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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for April 2010

Pizza joint’s problems save robber cash

A Spokane man who robbed a pizza place, then waited outside as a friend robbed a convenience store the next night, was sentenced today to just more than four years in prison.

But Justin J. Ellery, 24, might not have to repay one of his victims - prosecutors can’t find the now former owner of Papa Johns, 900 East Indiana, which Ellery robbed of about $160 on Sept. 28.

No restitution is currently being sought in that case, said Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz.

Investigators say Ellery planned to rob the Zip Trip at 3030 E. Euclid at gunpoint on Sept. 29, but instead waited in the car as Christopher R. Walinski, completed the hold up.

Walinski, 25, was sentenced last week to 90 months in prison for first-degree robbery and second-degree assault with a firearm enhancement.

Ellery was sentenced today to 51 months in prison in a plea deal approved by Judge Maryann Moreno. He’s been in Spokane County Jail since Oct. 31.

Police say Ellery used money from the robberies to buy heroin. He was about four months removed from a year-long prison sentence on a felony drug charge when the robberies occurred, he said today.

“I made a bad choice,” Ellery said. “I was messed up on drugs and it ran my life.”

Past coverage:

April 20: $66 robbery gets gunman 7 years in prison

April 6: Gun supplier in robbery gets 14 months

Nov. 30: Gunpoint Zip Trip robbery netted $66

Nov. 6: Pizza place robber also hit Zip Trip, police say

Accidental shooting kills porcupine hunter

A Greenacres man who set out to kill a problem porcupine died today from what investigators believe was an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot.

The shooting occurred about 1 p.m. at a home on 6219 S. Chapman Road, which county property records show is owned by Gary L. Kadow, 67.

Spokane County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan identified the victim as a 67-year-old man but declined to confirm if he was Kadow.

The victim’s wife called 911 about 1 p.m. and said her husband “had accidentally shot himself with a shotgun and was in a field nearby,” Reagan said in a news release.

She said he’d gone outside to kill a porcupine that had fought with one of the couple’s four dogs. Deputies found the man dead.

His wife said he had medical issues, but investigators don’t know if they contributed to the accident, Reagan said.

A woman at the home declined comment.

Police: Repeat offender linked to ATM burglar

When police found Dustin C. Rauscher, he had a sawed off shotgun and enough shaved keys to steal a fleet of Nissan cars.

That was in 2007. 

Three years and a prison stint later, Rauscher is back in police custody, this time accused of holing up in an apartment during a four-hour SWAT team standoff that ended with his surrender early Thursday.

Described by police as a prolific car thief, 25-year-old Rauscher is considered one of the city’s top 10 repeat offenders.

Read my story here.

Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said Rauscher is an associate of accused ATM burglar/drug dealer/gun possessor/bail bondsman threaten-er George W. Butrick.

Butrick is in jail on about a dozen state charges ranging from drugs to assault, as well as one federal charge of felon in possession of a firearm.

Police say Butrick worked with Ronald Foreman, who has been charged with leading organized crime.

Jury convicts hacker in Palin e-mail case

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The son of a Democratic Tennessee lawmaker was convicted Friday on two charges in the hacking of Sarah Palin’s e-mail account while she campaigned on the Republican presidential ticket in 2008.

The federal court jury reached its verdict against David Kernell, 22, after four days of deliberation. He was found guilty of obstruction of justice and unauthorized access to a computer, but was acquitted on a charge of wire fraud.

The jury deadlocked on a charge of identify theft. Prosecutors reserve the right to have a new trial on that charge. The charge of obstructing an investigation carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and unauthorized access to a computer is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum one-year sentence.

Kernell’s defense attorney maintained the hack amounted to college prank, not a crime. Kernell was a student at the University of Tennessee at the time. Prosecutors argued it was a more serious effort to damage Palin’s political campaign.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Valley woman loses $3,000 in classic scam

Law enforcement is again warning of a swindle known as the grandparents scam after a 77-year-old Spokane County woman sent $3,000 to a con man claiming to be her grandson.

The woman sent the money to Kent, England on Wednesday after receiving a call from someone she thought was her grandson, who said he had been arrested at the Canadian border after a friend was caught with drugs, and he needed money for bail.

“The woman questioned the money going to England, but the “grandson” convinced her that was the way Canadian authorities posted bail,” according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

When he man called again on Thursday requesting she sent $2,500 to Niagara Falls, employees at Western Union persuaded her not to comply.

The woman learned of the scam after calling her grandson.

“Elderly victims are frequently targeted by this type of fraud and may become known to the suspect through published obituaries that list surviving relatives, according to the Sheriff’s Office. “Spokane County sees three or four of these scams that are successful every year.”

Last fall, a similar scam bilked a Spokane woman out of $17,000.

And last month, Walmart employees stopped a woman from sending $4,200 to a supposed lawyer in Canada.

Anyone with an elderly relative should warn them of the scam.

Dad in court over deaf girl’s treatment

A deaf Washington man faces a contempt charge in Kootenai County 1st District Court for refusing to force his deaf daughter to wear cochlear implants in a case that has attracted national attention.

Emma McLaughlin-Orton was born to Jennifer Orton Miller and Shaun McLaughlin in February 2002. The child had surgery to install a cochlear ear implant on the right side when she was 1 year old, and on the left side when she was 5, court documents show.

Although part of the device is implanted, users cannot hear without also wearing an external processor and transmitter.

The girl’s parents, who are not married, share custody; when Emma is with her father, she wants to “be deaf like daddy,” said Judy McLaughlin, Emma’s paternal grandmother.

Read the rest of Alison Boggs’ story here.

Dog poisoning, beating reported in Athol

An Athol woman’s dog died of suspected poisoning Tuesday after suffering a beating from an unknown man who threatened repeatedly to kill her beloved pets.

Police believe they know who did it, but can’t prove it. And even if they could, animal cruelty is a misdemeanor in Idaho, one of only four states where that’s still the case.

Two of Kathleen Callahan’s three dogs were playing in her fenced front yard Friday when a man in a red pickup truck screeched to a halt in her driveway, jumped out, leaned over the fence and began punching the dogs, she said.

Read of Alison Boggs’ storry here.

Dog poisonings in the Spokane area in February remain unsolved. Read about them here.

New hate-crime trial for 2 CdA brothers

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Thursday that he will re-try two Coeur d’Alene brothers on malicious harassment charges stemming from a racial incident last summer.

Frank J. Tankovich, 46, and William M. Tankovich, 49, will be tried on charges of conspiracy to commit malicious harassment and malicious harassment, related to an incident that occurred in August. The brothers are accused of making racially motivated threats toward Kenneth Requena, who is Puerto Rican.

The brothers were tried earlier this month in Coeur d’Alene, along with a third brother, Ira G. Tankovich, 48, in the first hate-crime case to go to trial in North Idaho in recent years.

Read Alison Boggs’ story here.

Ira, Frank and William are pictured above from left to right.

Prison for ‘runaway train of criminal conduct’

A career burglar described by a judge as a “runaway train of criminal conduct” was denied drug treatment Thursday and sentenced to more than four years in prison.

Christopher J. Cannata, 37, was given 51 months in prison for a string of burglaries that began last August and continued after he was released from jail because prosecutors hadn’t filed charges.

A prosecutor, defense lawyer and Superior Court judge each described Cannata’s criminal record, which includes 21 felonies dating back to his childhood, as “extraordinary.”

“How do we stop a locomotive that’s running away?” said Judge Michael Price before denying public defender Derek Reid’s request for a lesser sentence that would include intensive drug treatment.

Deputy Prosecutor Shane Smith said Cannata’s criminal records “speaks for itself.”

“All that society can hope for in this particular case is he’s just off the street and not burglarizing and stealing from people for some period,” Smith said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 10, 2009: Crime suspect held, again

May 19, 2005: Convict denied drug program

Spokane fugitive nabbed in Mont. creek

A Spokane man who triggered a weeks-long federal manhunt last summer, then escaped from a halfway house this week, was arrested in Montana Wednesday.

Anthony E. Burke, 22, is in custody in Bozeman, Mont., on a criminal endangerment charge after a wild freeway chase that authorities say ended when he jumped in a creek.

Burke served three years in federal prison after police found him with 100 rounds of Russian ammunition at his family’s Spokane-area home. Burke was prohibited from having the bullets because he’d been committed to a mental hospital as a teen. He was to report to Geiger Work Release Center last July but never showed up, triggering a search that ended with his arrest July 31.

He was sentenced to seven months in federal custody for that escape and arrived at a Spokane halfway house in March, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice. Burke was allowed to leave during the day to attend classes at Spokane Community College, but he didn’t return on Tuesday, Rice said.

A warrant was issued Wednesday, the same day a gas station clerk in Three Forks reported seeing him punch out a car window, get in and drive off.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 2: Man who eluded feds back in court

Aug. 1: Federal agents find fugitive hiding in woods

Woman injured, pot found after car crash

A Newport, Wash., man is accused of causing a car crash on Interstate 84 in Oregon that left his passenger in critical condition and led police to three pounds of marijuana.

Joshua Samuel McDonald, 25, (left) was arrested after his 2000 Chevrolet Impala slammed into the left rear corner of a semi-trailer and continued under the rear of the rig, ripping the car’s roof.

Stacia Lynn Thune, 22, of Spokane, was rushed to a Pendleton-area hospital before being flown to Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, where she remains in critical condition.

“She’s got quite a challenge ahead of her,” said Lt. Gregg Hastings, spokesman for the Oregon State Police.

McDonald, who was not seriously injured, is the Umatilla County Jail on assault, reckless driving, and pot possession and delivery charges.

Hastings said McDonald and Thune are believed to have been traveling from California, where they got the marijuana, when the crash occurred as McDonald tried to pass the semi-trailer at milepost 209 near Pendleton. The trailer’s driver, a Brownsville, Texas man, was not injured.

McDonald has felony convictions in Spokane County. News archives show he was sentenced in August to four months in jail with credit for 93 days served after pleading guilty to first-degree theft, second-degree domestic violence malicious mischief and fourth-degree domestic violence assault.

Spokane County Jail: Back on cable TV

Employees at the Spokane County Jail apparently approved of a cable TV show’s depiction of the place last month - another TV crew is due back this summer.

Capt. John McGrath said the crew will focus on the jail’s mental health and medical unit. The show is set to air this fall on the Discovery Channel.

Another Discovery Channel crew spent about two weeks filming at the jail last fall. The show aired in February as part of a three-part “Behind Bars” series. Read about it here.

Police complete probe of fatal shooting

A law enforcement investigation into the fatal shooting of a gunman by a Spokane police officer ast month has been sent to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

Investigators found that “the only criminal actions committed that day were those of the decedent, 46-year-old Todd White,” Detective Doug Marske said in a news release.

Officer Trevor Nollmeyer, who joined the force in 2003, shot White twice after White opened fire on Nollmeyer and Officer Dion Mason when they arrived at 4127 E. 36th Ave., early March 26. White’s sister and brother-in-law live there and had called police after a neighbor said White, a convicted felon, was in the area with a gun.

White fired at least four shots at officers from a semi-automatic pistol equipped with a laser-sighting device, the sheriff’s office said. He’d been convicted in 2002 of assaulting two Clark County deputies, and his felony convictions made him ineligible to posses a gun.

The investigation was conducted by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the Spokane Police Department and Washington State Patrol.

Previous coverage:

April 2: Gunman threatened to cause ‘war zone’

March 30: Gunman assaulted cops in ‘01

March 26: Man killed in police shootout identified

Video shows wanted credit union robber

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Police on Wednesday released video of a recent robbery at the Spokane Teachers Credit Union branch on Indian Trail Road.

Detectives hope someone recognizes the man, who they say handed a teller a note shortly after 2:30 p.m. on Friday that said he had a gun, but he never displayed one, police said.

The robber left on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash. No one was injured. Witnesses thought the robber may have headed north from the bank, at 8703 N. Indian Trail Road.

The robber was described as in his early 30s, white, between 5-foot-10 and 6 feet tall, with a thin-to-medium build.

He was wearing a black windbreaker jacket, jeans and a black knit cap with a gray stripe around the rim.

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

Manhunt underway for armed squatter

A manhunt is underway for an armed squatter authorities say surprised homeowners near Lake Roosevelt on Sunday.

Eric John Dobbs, 32, told a man who went to check on his summer cabin that he was a bounty hunter there to collect $10,000.

The man and his wife live in Harrington and traveled to their cabin near Porcupine Bay to prepare it for summer.

When the woman went on the cabin’s deck “she looks up and sees a man on the loft holding a rifle,” said Brian Telford, chief criminal deputy with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators identified Dobbs through items left at the cabin, where Telford said he’d been staying for some time.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office is working with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to track Dobbs. They found his SUV abandoned on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Stevens County Tuesday night.

Dobbs is from Virginia but has ties to Lincoln, Spokane, and Whatcom counties, as well as North Idaho. Anyone with information on him should contact the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at (509) 725-3501.

Repeat offender jailed after SWAT standoff

A repeat offender was arrested early today after he surrendered to a SWAT team outside a northeast Spokane apartment. 

Dustin C. Rauscher, 25, was booked into Spokane County Jail on a felony arrest warrant for attempting to elude police, and new charges of unlawful imprisonment and second-degree assault. 

The arrest occurred after the Spokane Violent Gang Enforcement Team received an anonymous tip that Rauscher was at an apartment at 2309 E. Euclid Ave.

While officers tried to get someone to open the door about 8 p.m. Wednesday , they heard a woman screaming for help. Officers forced their way inside and found Rauscher assaulting the woman, then got her out while Rauscher ran upstairs.

Police said Rauscher threatened to kill officers if they tried to arrest him and “made it clear” he would not go back to jail. He surrendered about 1 a.m.

Rauscher was arrested in 2007 after found him with 27 shaved Nissan keys and a sawed off shotgun. He was sentenced to 43 months in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition and first-degree possession of stolen property.

Rauscher also has convictions for attempting to elude, hit and run collision, reckless driving, domestic violence assault and interfering with reporting of a domestic violence assault. He has multiple convictions for possession of stolen property, according to Crime Stoppers.

Teen killer accused of assault at Spokane jail

A teenager sentenced last week to 10 years in prison for the strangulation murder of a Spokane woman is accused of assaulting another jail inmate Tuesday night.

Deputies say Matthew T. Shope, 19, attacked Joshua J. Mulvey, 26, in the Spokane County Jail just before 7 p.m., according to court documents filed today.

Mulvey (right), who’s being held on theft charges related to an alleged cross-country Craigslist rip off, suffered a fractured bone in his face and briefly lost consciousness, jail deputies said. He was treated at a Spokane hospital, according to court documents.

Shope appeared in Superior Court today on one count of second-degree assault.

Shope was sentenced April 20 to 134 months in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder for the Oct. 6, 2008, strangulation death of 28-year-old Jennifer L. Siria. His accomplice, Michael A. Quinones, 29, was sentenced to 25 years in prison March 25 after pleading guilty to first-degree murder.

Last fall, investigators say Shope wrote letters to the estranged wife of jail inmate David E. Epley after he and Epley grew close in jail.

Heroin dealer sentenced to at least 4 years

A Coeur d’Alene heroin dealer will spend four to 15 years in prison after being sentenced in Kootenai County District Court.

 Loren Paul Arey, 53, had nearly 11 grams of heroin when he was arrested on Jan. 1.

Judge John Mitchell sentenced Arey on Monday to 15 years in prison with eligibility for parole after four years. He pleaded guilty to trafficking in heroin, the last felony conviction in a criminal history that prosecutors say began in 1982.

Arey will have access to programs in prison that will help determine if he can be released on supervision, Prosecutor Barry McHugh said in a prepared statement.

“Unless he stops his drug use, he is a risk to any community in which he finds himself,” McHugh said. “We hope the sentence will deter Mr. Arey and others from engaging in similar conduct.”

No charges yet in alleged Lilac Lanes theft

No charges have been filed against two former Spokane casino employees who were arrested on suspicion of stealing nearly $175,000 from the business.

Eddie S. Williams, 44, and Shari Cawley, 41, were to be arraigned today in Spokane County Superior Court, but Judge Greg Sypolt canceled the hearing because prosecutors haven’t filed charges.

Williams and Cawley were arrested April 13 at Lilac Lanes, 1112 E. Magnesium Road, after employees said the two ordered them to destroy financial records and erase video tapes to hide their theft, according to the Washington State Gambling Association.

Financial records show $173,000 in missing funds, said Gary Drumheller, agent in charge for the Gambling Commission in Spokane. Investigators say Williams, the general manager, and Cawley, the accounting manager, shorted an ATM daily over the course of a year.

Judge Ellen Kalama Clark released the suspects from Spokane County Jail on their own recognizance April 14. Prosecutors can still file charges, and Judge Sypolt ordered Cawley and Williams to stay in contact with the court.

Their jail release conditions, which prohibit them from contacting each other or going to Lilac Lanes, remain in effect.

Past coverage:

Lilac Lanes managers accused of theft

Deputy who refused tests charged with DUI

A Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy who refused a breath test after being stopped by Spokane Valley police pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a drunken driving charge.

Darin M. Schaum, 36, was described as “highly intoxicated” when Officer Todd Miller stopped his Dodge truck on Broadway Avenue west of McDonald Road about 1:30 a.m. on April 16, according to documents filed this week in Spokane County District Court.

Miller said Schaum identified himself as a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy and said he could find a ride to his home just down the street and that it “was going to cost Schaum his job if (police) didn’t allow him to go,” according to court documents.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage: Deputy faces license suspension

Police guild distorted vote on Kirkpatrick

The extent of dissatisfaction with Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick among the rank and file may not be as bad as union leaders suggest.

A document obtained by The Spokesman-Review shows Spokane Police Guild leaders misrepresented the results of a recent no-confidence vote against Kirkpatrick and Assistant Chief Jim Nicks.

Of the 276 guild members, 112 voted no confidence in the department’s leadership, or fewer than half.

Guild President Ernie Wuthrich insisted earlier this month that more than half of the union’s members had cast no-confidence votes against the chief, not just half of the members who actually cast ballots. Wuthrich has refused to disclose the exact results of the no-confidence vote, saying it’s against union procedure.

Read the rest of the story here.

Past coverage: Police union claims no confidence in Kirkpatrick

High-speed I-90 chase ends in Browne’s

A suspected drunken driver took a state trooper on a chase from Interstate 90 to Browne’s Addition late Tuesday.

Robert Shawn Beck, 42, was arrested after a Washington State Patrol trooper hit Beck’s car from behind, forcing it into a spin on Pacific Avenue between Spruce and Hemlock streets, where it struck  parked car, then accelerated into a yard and struck a stump and another parked car, WSP said.

The chase began about 8:30 p.m. after two motorist reported an erratic driver, and a trooper spotted Beck’s car on westbound Interstate 90 between Freya and Altamont streets.

Beck exited at Lincoln Street and went west on Second Avenue before the trooper lost sight of him, then spotted him again at Sunset Boulevard and Hemlock Street.

Beck was booked into Spokane County Jail for a felony charge of eluding a police officer, driving while intoxicated and first-degree driving on a suspended license as a habitual offender, which is a gross misdemeanor.

New charges for gangster serving 18 years

A gang member already sentenced to 18 years in prison in a harassment case that included threats to a Spokane elementary school faces new harassment charges.

“I’m not saying nothing, your honor,” said Larry Glenn “Tiny Loc” Gatewood, 36, when Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt asked him to enter a plea to new charges of making harassing telephone calls, harassment and intimidation of a witness during an arraignment this afternoon. Gatewood also faces new forgery and second-degree theft charges for an incident in July 2008.

Sypolt entered ‘not guilty’ pleas for Gatewood. Gatewood took issue with the public defender’s office and said he’s “trying to represent myself.”

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla emphasized that Gatewood’s requests need to be put in the form of motions supported by affidavits.

Gatewood is accused of making harassing phone calls to witnesses who testified against him at a court hearing in February. The calls came just after Gatewood was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Gatewood was wanted by police in fall 2008 for assaulting his ex-girlfriend’s children and making a threatening call that briefly locked down Logan Elementary School. He also for months made harassing phone calls to his estranged wife at home and at work, some in the presence of Spokane police officers.

The longtime felon’s past convictions include felony assault, possession of stolen property, riot and unlawful possession of a firearm.

FBI badge, gun stolen from detective’s car

A man arrested in an alleged stolen property crime spree last fall is now accused of stealing a Spokane County Sheriff detective’s gun and FBI identification card during a vehicle prowling last week.

James W. Peterschick, 28, was arrested after a jail inmate looking for a break on drug charges told police he saw Peterschick with the stolen gun on April 21, the day it was stolen from Detective Leroy Fairbanks’ government-issued vehicle, according to court documents.

The tipster told detectives of a dumpster at Garland and Post where most of the items had been dumped, then said Peterschick often stayed at cheap motels in Spokane. 

Detectives found Peterschick at Motel 6, 1508 N. Rustle, as well as two fishing poles stolen from Fairbanks’ vehicle. Investigators believe Peterschick smashed out the car’s window when Fairbanks left it at 5830 N. Division for about 20 minutes, then stole a backpack containing electronics, a Glock handgun, handcuffs, a flashlight, badge and IDs for the Sheriff’s Office and FBI.

Peterschick appeared in Superior Court Monday on charges of trafficking in stolen property, possession of a stolen firearm and possession of a controlled substance. He’s out of jail on bond.

In February, Peterschick was arrested in a drug and stolen property crime spree uncovered by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy when he stopped to check on a stranded SUV.

Charges in deadly crash on hold for school

Prosecutors are waiting until the end of the school year to file vehicular homicide charges against two teens involved in a crash that killed a 19-year-old Spokane woman, Spokane County Sheriff’s Detective Dave Thornburg said today.

Thornburg sent an investigation recommending the charges against Brooke A. Reese and Taylor D. Marean, both 18, on April 5. The teens were said to be racing when their cars collided on southbound Hatch Road near 54th Avenue early Feb. 14, killing Jacoby N. Bryant, 19 (left).

Marean is a student at the University of Washington, and prosecutors are allowing him to finish the term before he’s arraigned on the felony charge, Thornburg said.

Bryant, a 2009 graduate of Lewis and Clark High and a student at Eastern Washington University, was a passenger in Reese’s 1999 Pontiac Grand Am when it collided with Marean’s 2005 BMW, then struck a tree, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Reese reportedly admitted to drinking four shots of Vodka at a party before the deadly crash, according to a search warrant. She faces a possible drug possession charge after detectives found meth in her purse in the Grand Am. Thornburg’s recommendation also includes two counts of minor in possession/consumption of alcohol against Reese and Marean.

Past coverage:

April 5: Charges recommended in crash that killed teen

Big man, little man suspected in burglaries

A small body frame may be helping fuel a string of burglaries in north Spokane.

Detectives believe a smaller man has been breaking through windows to allow his larger accomplice inside, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said today.

A woman arrived home in the 6500 block of North Wall Monday to find the men leaving the apartment with stuffed duffel bags.

Investigators believe they may be connected to other burglaries in the same area.

The suspects are described as black, one big and small. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Sheriff dismisses private jail options

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich expressed doubt today that the City of Spokane could save any money by hiring a private company to run a municipal lockup.

“We looked at privatization,” Knezovich said, adding the department had talked with a Montana company while researching options for a regional jail that will serve the Spokane area’s future needs. “We never could get that to pencil out.”

Knezovich’s comments came in response to questions asked during a meeting with Spokane-area journalists. City officials announced earlier this month they’re exploring cheaper alternatives to the county jail, which is operated by the Sheriff’s Department, and that its options could include hiring a private company to house low-risk inmates.

Among other things, private jails often want to limit the risk they face in caring for medically needy inmates, but someone has to bear that cost, Knezovich said.

Several cities in Western Washington that operated their own municipal jails have concluded it would be cheaper to form regional partnerships and share costs, which Knezovich said is similar to the concept that jail planners have been pursuing here. In Eastern Washington there’s just three jurisdictions large enough to form a core partnership: The City of Spokane, City of Spokane Valley and Spokane County.

The Sheriff’s Department is trying to build support for a regional jail complex that could cost as much as $265 million, which would need to be approved by voters.

Boy-for-sale ad linked to Sandpoint teen

An Internet ad offering a 4-year-old boy for $5,000 that launched a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office investigation and drew international attention turned out to be the work of a bored North Idaho teenager.

Sandpoint police tracked the Craigslist ad to a 17-year-old boy, who told an investigator he posted it as a joke.

“He was home with nothing else to do, and he thought it’d be funny,” said Sandpoint police Lt. Corey Coon, who took over the investigation after Spokane County investigators tracked the computer that created the post to that area of North Idaho.

But authorities aren’t laughing. Coon is investigating possible criminal charges such as identity theft, fraud or violation of Idaho’s adoption laws. He hopes to send his report to the Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office by Monday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

April 20: Boy-for-sale Craigslist query switches states

March 17: Boy-for-sale ad triggers investigation

Man sought after SWAT comes up empty

Spokane police are looking for a domestic violence suspect they believe escaped before officers surrounded his Hillyard home for four hours on Saturday.

Police say Pedro J. Garcia, 35, was reported to be suicidal when they arrived at 2900 E. Diamond shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday to check on the safety of a woman there, according to the Spokane Police Department.

When the SWAT team entered the home after a four-hour standoff, Garcia wasn’t inside.

Now he’s being sought on charges of domestic violence, violating a protection order, burglary, unlawful imprisonment and harassment.

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

Jury clears Everett police officer of murder

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — A Snohomish County jury cleared an Everett police officer Monday of criminal charges in the shooting death of a drunken-driving suspect in a restaurant parking lot. Officer Troy Meade was acquitted of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, The Herald newspaper of Everett reported. Jurors had been deliberating since Friday.

Meade, whose pictured above hugging his wife after the verdict, shot and killed Niles Meservey in his car outside the Chuckwagon Inn last June. He was charged in Snohomish County Superior Court after witnesses reported that the car, which had hit a chain-link fence, was blocked in and didn’t appear to be endangering anyone when Meade fired into the vehicle.

Seven shots hit Meservey (right), who was described as being drunk and uncooperative at the time.

Meade, 41 and an 11-year Everett police veteran, testified that he didn’t want to kill anyone, but he said he believed Meservey’s Chevrolet Corvette was about to back up and hit him or someone else.

The officer said Monday he felt for Meservey’s family.

“I want to put it behind me and go back to work,” he said.

Several off-duty police officers attended the trial, and the courtroom reacted with brief applause as well as tears when the verdict was read. Meservey’s family is also pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

“I am sorry the jury was unable to convict Officer Meade of a crime, but I understand how difficult it is to obtain a conviction where there is a presumption of innocence and a burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” his daughter, Tanda Louden, said in a written statement. “Nevertheless, I am confident that a jury in a civil case will find Officer Meade responsible and hold him fully accountable.”

Meade’s testimony during the trial often contradicted that of Everett police officer Steven Klocker, who testified that he didn’t believe that anyone was in danger that night.

Klocker testified that just before gunfire erupted Meade turned to him and said something to the effect of, “Enough is enough; time to end this.” Meade denied saying anything before he shot into the Corvette.

Everett police officer Richard Somerville was present when the verdict was read. He said he was relieved for Meade, who had to make a split-second decision as officers frequently must.

Somerville also said he felt for Klocker.

“I believe he was very honest and truthful of what he saw” from his vantage, Somerville said.

Spokane police chief is finalist for Seattle job

Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick is one of 11 finalists to lead Seattle’s police force.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s office released the list Monday in a news release.

The finalists will be interviewed May 8 by McGinn’s chief search committee.

Other candidates include the police chiefs of Des Moines, Iowa; Sacramento; East Palo Alto, Calif.; and Lawrence, Mass. There are three internal candidates, including Interim Seattle Chief John Diaz.

Kirkpatrick announced earlier this year that she would apply for the job.

Past coverage: Chief keeps eye on Seattle job

Gunman pleads guilty in Halloween murder

Halloween gunfire that killed a man trying to break up a fight in downtown Spokane will send the triggerman to prison for at least 24 years in a plea deal approved recently in Spokane County Superior Court.

 Jonathan H. Espinoza, 26, faces up to 32 years in prison for a shooting outside The Blvd Tavern that killed Joshua D. Ridgely, 22, (left) and injured two of Ridgely’s friends, Ryan R. Jackson and Michelle M. Wilcox. The bottom of the standard sentencing range is 24 years.

Espinoza opened fire on a crowd outside the bar shortly after midnight on Nov. 1, 2008, after grabbing a gun from a friend, Matthew R. Jones.

Jones, 26, told police he fired one shot into the air before Espinoza grabbed the weapon and said “This is how you do it.”

Jones pleaded guilty last summer to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Espinoza pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault. He remains in jail awaiting sentencing.

The shooting came after a fight broke out in a crowded parking lot outside the bar, 333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. An associate of Jones and Espinoza was involved, and Espinoza instructed Jones to get a gun from the car they arrived in before he grabbed it from him and fired multiple rounds, according to court documents.

Ridgely, a 2004 University High School graduate who installed windows for his brother’s company, was hit in the chest and died in the parking lot. Bullets hit Jackson and Wilcox and narrowly missed at least three others, including Summer Jackson, who was Ridgely’s girlfriend and Jackson’s sister, police said.

The plea deal approved by Judge Michael Price last week dismissed three counts of attempted murder in connection with the stray bullets.

Espinoza and Jones were arrested Nov. 3 after a friend who previously told detectives he didn’t know the shooters broke down in an interrogation room, police said.

Espinoza already was a convicted felon prohibited from possessing firearms. His record includes a conviction for felony possession of a controlled substance.

Past coverage:

June 11, 2009: Man pleads guilty in killing

Nov. 3, 2008: Shooting victim always wore smile

2 men arrested for robbery 6 months later

Two Kalispell, Mont., men have been arrested for a gunpoint robbery at a North Idaho grocery store last fall.

The suspects, Philip Paul-Richard Luedcke, 22 (right), and Nathan Wayne Hunt, 19, are accused of robbing the Super 1 Foods in Hayden early Oct. 17.

Detectives say one of the men held a clerk and customer at gunpoint before fleeing with cash into a waiting vehicle.

Hunt was arrested today in Kalispell and is awaiting extradition to Kootenai County. Luedcke was arrested Tuesday in Coeur d’Alene. Both have a $75,000 bond for a robbery charge.

The robbery came the same weekend as robberies at the Coeur d’Alene Dairy Queen and at Piggies Deli and Market, 2001 E. Sherman Ave. Investigators haven’t determined if they’re connected.

A tipster led detectives to Luedcke and Hunt.

Man killed in front of kids; suspect at large

Okanogan County detectives are still looking for a gunman they say killed a father in front of his two children on Friday.

Javier Ramirez-Cardenas, 30, of Okanogan, (left) is accused of fatally shooting Jose Antonio Padilla-Campos, 34, in Campos’ home at Johnny Appleseed Orchards off B&O Road, west of Okanogan. The shooting was reported at 9:15 p.m.

Investigators say Ramirez-Cardenas was let in, then shot Campos as he sat in a chair at a computer.

Campos’ 7-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son witnessed the killing. Both are staying with their mother, who lived at the home but was away at the time of the shooting, said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers.

Detectives found Ramirez-Cardenas’ 2005 Nissan Altima in an orchard behind his home but haven’t found the suspect.

“We’re chasing a bunch of leads today, but nothing solid yet,” Rogers said.

Investigators don’t know what led to the shooting.

“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Rogers said. “We’re just not sure what his motive was.”

Anyone with information on Ramirez-Cardenas’ location is asked to call (509) 422-7232.

Crenshaw double-murder trial delayed, again

The trial of young man accused of a grisly double murder has been postponed.

  Jury selection in the trial Justin W. Crenshaw, 22, is now set to begin on June 28 - more than two years after investigators say he stabbed Sarah A. Clark and Tanner E. Pehl to death, then tried torching the home to cover the crime.

Trial was scheduled for May 3, but Crenshaw’s lawyer, Chris Bugbee, requested an extension because a report on tests Crenshaw underwent in Western Washignton isn’t ready. Prosecutors also need time to have the report reviewed by an expert.

Crenshaw is charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence without parole if convicted.

The original aggravating factor charges that the murders were “part of a common scheme or plan.” Prosecutors recently amended the charge to include a second aggravating factor - deliberate cruelty.

Pehl and Clark were found dead in Pehl’s home on Elm Street in north Spokane on Feb. 28, 2008. Crenshaw was arrested later that day.

Past coverage:

Nov. 6, 2009: Judge rules on evidence in Crenshaw trial.

Oct. 16, 2009: Motion to suppress filed in Elm Street homicides

Sept. 9, 2009: Crenshaw double-murder trial delayed.

Sept. 4, 2009: Detectives just now examining Crenshaw’s cell phone 

July 9, 2008: Murder defendant will get new attorney

March 5, 2008: Murder suspect trying to better life, friend says

March 1, 2008: Friends remember slain Mead High senior

‘Snitch’ assailant in robbery case sentenced

A man who helped rob a pharmacy last fall, then threatened a witness, will spend about 11 months in jail.

William E. Higgins, 22, pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit first-degree armed burglary and received 11.25 months in jail and 12 months probation. The next day, he received four months in jail after pleading guilty to tampering with a witness and possession of a controlled substance.

Higgins waited in the car as when Ariel A. Arrieta robbed the Rite Aid at 5520 N. Division of OxyContin at gunpoint on Sept. 27. He posted bond but returned to jail March 17 after a witness in the case, Ben Rasmussen, said Higgins punched him and called him a “snitch” in a Deer Park park on March 6.

Rasmussen was charged with first-degree robbery for his alleged role in the heist earlier this month.

Arrieta, 21, pleaded guilty to conspiracy ton commit first-degree robbery and faces 20 to 30 months in prison when sentenced in August.

A fourth defendant, Jed L. Boles, 32. remains in jail.

April 19: Woman, 21, pleads guilty to Oxy robbery

April 14: Robbery tipster now accused of robbery

March 23: Police: Oxy robbery targeted witness

Oct. 19: 2 men sought in Spokane pharmacy robbery

Picture shows Spokane credit union robber

A man robbed the Spokane Teachers Credit Union branch on Indian Trail Road this afternoon.

The man handed a teller a note shortly after 2:30 p.m. that said he had a gun, but he never displayed one, police said.

The robber left on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash. No one was injured.

Witnesses thought the robber may have headed north from the bank, at 8703 N. Indian Trail Road.

The robber is described as in his early 30s, white, between 5-foot-10 and 6 feet tall, with a thin-to-medium build. He wore a black windbreaker jacket, jeans and a black knit cap with a gray stripe around the rim.

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

It’s the third robbery at a Spokane County financial institution this week.

2 convicted in murder of pregnant woman

Okanogan County jurors late Thursday convicted two Spokane residents in the 2009 ice-pick slaying of a pregnant woman near Tonasket.

Tansy Fay-Arwen Mathis, 30, and David Eugene Richards, 34, were convicted in the killing of Michelle Kitterman, 25, who was found dead along a driveway adjacent to Stalder Road in Tonasket on March 1, 2009. Kitterman was 11 weeks pregnant.

Mathis was found guilty of aggravated first-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter of an unborn child, first-degree kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Richards was found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. The jury reached its verdict about 11 p.m., said Sheriff Frank Rogers. Aggravated first-degree murder carries a sentence of life in prison.

Awaiting trial for murder is Lacey K. Hirst-Pavek, 33, of Tonasket, who is accused of offering $500 to have Kitterman killed because Kitterman was having an affair with her husband.

A key witness was Brent L. Phillips, 39, of Spokane, who was involved in the killing and pleaded guilty last month in the murder.

Mathis, formerly of Tonasket, is believed to have met with Hirst-Pavek several times in arranging to have Kitterman killed.

Past coverage: April 16: 2 on trial in Okanogan ice-pick slaying

WSP: Chism threatened to kill troopers

A Spokane firefighter exonerated in a child pornography investigation two years ago threatened to beat a state trooper “to death” in a confrontation that led to felony charges Friday in Stevens County Superior Court, prosecutors allege.

New court documents show two Washington State Patrol troopers told investigators that Lt. Todd Chism’s anger during the April 6 arrest began after one told Chism he seemed familiar, then erupted into a profanity-laced tirade following a brawl in which he was stunned with a Taser several times. One trooper broke his thumb; another severely injured a hand.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen filed the documents Friday when he charged Chism with two felony counts of third-degree assault and two misdemeanors: resisting arrest and being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

Chism, a Spokane Fire Department veteran, has been on paid leave since April 8.

“There were some aspects of this decision that were very unusual,” Rasmussen said. “Certainly the history of Mr. Chism and the things that had happened between him and the state patrol warranted careful examination of the material.”

Chism’s lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, said his client’s version of what happened “is substantially different from the summary we see from the state patrol.”

He emphasized that the charging document “indicates Mr. Chism was cooperative until a second trooper arrived and made reference that he knew who Mr. Chism was.”

Read the rest of my story here

Past coverage: April 9: Firefighter Tasered in DUI arrest

Man sentenced for Riverfront Park rape

By Thomas Clouse

A brain-damaged, homeless man could serve either four more months or up to five years in prison based on a sentence Friday for a rape that occurred in broad daylight on a Saturday in Riverfront Park.

Terry L. Thomas, 54, earlier entered a guilty plea to third-degree rape in connection to the incident that occurred May 23. He was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison and given credit for 11 months already served.

Bystanders originally told Riverfront Park security staff they saw two people 60-year-olds were having sex in some bushes close to the playground near the former old YMCA building.

But The 27-year-old woman and Thomas turned out to be 27, the man brain-damaged and both had been drinking whiskey, according to court testimony.

Witnesses told police they saw the woman push Thomas away and try to collect herself, but Thomas continued to pull her off her clothes.

“We believe … this started as a consensual act,” defense attorney Al Rossi told Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno. “They met on the bus. They both had been drinking. They both were going to the park. Mr. Thomas doesn’t remember a lot after he got off the bus.”

“Mr. Thomas, unfortunately, was not in a situation where he understood ‘no’ … as a result of his level of intoxication.”

Rossi said explained that Thomas, who has does have a previous sex crime conviction in Oregon, fell in 1993 and severely damaged his brain. Since then, he He since has had trouble finding his words, has been homeless and sometimes has trouble controlling his impulses, Rossi said.

“After his brain injury, Mr. Thomas’ life went to hell,” Rossi said. But “after the injury … he has pretty much abandoned his criminal career.”

Deputy Prosecutor John Love said the sentence could be as much as five years in prison because after Thomas serves the additional initial four months, the case will then go before the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board, which could impose the higher sentence.

Thomas told Moreno that he remembered meeting the woman and sharing two pints of whiskey.

“I do not remember any of this after we got off the bus,” Thomas said.

Utah killer will be executed by firing squad

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is set to execute a convicted killer by firing squad after a judge agreed Friday to the inmate’s request for the method, renewing a debate over what critics see as an antiquated, Old West-style of justice. 

Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49, (right, with his lawyer, Andrew Parnes) was given the choice of being killed by lethal injection or shot by a five-man team of executioners firing from a set of matched rifles, a rarely used relic that harkens back to Utah’s territorial history.

“I would like the firing squad, please,” Gardner told State court Judge Robin Reese Friday morning, after Reese told him his avenues for appeal appear to be exhausted.

Gardner, 49, was sentenced to death for killing an attorney 25 years ago during a failed escape attempt and shootout.

Of the 35 states with the death penalty on the books, Utah is the only one to use the firing squad as a method of execution since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Two men have died in a hail of bullets since that decision: Gary Gilmore, on Jan. 17, 1977 — after famously uttering the last words, “Let’s do it” — and John Albert Taylor on Jan. 26, 1996. 

Read the rest of the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Spokane police K-9 Var honored after death

A Spokane police K-9 who died after surgery to remove a brain tumor was honored this week by the Washington State Police Canine Association.

Var, a 10-year-old German shepherd who died last June, was awarded the Medal of Valor for a March 17, 2009, shooting that struck him twice. Var’s handler, Officer Dan Lesser, shot and killed the suspect, 22-year-old Johnnie L. Longest III.

Longest, a meth addict, had abandoned a stolen car and ran from police; investigators said he was preparing to shoot again when Lesser shot him. (Var is pictured at front in April 2009; Lesser is in back with his new partner, Rav.)

Lesser accepted the award for Var in Yakima on Tuesday. About 100 K-9 handlers from around Washington attended the spring seminar.

Pierce County Sheriff’s deputy John Munson, president of the Canine Association, said Var saved Lesser’s life “and possible the lives of others,” according to a news release.

Var also received the Spokane Police Department’s Purple Heart in April 2009.

‘Problem gambler’ accused of theft, forgery

A Spokane woman who reportedly told police she’s a problem gambler is accused of stealing more than $10,000 from her employer.

Wendy J. Tappa, 55, was arrested Thursday on charges of fraud and first-degree theft after Spokane Valley police say she forged and cashed checks from Northwest Consulting Solutions LLC, where she was hired as an office manager in October.

Bank officials notified the owner earlier this month that the company’s account was overdrawn. They also said Tappa regularly cashed payroll checks, “and that a Spokane Valley gambling business had been in to cash checks payable to Tappa,” according to police.

The owner said Tappa forged his signature on as many as 15 checks. Police found one of the checks in her pocket at the time of her arrest, according to a news release.

Tappa is is in Spokane County Jail and will appear in Superior Court today via video.

Teen in fatal stabbing pleads to assault

A teen arrested in a fatal stabbing will spend a few more months in jail after pleading guilty today to second-degree assault. 

Christopher E. Hooper, 19, (left) was arrested after the Jan. 16 stabbing death of Shannon Cochran, 22. Cochran is pictured above with his mother, Tracey.

Hooper was sentenced today to 12 months in prison with credit for time served in jail.

Police say Hooper was with Tylor T. Buttolph, 19, and Michael L. Summa, 20, and Summa fatally stabbed Cochran near Garland and Helena as he defended a friend in a fight over a drug debt. Hooper handed Summa the knife, prosecutors say. Hooper said he was high on methamphetamine at the time. Read more from the sentencing here.

Buttolph (left) and Summa (right) are charged with second-degree murder and remain in jail.

Buttolph’s father, Daniel R. Wood, was convicted last year of first-degree rending criminal assistance for helping the defendants. Buttolph’s mother, Tanya Buttolph, also is charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance. Her trial is scheduled for May. 

After the stabbing, police say the men called Wood, who picked them up in a car. As the group climbed into Wood’s vehicle, Buttolph asked Summa “why he stabbed Shannon Cochran so many times,” according to court documents.

Past coverage:

Oct. 15, 2009: Warrant issued for teen in murder case

Jan. 26, 2009: Final suspects in homicide arrested

Jan. 21, 2009: Stabbing victim died standing up for friend

Sex offender arrested for indecent exposure

A convicted rapist considered likely to reoffend is in Spokane County Jail after police say he exposed himself to a four-year-old girl.

James A. Peterschick, 51, was drunk when officers arrived at 511 E. Indiana, where the girl’s parents said Peterschick exposed himself while standing in the front yard, according to court documents.

Peterschick said he vaguely remembers going outside but didn’t remember exposing himself to anyone. He told police he’d been drinking “because he was upset over his wife leaving him,” according to court documents.

Peterschick was convicted in 1986 of statutory rape involving 13- and 14-year-old girls, according to news archives. He served about eight years in prison after being convicted in Montana in 1990 of sexual intercourse without consent involving a 17-year-old girl.

He’s a level 3 sex offender - the classification considered most likely to reoffend. He’s in jail on three counts of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor charged in Spokane Municipal Court.

Robbery victim’s stash: Sex toy, syringes

A robbery suspect arrested in a Spokane Valley water park after his truck ran out of gas reportedly told police he arranged to buy methamphetamine from the victim but robbed her instead.

Police found a pornographic video, a sex toy, condoms, syringes, plastic baggies along with the victim’s backpack, according to court documents filed today.

Joseph W. Boyce, aka Joseph Davis, told detectives he’s a meth addict with no money who threatened Jill Wick, 29, with a broken pellet gun before a friend, Jumah A. Robinson, 32, stole her backpack and purse in a parking lot at Trent and Argonne early Tuesday, according to court documents.

A K-9 helped police track Robinson and Boyce, 25, inside Splash Down Water Park after the men abandoned their 1998 Chevrolet pickup along eastbound Interstate 90. Police seized the pellet gun from the truck, along with two glass drug pipes, according to a search warrant.

Wick told police she met the men through her boyfriend and went to the Albertsons grocery store to give them a ride after they called her repeatedly. When she saw them in the truck, Wick said she asked “why they can’t just drive that vehicle wherever they wanted to go,” according to court documents.

Boyce is in jail on $50,000 bond; Robinson’s bond is at $25,000. Both are charged with first-degree robbery.

Feds: Murder plot uncovered in pot case

A Las Vegas developer acquitted by a federal jury in a North Idaho marijuana distribution case remains jailed without bail, now accused of conspiring to kill the prosecution’s key witnesses, including a Post Falls couple who testified against him.

  Kelly J. Polatis, (left) who worked with the company still fighting Kootenai County’s rejection of the proposed Chateau de Loire lakeside development, waived extradition Wednesday to Utah, where he’s been charged in U.S. District Court with using interstate commerce for the commission of murder for hire.

He’s also suspected of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor in an investigation his lawyer says was triggered by a nanny whose son was a government informant.

 On Thursday, Chataeu marketing director Melody Jones said Polatis is long removed from the project.

“When we all saw what kind of person he was we got rid of him,” Jones said.

Polatis, 40, was arrested with Karrie Hatridge (right), Charlie Hatridge (left) and Ryan C. Jackson in November 2008 after Idaho State Police seized hundreds of marijuana plants from a Post Falls home owned by the Hatridges, who operated American Mortgage Solutions in Rathdrum. 

A fourth defendant, Ryan C. Jackson, pleaded guilty last summer to misprision of a felony and is on three years probation.

Jackson (right), whose brother is a Kootenai County sheriff’s deputy, tended to the marijuana for two weeks “receiving neither money nor money in return,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer. “His main offense was one of not reporting the criminal activity to the authorities,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer last summer. 

Polatis was charged in the murder plot through a sealed complaint filed on Friday, the same day a federal jury acquitted him of marijuana charges that carried a five-year minimum prison term.

His defense lawyer, noted Las Vegas litigator Gabriel Grasso, is suspicious over the timing of the new charges.

“That might tell you something: They don’t like to lose,” said Grasso, whose past clients have included reputed gangsters and former football great O.J. Simpson. “It’s a humbling thing to be faced with the might of the federal government and actually come out on top. Defense attorneys call it ‘walking on the moon.’”

Read the rest of my story: Developer accused of murder plot

Robber shot in invasion faces life in prison

Thomas A. Butler’s home-invasion robbery last year didn’t just earn him two bullets to his belly - it earned him a permanent spot in prison.

A Spokane County jury today convicted Butler, 26, of six felonies. Under the state’s three strikes law, he faces life in prison without parole because of previous convictions, said Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell.

The case began when Butler forced his way into a home at 4113 E. 16th Ave., on March 20, 2009, where three Eastern Washington University seniors lived. One of the residents shot Butler.

Detectives believe Butler and accused accomplice Derick D. Taylor, 29, had an inflated impression of what they might find in the home.

A jury convicted Butler of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery, first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree assault. He was acquitted of two count of first-degree robbery. Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza presided over the trial.

Taylor, the co-defendant, is out of jail on $250,000 bond. His trial is set for June.

Past coverage:

Intruders hunting valuables, police say

‘Nemesis’ of property owners flees court

A man police call “the nemesis of Spokane Valley property owners” returned to jail Wednesday after fleeing a courtroom and falling in front of the Spokane County Elections Office.

Cole T. Monson, 36, ran from Spokane County District Court Judge Debra Hayes’ courtroom after Hayes revoked his bond on a driving while suspended charge and ordered him jailed, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Monson shoved a judicial assistant then ran from the courtroom, down the stairs and out the Public Safety Building as a deputy chased him, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Monson fell as he jumped down a short stairwell, then was handcuffed and returned to court by police, where Hayes “reiterated she wanted him taken to jail,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Monson, a longtime felon arrested in a large stolen property and fuel theft investigation in March, faces new charges of felony third-degree assault and misdemeanor first-degree escape.

Monson may face criminal charges for as many as 120 crimes involving burglary, vehicle prowling, arson, malicious mischief and vehicle theft, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

He’s also a suspect in a federal investigation involving counterfeit money, and is suspected of exchanging stolen property for meth to a woman recently indicted on federal meth charges.

Jury convicts career burglar of murder

A jury today convicted a career burglar of killing an 80-year-old man in a botched burglary in September 2008.

David K. Brewczynski, 44, (right, and above in 1997) was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and first-degree theft of a firearm for the beating death of Kenneth Cross at Cross’ Boone Avenue home.

A week after the murder, police found Cross’ identification and other personal items in a storage unit Brewczynski rented in southeast Spokane County. Forensic experts say a bloody shoe print in Cross’ house could match a shoe found in Brewczynski’s home.

Deputy Prosecutor Steve Garvin said in his closing argument today that investigators believe they have shown “beyond any doubt” that Brewczynski struck Cross some 24 times in the head, a similar number of blows to his torso and at least two shots to the head.

Brewczynski “beat down, killed and shot Kenneth Cross. It is beyond question,” Garvin said.

But Assistant Public Defender Derek Reid tried to make the case that Spokane County sheriff’s detectives, who are contracted to work as police in Spokane Valley, simply followed the facts that fit their theory and failed to test other evidence that may have supported charging other suspects.

Read more here.

Brewczynski was arrested in 1997 in what detectives described as a community policing dragnet. (The picture up top is from that arrest.) He was suspected in more than three dozen burglaries. He served seven years in prison but was arrested for burglary just months after his release. (Read the story from 2004 here.)

Past coverage:

Trial starts in death of 80-year-old man

Burglar’s storage unit yields dead man’s ID

Murder victim may have been targeted

Accused killer pleads not guilty

Tips sought on suspects in home looting

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that helps arrest two men accused of burglarizing a home, then filling the family’s Dodge Durango with the loot and stealing it.

 Anthony T. Falasco, 28, (left) and Marcus R. Jolly, 27 (right), are wanted for the February burglary in the 11100 block of East 22nd Avenue, police said.

Police arrested Falasco with a stolen vehicle after the burglary, according to police, then found an illegal shotgun, a pipe bomb and stolen property at an apartment on South Havana Street where they’d heard Jolly was staying. 

But Jolly wasn’t there, and Crime Stoppers in March announced a reward for tips on his location. 

Prosecutors charged Falasco with residential burglary, reckless endangerment and reckless driving late last month, prompting Crime Stoppers to announce a reward for his capture today.

Falasco last gave 37400 Angels Landing in Ford, Wash., as his home address, but he has an eight-year criminal history in Spokane County, according to Crime Stoppers.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, or submit tips online here.

Oreskovich: ‘I’m not Internet proficient’

By Thomas Clouse

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle didn’t have the kindest of responses Tuesday when a defense attorney representing Spokane police Office Karl F. Thompson, Jr. asked the judge to compel federal prosecutors to turn over the names, phone numbers and addresses of several witnesses who watched the confrontation with Otto Zehm (right).

Attorney Courtney Garcea, who is helping Carl Oreskovich represent Thompson, said she understood that the law does not require federal prosecutors to hand over that information, but that the matter did fall under the judge’s discretion.

“It is certainly reasonable that the United States be ordered to provide that information,” she said.

Van Sickle responded by saying that anyone who can operate a computer “would find this information within key strokes. Why can’t this be done by people working on behalf of the defense team?”

Garcea responded by saying the government has that information readily available and it would avoid the time necessary to find the addresses and phone numbers.

Van Sickle, who became more animated, said that information could have been found in the time it took Garcea to make the argument.

“I kind of scratch my head. Have you called the U.S. Attorney’s Office and asked for it?” he asked.

When Garcea replied no, he said: “Why didn’t you do it?”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin said he would have responded to such a request by contacting the witnesses and inquiring whether they want to speak to the defense.

If so, he would have provided the information Garcea sought.

“It’s unfathomable to believe they don’t have the ability to track down the information,” Durkin said.

He pointed out that the Spokane Police Department took down every name, date of birth, address and phone number of the witnesses they interviewed at the convenience store on March 18, 2006, following the confrontation with Zehm who died two days later.

“They have a lot of resources and access to the information,” Durkin said. “This motion was designed to bog down the United States with briefings without any contact with the U.S. Attorney’s Office at all.”

Oreskovich then got up and apologized to the judge. He explained that he has been unable to locate six witnesses.

“I’m not Internet proficient,” Oreskovich said. “My apologies to this court that I didn’t write a letter saying I couldn’t find these particular witnesses.”

Van Sickle ended the discussion by saying: “I don’t think (finding) six people would be an onerous project.”

The exchange came during a hearing in which Van Sickle denied Oreskovich’s request to dismiss a lying charge against Thompson.

Read the story here

Teen gets 11 years in murder over $20

Matthew T. Shope told police everything. He led them to the victim’s body, described her murder in detail and, ultimately, gave detectives a solid case against her killer.

But it’s what Shope did - and didn’t do - before his arrest that earned him more than a decade in prison under a sentence imposed Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

“He was not the instigator of the incident,” said Deputy Prosecutor John Love. “However, he did not attempt to stop the incident.”

Shope pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the Oct. 6, 2008, strangulation death of 28-year-old Jennifer L. Siria and was sentenced to 134 months in prison.

His accomplice, Michael A. Quinones, 29, was sentenced to 25 years in prison March 25 after pleading guilty to first-degree murder.

“I should have done something,” Shope said today through tears. “I was a coward in the situation and didn’t take action to stop it and I feel terrible for the family.”

Siria’s mother, Patricia, said Shope is an example of “what every parent fears for their child, that their bad choices will take them to a place they’ll never be able to overcome.”

“Why didn’t he run out and pound on doors and call for help?” she said. “I hope he wishes now that he had.”

Quinones and Shope gave Siria $20 to let them stay in her apartment at 537 E. Hawthorne Road but demanded the money back when they decided the leave, which led to Siria’s murder.

Shope feared he would be Quinones’s next victim, defense lawyer Mark Hannibal said. Shope helped Quinones clean the apartment, later telling police “it’s amazing how well you can clean when you’re threatened with your life,” Hannibal said.

A Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy picked Shope and Quinones up near the scene and released Quinones not knowing of the murder. But Shope refused to get out of the car and told the deputy he had an arrest warrant. Not finding one, the deputy drove Shope to Daybreak rehab, where the boy told employees “he had been involved in something that could send him to prison for a long time,” according to court documents.

Had it not been for Shope, “the killer would have gotten away with his crime,” Hannibal said. Hannibal asked Moreno to impose an exceptional low sentence of 114 months (the high-end sentence for first-degree manslaughter), but the judge declined.

“I just simply can’t justify it based on the loss of a life in this case,” she said. “I know that you feel badly. I know you are very remorseful for what you did and didn’t do….(but) the devastation that you caused with your codefendant cannot be ignored.”

Past coverage:

Drifter sent to prison for brutal slaying

Second suspect charged in murder

Police: Accused killer wrote rape suspect’s alleged victim

$66 robbery gets gunman 7+ years in prison

A 25-year-old man who robbed a convenience store at gunpoint last fall was sentenced today to nearly eight years in prison.

Christopher R. Walinksi pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and second-degree assault for a Sept. 29 robbery at Zip Trip, 3030 E. Euclid Ave.

The robbery, which police say netted $66, was a result of Walinski’s drug addiction, family said.

Walinski, a father of a six-year-old, has been in jail since Nov. 4. Joseph R. Giordanella, who supplied the handgun Wakinski used, was sentenced to 14 months in prison earlier this month. A third man, Justin J. Ellery, is in jail awaiting sentencing.

Walkinski, who a clerk described as having “very pretty blue eyes” wore Ellery’s tank top over his face when he pointed a gun at a store clerk and demanded cash, Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz said today.

“I’m sorry for what happened,” Walinski told Judge Maryann Moreno, who approved a plea and sentencing deal. “I was hanging out with the wrong people.”

Walinski was working with his father remodeling homes around the time of the robbery.

“I was really surprised when he did this,” his father said. “This is not his character at all. People were shocked in my neighborhood.”

Walinski’s 90 month sentence includes 36 months for the assault charge because a firearm was used.

Previous coverage:

Gunpoint Zip Trip robbery netted $66

Dine and dasher pulls knife on employee

Police are trying to identify a man they accuse of pulling a knife Saturday on a Wild Sage Bistro employee after throwing a glass of wine at a customer and skipping out on a dinner bill.

The suspect is pictured at right, in the background of another customer’s photo.

Police say the man was eating alone at the Wild Sage Bistro, 916 W. 2nd Ave., about 9:40 p.m. when he threw wine in the face of a nearby customer and fled the restaurant.

An employee chased him to the parking lot of Lincoln Street and First Avenue, but left when the man pulled a knife, police said.

The man is described as white with short brown hair, 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds.

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

Boy-for-sale Craigslist query switches states

Investigation into a Spokane Craigslist ad that offered a 4-year-old boy for sale has been transferred to another law enforcement agency.

A sheriff’s deputy tracked Internet Provider address information for the posting and believes the post may have originated outside of Washington, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office announced today.

A law enforcement agency in that jurisdiction will continue the investigation “to determine if the ad was a hoax or an actual offer to sell a child,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Police haven’t specified which jurisdiction.

The investigation began March 1 when a Spokane woman told police of a Craigslist ad she spotted on Feb. 28 that offered a boy named Gavin for $5,000.

It included a photo of a small child in a yellow fireman’s helmet and a dark shirt with the word “adventure” on the front.

The ad had been posted just before 11 p.m. the previous day but had been removed by Craigslist when the woman returned to the site after copying the text – but not the photo – into a computer word processing program.

The ad’s author claimed to be the boy’s father.

The author said the boy was a “great kid” but that he could no longer afford to care for him. The boy loves basketball, football and soccer but doesn’t play with cars, refuses to eat vegetables and can scream for hours at a time.

“But he always has a smile on his face. He doesn’t fuss very much, but when he does he just screams for hours. I usually just put him in his closet until he stops and that usually works,” according to the ad.

“It is going to kill me to do this but as I stated before I cannot afford to keep him. His Motherr is out of the picture and my parents no longer talk to me since I’ve had Gavin,” the ad read, according to the search warrant. “So I don’t know what else to do other than find a good family with kids or a couple that wants a son.”

The seller, who identified himself as Rick Obelophy, said he wouldn’t give the boy “to anyone.”

“I want to meet with you and make sure you will be fit parents,” the ad read.

Past coverage:

Boy-for-sale add triggers investigation

Police saw signs smuggler liked bestiality

By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

SEATTLE (AP) — Last week’s animal-abuse arrest of a convicted cocaine smuggler wasn’t the first time authorities had found something linking him to bestiality.

A Monroe police commander said Monday that when Douglas Spink’s sport utility vehicle was pulled over in 2005, Spink was strangely protective of a female German shepherd that was with him, and he had stickers on the car indicating he was an animal-man-love activist.

Investigators didn’t bother with those clues because they had much more pressing concerns, namely the 372 pounds of cocaine in the SUV, Cmdr. Steve Clopp said.

“It struck us all as very odd,” Clopp said. “We really hadn’t ever dealt with it before. I mean, you’re driving around with 169 kilos of cocaine, you might be concerned with yourself or the predicament you’re in. But he was just really concerned with the dog.”

Authorities searched Spink’s farm Wednesday after prosecutors received a tip from a public defender’s office in Tennessee. The office reported that Spink had been calling them incessantly about a jailed defendant in a bestiality case in Tennessee.

That man, James Michael Tait, (right) had previously admitted filming a man having sex with a horse in Enumclaw, Wash., in 2005. The man Tait filmed died of internal injuries suffered during the incident. He received a minor sentence in the case because Washington had relatively weak bestiality laws at the time. It’s not immediately clear why Spink was calling Tennessee about the Tait case.

Spink’s lawyer insists there’s no evidence Spink engaged in bestiality.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark dedicated a column to this case today. Check it out here, and enjoy a song he wrote about Tait’s case here.

2 banks robbed within 90 minutes Monday

A robbery suspect was arrested less than 90 minutes after police say he stole money from a bank at gunpoint Monday. The arrest occurred about the same time a holdup was reported at a Spokane bank.

Police reviewing surveillance footage from Washington Trust bank at 301 N. Argonne Road recognized Jesse R. Adams, 43, from a domestic incident investigation on April 14, according to a news release.

Adams was arrested after Officers Chan Erdman and Brett Hubbell spotted him walking through the parking lot at his apartment complex, 10101 E. Main Ave. Police say Adams had a handgun when he walked into the bank at 4:30 p.m., handed a teller a bag, then left with cash.

Adams, who has previous felony convictions for theft and forgery, was booked into jail and is due in Superior Court today on a first-degree robbery charge.

Investigators recovered the stolen money, the suspect’s clothing and the weapon used in the robbery, according to a news release. Police say the robbery is not related to a robbery that occurred at 6 p.m. Monday at Chase Bank, 2215 W. Northwest Blvd.

In that case, an armed man wearing a red ski mask left with an undisclosed amount of cash and appeared to possess a keen understanding of how banks operate, authorities said.

The robber, described as a 5-foot-6 white man with a medium build, held an unspecified weapon at his side and had the manager with him as he told Chase bank tellers at 2215 W. Northwest Blvd. to fill a backpack with cash, according to the Spokane Police Department.

The robber asked for specific cash draws and appeared to know which types of money packs could be tracked, police said.

The weapon was never pointed at anyone during the 5:59 p.m. holdup and no injuries were reported, police said.

The robber fled the bank on foot to the west. The robbery is being investigated by Spokane police and the FBI.

Misdemeanor conviction in hate-crime trial

Jurors convicted a North Idaho man of conspiracy to commit disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor, in the first hate-crime case to go to trial in Coeur d’Alene in recent years.

The jury hung on two counts against the man’s brothers.

Ira G. Tankovich, 48, (left) was charged with conspiracy to commit malicious harassment, while his brothers, William M. Tankovich, 49, and Frank J. Tankovich, 46, faced that charge as well as the charge of malicious harassment.

The charges stemmed from an August incident with a Coeur d’Alene man, Kenneth Requena. Ira Tankovich will be released on his own recognizance, having already served six months in jail — the equivalent to the maximum penalty on the misdemeanor conviction.

Read the rest of Alison Boggs’ story here.

Read past coverage here.

Arrested sheriff’s deputy refuses DUI tests

A Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy faces a one-year driver’s license suspension after refusing to take sobriety tests during an off-duty drunken driving arrest early Friday.

Darin Schaum, a 12-year veteran, appeared to be racing or confronting another motorist while driving his personal Dodge pickup about 1:30 a.m. near Broadway Avenue and McDonald Road, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Spokane Valley police Officer Todd Miller, said Schaum “identified himself as a deputy sheriff and exhibited signs of intoxication,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Ignition device law a test for agencies

Lieutenant legally drunk in crash

Woman, 21, pleads guilty in armed robbery

A woman arrested in a gunpoint OxyContin robbery at Spokane pharmacy last fall pleaded guilty today.

Ariel A. Arrieta, 21, (right) faces about 20 to 30 months in prison when she’s sentenced in August for conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery, said her lawyer, Chris Phelps.

Arrieta and three men were charged for the Sept. 27 holdup at Rite Aid, 5520 N. Division. Arrieta robbed the pharmacy; police say her then-boyfriend, Benjamin K. Rasmussen 19, joined Arrieta, Jed L. Boles, 32, and William E. Higgins, 22, as they drove to the store, then shared in the pill proceeds.

Rasmussen recently pleaded not guilty to a first-degree robbery charge and is not in jail.

Arrieta has been in jail since her arrest Oct 13. Police said she was a suspect in an attempted pill heist that thwarted when a clerk whacked the would-be robbery with a metal bar, but Arrieta was never charged.

Past coverage:

Robbery tipster now accused of robbery

2 men sought in Spokane pharmacy robbery

Warrant looks for bruises on Oxy suspect

Police: Oxy robbery targeted witness

Juror’s cell-phone surfing prompts mistrial

A juror caused a mistrial in a recent Stevens County drug case after he used a cell phone to look up legal information.

Betty Torres will be retried after a judge granted her lawyer’s mistrial motion last week because a juror accessed the Internet from his phone in the jury room to “answer some question about the charge,” according to the Stevens County Prosecutor’s Office.

Torres is accused of helping exchange heroin for pills manufactured to look like OxyContin pills.

The trial began Monday. Jurors were preparing to deliberate Tuesday afternoon when the court learned of the juror’s Internet use, Rasmussen said.

“All the effort by the parties and the court and the jury was wasted, as well as the 30 or so persons who had been summoned and from which the jury was chosen,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen wrote about this in his weekly column. Read the column by clicking the link below.

Man in ‘Helltop’ child porn bust pleads guilty

A Spokane County man faces about a year in prison after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography found during a raid at his trailer triggered by a New Hampshire detective last fall.

Michael C. “Craig” McGuire, 56, sent child pornography to a Keene, N.H., detective posing online as a 14-year-old boy.

The detective, who’s responsible for hundreds of child pornography convictions around the world, called the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Spokane County detectives raided McGuire’s trailer at the Hilltop Trailer Park, 5314 W. Sunset, Sept. 8. A manager said the park is known as the ‘Helltop,’ but he didn’t expect McGuire would be the next resident arrested.

Prosecutors are recommending he serve a year in prison and be on probation for three years. He’ll be prohibited from possessing devices capable of Internet access during probation and will have to register as a sex offender for life.

McGuire has no previous felonies. His public defender said today that McGuire attended University of California-Berkley before earning a degree in civil engineering from a Washington college.

McGuire, who remains in jail, is scheduled be sentenced June 3.

Past coverage:

Spokane man sent child porn to N.H. detective

Child porn bust triggered by ‘foremost’ expert on sex crimes

Suspect’s home: Hilltop or Helltop?

2 on trial in Okanogan Co. ice-pick slaying

Two Spokane residents charged in the ice-pick slaying of a pregnant woman near Tonasket last year face life in prison if convicted by an Okanogan County jury this month.

Tansy Fae-Arwen Mathis, 30 (right), and David Eugene Richards, 34 (left), are accused of killing 25-year-old Michelle L. Kitterman and her unborn baby in an attack authorities say was motivated by an affair Kitterman was having with the husband of Lacey K. Hirst-Pavek, 33, of Tonasket.

Richards and Mathis are charged with aggravated first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence if convicted. Kitterman was 11 weeks pregnant when she was found dead on March 1 along a driveway adjacent to Stalder Road, near Tonasket.

Investigators say Hirst-Pavek offered $500 for the killing, then rented a car that detectives said was used in the attack. Hirst-Pavek (right) is awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder for Kitterman’s slaying and first-degree manslaughter for the death Kitterman’s unborn child.

A key witness against Mathis and Richards is 39-year-old Brent L. “Hollywood” Phillips, of Spokane, who pleaded guilty to Kitterman’s murder March 29.

A plea deal calls for him to get 26 years in prison when he’s sentenced May 11, said Okanogan County Prosecutor Karl Sloan.

Other witnesses include Spokane police investigators who assisted Okanogan County in the investigation because “several of the people (Okanagan investigators) needed to speak with were in Spokane,” Sloan said.

Phillips (left) and Richards lived in Spokane at the time of the murder.

Mathis, formerly of Tonasket, is believed to have met with Hirst-Pavek several times before reaching an agreement to “take care of” Kitterman for $500 and persuading Richards and Phillips to get involved, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said in previously published reports.

Richards is believed to have provided the ice pick, Rogers said.

Lawyer Steve Graham, who’s defending Mathis, said the murder was the “sole work” of Phillips.

Past coverage:

Affair may have triggered ice-pick slaying

Fourth suspect arrested in pregnant woman’s death

Suspect in ice-pick playing surrenders

Shock: Downtown duck’s nest raided

Someone or something raided a mama duck’s nest in downtown Spokane on Friday and made off with four of her six eggs.

Several tulips that had sheltered the duck in a planter in front of the Lincoln Building were ripped from the flower bed and feathers were strewn about.

Gary Grissom, a loan officer with Academy Mortgage who has been monitoring the duck’s nest, was devastated. The attack was sudden, he said, and not what he expected.

In an e-mail titled “Something terrible happened!!!” Grissom wrote, “I have no idea what happened, but it may be over now…..” The loan officer added, “I am so sick about it.”

Read the rest of Jody Lawrence-Turner’s story here.

Past coverage: Duck rescuer’s celebrity lives on

Prison for coke-buying school booster?

Sentencing for a former Coeur d’Alene insurance agent who bought a kilo of cocaine in an undercover federal drug investigation has been postponed. 

Jerald S. “Jerry” Carlson originally was to be sentenced Thursday, but a judge approved lawyer James Siebe’s request to move the hearing to July.

Carlson pleaded guilty in January to a felony charge of attempting to possess cocaine with intent to deliver in a plea deal that dismissed two other felony cocaine charges.

Carlson, a once-prominent Coeur d’Alene High School booster, already paid $20,000 in forfeiture. Further punishment is still being discussed.

“Obviously under the guidelines he’s looking at hard prison,” Siebe said today.

But Siebe is arguing that Carlson’s case as extenuating circumstances that warrant a lighter sentence. He points to the price of the cocaine Carlson bought from a government informant - $2,000 for a kilo, “which they themselves claim was worth $20,000.”

“Obviously, anybody with a substance abuse problem is going to look at that and be tempted to do it,” Siebe said.

Siebe also points to Carlson’s lack of a criminal history and his record of community service.

Carlson was arrested in February 2009 after Theodore Bruck, a former Bayview contractor set to go to federal prison on a marijuana conviction sold him the cocaine.

Federal agents arrived at his insurance office in Hayden to find him trying to flush the drugs down the toilet.

Past coverage:

Ex-Bayview contractor helped bust Carlson

Feds wants Carlson’s car, cash

CdA businessman faces federal cocaine charges

Donation account created for reunited family

A donation account has been created to help a father who’s reuniting with his sons after more than a decade.

A reader who wishes to remain an anonymous set up the account for Bill Connington. Connington’s ex-wife, Jill D. Haugen, is accused of taking the couple’s sons from Spokane 12 years ago, despite a court order granting Connington custody.

Connington, who works in maintenance at the NorthTown Mall, didn’t hear from them again until police Milton, Pa., located them in December.

The boys are to move to Spokane this summer to live with Connington. Donations could help buy furniture for the teens and help Connington visit them before the move.

To donate, visit any U.S. Bank.

Read more about the case in my Sunday story: Rebuilding a fractured family

Jury expected to get hate-crime case today

Closing arguments are expected today in the trial of three brothers accused of harassing a Coeur d’Alene men man because of his ethnicity.

The prosecution and defense rested Thursday in the trial of Ira G. Tankovich, 48, Frank J. Tankovich, 46, and William M. Tankovich, 49 (left to right). The brothers are charged with malicious harassment after an encounter with Kenneth Requena, who is Puerto Rican, in August.

The judge presiding over the trial said Thursday if he were ruling on the case instead of the jury, he wouldn’t convict.

Kootenai County 1st District Judge John Luster made the comment outside the presence of the jury while denying a defense motion to dismiss the case against three brothers accused of racially harassing a Hispanic man in August.

Read Alison Boggs’ story here.

Happy April 15: Man charged with tax evasion

A former North Idaho resident has been charged with federal tax evasion.

Michael George Fitzpatrick is accused of using offshore bank accounts to hide his assets and of failing to file individual income tax returns in 2003 and 2004.

He also allegedly didn’t filed corporate income tax returns in 2004 for the Washington corporation Dynamic Solutions, and a Nevada corporation, NAES.

Both companies claimed to allow people “to completely eliminate their credit card debt and other types of debt,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Fitzpatrick, a former resident of Sandpoint and Hope, as well as Kent, Wash., is charged with two counts of tax evasion and two counts of failure to file a tax return, according to a grand jury indictment filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boise.

Tax evasion carries a maximum of 5 years in prison; failure to file brings a maximum of one year.

Police ombudsman submits first report

The first 18 of 19 internal investigations into police actions to be reviewed by Spokane’s police ombudsman have been labeled “timely, thorough and objective.”

Spokane’s first police ombudsman, Tim Burns, released data about his first few months on the job this week as part of his annual report to City Council.

Read Jonathan Brunt’s story here.

K-9 nabs 2 burglary suspects after crash

A police dog helped catch two teenagers accused of burglarizing an East Boone Avenue building supply store this morning.

Officers saw two men run from Allied Building Supplies, 2808 E. Boone Ave., to a car that fled until crashing in the area of East Garnet Avenue and North Market Street.

Police arrested the suspected driver, Shelbie L. Harding, 20, on one count of attempting to elude a police vehicle. Officer Jake Jensen’s K-9, Duke, found another suspect hiding atop a shed, then found the third suspect a few blocks away. Jonothon A. Delay, 18, and Daniel R. Burland, 18, each face a second-degree burglary charge.

Police called the arrests “an example of excellent patrol work form the K-9 handler and his partner as well as patrol officers.”

“Fleeing suspects demonstrate that they are willing to actively avoid capture and often have a plethora of hiding places in which to secrete themselves,” according to a news release. “The K-9s are able to locate suspects with much less risk to responding officers.”

Jensen and Duke are pictured above at the Spokane police training center in March 2008.

Elton avoids jail after violating court orders

A man accused of threatening to kill Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan and Cowles Co. Chairwoman Betsy Cowles avoided going to jail in advance of his May trial, even though a judge ruled today that he “clearly” violated court orders.

David H. Elton, 44, will be jailed if he continues to disregard orders such as the requirement that he notify the court 48 hours in advance if he’s leaving the county, said Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno.

When defense lawyer Mark Hodgson questioned how she knew Elton violated that order, Moreno pointed to a folder filled with emails sent by Elton to Moreno and her judicial assistant .

Elton spoke of his travels in the emails “but that’s long after he’s already left,” Moreno said.

When Moreno asked Elton to stop emailing her, he began emailing her judicial assistant, she said.

“Some of them are fine, some of them are absolutely vile,” Moreno said. “You’re correct, Mr. Hodgson, that Mr. Elton has shown disrespect for the court and disrespect for the court’s officers.”

Hodgson said he “can only express my deepest regrets that emails like that were ever sent to the court.”

“I make my living in this system and I think it deserves the highest respect,” Hodgson said. “That type of behavior is simply not tolerable.”

Hodgson said Elton has been “admonished by me personally that he needs to follow court orders.”

Hodgson said Elton is not a flight risk.

“I think there’s a lot of people in Spokane County who would like Mr. Elton to leave the county, (but) he really is not fleeing prosecution,” Hodgson said. “He stands ready. He wants to go to trial.”

Trial for Elton on charges that he threatened to kill his ex-wife, Robin Stewart, is to begin May 17. The trial for the charges related to Shogan and Cowles (the Cowles Company owns the Spokesman-Review) is to begin after that trial is complete.

The charges have been separated into two cases because the charge involving Stewart includes an amendment related to Elton’s previous conviction for harassing her. That previous conviction can’t be heard by jurors considering the Shogan and Cowles charges - only the Stewart charge.

Previous coverage:

Elton’s wife donated to Stevens’ campaign

Trial set for Elton on threat charges

‘Murder’ email meant as joke, suspect says

Man gets 6 months after judge rejects deal

A Spokane County Superior Court judge rejected a sentencing proposal or a man who returned to jail just weeks after promising to “make better decisions” and “be a parent.”

Judge Kathleen O’Connor on Wednesday sentenced Michael R. “Mikey Mike” Gardner, 24, to six months in jail instead of the proposed credit for time already served.

Gardner pleaded guilty to two counts of riot in a plea deal that dismissed original charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault and first-degree burglary.

But O’Connor decided the sentence recommended by the defense and prosecution didn’t fit the crimes and ordered Gardner to stay in jail another six months.

Gardner was arrested after two men were stabbed early Jan. 30 - less than  two weeks after he was sentenced to credit for time served on a third-degree assault charge connected to a July 24 incident.

At the Jan. 19 sentencing, Gardner, a father of two, told Judge Michael Price that he planned to make “better decisions” and “move forward with my life, get school taken care of and be a parent.”

He was back in jail by Feb. 1.

Past coverage:

Suspect arrested in weekend stabbing

Attempted murder charges dropped

Two women shot in crosstown melee

Rapist now a transient in Spokane County

A man who raped an elderly woman at knife point in 1995 is living as a transient in Spokane County, the sheriff’s office announced today.

Justin J. Stevens, 33, was released from prison in 2004 after serving 114 months in prison for first-degree rape. His victim was a 78-year-old woman.

Stevens has a history of not checking in with authorities, including a conviction in August 2008 for failing to register as a sex offender.

The sheriff’s office was looking for him in February after he failed to check in. Stevens is a level 3 sex offender - the classification considered most likely to reoffend.

Stevens is being supervised by the Department of Corrections. He is not wanted by authorities, but police want the public to be aware of his presence.

Hate-crime defense targets alleged victim

Defense attorneys in the Coeur d’Alene hate crime trial of three brothers lost an attempt Wednesday to challenge the alleged victim’s credibility by introducing his criminal record, which includes felony convictions for illegally transporting guns.

At one point, defense attorney Brad Chapman asked the alleged victim, Kenneth Requena, if he was in the federal witness protection program, but the prosecution quickly objected and 1st District Judge John Luster threw the question out.

Read the rest of Alison Boggs’ story here.

Police union: No confidence in Kirkpatrick

Union leaders representing Spokane Police Department officers say they have approved a no-confidence vote against Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and her administration.

The Spokane Police Guild said a “majority” of its 268 members voted in March that they have no confidence in the “office” of the police chief.

“Our people are shaken to the core over this lack of trust,” said Guild President Ernie Wuthrich, a Spokane police detective. “We’re at an all-time low at this point.”

But union leaders refuse to release vote tallies, saying they never have for other votes and see no need to now.

Read the rest of the story here.

State gets $500,000 in seized cig money

The Washington state Liquor Control Board recently received $500,000 seized in an illegal cigarette trafficking case.

The money will be used to assist the agency in enforcing liquor laws in the state, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington announced Wednesday.

The money is part of $1.4 million forfeited by Peter and Peggy Mahoney, who were sentenced in October 2007 for selling untaxed cigarettes to Washington Indian retailers from their Warpath Smoke Shop/One Stop in Plummer, Idaho.

Past coverage:

Three sentenced for cigarette trafficking

Two plead guilty in cigarette trafficking

Five indicted in cigarette sting

Zags basketball led Thompson to Zehm call

Newly filed documents reveal new details about the encounter with Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson (left) and other officers that led to Otto Zehm’s death.

Tom Clouse wrote an article explaining that allegations of a cover up by Spokane police officers over their handling of the fatal Otto Zehm confrontation and the department’s investigation of the case are being presented to a federal grand jury.

The ongoing obstruction of justice probe by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI includes indications that some Spokane police officers, including Assistant Chief Jim Nicks and lead detective Terry Ferguson, now are acknowledging that the city’s earlier characterizations of the fatal encounter were wrong and that its investigation was incomplete and inaccurate.

The new documents contain several details that didn’t make it into the story, including the revelation that Thompson and other officers were watching the Gonzaga men’s basketball team play a NCAA tournament game at an SPD substation when the Zehm call came in.

Thompson responded to the call because he “is originally from Los Angeles, lives in North Idaho, and had no interest in the GU game,” according to the documents.

Also in the documents, federal prosecutors question the financial status of Thompson that allowed him to successfully petition to have tax payers foot the bill for his defense.

Thompson filed for divorce in September 3 from his wife of 38 years after the $2.9 million civil suit was filed.

The divorce agreement called for her receiving “all interest” in the couple’s log home, which was listed for sale at $675,000, near Hayden.

The agreement also allows Thompson to remain in the home free of rent.

But some 18 months after the divorce decree, “the family home is no longer for sale and the defendant is reported to still reside at the home with his purported ex-wife,” according to the documents.

Oxy robbery tipster now accused of robbery

A man who reportedly tipped police to the identities of three suspected pharmacy robbers is now accused of participating in the Sept. 27 incident.

Benjamin K. Rasmussen, 19, pleaded not guilty today to one charge of first-degree robbery.

Police believe he stayed in the car while his girlfriend, Ariel A. Arrieta robbed the Rite Aid at 5520 N. Division (right), then received half the stolen pills, according to new documents filed in Spokane County Superior Court.

Initial reports said Rasmussen knew of the robbery but did not participate or receive stolen OxyContin pills.

But, as part of a plea bargain, Arrieta, 21, told police in March that Rasmussen joined her, Jed L. Boles, 32, and William E. Higgins, 22, as they drove to the pharmacy, then shared in the pill proceeds.

Higgins, Boles and Arrieta remain in jail on robbery charges. Rasmussen was booked today but then released on his own recognizance.

Higgins also is charged with second-degree assault and witness intimidation for an alleged attack against Rasmussen in a Deer Park park on March 6. Higgins is accused of punching Rasmussen and calling him a “snitch.”

Past coverage:

2 men sought in Spokane pharmacy robbery.

Warrant looks for bruises on Oxy suspect.

Police: Oxy robbery targeted witness.

Teen torture suspects due in court today

Two teens accused of kidnapping and torturing a suspected burglar are in police custody.

Jesse T.R. Bushnell, 19; (left) and Jesse R. James, 17, are due in Superior Court this afternoon via video from the jail, where they’ve been since Tuesday.

Bushnell and James are accused of helping Chaz P. Crow, 20, kidnap and torture a burglar on two occasions last week.

Crow was arrested Thursday and is to be arraigned this afternoon on two counts of first-degree kidnapping, one count of first-degree burglary and two counts of second-degree assault: torture.

The suspects are accused of kidnapping a man they caught burglarizing Crow’s home, then beating him until he told them where to find some of the stolen items. Bushnell then pistol-whipped  the man with the stolen rifle, police said.

The attackers kidnapped the man again from a home at 2525 E. 53rd later that night and demanded the stolen marijuana, according to court documents. Bushnell reportedly poked the alleged victim repeatedly with a metal wire during the long car ride, according to court documents.

Read more about the case here.

Crime Stoppers tips, rewards jumped in ‘09

The amount of cash awarded for tips that solve crimes is on the rise in the Inland Northwest.

The fugitive apprehension organization Crime Stoppers paid $8,750 in rewards on 52 tips last year - an increase since 2008 of 12 tips and more than $6,000.

The number of tips submitted to Crime Stoppers jumped from 524 in 2008 to 803 in 2009, according to an annual report released Tuesday.

Tips helped solve one homicide, five pharmacy robberies and one armed robbery.

Crime Stoppers also paid four $75 rewards in 2009 to students who reported weapons on campus.

For a list of rewards offered by Crime Stoppers, click here.

Sex abuse arrest closes Spokane day care

A Spokane child care center that provides for up to 12 children closed Monday after state officials said the owners didn’t report an arrest in Idaho for lewd conduct with a minor.

Your (sic) a Good Kid day care, operated by Colleen and Adam Ross in a home on the South Hill, had been on probation with the Washington Department of Early Leaning since October “for a host of issues” relating to safety concerns, said Amy Blondin, department spokeswoman.

Adam C. Ross (left) was charged with lewd conduct with a minor in Kootenai County April 1. He was arrested April 7 but posted $50,000 bond at the Kootenai County Jail on Sunday, according to court records.

The Department of Early Learning heard of the arrest through a complaint.

“We did not hear from the providers” as required by law, Blondin said.

The day care center, located at 3317 E. 17th Ave., was notified of the license suspension Monday.

The Rosses could not be reached for comment. They have a month to appeal.

Spike strip stops Spokane fuel theft suspect

A police chase in Spokane early Tuesday ended with the arrest of a man suspected in a series of fuel heists in the Inland Northwest. 

Richard L. Trower, 37, was driving a stolen Honda Accord when officers used spike strips to flatten the tires during a chase on East Trent Avenue after 2 a.m., according to court documents prepared by Spokane police.

Trower (pictured left at the Benewah County Jail in 2008) was arrested after a cruiser bumped the back of the Honda as he drove on the wheel rims. His passenger, 28-year-old Ambur R. Bay, was arrested on a drug charge.

It’s the second arrest in two months for the duo, who police believe may be involved in an interstate fuel theft ring that triggered a massive drug and stolen property investigation by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Spokane police detectives believe Trower is an associate of the suspects arrested in a stolen property investigation on March 23, including 36-year-old Cole T. Monson, but Trower has not been charged.

Read the rest of my story here.

‘She wasn’t fleeing. She was just moving.’

A woman found in Portland with two children who’d been ordered to return to state custody is back in Spokane.

Patricia J. Lyons, 25, is in jail on $15,000 bond after she pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court.on one count of second-degree assault.

Spokane police say she stabbed her 50-year-old ex-boyfriend April 3. The alleged stabbing caused Child Protective Services to order Lyons’ 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son back to state custody, but Lyons left Spokane before police could locate them.

Police and CPS urged the public to keep an eye out for Lyons before Portland police found her daughter at an elementary school on Thursday. Police found Lyons and her son at a nearby motel. Police took the children into protective custody but couldn’t arrest Lyons because Spokane County hadn’t issued a warrant.

Her lawyer, David Partovi, said in court today that the case has been blown out of proportion.

“She wasn’t fleeing. She was just moving,” Partovi said.

Lyons entered a not guilty plea during her first appearance today.

Partovi helped Lyons turn herself in Monday night.

Tankovich erases the smile just in time

By Thomas Clouse

The hate crime trial in Coeur d’Alene taught one of the defendants to check his gear before he draws a practical joke.

Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen used an erasable board to have a witness draw how the Tankovichs’ pickup, which had a swastika and “born to kill” written in the dirt, parked in front of the home of Kenneth Requena in Coeur d’Alene.

During a trial break, Frank Tankovich (right) drew a smiley face on the board. But to Tankovich’s chagrin, he didn’t realize it was a permanent marker until he tried to erase the face before Kootenai County 1st District Judge John Luster returned to the courtroom.

At one point, Tankovich improvised by scribbling over the black permanent marker with the blue erasable marker. But Luster’s break lasted long enough for Tankovich to finally rub the board clean.

Read Clouse’s complete coverage of the trial’s opening day here.

Lilac Lanes managers accused of theft

The top managers at Spokane’s Lilac Lanes are accused of stealing nearly $175,000 from the business.

Eddie S. Williams, 44, and Shari Cawley were arrested today at the bowling alley and gambling hall, located at 1112 East Magnesium Road.

Washington State Gambling Commission investigators say the two shorted an ATM daily over the course of a year. Employees came forward after Williams and Cawley ordered them to destroy financial records and erase video tapes to hide the theft, said Gary Drumheller, agent in charge for the Gambling Commission in Spokane.

The investigation began Thursday with the help of Lilac Lanes’ owners and an accounting firm that audited the business last year. Financial records show $173,000 in missing funds, Drumheller said.

Drumheller called the tipsters “good employees and honest people trying to just do their jobs.”

Williams was booked into Spokane County Jail Tuesday afternoon on charges of first-degree theft, two counts of gambling (fraud/deception) and obstructing a public officer.

Drumheller said Cawley was booked, but jail officials had no record of her this afternoon. Gambling agents searched her home at 12023 N. Dakota Lane as part of today’s investigation. Investigators haven’t determined if any of the items were purchased with stolen money, Drumheller said.

Lilac Lanes remains open, and Drumheller said the Gambling Commission will work with the owners, who he described as “cooperative,” while they find new management.

Reward offered for tips on 2 sex offenders

Crime Stoppers is offering rewards information that helps arrest two Spokane sex offenders who haven’t registered.

Eric A. Christian, 22, (left) was sentenced to 8 months in jail in June 2008 for a third-degree assault charge.

A warrant for Christian’s arrest was issued last month after he didn’t register as a sex offender as his conviction requires. He’s living as a transient, according to Crime Stoppers.

Chris L. Gilbert, 40, (right) has a conviction for third-degree rape, as well as theft, possession of stolen property, malicious mischief, reckless driving, refusal to cooperate, domestic violence assault, violation of a no contact order, unlawful possession of a firearm and driving while license suspended. Now he faces a new charge of failure to register as a sex offender.

Gilbert’s last known address was 3310 E. Ninth in Spokane.

Anyone with information on Christian or Gilbert should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

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

Fugitive mother returns to Spokane

A woman found in Portland with two children who’d been ordered to return to state custody is back in Spokane.

Patricia J. Lyons, 25, is due in Spokane County Superior Court on one count of second-degree assault after police say she stabbed her ex-boyfriend April 3.

The alleged stabbing caused Child Protective Services to order Lyons’ 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son back to sate custody, but Lyons left Spokane before police could locate them.

She was on the run for several days before Portland police found the girl at an elementary school on Thursday.

Lyons recently enrolled the girl at the school after telling officials at a Spokane school she was moving out of state.

Police found Lyons at a motel with her son. Lyons was booked into Spokane County Jail Monday at 8:10 p.m.

Hate-crime trial begins in CdA, again

Opening statements are expected today in the trial of three brothers accused of harassing a Coeur d’Alene man because of his ethnicity.

Ira Gino Tankovich, 47, Frank James Tankovich, 46, and William Michael Tankovich Jr., 49, (left to right) were indicted by a grand jury last under Idaho’s hate crime law.

The men were to stand trial last month, but Kootenai County 1st District Judge John Luster declared a mistrial after the jury heard a recording of a 911 made by a next-door neighbor, who called the incident “a racist thing.” (Read the story here.)

Selection of a new jury concluded Monday.

Ira Tankovich, who has a star with the word “Aryan” tattooed on his left calf and a star with the word “pride” tattooed on his right calf, was arrested Aug. 16 after Requena and his wife told police he’d been approached by Tankovich and his brothers in a truck decorated with swastikas and the words “born to kill.”

The men left after Requena got a gun from his wife, then returned about 20 minutes later with a gun and a pit bull, yelling racial slurs, according to court documents Requena told police he asked his wife to bring him a gun from inside the home when the men first pulled up because “he knew he was about to get a beat down,” according to a police report.

Frank and William Tankovich were arrested after a grand jury indicted them in November. William Tankovich posted $100,000 bail but was jailed in December after a judge ruled he’d fraudulently posted a property bond. He’s since been released on bond.

Their lawyers have characterized the Aug. 16 incident at the home of Kenneth H. Requena as a misunderstanding blown out of proportion after Aryan literature was distributed in Coeur d’Alene.

The brothers say they simply asked to buy electrical equipment from the man and were stunned when he pulled a gun on them.

2 weekend fires were intentionally set

Two house fires on Saturday were intentionally set, Spokane fie officials announced today.

A fire at 407 E. Crown Avenue broke out just minutes after a fire a few blocks away at 1507 E. Everett Avenue.

The first fire began at shed and spread to the Everett Avenue home before fire crews knocked it down about 20 minutes later. A resident fled the home safely and was assisted by the Red Cross.

The fire caused significant damage to the home.

Investigators say both fires were man made.

Anyone with information is asked to call the fire department’s tip line at (509) 344-3473 (FIRE).

3 mugged in Spokane early Saturday

Three people were mugged in Spokane early Saturday, and police are looking for help identifying suspects.

Two robberies occurred about 4 a.m. near Sprague and Washington, then at Riverside and Washington. Another occurred between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. at 2200 W. Wellesley Ave.

According to police, three men in dark shirts reportedly threatened the victims with a handgun while demanding valuables.

One man was described as 6 feet tall to 6-foot-1, and weighing 230 to 300 pounds. Another wore a dark t-shirt with FBI written on it. The men were seen in a white or light colored sedan.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (509) 327-5111 or (800) 222-TIPS, or submit tips online.

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

Jury convicts gunman in neighbor dispute

A Stevens County man faces about 7 years in prison for a neighbor dispute that erupted in gunfire last May.

A jury recently convicted John Lewis Eberly, Jr., of assault and burglary after he fired a shot through his neighbor’s front door, then broke into the house and brawled with the woman. The woman suffered a non-life threatening gunshot wound.

The May 15, 2009, incident stemmed from a dispute over a gate that had been installed on a nearby road.

Eberly confronted the victim outside her home, then fired his handgun through her door after she went inside and locked it. The victim ran to a nearby home to call police. She later discovered her phone line had been cut.

The jury convicted Eberly of second-degree assault and burglary but couldn’t reach a verdict on an attempted murder charge after deliberating for about 18 hours, according to Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen.

Eberly faces 84 to 94 months in prison with credit for about a year served in jail.

Rasmussen wrote about this case in his weekly column. He also mentioned it in a previous column while opining about neighbor disputes.

In one dispute, Rasmussen said, “As I reviewed the numerous reports of officer contacts with the parties, I was amazed at the trouble that can develop between folks who both say that they just want to be left alone.”

Read the columns by clicking the link below.

3 months for urinator who ‘accosted’ kids

By Thomas Clouse

A man facing a lengthy prison sentence instead pleaded guilty today to a list of charges that resulted from him waving a gun at a group of mostly teenagers.

 Phillip J. Koller, 61, was charged with several counts of first-degree assault for an incident that occurred on June 6, 2009, at his apartment, located near Wellesley Avenue and Assembly Street.

According to the victims, most of whom were teenagers, they saw Koller urinating behind his apartment. When they confronted him, Koller yelled back and threatened to get a gun. He went inside and came outside with a handgun and began waving it around, defense attorney Byron Powell said in court testimony.

“I apologize to those kids I accosted. It was reprehensible behavior on my part,” Koller told Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno. “All my problems come from when I’ve been drinking.”

Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz agreed to reduce the charges to one count of second-degree assault, five counts of fourth-degree assault and one count of disorderly conduct in exchange for a guilty plea.

“Instead of locking him up and throwing away the key, I felt it would be better to seek treatment,” Steinmetz said.

Moreno sentenced Koller, who has two previous DUI convictions, to three months in prison. He was also given credit for 16 days he previously served in jail.

“I find your candor and sense of responsibility refreshing,” Moreno said.

Man pleads guilty to ‘08 murder of baby

A Spokane man who murdered a 7-month-old girl, then assaulted her older brother, faces 12 to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced next month. 

Jereme J. Bassett, 24, has been in Spokane County Jail since March 20, 2008, the day his now ex-girlfriend brought her daughter, Nevaeh Alana Miller, to Sacred Heart Medical Center with head trauma so severe doctors said recovery was hopeless.

Bassett recently pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and third-degree assault of a child and will be sentenced May 3.

“I wish he would have burned in Hell instead, but it sounds like this is the best deal we’re going to get,” said Nevaeh’s grandmother, Deborah Parks. “It’ll never replace what he took from us.”

The assault conviction stems from Bassett choking Nevaeh’s 8-year-old half-brother and slamming him into a bed after the children’s mother, Jennifer Wilcox, rushed Nevaeh to the hospital. The boy had commented to Bassett that Nevaeh “was brain dead,” according to court documents.

Bassett was unemployed and regularly watched Nevaeh and the boy while Wilcox worked.

Wilcox returned the day of Bassett’s arrest to find her baby unresponsive in the room she and Bassett shared at the West Wynn Motel on Sunset Boulevard.

Bassett had called her earlier to say Nevaeh had fallen and hit her head but seemed OK. He told police he tried to revive the child, then smoked marijuana with two friends who were visiting.

Nevaeh was pronounced dead on March 22, 2008. Her organs were donated to three babies. Parks said she stays in contact with the parents of the baby who received Nevaeh’s heart.

“That’s made a big difference,” she said.

Bassett has past convictions for possession of a controlled substance, residential burglary, and attempted first-degree theft. His criminal history calls for a standard sentencing range of 144 to 244 months.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese approved Bassett’s plea deal on Thursday, the same day Spokane police announced the arrest of 18-year-old Tyler L. Jamison on accusations that he assaulted his 2-month-old daughter, SkyeLynn.

Past coverage:

Girls organs given to 3 babies

Troubles started early for man accused in baby’s death

Police: Drug dealer, teens tortured burglar

Two teenagers and a Spokane man are accused of kidnapping and torturing a suspected burglar.

Police believe Chaz P. Crow, 20; Jesse T.R. Bushnell, 19; and Jesse R. James, 17, kidnapped Russell Cole on two occasions in revenge for Cole stealing from Crow’s apartment, according to court documents filed this week.

Crow is in jail on a $5,000 cash-only bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court today.

James and Bushnell are not in custody, and Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help catch Bushnell. (Bushnell is pictured at left.)

Two other suspects have not been identified.

The case began last weekend when detectives say the suspects spotted Cole, who reportedly bought drugs from Crow, leaving Crow’s apartment with valuables, including a rifle and a half-ounce of marijuana.

The suspects are accused of dragging Cole from his apartment at 3005 E. 35th hours after the burglary, then beating him until he told them where to find some of the stolen items. Bushnell then pistol-whipped Cole with the stolen rifle, police said.

The attackers left but kidnapped Cole again from a home at 2525 E. 53rd later that night and demanded the stolen marijuana, according to court documents.

Firefighters found Cole walking on near the Palouse Highway and Valley Chapel Road with a broken nose, concussion and wounds “all about his head and body,” according to court documents prepared by Spokane police.

James’ brother, Martin Garcia, lives at the home on 53rd. Garcia told police the men bound Cole’s hands with black electrical tape before tying a bandanna around his eyes.

James reportedly apologized to Garcia and assured him they wouldn’t kill Cole, but Crow said “You don’t know that,” according to court documents.

The men drove about 40 minutes to a field before pulling Cole from the car and assaulting him.

Crow, Bushnell and James are charged in Spokane County Superior Court with two counts of first-degree kidnapping, one count of first-degree burglary and two counts of second-degree assault: torture.

The assault charge alleged the men inflicted harm “which by design did cause such pain or agony as to be the equivalent of that produced by torture.”

Another arrested in robbery w/ crowbar

Another suspect has been arrested in a violent home-invasion robbery two weeks ago.

Robert Andrew Wilson, 24, is in jail on $175,000 bail.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives believe he used a crowbar to assault a man and woman in an apartment at 815 W. Bellwood early March 31 before he and a group stole electronics and other valuables. The victims were bound with zip ties, but one broke free and called 911. The woman suffered a fractured shoulder from the crowbar beating, according to court documents.

Deputies arrested three suspects, 20-year-old Donald M. Holley, 30-year-old Oshien R. Pendell and 19-year-old Megan N. Wilson, the day of the robbery. Robert Wilson was booked into jail on Wednesday. 

Megan Wilson and Robert Wilson are cousins, according to court documents. Another suspect, 18-year-old Marissa R. “Sissy” Wilson, is 8 months pregnant with Robert Wilson’s child. Marissa Wilson also is the ex-girlfriend of 25-year-old David M. Anderson, who lives at the targeted apartment but wasn’t home during the invasion.

Court documents identify a sixth suspect as Mikhail A. Vincent, 21. Detectives searched a 1996 Isuzu Rodeo in connection with the case this week.

Wilson appeared in Superior Court Thursday on robbery, burglary, assault and unlawful imprisonment charges.

Past coverage:

Home invasion targeted suspect’s ex-boyfriend

Gunman wanted in Spokane carjacking

A man who stole a 2002 Pontiac Bonneville at gunpoint in East Central Spokane Thursday is on the loose.

The carjacker stole the Pontiac from a woman at First Avenue and Stone Street about 11 p.m., according to the Spokane Police Department. The woman left the car after the man ordered her out at gunpoint.

The man, described as white, short, thin and his 20s, drove away in the car, which is green with Washington license plate 491ZDR.

If you see the car, call 911. The gunman was clean-shaven and wore a hooded sweatshirt.

Cover up alleged in fiery Spokane car crash

A 25-year-old Spokane man is accused of trying to cover up his involvement in a fiery collision by telling police his car had been stolen.

Christopher L. Robinson crashed his car March 31 at 4400 W. Strong Road, taking out a utility pole and knocking out power to several homes in the Indian Trial area, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Police couldn’t find the driver that night, and Robinson reported the vehicle stolen the next morning.

Spokane police Officer Christopher Bode, while he was off duty, contacted a witness he identified Robinson as the driver and said she’d driven him from the collision.

Robinson was booked into Spokane County Jail Thursday on misdemeanor charges of hit and run and false reporting. He’s out on $750 bond.

Spokane taco truck attack called hate crime

A man accused of trying to rob a Spokane taco truck owner may have targeted the victim because of his race, new court documents allege.

Michael A. Brewer, 22, has been charged under Washington’s hate-crime law after police say he yelled racial slurs while trying to rob Jonas J. Perez-Lopez at knifepoint last week.

Brewer is to be arraigned on charges of attempted first-degree robbery and malicious harassment April 13 in Spokane County Superior Court. He’s being held at Geiger Corrections Center on $7,500 bail after appearing in court this week.

Charging documents filed Monday accused Brewer of targeting Perez-Lopez because of “his perception of the victim’s race, color, (or) national origin.”

Brewer declined an interview request.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage: Taco seller escapes knife-wielding robber

City of Spokane looks at creating new jail

The city of Spokane wants to spend less money housing low-risk inmates and will begin exploring cheaper options, including the possibility of creating its own minimum-security lockup rather than rely on the county jail.

The idea, which could include using a private jail contractor, caused tension this week with county leaders concerned that a city jail could torpedo a four-year regional process aimed at building a new countywide lockup and putting greater emphasis on rehabilitation. The county currently charges daily incarceration fees for housing inmates from the cities.

Read the rest of the story here.

Firefighter on leave after brawl with WSP

A Spokane firefighter exonerated on child pornography charges two years ago is on paid leave again after an apparently violent confrontation with state troopers during a drunken driving arrest.

Lt. Todd Chism was jolted with a stun gun several times after troopers found him trying to drive his truck out of a ditch along Highway 291 about 2:45 a.m. Tuesday, said Bob Calkins, a Washington State Patrol spokesman.

Troopers performed field sobriety tests, but Chism “began to more actively resist,” which led troopers to use the Taser, Calkins said.

But the high-voltage jolts had “surprisingly minimal effect,” Calkins said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Click here for past coverage

Police: Baby brain dead after father’s assault

When medics first saw Skyelynn Jamison this week, the two-month-old girl had a serious head injury, broken ribs and bruises all over her body.

Her father, 18-year-old Tyler L. Jamison, told a doctor on the phone earlier that he thought something was wrong, but police say he ignored orders to take the girl to a hospital immediately.

Now Skyelynn is on life support at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, and Jamison is in Spokane County Jail on a first-degree assault charge that police say will be amended to a murder charge if Skyelynn dies.

The girl is not expected to survive, said police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

Detectives arrested Jamison late Wednesday after his girlfriend’s family told 911 dispatchers he planned to leave town to escape arrest.

Spokane County District Court Judge Debra Hayes called the police description of the case “difficult for anyone to read” before ruling Jamison a flight risk Thursday. His bail was set at $200,000.

Read the rest of my story here.

Skyelynn is the third Spokane baby in two years to suffer fatal injuries allegedly at the hands of a caretaker.

In March 2008, Nevaeh Alana Miller died after police say her mother’s boyfriend, Jereme J. Bassett, abused her. Bassett, 24, is scheduled for trial in June on one charge of second-degree murder.

In December 2008, Izayah Arlen Wayne Denison died at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend, Andrew W. Whitmire. Whitmire, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November and is serving 14 years in prison.

In February, Daniel S. O’Brien, 23, was charged with assaulting his 2-month-old daughter, Tristan. He remains in jail.

Wanted mother, 2 kids found safe

A Spokane mother whose children have been ordered to return to state custody has been located in Portland.

Patricia Lyons, 25, left Spokane after police say she stabbed her ex-boyfriend on Saturday.

Child Protective Services determined the incident violated court restrictions, and her 5-year-old daughter, Athena Lyons, and 2-year-old son, Ronnie Adams, are to return to state custody.

Portland police found Athena at an elementary school this afternoon, where they say she was recently enrolled by Lyons.

Police found Lyons at a motel with her son, and officers are coordinating her return to Spokane. Police believe Lyons may have left town before she knew she’d lost custody of her children, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

“That’s why it didn’t make it to an Amber Alert,” DeRuwe said.

Trial starts in murder of 80-year-old man

A jury will soon decide whether a career burglar murdered an elderly Spokane Valley man in 2008.

David K. Brewczynski, 44, is accused of killing 80-year-old Kenneth Cross in a botched burglary at Cross’ Boone Avenue home on Sept. 20, 2008.

A week after the murder, police found Cross’ identification and other personal items in a storage unit Brewczynski rented in southeast Spokane County.

Forensic experts say a bloody shoe print in Cross’ house could match a shoe found in Brewczynski’s home, Deputy Prosecutor Steve Garvin said in his opening statement Wednesday.

Garvin said evidence shows Brewczynski is the killer. But public defender Derek Reid pointed to conflicting statements made by Cross’ housekeeper, Teresa M. Nelson, in an effort to persuade jurors “the government hasn’t done their job.”

Investigators who interviewed Nelson the day of the murder “described her as nervous, fidgety,” Reid said. “At one point, without an explanation, she says ‘I didn’t kill him. I didn’t have anything to do with it,’ ” Reid said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Burglar’s storage unit yields dead man’s ID

Murder victim may have been targeted

Accused killer pleads not guilty

Spokane police K-9 nabs robbery suspect

Two men suspected of a home invasion robbery in Spokane last month are now in police custody.

A Spokane police dog, Bennie, captured Wesley I. Veazie, 22, (right) after he ran from traffic stop near North Lincoln Street and West Boone Avenue Wednesday about 6:20 p.m., police said today.

Officers conducted the stop with members of the U.S. Marshals  Las Vegas police captured his suspected accomplice, Taveus M. Brown (left), 30, Wednesday also.

The men are suspected of bursting into another man’s apartment at 2500 E. South Riverton on March 2 and holding him at gunpoint.

A SWAT team searched a home at 1921 E. 4th Ave. the next day but didn’t find the men.

Now they’re in custody on charges of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary and attempted first-degree robbery. Veazie is due in Superior Court this afternoon; Brown is in jail in Las Vegas.

Brown’s extensive criminal history includes convictions for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, theft, riot and second degree unlawful possession of a firearm.  ’

Veazie has convictions for making a false statement, fourth-degree assault, obstructing an officer, conspiracy to possession of a controlled substance, theft, riot and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Bomb found outside federal courthouse

At a time of heightened concerns over threats to government officials, federal authorities in Spokane kept quiet about the discovery of a bomb found alongside the Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse last week.

They acknowledged the investigation Wednesday, however, after the latest edition of Newsweek magazine disclosed the March 28 discovery as part of an article examining increasing anti-government threats and violence spreading across the nation.

U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt defended the decision to try keeping the case under wraps.

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

The news comes the same week a Selah man was charged in federal court with threatening to kill Democratic Sen. Patty Murray over her support for health care reform.

Charles Alan Wilson, 63, was arrested in Yakima on Tuesday, accused of leaving voicemail messages at Murray’s office saying she had a target on her back and “it only takes one piece of lead.”

Read the Associated Press story here.

2 gang-related assaults reported in Spokane

Spokane police are investigating two assaults in the last four days that may be gang related.

The first occurred April 3 near North Cincinnati Street and East Mission Avenue about 12:30 a.m. An 18-year-old said he was attacked by three people, one who “possibly fired a gun at him,” according to police. His injuries are not life threatening.

The second occurred early Tuesday in north Spokane. Staff at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center called police after a 33-year-old stabbing victim was brought to the emergency room “by associates,” police said.

One person reportedly admitted the incident was gang related and occurred about midnight, police said. The victim was stabbed several times but his injuries were not life threatening.

Anyone with information on either assault is asked to call 509-625-GANG (4264). Callers can remain anonymous.

Bugbee to run for Spokane Co. prosecutor

Steve Tucker has a new challenger in the race for Spokane County prosecutor.

Chris Bugbee, a 42-year-old Republican who worked six years as a deputy prosecutor, has announced his bid to unseat his former boss.

He joins fellow Republican David Stevens and Democrat Frank Malone in what is now a four-way race for the position.

“I think the office needs a real leader,” Bugbee said in reference to his former boss. “I don’t think Mr. Stevens is an appropriate candidate. I think he has demonstrated some questionable judgment. I fear that if he is going to be making those decisions as elected prosecutor, the consequences to the public will be even bigger.”

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

Stevens releases letter to Tucker

Spokane prosecutor fires election opponent

Democrat joins prosecutor race

Deputy prosecutor vying for boss’s job put on paid leave

Stevens will challenge Tucker for Spokane County prosecutor

Feds raid office tied to alleged Ponzi scheme

Agents of the FBI and IRS Tuesday searched the offices of Team Spirit America, the operating affiliate of a payday loan business that investors allege was a Ponzi scheme.

An agent posted inside the door of the offices at 1801 W. Broadway Ave. declined to comment on the activity, or whether a search warrant had been issued.

Spokesmen for the IRS, FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office also would not respond to questions. Washington State Patrol officers were present during the search.

Team Spirit is managed by Doris Nelson, founder of Little Loan Shoppe, which made short-term installment loans. Little Loan Shoppe, as LLS America LLC, filed bankruptcy in August.

Read the rest of Bert Caldwell’s story here.

Previous coverage:

Feb 24: State outlines Ponzi charges

July 23: Loan shop files for bankruptcy

Police: Wanted woman on lam with 2 kids

A Spokane mother whose children have been ordered to return to state custody was spotted Tuesday in Portland.

Patricia Lyons, 25, is wanted on a second-degree assault charge after police say she stabbed her ex-boyfriend on Saturday.

Child Protective Services determined the incident violated court restrictions, and her 5-year-old daughter, Athena Lyons, and 2-year-old son, Ronnie Adams, are to return to state custody.

But police can’t find Lyons, and they think she may have left town not knowing she’d lost custody of her children, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

“That’s why it didn’t make it to an Amber Alert,” DeRuwe said.

Lyons cancelled counseling appointments and told her employees at her daughter’s school “that she is moving out of state,” police said Wednesday.

Lyons “is not in a healthy mental state” and the children may be at risk, police said. She may be driving a white Chevy Lumina with Washington license plates 229 XWX.

Anyone with information on Lyons should call 911.

Convertible pinned under semi on I-90

Three crashes on three roads killed or injured nine people in the Inland Northwest Tuesday.

In one, a Deer Park woman was in satisfactory condition after being extracted from her convertible, which was pinned under a semitrailer during a collision on Interstate 90 on Tuesday afternoon.

Kathleen Schroeder, 49, was driving a Chrysler Sebring in the center lane when a tractor-trailer driven by Martin Gross, 60, pulled in front of her from the outside lane, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Schroeder veered left to avoid striking the tractor-trailer and lost control of her car, which wedged under the semitrailer.

She was taken by ambulance to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center where she was expected to be released Tuesday evening.

Gross was cited for an improper lane change.

Read about the other crashes here and here.

Newest arrest puts man in SPD’s top 10

A man considered one of Spokane’s most active criminals allegedly rammed a police vehicle during a pursuit late Monday, leading to his seventh arrest since December.

Police spotted Aleksey Y. Solodyankin, 31, driving recklessly near Cincinnati Street and North Avenue about 10:40 p.m., but it took spike strips, a dozen officers and two tries of force over two miles to stop his car, according to court documents.

Solodyankin was arrested after a second officer rammed the back of the car at Pearl Street and Boone Avenue, forcing it into a spin, stopping the chase.

Read the rest of my story here.

Solodyankin was arrested in January in connection with two December smash-and-grab burglaries.

His alleged accomplice, 24-year-old Yan Yefremov, has a criminal history similar in length to Solodyankin’s. He was arrested in February in an alleged drug and stolen property crime spree.

Yefremov’s newest charge is a federal one - he was indicted Tuesday in U.S. District Court on one count of felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition for a Glock pistol he allegedly possessed on Dec. 9.

$66 gunpoint robbery gets man 14 months

 A 24-year-old man involved in a convenience store holdup last fall was sentenced to 14 months in prison today. 

Joseph R. Giordanella pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and second-degree assault for a Sept. 29 robbery at Zip Trip, 3030 E. Euclid Ave.

The robbery netted $66, according to court documents.

Giordanella supplied the .380 caliber gun police believe Christopher R. Walinski, 25, used to rob the store. The assault charge stems from a clerk having a gun pointed at her.

Giordanella was arrested in November after Walinksi told police he’d let him borrow the gun. Walinski and a third robbery suspect, Justin J. Ellery, remain in jail.

Ellery, 24, was scheduled to plead guilty today and will be sentenced at a later date.

In addition to 14 months in prison, the plea deal approved today by Judge Maryann Moreno requires Giordanella to spend 18 months on probation.

His lawyer, David Partovi, described him as a “nice kid” who has “a decent family network.”

“I think he’ll do well once he’s released,” Partovi said in an email.

Previous coverage:

Gunpoint Zip Trip robbery netted $66

2 wanted after meth bust in Pend Oreille Co.

Three men are wanted after deputies found clandestine meth labs and stolen vehicles at a home in Pend Oreille County. 

Suspect Shad A. Johnson, 38, (left) already was being sought by police in Spokane County in connection with a separate drug case stemming from an arrest outside a Spokane developer’s home.

Now Johnson is accused of being a key player in a case Pend Oreille officials say began when he escaped from the woods near the Spokane County line during a burglary investigation March 30.

When a caller reported a man and woman pointing a rifle out a car window near Metaline, Wash., the next day, investigators determined the suspect vehicle belonged to Michael P. James, 37, of Athol, (right) who they believe has been staying with Johnson at a home at 172 Bobier Road, northwest of Newport.

Deputies arrested six people from North Idaho and Eastern Washington over the next few days, but Johnson and Jason P. Conboy, 30, of Spokane, remain at large. James was arrested Monday after breaking a Pend Oreille County sheriff’s deputy’s wrist in a scuffle, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Read more in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review.

Car’s color tips police to its stolen status

A woman arrested in a stolen property investigation two weeks ago was arrested again this morning after police say they caught her driving a stolen car.

 Meagan R. Jarrett, 24, was driving a stolen Honda with a shaved key when Spokane Valley police Officer Jeremy Howe stopped her and discovered her license is suspended, police said today.

Howe realized the car was stolen when he noticed the registration listed it as green when it was actually blue. The license plates didn’t match the vehicle identification number, so Howe arrested Jarrett for possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

A passenger released before police realized the car was stolen, Jason M. Clark, 37, is now wanted for possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of vehicle theft tools.

Jarrett reportedly said Clark told her the car was stolen during the traffic stop “and that they would both be going to jail,” according to a news release.

Jarrett was booked into Spokane County Jail at 2:28 a.m. - about two weeks after she was booked on a misdemeanor driving while suspended charge.

She had been arrested March 23 with several others during sheriff’s raids involving a stolen property and drug investigation.

Charges sought in crash that killed teen

Two teenagers involved in a crash that killed a 19-year-old Spokane woman in February face vehicular homicide charges under a recommendation sent to prosecutors Monday. 

Investigators believe Brooke A. Reese, 18, of Spokane, and Taylor D. Marean, 18, of Redmond, were racing when their cars collided on southbound Hatch Road near 54th Avenue early Feb. 14. Jacoby N. Bryant, 19, died at the scene.

“It stands out just because it involves just a bunch of youth - young teenagers - making a bad choice,” Detective Dave Thornburg said. “Ultimately, they’ve affected a lot of lives.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Elderly man’s accused killer on trial this week

Jury selection is expected to begin this week in the trial of a career burglar accused of killing an 80-year-old Spokane Valley man. 

David K. Brewczynski, 44, is charged with first-degree murder and 23 other counts related to four residential burglaries committed around the time Kenneth Cross was found beaten and shot to death in his Boone Avenue home on Sept. 20, 2008. Cross had lived at the home since 1968.

Expected to testify is Cross’s housekeeper, Teresa M. Nelson. Nelson pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in February 2009 for stealing a ring from Cross’s girlfriend’s home. Nelson first told police she met Brewczynski through a dating phone line but has since denied knowing him.

The trial in Spokane County Superior Court is scheduled to last eight days. Judge Annette Plese is presiding.

Brewczynski was arrested in 1997 in what detectives described as a community policing dragnet. (The picture up top is from that arrest.) He was suspected in more than three dozen burglaries. He served seven years in prison but was arrested for burglary just months after his release. (Read the story from 2004 here.)

Past coverage:

Burglar’s storage unit yields dead man’s ID

Murder victim may have been targeted

Accused killer pleads not guilty

Explosives on I-90 bring out bomb squad

An explosive device was found during a traffic stop on Interstate 90 in Coeur d’Alene Sunday night.

Julianne M. Lewis, of Pasco, and William F. Heavyrunner, of Browning, Mont., were arrested near milepost 13 after Idaho State Police troopers found the device in their vehicle, along with drugs and guns, according to a news release.

A bomb squad from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office disposed of the device. Idaho State Police declined to release further information, citing an ongoing investigation.

Lewis and Heavyrunner were booked into Kootenai County Jail on charges of reckless driving and possession of a controlled substance.

Heavyrunner also is charged with posession of a dangerous weapon and Lewis is charged with posession of drug parapheranlia.

Ex-caretaker accused of kidnapping woman

 A man already accused of assaulting a woman he used to care for now is accused of kidnapping her from the Coeur d’Alene Casino, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department. 

John M. Costa, 47, of Chewelah, appeared in Kootenai County District Court today after he was arrested Saturday about 4:20 p.m. on suspicion of first-degree kidnapping.

He’s accused of kidnapping a 49-year-old woman he used to care for from the Coeur d’Alene Casino, then taking her to a hotel in Plummer to try to persuade her to drop battery charges against him in Washington, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Costa faces possible assault charges in Benewah County for the incident at the hotel.

Security detained Costa after he took the woman back to the casino, where her son and caregiver found her. Deputies responded to the casino for a report of a man causing a disturbance.

The woman was taken to Kootenai Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

Court documents show Costa was not facing criminal charges in Washington involving the woman, but the Department of Social and Heath Services sought a protection order  for the victim after she declined to press charges against Costa.

The woman was hospitalized Jan. 27 after Costa allegedly assaulted her and threatened her with a gun. He’d been staying at her home “because of her care needs and his house was flooded due to a pipe breaking.”

He’s now in Kootenai County Jail on $50,000 bond.

Valley cop finds 3 stolen cars in 1 shift

A Spokane Valley police officer recovered three stolen cars Sunday night.

Officer Jason Karnitz tracked the cars with the department’s automated license plate reader - a device that compares license plates to a list of stolen vehicle plates that’s updated daily.

The first car - a 1991 Mazda 626 stolen on Feb. 27 - was found at 6:50 p.m. at the Valley Green Apartments, 915 S. Pines Road. At 8:20 p.m., Karnitz found a 1996 Honda Accord at 9700 E. Sixth that had been stolen in Spokane on March 15.

Then a block away, at 10:05 p.m., he found a 1994 Acura Integra that had been stolen in Spokane on March 17, according to a news release.

The $25,000 license plate reader was purchased with a grant from the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority in July.

Spokane police have the device, too. It helped one officer find nine stolen vehicles in five days last month.

Elton’s wife donated to Stevens’ campaign

A candidate for Spokane County prosecutor has accepted a $500 campaign contribution from the wife of a man being prosecuted by the office he wants to oversee.

Records show that Republican prosecuting attorney candidate Dave Stevens accepted the donation in February and has kept the money despite knowing that the contributor’s husband, David Elton (left), faces three counts of felony harassment.

David Elton wrote in an e-mail in February that he would “donate as much as he could afford” to Stevens’ campaign. Documents from the state Public Disclosure Commission show that Elton’s wife, Belinda Elton, contributed $500 in February.

Read the rest of Jonathan Brunt’s story here.

Elton, 44, is accused of making threats in e-mail messages to his ex-wife, Robin Stewart, Cowles Co. Chairwoman Betsy Cowles and Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan. Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy is seeking a bench warrant for Elton, alleging he’s failed to notify Nagy on several occasions that he’s leaving town 48 hours in advance as required by a court order.

Judge Maryann Moreno is set to hear that motion on April 15.

Mark Vovos withdrew as Elton’s lawyer late last month. Elton has said he may represent himself.

Past coverage:

Trial set for Elton on threat charges

‘Murder’ email meant as joke, suspect says

Man’s mother: ‘Meth was his destruction’

Hannah Schelling last heard from her son, Christopher, when he called in November with a plea she’d never before heard. 

“He said ‘Mom, I’m in really deep. Can I come home?’” Schelling recalled.

She begged her only son to let her pick him up, but he promised he’d be at his parents’ home in southern Pend Oreille County the next day. He never showed up.

Kootenai County Sheriff’s investigators pulled Chris Schelling’s body from the Spokane River, east of Post Falls, last weekend.

A detective determined Schelling entered the water while fleeing a police chase in early December, just weeks after he promised his mother he’d come home.

His mother learned of his death on Monday - his 32nd birthday.

“He had an extremely tormented soul and he’s finally at peace,” said Hannah Schelling. “It was meth. Meth was his destruction.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage: Body in river identified as Spokane fugitive

Gunman threatened to cause a ‘war zone’

A gunman shot and killed by police last week had told his brother-in-law the day before that he planned to turn the neighborhood into a “war zone,” according to court documents filed Friday.

Todd E. White, 46, had previously threatened to kill Gary Paul in a dispute over firearms inherited from White’s late father, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

On March 26, he showed up at Paul’s home at 4127 E. 36th Ave., with a semi-automatic pistol equipped with a laser-sighting device and fired at least four shots at two officers when they arrived, the sheriff’s office said.

Officer Trevor Nollmeyer, who joined the forced in 2003, shot White twice about 6:29 a.m. He was declared dead at a hospital about 8 a.m.

White, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to assaulting two Clark County deputies, had been at the scene for about 20 minutes prior to the arrival of Nollmeyer and Mason, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

White’s felony convictions made him ineligible to possess a gun, and family told police he had “mental instability issues.”

Police searched White’s 1999 Mazda truck on Monday as part of an ongoing investigation.

Previous coverage:

Man killed in police shootout identified

Gunman assaulted cops in ‘01

Dip in Lake CdA leads to mental health hold

A woman was placed in mental health protective custody by police after she was found screaming for help in Lake Coeur d’Alene about 2:30 this morning.

Officers used a boat to rescue the woman, who was about 700 feet from shore at Coeur d’Alene City Beach. The woman’s clothes were at the shore, and she refused to commands to swim to safety, according to a news release.

Kootenai County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Higgins and police Officer Justin Bangs used a patrol boat from Blackwell Island Marina to reach the woman, then pulled her to safety.

The woman, who is in her 20s, had been contacted by police that night for a report of a battery and trespassing in the 800 block of N. 7th Street, but the victim declined to pursue charges.

Police don’t know if the woman was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to a news release.

Tips sought on driver v. pedestrian assault

Police are seeking tips on a driver they believe intentionally hit a pedestrian near a Spokane elementary school last week.

The victim was struck at 200 W. Nebraska, across the street from Madison Elementary School, about 4:30 p.m. on March 26.

Officers believe the crash was not an accident. But investigators exhausted leads and police said today that the case remains unsolved.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (509) 327-5111 or (800) 222-TIPS, or submit tips online.

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

South Hill crash injures driver, 3 children

A driver was in critical condition and his three children were injured Thursday after he lost control of his car, which vaulted into a telephone pole before coming to rest on its top near 32nd Avenue and Ray Street.

Spokane police and fire officials did not release the name of the 24-year-old man, who was transported to Sacred Heart Medical Center and the cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Joseph Maine, 22, and his 20-year-old brother, Danny Murinko, were working in their backyard when they heard the driver accelerate while driving a Dodge Stratus northbound on Ray.

 “Hearing those little kids screaming. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I almost wanted to cry,” Maine said.

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story and see more photos here.

Ex-dspatcher sues Adams County over Taser

It started with a Taser.

Soon, an Adams County Sheriff’s dispatcher was the target of relentless harassment that led to her resignation and still affects her today.

Those allegations are contained in a recent complaint against Adams County filed by Jeanette Ivan, a former dispatcher who claims a correction officer’s use of a Taser on her “became a widespread joke in the workplace.”

Read my story here.

Police: Rapist likely to reoffend now in Valley

 A convicted child rapist classified as a sex offender most likely to reoffend is now living in Spokane Valley. 

Kevin A. Anderson, 36, was recently released into the community as a transient but now lives in the 5000 block of East Trent Avenue, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Anderson was convicted in Spokane County of second-degree rape of a child in 1994 and third-degree rape of a child in 1995.

He also has convictions for second-degree burglary, domestic violence malicious mischief and violation of a no-contact order.

Anderson is a level 3 sex offender. He’s not wanted by police, but authorities want people to be aware of his presence.

Taco seller escapes knife-wielding robber

Two men armed with a knife and rock tried to rob a taco stand on Thursday.

The owner of a stand on North Division Street at Walton Avenue said the men approached him about 9:20 p.m. as he was leaving the business with cash. The man with the knife charged him, but the taco seller escaped to a nearby house and called police.

Officers Shawn Kendall and Ben Green found a suspect on foot at Lacrosse Avenue and Addison Street, which led them to a house in the 400 block of East Walton, where a second suspect was located.

Michael A. Brewer, 25, and Tyrelle J. Bailey, 25, were booked into Spokane County Jail each on a charge of attempted first-degree robbery. They’re due in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon via video from the jail.

Alert neighbor helps nab burglary suspects

An alert neighbor in the Five Mile Prairie area helped Spokane police catch two juveniles in connection with three home burglaries overnight.

The neighbor reported seeing two suspicious males running from the area as police responded to the 8700 block of North Cherry Lane for a burglary alarm, according to police.

Officer Michelle Madsen spotted two people running and worked with other officers to set up a perimeter so they couldn’t get away. K-9 Officer Dan Lesser and his dog, Ray, found the boys, who had been reported as runaways, hiding under a deck in a nearby back yard.

The two were booked into Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center on one count of residential burglary involving the home with the alarm and two counts of second-degree burglary in connection with break-ins at two vacant new homes.

“This incident is an example of the community/police partnership,” King said in a news release. “The alert neighbor notifying police of the suspicious males in the area led to the arrest of the two burglars, solving three separate crimes.”

Calif. meth-ring bust has Washington ties

By The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities said 31 people faced drug charges in a crackdown Thursday targeting a large-scale ring that funneled methamphetamine from Mexico to California and Washington using fake vehicle batteries.

The suspected ringleader, Jesus Marquez-Marquez, is believed to be in the Mexican state of Michoacan and has not yet been arrested, authorities said. Marquez-Marquez, also known as Don Chuy, allegedly ran the drug ring that stored the drug in Tijuana before it was moved across the U.S.-Mexico border via hidden compartments and bogus car batteries.

Marquez-Marquez is accused in a federal complaint of having a number of distribution cells in California’s Central Valley, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and the state of Washington.

The ring is believed to have brought more than 200 pounds of meth into Southern California every month.

About 90 pounds of meth worth more than $5 million was seized Thursday as well as eight kilograms of cocaine.

Ten people were arrested, and others were being sought.

Those from Washington include David “Prieto” Silva Benavides, 28, of Othello, who is accused of leading a Don Chuy distribution cell in Washington; Margarito Magaro of Tacoma, who allegedly worked with the Washington-based distribution cell; Jose Luis Mata-Garcia, who is in his late 30s, of Othello; and Iliana Farias, 30, who allegedly was involved in the Washington-based distribution cell.

Calif. murder trial for Spokane man delayed

The second murder trial for a former Spokane photographer accused of killing his wife in California more than 25 years ago will be postponed, officials said today.

William G. Mordick, 64, was arrested in Spokane on Feb. 11, 2008, and has been in custody in Orange County, Calif., since. He’s charged with first-degree murder for the death of his wife, Katherine Mordick, who was found dead with her throat slashed in the couple’s Anaheim Hills home on Jan. 22, 1983.

A jury couldn’t reach a verdict after his first trial last fall, according to the Orange County Register. Prosecutors argued Mordick killed his wife “in order to keep custody of his daughters, ages 2 and 4 at the time, and to avoid paying the $650 monthly child support payments,” according to an article you can read here.

Mordick’s second trial is scheduled to begin April 14, but an assistant to defense lawyer Jack Earley said today that it will be postponed to allow more time to prepare.

Mordick owned and operated Photography by Gregory in Spokane beginning in the early 1990s.

Previous coverage:

Spokane photographer held in wife’s 1983 slaying

Robbery targeted suspect’s ex-boyfriend

A home-invasion robbery in north Spokane early Wednesday targeted the ex-boyfriend of one of the suspects.

The victims told police they were attacked by a group that included a woman who was 8 months pregnant. That suspect, who has not been arrested, used to date on of residents at 815 W. Bellwood, David M. Anderson, according to court documents.

Anderson was at work when the group entered his apartment about 4 a.m. armed with hammers and crowbar and stole electronics.

Anderson’s girlfriend, 19-year-old Katherine E. Scott, and his roommate, 22-year-old Aaron D. Miller, beaten with a crowbar and bound with zip ties during the robbery, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies arrested 20-year-old Donald M. Holley, 30-year-old Oshien R. Pendell and 19-year-old Megan N. Wilson on Wednesday. Miller said at least two others were involved, and detectives are looking for additional suspects.

Holley is in jail on $75,000 bond after appearing in court Tuesday on charges of first-degree theft, first-degree robbery and second-degree assault. Pendell has a $35,000 bond for the same charges; Wilson’s is $10,000.

Nurses and others now can OK pot use, too

OLYMPIA (AP) — Some nurses and other medical professionals will be allowed to authorize the use of medical marijuana for qualified patients under a measure signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Gregoire signed the bill Thursday and it takes effect June 10.

It adds physician assistants, naturopaths, advanced registered nurse practitioners and others to the list of those who can officially recommend marijuana for patients under the state’s medical marijuana law.

Under previous law, only physicians were allowed to write the recommendation.


The medical marijuana measure is Senate Bill 5798.

Man shot by police had fired pistol w/ laser

The gunman shot and killed by police Friday had fired four shots at officers from a semi-automatic pistol equipped with a laser-sighting device, law enforcement officials announced today.

Officer Trevor Nollmeyer, who joined the forced in 2003, shot and killed Todd E. White, 46, at 4127 E. 36th Ave. after he and Officer Dion Mason were fired upon while responding to a report of a family dispute involving an armed man. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office released the names of the officers today.

White was about to confront residents at the home of his sister and brother-in-law over a dispute involving firearms inherited from White’s late father, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.

White, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to assaulting two Clark County deputies, had been at the scene for about 20 minutes prior to the arrival of Nollmeyer and Mason, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

White’s brother-in-law called police at 6:01 a.m. Police reported gunfire at 6:29 a.m.

White, whose felony convictions made him ineligible to possess a gun, had an electronic police scanner in his pickup, Reagan said.

Previous coverage:

Man killed in police shootout identified

Gunman assaulted cops in ‘01

Trio of burglary suspects faces 30 felonies

Three people arrested for burglaries in early February are believed to be responsible for a string of break-ins throughout Spokane County that began in November, the Spokane Valley Police Department announced today.

Police are recommending 30 felony charges against Michael Yamaguchi, 29, Stephen Victor, 19, and Samantha Winne, 19.

Detectives think the trio made spare keys while test driving vehicles, then returned at night to steal the cars. Vehicles were stolen from Neighborhood Auto Sales at 3024 N. Market, Haven Street Motors, 3001 E. Heroy and BJ’s Used Cars at 4422 E. Sprague.

Police believe Winne would babysit Yamaguchi’s children while Yamaguchi and Victor burglarized the businesses.

The three are connected to burglaries at Conoco, 333 W. Indian Trails Road, in November, as well as burglaries in December at Divines at 10222 N. Division and 1428 W. 2nd Ave., Quick Stop at 2508 W. Northwest Blvd, and Tesoro at 3158 E. 17th Ave.

They were arrested in February after burglaries at a Shell station at 1520 N. Argonne Road, a Shell at 1007 N. Sullivan Road, and Taco Bell at 10620 E. Sprague. The three faces charges ranging from theft to malicious mischief. Police also are seeking one count of money laundering against Victor and Yamaguchi and one count of trafficking in stolen property against Yamaguchi.

Police say the businesses suffered tens of thousands of dollars in theft and property damage.

Previous story:

Three accused of store burglaries

Suspect named in CdA church burglaries

A suspect has been identified in two burglaries at Coeur d’Alene churches last fall. 

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest Scott Anthony Osborne, 39. 

Osborne is accused of stealing cash, keys, food, guitars and tools from the First Christian Church, 610 N. 4th St., and the St. Thomas Catholic Church, 919 E. Indiana Ave., on Oct. 22.

Surveillance cameras at one of the churches captured the burglar, whom police identified Thursday as Osborne. Obsorne was convicted of third-degree theft in 2001, according to news archives.

Anyone with information on Osborne’s location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (208) 667-2111 or 1-866-667-2111.

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

2 charged in Hanford credit-card scheme

A former Hanford manager and his wife are facing criminal charges for allegedly using a company credit card to spend $487,000 on personal items.

Paul F. Kempf and Anita M. Gust are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and criminal wire fraud in U.S. District Court. Kempf was an operations manager between 2000 and 2005 for Richland companies Fluor Hanford and CH2M Hill Hanford Group.

Kempf is accused of using company-issued credit cards for purchases listed as laboratory supplies from a Tri-Cities company called AMG Marketing, owned by Gust.

Read the rest of Tom Sowa’s story here.

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