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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for May 2009

Grab bag 5.29.09

Who says no one reads the newspaper anymore?

A watchful newspaper reader in Colville helped nab the Montana Department of Corrections escapee suspected in a Spokane Valley burglary today. Read the story here.

Other public safety stories today include:

Body found in Pend Oreille River

Activists rally against ombudsman spot

Courthouse watch: 5.29.09

Friday’s smorgasbord of suspects on the Spokane County Superior Court docket include an accused OxyContin robber, a teenager charged with attempted murder for a shooting spree in a motel parking lot and a man connected to Pinaccle Realty founder Joe Ward, who is the subject of a major Washington State Patrol investigation into a suspected stolen property and drug ring.

Joshua G. Dixon, 26, is charged with first-degree robbery for an alleged OxyContin heist in January with Richard T. Ludvik.

Dixon was arrested that night and told police he’d driven Ludvik to the Walgreens at 29th Avenue and Grand Boulevard in exchange for a couple of pills, court appears show.

Ludvik turned himself in a month later. Mark Hannibal is defending Dixon; Larry Steinmetz is the prosecutor. Read a story on the case here.

Anthony R. Covert, 18, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, possession of a stolen firearm, second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault.

He’s accused of spraying 10 bullets at two men in a parking lot at the West Wynn Motel, 2701 W. Sunset Blvd., in November, records show. Read a story on that case here. Alan Rossi represents Covert; Dale Nagy is the prosecutor.

But the hidden gem on Friday’s docket was David K. “Ink” Sankey, 34, who’s accused of firing shots on Joe Ward’s property overlooking Long Lake in December. Ward is pictured left.

Sankey is charged with second-assault and harassment against his girlfriend, Chelce Zimmerman, after witnesses told police he’d held a gun to her head in “retaliation for Chelce sleeping with Joseph Ward,” court papers show. Sankey’s lawyer is David Loebach; the prosecutor is Gayle Ervin.

Sankey’s arrest came about a month before WSP raided Ward’s home, seizing stolen property and methamphetamine and launching an investigation that was recently forwarded to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office and involves more than 200 criminal charges and several suspects, according to WSP.

Charges have not been filed, and Ward remains free on bond.

Ward’s alleged accomplice, longtime felon Scott Johnson, remains in Spokane County Jail. Read a story on the January raid here.

Dixon, Covert and Sankey were each granted trial extensions by Judge Ellen Kalama Clark.

Spokane legal community loses an icon

 

Carroll D. Gray, who worked in the U.S attorney’s office in Spokane for more than 30 years, has died.

The legend of the Spokane legal community, pictured above in 1981, died at his home Wednesday morning, the U.S Attorney’s Office confirmed Thursday.

Gray was a Spokane County deputy prosecutor from 1956 to 1959 and joined the U.S attorney’s office in 1961. He served as interim U.S attorney from May through September 1993, news archives show. He prosecuted mostly tax evasion and fraud cases, including the 1984 security fraud scheme of Kenneth Oxborrow.

“He was one of the true gentlemen and a very, very tough United States attorney,” said Mark Vovos, a longtime Spokane criminal defense lawyer. “He was a person that you liked. Even when he kicked the hell out of me in court…He was a darn good lawyer and a darn good person.”

The Spokesman-Review is preparing a tribute article and invites anyone with stories about Gray to email meghannc@spokesman.com or call (509) 459-5534.

Grab Bag 5.28.09

The HIV-positive man charged with assault may have had unprotected sex with as many as 80 people without telling them about his disease, health officials say.

Zuriel E. Roush, 22, (left) declined to speak with The Spokesman-Review.

That came after Deputy Prosecutor Rachel Sterett mentioned Roush’s interviews with TV news media in court, citing his claims that he intended to infect as many people as he could with the virus.

Read Sara Leaming’s story here

Other stories in today’s paper include:

Escapee suspected in store burglary

SWAT team finds wanted man wedged in rafters

Body found in Grant Co. canal IDed

 

Courthouse watch: 5.28.09

Suspects appearing on the Spokane County Superior Court docket today included a woman who claimed she’d ingested methamphetamine from another inmate before trying to escape from prison and a man arrested for stealing two puppies from a pet store.

Chelsea A. Lawhead, 19, is charged with first degree attempted escape after an incident Feb. 17 at the Pine Lodge Corrections Center in Medical Lake.

Lawhead climbed out a window and unsuccessfully tried scaling the fence about 10:30 a.m. before tossing her shoes over it, then scaling it again and putting her prison coat over the barbed wire at the top of the fence, according to a summary of facts from the Washington State Patrol.

Lawhead became entangled in the barbed wire and fell back into the prison courtyard before running back to her cell, where prison guards found her bloody from “numerous” cuts, according to WSP.

During an interview with a corrections supervisor, Lawhead said she’d taken methamphetamine the day before from another inmate.

“Lawhead stated she began to feel “weird” the next day and anxious to leave,” according to the summary of facts. “Lawhead stated she decided she was going to try to escape. Lawhead then explained the manner in which she attempted to escape.” Lawhead is being held without bond in Spokane County Jail.

Lawhead is represented by Carol Huneke, records show. She had an omnibus hearing scheduled today.

Along with Casey D. Beckham, a Spokane man accused to stealing two puppies from a pet store had his first appearance today before Judge Ellen Kalama Clark.

Donald G. Olson, 37, was arrested Wednesday after the store manager at Northwest Seed and Pet called Crime Check and said a man had walked off with two nine-week-old Cocker Spaniel puppies valued at $400 each, according to court papers.

He tried selling the dogs to a woman playing bingo at a bingo hall on East Sprague Avenue before police nabbed him, witnesses told police. His bond was set at $5,000.

Grab Bag 5.27.09

Spokane’s newest recruit, Ajax, met with local media Wednesday. Read the story here and check out a slide show here.

Other stories in today’s paper include:

Autopsy shows man was shot in back

Medical Lake to pay Mehrens $20,000

Trial set in bridge pushing case

Courthouse watch: 5.27.09

Suspects scheduled to plead innocent in Spokane County Superior Court today include a man accused of hiding in his estranged wife’s car, then kidnapping and trying to kill her and her boyfriend; a man charged with sexually abusing a high school girl who worked at his bookstore; and a man shot during a home invasion robbery he’s accused of hatching with a friend.

David E. Epley, 36, is charged with kidnapping and attempted murder after his estranged wife called police earlier this month and said he’d tried to throw her boyfriend off U.S Highway 395 bridge at Wandermere after kidnapping them.

Harold “Hal” N. Moos, 76, (right) is charged with child molestation after a girl told police he’d touched her inappropriately while giving her massage after a photo shoot.

Thomas A. Butler, 26, was seriously injured after police say he and Derick D. Taylor, 29, barged into a home in the 4000 block of E. 16th Avenue March 30 with an inflated impression of what they’d find.

Three college students were inside the home; one called 911 as another had a gun pointed at his head by one of the intruders, court papers show.

The third roommate fired a 9 mm handgun four or five times, papers show, and Butler was hospitalized. Taylor was arrested a day later. Both are charged with two counts of robbery, one count of assault, one count of burglary and one count of kidnapping.

Epley and Butler had in-custody arraignments scheduled. Moos is out on bond and is represented by Spokane lawyer Bevan Maxey, records show.

Review petition filed in school suicide lawsuit

The legal saga of the custodian who claims her school forced her to clean up a student’s suicide mess continued this month as a lawyer for the Nine Mile Falls School District asked the state Supreme Court to review a state Court of Appeals ruling regarding the lawsuit.

Debbie Rothwell claims she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after cleaning up the bloody scene inside the main entrance to Lakeside High School in 2004, then serving cookies to mourning students hours later and tending to the makeshift memorial that week, according to a May 2007 lawsuit. Spokane County Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt dismissed the suit in January 2008, ruling the incident was covered by the Industrial Insurance Act.

The Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit in a 2-1 ruling last month. Spokane lawyer Michael McFarland filed a petition for discretionary review to the state Supreme Court last week.

At issue in the legal rulings has not been the merits of one side’s claim versus the other’s, but whether Rothwell’s claims fall outside the bounds of the Industrial Insurance Act, which prohibits lawsuits based on industry injury or occupational disease.

“I can tell you that my clients strongly dispute many of the allegations contained in Ms. Rothwell’s Complaint, and my investigation into this matter supports my client’s assertions,” McFarland wrote in an email. “While I believe that the Supreme Court will accept review of this matter, and will thereafter reverse the Court of Appeals, I am also very confident that if forced to litigate this case at the trial court level, (former Superintendent) Michael Green and the District will ultimately prevail.”

McFarland continued, “All I will say at this time is that if and when the true facts come out, they will show that in the face of a tragic situation, Michael Green and Nine Mile Falls School District acted entirely appropriately and responsibly, taking into consideration the best interests and well-being of the students, staff and Nine Mile Falls School District community.”

Spokane lawyer William Powell represents Rothwell. Stevens County Sheriff’s Craig Thayer and three deputies were originally names as defendants in the suit but have since been dismissed.

WSP wins Best Dressed award

If you’ve ever found yourself admiring those Washington State Patrol uniforms, you’re in good company.

The WSP has been honored as the Best Dressed State Agency in America by the National Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors. The agency’s heavy-weave wool uniforms are made by Blumenthal Uniform Co. of Seattle.

Sharing top honors for 2009 was the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

Grab Bag 5.26.09

The original pharmacy robber from last summer entered a guilty plea in Spokane County Superior Court today, and The Spokesman-Review was the only news organization there.

Read Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Police: Porn, theft lured boy to library

Ephrata man killed by train Sunday

88 contacts, 10 arrests at Sasquatch

Men in deadly rafting accident identified

 

Courthouse watch: 5.26.09

The first appearance docket was packed in Spokane County Superior Court today. Nearly everyone arrested on felony charges in Spokane County this weekend was due to appear, and a court clerk counted 55 names just before the appearances began at 1:30 p.m.

Last on the list of in-custody appearances was Terry Lee Thomas, 53.

Thomas was arrested in Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane Sunday afternoon after witnesses told police he’d sexually assaulted a woman.

Judge Ellen Kalama Clark set his bail at $100,000 for one count of second-degree rape. The probable cause affidavit filed in court shows the 27-year-old victim told police she’d been drinking beer with Thomas when he took off her pants and performed oral sex on her without her consent.

Hundreds of people were in the park at the time, and several were listed as witnesses in the court papers.

Thomas heard his charge and had his bail set at the end of the day - three and a half hours after first appearances began.

Other news makers appearing before Clark today included Michael D. Templet.

Templet is charged with second-degree robbery, possession of a controlled substance and harassment - threats to kill following an alleged incident at the Divine’s 76 station at Second Avenue and Walnut Street. Clark set Templet’s bail at $25,000.

Templet and Thomas have arraignments scheduled for June 9.

SPD’s newest addition: Ajax the puppy

A Pullman man inspired by the shooting of a Spokane police dog has given the department a German Shepherd puppy.

Nick Lungu breeds and trains the dogs for his business I-Guard International. He sells the animals for as much as $2,500 each but gave the Spokane Police Department first pick out of his latest litter after reading of the March shooting of Var, a longtime police dog.

Var left the force after police say Johnnie L. Longest III, 22, shot the dog before being shot to death by Officer Dan Lesser, Var’s handler.

The police investigation into that shooting is complete and was recently sent to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office, which will make a decision on charge, Lt. Dave McGovern said last week.

Var was awarded the police department’s Purple Heart last month.

Var’s replacement, Rav (featured left in an April photo by the SR’s Christopher Anderson), arrived from Holland in March.

The puppy, named Ajax after the mythological hero, will be raised by Officer Jay Kernkamp as part of the Spokane police K-9 unit’s puppy program.

“This program, due to its careful selection process, has been extremely successful in producing some of the regions finest police service dogs,” according to a news release prepared by Officer Kevin King.

Ajax will follow a “detailed” training regimen that includes tug of war, socializing, simple obedience, environment exposure and lots of play in the early months, King wrote.

“Although only weeks old Ajax is showing promise and has the potential to be one of Spokane’s finest someday,” the news release said.

Courthouse watch: 5.22.09


Friday is always a full day on the Spokane County Superior Court docket, and today brought a cornucopia of crimes from organized retail theft and forgery to assault and child rape.

Suspects on today’s docket included a man accused of trying to escape from police by jumping into Latah Creek, a firefighter on leave after being arrested for leading state troopers on a chase with his son and a teenager charged with arson over an apartment fire court papers show may have been triggered by derogatory comments about homosexuals.

Paul J. Reinhardt, 40, was arrested in February on the banks of Latah Creek after allegedly fleeing from officers trying to arrest him on a warrant for domestic violence (photo, left, by the SR’s Colin Mulvany).

A railroad crew pointed him out to police, according to news archives.

Reinhardt is now charged with attempting to elude police, unlawful imprisonment and violation of an order. He remains in Spokane County Jail.

Ronald Clinger (right) is on unpaid leave from his $102,737-a-year captain’s job with the Spokane Fire Department, accused of speeding away from police after one of his sons allegedly stabbed a man during a fight at the Prime Tyme Restaurant and Lounge in Chattaroy in November.

Clinger is charged with felony attempt to elude police, plus misdemeanor charges of drunken driving and rendering criminal assistance. He’s free on bond.

Daniel Lambrix is charged with first-degree arson, accused of setting an Oct. 6 fire at 2307 W. Dean Ave. while three other tenants were inside. Lambrix was in the middle of moving out, according to court papers. Lambrix’s boyfriend told police the landlord had used derogatory comments against homosexuals towards he and Lambrix, papers show.

Lambrix was arrested a month after the fire and told investigators he was angry with the landlord, so he lit the contents of a box of garbage with a lighter in the kitchen.

“Lambrix stated that at the time of his setting the fire, he did know that the downstairs tenant and his daughter were in the apartment,” according to a statement by Spokane fire Capt. Kevin Smathers. But, Smathers continued, “he did not start the fire with the intent of hurting anyone.”

Lambrix remains in jail.

Clinger, Reinhardt and Lambrix each had pre-trial conferences today before Judge Ellen Kalama Clark. Trial dates are upcoming.

Grab Bag 5.22.09

The Guinness Book of World Records plans to honor a man for filing the most lawsuits in history.

One problem: the man in question has filed an injunction in Eastern Washington federal court seeking to stop it. Read Thomas Clouse’s story here

Here are the rest of today’s public safety stories:

Cigarette caused apartment fire, officials say

Veradale man injured in motorcycle crash

Former sheriff pleads guilty to felony

State has first death under new suicide law

Burglary caught on video; reward offered

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A brazen convenience store burglary was caught on video, and Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to an arrest.

About 12:30 p.m. on April 21, a man walked into the Hico at 1201 N. Barker Road and stole cash from an office while the clerk helped a customer.

Surveillance video shows a heavy set, older man with white or gray hair walking into a room and rummaging through an open safe, then returning to grab money from a bank deposit bag left on a desk.

Police estimate the man to be in his 60s and about 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10.

Anyone with information on the crime or a suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (509) 327-5111 or submit tips online at www.crimestoppersinlandnorthwest.org.

Lethal injection under attack

Three death row inmates are seeking greater assurances that they won’t feel any improper pain and suffering when they’re executed. The lawsuit, being argued in Thurston County Superior Court, questions whether the state’s execution procedures are sufficient.

Lawyers defending the state in the case note that Washington’s procedures are substantially similar to those used in Kentucky, whose execution methods have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

An AP story about the case is available in the full post.

Authorities targeting scam charities

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) Washington is cracking down on so-called “badge charities” that claim to help police, firefighters and veterans.

 

Attorney General Rob McKenna says some are phony. And Secretary of State Sam Reed says some give very little money to the groups they claim to represent. The officials say people should check out charities and give only to those you trust.

The state attorney general’s office announced Wednesday it had taken action to force two fundraisers to change their practices. The state also is assisting the Federal Trade Commission in action against two other fundraising organizations accused of being shams.

Courthouse watch: 5.21.09

A man charged with threatening to kill city of Spokane and Cowles Co. officials and a man charged with impersonating a federal agent were among cases with hearings today in Spokane County.

Steven E. Escallier, 40, (left) is charged with criminal impersonation, first-degree attempted robbery and malicious mischief after police say he tried robbing two men who were completing a cell phone sale arranged through Craigslist in early March.

Escallier told officer he thought the men were drug dealers when he identified himself as a DEA agent and ordered one to “hand over his drugs,” according to police. He was arrested a few blocks away from the crime scene at Crestline and Empire.

David H. Elton, 43, was another defendant in court today who’s made the news.

Charged with three counts of felony harassment - threats to kill, Elton was arrested in February after several people told police of emails he’d sent threatening to kill Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan and Betsy and Stacey Cowles, who own The Spokesman-Review. Elton has said he suffers from bipolar disorder.

“Elton states that the people he has targeted are largely semi-innocent, but his hate for them is based on their greed and ignorance,” according to court papers. “He states that the only exception is his ex-wife. He writes that he dreams of killing her and burning her remains and he listens to Chopin and Van Halen.”

Judge Ellen Kalama Clark granted trial extensions for Escallier and Elton Thursday. She also allowed a special judge to be assigned to Elton’s case.

Escallier remains in Spokane County Jail; Elton, who is out on bond, is represented by private criminal defense lawyer Mark Vovos. Vovos described the case as “complex.”

Eitzen denies Stark motions, again

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen has denied a request by convicted killer Shellye L. Stark’s lawyer to reconsider her denials of a new trial or arrest of judgment.

Julie Twyford had filed a motion that included a declaration from a Spokane County Jail inmate who said another inmate had told her her father served on the Stark jury and discussed details of the case when he wasn’t supposed to.

“Even if true, does it make a difference?” Eitzen said at today’s hearing. “Even if a juror talked to someone about what was going on in jury deliberations, is that in and of itself grounds for a mistrial?

“Is the rememdy some sort of sanction to the juror? I’m pretty sure the remedy isn’t vacating the verdict. Again, let the Court of Appeals decide.”

Also at issue for the defense is Eitzen’s sentencing Stark to consecutive sentences for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Twyford has argued the sentences should be served at the same time, but Eitzen said that’s another issue for the Court of Apeals to handle.

Stark’s mother, two sisters and teenage son attended the hearing, along with Spokane police detective Kip Hollenbeck.

Judge to hear motion in Stark murder case today

Judge Tari Eitzen is scheduled to hear a motion today from convicted killer Shellye L. Stark’s lawyer.

 

Julie Twyford filed a motion May 11 alleging juror misconduct and asking Eitzen to reconsider Stark’s 50-year sentence and Eitzen’s denials of motions for a new trial and an arrest of judgment.

The state filed a response this week, and the hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Spokane County Superior Court.

It’s a busy day for Eitzen.

Earlier today she presided over a deposition hearing for Samuel Thomas IV, 22, a witness in a first-degree murder case against two men, Henry J. Holloway, 26, and Jalil K. Handy, 21. Both are charged with killing Anthony E. Dennis, 43, last October. Police say Holloway killed Dennis, a crack dealer, out of greed. Holloway’s trial is scheduled for July; Handy’s is set for September.

Handy appeared in court today with his attorney, Chris Bugbee, who questioned Thomas about Hardy’s involvement in the killing and whether Hardy had asked for a share of the profits.

Thomas said he hadn’t, and described seeing Holloway burn his bloody clothes in a barbecue. It appears as though Bugbee is working to drop of reduce Handy’s murder charge, as was done with Thomas.

Thomas was originally charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery and was sentenced to 12 months in prison with credit given for 103 days served, records show.

Steve Garvin represented the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office.

Police search killer’s boyfriend’s computers

A search warrant filed this week regarding the Spokane police investigation into the boyfriend of convicted killer Shellye L. Stark reveals new details.

 

The day police arrested Brian L. Moore in Anahiem, Calif., on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder, a Post Falls private investigator Moore hired, Ted Pulver, gave detectives a zip drive that he said contained a conversation between Moore and Michael Kendall, Moore’s former Orange County business partner.

“Moore later filed an alleged extortion complaint against Kendall in an attempt to prevent Kendall from cooperating with the police investigation,” wrote Detective Kip Hollenbeck in the search warrant, which was filed Tuesday in Spokane County District Court. “Your affiant believes probable cause exists to search this zip drive to examine the contents for any evidence related to this investigation.”

Pulver (featured left in an April 2008 photo by the SR’s Kathy Plonka) and Kendall are witnesses in the case against Moore, who’s accused of helping Stark plan the Dec. 9, 2007, murder of her husband, Dale Robert Stark, then working with her to concoct a sordid tale of spousal abuse to support a self defense claim.

A jury rejected that claim after a two-week trial in March, and Stark was sentenced to 50 years in prison last month. She remains in Spokane County Jail.

Her new lawyer, Julie Twyford, filed a motion last week asking Judge Tari Eitzen to reconsider the length of Stark’s sentence and Eitzen’s past rejection of motions for a new trial and an arrest of judgment. Included with the filing is a declaration from inmate Christine W. Warman.

Warman said she was in a holding cell with Stark and four other inmates on April 30. After Stark left, one of the inmates said her father served on the Stark jury and said jurors discussed details of the case when they weren’t supposed to, Warman said.

The state has not yet filed a response to that motion. Once that happens, Eitzen will set a hearing to rule on the motion.

Stick with The Spokesman-Review for updates.

Update: the state filed a response this week, and it’s now in the online court system. Eitzen has a hearing set for 3 p.m.

Police search for man with colorful criminal history

A wild chase involving a man on a stolen ATV and a state park ranger was caught on tape, and tipsters have led police to a Spokane man with a colorful criminal history.

Casey D. Beckham, 33, is no stranger to police, the courts or the prison, records show. He’s already got a Crime Stoppers reward out for warrants for bail jumping, possession of a controlled substance and escape from community custody, and news archives show he’s had police attention since at least July 1995 when he walked away from a Spokane County Jail work crew while serving nine months for theft and burglary.

That was the beginning of a tumultuous three years for Beckham in which he appeared in two articles detailing his alleged crimes.

Three months after his first news story, Beckham and a woman were arrested and charged with forgery after being stopped from a traffic violation in Spokane Valley. Both had warrants when Beckham was stopped for having defective equipment on his car, and deputies found a purse, wallet and checkbook that were stolen from cars outside a movie theater earlier that week.

In February 1997, Beckham and another man were arrested for residential burglary after the victims went on what a news article described as a “Dukes-of-Hazzard-style chase.” Kathy Asher, chased down the suspects, hit their car and forced them into a ditch on a rural road near Valleyford. Asher received the sheriff’s office Concerned Citizen Award for her actions; Beckham spent four years in prison.

But Beckham’s big day came in October 2003 when he pleaded guilty to eight crimes involving drug possession and theft. But when Spokane County Superior Court Greg Sypolt handed a longer-than-expected sentence, Beckham tried to withdraw his plea. The Washington Court of Appeals rejected his appeal the following year.

Beckham was released from prison in April 2008, according to the Department of Corrections. About a year after his release, a man hopped on a stolen ATV and sped away from a Washington State Parks and Recreation ranger in the parking area at the Carlson trail head in Nine Mile Falls.

The man took off after the ranger told him it was illegal to use the ATV in a state park and, according to a search warrant filed April 17. The chase ended as the man drove through private property, a barbwire fence and disappeared into the rocky hills, the search warrant says. The ranger’s dash camera caught the beginning of the chase.

Beckham is wanted for questioning in the case, said Washington State Patrol trooper Troy Briggs.

If you see Beckham or know where he is, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

UPDATE: Beckham was arrested May 27. Read a story on his arrest  here.

Does anyone honestly think this will work?

 

SEATTLE (AP) — Gov. Chris Gregoire has proclaimed Thursday “Drive Nice Day.”

She’s challenging Washington drivers to have a collision-free day on the roads.

State Licensing Director Liz Luce says a little courtesy behind the wheel can making driving safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

 

King County assessor to step down over prosecution

King County’s assessor will step down shortly before he is sentenced next month for driving drunk.

The AP version of the latest developments in this story can be found within the full version of this posting.

Courthouse watch: 5.20.09

Suspects scheduled to plead innocent in Spokane County Superior Court today included two young men charged with two counts of first-degree robbery for a knife-point holdup in downtown Spokane this May.

Joseph E. Whipple, 21, and Jimmy D. Dempsey, 17, are each charged with two counts of first-degree robbery for the May 2 incident. Police learned of the two through an anonymous letter mailed after a TV station featured the robbery, which occurred behind a coffee stand at Second Avenue and Washington Street, court papers show. The robbery netted $12, according to police.

Unusual charges on today’s docket included possession of a machine gun. Victoria C. Bolter, 19, pleaded not guilty to that charge and one count of possession of a controlled substance in relation to an investigation that court papers show began in January when Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives learned of Bolter’s husband’s arrest in Kootenai County on drug delivery charges.

One notable absence in the out-of-custody arraignments before Judge Jerome Leveque today was Dmitry A. Stepanov, 24.

Stepanov was due to appear this morning on charges of trafficking in stolen property, third-degree theft, unlawful possession of a payment instruction, malicious mischief and vehicle prowling. He didn’t show, and Crime Stoppers is now offering a reward for information that leads to his capture. He’s got a warrant out for second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, according to a Crime Stoppers news release prepared by sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Stepanov’s recent charges relate to vehicle GPS devices that he’s accused of stealing and pawning, court papers show.

Stepanov’s last known address was 4421 E. Frederick in Spokane, according to Crime Stoppers, and he may be driving a red Honda Civic with Washington license plates.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online at crimestoppersinlandnorthwest.org.

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

UPDATE 5/22/09: Stepanov was arrested Thursday and had his first appearance in Spokane County Superior Court Friday. He remains in jail.

Gregoire wants illegal immigrants out of state prisons

Gov. Chris Gregoire wants to start clearing illegal immigrants from Washington’s prisons, turning them over to federal authorities for potential deportation. The move is among the ways Gregoire is trying to save money amid dwindling tax revenue.

The Associated Press took a look at the effort. Its story is posted below.

Church of Satan responds to Schertz article

The Church of Satan has responded to this story about level 3 sex offender Danny Walter Schertz, who recently moved to Spokane Valley from San Antonio.

Schertz, 61, is described as an avowed devil worshiper in a 1995 Los Angeles Times article, and photos from the Texas Sex Offender Registry show he added devil-related tattoos to his forehead within the last year and a half.

A spokesperson for The Church of Satan who identifies herself as Magistra Ygraine emailed The Spokesman-Review today to say that Mr. Schertz is “not now, nor has he ever been a member of our church, nor a Satanist.”

The phrase tattooed on Schertz’s forehead, Hail Set, is from another Satan-worshiping organization called The Temple of Set that broke off from the Church of Satan in the 1970s.

Writes Magistra Ygraine, “I would be most grateful if you would clarify the point as soon as possible. You’ll note that The Church of Satan is firmly on the side of law and order and in fact is well known for reporting law breakers, even among it’s membership, directly to the authorities. Our history of supporting law enforcement is well established and our religious demand to never hurt children or animals is equally well documented.”

Today’s article makes no mention of what church Schertz is affiliated with, but Ygraine’s point is interesting nonetheless.

Schertz has also contacted the newspaper regarding the article. While he declined to discuss his criminal record when contacted last week, he said today’s article gave the false impression that he’s a violent person who hurts children.

The criminal record detailed in the article is correct, but Schertz offered explanations for many of the situations. The latest incident, the kidnapping conviction from 1996, stemmed from when he worked with two boa constrictors on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and earned a living by charging tourists for photos with him, he said.

That’s where he said he first met the girl he was convicted of kidnapping, who he said wanted to go with him on the road.

“I ain’t hurt a kid in my life,” Schertz said. He emphasized what the article said: he checked in regularly with San Antonio authorities, who said they never had a problem with him.

“I’m getting a lot of flack here,” Schertz said. “I’m just here to be with my daughter.”

Schertz said he’ll be reclassified as a level 2 sex offender once he finds a permanent home. The Spokesman-Review will write another story if that happens.

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