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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for December 2010

Dad jailed after sled crash hurts children

A Spokane man is in jail after two children he was towing on a sled behind an ATV slammed into a parked police car, sending the kids to the hospital.

Police say Ramon D. Noggles, 33, was under the influence of alcohol when the collision happened just before 8 p.m. Wednesday in the 3600 block of E. Pratt.

His wife, Kathy Kosloski, called the crash a “freak accident.”

“He would never intentionally hurt any kids,” Kosloski said today. “He’s just a dad trying to have fun with his kids.”

Read the rest of the story here.

‘One-man crime wave’ headed to prison

A 30-time felon described by police as a “one-man crime wave” is headed to a Washington prison for a short-lived crime spree in Spokane last spring.

Ricky Wayne Everett, 33, was sentenced to 43 months in prison this month for theft of a motor vehicle. Sentences for unlawful issuance of a bank check, fourth-degree assault, attempting to elude police and forgery will be served concurrently.

Everett, who was wanted for passing bad checks in Maryland, was arrested in May for buying a car from a Chattaroy couple with a fraudulent $13,900 check.

That was just a couple months after he left federal prison after serving time for impersonating a U.S. marshal in Oregon. He moved to Spokane in April after meeting a teenager over the Internet and quickly caught the attention of law enforcement, who said he carries a Taser and has told citizens he's a police officer.

Everett held a local business license private investigation firm called Ricky’s PI Service, which he apparently used to help perpetuate scams. He also has a history of responding to accident scenes as a police officer or as a paramedic.

Federal prosecutors in Oregon have called his mental state, “a puzzle, to say the least.”

Past coverage:

May 20: 'One-man crime wave' with 30 felonies hit Spokane

Man blames Ozzy Osbourne for arrest

CLEVELAND (AP) — An Ohio drunken-driving suspect is blaming his arrest on Ozzy Osbourne.

William Liston was arrested Christmas Eve in suburban Cleveland. WJW-TV says he told police officers, “Ozzy Osbourne and his music made me do it.”

Osbourne's hits as lead singer of heavy metal band Black Sabbath and as a solo artist include “Paranoid” and “Road to Nowhere.”

Liston is awaiting arraignment. He's to appear in court Tuesday on a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired.

In an unrelated case, Liston pleaded not guilty Thursday in Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County Common Pleas Court in a November break-in at a medical office. He was released on bond.

Telephone calls to the 33-year-old Liston's home in Aurora have gone unanswered.

Pharmacy board bans synthetic pot

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state pharmacy board has voted to adopt a rule that would ban the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana.

The board's emergency rule would mirror new Federal Drug Enforcement Administration rules banning five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana. The federal ban went into effect Dec. 24 and will last at least a year while officials consider a permanent ban. The state rule won't go into effect until next month.

Synthetic marijuana is sold in smoke shops as incense but health officials say it is an intoxicant when burned and inhaled. It is sold under names like K-2, Spice and Black Mamba.

State officials say a state rule is a more effective tool for law enforcement than the federal ban.

Court OK’s solitary for death row inmate

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state Supreme Court ruled today that it was OK for corrections officials to move a death row inmate to solitary confinement after a special housing unit 

that allowed him more privileges was closed due to budget cuts.

In a 7-2 ruling, the high court dismissed a petition by Jonathan Gentry (pictured), who argued that the move unlawfully changed the terms of his sentence. Gentry was sentenced to death in 1991 for killing a 12-year-old girl in Kitsap County.

Under Department of Corrections regulations, after a year in solitary confinement, qualified inmates can be transferred to another unit where they are allowed daily contact with other inmates and family contact visits.

However, that special housing unit was closed in 2009 due to budget cuts, and Gentry argued that his return to solitary confinement was a constitutionally impermissible increase in the severity of his punishment.

The majority, lead by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, said neither the state nor U.S. constitutions create a “liberty interest in a particular form of prison housing, absent allegations of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which Gentry does not assert.”

The majority wrote that that housing in the special unit is a privilege that can end through no fault of the prisoner, including budget cuts. And because all death row inmates start out in solitary confinement, being returned there does not create a harsher sentence than they first faced.

Also signing on to the majority opinion were Justices Susan Owens, Charles Johnson, Mary Fairhurst, Gerry Alexander, Jim Johnson, and Tom Chambers.

The dissent, written by Justice Debra Stephens, argued the petition should be heard in superior court to address some unanswered questions.

The state's claim that the closure of the unit was prompted by budget cuts “is arguably a valid administrative reason,” Stephens wrote. “However, budget cuts do not necessarily explain why the graduated system of prisoner benefits, most notably contact visits with family, had to be cut as well.”

Stephens also wrote that the question of whether moving prisoners back to solitary confinement is a violation of their sentencing terms is a question that affects all death row inmates. Gentry is among eight prisoners on death row at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He has been on death row longer than any other current death row inmate. Since 1904, 78 men have been put to death in Washington.

“It is necessary to have a more complete factual record as to DOC's policies regarding conditions of confinement as they presently exist and as they existed at the time of Gentry's crime and sentence,” she wrote. Justice Richard Sanders signed on to the dissent.

Man to forfeit $1.4 mil in cash, cars

A Spokane Valley businessman pleaded guilty Wednesday to several counts of hiding financial transactions concerning the sale of stolen metals and agreed to forfeit about $1.4 million in cash, property and vehicles purchased with proceeds of the illegal transactions.

Craig A. Dickson entered a plea agreement before U.S. District Court Judge Edward Shea at a hearing in Richland. Dickson, owner of Dickson Iron and Metal, 907 N. Dyer Road, pleaded guilty to seven counts of structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements and one count of conspiracy to commit the same offense.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Driver in police shooting gets 77 months

A Spokane woman who was driving a stolen SUV when her passenger allegedly fired shots at a police officer has been sentenced to more than six years in prison.

Margaret D. Shults, 23, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery earlier this month and was sentenced to 77 months in prison. An unrelated car theft charge from last month still is pending.

 Shults was arrested after a two-day crime spree police believe was orchestrated by Tony E. Dawson, who is in jail awaiting trial on about a dozen counts of attempted murder.

Shults was with Dawson, 21, and Greg Sharkey, Jr., 26, when they stole the Subaru from the 1600 block of East Rowan Avenue early Dec. 23, 2009, then inadvertently drove by the area where Dawson had allegedly shot a teenager in the back the night before.

A Spokane police officer monitoring the area recognized the stolen Subaru and followed it.

Shults, who police say was driving the Suburban, told investigators Dawson (pictured) ordered her at gunpoint to keep driving, then fired several shots at the officer. Dawson reportedly threatened Shults that if she stopped the vehicle, “he had no problem killing either Shults or Sharkey,” documents state.

None of the shots hit the officer.

Both Sharkey and Dawson are believed to have been present when Dawson allegedly fired into a crowd, striking an 18-year-old man, so both have been charged with multiple counts of attempted murder. Dawson's trial is scheduled to begin March 24. Sharkey's is scheduled for March 14.

Hopefully Shults, who was sentenced Dec. 17, can find time in prison to brush up on history, specifically Jesse James. She told police that Dawson had two handguns and was “acting like Jesse James,” but a cursory review of the authoritative biography on James shows that comparison to be laughable at best.

Boyfriend in fatal crash gets 15 years

A Spokane man involved in a carjacking that led to a fiery crash that killed his girlfriend has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Michael L. Olson, 32, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and two counts of tampering with a witness and was sentenced recently to 180 months in prison by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt. 

Olson was arrested in June 2009 after Marjorie A. “Amy” Harrigan, 24, died when she was thrown from a carjacked 2002 Acura RSX during a police chase on Indiana Avenue just east of Ruby Street.

The Acura struck a tree and ripped in two (pictured above); authorities said Harrigan, who was driving, was killed instantly.

Police say the couple stole the car after meeting its owner, Christopher T. Fuller, at Ace's Casino and asking him for a ride to retrieve a borrowed pickup.

The two assaulted Fuller and forced him out of the vehicle near Perry and Cataldo streets. Police spotted the Acura and the truck driving on Nettleton Street near Euclid Avenue, and both took off at high speeds.

Harrigan crashed and died; Olson escaped in the truck but was arrested later that night.

A few months later, police seized letters from his mother's home that were written by Olson and apparently discussed plans to kill Fuller. Detectives said they learned from Olson’s cellmate that Olson wanted him to kill Fuller, which led to the witness tampering convictions.

Olson had previous felony convictions for drugs and theft. He was sentenced Dec. 17.

Burglary spree earns man 29 months

A burglary spree at Spokane convenience stores last winter recently earned a 30-year-old man about two years in prison.

Michael L. Yamaguchi was sentenced to 29 months in prison for burglary and car theft charges related to eight burglaries, a few in which cars stolen from local dealerships were driven to the targeted stores.

Samantha Wynne, who babysat Yamaguchi's son during the burglaries and shared in the proceeds, was credited for one day already served in jail after pleading guilty last week to three counts of second-degree burglary and three counts of theft of a motor vehicle.

Yamaguchi's accomplice, Stephen Victor, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the same charges as Yamaguchi, eight counts of second-degree burglary and three counts of theft of a motor vehicle and was sentenced to 180 days in jail with credit for 145 days served. He'll be on probation for 12 months and all were ordered to pay $9,045 restitution. Detectives already recovered electronics bought with the stolen cash.

The three were arrested in February, but charges weren't filed until after Yamaguchi was arrested in another burglary in May. They were originally charged with 30 felonies.

Bear parts buy deemed lesser offense

In the case of one Spokane man, the bear parts do not make up the sum of a felony.

Appellate judges on Tuesday overturned the felony wildlife trafficking conviction of 52-year-old Jason M. Yon, after he paid $800 for four bear gallbladders in 2008 to undercover Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers.

Yon’s attorney, Richard Lee, successfully argued that his client should not have been convicted of a felony because state law sets a dollar figure of $250 per purchase of parts from big game animals. Yon bought two gallbladders in September and another two in October 2008 for $200 each.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Retired clerk suspected of major theft

Kootenai County’s former chief deputy clerk is suspected of embezzling $138,905 over a 10-year period ending in October, a Coeur d’Alene Police Department spokesman said this morning.

Sandy Martinson, 62, has not been charged or arrested, said Sgt. Christie Wood with the Coeur d’Alene Police.

However, Wood said, a charging decision is pending with the Bonner County prosecutor’s office, which is handling the case because Martinson worked for Kootenai County.

Read Alison Boggs' stories here and here.

Spokanite jailed in 3rd child porn probe

A convicted sex offender already under investigation for possessing child pornography was jailed recently after a new investigation revealed ongoing illegal activity, according to court documents.

Shawn P. Sather, 34, was ordered to stay in Spokane County Jail without bail after appearing in U.S. District Court Tuesday on a charge of possessing child pornography.

He was arrested last week after an undercover detective in Colorado Springs, Colo., said he'd downloaded hundred of images of child pornography from an Internet user identified as Sather.

Federal agents already were awaiting a forensic analysis of computer seized from Sather's home at 1603 E. Ostrander Ave., last January. They had searched the home after a detective in Canon City, Colo., connected child pornography obtained online to Sather's computer, according to court documents.

Federal agents seized computer equipment from his home Jan. 14 and informed him of the ongoing investigation, but he was not arrested pending a more thorough examination of the materials.

Investigators say that examination still was not complete when they learned of the new allegations against Sather. Sather is a convicted sex offender because of a previous federal conviction in 2001 for possession and transportation of child pornography.

U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno cited the previous investigation and Sather's conviction when she denied his request for bail on Tuesday. She said he appears to be a risk to the community.

Reward for tips on armed bank robber

Detectives are hoping for fresh clues in an armed bank robbery Dec. 2 in Spokane Valley.

A gunman demanded cash from two tellers at Sterling Savings Bank, 11205 E. Sprague Ave., about 2:25 p,.m. after walking into the bank with his gun already displayed, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

“The robber was so low-key and calm, several customers inside the bank at the time were not aware it was being robbed,” according to a news release.

Tellers stuffed cash into blue cloths bags with a clinch drawstring at the top, and the robber placed the blue bags into a similar green bag and walked out the east doors of the bank. He was last seen walking eastbound.

  He is described as a white man, 25 to 30 years old, 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds.

He wore a dark jacket, blue jeans, a knit cap, a scarf covering his lower face and dark glasses over his eye.

Police found the glasses, scarf and cap but have not identified a suspect. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to an arrest.

Man accused of rape in downtown lot

A Spokane man is accused of raping a man in a downtown parking lot last weekend.

Jonathan M. Ricardo, 31, is in jail on $150,000 bond for a second-degree rape charge. He was arrested Sunday after the alleged victim told police he was raped after drinking and playing pool with Ricardo at Irv's bar, then going to Ace's Casino on North Division.

The man, who was treated for sexual assault-related injuries at Deaconess Medical Center, told police that Ricardo drove him back downtown and raped him in a near-empty parking lot in downtown Spokane and gave him $100, according to court documents.

Ricardo appeared in Superior Court on Monday and remains at the Spokane County Jail.

Mom, son, grandma face crack charges

The daughter of a Spokane woman accused of helping her 14-year-old grandson sell crack cocaine is facing a lengthy federal prison sentence for the same drug.

Nicole D. Hilliard is “doing well” in treatment for drug treatment and is expected to participate until the middle of February, according to court documents prepared by her lawyer.

Hilliard's son and mother, Tyna A. Hilliard, were arrested last week after a confidential informant bought crack cocaine from the boy, who police say was driven to the scene by Tyna Hilliard.

“Tyna advised that she had complete knowledge of (the boy) selling the crack cocaine,” according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by Spokane police. The informant said the boy had said “that he pays his grandmother to drive him around since he was only 14 and did not have a license.”

Tyna Hilliard, 53, was released from jail on her own recognizance last week and is to be arraigned Jan. 3.

Her daughter pleaded guilty to a federal charge of possession with intent to deliver 50 grams or more of cocaine in October after being indicted last summer.  She's to be sentenced early next year in U.S. District Court in Spokane. The charge carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a four years probation, or at least 20 years in prison if she has a previous felony drug conviction, which she does not appear to have in Spokane County.

Nicole Hilliard does have previous felony convictions locally for first-degree robbery and attempted first-degree robbery in connection with the shooting death of a man during a dice game in 2002.

Oregon sex offender arrested in Idaho

A convicted sex offender with a lengthy criminal history in Oregon is accused of molesting a Post Falls girl.

Roy L. Goldsborough, 51, is in Kootenai County Jail on $500,000 for one charge of lewd conduct with a minor.

He’s accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-girl who told her mother about the alleged abuse last week.

Post Falls police recorded a phone call between the girl and Goldsborough in which he confessed to the abuse, according to court documents.

Goldsborough was arrested in a Wal-Mart parking lot last Wednesday, where police said he appeared to be trying to fix a flat tire.

Goldsborough, of Coos Bay, Ore., moved to Post Falls about two months ago. His criminal history in Oregon includes several sex abuse convictions, police said.

Gunfire over $40 leads to standoff

A Spokane man celebrated the holiday in jail after he was teargassed and arrested during an hours-long Christmas Eve standoff.

Robert T. Finkbeiner, 44, is set for trial next month for allegedly shooting a woman in her leg last March during a fight over a $40 debt.

Two young children were in the room when Finkbeiner pulled the gun, police said. Finkbeiner was allowed to leave jail pending trial on assault, burglary and robbery charges, but a warrant was issued Dec. 7 after prosecutors said Finkbeiner had contacted the alleged victim, Rachel A. Mitchell, 24, several times recently to try to persuade her not to testify.

“Mitchell stated she has full intent to show up in court against Finkbeiner because he should not get away with shooting her over $40,” according to court documents.

Finkbeiner also is charged with five counts of unlawful possession of a firearm for guns seized at his apartment at 1924 W. Gardner in March.

Finkbeiner was living at 121 S. Haven St. when police tried to arrest him about 9:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

A SWAT team used chemical agents to help take him into custody. Finkbeiner remains in jail on $50,000 bond. His girlfriend, Julie K. French, was arrested on second-degree rendering criminal assistance after telling police he wasn't at the house. French was released on her own recognizance on Christmas.

Suspected Grinch jailed in package thefts

Two men arrested last week may each be the Inland Northwest's version of the Grinch.

Steven J. Karvela, 39, is suspected of stealing Christmas package from Spokane homes, then selling the would-be gifts at pawn shops. Joseph Michael O’Masters, 43, of Hayden Lake, was arrested in Coeur d'Alene that same day for grand theft after police found him with stolen property worth more than $1,275 in the 3200 block of West Manning Loop.

Spokane police were on alert after several thefts were reported in Spokane and Kootenai counties when a woman reported a package stolen by a man in a Honda-type car. She wrote down what she thought was a license plate, and police spotted a 1992 Ford Escort with a similar plate outside a Spokane pawn shop on Christmas Eve.

Police stopped the car, and the driver, later identified as Karvela, said he lent his drug dealer his car and, in return, the dealer told him he could sell any property left in the car, according to court documents.

Karvela told police that he “know the property was 'probably' stolen, that he was 'in trouble' and that he was going to prison,” police wrote.

Karvela had pawned several expensive items in the last couple of days, police said.

He's in custody at Geiger Correction Center on $5,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court on Monday on stolen property charges.

Thefts have been reported in the South Hill area near Cannon Hill, near Whitworth College and in the deeper southeast areas of south Spokane, police said. Victims should report thefts to Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Reagan to leave sheriff’s PIO spot

Longtime Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan is being transferred to the office’s internal affairs staff.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said today that he wants to hire a civilian to handle spokesman duties because he needs to fill a sergeant’s position in the division that typically undertakes internal investigations into deputy actions.

Reagan’s transfer won’t be completed until the sheriff hires someone to replace him. The position is being advertised as having an annual salary of $55,000, Knezovich said.

The sheriff hopes to have the move completed by mid-February to mid-March, he said.

SPD nabs Tri-Cities bank heist suspect

Patrol officers arrested a suspected bank robber Monday night after detectives in the Tri-Cities tracked him to northwest Spokane.

John T. Walker, 22, was arrested as he fled from a home at 2733 W. Wellesley Ave., about 9:45 p.m., according to a search warrant filed today.

Police believe Walker robbed a Sterling Savings Bank in Kennewick of about $1,800 Monday afternoon, then paid two friends to drive him to Spokane.

A state probation officer recognized Walker from surveillance photos and notified detectives, who learned from the suspect's roommate that he was headed to Spokane.

Detectives tracked pings from Walker's cellphone to the area of the Walmart at 2301 W. Wellesley Ave. They also used vehicle records to connect Walker's friends to a 1991 Honda Accord, which Spokane police officers spotted outside the home where Walker soon fled, according to the search warrant.

The warrant was used to search the home and the Accord and seize cash, a cell phone and a bag of marijuana.

Walker was arrested on a Department of Corrections warrant and appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on a drug charge. Walker's friends told police that he'd claimed to have recently inherited money and “just wanted to come to Spokane to have some fun,” according to the warrant. Neither has been arrested.

The 12 days of Christmas - police style

Merry Christmas from Sirens & Gavels! The blog will return Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, enjoy this festive video from the police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Made last year, their version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” hasn't lost its holiday cheer. 

‘Santa Claus’ sought in armed robbery

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Call it a ho-ho-holdup.

Police say a man dressed as Santa Claus has robbed a Rhode Island yacht club.

Authorities say a bartender was alone in the East Providence Yacht Club Sunday night when a large man wearing a red suit, red hat, white beard and carrying a sack walked into the bar and brandished a gun.

The bartender fled and ran to a nearby business where she called 911.

By the time police arrived, the Santa bandit — as well as an undetermined amount of cash from the register — was missing.

Co-owner Tony Perry tells WLNE-TV he's just glad no one was hurt.

There were no immediate arrests.

Hammer attack victim improving in CdA

A woman seriously injured in a hammer attack that killed another woman is improving at a Coeur d'Alene hospital.

Lorraine Y. Wallis, 58, has been upgraded to fair condition, Kootenai Medical Center employees said Wednesday. 

Wallis was in critical condition after being beaten with a hammer at a mobile home in Bayview on Sunday. Patricia A. Heath, 43, died from head injuries suffered in the attack.

Their neighbor, Larry W. Cragun, 31, remains in Kootenai County Jail on $1 million bail on charges of murder, burglary and aggravated battery. H

Heath's husband, Michael L. Heath, did not require medical attention. Jedidah M. Heath, 21, was treated and released the day of the attack.

The attack at 34552 N. Limekiln Road in Bayview followed weeks of problems between the Heaths and Cragun, including bizarre claims by the suspect that authorities say were unfounded.

Cragun reportedly visited three Bayview businesses after the attack and said he'd killed four poeple with a hammer.

Customers at JD's Resort also told authorities that Cragun had said he needed to call 911 because he'd killed three or four people. He didn't complete the phone call. Instead, he grabbed a customer's beer “drank it, and left a dollar on the bar,” according to a police report.

Past coverage: Dec. 20: 1 dead, 3 injured in Bayview hammer attack

Man gets 50+ years for fatal DUI crash

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A construction worker who killed a promising rookie pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels and two other people in a horrific drunken driving crash said Wednesday he had all but ended his own life that night by getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Andrew Gallo, 24, (above and right) acknowledged his deadly mistake to the grieving relatives of his victims and said he expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars before a judge sentenced him to 51 years to life in prison.

“I know whatever I say will not change anything or the way you think or feel about me,” said Gallo, who faced the judge because he was not permitted to look at the courtroom audience.

“You're right. I am a horrible person, a drunk driver who took your beautiful kids away,” he said.

Gallo was convicted in September of three counts of second-degree murder and single counts of drunken driving, hit-and-run driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol and causing great bodily injury.

 Judge Richard F. Toohey gave Gallo 15 years to life on each of the murder counts and six additional years for the other crimes.

Prosecutors said Gallo, who was on parole for a felony DUI conviction, had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when he blew through a red light at 65 mph on April 9, 2009, and T-boned the car carrying pitcher Nick Adenhart (pictured below) and three friends.

Also killed were 20-year-old Courtney Stewart and 25-year-old Henry Pearson. A fourth passenger, Jon Wilhite had his spine separated from his skull by the impact and survived.

 “Enjoy your life in that cage in which you belong, because you are no longer here on Earth,” Wilhite said in a letter to Gallo that was read aloud in court. “I can assure you are headed to a much darker place.”

Scores of people attended the hearing, including relatives of the victims who clutched giant, smiling photos of their loved ones. They pleaded with Toohey to sentence Gallo to life.

“I am hollow inside. I will never be the same,” said Stewart's mother, Carrie Stewart-Dixon. “I pray to God every day to bring her back.”

Adenhart's family sent a letter saying his parents hoped the sentence would bring some peace to their dead son, but justice could never be achieved.

“There is no balancing of the scales. There is no justice so long as Mr. Gallo is drawing breath,” the letter said.

Prosecutors said Gallo drank beer and shots at three different bars with his stepbrother before driving off in the family minivan. Jurors saw a videotaped interview in which he told police he didn't remember driving that night and apologized to the victims' families.

Defense attorney Jacqueline Goodman had asked that Gallo be given just one sentence of 15 years to life, saying he never intended to hurt anybody.

“I don't think he should be treated like a cold-blooded killer,” she said after the hearing. “I don't think he's irredeemable.”

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said his office has won 49 convictions for drunk driving homicides since 2008. With the holidays approaching, he urged residents to remember this case as they celebrate.

“There's just no good in this, there's just no good in this kind of thing anywhere,” he said. “It's all tragic.”

Suspect arrested in EWU recruit’s murder

KENT, Wash. (AP) — Police say a suspect in a fatal Halloween shooting in Kent has an extensive criminal history.

The 20-year-old Auburn man was caught Tuesday night after detectives got a tip, followed a car and chased down a passenger who tried to run away. A police dog tracked him to a convenience store where he was arrested.

The man is jailed for investigation of murder in the killing 18-year-old Devin Topps on Oct. 31 outside a house party.

Topps graduated from Kentridge High School and had signed a letter of intent to play football for Eastern Washington University

Past coverage:

Nov. 2: EWU football recruit shot to death

Stolen tarp leads to trio of arrests

Spokane Valley police arrested a trio of commercial burglars early today after officers caught them stealing items from a construction shed.

  A neighbor called police shortly after midnight and reported a suspicious pickup truck parked in the 4900 block of East Sixth.   

Officers found three suspects on the nearby Alpine Construction property. Edward D. Counts, 21, was carrying a stolen tarp, police said.

Counts was arrested for second-degeree burglary, along with Jacob Allen McReynolds, 28, and Danielle U. Jeffries after officers found where they'd hidden a stolen nail gun and tent, accoridng to a news release.

Pasco man convicted of 5 murders

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Vicente Ruiz was convicted today of the 1987 slayings of five men and the wounding of a sixth in a Pasco garage in what a prosecutor called “the most heinous” crime in the history of Franklin County.

A Spokane County Superior Court jury found him guilty of five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. The case was moved to Spokane after two mistrials in Franklin County, the Tri-City Herald reported.

Ruiz, 46, faces a life sentence for going into Medina's Body Shop with his cousin on Oct. 13, 1987, and opening fire on six men.

He fled after the shootings and was not arrested until 2006 in Mexico. He was extradited in June 2007.

Ruiz did not take the witness stand. His lawyers called it a case of mistaken identity.

Defense lawyer Kevin Holt said the verdict will be appealed.

“They've just tied another albatross around Franklin County that's going to be around for another 18 months until this comes back,” he said. “It's not a just verdict.”

Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe said the verdict was justice for five families.

“It was a long, hard and expensive road, but this crime was the most heinous in the history of Franklin County and it is only right that those who perpetrated this atrocity will spend their lives in prison,” Lowe said.

Jurors got the case on Monday after a monthlong trial.

No motive was ever firmly established, although there was testimony that the body shop modified vehicles used in drug smuggling.

Killed were: Misael Barajas, 22; Juan Antonio Lopez Garcia, 20; Eliceo Guzman Lamas, 20; and Rafael Parra Magallon, 22, all of Pasco; and Francisco Venegas Cortez, 21, of Kennewick.

The lone survivor, Aldo Montes Lamas, who testified against Ruiz, survived by squirming under a car in the garage. Montes Lamas, now 47, was hit in the stomach by a ricocheting bullet.

Asked during the trial to identify one of the shooters, Montes Lamas pointed at Ruiz.

Ruiz came into the shop with two guns, poked Montes Lamas in the shoulder with one of them and in Spanish told him, “It's over,” the survivor testified.

Ruiz' cousin, Pedro Mendez-Reyna, was convicted in 1994 for his role in the shootings and is serving a life sentence.

Thieves strike Christian thrift shop

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Spokane police are looking for help identifying two men who stole from a Christian school's thrift shop.

Surveillance video shows the men remove the rug, which is worth more than $750, from a wall of the Northwest Christian Thrift Shop, 6607 N. Maple St., last Saturday about 1:15 p.m.

The thieves then leave in an older model, four-door Chrysler sedan that was silver or dark gray.

Proceeds from the thrift shop fund the religious school and community activities. All items are donated.

Video shows one man wearing a leather jacket, light-colored pants and a yellow bucket hat and another man in a black and white striped stocking hat, dark pants and a light blue plaid jacket.

Police say the men each face a felony theft charge. Anyone with information on their identities is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Snowy footprints lead to brothers’ arrests

Two brothers were arrested on suspicion of vehicle prowling today in north Spokane after police matched their shoes to snow footprints left near an abandoned stolen vehicle.

 Jesse J. Luna, 26,(left) and Gregory R. Luna, 21, (right) are believed to have eluded police in a stolen blue 1995 Subaru Legacy station wagon after officer spotted the car driving recklessly near West Francis Avenue and North Whitehouse Street at 4:27 a.m., according to the Spokane Police Department.

The Subaru, stolen from the South Hill, got away at high speeds and was found abandoned near East Houston Avenue and North Regal Street.

The brothers were contacted as suspicious people about 10 minutes later near East Francis and North Lacey Street. Officers matched their shoes to footprints in the snow leading away from the stolen Subaru.

A police news release praised the “thorough investigation and team work” that led to “the arrest of these two sibling criminals.”

Jesse Luna has multiple felony convictions, including several for assault and riot. Gregory Luna also has felony convictions for second-degree attempted assault and harassment. Both are due in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon on new charges of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Gregory Luna, the alleged driver of the stolen Subaru, also faces a charge of eluding police.

25k bond for suspect stopped by cop car

A theft suspect accidentally caught by police after fleeing a downtown Spokane clothing store remains in jail on $25,000 bond and a probation hold.

Gavin D. Wolf, 24, (pictured in 2008) appeared in Superior Court Tuesday on a second-degree robbery charge.

A passing patrol car struck Wolf Monday as he darted across Main Avenue shortly before 5 p.m. while being chased by a Nordstrom security officer, said Major Crimes Sgt. Mark Griffiths.

The suspect suffered a leg injury and was taken to a local hospital. “It was completely coincidental. (Nordstrom) hadn't called us yet,” Griffiths said.

Although the robber never displayed a weapon, he used force when confronted by a security guard, police said, fleeing with a bag of clothing and other items found near Wolf at the accident scene. The police car was driven by Officer Joe Denton.

Griffiths said Denton and the Nordstrom security officer reported that Wolf was outside the crosswalk.

Wolf already was wanted on a Department of Corrections warrant for escape from community custody.

He was sentenced in April to five days in jail for misdemeanor theft and was sentenced in September 2009 to nine days in jail after pleading guilty to felony third-degree retail theft with extenuating circumstances. He also has previous convictions for drugs and drunken driving.

Glass-eating scheme leads to prison

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts woman has been sentenced to more than four years in prison after admitting that she and her husband intentionally ate glass particles, then submitted false insurance claims.

Mary Evano was also ordered Tuesday to pay more than $340,000 in restitution. In September, she pleaded guilty to a 23-count federal indictment charging her with fraud, conspiracy and other offenses.

Federal prosecutors say that from 1997 to 2005, the couple collected more than $200,000 in compensation after filing insurance claims that they had been injured by restaurants, hotels and grocery stores that had served them food containing glass particles.

Evano's husband, Ronald Evano, pleaded guilty in 2007. He is serving five years in prison.

The couple incurred more than $100,000 in medical bills, which remain unpaid.

Triple tragedy highlights Mexico impunity

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — A daughter is found dismembered. Her mother is shot dead trying to bring the killer to justice. Two days later, a brother-in-law's body is dumped on the street after his lumber business is torched.

No one is under arrest for any of the crimes, and there is little hope the cases will be solved. The tragedies befalling an extended family in Ciudad Juarez lay bare the lawlessness that plagues not only Mexico's most violent city, but the entire country.

The case of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, slain recently as she demanded justice for her dead daughter outside the Chihuahua state governor's office, has gripped the country. President Felipe Calderon, kidnap victim Diego Fernandez de Cevallos and even the Sinaloa drug cartel have all weighed in; Fernandez de Cevallos spoke about Escobedo just hours after he was released by his captors Monday from his own seven-month ordeal.

“On the one hand, I'm very happy to be reunited with my loved ones, my family,” the wealthy power broker said in a radio interview. “At the same time, I feel enormous pain to hear of the disgraces being done in this country, like the poor woman who was assassinated in Chihuahua.”

The Sinaloa cartel, waging a deadly battle with the rival Juarez cartel for control of the city, hung two banners early Tuesday claiming solidarity with Escobedo's family and offering to find her killer.

Escobedo's daughter, Rubi Frayre Escobedo, was killed in 2008 allegedly by her live-in boyfriend, Sergio Barraza, who was arrested then later released for lack of evidence.

Escobedo's death last week was captured on a surveillance video that showed a masked man shooting her point-blank in the head as she tried to flee — even though state security officials had been assigned to protect her.

Two days later, the body of Manuel Monge Amparan, 36, was found asphyxiated and wrapped in a blanket after his family business, “Lumber and Materials Monge,” was apparently deliberately set on fire, prosecutors said. Monge was the brother of Escobedo's partner, Jose Monge.

Read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Olivia Torres by clicking teh link below.

Mead man pleads guilty in wife’s slaying

Jeffrey N. Canino pleaded guilty today to second-degree murder for the Dec. 2, 2009, slaying of his wife, 43-year-old Michelle Canino.

As part of the plea, Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor John Love agreed to drop a two-year weapon enhancement.

He recommended that Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke sentence Canino, 47, to 15 years in prison at hearing scheduled for Jan. 21.

Canino provided no explanation for his actions.

Read Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 23, 2009: Bond, charge reduce in Mead murder

Dec. 8, 2009: Canino on meds for depression

Dec. 8, 2009: Victim may have sought divorce

Dec. 5, 2009: Family stunned by slaying

Woman duped in ‘grandparents scam’

Law enforcement is again warning of a swindle known as the grandparents scam after a 79-year-old Spokane Valley woman sent money to a con man claiming to be her grandson.

The woman called Crime Check on Monday and said a man claiming to be her grandson called on Dec. 9 and asked for money to bail out jail in Canada.

The victim believed him and sent a $2,750 money order to a man named “B” in New Jersey, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. She later realized it was scam.

Similar scams were reported last spring and in fall 2009. Anyone with an elderly relative should warn them of the scam.

“Citizens in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s grew up in a more trusting era and are particularly susceptible to this type of fraud,” according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. “Suspects can pick their victims from obituaries where the children and grandchildren are occasionally listed by name.”

Local jury mulling Pasco murder case

(AP) — A jury of 12 Spokane County residents is deliberating a verdict in the aggravated murder trial of a man accused of killing five men in 1987 at a Pasco auto body shop.

The trial that started Nov. 9 went to the jury Monday. Jurors deliberated for about four hours before going home, according to the Tri-Cty Herald. They returned this morning.

The 46-year-old defendant, Vicente Ruiz, decided not to take the witness stand.

His lawyers say it's a case of mistaken identity.

Another man charged in the shootings was convicted and sentenced to a life in prison. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty if Ruiz is convicted.

This is his third murder trial. The case was moved to Spokane after two mistrials in Franklin County.

Read an in-depth story from the Herald on the trial's closing arguments by clicking the link below.

3-strikes trial leads to perjury charge

A Spokane man has been charged with perjury for testimony given at a trial 18 months ago. 

Antonine G. Marshall, 26, (pictured) is accused of lying during a trial in April 2009 in which Dwight L. “Hard” Russ was convicted and sent to prison for life under the state’s three-strikes law.

Marshall initially told police he arrived at the home with two men he couldn’t identify, and that he didn’t go inside the home, according to an affidavit by Spokane police Detective Lonnie Tofsrud.

But at trial, Marshall testified that he was allowed inside the home and possessed a firearm but never pointed it at anybody. He said Russ, a convicted felon prohibited from possessing firearms, never touched the gun, but several other witnesses testified to the contrary, police say.

Russ was convicted of first-degree burglary and second-degree assault and is serving a life sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary. Marshall, who had no previous felony convictions, already had pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and two counts of second-degree assault in May 2008 and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest him on the new perjury charge, which Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla filed on Nov. 9.

Marshall, 5-foot-8 and 220 pounds, is a transient. Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Assault suspect avoids officer gunfire

A state probation officer nearly shot a Spokane woman last week after she tried running him over in an SUV to avoid arrest, according to police.

 Judith M. Freese, 53, faces a first-degree assault charge for a confrontation with Department of Corrections Officer James Hathaway that Hathaway said made him fear for his life.

Hathaway said he and DOC Officer Anita Jones were about to arrest Freese on a probation violation for a drug conviction Dec. 15 when she fled the DOC office at 1717 W. Broadway and started her Ford Explorer.

She ignored commands to stop the SUV and instead accelerated toward Hathaway, who fell back and tried to draw his firearm when he regained his balance, police said.

Hathaway said he didn’t shoot Freese because Jones was in his crossfire, according to a police report.

The driver’s side mirror of Freese’s SUV struck Hathaway as she sped away, according to police. Police found the SUV the next day at Freese’s brother’s home.

She was booked into jail Friday night and remains in jail on $75,000 bond and a probation hold after appearing Monday in Superior Court.

Neighbor dispute ends in deadly attack

A North Idaho woman died Monday after she and three others were bludgeoned with a hammer in what authorities describe as an ongoing neighbor dispute that took a violent twist.

A suspect, Larry W. Cragun, 31, was arrested after employees at several Bayview businesses said he walked in after the attack and said he’d “just killed four people with a hammer,” according to police reports.

Cragun, who residents say has a history of odd behavior, remains in Kootenai County Jail on $1 million bail, charged with murder in the beating death of Patricia A. Heath, 43. Three others survived the attack, though one remains in critical condition.

The attack at Heath’s mobile home at 34552 N. Limekiln Road in Bayview followed weeks of problems between her family and Cragun, including bizarre claims by the suspect that authorities say were unfounded.

Read my full story here.

Cops: Girlfriend’s hoodie reveals robber

A 28-year-old man accused of robbing a downtown Spokane convenience store remains in jail on $75,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court today.

Zachariah T. Puckett was armed with a 12-inch kitchen knife when threatened a clerk at Divine food mart and gas station, 1428 W. 2nd Ave., and stole more than $200, according to Spokane police.

Puckett was wearing a sweatshirt that zipped all the way to the top of the hood with two eyes pictured on the front of the hood.

Police found Puckett’s girlfriend wearing the same sweatshirt a short while later at 151 S. Adams Street, then saw a pile of cash “laying on the bed from the open front door,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

The woman allowed police to search the apartment. They found Puckett in the laundry room.
He and his girlfriend were regular customers at the store. (Disclaimer: So am I.)

Puckett already had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to show up for a court hearing related to a second-degree theft case. Now he’s in jail on a first-degree robbery charge, too.

Boss assaults man who flipped him off

A propane company supervisor recently was convicted of misdemeanor assault for attacking an employee who flipped him off last summer.

A jury convicted John Wilkinson, a supervisor for Ferrellgas, of fourth-degree assault last week after a one-day trial Stevens County, said Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen.

Wilkinson was in the back lot at the Ferrellgas office on Aug. 26 when an employee “made a vulgar sign to him with his middle finger” and Wilkinson got out of his truck and confronted him, Rasmussen said in his weekly column.

The men argued, and the employee ended up with bruises on his neck that he said were caused by Wilkinson shoving him up against a wall and choking him. The fight was related to an incident two days earlier, Rasmussen said.

The jury deliberated about 45 minutes before convicting Wilkinson, who was represented by Peter Jones. Lech Radzimski prosecuted the case.

Past employees are expected to speak at Wilkinson’s sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 5.

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

Delay expected in Otto Zehm trial

The criminal case against Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. now has a slim chance of proceeding in March after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday agreed to speed up its review of the appeal that stopped the case cold in June. 

The federal appeals court will hear the case in February after prosecutors appealed U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle’s ruling that they could not present evidence that mentally ill janitor Otto Zehm had not committed a crime on March 18, 2006, when he was confronted by Thompson. Zehm died two days later.

“Appeals before trial are so rare that it does not surprise me that the circuit decided to speed up the process,” said attorney Jeffry Finer, who represents the Zehm estate in a separate civil case.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Court OKs evidence review for Knox

PERUGIA, Italy (AP) — Amanda Knox won an important victory in her appeals trial of her murder conviction in Italy on Saturday, when a court ruled that it will allow an independent review of crucial DNA evidence after defense claims that samples were inconclusive and possibly contaminated.

The lower court trial, which convicted the American student a year ago and sentenced her to 26 years in Italian prison, had rejected a similar defense request for an outside review of DNA found on the bra clasp of the victim, her British roommate Meredith Kercher, and on a knife the prosecution alleged was used in the fatal stabbing attack.

Kercher’s body was found in a pool of blood on Nov. 2, 2007, her throat slit in the apartment she shared with Knox. Forensic experts said she was killed the night before.

Knox burst into tears, in a sign of a release of tension, said her stepfather Chris Mellas. “She’s a happy mess,” he said, smiling.

She was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher in the rented house they shared in the university town of Perugia, where both were studying. The co-defendant in the appeals trial is her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito (left), an Italian who was convicted of the same charges and sentenced to 25 years. Both deny any wrongdoing.

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

Police shootings raise notion of inquests

In Montana, coroner’s inquests are conducted for every fatal police shooting in that state and whenever someone dies in law enforcement custody. The same requirement exists in Nevada, with Las Vegas authorities taking the extra step of televising their inquests. And elsewhere, communities are embracing inquests to help ensure public accountability as the number of officer-involved shootings escalates.

Now, following a rash of fatal police shootings statewide, including four in the past four months in Spokane County, some legislators want to make inquests mandatory in Washington, too. King County typically holds inquests into officer-involved shootings and allows a lawyer for the family of the deceased to participate. Legislation to require inquests for all fatal law enforcement shootings and in-custody deaths in the state is expected to be introduced during the 2011 session.

“This is a quicker, more transparent way to understand what taxpayer-paid servants – public servants – are doing,” said state Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an intended bill sponsor. “These inquests answer what long, drawn-out litigation otherwise would have answered … and when they do it, they speak with authority.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Medical examiners in Spokane County have avoided inquests and county commissioners have largely steered clear of the issue even though Prosecutor Steve Tucker publicly called for greater use of inquests in 2006 after the fatal Spokane police confrontation with Otto Zehm, the unarmed, mentally ill janitor mistakenly identified as a theft suspect. The last inquest conducted here was 29 years ago.

Read Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Bayview hammer attack investigated

Four people reportedly were hospitalized this afternoon apparently after being attacked in their Bayview, Idaho trailer home by a hammer-wielding neighbor.

Details were sketchy and the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department did not return calls Sunday seeking information, but residents said authorities at the scene of the attack indicated four people were injured, some with head wounds, and rushed to area hospitals. No condition reports were available. The attack occurred at a mobile home along Limekiln Road, said Herb Huseland, who lives nearby.

Husseland said the suspect, who is his next door neighbor, reportedly called the sheriff’s office from a local restaurant to turn himself in. Recently, the suspect had “tacked up a letter to the community accusing the government of invading his mind,” Huseland said in a posting on his community blog, Bay Views, about the attack.

Huseland is a freelance writer who contributes to The Spokesman-Review’s soon-to-be-discontinued Handle Extra section covering neighborhood news in North Idaho.

3 men nominated for U.S. District judge

Wenatchee attorney Stanley Bastian, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Rice and Spokane attorney Les Weatherhead have been nominated for federal judge in the Eastern District of Washington.

U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell forwarded their names Friday to President Barack Obama for consideration after a bipartisan committee selected them.

Weatherhead represents the Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.

The White House will most likely make the final selection from those three, Murray spokesman Matt McAlvanah said.

The appointee would replace U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley, who recently took senior status.

3rd suspect arrested in robbery spree

A third suspect in a series of convenience store robberies was arrested early today.

Aaron L. Goldstein, 18, was caught trespassing inside a building in the 400 block of South Bernard and driven to the Public Safety Building, where interviews with Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Mike Ricketts connected him to six recent robberies, according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Two other suspects, Sean T. Smith and Vanessa E. Orr, both 23, were arrested Wednesday during a SWAT team raid at the Crossland Motel, 12803 E. Sprague Ave.

Ricketts believes the three robbed the Holiday gas station, 2303 N. Argonne Road, on Dec. 4, as well as Sam’s Stop and Shop, 11505 E. Sprague Ave., on Nov. 28.

Orr reportedly admitted to being in the car during several robberies and said she’d driven to and from the Holiday gas station holdup, according to court documents. She was released from jail on her recognizance Thursday after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court on a conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery charge.

Smith remains in jail on a Department of Corrections probation hold. Goldstein has been booked on one count of fist-degree robbery, Reagan said.

Gregoire blocks release of cop shooter

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Chris Gregoire has blocked the release of an Iowa man convicted of nearly killing a Richland police officer 28 years ago, her office announced Friday.

The governor signed the order Thursday night canceling the parole release of Jerry Dean Lain (pictured in 1982 and in 2010). He had been scheduled for release Monday by order of Washington’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.

 ”It is rare for a governor to exercise this power,” Gregoire said in a statement. “But I reviewed the case and concluded there is an unacceptable level of risk to public safety here that called for me to act.”

The governor has the authority to overrule the board, but it’s not known when it was last used.

“We don’t think it’s been used in at least 30 years, if ever,” said Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren. 

Former Richland officer Mike Fitzpatrick had asked Gregoire to intervene. Fitzpatrick was stabbed seven times and shot in the face and abdomen in 1982 after he approached Lain, he was seen prowling cars.

Lain was convicted of assault and has been in prison ever since.

If he had been released, he was to go to Iowa, where he was wanted on violating parole for a stabbing in a bar fight. 

Rowlanda Cawthon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, said that Lain would have been released to a “work release center/halfway house” in Sioux City. 

In her order, Gregoire noted that Lain has had more than 20 infractions while in prison, including threatening staff.

While he hadn’t been cited for any problems since 2004, Gregoire wrote that she was concerned by a 2009 risk evaluation that found Lain was placed in a group “at a high risk of recidivism for both general and violent crimes in the range of medium to high risk.”

“I am particularly concerned that the potential for violence would be escalated in any future contact with law enforcement officers that could lead to revocation of his parole release,” she said.

Gregoire wrote that while Lain, 53, has made “creditable gains” during his time in prison, including educational courses, anger management classes and vocational experience, “I conclude that his rehabilitation is not complete and he is not a fit subject for release from prison.”

Pasco murder trial wraps up in Spokane

(AP) — Vicente Ruiz decided not to take the witness stand Wednesday in the final day of testimony at his aggravated murder trial in Spokane.

The Tri-City Herald reports jurors had a day off Thursday while lawyers debate jury instructions. The case is expected to go to the jury today after closing arguments.

The 46-year-old Ruiz is accused of being one of two men who killed five men and wounded another in a 1987 shooting at a Pasco auto body shop. His lawyers say it’s a case of mistaken identity.

This is his third murder trial. The case was moved to Spokane after two mistrials in Franklin County.

Read in-depth trial coverage from the Herald by clicking the link below.

Reward offered for tips on sex offender

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest a homeless sex offender who hasn’t registered with authorities.

William Michael Polinsky, 42, was convicted of third-degree child rape in 1991.

He’s a level 1 sex offender, the classification considered least likely to reoffend, but he hasn’t checked in with authorities and a $10,000 arrest warrant was issued on Nov. 18, according to court records.

Polinsky’s criminal history includes convictions for third-degree theft, attempting to elude a police vehicle, drunken driving, hit and run collision, making false statements and third-degree driving while license suspended.

Polinsky, 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, is a transient, which means he’s required to check in with authorities every week.

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

Duo suspected in armed robbery spree

Two 23-year-old transients were arrested this week on suspicion of a string of armed robberies at local convenience stores.

Sean T. Smith and Vanessa E. Orr were arrested at the Crossland Motel, 12803 E. Sprague Ave. Wednesday after a sheriff’s SWAT team raid.

Detectives identified the two as suspects through tips and say Orr told him she didn’t know the robber but had “unwittingly became involved,” according to court documents.

Smith reportedly admitted to being in the car used in five robberies, including a holdup Dec. 4 at the Holiday Gas station, 2303 N. Argonne Road. Sheriff’s detectives have not publicly identified the man Smith said actually robbed the stores.

Smith told detectives he and Orr split proceeds with the man and another individual. Smith said he spent his money on meth, “which he would distribute later to make a profit,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

The affidavit does not list other robberies detectives believe are connected to the two.

Orr was released from jail on her own recognizance Thursday after appearing in Superior Court on a conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery charge.

Smith remains in jail on a Department of Corrections probation hold.

Shellye Stark’s convictions overturned

The murder conviction against a Spokane woman who claimed she killed her husband in self defense after years of forced prostitution has been thrown out by a state appeals court.

In a 3-0 ruling, the appellate court’s 3rd division ordered a new trial for Shellye L. Stark, who is serving a 51-year prison sentence for the Dec. 9, 2007, shooting death of Dale R. Stark at 1620 S. Maple on Spokane’s South Hill.

The judges found fault with the trial court’s jury instructions and other legal technicalities.

Read my full story here.

Click here for past coverage. (I covered every day of the trial.)

LAPD releases pics in serial killer case

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police found a stash of sexually explicit photographs and home videos of scores of women when they searched the home of a car mechanic accused of the “Grim Sleeper” serial killings.

Now, they want to know who the women are and what might have happened to them.

Detectives sought the public’s help Thursday when they released images of about 160 women and asked anyone who recognized them to come forward.

“We certainly do not believe that we are so lucky, or so good, as to know all of his victims,” Police Chief Charlie Beck (pictured at right) said. “We need the public’s help.”

Lonnie Franklin Jr. (pictured below) has pleaded not guilty to the murders of 10 women from 1985 to 1988 and from 2002 to 2007.  The  apparent 14-year pause in the alleged crimes led to the nickname “Grim Sleeper,” though detectives suspect Franklin could be involved in other deaths.

The photos and videos were found at Franklin’s home and garage during a three-day search after his July arrest.

“Now that we know who he is and what type of activity he is involved in with women, we are very concerned for everyone in these photographs,” Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said.

Police displayed the photographs for media and have made the images available online. By Thursday afternoon, the LAPD’s website had slowed to a crawl after its Texas-based server was strained by a massive surge in people trying to click through to the pictures.

In almost every photo, the subject is smiling at the camera. Some women could have been naked but it’s difficult to tell in the tightly cropped images. Others were photographed outside as part of a group photograph.

The women appear to be willing participants in what police said were sexually explicit images.

“It baffles me how he is so successful at getting women to do what he asks them to do,” Kilcoyne said. “It’s not like we have pictures of him holding a knife to someone’s neck.”

Detectives said the photos span decades and were taken on 35 mm film, Polaroids and digital cameras. Hairstyles range from 80s-style, big-bang blowouts to cornrow braids and a more contemporary flat-ironed look.

One picture, tagged No. 166, shows a woman in a nurse’s outfit. Her name badge reads: Ms. D. Johnson — a name so common that investigators were never able to track her down.

A Polaroid, No. 141, has the hand-scrawled name Deborah B. Cleveland beneath it along with the date Sept. 18, 2001, and the notation “B.K.A. Chocolate.” Photograph No. 172 shows a woman with rows of curlers in her hair.

The women range from young teens to 60-somethings. Except for two or three white women and a Latina, all the women are black. Some appear to be asleep.

Several known victims of the serial killer were said to be prostitutes. Detectives would not say if any of the women photographed might have been involved in the sex trade.

“We don’t want to go down that road,” Kilcoyne said. “For us to suggest the lifestyles or the situation that these women were in would defeat our plea to the public and to them to come forward.”

Kilcoyne said investigators found the photographs throughout Franklin’s house, including his garage and in his cars.

“Some were fallen behind items — cabinets and walls — others had been purposely secreted away,” he said.

All of Franklin’s alleged victims were killed within a few miles of his home, where neighbors knew him as a talented backyard mechanic.

Police also have said they suspect Franklin in the death of a man who may have discovered he was a killer. In addition, they are reviewing more than 30 other cold-case files to see if they can tie Franklin to other slayings.

Franklin was taken into custody last summer after his son was arrested and swabbed for DNA. Using a technique known as a familial DNA search, the sample came back as similar to evidence in the serial killings, ultimately leading police to Franklin.

Clear Channel Outdoor agreed to provide billboard space across Los Angeles to display the photos.

In a different case, Huntington Beach detectives in March were inundated with hundreds of phone calls and e-mails after they released more than 100 photos discovered in serial killer Rodney Alcala’s storage locker after his 1979 arrest.

More than 20 of the women were identified but none were victims.

The photos were released after Alcala was convicted of the murders of four women and a 12-year-old girl. He later was sentenced to death.

Child porn probe leads to Spokane man

A 44-year-old man was arrested Thursday after police connected him to hundred of images of child pornography.

Darrel W. Monzingo was taken into custody at his home at 3403 E. Fairview Ave., after detectives served a search warrant there about 9 a.m.

Spokane police Detective Jan Pofacher developed Monzingo as a suspect after Colorado detectives said they'd shared files with a Spokane man, according to a news release.

Investigators found pornographic videos and photos on Monzingo’s computers. His home is about a block from an elementary school.

Now he’s in jail on one count of possession of child pornography. Police say more charges are expected.

Cash flying out window reveals robbers

CEDAR BLUFF, Ala. (AP) — Authorities in Alabama say all they had to do to catch six bank robbery suspects was follow the money flying out the window of a speeding car.

The Gadsden Times reports that a deputy spotted the red Nissan Maxima cruising down a state highway, the cash left in its wake.

Cherokee County Sheriff Jeff Shaver says four gunmen took an undisclosed amount of money during the robbery Tuesday at Union State Bank.

He says the six suspects ditched their first getaway car and got into the Maxima to try and throw off authorities.

Shaver says all the suspects ran away after the car wrecked. But all six men were eventually arrested. One was found hiding in a garbage can by tracking dogs.

2nd arrest in slaying of Wenatchee teen

WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) — A friend of the man accused of killing a Wenatchee beauty school student has been arrested and accused of criminal assistance.

The Mackenzie Cowell Homicide Task Force says 22-year-old Tessa M. Schuyleman was arrested Wednesday night in Tumwater and jailed in Chelan County.

The task force says it found photos and video of Schuyleman and a bloodstained carpet that indicated she knew about the killing and helped Chris Wilson. 

The 29-year-old Wilson (left) was arrested in October and has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. He attended the Wenatchee beauty school with Cowell, who is pictured above.

Investigators say he killed her at his Wenatchee apartment in February of 2009 and left her body along the Columbia River at Crescent Bar.

Read more from the Wenatchee World by click the link below.

Stevens Co. prosecutor suing U.S. gov

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen is suing the federal government, alleging he was injured during security screening at the Spokane International Airport more than two years ago.

Rasmussen, who walks with canes, said he fell on the floor and injured his back and tailbone when Transportation Security Administration officials moved his canes and chair without telling him.

Rasmussen “fell violently to the floor” when he tried to sit down after screening, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by Spokane lawyers Michael Wolfe and Paul Mack.

Rasmussen filed a claim with the Transportation Security Administration in March regarding the April 4, 2008, incident, but the agency denied the claim “due to the passage of time,” according to the complaint.

“I’m increasingly handicapped as a result of this,” Rasmussen said on Thursday. “I eventually had surgery on my back because of this.”

The complaint seeks unspecified damages.

Video shows Group Health purse theft

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Spokane police are looking for tips that help identify two people who stole a purse from the lobby of a health care building.

Surveillance video shows a man and woman entering the lobby of Group Heath Cooperative, 322 W. North River Drive, about 11:50 a.m. on Dec. 2.

Police believe the two stole a purse from the waiting room floor. The purse was recovered in the parking lot, but items were missing. Police are looking for help identify the two featured int eh video.

The woman has dark hair is wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt with black pants and white shoes. The man is wearing tan shorts, white socks, a black, unzipped hooded jacket, a black shirt with a white shirt underneath and a black beanie hat with a white stripe.

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

Longtime felon indicted for guns, meth

A Spokane County man with dozens of criminal convictions dating back to the 1970s has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Gregory Cecil Early, 52, is charged with felon in possession a firearm and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine

The drug charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The gun charge carries 10 years, but if Early qualifies as an armed career criminal he’ll get at least 15 years.

And according to Crime Stoppers, the longtime felon is a shoo-in for that title.

A news release this month included this truly impressive list of convictions for Early: driving while license suspended, making false statements, third-degree assault on law enforcement, first-degree possession of stolen property, possession of controlled substance, manufacture of controlled substance, first-degree burglary, intimidation of witnesses, second-degree assault, attempting to elude a police vehicle, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, hit and run, indecent liberties, second-degree malicious mischief, reckless endangerment, third-degree theft and probation violation.

According to the Dec. 14 indictment in U.S. District Court, Early possessed methamphetamine, a .42 caliber pistol and a .32 caliber revolver on Oct. 25. Early also faces additional felony charges in Spokane County for drugs and car theft.

As of last week, Early was in custody in Whitman County, according to Crime Stoppers.

Teen accused of killing 2 dogs w/ ax

A Chattaroy teenager killed his family’s dogs after threatening his mother and grandmother with a knife on Monday, sheriff’s officials say.

Michael R. Shartle, 19, remains in jail on $20,000 bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court on Wednesday.

He was arrested Tuesday after deputies found evidence of brutal slayings in his family’s barn, where the teen reportedly told his mother on Monday that he’d killed their two dogs.

Read the rest of my story here.

Gold coins stolen in August recovered

The case of the missing gold coins has become one of recovered treasure – at least partly.

Spokane County Sheriff’s Detective Richard Gere has located some, and has information that may lead to the recovery of many more, of the gold and silver coins boosted during an August burglary from Spokane coin collector Dennis Miller.

Charged in the theft is Gary D. McCabe, 45, who recently was sentenced to seven years in prison for a 2009 burglary. McCabe is currently facing the same time in prison at a Jan. 10 trial for the Miller burglary.

“Through the good police work of Deputy Brandon Armstrong and Detective Richard Gere, they were able to recover part of the stolen coin collection,” Deputy Prosecutor Bob Sargent said. “Information gathered by the detectives so far indicates that others were involved and there is an ongoing investigation.”

Past coverage:

Oct. 12: Burglar stole more than gold

March 27, 2009: Arrests may crack burglaries

Burglary locks down elementary school

Spokane Valley police were searching Wednesday for at least three intruders who ransacked the home of Ernie Creach, son of slain Spokane Valley pastor Wayne Scott Creach.

Ernie Creach said his wife, Laura, arrived at their home Wednesday with their two young children and saw people inside the house near Eighth Avenue and Best Street.

“She thought I had called contractors to work in the house,” Ernie Creach said. “She went in the back door and they went out the other back door. There were at least three of them. Someone went out of a back window, so there may have been more than three.”

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that the three culprits were all white men in their 20s. The burglary locked down a nearby elementary school.

Read the rest of the story here.

New trial request alleges jury misconduct

Two Coeur d’Alene brothers convicted in October of a hate crime have requested a new trial, accusing the presiding juror of misconduct.

William Tankovich Jr. (below) and his brother Frank Tankovich (right) were convicted of felony malicious harassment and conspiracy to commit malicious harassment for a 2009 altercation with a Puerto Rican man, Kenneth Requena. 

The Tankoviches’ attorneys, Jedediah Whitaker and Chris Schwartz, said in their motions for a new trial that the presiding juror attempted to influence another juror “through the use of guilt, recrimination, harassment and the false display of authority.”

Read the rest of Allison Boggs’ story here.

Hayden man kills self during traffic stop

A Hayden man died Wednesday after shooting himself in the face during a traffic stop in Dalton Gardens, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

Robert J. Kilborn, 48, was driving a red Chevrolet Blazer when a deputy tried to stop him at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday near Government Way and Hanley Avenue for having a faulty exhaust system, according to a Sheriff’s Department news release.

Kilborn failed to stop and continued driving at about 20 miles per hour. Police followed him east on Hanley then south on Valley Street before he pulled into a driveway at 6167 N. Valley St. in Dalton Gardens, where a friend his apparently lived.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach’s story here.

Jail-for-court-debt process sparks suit

After crashing into another car during a police chase in 2001, Spokane resident Lisa Orvis served eight months in jail and was ordered to pay $24,000 restitution.

 A decade of accrued interest later, she owes the county $70,000 and has spent seven or eight stints at the Spokane County Jail for nonpayment.

Orvis doesn’t dispute that she owes the money. But she questions the legal process that put her in jail without a lawyer or a chance to explain herself.

“I never saw a judge, and I never went to any kind of hearing,” said Orvis, 45.

The state Supreme Court ruled that system unconstitutional last summer.

“What they haven’t ruled on is how all the hundreds of people who were jailed unconstitutionally should be compensated,” said Spokane lawyer Breean Beggs.

Beggs filed a complaint against Spokane County this month in U.S. District Court on behalf of Orvis and everyone else jailed under the county’s previous court collection system. A judge will determine whether it can proceed as a class-action suit.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

May 24, 2009: Debt to society

Baby sitter pleads guilty to manslaughter

A baby sitter who pushed a 3-year-old Post Falls boy, resulting in a fatal head injury, pleaded guilty Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter.

Amanda L. Skogen, 26, faces up to 15 years in prison when she’s sentenced early next year in Kootenai County District Court. Skogen pleaded guilty this afternoon and had her $1 million bond reduced to $100,000, said Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug.

“We’re pleased to see some resolution to this case,” Haug said.

Prosecutors says Skogen was on her knees when she violently shoved Cohen Johnson on Oct. 4, causing him to fall back and hit his head.

She confessed to shoving the boy after he wet his pants and reportedly told police: “I hurt a poor little defenseless boy … And it was all my fault.

Prosecutors sought a first-degree murder charge against Skogen, which is punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty, but Magistrate Judge Clark Peterson ruled earlier this month that involuntary manslaughter was the appropriate charge.

But Skogen and prosecutors agreed to a deal in which she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, which carries a possible extra five years in prison, said Prosecutor Barry McHugh.

Sheriff: Deaths may both be suicides

The Chattaroy couple found dead in a trailer home Friday tried to commit suicide in mid-October by overdosing on medication, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan said.

The couple, Warren A. Fugitt, 78, and Harriet A. Fugitt, 72, both died from gunshot wounds to the chest. Police initially called it a murder-suicide but now say they are not sure if one shot the other or if they each shot themselves.

A signed suicide note was found on the couple’s nightstand, according to a search warrant police obtained for the home.

Read Chelsea Bannach’s story here.

Murder suspect is former U.S. Marine

Friends say a man accused of shooting his girlfriend to death before attempting suicide on the Gonzaga University campus is a former U.S. Marine who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Tristen N. Jordan, 24, remains at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Angela Gilbert, of Spokane, said he’s under heavy police guard and that his family has not been allowed to see him.

“Never in a million years would we think he would have shot somebody,” Gilbert said. “He really is a loving and kind person, and he’s all about religion.”

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 13: Police: Murder suspect shot self on Gonzaga campus

Help arrives just in time for young girl

A Spokane County sheriff’s deputy’s quick actions may have saved the life of a 16-month-old girl who had stopped breathing Saturday.

Deputy Philip Pfeifer was responding to another call when he heard a medical call for a “child not breathing” in the 4900 block of East Upriver Drive and rushed to the scene, Sgt. Dave Reagan said.

Pfeifer found the child was not breathing, had bluish lips and no sign of consciousness. Her eyes rolled back into her head. After learning the mother had left the child with a cookie, Pfeifer moved the child’s head and neck to examine her airway to see if it was obstructed.

When he moved the girl, she began breathing again, and Pfeifer watched over her until paramedics arrived. The girl’s mother credited his quick response for potentially saving the little girl’s life.

Cops: Fugitive rams patrol car, escapes

A drug and stolen property suspect already sought by Crime Stoppers rammed a sheriff’s patrol car Tuesday while successfully eluding a deputy, authorities said.

Michael S. Wheeler, 36, sped away from Deputy Jeff Shover in a white Chevrolet pickup after Shover spotted him pulling out of a driveway in the 4900 block of East Deer Park-Milan Road and tried to pull him over, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Shover recognized Wheeler as being wanted on several arrest warrants. Wheeler sped away westbound on Eloika Lake Road from Milan-Elk Road, then rammed Shover’s patrol car at 5:07 p.m.

Shover was not injured, but his patrol car was “rendered inoperable,” according to the sheriff’s office. The car’s PIT bumper was torn off, the push bars were pushed back through the radiator, the oil pan was punctured and there was significant body damage, a news release said.

Wheeler was last seen northbound on Valley Road at high speed. His truck’s damaged tailgate hanging down and items were falling from the bed of the truck.

Wheeler faces a new assault charge for the alleged incident as well as previous charges of first-degree possession of stolen property, possession of a controlled substance and second-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Crime Stoppers has been offering a reward for tips that lead to his capture since October.

Wheeler, 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, last gave 35616 N. Highway 395 in Deer Park as his address. Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Man, 20, accused of breaking boy’s arm

A 20-year-old Spokane man is in jail on charges that he broke a young boy’s left arm.

Andrew J. Long told Spokane police that the boy, who is less than a year old, fell off a couch at 4925 E. Commerce Ave. on Saturday, but doctors said the injury was too severe.

Long was caring for the boy while his parents were out for the evening. He said he fell asleep with the boy on the coach and awoke to him crying. The boy underwent surgery to repair his arm.

Long remains in jail on $75,000 bond after appearing in court on a second-degree assault charge.

Cash Fry, 2 others arrested in gas theft

Three men suspected of trying to steal fuel from a commercial van were arrested early Tuesday.

Frank Millard Fry, 48; Cash L. Fry, 46; and Douglas Lee Curtis, 48, were jailed on theft charges after Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Darin Powers drove past Twilight Bedding, 12013 E. Trent, about 2:40 a.m. and saw two sets of feet standing on the other side of a van. A white pickup truck was parked closed by.

Frank Fry pulled a garden hose from the van’s fuel nozzle and jumped in the truck with Curtis. Powers held both men at gunpoint until help arrived. Cash Fry, who was in the driver’s seat of the truck, also was arrested.

Deputies recovered the hose used to steal gas and also recovered two automotive batteries that been removed from a vehicle by cutting the cables, according to a news release.

Man pleads guilty to 3 bank robberies

A bank robber arrested in Spokane last summer pleaded guilty today to three felonies for heists in Omak, Wenatchee and Moses Lake.

Cameron Len Gaunt, 28, of Chelan, will be sentenced March 3 in U.S. District Court. He’s been in federal custody at the Spokane County Jail since his arrest outside a Spokane motel room at 12803 E. Sprague Ave. on July 20.

Gaunt robbed  the Bank of America in Omak July 13, a Washington Trust Bank in Wenatchee on July 16 and a Washington Trust Bank in Moses Lake on Tuesday. The robberies netted more than $12,000, but a citizen’s tip led federal authorities to identify Gaunt as a suspect.

The crime spree came less than a month after Gaunt was released from federal prison  for passing counterfeit currency across the Pacific Northwest.

He had a prior history of passing forged checks and told police he was released from jail in June 2007 but soon became addicted to methamphetamine and “started hanging around the wrong crowd,” according to sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors.

Before his sentencing in August 2008, prosecutors predicted that, without “significant effort” on Gaunt’s part, his criminal behavior would continue after prison, according to court documents.

Gaunt remains in jail pending sentencing. Each count carries up to 20 years in prison.

Raid reveals meth, cash, Hydrocodone

A Spokane man was arrested this morning with a half-ounce of methamphetamine, $5,000 and a quantity of Hydrocodone.

Gerald A. Oglesbee, 41, (pictured in 2007) was booked into Spokane County Jail on three counts of delivery of meth and one count of possession of meth with intent to deliver, according to a news release by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

The Investigative Task Force says Oglesbee, 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, had video surveillance at his home at 1724 E. 1st Ave. when they arrived about 9 a.m.

The raid followed three undercover purchases of methamphetamine from the suspect, police said. Oglesbee’s previous convictions include burglary, bail jumping, assault and a firearms violation.

Also arrested at the home was Tianna R. Hurd, 28. She was booked into the Spokane County Jail on a previously issued civil bench warrant, according to a news release.

Cards could deal cold cases new clues

One Spokane woman is hoping to combine the two for a greater good.

Rita Amunrud wants to produce decks of playing cards that feature details of unsolved homicides and missing persons cases from Spokane County and distribute them among inmates inside state prisons.

Each card would promise a reward for helpful tipsters. The cards were designed nearly three years ago, but supporters haven’t raised enough money to get them printed.

Now, as the 40th anniversary of her mother’s unsolved murder approaches, Amunrud is trying to revitalize that effort.

“It’s going to take someone coming forward,” she said. “What better way to spread the word than through playing cards?”

Read my full story here.

Man arrested in sports card crime spree

A Spokane man remains in jail on $40,000 bond for an alleged theft spree at area sports cards shops.

Robert J. Frates, 27,went to Sports Cards Northwest, 13800 E. Sprague Ave., on Nov. 11 and offered to trade some cards for other merchandise. The owner recognized the cards as stolen and called police.

According to a news release, on Oct. 26, Collector’s Corner at 106 N. Evergreen Road was burgled, and lost nearly $10,000 worth of high-end sports cards. Two days later, Gameday Sports Cards, 9425 N. Division St., reported $400 worth of cards missing. Then on Nov. 3, Spokane Valley Sportscards, 9411 E. First, lost cards valued at nearly $5,000.

Frates was arrested Thursday and booked into Spokane County Jail on a charge of first-degree possession of stolen property, according to police. He’s to be arraigned on Dec. 21.

He has previous convictions for drugs, burglary, malicious mischief and stolen property charges

Murder victim: ‘Street kid’ w/ ‘huge heart’

Friends said a woman shot to death by her boyfriend on Sunday had a 9-month-old baby and lived with her mother at the Augusta Avenue home.

Michael Trout, who said he’s known Samantha Clark Franco (right) for about 10 years, said she attended Havermale High School but never graduated.

“She was pretty much a street kid,” Trout said. “She had a very tough life.”

Trout said Franco hadn’t been dating her accused killer, Tristen Jordan (left), long. He said he’s heard the couple was partying at the home when they got in an argument and Franco asked Jordan to leave. Jordan left, but returned with a gun, Trout said.

Police have not said what led to the deadly confrontation.

“I still haven’t grasped the fact that I’m not going to be able to go to her house and see her,” Trout said. “I can’t even imagine what her mom is going through.”

Read my full story here.

Witnesses sought in snowplow crash

Detectives are looking for witnesses to a fiery fatal crash between a pickup truck and a snowplow on U.S. Highway 195 last week.

William H. Adsit, 49, of Spangle, was killed when his southbound 1994 Ford Ranger pickup collided with a snowplow truck that was stopped on the shoulder of the outside lane at 8:49 p.m. on Dec. 7.

Reports at the time said the compact truck was speeding south on U.S. 195 when it crashed into the snowplow between Hatch and Mullen Hill roads and exploded into flames.

The Washington State Patrol major accident investigation team is looking for witnesses who saw the collision “or any event leading up to or following the crash,” according to a news release issued Monday.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Sergeant Jerry Cooper at (360) 805-1192 or Detective Curt Ladines at (360) 805-1160.

Body in Spokane River is missing man

Police have identified a body found in the Spokane River on Saturday as a mentally ill man who was reported missing last week.

The body of Patrick Willard, 66, was found under the Monroe Street Bridge on Saturday afternoon. Detectives are investigating, police said today.

Police last Tuesday asked for help in locating Willard, who suffered from dementia and schizophrenia, officers said.

He was last seen Dec. 7 in the 3400 block of East 30th Avenue.

OxyContin robber sentenced to 3 years

A man who robbed a Spokane pharmacy of OxyContin last May was sentenced recently to nearly three years in prison.

Robert K. Morris, 27, pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted robbery and was sentenced to 34 1/2 months in prison and ordered to pay $134 restitution.

Morris escaped the Walgreens at Division Street and Empire Avenue May 22 with just a small amount of pills; the stores have been keeping OxyContin in time-lock safes since fall 2009.

No charges were filed against Morris’ unsuspecting driver after the man passed a polygraph test. Morris was sentenced on Thursday and is in Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to state prison.

Amanda Knox makes emotional appeal

PERUGIA, Italy – Convicted murderer Amanda Knox broke into tears Saturday as she made an emotional address to an appeals court in Italy, saying she was the innocent victim of an “enormous mistake” and that her life had been “broken” by three years in jail.

In her address to the court, the 23-year-old American reached out for the first time to the family of Meredith Kercher, the British girl she was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing in 2007 when they were roommates on a student exchange program in Perugia.

Knox, from Seattle, denied being the “dangerous, diabolical, jealous, uncaring, violent” person described by the prosecution.

Last year, Knox was convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Also convicted of the same charges was Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian who is Knox’s former boyfriend. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Both deny wrongdoing and have appealed the verdict.

Read the rest of the AP story here.

Murder-suicide suspected in Chattaroy

Detectives are investigating the deaths of an elderly man and woman in Chattaroy as a murder-suicide, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Their bodies were discovered today in a trailer in the 3100 block of East Chattaroy Road. Both are in their 70s.

Fire personnel found a body on the floor of the home after an out-of-sate relative called the sheriff’s office about 9:50 a.m. and asked that deputies check on the couple.

Fire crews left the home to wait for law enforcement after discovering the body.

“Names, cause of death, and manner of death will be provided after autopsy Monday,” sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.

Renter arrested after escapee caught

A jail inmate who escaped from work crew was arrested Thursday at a home in the South Perry Neighborhood, leading to the renter’s arrest on a criminal assistance charge. 

Jason W. Breedlove, 37, was allowed out of Geiger Corrections Center with a work crew despite a recent recommendation from booking officials that he be placed in a more secure facility, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. He walked away from snow clean up on Dec. 1.

Breedlove is charged with several property crimes in Kootenai County, including a car prowling at Capone’s Pub and Grill last summer, according to court records.

Read my full story here.

Stolen truck pursuit ends at Wal-Mart

Three people were arrested after a police chase, which included a near head-on crash, led officers to the Airway Heights Wal-Mart.

The incident began about 11:45 a.m. Thursday when a resident in the 500 block of North Martin in Medical Lake said his 2002 Ford Ranger had been stolen. A wallet with credit cards was stolen from a car in the 900 block of North Minnie, about a block away, about that same time, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said today.

Airway Heights police found the stolen Ranger in the Northern Quest Casino parking lot about 12:15 p.m. and saw a man try to drive it away.

Two deputies tried to block the Ranger, “but the driver accelerated directly at them,” according to a news release. The deputies braked, and the Ranger sped away southbound on Hayford Road.

Three people jumped from the truck, which crashed into a snow berm near Hayford and Highway 2. The driver, Phillip J. Young, 22, of Mead, was arrested at gunpoint after deputies saw him digging into his pocket as he ran. They recovered a black pellet gun from his pocket.

Arrested at the nearby Wal-Mart were Stephanie Louise Kupien, 30, of Newman Lake, and Charles W. Kerney, 42, of Spokane. Police found receipts for purchases made with the stolen credit cards and connected them to Young and Kupien, according to a news release.

No one was injured during the pursuit and arrests. 

“Young told deputies that he had avoided capture by police in numerous pursuits by driving a high speeds through densely populated neighborhoods,” according to a news release.  “The police call off the pursuit all the time,” he said.

Young was sentenced in October to 90 days in jail with credit given for 55 days served, after pleading guilty to three counts of second-degree possession of stolen property.

Now he’s in jail on new charges of second-degree theft, second-degree assault, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and attempting to elude police.  Kupien was booked for second-degree theft and Kerney was arrested on an outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrant.

Florida pardons Doors’ Jim Morrison

 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Forty years after Jim Morrison was convicted of exposing himself at a wild Miami concert, this is the end: Florida’s Clemency Board, egged on by departing Gov. Charlie Crist, pardoned The Doors’ long-dead singer Thursday.

Some people who were at the Miami show March 1, 1969, insist even today that he exposed himself, though others in the audience and Morrison’s bandmates contend he was just teasing the crowd and only pretended to do the deed. Crist, (below, left) tuned in to the controversy by a Doors fan, said there was enough doubt about what happened at the Dinner Key Auditorium to justify a pardon.

The board, which consists of Crist and a three-member Cabinet, voted unanimously to pardon Morrison on indecent exposure and profanity charges as they granted several other pardons Thursday. At the hearing, the governor called the convictions a “blot” on the record of an accomplished artist for “something he may or may not have done.”

  He said Morrison died before he was afforded the chance to present his appeal, so Crist was doing that for him. Board members pointed out several times that they couldn’t retry the case but that the pardon forgave Morrison and negated his sentence.

  “In this case the guilt or innocence is in God’s hands, not ours,” Crist said.

Morrison had received a six-month jail sentence — never served — and a $500 fine for the 1970 convictions, which carried consequences for the band. Ray Manzarek, The Doors’ keyboard player, said Miami was supposed to be the start of a 20-city tour, but every venue canceled after Morrison’s arrest.

“We had the mandate of heaven, and I think at that moment, he lost the mandate of heaven,” Manzarek said. “In the recording studio, the magic stayed, but I think at that moment in Miami, the live performance magic left for a little while and then came back intermittently.”

Morrison’s appeals were never resolved. He was found dead in a Paris bathtub in 1971 at age 27. No official cause of death was ever issued — his manager said he died of “natural causes.”

Manzarek and Doors guitarist Robby Krieger supported the pardon because they say Morrison never exposed himself, though they agreed Florida’s move will have little effect on Morrison’s wild, outsized, drug-addled rock ‘n’ roll image.

“Jim’s legacy is one of Dionysian madness and frenzy and of a chaotic American poet. I don’t think that the Miami episode has altered his image one iota,” Manzarek said.

The pardon isn’t enough for Patricia Kennealy Morrison, who says she married Morrison in a ceremony that was never made official. She wanted the convictions expunged and called the pardon “a complete cheap, cynical, political ploy.”

“I have a real problem with the semantics of a pardon. The pardon says that all his suffering and all that he went through during the trial, everything both of us went through, was negated,” she said.

Kennealy Morrison says she exchanged vows with Morrison in a Celtic pagan ceremony. Morrison left his entire estate to another woman, Pamela Courson, a longtime girlfriend who was with him when he died. Courson died in 1974.

Kennealy Morrison said Morrison’s convictions led to his demise, and that of the band. She said he felt like he “had been made a scapegoat of the counterculture movement.”

“He cared about it. It affected him deeply. In fact, I think it was one of the contributory causes of his death, actually. It certainly destroyed The Doors, pretty much. They didn’t perform so much as a group after Miami, after the verdict came through,” she said.

Manzarek and Krieger said Morrison’s main interest in appealing the case was avoiding jail time.

“He wouldn’t give a (expletive)” about a pardon, Krieger said. “He would think it was old news.”

Here’s what most people who were at the concert agree on: The Doors went on stage late. The auditorium was oversold and wasn’t air conditioned. Morrison was drunk and stopped in the middle of songs with an anti-authority, profanity-riddled rant.

A live lamb was brought on stage at one point, and Morrison also grabbed a police officer’s hat and threw it in the crowd. The singer took off his shirt and fiddled with his belt, and fans poured onto the stage.

“There were 100 photos offered in evidence at the trial, photos of everything — Jim with the lamb, Jim with the hat, on the stage collapsing, riot in the audience. Not one photo of Jim’s magnificent member,” said Manzarek.

“It never actually happened. It was mass hypnosis,” he said.

Krieger added: “Nobody would like to have that charge hanging over their head even if they are dead. I’m sure his family would be happy to see that go, especially since it never happened.”

While Morrison denied exposing himself, he defended the use of nudity in theater even after his arrest. And he never toned down his lifestyle.

The fact that Morrison didn’t change his life is exactly why he shouldn’t have been pardoned, said retired Miami police sergeant Angel Lago, who came to Tallahassee to speak against the pardon. While he wasn’t on the police force at the time of the concert, he said a friend testified at the trial that Morrison exposed himself. He firmly said his friend wouldn’t have lied under oath.

“The man is not worthy of this. I don’t care if he was a poet, I don’t care if he walked on water,” Largo told reporters during a break in the meeting.

Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, began considering a pardon for Morrison in 2007 after fan David Diamond of Dayton, Ohio, contacted him, and began pursuing it after he lost a bid for U.S. Senate last month. He steps down as governor next month.

Risky fugitive? Not quite, lawyer says

A Spokane woman wanted on a robbery charge was named a dangerous fugitive by Crime Stoppers a week after her public defender filed paperwork objecting to her arrest warrant.

 Monica R. “Boo” Sanders, 33, pleaded not guilty to first-degree robbery Thursday and had her warrant recalled, said her lawyer, Tracy Scott Collins.

Collins said the public has no reason to fear Sanders.

“She doesn’t have any history - just this one case - and it involved somebody that she knew,” Collins said.

Sanders is a single mother with no previous criminal convictions, though Crime Stoppers said she has a 19-year arrest record. Sanders was charged Nov. 17 for an incident in September in which an $18,000 piece of jewelry worn during the filming of a rap music video led to a robbery and assault that included the theft of the victim’s pants.

Several others are charged in the case.

“She is probably one of the ones who was least involved in the whole thing,” Collins said.

Sanders’ trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 28.

Stop for help leads to DUI, pot arrest

A Deer Park man was arrested early today after a deputy who stopped to help him with his broken down truck found $1,200 and nearly two ounces of marijuana in the vehicle.

Trevor L. Weger, 30, was with his Toyota pickup at Highway 395 and Hatch Road when Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Robert Brooke contacted him about 2:45 a.m.

Brooke said Weger appeared to be intoxicated and called a state trooper for assistance. The trooper arrested Weger for driving under the influence; and a passenger who was later released handed Brooke a plastic container with four baggies of marijuana.

The trooper, who Sgt. Dave Reagan said was searching for vehicle registration, found cash and marijuana in the truck’s center console. The pot weighed 47 grams, and police counted more than $1,200 in cash, according to a news release by Reagan.

Weger was booked into Spokane County Jail on a drunken driving charge and a felony charge of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

Fugitive w/ shotgun captured by police

Two Spokane police officers chased down and arrested a wanted man who was armed with a sawed-off shotgun this week.

Officers Jeff McCollough and Terry Preuninger learned James D. Bacon, 23, (pictured) wanted for a felony drug violation and a Department of Corrections violation, was at the corner of Wellesley Avenue and Regal Street about 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the Spokane Police Department.

They recognized him when they approached the intersection and ordered him to stop, but Bacon fled on foot, running a block before he slipped and fell on the snow behind a house, a news release said.

When the officers approached Bacon, they recognized him and ordered him to stop. Ignoring their commands, Bacon fled on foot, running a block before he slipped and fell on the snow behind a house, the news release said.

McCollough (left) and Preuninger (right) caught up to him and attempted to arrest him, but Bacon resisted, according to the release. Bacon had a can of pepper spray in a holster on his right hip and kept pulling at something on his left hip, police said. Preuninger got a hold of Bacon’s hand and discovered he was trying to pull out a sawed-off shotgun he had concealed in his pants on his left hip.

Bacon is on probation for fourth-degree assault, according to news archives, and has other convictions for obstructing an officer and escape from community custody.

He appeared in Superior Court on Wednesday and remains in jail on $50,000 bond and a probation hold.

An initial report said the arrest happened Thursday because of incorrect information provided by police.

Parole hearing to proceed w/o Downs

UPDATE: Downs was denied parole and must wait 10 years for her next hearing. The Oregonian reports she still maintained her innocence at the videoconference hearing today in Salem.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Convicted Oregon child killer Diane Downs says she won’t participate in a parole hearing set for today, so the hearing will proceed without her.

Downs made the same threat in 2008 when she was first eligible for release but then took  part.

This hearing will take place in Salem, but Downs can testify via video from Chowchilla, Calif., where she is imprisoned at the Valley State Prison for Women.

“We are having a hearing with or without Miss Downs,” said Jeremiah Stromberg, executive director of the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision.

The Oregonian reports Downs has written two recent letters to the board, including one Nov. 30 saying she won’t be at the hearing. In that letter, she calls for her release, saying “I’ve never resorted to violence.”

Convicted in 1984, Downs is serving a life sentence plus 55 years for murdering her 7-year-old daughter and severely wounding her 8-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son on a rural road outside Springfield. She has said the children were shot by a carjacker.

Prosecutors say her motive was an affair with a married man who rejected her children. Her case inspired the Ann Rule book “Small Sacrifices.”

The Oregonian says her recent letter reveals details of a sealed psychological report. Downs objects to the doctor’s evaluation of her as intolerant, subject to “stifled anger” and “worse off now than I was in 2008.”

She also complains about being moved among cells and separated from other inmates for her own protection.

Downs, 55, writes that it’s stressful “when Ann Rule’s movie comes on TV and people want to kill me.”

And her letter includes a fantasy about how she would react if she were free and recognized on the street: “I’d just say, ‘I’m not Diane Downs. I know I look a little like her. But doesn’t she have real deep crow’s feet?’”

When the board denied her parole in 2008, Downs had the right to a new hearing two years later. But an Oregon law that went into effect in January gives the board authority to make an inmate wait a decade between hearings.

A prosecutor wants the board to make use of that law in Downs’ case.

Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner singled her out in a recent letter to the parole board, saying that “offenders such as Downs are precisely why” the law was amended by the 2009 Legislature, the Statesman Journal reported.

“Downs is well aware of the likelihood that she will never be paroled. As such, she has used the parole hearings process as a means of publicizing her latest revelations and conspiracy accusations, rather than as a means of seeking rehabilitation,” he said.

At her first parole hearing in 2008, Downs provided baffling testimony, portraying herself as the victim of conspirators out to get her and her family. The board ruled that she still posed a danger to society and must remain in prison.

Gardner is urging the board to refuse parole for Downs again and suspend any further parole consideration for a decade.

Officers in fatal Hillyard shooting ID’d

Two Spokane officers who fatally shot at a 34-year-old man outside a Hillyard bar on Saturday have been identified as Cpl. Zac Storment and Officer Chris Douville. 

Storment and Douville (lefto to right) shot at Jeremy Groom as he was pointing a gun at another man in the parking lot of the Special K Bar and Grill, 3817 N. Market St., about 9:37 p.m.

Police performed CPR, but Groom (pictured below) died at the scene.

  Storment, 37, has 10 years experience with the Spokane Police Department. Douville, 26, has two years experience. The men, who were interviewed by investigators on Wednesday, remain on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is leading the probe.

Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan would not say how many shots the men fired, citing pending interviews with witnesses. The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office has refused to say how many times Groom was shot.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 7: Man had gun aimed at friend when police arrived at bar

Jury acquits man of attempted murder

A Deer Park man was acquitted Thursday of allegations that he’d kidnapped his wife and her new lover and tried to throw them off a bridge.

 A jury of seven men and five women found David E. Epley (pictured) not guilty of two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree kidnapping for the May 12, 2009, incident.

“I think it was grossly overcharged,” said Epley’s lawyer, Gloria Ochoa. “At most what (prosecutors) had was maybe an assault, but it was not first-degree premeditated attempted murder.”

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Kyle Treece declined comment. The jury deliberated for about a day.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 2: Trial begins in love triangle case

Oct. 5, 2009: Police: Accused killer wrote rape suspect’s alleged victim

June 1, 2009: New charges in bridge-pushing case

May 13, 2009: Man charged with kidnapping, attempted murder

Jury convicts woman in cop-car crash

A jury today convicted a Spokane woman of three counts of vehicular assault for a crash that injured three police detectives last summer.

Tonia S. Vansant, 38, faces 33 to 43 months in prison when she’s sentenced Jan. 6, said Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady.

Vansant has been in jail since July 16, when she ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue at nearly 40 mph and t-boned an unmarked patrol car driven by Detective Mark Burbridge of the Spokane Police Department’s major crimes unit. 

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 9: Trial begins in crash that hurt detectives

July 17: Spokane police detectives injured in crash

Group helps friends of violence victims

Her stepdaughter’s children were her top priority, and Tina Crone devoted herself to their care. 

She took them in, eventually won custody and sought counseling to help the two accept the traumatic loss of their mother, Becky Brosnan, who was beaten to death by her estranged husband – the children’s father – in February 2009.

But Crone (pictured) struggled to cope with Brosnan’s sudden and violent death.

Talking about her only brought tears, so she buried her feelings and tried to ignore the nagging pain that burned each day.

“I was literally crying every single day,” Crone said. “I thought I could handle it on my own, but you really can’t.”

Crone credits an intensive therapy group with helping her cope.

Read the rest of my story here.

Tips sought on missing man w/ dementia

Spokane police are asking for help finding a 66-year-old man last seen in the 3400 block of East 30th Avenue on Monday. 

Patrick Willard has dementia and schizophrenia, according to police. He was last seen wearing a red flannel jacket, jeans and a baseball cap. Police say he likely is on foot.

Willard is 5-foot-9 and 100 pounds with long dark hair and a long gray beard.

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

Traffic stops yields cocaine, Ecstasy

Two men arrested on assault charges last summer were arrested again early today after a traffic stop for vehicle equipment violations led to the discovery of cocaine, Ecstasy, marijuana and misdemeanor warrants.

John Paul Ledoux, 21, and Cousteau C. Wright, 22, were arrested after Spokane Valley police Officer Justin Elliot stopped a Chevrolet Malibu in which they were passengers about 1:30 a.m. on East Sprague Avenue.

The Malibu was missing its rear bumper and had an inoperative license plate light, police said. The driver and two other passengers weren’t arrested, but Ledoux was taken into custody on a warrant for malicious mischief. Police found two small baggies of cocaine in his pockets, according to a news release.

Wright was arrested on a warrant for driving while license suspended. Police found a zippered pouch with a glass marijuana pipe, cocaine, and five Ecstasy tablets that the other occupants said belonged to Wight.

Both Ledoux and Wright were booked into jail on new drug charges.

Both men are scheduled for trial next month on first-degree assault charges for a June 21 incident in which a man was stabbed in the shoulder and a teen girl was hit in the neck with the handle of a hammer.

.354 DUI suspect: ‘Not enough’ booze

A suspected drunken driver whose blood-alcohol content registered at .354 told police he hadn’t had enough to drink.

Donald J. Lafavor, 66, was driving southbound in a northbound lane on Argonne Road just north of Trent Avenue when a Washington State Patrol trooper spotted him about 1:22 a.m. on Sunday.

Trooper Darren Britton approached Lafavor in a fast food restaurant parking lot.

“I asked Lafavor how much he’d had to drink and his reply was ‘not enough,’” Britton said in a report. “He said he was going to go home and have more to drink.”

After registering a blood-alcohol content more than four times the legal limit for driving, “Lafavor commented to himself that he didn’t know how he got that high,” Britton wrote. “…He tried to convince me the cold medicine was why his blood alcohol level was so high.”

Lafavor, who has two previous drunken driving convictions, left jail Tuesday night after posting $7,500 bond for the driving charges and for a felony assault case connected to a confrontation with two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies. He did not answer a cell phone call seeking comment.

Lafavor was shot by the deputies several times and is charged with second-degree assault for allegedly pointing a gun at them.

Superior Court Judge Michael Price on Tuesday prohibited Lafavor from driving or consuming alcohol.

“Shoot to kill” vs. shoot to stop threat

There’s concern within Spokane’s law enforcement community about a description in a recent SR article explaining that police are trained to “shoot to kill” rather than shoot to wound, which is seen as risky because wounded gunmen can still pull triggers. It was intended to help readers understand why police in real life don’t try to just wing a gunman in the arm or simply pop a well-placed shot into a leg like they do in the movies.

Law enforcement, however, generally dislikes the term “shoot to kill,” insisting it’s technically inaccurate even though many officers acknowledge it also would be inaccurate to say they try to “shoot to wound.” Instead, departments use various renditions of this phrase: shooting “until the threat ends or stops.”

It would be easy to conclude it’s basically just semantics. Police are trained to aim at a portion of the human body that contains so many vital organs that bullet wounds often are fatal.

But in a recent email Spokane Police Sgt. Dave McCabe offers a good explanation of what he and others see as a distinguishable difference between shoot-to-kill and shoot-to-stop the threat: “The suspect does not have to be dead to no longer be a threat,” McCabe wrote.

Interestingly, there’s growing debate nationally about whether law enforcement departments should be forced to adopt “shoot to wound” policies.

In New York, for example, the state Assembly spent much of the past spring and summer considering legislation that would require police officers to aim for arms or legs in an effort to inflict the least possible harm when shooting someone.

Law enforcement groups and others have blasted the plan as dangerous and unrealistic, explaining — among other things — that gunmen with leg or arm wounds can still pose a serious threat to officers and the public. Moreover, the ability to aim with the precision necessary to target arms or legs in a tense, stressful confrontation would be asking too much of even the best sharpshooters, with New York Police Department statisticians pointing out that even when targeting the larger torso region of the human body (“center of mass”) just 17 percent of the bullets hit their target.

Back in Spokane, you can read more about local law enforcement use-of-force training in this article: Nov. 7: Life or death in an instant

Shattered glass seized in prowling arrest

A recent vehicle prowl police patrol near Gonzaga University led to the arrest of a 32-year-old Spokane man and the seizure of shattered glass inside his backpack.

Spokane police Corporal Kevin Keller was in street clothes and an unmarked car near East Cataldo Avenue and North Columbus Street last Friday when he spotted a man later identified as Timothy L. Gunning, 32, looking in the passenger windows of parked cars, police announced Wednesday.

Officers Kyle Heuett and Shawn Pegram, also undercover, watched as Gunning stopped at a car parked in front of them then left quickly when he noticed them watching him, according to a news release.

Police stopped him on Hamilton Street near Gonzaga and said he appeared nervous “glancing back and forth as if he was deciding whether to fight or find an escape route,” according to a news release.

Police patted him down and found two stolen credit cards stolen in a prowling near Gonzaga two days earlier. They arrested him and found other credit cards as well as personal checks and social security card they suspect is stolen.

“Officers also located a quantity of shattered vehicle glass and a single Honda key in Gunning’s backpack,” police wrote. “Those items were seized as evidence. ”

Gunning, who has previous convictions for drugs and stolen property, is at Geiger Corrections Center on $2,500 bond.

Convicted teen killer claims innocence

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — A woman was unfairly convicted of killing her parents in 2003 because police investigators failed to consider other suspects and a previous defense attorney who was unprepared, her attorney says.

Hailey attorney Christopher Simms made the argument Tuesday in 5th District Court during a hearing to determine whether Sarah Johnson should get a new trial.

Johnson was convicted in 2005 of pulling the trigger on a .264-caliber rifle, first killing her mother as she lay in bed in the early morning hours, then turning the weapon on her father as he exited the shower in their Bellevue home. Prosecutors said Johnson killed her parents on Sept. 3, 2003, after fighting with them over her boyfriend, Bruno Santos, a 19-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant who was living in the region.

Johnson, who is now 23, was sentenced to two life terms for the murders, plus 15 years for using a rifle. Her sentence does not have the possibility of parole.

Simms, appointed as Johnson’s attorney in 2008, argued Tuesday that new fingerprint evidence on the murder weapon suggests Johnson wasn’t the killer.

He also said Johnson’s attorney at her trial, Bob Pangburn, wasn’t prepared, and failed to act on important information. Simms also noted Pangburn’s suspensions from practicing law in Oregon and Idaho.

“There is no question that on Sept. 2, 2003, there was a terrible tragedy that happened in Blaine County,” Simms said. “But another person has had her life taken away from her, and she’s sitting right here, a shadow of what she used to be. I submit to this court that there were two tragedies in this case and the second was the most terrible. This was a failure of the system.”

Pangburn defended his work during testimony Tuesday.

“I’ve thought about this case many, many times, and I thought we did a good job defending her given what we had to work with,” Pangburn said.

Simms said investigators didn’t adequately investigate other suspects, including Santos, who is currently jailed in Blaine County on three felony drug charges. Santos, now 26, is expected to testify at the hearing.

“They simply thought they had the answer and they never deviated from that,” Simms said.

The hearing is scheduled to go through Friday.

Cell phone call leads to juror’s dismissal

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — One of the jurors has been dismissed at the aggravated murder trial in Spokane of a man accused of killing five people at a Pasco auto body shop 23 years ago.

The Tri-City Herald reports the juror was excused Tuesday because he was making a cell phone call in a hallway and may have seen the defendant in the custody of guards. The court has taken care not to show Vicente Ruiz in custody to avoid the implication of guilt.

Two alternates remain on the jury.

The trial of the 46-year-old was moved to Spokane from Franklin County after two mistrials.

Prosecutors are wrapping up their case and the defense may start calling witnesses on Friday.

Read a longer story from the Tri-City Herald by clicking the link below.

Past coverage:

Dec. 7: Spokane medical examiner is ‘87 Pasco murder witness

Snow berm helps stop fleeing fugitive

A snow berm helped stop a Montana fugitive fleeing police in Spokane Valley Tuesday night, officials said today. 

Shannon David McCoy, 35, refused to stop his Ford Escort when police spotted him outside the Linger Longer Apartments in the 1800 block of North Hutchinson about 10:30 p.m. He sped through stop signs before driving around police car at Vista and Baldwin and hitting a snow berm, police said.

The impact launched McCoy’s Escort into the air. Police said McCoy jumped from the car after it stopped and climbed a 6-foot fence, then scaled a concrete barrier onto Interstate 90.

Police on the freeway arrested him within seconds, according to a news release. Officers had been watching the Linger Longer since learning about 8:30 p.m. that McCoy had left Hayden, Idaho, for the apartments.

McCoy was wanted on a felony warrant in Montana after he failed to show up for an appointment with his probation officer on Nov. 17, according to the Montana Department of Corrections. McCoy is on probation in the Big Sky state after being convicted of deceptive practices in April 2009.

Man in 100 mph chase gets 100 months

A 23-year-old Spokane man once considered one of the city’s top 10 repeat offenders was sentenced this morning to eight years in prison.

Allen S. Easley was in and out of jail several times last spring for property crimes and a freeway chase with police in which he reached speeds of 100 mph.

Now he’ll have a spot at a state prison after Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza approved a plea deal that sentenced him to 100 months in prison.

Easley pleaded guilty this morning to nine felonies, including four counts of second-degree burglary, two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, and single counts of forgery, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and first-degree trafficking in stolen property, said Deputy Prosecutor Eugene Cruz.

Easley, who police say has a swastika tattoo on the back of his head, was arrested after a freeway chase in May but posted bail, then was arrested again a couple weeks later while trying to sell stolen property at a Hillyard pawn shop.

Idaho man sentenced in trooper assault

(AP) — A northcentral Idaho man has been sentenced to just six months behind bars — the maximum — for an assault on a state trooper that resulted in the trooper shooting another man who was attacking him.

Ricardo Daniel Rodriguez was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene in a case that could have landed him in jail for much longer if the attack hadn’t happened on a reservation.

The Lewiston Tribune reports Rodriguez was charged only with a misdemeanor because he was arrested on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, which is governed by federal law. Officer assault charges apply only to federal officers, and there was no felony statute in federal court that applied to his case.

Had the offense occurred outside reservation borders, Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said Rodriguez would have faced felony charges and a more severe prison sentence. She recommended the six-month maximum sentence.

“Given the serious nature of the offense, that it was important the community see that the maximum sentence was appropriate,” Whelan said.

Authorities say 39-year-old Rodriguez and 50-year-old Randall Vernon Ellenwood got out of their car and beat Trooper Jeffory Talbott during a traffic stop for drunken driving in May 2009.

According to official reports, Ellenwood and Rodriguez were “seriously physically battering” Talbott when the officer fired his weapon, hitting Ellenwood, who died at the scene.

In court, Rodriguez acknowledged putting Talbott in a wrestling hold, but said he should have been found not guilty on grounds the trooper had no jurisdiction on Nez Perce tribal land.

Idaho authorities can arrest American Indians on highways where they cross reservation land without violating a tribe’s sovereignty, according to a 2009 Idaho Court of Appeals opinion.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mikel Williams told Rodriguez during the sentencing hearing that the issue was not one of tribal sovereignty.

The judge also ordered Rodriguez to pay about $4,000 in restitution for Talbott’s medical bills. Talbott spent several months off the job recovering from injuries from the beating. He was cleared of wrongdoing this year by the U.S. attorney’s office.

Rodriguez’s attorney, Bryan P. Whitaker of Spokane, could not be reached on Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Cops: Thief struck after finding corpse

Police say a Spokane man had an unusual reaction to his grandfather’s death: grand theft.

Anthony S. Jungen, 19, was ordered held Tuesday at the Spokane County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail on theft allegations that border on the macabre.

Police say Jungen found his grandfather dead early Monday after forcing his way into the man’s east central Spokane home. But instead of contacting authorities, Jungen left the corpse where it was and allegedly stole the man’s wallet and car before returning to the house a while later to load up some video games and a coin collection as well.

Read my full story here.

Gambling man owes mother $137,000

A Spokane man was ordered this week to repay his mother nearly $140,000 after bilking her out of the cash to fund his gambling addiction.

Mark B. English, 52, also was ordered to serve 90 days in jail, three times as long as a plea agreement recommended.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced English Monday after hearing emotional testimony from family members.

Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson said he’s pleased Eitzen imposed the maximum jail sentence.

“I suspect he deserved a lot more than that,” he said. “He had access to money and a really bad gambling habit, and he cleaned Mom out.”

English was in charge of his 71-year-old mother’s finances when his daughter noticed discrepancies in her accounts. His mother soon confronted him about the thefts.

“She wanted to not believe it for a really long time, but eventually her checks started bouncing and she was getting notices from her mortgage company,” Johnson said.

English is to pay his mother $137,000 in restitution.

“I really have no idea how he will ever pay that back.”

English pleaded guilty to first-degree theft. He’s to report to jail by Jan. 3.

Police: Thief targeted retirement homes

A 23-year-old Spokane man is suspected of a string of burglaries at South Hill retirement homes.

Police say they found more than 1,000 pieces of jewelry in a car owned by Pavel V. Altukhov, who investigators believe has been stealing from elderly retirement home residents since at least October.

More than 50 victims have reported thefts from their apartments at the Waterford and Rockwood retirement communities.

Police suspect Altukhob has targeted other retirement homes.

“It could get possibly even bigger than this,” said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department. “He would just look for who was an easy target.”

Staff at Waterford and Rockwood helped identify Altukhov as a suspect.

A night maintenance worker at Rockwood chased Altukhov from the facility and gave his car’s license plate number to police. Employees at Waterford also escorted him out of their building and helped identify him to police, said Jeffrey Bair, Waterford’s executive director.

Each retirement community includes a large building of living units and separate cottage homes nearby. Burglaries occurred at each style of unit.

Police arrested Altukhov on burglary and stolen property charges Friday. Officers added additional burglary charges Tuesday and still are investigating other thefts, DeRuwe said.

Witnesses said Altukhov posed as a family member of a resident and didn’t appear out of place until residents began reporting stolen items like TVs and jewelry. He also approached residents in their rooms and offered services such as appraisals as he stole items, police said.

“This individual was apparently very good at fitting in,” said Jaak Juhkentaal, Rockwood’s vice president for operations. “We’re pleased that this isn’t routine here, but when it begins, we pay particular attention.”

Police identified Altukhov after the Rockwood employee provided his car license plate. They soon discovered he’d sold stolen items at least six local pawn shops, according to court documents.

Bair said he’s talked to residents about the importance of locking their homes when they’re away.

“While this one person is now in jail, there are plenty of other people out there who are wanting to take advantage of these types of opportunities,” Bair said.

Arrest made in 1982 Kennewick killing

LEWISTON — A DNA match has led to the arrest of a 56-year-old Lewiston man in the 1982 strangulation death of his girlfriend in Kennewick, Wash., authorities say.

Jack L. Welch was briefly booked into the Nez Perce County jail on Tuesday on a first-degree murder warrant. Welch is charged with first-degree murder in Benton County in Washington state.

Police said Welch was taken to jail in an ambulance by Lewiston Fire Department medics to appear before Magistrate Jay P. Gaskill. Welch was then released on his own recognizance after authorities said he wasn’t a flight risk.

Read the full story here.

Drunken driving suspect blows .354

A suspected drunken driver arrested in Spokane on Monday had a blood-alcohol level more than four times the legal limit for driving, according to court testimony.

Donald J. Lafavor, 66, blew a .354 and was booked into Spokane County Jail about 6:15 p.m. on Monday. Details on the time and place of his drunken driving stop were not immediately available.

At first appearances today, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price called Lafavor’s alcohol level “quite frankly, extraordinary.”

“I can’t believe that someone could be up and walking, let alone driving,” Price said.

Lafavor is scheduled for trial in January on second-degree assault charges for a confrontation with two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies last fall. Lafavor survived several gunshot wounds after deputies said he’d pointed a gun out the door at his East Broadway Avenue apartment after they knocked but didn’t identify themselves as law enforcement.

Lafavor was given a $2,500 bond for the drunken driving charge in District Court. Price set a new $5,000 bond in his assault case and prohibited him from driving or consuming alcohol if he leaves jail. Lafavor had already posted $10,000 bond last December.

Medical examiner is ‘87 murder witness

A Pasco murder trial moved to Spokane because of extensive publicity featured testimony Monday from Spokane County Medical Examiner John Howard.

Howard performed autopsies on the five men killed in the 1987 Pasco body shop slayings and described their gunshot wounds to jurors.

Three of the men, who were all reportedly lined up inside a garage before being gunned down, were hit two times, Howard said. Another had four gunshot wounds and the fifth was struck seven times, with four bullets hitting the same area in his back, Howard said.

Some of the injuries were consistent with “being confronted and ducking or turning around,” Howard confirmed for prosecutors.

 Howard was a Washington State Forensic Pathology Fellow based at the University of Washington 23 years ago when the Franklin County coroner asked him to examine the five victims.

Howard was testifying in the trial of Vicente Ruiz, the second man accused in the killings in Medina’s Body Shop on Oct. 13, 1987.

Ruiz, 46, is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

The case was moved to Spokane because of extensive media coverage during the first two trials, which both ended in mistrials.

This trial started Nov. 9 with jury selection, and has gone through 12 days of witness testimony. Prosecutors expect to wrap up their case later this week, with defense lawyers planning to call their first witness Friday.

The trial has included a refusal to testify by a convicted killer whose life was spared when he agreed to testify against Ruiz, his cousin. The Tri-City Herald reports Pedro Mendez-Reyna asserted his right not to incriminate himself 29 times before the jury last Thursday and was found in contempt of court for refusing to testify.

Read in-depth coverage from the Tri-City Herald by clicking the link below.

Trial starts in crash that hurt detectives

Trial begins today for a Spokane woman charged with three counts of vehicular assault for a crash with a police car last summer. 

Prosecutors say Tonia S. Vansant, 37, ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue on July 16 and t-boned an unmarked patrol car driven by Detective Mark Burbridge of the Spokane Police Department’s major crimes unit.  

Burbridge strained his back, sexual assault Detective Jan Pogachar (left) broke her pelvis and Douglas Orr, (bottom right) a computer forensics specialist for the sexual assault unit, perforated a lung and fractured his ribs, collar bone and sternum.

Court documents say Vansant’s blood test showed traces of cocaine as well as benzoylecgonine, the major metabolite of cocaine; and topiramate, which is used to treat seizures but can be used to treat cocaine addiction.

Investigators recently field a new search warrant for 1994 Isuzu Trooper after Vansant’s public defender suggested her brakes failed.

Police said that was the first they’d heard about possible brake problems in Vansant’s car.

A jury was seated on Monday. Opening statements are scheduled for this morning before Judge Jerome Leveque.

Friends question fatal police shooting

After Jeremy Groom pointed a gun at his own head and threatened suicide Saturday in Spokane, his friend of 20 years, Robert Thompson,  Jr., figured he needed to do something fast to calm him down.

So he asked a question: “What do you see when you look at me?” Thompson, 29, (top) recalled asking Groom, 34, (left) in the parking lot of a Hillyard bar. The former Marine called Thompson a brother and said he trusted him, then handed him the clip from his loaded handgun.

But Groom, who was upset about the upcoming anniversary of his mother’s death, wouldn’t give him the bullet already loaded in the gun’s chamber, Thompson said.

Moments later he was dead, shot by Spokane police who rolled into the parking lot of the Special K Bar and Grill, 3817 N. Market St., and saw Groom pointing the pistol at Thompson after the two men tussled.

Thompson said he never feared Groom would shoot him and contends police overreacted. He said officers shot Groom immediately after ordering him to drop his gun, which never was pointed at police.

Read the rest of my story here.

Mixed verdict in Lakewood shooting trial

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A jury in Tacoma returned mixed verdicts today against four people accused of helping Maurice Clemmons after he gunned down four Lakewood police officers in a coffeeshop last year. 

Two of the defendants — Clemmons’ aunt Letrecia Nelson and his cousin Eddie Davis — were found guilty of rendering criminal assistance and gun charges. Another, Doug Davis, was convicted of gun charges for handling a weapon taken from one of the slain officers, but not of helping Clemmons. 

Clemmons’ half-brother, Rickey Hinton (right), was acquitted of all charges, and Judge Stephanie Arend signed an order authorizing his immediate release from jail. Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar and Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist are pictured at left reacting to the verdict.

Pierce County prosecutors alleged that the four provided medical aid, transportation and other help to Clemmons as he tried to evade a massive manhunt.

Clemmons was killed by a lone Seattle patrolman two days after he shot Lakewood officers Greg Richards, 42, Tina Griswold, 40, Ronald Owens, 37, and Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, on Nov. 29, 2009. (The victims are pictured above from left to right.)

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

Feces-caked 2-year-olds rescued in CdA

Coeur d’Alene police on Sunday arrested a woman whose 2-year-old twin daughters were found with dried feces caked all over their bodies.

Elizabeth C. Crossley, 26, was charged with two counts of felony injury to a child. A warrant also was issued Monday for the arrest of the children’s grandmother, Ruth K. Cassidy, 55. The children are in the custody of the Idaho Health and Welfare Department, a Coeur d’Alene Police Department news release said. 

Chief Wayne Longo praised passer-by Anthony Brown for reporting the children’s condition to the police after he walked by the apartment at 1201 N. Lincoln Way around 2:30 a.m. Sunday and saw the two girls sleeping naked on the floor in what appeared to be “very dirty conditions,” the release said.

When officers arrived, they also saw through the window two children laying face down on the carpet clutching a small teddy bear. They appeared to be huddled together for warmth. There were dirty diapers on the floor and on the window sill and the walls in the room appeared to be smeared with feces. 

Once inside, the officers said they saw a large number of cats and two dogs and garbage and clutter strewn about, the release said. Rotting food sat on the stove and counter. Officers said the beds in Crossley’s and Cassidy’s bedrooms appeared to be relatively clean but when they opened the door to the children’s bedroom, one officer had to step outside to vomit. The smell of feces was overwhelming and both children had it caked on their heads, arms, legs, hands and feet. They also had bruising and open sores.

The children were immediately removed and placed into protective custody. They were then taken to Kootenai Medical Center for further evaluation of their injuries.

Police said a couch cushion was tied to the door of the girls’ room “in such a fashion to stop the girls from hitting the door or pounding on it.” A child door knob safety device prevented the girls from opening the door from the inside. The room had no furniture.

When the officer asked Cassidy the girls’ names, she was initially unable to tell them apart, the release said.

“She was ultimately able to tell them apart by lifting up their shirts to differentiate between their injuries,” the release said.

Crossley offered no explanation for their injuries or living conditions other than to say they were difficult to manage.

Man gets 1 year for smuggling $520,000

A Canadian man arrested who tried to smuggle $520,000 into the United States will spend a year in federal prison.

Richard Paul Neumeyer, 66, of Kelowna, B.C., was sentenced last week to 12 months in prison and three years probation. He also forfeited the cash seized in May at the border crossing in Laurier, Ferry County.

Federal agents found the cash - $509,980 in U.S. currency and $10,000 Canadian - in two hidden compartments in the floor of his 2006 Volvo after Neumeyer said he had only $1,600 in cash when he arrived at the crossing.

He confessed to transporting the cash - for a 2 percent cut - to Wickenburg, Ariz., about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Border records show Neumeyer crossed through Laurier on Jan. 7, Feb. 8, March 6, and April 21, according to court documents. He told federal agents he made $9,000 his first trip and $10,000 his second trip.

He pleaded guilty in September to a charge of bulk cash smuggling.

U.S. District Judge William Fremming Nielsen recommended Neumeyer serve his sentence at the Sea-Tac federal prison in Western Washington.

Photo shows 7-Eleven beer robber

Police are trying to identify two beer thieves who assaulted a clerk outside a convenience sore last month.

The man and woman stole beer from 7-Eleven, 323 W. Indiana Ave., about 4:05 a.m. on Nov. 14, Spokane police said today.

The man assaulted a clerk outside the store before fleeing.

The woman is described as white, 5-foot-7, 160 pounds, about 35 years old with shoulder-length brown hair and blond highlights. She wore a baggy jacket and shorts. The man was described as white with a shaved head.

Surveillance video captured an image of the woman.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

2 robberies in Valley likely not linked

Armed robberies were reported at Spokane Valley two convenience stores Saturday and today, but police don’t yet suspect a serial robber.

“Armed robberies always go up over the holidays. It’s an annual thing,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. “I have not heard from any of our detectives that they suspect these are linked.”

The first robbery occurred Saturday just after 3 a.m. at the Holiday Gas Station, 2303 N. Argonne Road.

A man in a black ski mask, gloves, dark pants and a white t-shirt and holding a black semi-automatic handgun ran northbound from the store after stealing an undisclosed amount of money. He was described as a thin white man in his late teens or early 20s.

Then this morning, a man in a black ski mask and carrying a black pistol stole a small amount of cash from Zip Trip, 15504 E. Fourth Ave., after tossing the clerk a bag. The man ran southbound from the store about 2:30 a.m. to a nearby apartment complex, where a sheriff’s K-9 lost his scent.

The robber was described as a white man in his early 20s, 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds. He wore black gloves, black pants, black shoes and a black puffy coat over a white shirt.

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

Remains are woman missing since ‘94

Human remains found in Stevens County two years ago belong to a Spokane Valley woman missing since 1994, sheriff’s officials recently confirmed.

A death certificate for Kay L. Melius was issued Nov. 22 after the University of North Texas confirmed remains found in 2008 belonged to her. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office received the certificate on Thursday.

Investigators have long suspected foul play in her disappearance.

A suspect in her slaying died in January 2008, but Detective Mike Ricketts is hopeful the recent discovery will generate more clues.

“I want to know what happened to her and who was involved,” Ricketts said.

Melius, 48, was an alcoholic who suffered from asthma and emphysema and lived on welfare, officials said.

Her 1978 Chevy Impala was found parked in downtown Spokane after she was reported missing in May 1994.

She last lived at a motel west of Spokane with her boyfriend. All her belongings were at the motel after she disappeared, and her disability check arrived and remained uncashed.

Now investigators want to know how she ended up near Fruitland, where hunters discovered her remains in 2008.

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

Past coverage:

June 3, 2004: Decade-old disappearance still a mystery

Police hope for new clues in cold case

Laurie Partridge’s disappearance not only stumped detectives, it pushed her parents apart and prompted her family to move far from Spokane County.

“It determined the whole way my family lived,” said Partridge’s sister, Taryn Chambers, who lives in Florida.

Their parents reunited and remarried more than a decade later, but the girls’ mother died in 2004 not knowing what happened to Partridge, who was 17 when she left Ferris High School for home on Dec. 4, 1974.

She never made it, and no trace of her was ever found.

Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Mike Ricketts is taking a renewed look at the case and hoping the 36th anniversary of one of the county’s most talked-about cold cases will generate new clues.

“With cold cases, one of the things that is on your side is that time sometimes affects relationships,” Ricketts said. “Sometimes people who were unwilling to talk at the time become willing to talk.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Publicist’s murder is Hollywood whodunit

LOS ANGELES (AP) — There is no glitz or glamour at the Harvey Apartments. Just questions.

Detectives rolled up to the brick and beige building, just after the sun set on this dingy corner of Hollywood. Armed with a search warrant, they wanted to talk to a man there. Something about Ronni Chasen, the publicist for the stars, gunned down in ritzy Beverly Hills just miles — and a world — away.

As officers closed in, the man shot himself in the head. Blood sprayed the lobby.

By Thursday morning, the blood, the crime scene tape and flashing police cruisers were gone, but reporters and television news crews lingered on the sidewalk outside the 1930s art deco-style building on Santa Monica Boulevard.

They wanted answers to this real-life Hollywood whodunit.

Who was the mystery man, and why did the police want him? Was he a suspect? A hit man? Why would he kill himself?

All detectives would say was that he was a “person of interest.”

Several people at the dreary four-story apartment building knew him as Harold Smith, though authorities would not confirm his identity.

The building is the kind of place where ex-convicts, recovering addicts and just about anyone else can go for a low-cost place to live. The monthly rents start in the $600s, which is cheap by Los Angeles standards.

The man moved in sometime this year and was friendly and well-known in the building, said resident Robin Lyle, 44, who lived next door to him. “He always told me how much he liked me,” he said.

Lyle said the man had been in prison and was concerned about how hard it would be to find work. He told him about a lawsuit that he filed against his former employer and the settlement he was expecting for wrongful termination.

“I’m waiting on this money, and then you’re not going to see me anymore,” Lyle remembered him saying.

The money ended up being less than he expected, Lyle said. The man told Lyle he had spent it all.

Lyle said the man, who was in the process of being evicted from the 177-unit building, stopped by on Saturday to say that the eviction had gone through and that he was going to leave.

Others painted a rougher picture of the man who lived in Apartment 329 by a fire escape at the back of the housing complex.

Terri Gilpin, 46, said the man always seemed paranoid, would ask if police were looking for him, and “had a screw loose.” She said she once called police on him because he wandered into her apartment.

She said she heard him bragging about Chasen’s killing and talking about how he was going to be paid $10,000 and was waiting on the money. She said he told her, “You know that lady on TV, that publicist? I did it, I did it.”

Chasen, 64, was shot multiple times last month as she drove home in her Mercedes (pictured) from a party after attending the premiere of the movie “Burlesque,” whose soundtrack she was promoting for an Oscar nomination.

Asked why she didn’t call police after hearing his comments, Gilpin said she and her husband didn’t believe him.

Sammy Zamorano, who works in a nearby music studio, was in the building shortly after the suicide. He said the body was slumped against a wall with arms on either side. He said he did not see a gun.

Gilpin said she saw a “big splatter of blood” in the lobby.

Zamorano said the man spent hours each day hanging around outside the building, always had a bicycle and usually wore gloves. “To me he was mental, criminal, but not so sophisticated. He had very bad vibes,” Zamorano said.

Zamorano said he did not believe the man could have carried out a seemingly professional hit.

Since Chasen’s killing, speculation has reigned about who could have killed her and why. Police have said they were considering all possibilities, including that someone ordered her killed.

On Thursday, detectives released few details about the case’s progress or if they had settled on a motive.

The dead man had been identified, but his name was being withheld pending notification of family, the coroner’s office said.Detectives reviewed surveillance video from the Harvey Apartments’ lobby and confirmed the man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police recovered the handgun and planned to do ballistics testing.

Beverly Hills police Chief David Snowden told The Associated Press in an e-mail that the man “was a person of interest only” and a police spokesman emphasized that the murder investigation was not over.

Court documents show Chasen had an estimated worth of $6.1 million. The Tuesday filing in Los Angeles County Superior Court said the figure included an estimated $4.7 million in personal property. There was no indication of substantial debts.

The documents were first reported Thursday by celebrity website TMZ.

The latest turn in the mystery left Chasen’s friends wondering who the man at the hotel was and if, indeed, he was a hit man.

“A lot of people think it’s a hit. A lot,” said singer-songwriter Carol Connors, a friend of Chasen for more than 35 years. “It’s really bizarre that he shot himself unless he really knew something.”

Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer will remember Chasen when he receives a star Wednesday on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A statement from organizers said Zimmer will dedicate his star to his longtime friend and publicist.

Bogus 911 caller blames lack of cigs

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Police in Tennessee say a man accused of making three bogus calls to 911 told them he was bored and anxious because he had not smoked a cigarette in two days.

Twenty-year-old Alex Lee Baker of Clarksville was charged with making the calls Sunday during a 35-minute stretch.

The first caller claimed to be a witness to a murder. The second claimed he had been stabbed, while the third said a woman had been killed and buried.

Police said Monday that all the calls originated from a phone owned by Baker, who remained jailed on $15,000 bond. A spokesman said Baker had not retained a lawyer.

Drunk-to-keep-warm defense nixes DUI

JACKSON, Mo. (AP) — A southeast Missouri man has been acquitted of drunk driving after claiming that he consumed alcohol to keep warm after — but not before — he lost control of his vehicle on an icy road.

Thomas Drummond of Jackson told a court that he had been driving home after a night out with friends last February when his vehicle veered off the slick highway and into a culvert. Drummond says he was not intoxicated while driving, but that he was by the time emergency workers arrived more than two hours later.

The Southeast Missourian reports a jury acquitted Drummond last week.

Defense attorney Stephen Wilson says it was a set of facts you don’t see every day.

Florida boy voted out of class gets $350k

MIAMI (AP) — The mother of a Florida child who was kicked out of his kindergarten class after the teacher held a vote among fellow students about his disruptive behavior has reached a $350,000 settlement with St. Lucie County education officials.

Federal court documents show the county school board and teachers union agreed to pay the settlement to Melissa Barton and her son, Alex.

The Stuart News reported Wednesday that the settlement was reached on Nov. 24 in Miami. A review by a third party designated to consider the best interests of the child is required before the agreement can be finalized in court.

Barton and education officials declined to comment.

Barton said that in 2008, her son was forced to stand in front of his peers and be told why ‘they hated him.’

New Superior Court commissioner named

Spokane attorney Rachelle E. Anderson will replace James Triplet as court commissioner for Spokane County Superior Court.

Anderson, a 1994 graduate of Eastern Washington University and a 1997 graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law, will start in her new post on Dec. 10, according to Spokane County news release. She was tapped to replace Triplet after Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed him to service as a Superior Court judge.

Andersonn has served as commissioner pro tem for several years and most recently served as an administration law judge for the Washington Office of Administration Hearings. Prior to that, she worked 13 years as a lawyer specializing in family law cases.

Deputy breaks hand in fight w/ inmate

A Spokane County Jail deputy recently fractured his hand during a scuffle with an inmate.

Deputy John Madsen said property crime suspect Casey A. Beck, 21, hit him “for no apparent reason,” according to court documents.

Madsen then hit Beck in the head and fractured his own right hand, documents allege.

Beck appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on one count of custodial assault. He was in jail on burglary charges when Madsen reported the attack Nov. 24.

Madsen was treated at Provence Sacred Heart Medical Center for a fracture near his pinky and ring fingers. Beck declined to talk about the fight with investigators, documents say.

Baby sitter charged w/ manslaughter

A baby sitter accused of killing a 3-year-old Post Falls boy will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, a judge ruled this week.

Kootenai County prosecutors had sought to charge Amanda L. Skogen, 26, with first-degree murder, punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty. 

But First District Court Magistrate Judge Clark A. Peterson ruled Wednesday that while Skogen’s actions had “incredibly grievous” consequences, they did not amount to murder.

Prosecutors say Skogen was on her knees when she violently shoved Cohen Johnson on Oct. 4, causing him to fall back and hit his head.

She confessed to shoving the boy after he wet his pants and reportedly told police: “I hurt a poor little defenseless boy … And it was all my fault.”

Idaho law allows for a first-degree murder charge if the death occurred in the course of aggravated battery on a child under 12, but Peterson questioned whether Skogen’s actions before Cohen’s death constituted aggravated battery.

Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Past coverage:

Oct. 12: Baby sitter in boy’s death: ‘It was all my fault’

Oct. 11: Idaho baby sitter jailed on murder charges

Store clerk’s refusal stops armed robber

A Spokane store clerk recently deterred a knife-wielding robber by simply refusing to give him anything.

The suspect, Jonas J. Henry, is in jail on assault and attempted robbery charges after a clerk at Qwik Stop, 3021 E. Wellesley Ave., said Henry threatened him with a pocket knife about 2:10 a.m. Friday and said “give me a pack of smokes or I’ll show you the gangsta (stuff),” according to court documents.

But Henry, 30, ran away empty handed when the clerk refused.

A Spokane police detective followed footsteps and spotted Henry, who fled into an apartment at 2907 E. Wabash Ave., where he was arrested.

Henry remains in Spokane County Jail on $10,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court on Wednesday.

Snowy footprints lead to fleeing suspect

A teenager already targeted by Crime Stoppers was arrested Wednesday night after a Spokane County sheriff's deputy followed his footprints through snowy north Spokane County woods. 

Anthony Deshon Fuerte, 18, was reported to have broken an acquaintance's car window and threatened to kill him while wielding a wooden club when Deputy Robert Brooke stopped him in an SUV at Highway 2 and Eloika Lake Road.

Fuerte jumped out of the SUV and ran into the woods as Brooke yelled at him that he was under arrest “and knew that he would head for his grandmother's address in Riverside,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan, Spokane County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

Brooke and Deputy Gavin Pratt followed Fuerte's footprints through deep snow and arrested him just south of Elk-to-Highway Road.

Fuerte, nicknamed “Frosty the Felon” in the news release, was wanted on theft and malicious mischief charges from Juvenile Court when Crime Stoppers issued a reward for his capture on Tuesday “after North Spokane County patrol deputies complained about his ongoing criminal activities in their areas of responsibility,” Reagan wrote.

Fuerte is due in Superior Court today on new charges of harassment - threats to kill, third-degree malicious mischief and resisting arrest.

Jury acquits felon in deputy assault case

A jury recently cleared a Spokane man of an assault allegation stemming from an altercation with a Spokane police officer last fall. 

Tvar L. Jackson, 30, acknowledged he was “acting like a jerk,” said his public defender, Kevin Griffin.

“But police are trained to deal with people who are in stressful situation and who are argumentative,” Griffin said.

Jackson was driving eastbound on East Francis Avenue near North Nevada Street on Sept. 5, 2009, when Deputy Chuck Sciortino stopped him and said a brake light was not working. Jackson yelled profanities and Sciortino and said, “Cops ain’t got nothing better to do then harass a black man,” according to court documents. Backup units arrived, and a sheriff’s helicopter was overhead.

Sciortino said Jackson headbutted him, but jurors took less than an hour to reject that claim and acquit Jackson, a former Crime Stoppers fugitive described by police as a repeat offender and gang suspect.

“There definitely wasn’t enough evidence,” said juror Seth Barnes, 21. “It wouldn’t make sense that he would headbutt the officer and then not proceed to try to run away.”

The helicopter’s thermal imaging video was obstructed by a tree during the altercation, Barnes said. No pictures were available of Sciortino after the alleged headbutt to his face, and he spoke of no serious injuries.

“We deliberated maybe 20 minutes,” Barnes said. Jackson was acquitted last week.

Griffin said the case seemed like a “fishing expedition” by police against Jackson, a sex offender with a long criminal history.

“A lot of third-degree assault charges seem like they’re a bit overcharged,” Griffin said. “But officers have a tough job and we appreciate that.”

Jackson has five previous convictions for third-degree assault and one for second-degree assault.

Trial begins in attempted murder case

Breaking up may be hard to do, but a Deer Park man is facing substantial time in prison for the way investigators say he ended the relationship with his wife: by trying to throw her new lover off the Wandermere Bridge. 

Trial started Wednesday for David E. Epley, 37, who faces two counts of attempted first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in connection with a confrontation on May 12, 2009.

Attorneys presented opening statements that offered very different views of what happened on the darkened bridge that night.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Kyle Treece described a man who hid in his wife’s car for hours as she shared a drink with her guitar instructor at Cinola’s Restaurant, at 147179 N. Newport Highway.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 5, 2009: Police: Accused killer wrote rape suspect’s alleged victim

June 1, 2009: New charges in bridge-pushing case

May 13, 2009: Man charged with kidnapping, attempted murder

Prosecutor: DUI case lacks evidence

The Spokane County deputy prosecutor who didn’t file a felony drunken driving charge against a man with a history of dangerous crashes said she’s not sure she has enough evidence to make the charge stick. 

James L. Crabtree, 49, appeared in court Tuesday and was told that a previous judge’s order that he not drive was lifted because prosecutors had not filed charging documents.

Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady said she expects to eventually charge Crabtree with something, but possibly not the felony driving under the influence charge being sought by investigators.

 Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 30: No charge means DUI suspect can drive

Nov. 23: Man faces felony Four Loko incident

Nov. 18: Motorists block path of negligent driver

Video shows Zip Trip bear spray assault

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Spokane police are looking for a man who assaulted a Zip Trip store clerk with bear spray early Sunday morning.  

Surveillance video shows a masked man in a hooded, brown and tannish plaid jacket spray the cashier in the face at 2:47 a.m. Police say he entered and attacked after another man entered the store at 1523 W. 10th Ave. and asked for cigarettes.That man is pictured at the end of the video wearing a striped hooded sweatshirt and red hat.

The men both ran from the store after the clerk was assaulted. The man in the striped hooded sweatshirt is described as 5-foot-6 with a medium building, brown hair mustache and beard. The assailant is about 5-foot-10 with a white mask and plaid jacket, police said.

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

Tips sought on accused armed robber

UPDATE 12/2: Morris was arrested based on an anonymous tip.

A man accused of robbing a Spokane pharmacy of OxyContin last May is wanted by police after failing to show up for a court date.

No charges were filed against the unsuspecting driver of Robert K. Morris, 27, after the driver, a senior sound engineer for local radio stations, said he’d met the young man at a bar and was giving him a ride home.

But prosecutors charged Morris with first-degree robbery, and he pleaded not guilty and was allowed to leave jail pending trial. A $50,000 warrant for his arrest was issued after he didn’t show up for a Nov. 10 court hearing. Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to his arrest.

Morris was first arrested May 22 after police say he robbed the Walgreens at Division Street and Empire Avenue. The robber escaped with just a small amount of pills; the stores have been keeping OxyContin in time-lock safes since fall 2009.

Morris, 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, has previous convictions for city theft, unlawful imprisonment, fourth-degree assault and harassment. He last gave his address as 17714 S. Wolfe Road in Cheney.

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

Child porn possession gets 70 months

A 32-year-old man was sentenced to five years in federal prison this week for receiving child pornography over the Internet.

Brian Scott Fellman, formerly of College Place, Wash., will be on probation for five years when he gets out and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life under a sentence imposed Monday in U.S. District Court in Richland.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Maryland tracked to Fellman a computer that was sharing child pornography filed over the Internet in 2009. Agents found thousands of images and videos of child pornography that had been downloaded onto one computer.

Fellman, who had been a student at Walla Walla Community College, pleaded guilty in July and was out of custody.

His public defender, Diane Hehir, tried to keep him out of prison, saying Fellman obtained the files from someone who had already organized them and hadn’t looked at many of them. Hehir said in court documents that Fellman had never physically harmed chidlren.

“He has been struggling with shame, embarrassment and guilt because he received child pornography,” Hehir wrote. “Mr. Fellman noted that he had not looked at all or even most of the material that he received, while noting that he certainly had looked at some of it and did not dispute the Government’s characterization or description of the material.”

Prosecutors called for a prison sentence of 10 years, saying “his downloading and collecting of child pornography…helped to encourage and support, what Congress has called, ‘a national tragedy.’”

Michael C. Ormsby, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said in a prepared statement, “Our youth have been manipulated, victimized and traumatized by sexual predators. Their images have been stolen and will forever be traded over the Internet. Our dedicated law enforcement officers are to be commended for reaching across the country to make this community safer. ”

FBI probing assault at Idaho prison

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The surveillance video from the overhead cameras shows Hanni Elabed being beaten by a fellow inmate in an Idaho prison, managing to bang on a prison guard station window, pleading for help. Behind the glass, correctional officers look on, but no one intervenes when Elabed is knocked unconscious.

No one steps into the cellblock when the attacker sits down to rest, and no one stops him when he resumes the beating.

Videos of the attack obtained by The Associated Press show officers watching the beating for several minutes. The footage is a key piece of evidence for critics who claim the privately run Idaho Correctional Center uses inmate-on-inmate violence to force prisoners to snitch on their cellmates or risk being moved to extremely violent units.

On Tuesday, hours after the AP published the video, the top federal prosecutor in Idaho told the AP that the FBI has been investigating whether guards violated the civil rights of inmates at the prison, which is run by the Corrections Corporation of America.

The investigation concerns the prison’s rate of violence and covers multiple assaults between inmates, including the attack on Elabed, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said. (Elabed is pictured above in July)

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company is cooperating with federal agents, as it has with other law enforcement overseeing the prisons.

Lawsuits from inmates contend the company denies prisoners medical treatment as a way of covering up the assaults. They have dubbed the Idaho lockup “gladiator school” because it is so violent.

The AP initially sought a copy of the videos shot on Jan. 18 from state court, but Idaho 4th District Judge Patrick Owen denied that request. The AP had already obtained a copy and decided to publish the videos after a person familiar with the case verified their authenticity.

The videos show at least three guards watching as Elabed was stomped on a dozen times. At no time during the recorded sequence did anyone try to pull away James Haver, a short, slight man.

About two minutes after Haver stopped the beating of his own accord, the metal cellblock door was unlocked. Haver was handcuffed and Elabed was examined for signs of life. He bled inside his skull and would spend three days in a coma.

CCA, the nation’s largest private prison company, said it was “highly disappointed and deeply concerned” over AP’s decision to release the videos.

“Public release of the video poses an unnecessary security risk to our staff, the inmates entrusted to our care, and ultimately to the public,” the prison company said in a statement.

Read the rest of the story by AP writer Rebecca Boone by clicking the link below.

No charge means DUI suspect can drive

A Spokane man with a history of DUI crashes was allowed to walk out of court Tuesday with his driving privileges intact after a prosecutor failed to file paperwork on time in his latest arrest. 

James L. Crabtree, who worked as a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy in the 1980s, appeared Tuesday for arraignment on a felony DUI charge stemming from an incident on Nov. 17 where several motorists noticed him passed out at the wheel of his Cadillac.

The other drivers used their cars to prevent him from leaving the scene after Crabtree, 49, rear-ended another car at the intersection of East Broadway and North Pines Road, Spokane Valley Police Cpl. Dave Thornburg said.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 23: Man faces felony Four Loko incident

Nov. 18: Motorists block path of negligent driver

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