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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for October 2009

The Devlin is in the details

The death penalty case against Christopher H. Devlin has turned into a legal mess in which prosecutors from two counties are squabbling over who should pay for the costly trial.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque has twice ruled on where the case should be held. First in 2008, Leveque ordered the case to remain in Spokane County after Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz argued that the May 2008 killing of a 52-year-old disabled Chattaroy man was planned and carried out and the victim’s body was found in Spokane County, where the body also was found.

But testimony from a co-defendant, who has been given a promise of lesser charges in exchange for his testimony, indicates that the killing actually took place in Stevens County. Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review. (Read a previous story on the case here.)

The case is the only death penalty case in the Spokane. Devlin’s co defendant, Carl Hoskins, also faced a first-degree murder charge but was released from jail on his own recognizance on Aug. 31 under a court order.

If he continues cooperating, Hoskins will face charges of second-degree assault, first-degree rending criminal assistance and be sentenced to 27 months in prison with 18 to 36 months probation, according to court documents.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen opined about this case in his weekly column.

Read what he had to say by clicking the link below.

Robberies in region continue

The robberies in the Inland Northwest continued Thursday as three women foiled two attempts within minutes of each other by challenging the masked gunmen. 

Police don’t know if the cases are connected. They occurred more than two miles apart within 12 minutes of each other, one outside a woman’s home and another at a Dollar Store. (Yep, you read that right. Someone tried to rob a store where merchandise is sold for no more than a dollar. And left empty handed.)

In each case, the gunman was seen fleeing on foot. No surveillance photos of the culprits exist, said Sgt. Christie Wood. (Read more here.)

Like Spokane County, Kootenai County is seeing a rash of robberies that police say may or may not be connected. It could be several people working together, individuals repeating the crime, or a few people working separately but actively. 

“It makes me worried about these vulnerable businesses,” Wood said, adding that she was ”really concerned about the violent nature of these individuals and how far they’ll take it”

Coeur d’Alene police believe robberies Oct. 17 and Oct. 19 at a deli and Dairy Queen are connected, but a holdup at the Super 1 Foods in Hayden Oct. 18 appears to be unrelated, Wood said. (Read more here.)

Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies are questioning three men arrested for robbing a Zip Trip Wednesday night but haven’t charged them with any other holdups. (Read more here.)

Accused robber shot teen girl in 2004

Three men arrested for an armed robbery Wednesday night are being questioned about a string of robberies in Spokane County in the last month.

Nedzad Mesanovic, 20, (right) of Spokane; Miroslav Veselinovic, 22, of Spokane; and Reza Abghari, 26, of Colbert, were driving a dark Ford Taurus that a Spokane police officer recognized from a robbery report at the Zip Trip, 711 W. Hastings, at 11:15 p.m., according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Abghari made headlines in 2004 after he shot his then-13-year-old girlfriend while pointing what he thought was an unloaded gun at her.

Last night’s bust was spurred by the watchful police officer.

In light of a recent string of robberies one after another, the officer began watching a convenience store at Francis Avenue and Elgin Street, where he spotted Taurus parked behind a fence nearby.

The men sped away but were stopped by several patrol officers who found cigars stolen in the robbery and “a realistic-looking pellet gun,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies brought the Zip Trip clerk to the traffic stop, where the clerk “identified Abgahri as the gunman and Mesanovic as the getaway driver,” according to the news release. A woman in the car at the time of the robbery was interviewed and released by the Sheriff’s Office.

The three men remain in Spokane County Jail after appearing in Superior Court today via video.

Mesanovic was wanted for malicious harassment and second-degree theft in February 2008, according to a Crime Stoppers news released that called his two-year criminal history “impressive.”

News archives show he spent three and a half months in jail after being found guilty of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance and second-degree theft in February 2009.

Abghari was convicted of third-degree assault and a weapons charge and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in 2005 for shooting his 13-year-old girlfriend between the eyes “while pretending to be a gangster,” according to previously published reports.

Police said Abghari thought the gun was unloaded when he pulled the trigger. The girl was blinded in her right eye and left deaf in her right ear.

Read more here and here.

Photo of ATM burglar released

Brazen thieves are targeting cash machines at Spokane-area convenience stores, using stolen vehicles to bash through locked doors and storefronts to grab and loot the secured ATMs.

Spokane police hope someone recognizes the man pictured above outside the Conoco Station at 3125 E. Mission on Oct. 21.

The Conoco burglary was one of at least a dozen incidents in the last three weeks in which thieves have used stolen vehicles to bash through locked doors and storefronts to grab and loot secured ATMs.

Read more here.

Biker in fatal crash was convicted killer

The biker killed in a crash Wednesday had been a member of the Ghost Riders motorcycle gang and served time in prison for killing two people, news archives show.

Michael W. Fraser, 51, died when his bike slid more than 200 feet into an oncoming car on North Market Street, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Fraser, whose alias among Ghost Rider members was Herpes, was convicted of killing two people and had been an associate of Ghost Rider leader Al Hegge, who is serving life in prison for murdernig a Spokane police officer in 1983.

Read the rest of my story here.

Read old articles here and here.


Bar stabbing may be gang related

Here’s Sara Leaming’s report:

The owner of a downtown Spokane night club says his employees stopped a gang “hit” outside of his business early Wednesday night, during which two men were sent to the hospital with minor stab wounds.

Jordan Troutt, the owner of Uno Supper Club and Lounge, said in a press release that club bouncers intervened after a man walking by his club at 515 W. Sprague Ave. was attacked by a group who later identified themselves as members of a Crip street gang set.

Spokane police confirmed the Violent Crime Gang Enforcement Team is investigating the incident.

The melee began just after 12:30 a.m., when a crowd loitering in a parking lot across the street attacked a 22-year-old man walking in front of Club Uno. None involved were patrons of the club.

Bouncers chased and held at least them until police arrived. Arrested were John D. Proctor, 24, Rakee D. Cage, 22, and Adam Doe, 18, police said. The three remain in the Spokane County Jail.

Anyone with information about the stabbings is asked to call Crime Check at (509)456-2233.

Suspect identified in pizza place robbery

A 24-year-old man has been identified as a suspect in a Spokane pizza place robbery last month.

Justin J. Ellery is accused of handing a note demanding cash and stating he had a gun to a woman working at Papa John’s Pizza, 920 W. Indiana, at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 29, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Tips led detectives to issue an arrest warrant for Ellery on one count of first-degree robbery, police said today. He’d already been wanted by Crime Stoppers on two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and one count of delivery of a controlled substance.

Information leading to his arrest could qualify for a $50 reward, police said. Tipsters should call Crime Stoppers at (509) 327-5111.

Teen gets 22 years for killing girlfriend’s dad

A teenager will serve 22 years in prison for helping his girlfriend kill her father with a sword and baseball bat.

Edmund D. Washington, 19, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced today by Superior Court Judge Michael Price.

It’s the same sentence given to Jacqueline A. Wortham, 18, last month for the brutal slaying of Daniel A. Wortham, 39, on March 21, 2008.

The couple told police they waited more than 5 hours for the man to return to his home at 2617 E. Sharp Ave., from a plumbing job.

The picture above shows a different side of Washington.

Spokesman-Review photographer Dan Pelle made the photo in November 2006 as Washington, then 16, camped out with friends outside the Circuit City at the Spokane Valley Mall, waiting for the release of the PlayStation 3.

Read past coverage of the murder here.

The mother of Washington’s best friend wrote the newspaper after his arrest and said the teen was a good kid who was “fiercely protective of the people he loves.”

Read that letter here.

Jail guards in drug bust released

Two Franklin County corrections officers were released from the Spokane County Jail today after a bail hearing on federal drug charges.

Kevin J. Still, 44, (left) and Sonya K. Symons,

31, (right) were arrested last week by members of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force on federal charges of criminal conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Also arrested in Spokane was Troy Green, 29.

The U.S attorney’s office in Spokane moved for them to be released at a hearing in U.S District Court today. Judge Cynthia Imbrogno agreed. They were released by 3 p.m. today, according to jail records.

The three must have no contact with each other, take random drug tests, remain in Eastern Washington, undergo substance abuse counseling and refrain from “excessive use of alcohol,” according to release conditions filed today.

Court documents allege the Symons and Still wanted to start selling large quantities of marijuana and started working on the plan with a former jail inmate who turned out to be a confidential informant.

Their arrests on Thursday came after Still and Green gave an undercover DEA agent $15,000 for 12 pounds of marijuana, with the agreement that they’d pay another $15,000 later, according to the documents.

The allegations connect Green to a major drug ring busted in February. Read a previous blog post here.

Officials warn of cuts to courts, jail

Spokane County’s top law enforcement officials made an impassioned plea Tuesday to spare their budgets from spending cuts next year, suggesting commissioners tap the “rainy-day” fund to help prop up public safety services during tough economic times.

County commissioners said no and suggested county staff and residents prepare for cuts.

Read the rest of Jim Camden’s story here.

The county law enforcement system already shows signs of what officials say could happen with these cuts: more criminals on the streets.

Read examples here and here.

Pregnant woman imprisoned for Oxy robbery

A pregnant woman due in June will spend more than 2 1/2 years in prison for robbing a pharmacy of OxyContin last year.

Sunshine L. “Sunny” VanCleave, 35, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery Wednesday for using a BB gun to rob the Bi Mart in Deer Park of the powerful painkiller on Nov. 2. Her accomplice, James C. Hutson, 24, was given the same 31-month sentence in May.

After her arrest, VanCleave swallowed a handful of OxyContin and was treated at a local hospital, where she’s accused of strangling a nurse with a phone cord. She’s expected to plead guilty to a third-degree assault charge and will be given a sentence to run concurrent with the robbery sentence, said Deputy Prosecutor Tony Hazel.

VanCleave had no criminal history until her marriage fell apart a couple years ago and she started to “self medicate” with OxyContin, public defender Jeff Compton said.

Compton asked for Judge Maryann Moreno to spare VanCleave a prison sentence because of her health problems and other reasons, but Moreno said her health concerns can be addressed by the Washington Department of Corrections.

Hazel said he was concerned “that she may resort back to drug use while she’s pregnant.” VanCleave completed a drug addiction treatment program and said “I feel like I won’t ever go back to (drugs) ever again.”

Moreno said it was sad to see her sent to prison, but that the Legislature sets the sentencing standard for charges, and the prosecutor’s office won’t budge on the first-degree robbery charge if a gun was involved.

As her two other children cried quietly, VanCleave’s oldest daughter asked Moreno to change her mind after the sentence was handed down.

“I would really, really love to spend this Christmas with her,” she said. “Both of our parents have pretty much abandoned us, and now one of them is coming back and she’s being sent to prison?”

VanCleave spoke with The Spokesman-Review about her OxyContin addiction in January, saying “The devil got his grips in me really bad, and my kids are suffering for it.”

Read that story here.

$25,000 bond for murder victim’s roomie

The roommate of a man found dead near Green Bluff remains in Spokane County Jail on a $25,000 bond after a court appearance Wednesday.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office issued a $250,000 warrant for Miguel A. Rodriguez Barbosa, 18, on a felony marijuana charge, but Judge Ellen Kalama Clark called the request bond “extraordinary” and imposed the lesser amount.

Barbosa, who was living in the country on a VISA, faces deportation for the felony charge and is being held with no bail on an immigration order.

The teen has family in Odessa, has no criminal history and works with his brother in Spokane cleaning repossessed homes, said his public defender, Jeremy Benson.

Barbosa was arrested Tuesday, one week after detectives found two-thirds of a pound of marijuana in the home he shared at 623 E. Vicksburg with homicide victim Jesus Torres Valdovinos, 25.

Barbosa told detectives he was being trained to take over Valdovinos’ marijuana business and had seen Valdovinos (left) give his supplier $85,000 the day before he was found shot to death.

No arrests have been made in the homicide. Read past coverage here.

Idaho Oxy robber strikes again?

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Surveillance photos of an attempted robbery at Walgreens in Hayden Tuesday evening show the would-be robber wore a billed beanie hat that appears to match the hat worn by a robber at the Post Falls Walgreens Sept. 30.

The man walked out the Walgreens at Highway 95 and Honeysuckle without OxyContin about 5 p.m. yesterday after an employee said none of the powerful painkiller was in stock. Photos show him wearing black pants and a dark blue and black winter coat with the hood over an orange billed beanie hat.

The bill matches the bill of a hat worn Sept. 30, pictured at right, when a man handed an employee at the pharmacy at 706 E. Seltice a note saying he had a gun and demanding the drug. (Read more here. ) 

Maj. Ben Wolfinger of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department said investigators haven’t concluded if the robberies are connected.

“We don’t know 100 percent for sure, but we’re certainly looking at that,” Wolfinger said.

Walgreens installed time release safes in all Washington stores this summer (read about it here. ), and no robberies have been reported at Spokane County stores since.

Car in ATM theft was stolen from airport

The SUV used in an attempted ATM theft last week was stolen from the Hertz car rental company at Spokane International Airport, according to a search warrant.

A Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy found the 2009 white Infiniti Q56 SUV on Oct. 21 near North Juanita Road and North Kensington Drive, about a half mile from the A-1 Gas & Grocery, 9914 N. Wall St.

Earlier, masked men had used the SUV to break into the store and tried yanking the ATM out with chain attached to the vehicle.

“It does not work on the first attempt and a second is tried. This too fails,” according to the search warrant. “The alarms goes off and the (burglars) flee.”

A woman who lives in the area witnessed the incident and called 911.

The attempted heist matches an incident Oct. 8 in which a masked man backed a truck into a West Plains convenience store and stole money and more than 100 packs of cigarettes. Read about it here.

Homicide victim’s roommate arrested

The roommate of a man found dead near Green Bluff last week has been arrested on a felony drug charge.

Miguel A. Rodriguez-Barbosa, 18, was booked into Spokane County Jail today about 3 p.m. on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

Detectives found several hundred grams of marijuana Oct. 20 when they searched the home Rodriguez-Barbosa shared with Jesus Torres Valdovinos, 25, at 623 E. Vicksburg, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. Rodriguez-Barbosa likely have his first appearance in Spokane County Superior Court tomorrow.

Detectives are looking for information on a storage unit in Spokane that Valdovinos or Rodriguez-Barbosa rented; the teen told detectives Valdovinos stored guns, marijuana and money there. Investigators also are still looking for a love seat missing from the home.

The love seat matches the couch pictured above but has only two seats.

Read the rest of my story here.

Read past coverage here.

Oxy robbery suspect pleads not guilty

A 20-year-old woman accused of robbing a pharmacy of OxyContin pleaded innocent to the charge today.

Ariel A. Arrieta is charged with first-degree robbery in connection with a pill heist at the Rite Aid at 5520 N. Division St. on Sept. 27. She appeared in court today with her private defense attorney, Chris Phelps, and remains in jail on $30,000 bond.

William E. Higgins, 21, (right) was booked into Spokane County Jail just after midnight Sunday on the same charge after police say he and Jed L. Boles, 31, were with Arrieta when she robbed the pharmacy. Higgins posted bond Monday night after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court.

Boles checked himself into Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, according to a probable cause affidavit, but a hospital representative said he wasn’t there today.

Arrieta also is a suspect in an attempted robbery Oct. 12 at the Rite Aid at Wandermere Mall. Read more here.

Jail guards due in federal court tomorrow

Two Franklin County corrections officers are due in federal court in Spokane Wednesday for a bail hearing on drug charges.

Kevin J. Still, 44, (left) and Sonya K. Symons, 31, (right) were arrested Thursday by members of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force on federal charges of criminal conspiracy to distribute narcotics.

Still, a 21-year county corrections veteran, was arrested in Spokane while Symons, a 6-year veteran, was arrested at their Pasco home. Franklin County Sheriff Richard Lathim said the two have been suspended without pay pending termination, according to the Associated Press.

Also arrested in Spokane was Troy Green, 29. All three are in Spokane County Jail. Court documents allege the Symons and Still wanted to start selling large quantities of marijuana and started working on the plan with a jail inmate who turned out to be a confidential informant.

Their arrests on Thursday came after Still and Green gave an undercover DEA agent $15,000 for 12 pounds of marijuana, with the agreement that they’d pay another $15,000 later, according to the documents.

The allegations connect Green to a major drug ring busted in February. (Read more about the bust, called Operation Green Tree, here.)

“Still and Symons told CS1 that they wanted to find a new source of supply for themselves and Green who had recently lost his source of supply in Spokane, Washington, due to law enforcement activities,” according to the complaint. “Still and Symons told CS1 (a confidential informant) that Green’s previous source of supply was a Drug Trafficking Organization made up of mostly Vietnamese Americans.”

Rathdrum woman accused of $450,000 fraud

 A Rathdrum woman was arrested Monday on suspicion of embezzling more than $450,000 from a Post Falls doctor’s office.

Yolanda M. Williams, 36, is charged with grand theft and forgery for allegedly making fraudulent online transfers from the bank account of Post Falls Family Medicine into her personal bank account, Post Falls police said.

(Williams’ mug shot, taken today at the Kootenai County Jail, is at the right. Her Department of Licensing photo is at the left. It’s unclear what year the licensing photo was taken, but I would venture to guess it was a while ago.)

Here’s the rest of Sara Leaming’s report:

Williams, who worked as an office manager, began making withdrawals from the business accounts as far back as July 2003. The thefts were discovered Oct. 5, when management at the practice noticed funds were missing.

Williams is accused of altering bookkeeping records to erroneously show payments were made to various vendors, when they were not.

She also is accused of taking unauthorized checks from the business, forging them and depositing them into her own bank account.

Court records dated Oct. 20 show the clinic is seeking $451,289 in damages from Yolanda and Corey Williams.

Williams reportedly was cooperative with investigators when questioned about the missing money. She was booked into the Kootenai County Jail, where she remained Monday night.

The Post Falls Police Department called it the biggest fraud case they’d investigated.

Station wants theft charges in gas pump slip up

Here’s a report from Sara Leaming:

Several motorists took advantage of an apparent computer malfunction at an Athol gas station Saturday, pumping more than 370 gallons of fuel for just a penny per gallon.

An employee Cydco Food and Fuel, 29801 N. Highway 95, said between 1:45 a.m. and 3:40 a.m. multiple people filled up after a pump malfunctioned, possibly from a computer or electronic glitch, a report from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department states. Customers at one pump were charged one-cent per gallon, instead of the $2.86.

An employee at the store said two people returned and to pay full price, but two other people returned multiple times to take advantage of the one-cent error.

Because transactions at the pump were so close together, the report states that the customers appeared to have contacted others to tell them about the price error.

Police are attempting to track down customers who paid once-cent per gallon through bank card numbers, the theft report says.

The total loss to the store is $1,073 in fuel.

Spokane policemen honored for saving lives

Two Spokane policemen were honored by the City Council tonight for saving lives.

Officer Tim Moses (left) saved a man who was threatening suicide on the Monroe Street Bridge last month, and Cpl. Robbie Dashiell (right) saved a man who’d been shot in an apparent accidental shooting in August.

Read more on the shooting here.

Read the full news release from the Spokane Police Department by clicking the link below.

Homicide victim was big-time pot dealer, docs say

The man found shot to death near Green Bluff last week had been involved in a large marijuana operation for several years and had just paid off an $85,000 debt to his supplier, authorities have learned.

Jesus Torres Valdovinos, 25, reportedly gave his supplier the cash during an Oct. 17 meeting at his north Spokane home, detectives said in new documents filed Monday in Spokane County Superior Court.

That meeting occurred one day before his body was found wrapped in plastic bags and two blankets along Day-Mt. Spokane Road. Valdovinos was shot in the head at his rental home at 623 E. Vicksburg Ave., then dumped about 15 miles away between 5 p.m. Oct. 17 and 11 a.m. Oct. 18, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

(Detectives are still looking for a love seat missing from Valdovinos’ home. See what it looks like here. )

Read a story on big marijuana grows operated by international drug cartels that published the day Valdovinos’ body was found here.

Man linked to sex with horses, again

A man who helped trigger the passage of a law banning bestiality in Washington has once again been linked to sex with horses, this time in Tennessee.

Sheriff’s investigators said Tuesday that 58-year-old James Michael Tait (right) was having sex with horses on a Maury County farm. He and the farm owner, 44-year-old Kenny Thomason, are charged with animal cruelty.

The Seattle Times tackled this story last week. Check it out here.

Read a story on Washington’s bestiality bill, which passed in 2006, here.

Craigslist sale leads to stolen police gear

A suspicious camera sale brokered through Craigslist has led the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to a cache of stolen police gear taken from one of its undercover vehicles more than five months ago.

The case began taking shape after a Sandpoint woman called detectives in late September after growing leery of an expensive camera being sold for well under its value by a young man she said knew little about its complicated features.

That man turned out to be Nick A. Peters, investigators say, who used to live near a detective whose unmarked police car was prowled in early May.

Read the rest of my story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review. I’m out of the office until Monday.

Teen faces 39+ years after jury verdict

A Spokane teenager faces a a minimum of about 39 years in prison after a jury convicted him Friday of shooting at two men in a motel parking lot.

Anthony R. Covert, 19, was found guilty of attempted murder, first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault and two weapons charges for a Nov. 7, 2008 shooting at the West Wynn Motel, 2701 W. Sunset Highway, that left a Spokane man, Shane L. Hagedorn, with gunshot wounds to his stomach.

The jury of nine women and three men acquitted him of only one count - first-degree assault on a friend of Hagedorn’s who was not shot.

The convictions carry four weapons enhancements, which add significantly more prison time.

Hagedorn, who was 27 at the time of the shooting, “still doesn’t have full use of his arms, and he’s still in quite a bit of pain,” said Spokane County Prosecutor Dale Nagy.

“As always we’re pleased, particularity for the victims and their families, about the verdict,” Nagy said. The jury deliberated for about a day.

Past coverage here and here.

Tips sought in CdA church burglaries

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that solve two recent Coeur d’Alene church burglaries.

Cash, keys, food, guitars and tools were stolen from the First Christian Church, 610 N. 4th St., and the St. Thomas Catholic Church, 919 E. Indiana Ave., between Wednesday evening and this morning, according to Crime Stoppers.

Police say the man featured at the right was involved in at least one of the burglaries.

Anyone with information on the burglar is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (208) 667-2111 or 1-866-667-2111.

Callers don’t have to leave their name but should leave a code name or number.

Valley meth man gets 23 years in prison

A Spokane Valley man will spend 23 years in prison for helping run a meth ring that distributed more than 33 pounds of the drug, the U.S attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Washington announced today.

Daniel A. Flaherty, 36, also will be on probation for 10 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The family-based drug trafficking organization operated out of the Tri-Cities and led investigators to more than 30 pounds of meth and $700,000.

Federal agents found more than four pounds of meth in Flaherty’s storage unit in Spokane Valley in October 2008.

Flaherty will give up personal property and more than $23,000 seized from his bank account. He had a prior felony drug conviction that gave him a minimum penalty of 20 years in prison.

A raid at his home in 2004 dismantled his expensive lifestyle, according to an article you can read here.

Man accused of rape at Fairchild

An employee with Fairchild Air Force Base’s Survival Training Center is accused of raping a woman in an interrogation room.

Michael W. Fassbender, 32, is in Spokane County Jail on $20,000 bail after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court via video Wednesday on one count of first-degree rape.

Deputies responded to Fairchild about 1 a.m. Tuesday, where a woman said Fassbender had choked her into unconscious while raping her and that “she feared for her life,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Deputies found blood on a desk and chair in an interrogation room at the Survival Training Center, and the woman reportedly had red marks and bruises on her arms, chest and legs, according to the affidavit.

Fassbender, who a public defender said has no criminal history, is an employee with SERE Solutions, a Spokane-based company that provides contracted instructors to the military.

A company representative could not be reached for comment.

Roommates arrested in thefts, again

It didn’t take long for police to identify two suspects in two recent high school locker rooms thefts.

A couple of surveillance photos of the culprits did the trick.

“We got flooded with tips, not only from law enforcement officers…but just from everywhere that it was Jenalee Hall and Miranda Watson,” said Sgt. John Nowels of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Establishing probable cause to arrest them for the burglaries at East Valley and West Valley high school locker rooms Oct. 2 took a bit more time, but the women’s alleged criminal tendencies apparently helped.

They were picked up Friday accused of trying to steal movies and a customer’s purse at Costco, 3601 E. Sprague Ave.

Arresting officers knew they were suspects in the locker room burglaries in which the culprits escaped in a large white van.

Watson, 25, (right, allegedly) and Hall, 22, (left, allegedly) were in a white van Friday afternoon. Inside, detectives found property they believe ties the two to the burglaries as well as other crimes like vehicles prowlings.

“We’re probably going to end up with multiple felony charges for both of them,” Nowels said.

Also arrested in the case was Watson’s fiancé, Chad Hoyt, 26.

Watson and Hall, Hall, who is related to notorious Spokane criminal Eddie Ray Hall, were described as roommates when they were arrested in May for a string of vehicle prowlings and theft incidents at Spokane Valley and South Hill fitness clubs.

Both women were out on bail when they were arrested in the Costco parking lot last week, according to court records.

Hall posted $5,000 bond on Monday. Watson is being held in jail as a fugitive from Kootenai County, where she’s charged with forgery, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, burglary and attempted possession of a controlled substance, according to court papers.

She also faces prescription forgery charges in Spokane County after employees at the Safeway at 2590 E. 29th said she’d filled three OxyContin prescription in May that they later learned had been forged, according to a probable cause affidavit.

After her arrest Friday, detectives say Watson admitted to a plan to steal movies from Costco and said she and her friends had sat in the store’s parking lot for the past hour “ingesting narcotics,” according to a warrant used to search their van.

Hall’s young son was in the van when the three were arrested, according to the warrant.

Read a previous post here.

Love seat sought in homicide investigation

Detectives are looking for a love seat that was removed from a homicide victim’s home before a search Tuesday, Sgt. Dave Reagan said today.

Jesus J. Torres Valdovinos, 25, (left) was found dead and wrapped in two blankets near Green Bluff Sunday.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said today that he died from a gunshot wound to the head. No arrests have been made.

Detectives had no suspects during a search Tuesday at Valdovinos’ home at 623 E. Vicksburg Ave.

Investigators recovered evidence from the home but did not elaborate. The missing love seat looks exactly like the love seat pictured here. (We are working to get a better photo.)

Read my story here.

Web sites could hold clues to murder-suicide

Internet postings could hold clues to why an Iraq war veteran shot his wife to death before committing suicide, according to a search warrant filed today in Spokane County Superior Court.

Chadwick and Jessica Olson, both 21, were found dead Aug. 29 at Chad Olson’s childhood home in Republic. Chad Olson had returned from Iraq about eight months earlier, and the couple married in July, according to this article.

The couple used MySpace and Hotmail accounts to talk to family, friends and each other, and both had logged into their MySpace pages the night they died.

Chad Olson set his mood as “bummed;” his wife set her’s as “Evil.” Washington State Patrol detectives served searched warrants to Hotmail and MySpace for correspondence from their accounts “for the purpose of determining motive as well as to reveal any circumstances leading up to the deaths of both Chdwick and Jessica Olson.”

Read past coverage here.

Woman with 30+ convictions adds another

A 57-year-old woman with at least 32 criminal convictions dating back to 1981 was sentenced to a year in prison and a year probation today for a low-level jewelry heist.

Lawanda Hopkins-Sparks, who a prosecutor once told a judge has “more experience with misdemeanor citations than all of us combined,” was sentenced to the drug offender sentencing alternative program in a plea deal today on a second-degree theft charge.

The felony conviction is at least Hopkins-Sparks’ twelfth, according to court documents. Nine of those felonies involve theft and stolen property.

She’s also been convicted of third-degree theft, a misdemeanor, 13 times. (The picture to the right was distributed by Crime Stoppers in August; the picture to the left was sent out in May 2008.)

Her most newsworthy crime appears to have occurred about eight years ago, when she was arrested for stealing a Red Cross donation jar set up for victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

She was arrested in August for stealing $111 in jewelry from the downtown Nordstrom in May and trying to exchange it for money.

At her sentencing today, a friend spoke on her behalf, and Hopkins-Sparks spoke of her drug addiction and compulsive behavior and apologized.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens said he’s heard it all before and made no qualms about predicting Hopkins-Sparks won’t change her ways.

“Until next time, Lawanda,” Stevens said as she was led back to the Spokane County Jail.

“I am going to prove you wrong, Mr. Stevens,” Hopkins-Sparks said.

“You’ve said that before, too,” Stevens said.

Read a blog post on Hopkins-Sparks’ first appearance in August here.

Man held in wife’s murder taken to Eastern

A Stevens County man accused of killing his wife is undergoing mental evaluations at Eastern State Hospital.

Craig R. Cosby, 68, called 911 Oct. 3 after killing his wife and was arrested in the front yard of his home in the 1200 block of Overlook Boulevard in Marcus, a small town along the Columbia River in northern Stevens County.

Susan May Cosby, 53, was found dead of gunshot wounds in the home, and her husband was held on $500,000 after his first court appearance. He was to be arraigned on a first-degree murder charge last week in Stevens County Superior Court, but the hearing was continued after his lawyer requested he be evaluated for competency, which will take weeks.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen wrote about this in a weekly column he sends to media.

Click the link below to read the entire column.

Robbery roundup

Two Deer Park men have been identified as suspects in an OxyContin robbery that police linked to a 20-year-old woman.

Jed L. Boles, 31, (left) and William E. Higgins, 21, (right) face charges of first-degree robbery for allegedly helping Ariel A. Arrieta rob the Rite Aid at 5520 N. Division St. on Sept. 27, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Arrieta’s boyfriend told police she drove with two men, whom police identified as Higgins and Boles, to the pharmacy, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Arrieta also is a suspect in an attempted robbery Oct. 12 at the Rite Aid at Wandermere Mall. Read more here.

OxyContin robberies are beginning to be upstaged by armed robberies at seemingly random locations: ice cream shops, restaurants, anywhere with cash. Read more about it here.

Bonnie and Clyde coin was in stolen Jeep

The Jeep allegedly stolen by a double murder suspect and his girlfriend in Coeur d’Alene this month contained a coin depicting the famous outlaw duo Bonnie and Clyde.

“It’s just kind of weird,” said Julie Forsythe, a single of mother of three now out a 1992 Jeep Cherokee after authorities found it submerged in a canal in Kennewick Oct. 9.

Forysthe had reported the Jeep stolen from outside a Sherman Avenue Coeur d’Alene business, Bee Hive Homes, two days earlier.

On Oct. 10, police arrested Merle W. Harvey, accused of shooting two men to death Sept. 26, and his girlfriend, Diane L. Richardson, walking in a wheat field in Kennewick. Harvey told police he’d stolen a truck in Spokane, then driven to Coeur d’Alene where he stole Forysthe’s and Glock pistol that was inside, according to a search warrant.

Forsythe said the Bonnie and Clyde coin belongs to her son.

Court papers detailing Harvey and Richardson’s alleged crime spree suggest the two hardly compare to the famous crime duo shot to death in 1934 after more than a year on the run and a series of major crimes. (Read more about Bonnie and Clyde here.)

Police say Richardson was driving the Jeep when Harvey shoplifted from a Kennewick convenience store. Police chased the car but stopped because it was too dangerous, according to court papers. Harvey told police Richardson crashed it in the canal shortly after.

Forsythe doubts she’ll get the Jeep back. She’d had it just two years and it ran fine, but repairing the damage Harvey and Richardson’s allegedly did do it would cost more than it’s worth, she said.

Her insurance policy won’t cover the loss, and she wonders how her family will get around, she said.

“It was all we had,” she said.

Read past coverage here.

Federal orders won’t affect local pot cases

New orders from the U.S Justice Department to end federal prosecution of state-authorized medical marijuana patients and dispensaries will have no effect on cases in Eastern Washington, prosecutors said Monday.

The policy memo issued today calls for an end to prosecution of medical marijuana patients who are in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state medical marijuana laws.

Those cases already aren’t prosecuted here, said Jim McDevitt, the U.S attorney for Eastern Washington.

“This office has, at least in my memory, never prosecuted anyone purely and simply because they were a medical marijuana user,” McDevitt said Monday. “But we have gone after them because they’ve basically been a distributor of medical marijuana.”

McDevitt said he is interested in pursuing federal charges against local dispensaries found in violation of the state’s medical marijuana law.

Read the rest of my story here.

Click here to read Jim Camden’s Sunday story on large marijuana growing operations led by Mexican drug cartels that McDevitt said are becoming a big problem in Eastern Washington.

Today’s announcement won’t change much locally. But the debate is raging in California, where weed advocates are gathering signatures to get as many as three pot-legalization measures on the ballot in 2010 in California, according to The Associated Press. (The picture above is from a grow raid in August.)

“Under federal law, marijuana is illegal, period,” the article reads. “After overseeing a series of raids that destroyed more than 300,000 marijuana plants in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills this summer, federal drug czar Gil Kerlikowske proclaimed, “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine.””

Click on the link below to read the full story by Marcus Wohlsen, which was published Oct. 7.

Feds issue ‘clarification’ in cocaine case

An order order issued Wednesday by U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno stated Canadian cocaine suspect Michael B. Yuill’s employer was being investigated “relevant to the pending charges.”

Not true, according to this document filed Friday.

“The Government did not intent to assert that the Defendant’s former employer is under investigation for the pending charges,” according to the document. “The government is aware that the recent fire at the Defendant’s former place of employment is under investigation by Canadian authorities as a suspicious fire. The Government does not have information that the Defendant’s former employer is under investigation for the drug trafficking offense charged in the present case.”

Yuill is being held without bond in the Spokane County Jail after being arrested Oct. 7 with 38 kilos of cocaine in a rented SUV. (Read more here.)

A social networking Web site for his business said Yuill is known in his hometown of Salmon Arm, B.C, as “the guy that dresses up as Shrek every Halloween,” referring to the animated character.

True, according to the local newspaper, the Salmon Arm Observer. The paper this morning emailed us the above photo of Yuill dressed as Shrek in 2005.

Spokane man arrested in July shooting

A man accused of attempted murder is due in court today after nearly three months on the run.

Timothy “Stoney Boy” Lucious, 38, was booked into Spokane County Jail early Sunday morning in connection with a July 24 shooting in south Spokane that began with a fight at a north town bar.

Acting on a tip, police arrested Lucious early Sunday at a North Lincoln Street address, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

He’s to appear in Spokane County Superior Court via video this afternoon on two counts of first-degree attempted murder and one count of second-degree assault.

A second suspect, Michael “Mikey Mike” R. Gardner, 23, remains at large, according to Crime Stoppers.

Spokane police say the men were involved in a fight that left two women with gunshots to their arm and chest. The victims were joined by two other women at Lefty’s when the argument ensued, and the group saw each other again at a party in the 2200 block of North Denver after the bar closed about 2 a.m., Lt. Dave McGovern said in July.

The five women left in a white car for Grant Park, where one received a call about another party at Hartson and Seventh Avenue. But when the women were driving there, they saw the woman from the earlier confrontations standing with others, two of whom police identified as Lucious and Gardner, near Seventh and Perry.

Witnesses reported 10 to 15 people involved in the fight.

The two women brawled, and Lucious shot one in the arm, according to police.

When the women tried to flee, they noticed a friend missing and went back for her, but Lucious shot her in the chest, police said.

Read past coverage here.

Also arrested this weekend was a teen charged with second-degree murder. Christopher Hooper was booked into jail Sunday at 12:20 p.m.

Warrant looks for bruises on Oxy suspect

Search warrants are filed just about daily in Spokane County.

Homes and cars are the most common targets, followed by cell phones, purses and backpacks. Sometimes there will be a search warrant to obtain a DNA swap from a suspect, but rarely do I see a warrant such as the one filed Oct. 13 in Spokane County District Court.

“Your affiant believes probable cause exits to search Ariel Arrieta for any injuries, marks or bruises and photographs those injuries, marks or bruises,” the warrant reads. “This injury is supposed to be on Ariel’s right shoulder, but your affiant would like to check both shoulders and Ariel’s back in case the witness was in error as to where he hit her.”

That’s right, police served a search warrant on a 20-year-old woman’s body.

Arrieta has been charged with first-degree robbery for an OxyContin holdup on Sept. 27 at a Rite Aid pharmacy, 5520 N. Division St.

She’s suspected in an attempted robbery Monday night at the Rite Aid at Wandermere in which the would-be robber was struck with a metal bar.

The description of the robbery matches Arrieta; bruises, or a lack of bruises, could make or break the case.

Motion to suppress filed in Elm Street homicides

The attorney for accused double murderer Justin Crenshaw wants all statements Crenshaw made to detectives thrown out as evidence for his February trial, according to a motion to suppress filed this week.

The legal question at hand: Were the statements from Crenshaw given during a noncustodial interview as investigators claim, or was Crenshaw being interrogated without having been read his rights, as defense lawyer Chris Bugbee argues in 10-page motion filed Oct. 14 in Spokane County Superior Court?

“Most telling in the present case is that when the officers finally got around to informing Justin Crenshaw of his constitutional rights after more than nine hours of interrogation his first response was: I think I need an attorney,” according to the motion, which notes that detectives had already called Crenshaw a suspect in a report before they talked to him.

Included with the motion are investigation reports that have never been made public until now.

The reports say Crenshaw, who denies killing Sarah A. Clark and Tanner E. Pehl, told a detective he wanted “to tell you what happened, but I want to know the evidence against me first.”

According to the reports, “Detective Drapeau told Justin that he understood how things can happen involving relationships and betrayal that could possibly lead a man to do things he normally would not do. Detective Drapeau reports that Justin shook his head and said “shit happens.” Detective Drapeau told Justin that all of the evidence pointed to his guilt. Justin purportedly responded “the evidence doesn’t lie.’”

No hearing on the motion to suppress those statements (and others) has been set.

Read past coverage here and here.

‘My side of the story is self-defense’

A Spokane man accused of shooting two men to death over a car trade says the slayings were in self-defense.

Merle W. Harvey, 27, shot Jack T. Lamere, 41, and Jacob J. Potter, 45, after “three guys surrounded my truck with guns,” Harvey told a local TV station this week.

“My side of the story is self-defense,” Harvey (left) said in the videotaped interview with KREM-TV. “It could have been me and my girlfriend dead.”

Authorities, however, dismiss his claims.

Investigators allege the shooting deaths were planned, and a Spokane County District Court judge ordered Harvey held on $1 million bond for two first-degree murder charges after he and Diane L. Richardson were arrested Oct. 10 in Kennewick, two weeks after the Sept. 26 killings.

Richardson, 34, (right) is being held on $250,000 bail for one count of first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

Police say the couple stole a Jeep in North Idaho before crashing it into a canal after shoplifting from a convenience store, according to newly filed court documents.

Read the rest of my story here.

Read past coverage here, here and here.

War vet gets 6 months for Oxy robbery

An Iraq war veteran who robbed a pharmacy of OxyContin while undergoing drug abuse counseling will stay in jail for three more months.

Terran D. Schatz, 24, was sentenced to six months in jail Friday after pleading guilty to second-degree robbery.

He’ll be credited with about 120 days he’s served since his arrest June 12, five days after he robbed the Walgreens at 2830 S. Grand Blvd. An additional charge of second-degree assault as dismissed as part of the plea deal approved Friday by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno.

Schatz joined the Army when he was 18 and spent six months in Iraq. He was in drug counseling at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center when he walked into the pharmacy and handed an employee a note stating he had a gun and demanding OxyContin. No gun was displayed.

Schatz apologized in court Friday.

“I know I can do right,” he said. “I’m just going to try, try real hard.”

Moreno suggested Schatz find a different treatment program.

“I’m not sensing that it is the right program for you,” she said. “I’m not suggesting that it’s not, but I’m not hearing the insight from you that I think I should be hearing at this point.”

Schatz is the second OxyContin robber to avoid a prison sentence in the last month.

Read about the other one here.

Cancer-stricken officer credited with big pot bust

A huge marijuana bust this morning uncovered an international operation that shipped duffel bags of pot down the Kettle River, according to the Spokane Police Department.

About 40 pounds of marijuana, $70,000 and a grow room were found at a home in Stevens County in an investigation police say was triggered by the suspicions of an officer who died of cancer Oct. 5. 

Officer Aaron Douglas (right) suspected there was more to a case of a man found with 10 pounds of marijuana a few months ago.

The investigation involved people selling the drug “using the cover of selling medical marijuana,” according to a news release.

The case was about to close, but Douglas’ suspicions led investigators to search a home this morning.

David Raugust, 28, and Greg Breken, 52, were arrested on charges of manufacturing a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

  “Seized ledgers indicated transactions of over $100,000 were being conducted,” according to the news release.

Spokane police Officer Devin Presta said the operation apparently involved B.C bud being imported to the United States by backpack and river rafts.

Look for more details next week when the search warrant and probable cause affidavits are available.

Police: Men used teen to lure robbery victim

Two men accused of using a teenage girl to lure a robbery victim spent the money on a shopping spree at a Spokane mall, court papers allege.

The purchases helped detectives build the felony case against Richard W. Hall and Ronald E. Davis, both of whom pleaded innocent today in Spokane County Superior Court to charges of first-degree robbery and second-degree assault.

Police allege the men conspired with the girl to rob Arturo Ferrer Lezama near Upriver Driver and the Centennial Trail in August, leaving Lezama badly beaten.

Read the rest of my story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review.

Reward offered for teen in murder case

A teenager charged with second-degree murder for a fatal stabbing in January has a warrant out for his arrest after failing to show up for a court hearing.

Christopher E. Hooper, 18, (left) and Michael L. Summa, 20, and Tylor T. Buttolph, 19, are accused of killing Shannon Cochran on Jan. 16 near Garland and Helena as Cochran defended a friend in a fight over a debt, according to this story.

Summa and Buttolph are in jail, but court papers filed May 1 ordered Hooper released from jail on his own recognizance.

He had already had his $750,000 bond reduced to $150,000.

The release order, signed by Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell, offers no explanation other than “good cause exists.”

Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to Hooper’s capture after he didn’t show up for a pre-trial conference.

The order for a bench warrant signed by Judge Harold Clarke calls for no bail.

Anyone with information on Hooper’s location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online here.

Read more coverage here and here.

Man to serve at least 8 years for CdA attack

A 67-year-old Plummer man was sentenced today to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of a violent rape.

Gary Allen Srery, who has a criminal history dating back to the 1960s, must serve eight years of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

His brutal attack against a Coeur d’Alene woman last June led to the woman suffering a stroke.

Read Alison Boggs’ story here.

Another guilty verdict for would-be meth cook

A Newport man whose intent to manufacture methamphetamine conviction was thrown out by the state supreme court because of procedural error was re-convicted Wednesday by a Spokane jury.

Virgil Montgomery has already served his 51-month prison sentence imposed after he and a friend were arrested in 2004 with five of the nine ingredients needed to manufacture the drug.

The Washington Supreme Court tossed his conviction in an unanimous ruling in May 2008 and ordered a new trial because of procedural errors.

One justice even noted that Montgomery’s “conviction was supported by substantial evidence,” according to this article here. (Read an editorial here.)

But procedural errors dogged the conviction, and another jury was called to decide Montgomery’s guilt. It took about three hours to reach the same verdict the previous jury did: Guilty.

Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens declined to comment on the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“I could be subject to disbarment if I were to say anything negative about the opinion,” Stevens said.

Parking lot shooting trial begins

After a hitch getting the jury seated, a deputy prosecutor told the panel today why they should convict a 19-year-old Spokane man of attempted first-degree murder after he shot a man several times in a parking lot on Sunset Hill.

Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy told the jury in his opening statement about the circumstances that led up to the shooting and how Anthony R. Covert kept pulling the trigger of the semi-automatic .40-caliber handgun until it was empty.

The incident began as a phone conversation by a woman trying to find a friend that turned into an altercation between two groups of young men who apparently didn’t even know each other. 

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Young woman nabbed for Oxy robbery

 Spokane police have arrested a 5-foot-tall woman in connection with a Sept. 27 pharmacy robbery and believe she may have been struck with a metal bar this week in a thwarted attempt at a different store.

Ariel A. Arrieta, 20, appeared in Spokane County Superior Court on one count of first-degree robbery in connection with an OxyContin holdup on Sept. 27 at a Rite Aid Pharmacy, 5520 N. Division St. She’s being held in Spokane County Jail on $30,000 bail.

Police said she is also a suspect in the attempted robbery Monday night at the Rite Aid at Wandermere. In that incident, a woman also described as 5-foot-tall handed an employee a note demanding OxyContin but was turned away when another employee hit her with a metal bar, causing her to run away.

A tip from a woman who said she’s twice helped Arrieta with her OxyContin addiction helped police identify her as a suspect, according to a probable cause affidavit.

“(She) not only noticed Ariel looked like the armed robber, but the robbery suspect in the video walked just like Ariel,” according to the affidavit.

Arrieta’s boyfriend told police a friend had given her a handgun and that person and two others drove with them to Spokane. The boyfriend waited in a parking lot for Arrieta and the two to return from the robbery, he told police.

“Ariel and the two unnamed coconspirators argued over who should get what quantity of the OxyContin,” according to the affidavit. “The three subjects eventually each took an amount of OxyContin.”

Watch a video of Arrieta allegedly in action here.

Video from the botched robbery Monday night hasn’t been released, but something tells me it might be worthy of

The only other unsolved pharmacy robbery occured at the Walgreens in Post Falls. Read about it here.

Ex-security chief gets 18 years for child rape

After listening to descriptions of the years of pain he inflicted on his victims, Robert J. Robel stood to face the judge who would send him to prison for what could be the rest of his life.

The former security supervisor for The Spokesman-Review, convicted of raping two girls for most of their childhoods, choked back a sob.

“I’ll carry this pain with me for the rest of my life for what I’ve done,” Robel, 61, said through tears. “…I apologize for the hurt and pain I caused my victims.”

Robel was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison in a plea deal approved today by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno.

Read the rest of my story here.

GU professor nominated for federal judgeship

WASHINGTON – If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gonzaga University law professor Rosanna Peterson would become the first woman to serve on Eastern Washington’s U.S. District Court bench.

President Barack Obama announced Peterson’s nomination Tuesday for the vacancy left after Judge Fred Van Sickle’s move to senior status last year. She was chosen for the Eastern District, which encompasses Spokane and 19 other counties, from three finalists selected by a bipartisan committee.

“I’m very honored and extremely appreciative of the vote of confidence from President Obama,” said Peterson, who found out she was nominated after a 6 a.m. phone call from Sen. Patty Murray’s office. 

Read the rest of Jacob Barker’s story here.

B.C man in coke bust to stay in jail

A Canadian citizen arrested in Eastern Washington with more than 80 pounds of cocaine will remain in federal custody, a judge ruled today.

Michael B. Yuill, 36, of Salmon Arm, B.C., has been in Spokane County Jail since his arrest on the Colville Indian Reservation Oct. 7. DEA agents found 38 kilos of cocaine in his rented Nissan Sport Utility Vehicle, according to federal court documents.

U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno said in a ruling filed this morning that there isn’t proof Yuill has a plan for his release that would ensure he’d appear for court dates. While Yuill is very close to his mother and has monthly contact with his brothers, Imbrogno noted that no family members attended his bail hearing Tuesday.

“Typically, if a defendant is a citizen from outside the United States, there is strong family support present at the bail hearing with reasonable assurances the family can assist with supervision and with facilitating an individual’s return for court dates,” Imbrogno wrote.

Yuill’s public defender said his employer at a Salmon Arm saloon can help with bond, but federal prosecutors say that man is being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in connection to Yuill’s charges, according to Imbrogno’s ruling. (UPDATE: prosecutors say the investigation is NOT related to the cocaine bust.)

Federal agents began tracking Yuill, an electrician and father of two with no criminal record, after Spokane International Airport police said he’d rented several SUVs in the last four months and returned them with unusually high mileage.

Read my previous story here.

Fugitive busted after Facebook friend request

Sometimes in my profession you’ll read a story and your only real reaction is “Why couldn’t I have written that?”

Here is one such story from Associated Press writer Gene Johnson. (Read about a similar story out of Spokane here.)

SEATTLE — Maxi Sopo was living the dream of a fugitive abroad, kicking back on the beaches of Cancun by day, partying in the clubs by night.

Then he did two things that are never a good idea when you’re on the run from authorities: He started posting Facebook updates about how much fun he was having — and added a former Justice Department official to his list of friends.

That kind of recklessness landed the 26-year-old native of Cameroon in a Mexico City jail, where he is awaiting extradition to the United States on bank fraud charges.

Federal prosecutors say he and an associate falsely obtained more than $200,000 from Seattle-area banks and credit unions.

‘“He was making posts about how beautiful life is and how he was having a good time with his buddies,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville, who helped find Sopo. “He was definitely not living the way we wanted him to be living, given the charges he was facing.” (Scoville is pictured above.)

Even in the hold-nothing-back world of social networking, where police search Facebook photos for evidence of underage drinking and watch YouTube videos to identify riot suspects, it’s rare that a fugitive helps authorities this much.

In status updates, Sopo said he was “loving it” and “living in paradise.” “LIFE IS VERY SIMPLE REALLY!!!!” he wrote on June 21. “BUT SOME OF US HUMANS MAKE A MESS OF IT…REMEMBER AM JUST HERE TO HAVE FUN PARTEEEEEEE.”

Read the rest of Johnson’s story by clicking the link below.

B.C man busted near Spokane with 38 kilos of coke

Spokane International Airport police suspected something was going on with the Canadian man they’d seen several times. In the last four months, he’d rented several SUVs and returned them after racking up unusually high mileage – some 3,000 miles apiece.

Based on that tip, agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration began tracking Michael Barry Yuill, a 36-year-old resident of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, a small community about 300 miles north of Spokane.

Now, Yuill is facing federal drug trafficking charges in what authorities are describing as a major Eastern Washington cocaine seizure.

Read the rest of my story here.

On a Facebook page for his small business, Yuill is described as being known in Salmon Arm “the guy that dresses up as Shrek every Halloween,” referring to the popular’s children’s movie. Check it out here.

Judges look at verdict tossed over racial comments

Three state appellate judges were asked Tuesday to reinstate a verdict in favor of a local doctor after five jurors in the original malpractice trial reportedly made derogatory comments about the Japanese heritage of one of the plaintiff’s attorneys.

The case has attracted statewide attention among dozens of minority legal organizations, many of which filed arguments in support of upholding a decision by now-retired Superior Court Judge Robert Austin.

The judge granted a new trial in 2008 after two of the 12 jurors came forward and gave sworn statements about what other jurors said about attorney Mark Kamitomo, who represented the family who sued the physician for malpractice. The doctor appealed Austin’s decision.

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Kamitomo (pictured above in January 2008) spoke of his surprise over the incident in a story you can read here.

Read more about Austin’s decision here.

Locker room thieves caught on camera

Here’s a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan:

“A pair of thieves struck West Valley and East Valley High schools last week, and school resource deputies hope someone can identify the crooks.

On Oct. 2, the two females entered the girls’ locker room at East Valley High School and entered two lockers belonging to volleyball players who were at after-school practice.

The thieves took a truck key and bottle of perfume from one locker and from the second a brown wallet containing cash, a debit card, school ID card and Washington Learner’s Permit. A pink Voyager cellular phone also was taken.

The suspects apparently went to the parking lot and used the stolen key to open the first victim’s truck. They stole a pink iPod and Cannon digital camera from the vehicle.

Less than an hour later, the two suspects went to West Valley High School and entered the girls’ locker room while those volleyball players were at practice.

This time they were captured on school security video.

The suspects stole a black and pink T-Mobile “Behold” phone, a gray and green T-Mobile “Gravity” phone, a pink LG “Venus” phone and a blue AT&T “Slider” phone from four different victims.

Total loss was about $900. Neither suspect appears to be a student at either school.

When they left West Valley High, outside security video captured them getting into a white van.

Anyone with information about the two thieves is encouraged to call Crime Check at 456-2233.”

Oxy addict robbed elderly women, court docs say

OxyContin addiction drove a young man to rob elderly women in grocery store parking lots to support his habit, court documents allege.

Ryan X. Burgess, 21, was scheduled to plead innocent today to first-degree robbery, first-degree theft and two counts of second-degree robbery in connection with four incidents in late September.

In each of the cases, the victims said Burgess approached them in a grocery store parking lot and took their purses or demanded money.

One of the alleged victims is a 96-year-old woman who uses a walker, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Burgess told detectives his OxyContin addiction ruined his life and that he used all robbery proceeds to buy pills, according to the affidavit. He remains in Spokane County Jail. Burgess’ arraignment came the morning after a couple of strange OxyContin-related reports from law enforcement.

In the first case, a man was shocked with a Taser and arrested after trying to run from police investigating reports of two men preparing to rob the Rite Aid at Argonne and Mission.

Jason M. Kingsley, 28, was due in court today on one charge of third-degree assault against a law enforcement officer. His alleged accomplice remains at large.

In the second case, a would-be robber was hit in the head with a metal bar by an employee at Rite Aid, 12315 N. Highway 395.

The suspected robber, described as a woman wearing heavy makeup or of a Middle Eastern background, handed an employee a note claiming she had a gun and demanding the drug about 8:35 p.m.

TV network wants Blade Runner docs unsealed

A Canadian television network is working to unseal court documents in Eastern Washington federal court about the drug bust that led to a legendary young mountain biker’s death in the Spokane County Jail.

Lawyers for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation filed a motion last week asking a judge to unseal documents in the federal case against a man arrested while en route to meet Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown.

Jail officials say Brown (left and bottom right) committed suicide in jail Feb. 27 after landing a helicopter filled with 420 pounds of marijuana in the Colville National Forest and being met by federal agents Feb. 23.

Federal agents had just busted Leonard J. Ferris and Ross N. Legge with 83 kilograms of cocaine in Utah on Feb. 21.

The arrests revealed a vast drug dealing conspiracy dubbed Operation Blade Runner, which federal agents believe dates back at least five years. ’

Court documents say Ferris and Legge, who had rented storage facilities around Spokane, were to exchange the cocaine to Brown for the marijuana. Originally charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Ferris pleaded guilty in April, but no public record of a sentencing exists in the federal court file, most of which is sealed.

The motion, filed Oct. 5 by the Seattle law firm Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP, said it’s unclear what exactly is sealed in Ferris’ file because even the motion to seal is sealed.

“Presumably, these are sentencing-related documents,” according to the motion. “The Ninth Circuit has recognized the media’s legitimate interest in such documents because of the media’s ability to explain how sentencing decisions are made.”

A documentary news show for CBC called “the fifth estate” is investigating Brown’s death, which is notably not refered to as a suicide in the network’s court filings.

Brown’s death came a week before another young man, Jeremy Snow, was arrested as he landed a helicopter in North Idaho meant to deliver 300 pounds of marijuana and 40,000 pills of Ecstasy.

Snow was sentenced Oct. 2 in Western Washington District Court to 46 months in prison. According to court filings, federal agents accessed Blackberry messages Snow sent to friends and the cohorts his lawyer says pressured him to take the flight.

“During the actual flight, he sent a message which read ‘Flyen 300p over brdr right now! Cha ching,’” according to Snow’s sentencing memorandum. “The government believes that this translates to read that he was flying over the US-Canadian border at that moment and that he was expecting to be well-paid for doing so.”

After Brown, Legge and Ferris were arrested, undercover agents infiltrated the group and set up Snow, court documents show.

(Read a grand jury indictment detailing Operation Blade Runner here.)

The Fifth Estate documentary will likely explore all of this in much greater detail. Court files for Brown and Legge, who is in federal custody in Utah and has not entered a plea, have already been unsealed.

The unsealed affidavit in the case of Brown, who was profiled in Rolling Stone this summer, offers few new details on his arrest, other than this quote: “Lindsay-Brown stated that: “Morally, there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing. It’s pot and that’s it.”

No hearing has been set CBC’s motion to unseal.

3 pit bulls maul mini horse in Pend Oreille Co.

Three pit bulls mauled a miniature horse before being shot to death in Elk, Wash., last week, the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office announced today.

The melee led sheriff’s deputies to a marijuana growing operation on the dog owner’s property, according to a news release.

The man, Justin R. Howell, lives next door to the horse owner, who told a sheriff’s deputy he’d fired several warning shots before shooting Howell’s dogs.

Two died at the scene; a sheriff’s deputy took the third to a veterinarian, where it died of the gunshot wound, according to the Sheriff’s Office

The horse is being treated for severe injuries.

Howell told deputies he has a medical marijuana permit, but detectives found more than 50 plants and several pounds of dry marijuana, which exceeds the amount allowed for medicinal use.

Deputies also seized a police-issued bullet proof vest. Howell was arrested on a charge of manufacturing a controlled substance and cited for having a dog at large.

Court on Saturday? You betcha!

Here’s Tom Clouse’s report:

“Spokane officials announced today that Spokane Municipal Court will begin hearing cases on two Saturdays a month starting in December.

The sessions, which will be held at 1:30 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month, will allow residents to seek reduced penalties for infractions if they can’t get to court on weekdays.

The Saturday dockets, which begin Dec. 5, will be used exclusively for mitigation, meaning that residents agree they committed infractions but would like a chance to explain circumstances and seek a reduced penalty.

The Saturday court is “an effort to provide better justice sooner and to be more attuned to the needs of our customers and community,” Presiding Municipal Judge Mary Logan said in a news release.

Municipal Court handles misdemeanor charges brought within city limits.

Similar charges brought in Spokane County are handled through Spokane County District Court, and all felonies are handled in Spokane County Superior Court.”

Shooting at Ward’s home gets man 4 months

A man accused of firing shots on a Spokane land developer’s property near Long Lake will serve four months in jail.

David K. “Ink” Sankey, 35, pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm today for a Dec. 5 incident at Joe Ward’s home at 15102 N. Tormey Road.

Sankey was originally charged in Spokane County Superior Court with two additional counts of harassment and second-degree assault after a witness, Scott A. Johnson, told police Sankey held a gun to Sankey’s girlfriend’s head “in retaliation for (her) sleeping with Joseph Ward (left),” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Sankey and his girlfriend had been living at Ward’s home, Ward told investigators. Sankey’s arrest came about a month before the Washington State Patrol raided Ward’s home, seizing stolen property and methamphetamine and launching an investigation that was recently forwarded to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office.

WSP cited the weapons incident as a reason to bring the SWAT team on the raid.

Johnson pleaded guilty last month to nearly 30 felony charges related to the investigation. Sankey is to report to jail by Oct. 26. Ward has yet to be charged.

Read more on the Ward case here and here.

Trial this week in parking lot shooting

Jury selection began today in the trial of a teenager accused of shooting at two men in a motel parking lot late last year.

Anthony R. Covert, 19, was arrested in November, accused of shooting Shane L. Hagedorn in a dispute police say centered on a girl.

Police say Covert first acted like a victim when they found him under the Sunset Bridge after 10 rounds were fired in the West Wynn Motel parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. Police followed a blood trail to a hotel room, where they found Hagedorn.

Hagedorn had a knife but told police he didn’t used it.

“Hagedorn stated he is from the old school and settles disputes with his fist,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Witnesses say Hagedorn and Joseph L. Castagna had confronted Covert and Ricky E. Grubbs after Grubbs called Daja M. Varnell at the hotel, according to Covert’s arrest papers. Varnell told police Grubbs had been harassing her, and that Hagedorn argued with Grubbs on the phone before agreeing to fight in the parking lot, according to the arrest papers.

Covert told police he brought a stolen .40-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun and fired it at the two after he saw Hagedorn take his coat off and “reach behind his back as if he had something,” according to court documents. “(Covert) stated that he did not realize the victim had been shot because the victim was able to run away.”

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

Look for coverage of opening arguments this week. Read a previous story here.

Dale Nagy is prosecuting the case; Public Defender Al Rossi represents Covert. Judge Tari Eitzen is presiding over the trial.

Career burglar at it again, allegedly

A career criminal released from jail in August because charges weren’t filed in a burglary case is accused of a Wednesday night burglary that cleaned out a Spokane car stereo store.

Christopher J. Cannata, who police say has 21 felony convictions, returned to Spokane County Jail on Thursday with Jonathon D. Marquiss, 32, after Spokane police arrested them in connection with a break-in at Kelly’s Custom Car Audio, 5518 N. Market, overnight Wednesday.

“I’m wiped out,” said owner Donald Kelly, who said he’s only been open about six months. A license plate left behind from Marquiss’ Dodge Durango helped police identify the suspects, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Read the rest of my story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review.

Check out past coverage of Cannata, who shares a birthday with this reporter, here and here. (Note: the second link states Cannata was scheduled to plead innocent to the burglary charge. Indeed he was, but that never happened because charges weren’t filed.)

Read about a similar jail release here.

Dad acquitted in girl’s hypothermia death

SHOSHONE, Idaho — An Idaho man who let his 11-year-old daughter walk several miles in freezing conditions along an isolated rural highway on Christmas Day was acquitted Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the girl’s death from hypothermia.

Robert Aragon (left) was also found not guilty of felony injury to a child after the jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about two hours.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

About a month after his sister died, 12-year-old Bear Aragon told the court that his father had offered them a single caution as they set out on the 10-mile hike, according to the Associated Press.

“He said: Be safe and stick together,” the boy testifed. Read that story here.

Read a story previewing the trial here.

Courthouse watch: 10.8.09

A tip that originated from drunken bragging gave Spokane Valley police officers the information they needed to bag one burglary suspect and develop probable cause to book another one.

Jesse Leroy Brown, 18, was arrested late Wednesday night after he allegedly got drunk on stolen booze and bragged to others, said Sgt. Dave Reagan, police spokesman.

Brown appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on three counts of second-degree burglary. He’s accused of breaking into the Hotteez night club, 20 N. Raymond St.; the Broadway Mini Market, 10304 E. Broadway Ave.; and Beyond Beads Gallery, 12021 E. Sprague Ave.

Leon M. Gibson, 21, (right) also is wanted in the burglaries. During the run of crimes, police say the two tried to kick through walls separating the Beyond Beads Gallery from the adjacent Puffin Glass Studios at 12023 E. Sprague Ave., but were unsuccessful.

A search warrant was served early today at Gibson’s residence, which led to a search at a second address in Spokane Valley.

Between the two locations, officers recovered about 50 bottles of alcoholic beverages taken from Hotteez in addition to stolen computers, flat-screen televisions, a laptop computer and 200 packs of Ace brand cigarettes, Reagan said.

Anyone with information about Gibson is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

He is described as white, 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds with brown hair and eyes.

In the “small world” category, court documents show Gibson is the boyfriend of Erica J. Jennings, who was arrested in August for possession of a controlled substance.

Jennings was interviewed in the still unsolved murder of William O. “Billy” Floyd, 21, who was stabbed to death Aug. 15.

Jennings, 26, had challenged Floyd and his friend “to come and meet for a fight” but called the next morning to ask why they never showed. That’s when Floyd’s friend told Jennings Floyd had been killed. (Read more here.)

After her arrest on a meth charge after an unrelated traffic stop, Jennings told deputies Gibson and his uncle, Matthew Barshaw, were to trade stolen guns to one of her friends for meth.

Jennings said Gibson and Barshaw had stolen the guns from an Airway Heights home, according to court papers.

Charges were filed against Gibson Sept. 1.

Funeral today for cancer-stricken SPD officer

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Spokane Valley Police Department traffic units handled calls inside the city of Spokane this morning while police department employees attended the funeral of an officer who died of leukemia.

Aaron S. Douglas, 38, was hired as a police officer with the city of Spokane in 1993. He worked full-time until July.

He started volunteering at 14 and worked his way onto the SWAT team as a sniper and medic. He also served on the meth team, the dignitary protection team, the tactical team and was a neighborhood resource officer before spending the last six years on the bomb squad.

“Aaron loved his job as an officer, always giving 110 percent in whatever he did,” according to his obituary.

He was described as a man with a “warrior mentality” in his battle with cancer who enjoyed hunting and fishing, riding his motorcycle, playing with his dogs and spending time with his wife and friends.

Douglas was born in Spokane and graduated from North Central High School in 1989. He died Monday at his home in Deer Park with his wife, Spokane police officer Traci Douglas, and friends by his side, according to his obituary.

“He gave most of his life to this community and SPD,” said Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe in an e-mail.

The sheriff’s office and Valley police handled all priority one and two calls during the 10 a.m. funeral, said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

“Regular sheriff’s and Spokane Valley patrol units will pitch in as needed, depending on call loads in our jurisdictions,” Reagan said in an e-mail. “We share their sense of loss.”

County OKs settlement in Taser case

A Spokane County reserve fund will pay some $112,000 to a man who was shocked three times with a Taser by a deputy during a traffic stop in 2004.

County commissioners approved a settlement this week with Spirit Creager, (right) a painter who had sued the county for $5 million in 2006, saying he couldn’t work or sleep for weeks after being jolted by sheriff’s Deputy Chad Ruff.

The county’s risk management reserve fund will also pay $25,000 to Creager’s teenage son, who was in the truck shortly after midnight on Aug. 30, 2004, when it was stopped on Dartford Road.

Read the rest of Jim Camden’s story here.

Karen Dorn Steele wrote an in-depth article on Creager’s claim in June 2006. Read it here.

Chief responds to Center for Justice story

Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick just fired off a fierce e-mail responding to this story by BIll Morlin for the Center for Justice.

The article states that Kirkpatrick confirmed “widely circulated rumors that she has been looking for a job elsewhere, including a recent opening in San Francisco.”

Though Kirkpatrick denied in the e-mail that she’s “looking” for another job, she did say she applied - and didn’t get - the job in San Francisco.

Read Jonathan Brunt’s story here.

Read Kirkpatrick’s full e-mail, which was sent to the Spokane City Council, Mayor Mary Verner, City Administrator Ted Danek and all police department employees, then forwarded to media, by clicking the link below.

Double murder suspect may be in Las Vegas

The reward for information leading to the capture of a Spokane man accused of gunning down two men in a dispute over a car trade is up to $1,750.

An anonymous donor recently gave $500 to Crime Stoppers, and another has said he’ll give $1,000.

The organization had already offered $250 for tips that help arrest Merle W. Harvey, 27.

“For information on a double homicide, there’s an inflation factor here,” said Spokane police Lt. Dave McGovern.

A search warrant filed Tuesday shows a tipster told investigators he or she knew of a man who’d received a call from Harvey on Sept. 27 saying he was in Las Vegas with his sister.

Police found that man’s phone number through a child abuse report filed Sept. 28, according to a search warrant that seeks call records for that number.

At least one of the donors is a friend of victim Jack T. Lamere, who was shot to death with Jacob J. Potter, 45, on Sept. 26 while working on a car at 1310 W. Boone Ave.

Read the rest of my story here.

Look for another story this week exploring Lamere’s ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

And it keeps spreading…

The swine flu has arrived at the Shoshone County Jail. An inmate has tested positive for the H1N1 virus, the Shoshone County Sheriffs Office announced today.

The inmate complained of flu-like symptoms a week ago and was tested for the virus at a hospital. “Since that time the inmate has been improving in health and other inmates in our facility that have also been ill are all showing signs of improvement,” according to a news release.

In Spokane, jail officials are requiring about 20 inmates to wear masks outside their cells (pictured above) because of swine flu concerns. Read about it here.

Teen bandit becoming national sensation

His following seems to grow as quickly as the list of crimes people speculate he may have committed.

Colton Harris-Moore has been something of a legend in the town of Camano Island, where he grew up and is suspected of nearly 50 burglaries and thefts, including boat and plane heists, since his escape from a halfway house in April 2008.

The Seattle Times has chronicled the teen’s exploits for more than two years, but the bandit has made headlines across the country in the past week after speculation arose that he may be responsible for stealing a Cessna 182 Turbo plane from the Boundary County Airport in Bonners Ferry.

ABC news had branded Harris-Moore a “modern-day Huckleberry Finn” in this article published a week before he was linked to the theft. That pushed the teen into the national spotlight, but last week’s news about the stolen Cessna has been published and broadcast all over the country.

His mother has gained her share of fame, too, thanks to comments like “If he really flew those planes, I’m proud of him. I was going to send him to flight school. I guess I don’t have to.” (Read more here)

A brief Internet search suggests Harris-Moore’s fame is only beginning. A Facebook fan club dedicated to the teen had more than 700 members as of 1 p.m. and was growing by the minute. A man in Seattle, Adin Stevens, (shown above) recently printed t-shirts with a picture of Harris-Moore and the phrase “Momma tried. Colton Harris Moore fan club.”

Officials first suspected a group of drug runners may have been responsible for the two burglaries at the airport, which followed break ins at the Creston, B.C airport in which someone tried to take a similar Cessna.

But after the plane crash landed in a clear near Granite Falls The Seattle Times reported that the Island County Sheriff’s Office had sent a detective to assist in the investigation because of the possibility that Harris-Moore was involved.

Federal aviation authorities say only one person was a board the plane, according to this AP article.

The plane’s owner said last week that authorities were connecting Harris-Moore to the theft through “method of operation.”

In the two earlier plane thefts, authorities say Harris-Moore stole a Cessna 182 from an Orcas Island hangar last November and flew it to Eastern Washington, where he made a “hard landing” on the Yakima Indian Reservation, according to The Seattle Times.

On Sept. 11, Harris-Moore allegedly stole an experimental aircraft from Friday Harbor and flew it to Orcas Island, where it, too, made a “hard landing,” The Times reported. Bare foot prints were found at the scene of the latest plane theft.

Harris-Moore is known not to wear shoes.

Courthouse watch: 10.6.09

A man scheduled to accept a plea deal in an OxyContin robbery will instead go to trial on all charges after asking for a delay today.

Nicholas A. Blessing, 29, posted $15,000 bond yesterday, then told his public defender, Jeff Compton, he needed more time before being sentenced today.

Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy refused to delay the sentencing and said he would instead pursue all four charges, plus weapons enhancements. He had offered a plea deal that called for Blessing to plead guilty to one count of first-degree robbery and the state to dismiss the three counts of second-degree assault against three Walgreens employees.

Blessing turned himself in June 29 for the June 16 robbery at the Walgreens at 2105 E. Wellesley Ave.

Surveillance photos clearly show Blessing walking into the store about 5 p.m. Employees said he pointed a gun at them and demanded OxyContin, then banged the base of the gun on the counter and stated, “hurry up. Hurry up. I’m not kidding,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Blessing, who’s set to go to trial Nov. 2, faces significantly more time if convicted on all four charges, and even more once the weapons enhancements are considered. He declined comment after court.

Moses Lake man convicted in drug death

A Moses Lake man faces at least four years in prison after being convicted of controlled substance homicide.

A jury deliberated for about an hour Oct. 2 before finding Corey Christman, 30, guilty in the death of Ryan Leonard Mulder, 19, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.

Mulder, of Moses Lake, died on Sept. 10, 2008, three days after he took nine methadone pills given to him by Christman (right). Mulder took the pills at a party in less than two hours.

The Sheriff’s Office has investigated at least five methadone overdose deaths in the last two years, Undersheriff John Turley said.

Christman faces 51 months to 68 months in prison. He’s the first person in Grant County to be charged and tried for controlled substance homicide.

News archives show the charge has been filed at least a few times in Spokane County. Read about one case here.

Discovery Channel to feature Spokane County Jail

A television crew for the Discovery Channel has been filming in the Spokane County Jail.

An hour-long episode of the show “Behind Bars” will explore life at the jail and feature three or four inmates, said Jennifer Shaffer, spokeswoman for the crew’s company, which produces shows for several networks.

One inmate could be Cole K. Strandberg, the mentally ill accused killer the crew filmed in Spokane County Superior Court late last month. (Read more about him here.)

The crew attended Strandberg’s stay hearing (his competency hearing is set for November) and told a court clerk they planned to interview Strandberg at the jail.

The crew will be in Spokane for about another week, Shaffer said. “Behind Bars” was first called “Hard Time” and featured two episodes exploring prison life in Alaska and Indiana.

Viewers responded well, and the network ordered three more episodes, Shaffer. Shaffer said the episode on the Spokane County Jail could air as early as January or February.

Where was this photo taken?

Any guesses on where this photo of Spokane police Officer Paul Gorman and his K9, Maximus, was taken?

Spokane police sent it to media yesterday. I’ve never seen an alley like that in Spokane. The fallen Roman pillars are a nice touch. I’ve put a call into Officer Matt Rose, the photographer, inquiring.

Read about Maximus’ first arrest here.

UPDATE: Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said it’s “Glass Alley,” near Second Avenue and Lincoln Street.

UPDATE #2: Officer and photographer Matt Rose says the location is actually Railroad Alley between Lincoln and Monroe, across the street from the Spaghetti Factory.

Accused teen killer wrote to inmate’s alleged victim

A man charged tampering with a witness in his attempted murder case enlisted the help of a teen murder suspect with neat handwriting and a knack for artwork, court documents allege.

David E. Epley, 36, (right) was to plead not guilty today to one count of tampering with a witness.

Epley spent three months in Spokane County Jail after his arrest in May on charges of first-degree attempted murder and kidnapping after police say he kidnapped his estranged wife and her boyfriend, then tried throwing the boyfriend over the Wandermere Bridge. He’s also accused of raping her at gunpoint a week earlier.

While in jail, Epley shared a housing module with Matthew T. Shope, an 18-year-old arrested with another man, Michael A. Quinones, 29, about a year ago for the strangulation of Jennifer L. Siria, court papers show. (Read about it here.)

During those months, Epley’s wife received dozens of letters at her home addressed to her and to her and Epley’s children, according to a probable cause affidavit.

In July, she received “a neatly written, 3-page letter to her that was singed at the end with the words “A loving neighbor,” according to the affidavit.

The author claimed to have read about the case in the newspaper and wrote of an affair that she had in 1997 “that resulted in significant long-term detrimental consequences for her family, particularly for her children,” according to the affidavit.

“Maybe it would be best if you were to talk to your husband and decide what’s best,” the letter read.

Epley’s wife suspected it was a third-party contact from him, and a police detective recognized the handwriting as Shope’s.

Shope and Epley, who is out on $75,000 bond, had grown close in jail, and Shope told police he traded his artwork to David for jail commissary food items.

Shope agreed to rewrite a letter Epley wrote in exchange for some items, “making spelling and grammatical corrections as he went,” according to the affidavit.

Shope had told police, that “David denied doing most of the things he said he was charged with but did tell him at one point that he had gone to sleep in the trunk with a gun until they, apparently referring to (his wife) and (her boyfriend) got back in the car.”

Read past coverage here and here.

$500,000 bond for man held in wife’s slaying

A man who police say called 911 after killing his wife will remain in jail on $500,000 bond.

A judge increased Craig R. Cosby’s bail from $250,000 during his first appearance on a second-degree murder charge in Stevens County Superior Court today.

Cosby, 68, was arrested Saturday in the front yard of his home in the 1200 block of Overlook Boulevard in Marcus, a small town along the Columbia River in north Stevens County.

His wife, Susan May Cosby, 53, was found dead from gunshot wounds inside the home, according to the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office.

Couple in $800,000 fraud get prison

A woman and her boyfriend who bought a trip to the Super Bowl and other luxury items with more than $800,000 in embezzled funds from a Spokane business will spend time in prison.

Michelle A. Wing, 34, will spend more than six years in a federal prison after pleading guilty to six county of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud, a judge ruled this morning.

Kenneth A. Marsh, 40, was sentenced to 14 months in prison and a year probation last week after pleading guilty to two counts of filing a false income tax return.

Wing, who will be on probation for five years, was ordered to pay more than $755,000 in restitution and Marsh more than $165,000 for money they stole from Centaur, which provided administrative services to two advertising companies, E. Media and Power Marketing Services.

Wing was hired as Centaur’s bookkeeper in April 2006 after working as a temporary employee since Dec. 2005.

She and Marsh used fraudulently opened credit cards to pay for Hawaii vacations, jewelry, private school tuition and plane tickets. Wing forged the signatures of Centaur owners to pay the bills, according to federal court documents.

The scheme fell apart when an accountant noticed the checks.

The two were charged in November. Read Bill Morlin’s story on their arrest here.

Self-taught teen pilot may have taken plane

A teen who authorities think taught himself how to fly may be responsible for the theft of a pricey private plane from the Boundary County Airport this week.

A logger found the 2005 Cessna 182 turbo plane (left) crashed in a clearing near Granite Falls Thursday afternoon. The FBI, DEA, and Homeland Security are scouring the area looking for the pilot who apparently walked away from the crash, which a Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman described as “survivable.” 

Authorities say the plane heist resembles two aircraft thefts in Western Washington that have been connected to Colton Harris-Moore, an 18-year-old serial burglar who escaped from a juvenile facility in April 2008.

The picture to the right was taken by him with a stolen digital camera, according to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

“We still don’t know it’s that guy, but everything’s pointing to it,” said plane owner Patrick Gardiner.

Read the rest of my story here.

Check out The Seattle Times’ coverage of Harris-Moore here.

FBI looking at ‘promising’ tips in bank robbery

The FBI released a video Thursday showing the robbery at a northeast Spokane bank earlier this week.

The robber, wearing in a costume wig and a fake mustache, covered his hand with his sleeve before opening the door, concealing his fingerprints, then forced employees to their knees at gunpoint and bound them with duct tape.

“We have a number of leads that we’re pursuing. Some promising,” FBI agent Frank Harrill said today.

The robbery occurred a few minutes before noon Tuesday. at the INB Bank branch at Hawthrone Road and Nevada Street.

The robber, dressed in a blonde wig and a fake mustache, told the employees to lay on top of golf balls that he said were pressure-sensitive explosives, officials said.

The man was described as a white man in his 30s, wearing a gold-colored glasses with square rims, yellow construction-type boots and a purple and gold hooded poncho with a large front pocket with the word “Stussy” printed in white.

Anyone with information about the robbery should call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

AG says coach owes for canceled camp

The baseball coach at Coeur d’Alene High School is accused of canceling a sports camp and keeping the money of four people who’d signed up.

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Nicholas Rook Wednesday, asking that he pay a $20,000 fine over four complaints about his private business, Top Guns Development Camps, a training academy for aspiring baseball players.

Read the rest of my story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review. Read more about Rook here.

Courthouse watch: 10.1.09

A man who robbed a pharmacy of OxyContin will spend nine months in jail.

Tom E. Snell, 24, will be on probation for a year after he’s released on a second-degree robbery conviction. Snell pleaded guilty to the charge Thursday, which was amended from first-degree robbery because he never displayed a weapon when he robbed the Rite Aid drugstore at 29th Avenue and Regal Street on July 6.

Snell had no prior felony convictions when he handed an employee a note saying “Don’t be stupid. Hurry up. I have a gun,” according to court documents.

Snell apologized Thursday.

“The root of my problems is my addiction,” he said.

Snell, a Lakeside High School graduate, told Judge Maryann Moreno he got addicted to drugs while a student at Eastern Washington University.

A construction worker and a tipster led police to identify Snell as the robber. The worker identified the robber’s getaway car as a blue Toyota pickup, and a tip based on a news report led police to 7th Avenue and Adams Street.

There, they found a truck matching the description from the robbery. It was registered to Snell in Nine Mile Falls, according to a search warrant. He was arrested July 10 when he reported for work as an installation technician for Comcast.

Before he was sentenced, Snell told Moreno he thought nine months was “excessive.” Moreno let him know that pharmacy robbers often end up in prison for more than three years and that he was lucky his case allowed him a second-degree robbery charge instead of first.

“Count your blessings,” she told him.

Details emerge in case against developer

 A massive investigation into a suspected drug and stolen property ring has led to allegations of a methamphetamine- and sex-fueled criminal enterprise operated by a once-prominent Spokane land developer. 

The raid in January at Joseph G. Ward’s home along the shores of Long Lake (pictured above), northwest of Spokane, sparked a months-long probe by a Washington State patrol detective that explored an underworld of drugs, sex and thievery that documents suggest was a way of life at the millionaire’s home.

“With his money, he thought he was God,” Scott Johnson, a longtime felon and former police informant who was arrested with Ward in January, told authorities.

Read the rest of my story here. Read the first story on Ward’s arrest here.

Johnson began staying at Ward’s home last year.

The 100-page probable cause affidavit offers this gem about how he operates: “Scott Johnson was stated to have been keeping a list of crimes committed by other criminals in case he was arrested again and believes he can just provide the information to detectives to get out of trouble.”

Post Falls joins OxyContin crime club

Post Falls police have released photos of an OxyContin robbery Wednesday.

An employee at Walgreens, 706 E. Seltice Way, called 911 just after 5:33 p.m. and said a man with a bandanna covering his mouth handed her a note saying he had a gun and demanding the prescription pain killer.

Police were already en route to the store to respond to a silent hold-up alarm.

The photos show a man in an orange and tan billed beanie hat walking down an aisle at 5:29 p.m., talking to a pharmacy employee at 5:33 p.m., then walking out of the store at 5:35 p.m.

He wore a white hooded sweatshirt with tan sleeves, dark jeans and dark sunglasses. Witnesses described him as in his early 20s with a thin build, slight facial hair and about 5-foot-8 to 6-feet tall. Anyone with information is asked to call the Post Falls Police Department at (208) 773-3517.

Police don’t know if the robbery is connected to this robbery Sunday night at a north Spokane Rite Aid (the robber fled in a SUV with Idaho plates; the company that makes OxyContin is offering a reward).

While pharmacy robberies have plagued Spokane, Kootenai County has seen only a few in the last couple of years.

Walgreens installed time release safes in all Washington stores this summer (read about it here), and no robberies have been reported at those stores since.

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