellen Kalama Clark noted Dehn’s lack of criminal history when she set the bail much lower.

Dehn was charged in June 2008 with second-degree rape for an incident a woman said happened in December 2006.

A jury couldn’t reach a verdict after a two-day trial in March “much to the disappointment of the state,” said Love, who prosecuted the case.

The state dropped the charge in April.

Today, Dehn’s public defender, Stephen Heintz, argued there wasn’t even probable cause to hold him on the current charges and urged Clark to remember Dehn was never convicted of the previous charge.

“Twelve people couldn’t decide,” Heintz said. “That shouldn’t be held against Mr. Dehn.”

Dehn’s arraignment is set for Aug. 18.

Another prison term, but for real this time

A Shoshone County man who filled his computer with thousands of videos of children being sexually abused will spend the next 10 years in federal prison.

Kenneth Jack Hendryx, 58, of Silverton, Idaho, pleaded guilty to possessing sexually explicit images of minors in March and was sentenced last week by U.S District Judge Larry Alan Burns.

Hendryx will be on probation for 15 years after he’s released. Hendryx was already a registered sex offender because of a state conviction in 1993 for abusing an 11-year-old girl in Shoshone County.

Hendryx was sentenced to 14 years in prison for that crime, but a judge retained jurisdiction over the case and he was released on probation one week after he was sentenced, according to U.S District Court documents.

He was released from probation in 1996 after completing sex offender counseling and education.

But Hendryx told police he’d been downloading and viewing child pornography on his computer for several hours each day when his home was raided last September, according to court documents.

The FBI and Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office seized two computers and several hard drives containing child pornography during that search.

“The defendant’s collection of child pornography recovered during the investigation of this case included images that were clearly sadistic/masochistic,” according to federal court documents. “…Courts recognize that collectors of child pornography, such as Mr. Hendryx, contribute to the cycle of abuse and are, in part, responsible for the psychological and physical harm to the children used to produce the images.”

Hendryx will likely spend his prison sentence in Massachusetts, court documents show.

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