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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for February 2010

Spokane jail on cable TV: ‘The horror is real’

It was the Spokane County Jail’s time to shine last night on the cable TV show “Behind Bars.”

The hour-long episode on the Discovery Channel featured a belligerent Army sergeant arrested for suspected drunken driving, an accused armed robber trying to overdose, a man arrested in a home-invasion robbery being dragged to the jail’s isolation room in his underwear, a woman accused of murder communicating with her inmate boyfriend through the jail’s plumbing system, and mentally ill accused killer Cole K. Strandberg, (top) whom the show dubbed our jail’s “most notorious inmate.”

Controlling chaos was a running theme in the show, highlighted by the footage of jailers dragging Bradley S. Hickey (right) to “the hole” in his underwear. Hickey was arrested last June in a violent home-invasion robbery.

Strandberg was featured throughout much of the show, including snippets of a jailhouse interview in which he open his jail suit to show off his tattoos and called himself “the most dangerous man in the world.”

At one point, Strandberg looked into the camera and said, “the horror is real.”

The show was the first of three on the Discovery Channel Thursday. The Memphis and Cleveland jails also were featured.

“Behind Bars” producers spent a few weeks at the jail in September and October, interviewing guards and inmates and filming them throughout the day. They focused on the Corrections Response Team, which deals with the most dangerous inmates.

The episode included video of Strandberg attacking the team in his jail cell in September 2008, breaking a bone in a deputy’s neck.

One deputy can be heard saying “Oh, wrong move, Cole,” after Strandberg lunges at them. Strandberg is tackled by the guards, then slams a deputy’s head against the cement wall. (Strandberg is pictured above with the CRT. Deputy Nathan Foo, who was interviewed for the show, is at the left.) 

Another inmate, Dennis Sprayberry, showed producers how he slips other inmates prohibited items like hot water while handing out laundry. Sprayberry is no stranger to the newspaper - he was featured in a June 2005 article that began “Alcohol, trouble and Dennis Sprayberry have been fellow travelers for many of his 19 years.” (Read it here.) He’s now in a state prison serving 116 months on charges connected to a case you can read about here.

Two other inmates, Michael C. “Temper” Painter and Maggie Mae Tyler (left), “prove that love in lock down is still possible,” the show’s announcer said. Painter, who the show said is facing life in prison, likely under the state’s three-strikes law, is shown trying to talk with Tyler through the jail’s plumbing system. One downside to the method, he says, is “you can taste other people’s fecal matter.” (Read about Tyler’s case here.)

The show stuck a nice balance between incarcerated citizens and the guards charged with maintaining control. I’ll let you know if I hear about it airing again.

Witness in next month’s murder trial jailed

A key witness in an upcoming murder trial is in jail after investigators say she broke contact with them.

Colleen Sue Janson, 49, was booked just after midnight Friday on a $100,000 material witness warrant out of Spokane County Superior Court, and a misdemeanor warrant for third-degree driving while license suspended.

Crime Stoppers had offered a reward for information leading to her capture on Thursday.

Janson is expected to testify next month at the trial of Terry L. Conner, a 53-year-old Spokane man accused of stabbing another man to death in an apartment at 2614 E. Third Ave on Dec. 7, 2008.

Aaron D. Lyon, 30, also is charged with the murder of Timothy G. Eby, 50. His trial is set for April. Both men are jailed on $1 million bonds.

Police think the men stabbed Eby to death in a drug-related robbery that netted $7.25, according to court documents.

Janson had been staying with Lyon and Conner at the Bel Air motel, 1303 E. Sprague, at the time of the crime.

Investigators think she may have broken contact with them “because of an ongoing drug and alcohol problem,” according to a news release.

Court documents show Janson is not believed to have been present when Eby was killed, but she told police she had heard Lyon and Conner planning the murder, and that Conner bragged about having killed other people.

Janson told police she’d asked Lyon and Conner where they were going before the murder, and “Conner said they were going to rob the drug dealer who burned Lyon for $40,” according to court documents.

Janson fell asleep and was awakened when the men returned and Conner was yelling at Lyon, saying Eby should have had $2,000, according to court documents.

When Janson asked what was wrong, Conner “grabbed her by the sweatshirt and said that he just ‘stabbed the (expletive deleted) 15 times for $7.25, what do you think of that you dumb (expletive deleted)’?”

Read a previous story: Slaying may have been over $7.25

Wedding crasher now has jail date

She showed up at weddings uninvited, mingled with guests and never left empty-handed.

But a Spokane woman’s wedding-crashing scheme unraveled last summer when an old high school classmate – and off-duty police officer – recognized her at a wedding where she wasn’t an invited guest. When the hosts discovered missing gifts, they realized they’d been looted.

Now Pamula W. McBride, 46, will serve 45 days in jail for stealing gift cards and personal checks from a wedding in Nez Perce County, Idaho, last June.

Police also suspect McBride stole similar items from the gift table at Scott DeGon’s wedding reception at Cataldo Hall on the Gonzaga University campus July 18, nearly one month after she stole from a wedding at the Lewiston Elks Lodge.

Read the rest of my story here

A child molester with a method

A jury will decide next week whether Ronald Reo Timm will ever get out of state custody. But the question remains: How does someone molest 24 children in Spokane over a period of two decades and essentially remain out of public view?

The answer, according to prosecutors and Timm’s own admission, is that he sought his prey in broken homes and bought their silence with toys and candy.

“I would have children spend the night … and set them up for victimization,” Timm said in an interview taped for court proceedings. “How can I put this? Kids like adults unconditionally. What I’m trying to say is they were not as likely to say no.”

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Police: Hit-and-run driver targeted victim

A pedestrian struck on by a car on the lower South Hill this week was targeted, Spokane police said Thursday.

The 32-year-old pedestrian, whose identity has not been released by police, was struck at 12:22 p.m. on Monday at South Oak Street and West 10th Avenue.

Detectives have contacted a person of interest, but no arrests have been made.

The suspect vehicle - originally described as a light brown or blue sedan with a loud muffler -  has been seized for evidence, police said.

The victim remains at Sacred Heart Medical Center in critical but stable condition

3 teens charged as adults in shooting

Three juveniles arrested in a shooting in downtown Cheney early Sunday will be charged as adults.

Trevien M. Mims, 17; Damon M. Morris, 17; and Clovy Jaramillo, 16, appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Thursday on charges of drive-by shooting, first-degree assault and riot.

The boys, along with 19-year-old Abran L. Gibson,  are accused of a shooting that injured an Eastern Washington University student, Sharanbir S. Grewal, in the hand.

The Spokesman-Review identifies juvenile criminal suspects only if they are charged as adults with serious felonies.

The shooting occurred about 1:18 a.m. following a confrontation in front of the El Rodeo restaurant on Second Street, according to court documents. The suspects are accused of exiting a Jeep Wrangler and arguing with the victim and his friends before Morris revealed the butt of handgun in his waistband, according to court documents.

A public defender described Jaramillo as “the least involved,” and Judge Ellen Kalama Clark set his bond at $20,000.

Mims’s bond was set at $25,000; Morris’s was set at $30,000 after Clark noted he was also charged with possession of a controlled substance for OxyContin allegedly found after his arrest and had a previous drug charge as a juvenile.

Family members for each of the boys described them as good kids and assured the judge they would show up for court. The boys will be held in Spokane County Juvenile Detetion Center unless bond is posted.

Another bank robbery suspect nabbed

A man suspected of bank robbery in Coeur d’Alene has been accused of robbing two Spokane financial institutions.

Michael R. Kent, 38, appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Thursday on one count of first-degree bank robbery in connection with a Dec. 16 heist at Chase Bank, 822 W. Francis.

He’s also accused of the Dec. 24 robbery at Numerica Credit Union, 1916 W. Francis, according to court documents filed Wednesday in Superior Court.

The same day Chase Bank was robbed, Kent took his girlfriend and her children Christmas shopping with $600 he said he’d gotten from his savings account, according to court documents. Kent also reportedly handed a friend $9,000 that day and asked him how it felt to hold that much money, the documents say.

Kent also is a suspect in the Jan. 12 robbery at the Washington Trust Bank in downtown Coeur d’Alene. The culprit in that case is pictured above. The FBI has seized a coat belonging to Kent that they believe was worn in the robbery, according to court documents.

In each case, the robber handed a teller demanding money and indicated he had a gun, but never displayed one.

Robbery suspect arrested outside bank

A man suspected of robbing an east Spokane bank this week was arrested Thursday after police said he appeared to be staking out a different bank.

Douglas E. Labish, 34, is accused of robbing Banner Bank inside the Safeway grocery store at 933 E. Mission on Monday, escaping with about $1,650, according to court documents.

Labish, who police said lived at the House of Faith homeless shelter, spent time in federal prison for robbing three banks in 2002 - including an old bank located at the same location where Banner now is.

Labish’s mother called police Tuesday and said she recognized her son from a surveillance photo of Monday’s robbery, according to a search warrant. That photo is posted above.

Before police could arrest Labish today on a first-degree robbery warrant, employees at Banner Bank in the Safeway at 3919 N. Market reported someone matching the robber’s description pacing in front of the store about 4 p.m.

Police found Labish in the parking lot and arrested him for first-degree robbery and attempted first-degree robbery.

Bank employees said Labish claimed in a note to have a gun but never displayed one.

Previous story: Transient held in 3 bank heists

No poison found in latest meatballs

No poison was detected in meat found in a Spokane woman’s yard in the 900 block of East 36th Ave. on Monday, the Spokane Regional Animal Protection Service announced today.

But strychnine, most likely from a gopher control pesticide, was found in meatballs picked up last week in the 3300 block of East 55th Avenue and near Regal Street and the Palouse Highway.

The gopher bait was mixed with the meat, then cooked, likely producing the green dye substance that colored the meat. Use of the pesticide is restricted in Washington, but licensed dealers can sell to people who have a license to buy it.

“There are many ways an individual could have obtained this product, either legally or illegally,” said Nicole Montano, lead animal protection officer for SCRAPS.

A dog died Friday after eating a poisoned meatball found near Regal and the Palouse Highway. Two other dogs died in the 3300 block of East 55th, and officials found tainted meatballs down the street from their home.

Dog owners are urged to inspect their yards and keep their pets indoors, and the Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information that leads to an arrest.

Anyone with information is urged to call the SCRAPS emergency number, (509) 477-2533.

Past coverage:

Strychnine may have killed Spokane dogs

Dog poisonings leave trail of questions, anguish

Sandpoint dogs poisoned by strychnine

3 arrested in Pullman-Spokane crime spree

A drug and stolen property crime spree was uncovered early Tuesday when a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy stopped to check on a stranded SUV.

Investigators think 24-year-old Yan Yefremov - who had been out of jail on bail in another case - and James W. Peterschick, 28, were exchanging stolen property for drugs at the Spokane home of 47-year-old Misty A. Maus, at 814 E. Nebraska.

The men were arrested after deputies found a green Ford Explorer with its hazard lights flashing on Highway 195 near Plaza.

A note on the SUV’s steering wheel addressed to “Danny” said “Heather” had gone for gas.

A woman approaching the car carrying a gas can denied being Heather and gave false names, but deputies determined she was 27-year-old Heather I. Halseth, wanted on a felony warrant.

Deputies think Halseth accompanied Yefremov and Peterschick to the Washington Sate University campus earlier that day, where they stole the Ford Explorer and 1982 Honda and ransacked several vehicles of laptop computers and other valuables, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

“Halseth also said that within the last two weeks, Yefremov held a handgun to her head and threatened her life if she ever told police about his activities,” according to court documents.

Investigators arrested Yefremov and Peterschick after they drove up to Maus’ home in the stolen Honda, the Sheriff’s Office said.

More than 100 pieces of evidence were seized from Maus’ home, according to the Sheriff’s Office, including a stolen motorcycle, stolen license plates and stolen laptops, one of which had been stolen in the Pullman car prowlings early Tuesday.

Yefremov and Peterschick appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday and remain in jail.

Yefremov has a lengthy criminal record and was arrested in December, accused of smash-and-grab burglaries at Pawn One, 3705 N. Market St., and Pounders Jewelry, 3131 N. Division St.

He and Aleksey Y. Solodyankin, 30, are accused of using stolen vehicles to try to break through the buildings.

Read more about that case here.

Spokane sex offender captured in Indiana

Spokane County Sheriff’s investigators will fly to the Indiana next week to bring a sex offender back to Spokane County.

Michael Lee Williams, 30, (left) was convicted of first-degree child molestation in 1991 and 1992, then arrested Feb. 17 in Lawrence County, In., on a Spokane County warrant for failing to register as a sex offender, the Sheriff’s Office announced today.

Williams, a level 2 sex offender, has been living in Indiana with his wife and children, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Williams, who is jailed in Bedford, In., was arrested by Lawrence County authorities after Spokane County Deputy Damon Simmons, a grant-funded sex offender investigator, located him, according to a news release.

Simmons and Detective John Grandinetti will extradite Williams back to Spokane.

Disbarred lawyer arraigned in Spokane

A disbarred Spokane lawyer on the run for more than a decade pleaded not guilty Wednesday to an accusation that he stole money from a dead client’s estate.

Claude K. Irwin, Jr. appeared in Spokane County Superior Court on Wednesday through a video feed from the jail, where he’s been since returning to Spokane from Los Angeles two weeks ago.

Irwin disappeared in 1997 and resurfaced in Mexico, where authorities believe he lived under a false name and operated a tour business. Tips led U.S. Marshals to contact him through that business last month, leading to his capture on Jan. 27.

Irwin, 62, owes millions in claims to creditors and investors for a failed development on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Powderhorn Ridge Ranch.

He’s charged with first-degree theft for allegedly taking money from a dead client’s estate and investigating it in the development instead of giving it to her beneficiaries. Irwin’s bond is set at $750,000.

He’s represented by Aaron Lowe, a private defense lawyer.

Past coverage:

On-the-run lawyer back in Spokane

Fugitive developer captured in international ruse

To catch Koyote Karlos, you’ll have to move fast

2 bars cited for over-serving in triple fatal

Two downtown bars were cited by the state Liquor Control Board for over-serving a man who, while drunken driving, allegedly caused a fatal accident on Interstate 90 in December.

The driver, Sterling N. Kruger, 22, of Davenport, Wash., died after entering the eastbound highway going the wrong way, and collided with an eastbound vehicle killing both the driver James Roscoe Bolton, 61, of Spokane Valley; and his passenger, Trina Louise Erickson, 47, of Spokane Valley.

After an investigation, the liquor board discovered that Kruger had visited three downtown nightclubs that night, two of which were cited for allowing an intoxicated person to consume/possess alcohol.

The Lion’s Lair, 205 W. Riverside Ave., faces a five-day liquor license suspension or a $500 fine, while the BLVD House of Music faces a 30-day license suspicion. This is the third violation for the BLVD within two years, officials said.

Imprisoned physician’s aide gets probation

An assistant to a physician serving time in federal prison for overprescribing drugs to patients will be on probation for the next three years.

Steven M. Featherkile, of Deer Park, pleaded guilty to three counts of making fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicaid in an agreement that dropped the original charges of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance and conspiracy charges.

Those charges were filed in 2007 after a lengthy investigation into Deer Park physician Keith Hindman, who employed Featherkile as an assistant for about four years.

Hindman was sentenced to nine months in prison in April. Federal prosecutors connected him to the death of at least one patient.

But Featherkile had nothing to do with Hindman’s actions, his lawyer, J.J. Sandlin, said today after Featherkile was sentenced in U.S. District Court.

Featherkile has always been upfront about accepting responsibility for overcharging Medicare, according to the defense’s sentencing memorandum. The total amount overbilled was $20.67, according to court documents.

Along with probation, U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley ordered Featherkile to perform 200 hours of community service each year for three years and pay a $2,000 fine.

“I’m going to let the DEA figure out whether you have a license or not,” Whaley said.

Sandlin said he sees no reason why Featherkile shouldn’t be allowed to keep his license. “I would take my children to him,” Sandlin said.

Sandlin said pain management has been too influenced by addiction specialists that push for limits on drugs. Those limits lead to continued pain for patients, Sandlin said.

“Physicians are easy targets for the DEA,” Sandlin.

Past coverage:

Former physician sentenced to prison

Indictment: Clinic gave abusers painkillers

‘Person of interest’ named in ‘84 murder

An elderly woman beaten to death her in home. Her apartment ransacked and several silver coins missing, but few clues left behind to identify her killer.

The 1984 murder of 87-year-old Ruby M. Miller stumped Spokane police detectives and frightened neighbors near her East Riverside home, where she known as “The Cat Lady” - a woman who had little but felt safe.

Now, more than 25 years later, detectives have identified a 74-year-old woman they consider a “person of interest” in Miller’s murder.

Spokane retiree Neomi Jensen has been questioned but not charged, said police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

“We want to make sure the case is rock solid, but at this point our biggest lead in the case in Jensen,” DeRuwe said. But, she said, “we don’t feel she’s a threat to the community.”

Read the rest of my story here, with links to past coverage.

Wild courtroom brawl leads to jail time

A man who sparked a wild courtroom brawl last summer after he tried to flee when a judge order him jailed was sentenced to credit for time served Tuesday.

Micah W. Hasselstrom, 34, was credited for 111 days served in Spokane County Jail after pleading guilty to two counts of third-degree assault and one count of third-degree escape.

Hasselstrom was arrested June 17 for the melee in Spokane Municipal Court Judge Tracy Staab’s courtroom.

The fight knocked a 68-year-old woman to the floor, partially burying her under a group of lawyers and courtroom officials trying to control Hasselstrom. The woman badly injured her ankle.

She spoke at Hasselstrom’s sentencing. “I’d say the same thing to my grown child - grow up,” she said.

Hasselstrom, a union boilermaker and married father of four, apologized to the woman and said he never meant to hurt her.

“That’s a split second in my life I wish I could take back,” he said.

The escape charge stemmed from Hasselstrom failing to show up for a court date after posting bail. He turned himself in on that charge in December.

Past coverage: Municipal court brawl leads to arrest

Strychnine may have killed Spokane dogs

Washington State University veterinarians say a meatball found on a Spokane woman’s property contained strychnine - the same poison thought to have killed dogs in North Idaho last spring.

The Spokane woman’s dog died near Regal Street and the Palouse Highway last week after eating another meatball.

Two other dogs, Snoopy and Abby (pictured above, left and right), have died after eating similar meatballs found in the Moran Prairie neighborhood on Spokane’s South Hill.

One attack took place in the 3300 block of East 55th Avenue, killing two dogs owned by 21-year-old David Cheney and his family.

Then on Monday, a homeowner near 36th Avenue and Grand Boulevard found a suspicious meatball similar to those found Friday.

Test results for the additional meatballs are expected today or Thursday, said Nancy Hill, director of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service.

Meanwhile, dog owners are urged to inspect their yards and keep their pets indoors, and the Humane Society of the United States is offering a $2,500 reward to catch the person responsible for poisoning dogs in Spokane.

Similar poisonings reported in North Idaho last March was never solved. Lisa Kauffman, Idaho state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said officials believe the incident may have stemmed from a family incident but were never able to prove it.

Past coverage:

Dog poisonings leave trail of questions, anguish

Sandpoint dogs poisoned by strychnine

Felon gets 15 years in federal prison

A Spokane felon long considered a threat to the community but never locked up for more than a few years is facing 15 years in federal prison because of stiff drug and firearm sentencing laws.

Casey D. Beckham, 34, (right, and above, playing chess at the jail in 1997) was arrested in May 2009 after a day-long SWAT team standoff at a north Spokane apartment complex.

He broke through an apartment ceiling and hid in the rafters, where police found him with a pound and a half of methamphetamine and $8,500. About a dozen stolen firearms were found in the apartment.

He posted about $250,000 in November but was rearrested about two weeks later. His case was sent to U.S. District Court, where his felon in possession of a firearm charge, coupled with his lengthy criminal record, qualified him as an armed career criminal eligible for the federal mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

He signed a plea agreement Feb. 12 that gives him 188 months in prison.

“We encourage the prosecutors, the sheriffs and the police chiefs to point out to us folks who are repeat offenders,” said U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt.

Beckham pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges connected to several firearms and agreed to cooperate with investigators. Five days after he signed the plea agreement, federal prosecutors indicted a man accused of selling Beckham those firearms.

James E. Johnson was charged Feb. 17 with unlawful sale of a stolen firearms, unlawful possession and sale of a stolen firearm and felon in possession of a firearm. Johnson was arrested in a meth lab bust in Bonner County in 1998, according to news archives.

Past coverage: Man arrested after seven-hour standoff

3 charged with early ‘09 ATM thefts

A rash of burglaries last fall in which stolen vehicles were used to smash through storefronts to take ATMs came about at the same time Spokane saw a rise in car thefts. 

The crime spree was carried out in a manner similar to a string of ATM thefts in early 2009. Three men have been charged in connection with eight of the early 2009 burglaries, but the later burglaries remain mostly unsolved except for two incidents in December connected to a 33-year-old Spokane man.

Tips, fingerprints, surveillance photos and detective work led investigators to identify longtime felon Keith G. Simpson, 44, (left) and Christopher S. Carden, 36, as suspects in the earlier spree.

The men are charged with 20 counts of theft, burglary and malicious mischief for eight hits on businesses between Jan. 4 and Jan. 20, 2009.

Read the rest of my story here.

Vehicle thefts part of wide Spokane web

The truck engine began rumbling at about 5 a.m., and Carlyne Tabler ran outside her Spokane home to find a thief inside her truck. It had been stolen just weeks earlier, but had been recovered. Now it was about to be stolen again.

He sped away on East Columbia Avenue in her truck and disappeared, but not before Tabler and her son got a good look at him. They’d seen him at the house next door, they told police, a house they’d been complaining about for months.

That December theft led investigators to a career criminal considered a suspect in a car theft rings: Shawn A. Barton (right).

It’s also one piece of an investigation into a web of property, drug and violent crimes driven by a crime more prevalent than ever in Spokane: car theft. Among the incidents possibly connected: a double murder, a shooting that injured a driver in traffic, and a series of thefts in which stolen vehicles were rammed through storefronts to steal ATMs.

Read the rest of my story here.

Child molester to serve at least 3 years

A Coeur d’Alene man will spend at least three years in prison for lewd conduct with a minor under 16, a judge ruled this week.

John A. Shepherd, 56, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday with eligibility for parole after three years, the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office announced today.

Shepherd pleaded guilty Dec. 11, but District Judge John Luster ruled he “had only nominally accepted responsibility for his actions,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Shepherd said the molestation was a one-time event driven by his methamphetamine use and excessive drinking, despite having said in a previous interview that he’d been abusing the victim for several years, according to the prosecutor’s office.

“The alcohol and drug use here reinforces the appropriateness of law enforcement’s aggressive enforcement of controlled substance laws, and the responsible consumption of alcohol,” Prosecutor Barry McHugh said in a prepared statement. “…While incarcerated in the state prison system, Mr. Shepherd will be able to receive sex offender and substance abuse treatment should he choose to do so. In the meantime, the decision by Judge Luster protects the community from Mr. Shepherd for at least three years.”

Not guilty plea in church rape case

A church worker pleaded not guilty today to a rape charge in which police allege he tied wire around a woman’s face, fastened her to a metal pipe in the basement of a Spokane church and then sexually assaulted her.

Michael J. Bosch, 47, appeared before Superior Court Judge Neal Rielly, who accepted the not guilty plea and set a trial date of April 19.

According to court records, Bosch met the woman Feb. 6 on East Sprague before going to Mending Fences Ministry, 1906 E. Sprague Ave., where Bosch worked and had a key.

Bosch smoked crack cocaine, according to court records, before tying a wire around the woman’s face and mouth.

He placed a plastic bag over her head and tied her to a pipe prior to the sexual assault.

The woman escaped by smashing a window and running to a nearby motor home, where she called police.

Past coverage: Rape alleged at Spokane church

Is someone targeting Spokane dogs?

Abby collapsed near the back steps, convulsing before her owner took her inside, where she died.

Her companion, Snoopy, died shortly after, both victims of what animal control officials suspect is a targeted assault using poisoned meatballs to kill Spokane’s best friends.

The attack on Abby and Snoopy took place in the 3300 block of East 55th Street. Another dog living near Regal Street and the Palouse Highway died Friday.

Then on Monday, a homeowner near 36th Street and Grand Boulevard found a suspicious meatball similar to those found Friday. Officials suspect a connection but haven’t determined one.The meat will be sent to Washington State University for testing.

Meanwhile, dog owners are urged to inspect their yards and keep their pets indoors, and the Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information that leads to an arrest. In each case, officials said, the targeted properties have dog houses, signs or other indications that dogs live there.

“It looks to me as though somebody is just driving around and wherever they see evidence of a dog living there, they toss those meatballs out,” said Gail Mackie, executive director of SpokAnimal. “It doesn’t make a difference where you live, you’re not immune.”

The people responsible for the tainted meatballs face charges of first-degree animal cruelty.

Nancy Hill, director of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, described the substance as “a very fast-acting, horrible-death kind of poison.”

The meatballs “are very attractive, and they’re very lethal,” she said. “A dog can eat a meatball before you can even blink an eye.”

The woman who found the meat in her front yard on Monday “for some miraculous reason” had only let her dogs in the backyard that morning, Hill said.

“She was extremely upset knowing those were sitting in the area,” Hill said.

Abby (top right) and Snoopy (top left) lived with 21-year-old David Cheney and his family.

Cheney found the dogs early Friday after they ate what officials believe are the same type of meatballs found earlier that day near Regal Street and the Palouse Highway.

A SCRAPS investigator found several suspicious meatballs in Cheney’s neighbor’s yard.

“I spent Friday and Saturday burying both dogs,” Cheney said.

Both are buried in the backyard under large wooden crosses. Snoopy’s grave is below a tree he liked to lie under on sunny days.

The Cheneys brought the dogs with them from Florida when they moved to Spokane in 2002.

Cheney said he has no idea who would want to hurt them or why.

“The cops have better get ahold of him before I do,” Cheney said. “I’ll go to prison over it.”

Adult suspect in Cheney shooting ID’d

A shooting in downtown Cheney early Sunday led to the arrest of four suspects, only one of whom is over the age of 18.

Abran L. Gibson, 19, was arrested with two 17-year-old boys and a 16-year-old boy after an Eastern Washington University student, Sharanbir S. Grewal, was shot in the hand, police said.

Gibson’s appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on one count of drive-by shooting and remains in Spokane County Jail.

The three other suspects are in Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center.

The shooting occurred at about 1:18 a.m. following a confrontation in front of the El Rodeo restaurant on Second Street.

Police found a dark blue Jeep Wrangler believed to be used in the shooting parked at the Zip’s fast food restaurant at 911 1st Street, according to court documents.

Do you recognize this bank robber?

A man robbed a bank inside an east Spokane grocery store today.

The robber pictured above entered the Banner Bank at Safeway, 933 E. Mission, about 5:26 p.m. and left with cash.

He’s described as 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-8 and wore a dark, puffy Carhart jacket.

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

Spokane father accused of abusing infant

A Spokane man is accused of abusing his 2-month-old daughter.

Daniel S. O’Brien, 23, was arrested Friday after doctors said the girl’s injuries, which include a broken leg, were consistent with abuse, according to the Spokane Police Department.

O’Brien appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on one count of first-degree assault of a child and is in custody on $50,000 bond.

“The injuries didn’t match up with any plausible explanation,” said Officer Jennifer DeRuweÖ. “It’s not often you find a 2-month-old with fractured bones.”

The girl is expected to survive, DeRuwe said.

Hit-and-run seriously injures pedestrian

A hit-and-run driver seriously injured a Spokane pedestrian today on the lower South Hill.

Police are looking for any information on the incident, which occurred at 12:22 p.m. at South Oak Street and West 10th Avenue.

The victim, whose name has not been released, was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, according to the Spokane Police Department.

The suspect vehicle is described as a light brown or blue sedan with a loud muffler.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233, or call Cpl. Dave Adams at (509) 835-4567.

Purloined polka case emerges in Detroit

WARREN, Mich. (AP) — Roll out the felony?

A cable TV producer in suburban Detroit has been charged with using publicly owned equipment to make polka DVDs and sell them to an undercover officer.

Police say Fred DeChausse (de-CHAWSS-ay) was caught selling 11 pirated DVDs of the show “Polka Party” for $150. He’s the producer of show on Warren’s public cable channel.

Defense lawyer Leon Weiss called the case is “unfortunate and ridiculous” and said DeChausse is innocent.

A court hearing Monday was postponed.

Felony and misdemeanor charges were filed earlier this month against the 71-year-old DeChausse. He’s been suspended without pay.

Warren police say the investigation isn’t over.

Cable show to feature Spokane jail this week

The Spokane County Jail will be featured on a cable television show this Thursday.

An hour-long episode of the show “Behind Bars” on the Discovery Channel will explore life at the jail and feature interviews with inmates and employees.

“In the Spokane County Jail, accused murderers, rapists and the mentally ill outnumber the staff four-to-one and put an elite force of officers to the test,” according to the program guide for the show.

A television crew for the network filmed in the jail and at Geiger Corrections Center in September and October.

They also filmed in Spokane County Superior Court, including a hearing for mentally ill accused killer Cole K. Strandberg (pictured left being led into a court hearing earlier this month).

The crew told a court clerk they planned to interview Strandberg at the jail.

“Behind Bars” was first called “Hard Time” and featured two episodes exploring prison life in Alaska and Indiana.

On Thursday, three new hour-long segments will air, beginning with the Spokane County Jail at 8 p.m.

The Shelby County Jail in Memphis, Tn., and the Cook County Jail in Chicago also will be featured.

Child molester could be locked up for life

Spokane County jurors today heard the life story of a 60-year-old man who has admitted to molesting 24 girls between the ages of 3 and 7, as a state prosecutor opened the trial to civilly commit the convicted sex offender for the rest of his life.

Ronald Reo Timm, of Spokane, shook his head in disagreement several times as Assistant Attorney General James Buder told jurors why they should declare Timm a sexually violent predator who is likely to reoffend if he is not kept in a secure state facility.

“Ronald Timm is a man who betrays people’s trust to do what he wants. And what he wants is to fondle little girls,” Buder said. “He is mentally ill and he’s dangerous.”

Timm, who grew up on a 2,700-acre wheat farm in Lincoln County, was convicted in 1989 of attempted statutory rape in the first degree.

But his 36-month prison sentence was suspended because he opted to go through an alternative program designed to rehabilitate sex offenders.

Read Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Beggs to leave Center for Justice

Breean Beggs, the self-described chief catalyst for the public interest law firm Center for Justice, announced his resignation today citing both fewer financial resources at the firm and aspirations for a future run for public office.

Beggs, 47, quickly said he has no public office in mind, especially the already tenacious beginning to the upcoming August primary for Spokane County prosecutor.

“Most of my life that has been my dream,” Beggs said of seeking public office. “I plan to stay in Spokane, raise my kids a little older and look for the right office at the right time. I will take all those issues I learned and take them inside government instead of outside.”

Read Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Meth found in car involved in fatal crash

Detectives investigating a car crash that killed a teenager in south Spokane last weekend found methamphetamine in the vehicle in which the victim was riding, according to newly filed court documents.

Jacoby Bryant, 19, (left, picture from died early Feb. 14 when the 1999 Pontiac Grand Am she was riding in collided with a 2005 BMW in what police believe was a race between the vehicles on southbound Hatch Road near 54th Avenue.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives found meth in a purse in the Grand Am, and the car’s driver, Brooke A. Reese, 18, told police she’d had four shots of Vodka that night, according to a search warrant filed in District Court.

Reese told investigators she was driving “too fast” when she tried to make a left turn on 54th Avenue and collided with a tree after being struck by the BMW about 2:24 a.m., according to the Sheriff’s Office.

She called deciding the race the BMW’s driver, 18-year-old Taylor D. Marean, “the worst decision of my life,” according to court documents.

“His car was faster, faster than I would have ever thought,” Reese reportedly said.

Reese was treated and released from a local hospital. Neither Marean nor his passenger, Ryan Perrizo, 19, were injured. Marean, who Reese said had been drinking “a lot,” refused to talk to investigators.

Detectives are investigating the three for possible vehicular homicide charges.

Conman steals elderly homeowner’s wallet

A man conned his way into an elderly Spokane couple home last weekend and stole a wallet, now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that identify him.

The couple, both in their late 80s, allowed the man into their home in the 8100 block of East Upriver Drive Sunday after he told them he was a window washer, Crime Stoppers announced today.

The culprit grabbed the elderly man’s wallet and fled the home.

A witness reported an elderly couple chasing an old red mini-van with a Montana license plate 541770 and said the man was crying. The couple told police the man drove away in a red station wagon with license plates similar to 5147110, unknown state.

“Different combinations of the given license plate numbers do not produce a mini-van,” according to a news release.

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

Paramedic accused of slapping patient

By Thomas Clouse

State officials have suspended the license of a paramedic who worked for Spokane’s private ambulance service after his superiors reported that the paramedic had choked and slapped a patient in December.

Andrew N. Singleton, 67, apparently is no longer working for American Medical Response, said Gordon MacCracken, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health. A check of local court files shows that Singleton is not currently facing misdemeanor or felony charges.

AMR officials did not return a phone call Friday.

According to MacCracken, Singleton entered the patient’s bedroom to check on her. The woman, described as petite, pushed against Singleton who then grabbed her by the throat and pushed her across the room onto her bed. He then slapped the woman twice, according to state records.

“It doesn’t appear that she was badly injured,” MacCracken said. “Our issue is always patient safety.”

Singleton, who has been licensed since 1996, has 20 days to request a hearing. Efforts to reach Singleton were unsuccessful.

3 dogs dead in suspected poisoning

Poisoned meatballs may have killed three dogs in the Moran Prairie neighborhood on Spokane’s South Hill today, and more suspicious meatballs were found in two other locations.

“All pet owners should closely inspect their yard and surrounding property when they arrive home tonight,” said Nancy Hill, director of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service.

A woman told animal protection officers that she let her dogs out about 6 a.m. today on her property near Regal Street and the Palouse Highway and saw one eating something. She called the dog away, but about a half an hour later, the dog started having convulsions and died at a pet emergency clinic, according to SCRAPS.

Another woman living near 55th Avenue and Freya Street reported two dogs dead today, too, SCRAPS said.

An animal protection officer then found a suspicious meatball soaked in an unknown substance on the side of the road near a fenced yard in the 3300 block of East 55th Street, and another in the same vicinity but inside a fenced yard.

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for the suspected poisonings.

Anyone with information is urged to cal SCRAPS emergency number, (509) 477-2533.

Fired agent wins big in federal court

A former federal law enforcement agent, who was fired after he investigated police corruption on the Spokane Indian Reservation, has won a $400,000 lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs for malicious prosecution.

The ruling in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington by senior Judge Justin Quackenbush was an emphatic condemnation of the bureau for the treatment of its own agent, Duane Garvais (right), at the behest of the Spokane Tribe.

“The BIA maliciously caused the institution and continuation of unfounded criminal proceedings against Duane Garvais in Spokane Tribal Court in retaliation for the proper performance of his duties in investigating thefts by BIA patrol officers with close connections to the Tribe,” Quackenbush ruled Wednesday after a non-jury trial.

Read the rest of Kevin Graman’s story here, with links to past coverage.

Craigslist fraud leads Spokane police to CdA

A Craigslist scheme that stretched from Spokane to Miami led police to a Coeur d’Alene hotel this week, where they arrested a suspect accused of duping unsuspecting buyers through fraudulent advertisements.

Joshua J. Mulvey, 25, was arrested on a second-degree theft charge Tuesday at Motel 6 in Coeur d’Alene after Spokane police searched his Spokane apartment last week.

Mulvey escaped during that search, police say, climbing into the attic of a neighboring apartment and fleeing out of a window. Detectives used a ping from Mulvey’s cell phone to trace him to Coeur d’Alene, according to police. Mulvey is in the Kootenai County Jail.

Spokane police Detective Corey Turman has been investigating Mulvey since early December and believes he has more victims. Anyone who feels victimized should fill out a police report, Turman said.

Mulvey is the son of longtime Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy Ronald Mulvey. He was arrested in 2004 in a crime spree tied to street racing.

Past story: Suspects have family ties to legal system

Police: Father, son sold pot to students

Police arrested a 20-year-old Spokane man and his father today on suspicion of selling marijuana to high school students in northwest Spokane.

Kruz Hawkins (right) was arrested after he rode his bike to the parking lot of Pizza Pipeline on Wellesley Avenue, where police believe he sells $3 marijuana-laced baked goods to Shadle Park High School students during their lunch break, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

Detectives were searching a home at 2307 W. Crown about noon today, where Hawkins lives with his father, Ricky Hawkins. Police found a small marijuana growing operation inside.

The elder Hawkins was arrested for unlawful use of building - knowingly allowing drug sales to occur. Kruz Hawkins faces one count of delivery of a controlled substance.

Detectives had been investigating the two using undercover operations and surveillance, DeRuwe said.

Stevens releases letter to Tucker

David Stevens has released his response to the complaints that led to his firing as a deputy prosecutor.

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker fired Stevens, who had been with the office since 2002, yesterday after putting him on leave shortly after he announced he was running for Tucker’s job.

“It was a management decision,” Tucker said. “To work effectively, we have to have a unified team. Unfortunately, when (Stevens) decided to run, he went back during work time and started making statements about who he would fire and about replacing the entire management team. “

In a five-page letter addressed to Tucker Feb. 11 and released publicly today, Stevens said no one would be fired if he’s elected.

He detailed a conversation he had with another deputy prosecutor who had asked if his job was safe if Stevens won. Stevens says he told him yes but mentioned a supervisor he feels lacks necessary skills.

“In response to his questions, I said that I found it unusual that supervisor and the people they supervise aren’t separated better,” Stevens wrote. “If elected, it’s an issue I would like to consider, but in no way did I ever say that supervisors shouldn’t’ be union members.”

Stevens continues, “Mr. Grasso asked me if I thought I would be fired. In response to his question, I told Mr. Grasso that I hoped not but many of my friends thought it might be good publicity and I shared what my friends had said about how it would “get a few bites at this apple…” I was clear in responding to his question, saying that I hoped not to be fired and that I was just as committed to working my cases as I had always been.”

Read the entire letter here

Past coverage:

Spokane prosecutor fires election opponent

Democrat joins prosecutor race

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

Stevens will challenge Tucker for Spokane County prosecutor

Lawmakers want police to be truthful

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to officially require law enforcement officers to “be truthful and honest” while carrying out their duties.

That seems self-evident, but substitute Senate Bill 6590 is the result of a long-running Kitsap County case involving a deputy who the sheriff’s office has twice tried to fire on allegations of misconduct and lying.

The former deputy, Brian LaFrance, was fired in 2001, reinstated, then fired again in 2005. The litany of allegations against him include charges that he lied to his supervisors.

At the heart of the case was an arbitrator’s 2001 ruling that the county shouldn’t have fired him. The Kitsap County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild, like many unions, has a contract with the county that stipulates a binding arbitration process in cases of employee discipline.

The state Supreme Court ruled last October that the arbitrator had the power to reinstate LaFrance, on the grounds that there is no policy that prevents the employment of dishonest police officers.

The Senate bill originally would have changed the arbitration process to prohibit arbitrators from overturning a firing for lying. Exceptions were made for cases in which the arbitrator determined the officer was not being dishonest, and in cases where extenuating circumstances were found.

But that language was ultimately eliminated, leaving behind one sentence lawmakers passed Tuesday:

“It is the policy of the state of Washington that all commissioned, appointed, and elected law enforcement personnel be truthful and honest in the conduct of their official business,” the bill reads.

The bill passed 46-0.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said some of his fellow senators raised their eyebrows when the bill was presented, since honesty would seem an inherent part of a law enforcement officer’s duties. But it’s not the first time the Legislature has passed laws in the wake of a court decision, Sheldon said.

“We saw this as a clarification of a court ruling,” he said.

Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer expressed disappointment that legislation is required to address the question of whether a police officer who has been shown to be dishonest may keep his job.

“The basic foundation of our legal system revolves around trustworthiness,” he said. “It’s a sad day that we even have to do this.”

Jim Cline, lawyer for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Guild that has represented LaFrance in the case, felt the original bill would have interfered with collective bargaining agreements by tying arbitrators’ hands. The bill as passed seems pointless, he said.

“I don’t think that law’s really going to change anything,” Cline said. “It’s always been the requirement that officers be honest and truthful.”

The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives public safety and emergency preparedness committee.

Cline said the LaFrance case is still under review by the state Supreme Court. LaFrance has not been reinstated to the sheriff’s office, and it will likely take arbitration to determine the next steps, Cline said.

$750,000 bond for Claude Irwin

A disbarred lawyer on the run for more than a decade returned to Spokane this week to face an accusation that he stole money from a dead client’s estate.

Claude K. Irwin, Jr., appeared in Superior Court on Wednesday through a video feed from the jail, where he was booked just after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Irwin’s bond was set at $750,000 for a first-degree theft charge. If convicted, Irwin’s lack of a criminal record means he would face about 90 days in jail. But he owes millions in claims to creditors and investors for a failed development on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Powderhorn Ridge Ranch.

His 12 years on the run show he’s a flight risk who needed a huge bond, Deputy Prosecutor Shane Smith said.

Smith said he’s reviewing the accusations against Irwin to see if they warrant additional charges.

Irwin’s current charge could carry a stiffer penalty “based on the sheer amount of money that was involved and the fact that he was in a position of trust,” Smith said.

Irwin, 62, declined to be interviewed for this story. He was represented by a public defender Wednesday, who said Irwin plans to hire private counsel.

Irwin had been in jail in Los Angeles since Jan. 27, after he stepped off a plane from Mexico and was arrested.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage: Fugitive developer captured in international ruse

To catch Koyote Karlos, you’ll have to move fast

Boy, 15, arrested in South Hill stabbing

The third suspect in a stabbing on the South Hill Tuesday night has been arrested.

The 15-year-old boy was arrested and booked into Spokane County Juvenile Detention today, Spokane police said.

The boy is thought to be involved in an apparent attempted robbery that ended with a stabbing in Thornton Murphy Park at 27th Avenue and Ray Street about 7:30 p.m.

A 21-year-old man suffered non-life threatening stab wounds when he was attacked by the 15-year-old, a 13-year-old boy, a 19-year-old Cody A. Kjos, police said.

Kjos appeared in Superior Court Wednesday on first-degree assault and first-degree robbery charges. His bail was set at $100,000.

Groom arrested twice on wedding night

 LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A marriage got off to a rocky start after the 21-year-old groom from northern Idaho was arrested twice on his wedding night and charged with assaulting his new wife in nearby Eastern Washington.

  Court records show Nathan Lewis of Lewiston, Idaho, was charged Tuesday in Asotin County Superior Court with second-degree assault and interfering with a report of domestic violence.

The Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho says Lewis was married Sunday and later arrested for drunken and disorderly conduct in Lewiston.

Police say that after Lewis was released on bail, he assaulted his new wife at a home in nearby Clarkston, Wash. The bride told authorities she was slapped and choked during the altercation, the Lewiston Tribune reports.

Lewis is scheduled to be arraigned March 1.

Tucker: ‘It was a management decision’

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker said he gave Stevens a choice of unpaid leave until after the August primary or termination.

Stevens chose the latter.

“It was a management decision,” Tucker told S-R reporter Tom Clouse. “To work effectively, we have to have a unified team. Unfortunately, when (Stevens) decided to run, he went back during work time and started making statements about who he would fire and about replacing the entire management team. “

“The phone was ringing off the hook,” Tucker said of other deputy prosecutors who feared for their job security. “The environment go so bad it was hard for us to serve the public in the property-drug unit.”

Year-old drug raid brings 15 felonies

A couple arrested more than a year ago with suspected stolen property - including a trailer stolen more than a decade ago - were expected to be arraigned on more than a dozen felony charges today.

Mark J. Sarber, 50, and Brenda R. Sarber, 35, were charged via warrant last month after a Washington State Patrol investigation led detectives to a house full of stolen property in Airway Heights in November 2008.

Along with a quarter-ounce of methamphetamine, Airway Heights police spotted suspected stolen property at Sarbers’s home at 614 S. Horton St. after Mark Sarber allowed them inside on Nov. 12, 2008, according to a search warrant.

A trailer reported stolen more than a decade ago and a motorcycle reported stolen in 2002 were returned to their owners shortly after the raid.

Now the Sarbers are charged with illegally possessing them. Police said at the time of the raid that piles of property, including expensive vacuum cleaners, golf clubs, Xbox 360s and flat-screen televisions, may never be claimed because victims didn’t save identification like serial numbers.

Sarber posted $50,000 bond after his Dec. 9, 2008 arrest, and a judge released Brenda Sarber on her own recognizance the same day.

Both still are out of jail and were to plea innocent today to two counts of first-degree possession of stolen property, one count of second-degree possession of stolen property, one count of third-degree possession of stolen property, four counts of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine, Hydrocodone and OxyContin), two counts of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, one count of taking a motor vehicle without permission, one count of use of drug paraphernalia, and one count of first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

The charges were filed Jan. 6.

Past coverage:

Drug bust uncovers stolen goods

Fugitive lawyer due in court today

Claude K. Irwin, Jr., the fugitive disbarred Spokane lawyer captured in Mexico after more than a decade, is back in Spokane.

Irwin, 62, is due in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon via video feed from the jail, where he has been in custody without bail since about 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Irwin had been in jail in Los Angeles since Jan. 27, after he stepped off a plane from Mexico.

He was detained in Mexico City and thought he was just being deported when he arrived in Los Angeles, authorities said, but he was arrested on a felony warrant for first-degree theft out of Spokane County Superior Court when he arrived on U.S. soil.

The charge contends Irwin took at least $230,000 from a dead woman’s estate that was meant for her beneficiaries, including two colleges and a minister.

He also faces hefty claims from creditors and investors he’s accused of duping in a failed multimillion-dollar, 390-acre real estate development near Harrison, Idaho, Powderhorn Ridge Ranch.

Irwin, who declined in a jailhouse interview, disappeared in 1997 but resurfaced on a Web site in 2000 under the name “Koyote Karlos.” He apparently had been stationed in southern Mexico all these years, operating a tour business that U.S Marshals used to capture him.

Federal agent Robert Doty used a false name to contact Irwin, who was living under the name Miles Becker, through a Web site promoting the tour business.

Past coverage:

Fugitive developer captured in international ruse

To catch Koyote Karlos, you’ll have to move fast

Tucker fires election opponent

By Thomas Clouse

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker fired today the deputy prosecutor who announced earlier this month his intention to challenge Tucker in the August primary.

Tucker (right) fired Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens after a meeting this morning. Stevens, who announced his firing by a campaign e-mail, had previously referred to Tucker as an “absent administrator.”

“This appalling outcome simply reinforces why so many in our community are frustrate with the prosecutor’s office,” Stevens (bottom left) said in a news release. “This poor decision isn’t going to deter or alter our campaign in any way. I plan to continue focusing on Spokane County’s important issues and availing myself to be out listening to the public’s concerns at every possible opportunity.” 

Also today, local attorney Frank Malone will announce his bid to unseat Tucker, who beat James Sweetser in 1998, ran unopposed in 2002 and defeated Bob Caruso in the 2006 election.

As for Stevens, who like Tucker is a Republican, he said he will follow through with his union’s grievance process and hopes to be reinstated to the job that pays him $86,000 a year.

Past coverage:

Democrat joins prosecutor race

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

Stevens will challenge Tucker for Spokane County prosecutor

Teen on bathroom break flees court

PLUMMER, Idaho - A teenager who escaped a courthouse after being allowed to use the bathroom today was recaptured about five hours later.

Timothy Allen had been in a Kootenai County juvenile detention center after his arrest following a police pursuit in early February. Allen was taken to tribal court at a Coeur d’Alene Tribe justice center in Benewah County today to face charges unrelated to the February pursuit when he made his escape.

Allen asked to use the bathroom and when he was permitted to do so, he fled the justice center on foot, still in handcuffs, KHQ reported.

Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police found him near Plummer High School about five hours later.


2 shootings reported last weekend

Two gang-related shootings were reported in Spokane on Valentine’s Day.

No one was injured in either shooting. In the first incident, officers responded to the 800 block of East Lyons about 1:45 a.m. for the report of multiple shots fired, and arrived to find a car had been damaged by multiple gunshots.

Later that morning, a similar shooting occurred near North Nevada and East Joseph, police said.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call (509) 625-GANG (4264). Anonymous tips are accepted.

The Spokane Violent Crime Gang Enforcement Team is investigating  The SVCGET is comprised of officers from Spokane, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Border Patrol, Washington State Patrol, state Department of Corrections, the FBI, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Detectives still are investigating a Jan. 18 homicide they believe is gang related. Read more on that deadly shooting here.

Last of robbery trio gets 13 months

By Thomas Clouse

A man charged with a convenience store robbery last fall pleaded guilty to a lesser charge today and was sentenced to 13 months in jail.

Nedzad Mesanovic, 21, pleaded to second-degree robbery as part of the plea. He was also given credit for more than three months in jail, Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell said.

Mesanovic was charged along with 22-year-old Miroslav Veselinovic and 26-year-old Reza Abghari of Colbert. All three were stopped by a sheriff’s deputy who recognized their car from a robbery report at the Zip Trip at 711 W. Hastings.

Inside, the deputy found items stolen from previous robbery reports. Mesanovic appeared Tuesday before Superior Court Judge Michael Price, who agreed to accept the plea bargain.

Mesanovic “was probably the least culpable of the three,” Haskell said.

Veselinovic was credited for 104 days served in jail in a plea deal approved last week. Abghari pleaded guilty to a similar deal last week and received a 15-month sentence.

He was previously convicted of third-degree assault and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in 2005 for shooting a teenage girl between the eyes while pretending to be a gangster.

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

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

Past coverage:

3 questioned in string of robberies

Robber headed to familiar place: prison

Spokane firefighter celebrates 45th year

Spokane fire Lt. Jack Greenamyer doesn’t keep track of how many lives he’s saved or the number of burning buildings he’s gone into, but he can tell you he still gets excited about going to work after 45 years on the force.

On Monday, Greenamyer, 67, marked the anniversary of his hiring in 1965.

He’s known for being the first guy on the truck when a call goes out, and a firefighter who won’t shy away from the physical punishment that comes with charging into a burning building.

Greenamyer (pictured above atop a 1936 pumper) is the longest-serving member of the force, and he has spent the past 12 years commanding an engine crew at Station No. 3 at Indiana Avenue and Ash Street on Spokane’s North Side.

Read the rest of Mike Prager’s story here.

Malone to run for Spokane Co. prosecutor

By Thomas Clouse

A Democrat is joining the race for Spokane County prosecutor.

cklLongtime local attorney Frank Malone confirmed his bid to challenge Prosecutor Steve Tucker today. Meanwhile, Tucker , who is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens, whom Tucker suspended earlier this month after Stevens announced his own bid to run for prosecutor.

“We are going to consider options,” Tucker said last week.

Stevens said he doesn’t know what will happen with his job status. He’s been a deputy prosecutor since 2002 and said he makes $86,000 a year.

“I wonder how much this week has cost. I’ve been paid a week to stay home and it’s not my vacation time,” Stevens said last week.

The flap began two weeks ago after Stevens announced his candidacy by criticizing Tucker’s leadership, calling and referred to him as an “absent administrator.”

Tucker questioned why the public should pay continue paying someone to run against his boss and wrote to Stevens that he “violated behavioral standards by not effectively communicating with other county employees and not getting along with other co-workers and managers.”

Malone did not blatantly echo follow Stevens’ “absent administrator” comment, lead as calling Tucker an “absent administrator” but he did allude to Tucker’s lack of public presence.

 “I like his management team,” Malone said of Tucker. “But I would be coordinating with other county officials. I would be out in the community. The community loves (Sheriff) Ozzie Knezovich because he’s out there all over the place. That’s what you do to get public support.”

 Malone, 67, has been an attorney since 1985. The graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law also served 27 years in both the Air Force and Air National Guard. During his career, Malone served as a navigator in both B-52 bombers and later the KC-135 tankers during the Vietnam and Desert Storm wars, he said.

Malone makes the third candidate in a race in which the filing deadline does not expire until June 11.

“A couple of months ago, I was hanging around the courthouse and there was considerable dissatisfaction with how the criminal justice system, which is 80 percent of the budget, was working,” Malone said. “It occurred to me that there might be some support for someone with management experience and with the toughness to handle the problems at the courthouse.”

Malone currently practices both criminal defense and family law, and most recently has been working to help distressed homeowners caught in the housing crisis, he said.

 The two candidates with the most votes in the Aug. 17 primary, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the November general election.

 Tucker defeated incumbent James Sweetser in 1998 and then ran unopposed in 2002 election. In 2006, Tucker defeated challenger Bob Caruso, who ran as a Democrat but was not endorsed by the local party.

 Malone said he will seek his party’s nomination.

 Amy Biviano, the chairwoman of Spokane County Democrats, said she’s thrilled that Malone has chosen to challenge Tucker.

 “I know he’s a great guy,” Biviano said. “He has a lot of experience and would be a very qualified candidate.,

Accused killer’s driver gets 6 months

 A woman who drove an accused killer from the scene of a double homicide last fall will spend a couple more months in jail.

Diane L. Richardson, 34, was on the run with her then boyfriend, Merle W. Harvey, 27, for two weeks after Harvey gunned down two men Sept. 26 in what he said was self defense.

Richardson pleaded guilty to first-degree rendering criminal assistance today and was given six months in jail with credit for time served. She’s been in custody since Oct. 10. Superior Court Judge Michael Price approved the plea deal.

“You’re going to have to deal with this for the rest of your life,” Price told Richardson.

Harvey and Richardson were arrested while walking in a field in Kennewick after allegedly stealing jeep in Coeur d’Alene, crashing it into a canal in the Tri-Cities after stealing from a convenience store.

Harvey remains in jail, charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Jack T. Lamere, 41, and Jacob J. Potter, 45.

Lamere’s family attended Richardson’s sentencing and left the courtroom in anger after Price imposed the sentence.

Past coverage:

Suspect at large after shooting

Victim had sought new life

Hells Angels vowed to kill murder victim 10 years ago

Man says he killed in self defense

Stolen jeep had ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ coin inside

Find stolen property? There’s an app for that

OAK CREEK, Wis. (AP) — A Wauwatosa man whose iPhone was stolen from his car used GPS to track it down.

Tiernan Paine left a $400 phone in his unlocked car while at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Oak Creek on Thursday night.

The 28-year-old subscribes to MobileMe, a service that synchronizes data between his phone and home computer. It also includes a global positioning system.

Paine told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he pinpointed his phone’s location and saw a picture of the suspect’s home.

Paine took the material to Oak Creek police. The next day, he and another church member who also had a phone stolen that night had their phones back.

Police Chief Tom Bauer says the suspect confessed to about six thefts from parked cars.

Tips sought on sex offender’s location

Police are looking for tips on the location of a sex offender wanted for failing to register with authorities.

Bradley D. Williams, 22, was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender in October. He also has a previous conviction for drug possession, according to Crime Stoppers.

Now Williams is wanted on a new warrant after police say he never checked in as his conviction requires.

He last gave 1708 W. Gardner #2 as his home address, Crime Stoppers said.

Anyone with information on Williams’ whereabouts is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online here.

More charges in pot border smuggling

The owner of the Ferry County property where drug agents caught two Canadian pot smugglers last fall faces federal marijuana charges.

Harold Oscar Strandberg, of Danville, is accused of using his property at Fourth of July Creek Road, which is on the U.S.-Canadian border, to import marijuana from Canada, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Strandberg was home when Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrived Nov. 1 on a tip that drug smugglers were at the property.

Strandberg reportedly told them he knew nothing about the case and let the agents search the property, where they eventually found William Richard Paterson, 50, and Jahrum David Oakes, 32, with duffel bags filled with marijuana.

Paterson and Oakes, both of Kelowna B.C, pleaded guilty Jan. 21 in U.S. District Court to three counts of possession with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana. The men, who are in Spokane County Jail, will be sentenced April 22. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a minimum of three. No plea deals were made.

There was a pre-trial conference in Strandberg’s case last week. He’s not in jail, and he pleaded not guilty to the charges Jan. 8.

Strandberg was an eight-year member of the Curlew School Board, according to the Omak Chronicle. He did not seek reelection last year, the newspaper reported.

Past coverage:

Pot smugglers: We’re guilty

2 arrested after DEA finds pot near border

Seattle mayor says gun control a state issue

It’s an election year. Taxes are going up. And, polls show increasing numbers of voters distrust their politicians. Even the most inexperienced political strategist would have to say good luck convincing the Legislature to tackle this one right now.

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wants the Legislature to take action now that a judge has struck down Seattle’s ban on guns in parks and other public spaces.

On Friday, King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer ruled Friday that the city’s ban conflicts with Washington state law. Several groups had sued Seattle, including the National Rifle Association.

McGinn says cities should have the right to restrict guns at playgrounds, pools and community centers where children are present. He says the Legislature needs to change state law. The ban was put in place by McGinn’s predecessor, Greg Nickels.

Reminder: Police hockey tomorrow

Local law enforcement will take to the ice tomorrow in a hockey game to raise money for the children of the slain Lakewood police officers.

Members of Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office will play a hockey game at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Admission is free with a ticket to the Spokane Chiefs game that night at 7 p.m. Donations will be accepted during the Chiefs game.

The Chiefs will be holding a silent auction to raise money for the children, too, according to a news release.

The game was organized by Officer Brad Moon, Deputy Khris Thompson and the Spokane Chiefs Hockey Club. Members of Lakewood Police Department will be present for both games.

Federal crack cocaine laws under fire

A woman spending 27 years in federal prison on a crack cocaine conviction is the first person to seek a pardon from President Obama.

Federal law punishes crack cocaine convictions much more severely than powder cocaine, and Obama has asked Congress to change that. The Sentencing Commission has recommended the current 100:1 sentencing ratio be replaced with a 20:1 ratio.

The law was instituted in 1986, “when authorities feared crack was becoming an epidemic, (but the arguments) were based on faulty assumptions – including that crack users were far more violent and dangerous to the community than powdered-cocaine users,” according to this Associated Press article from April.

The disparity between federal crack laws and federal powder cocaine laws can be seen in the case of Terrence A. “T-Baby” Kinard, the man who caused a stir last November when a U.S. magistrate judge gave him permission to leave jail for Thanksgiving dinner, under the condition his family pay for armed guards. (As you can read here, Kinard’s family rejected the offer.)

Kinard (right) was convicted of possessing 28 grams of crack cocaine after buying it from an undercover detective. Kinard maintains in court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane that he intended to buy powder cocaine, but police provided crack instead.

Police reports included in the federal court file show a confidential informant told police in summer 2008 that he could buy crack from Kinard. When the informant wasn’t able to do so, he told police he could sell powder cocaine to Kinard, and police had him arrange a sale for nine ounces of powder cocaine.

But Kinard never showed up for the buy, and when he called six weeks later, he ended up getting crack, not powder.

One report show the informant told police Kinard wanted “one ounce of cocaine.” In a different report, the detective says Kinard requested crack cocaine.

Had Kinard gotten powder, there would have been no mandatory minimum prison sentence.

“As stated above, from the detective’s own words it appears that he unilaterally made the decision to switch the controlled substance from powder to crack cocaine prior to the controlled buy. This not only served to increase Mr. Kinard’s sentence; it invoked a mandatory minimum,” according to the sentencing memorandum prepared by defense lawyer Kim Deater. “Mr. Kinard again reiterates that he is not innocent and he has pleaded guilty to the charge, however, the detective’s actions evidence reason for concern.”

Kinard is serving 80 months in federal prison. “He is motivated to live a clean and sober life because his addiction has been the root cause of his separation from his family,” according to the memo.

His sentence is barely anything compared to a sentence imposed on Hamedah Hasan, formerly known as Stephanie Lomax, the woman seeking a presidential pardon.

Read the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Police seek sex offender spotted downtown

A convicted sex offender considered likely to reoffend has disabled his GPS tracking device and was last seen in downtown Spokane last night.

  James Broady Artis III, 43, is wanted on a warrant for escape from community custody, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Artis, a level 3 sex offender, is a drug user who may be armed, police said. He was last seen in the 300 block of West Sprague last night. Artis was released from prison in August 2005 after serving three years for burglary.

He also has been convicted of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and taking indecent liberties with a woman, whom he threatened to kill with a knife during the sexual assault, according to previously published reports.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call 911.

No decision yet on Stevens

By Thomas Clouse

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor David Stevens remains on leave after he turned in the response Friday to complaints following his announcement last week that he would run to unseat his boss, Prosecutor Steve Tucker.

Stevens (right) and his union representative will meet with Tucker (bottom left) next Wednesday before the prosecutor decides a final course of action, which could include discipline or termination.

“We are going to consider options,” Tucker said.

Stevens said he doesn’t know what will happen with his job status. He’s been a deputy prosecutor since 2002 and said he makes $86,000 a year.

“I wonder how much this week has cost?” Stevens said.

“I’ve been paid a week to stay home and it’s not my vacation time.” The flap began last week after Stevens announced his candidacy by criticizing Tucker’s leadership and referred to him as an “absent administrator.”

Tucker questioned why the public should continue paying someone to run against his boss and wrote to Stevens that he “violated behavioral standards by not effectively communicating with other county employees and not getting along with other co-workers and managers.”

Past coverage:

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

Stevens will challenge Tucker for Spokane County prosecutor

Hitchhiker sought in North Idaho stabbing

A hitchhiker suspected of stabbing a man who stopped to give him a ride is on the loose in North Idaho.

The man, described as white and in his 20s, reportedly stabbed a 49-year-old Otis Orchards man in the leg after hitting him in the face, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.

The driver picked up the hitchhiker at Seltice Way and Stateline; the stabbing occurred at Seltice Way and Beck Road.

The victim was taken to Kootenai Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. Deputies searched the area for the suspect but haven’t found him.

He’s described as wearing blue jeans and a blue hooded jacket, and ran southbound on Seltice Way from the vehicle.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department at (208) 446-1300.

Man arrested on robbery, gun, drug charges

The Spokane police gang unit arrested a man wanted on a robbery charge and other felony warrants today.

Antonio E. “J-Rock” Cook, Jr., 29, is accused of punching a woman on Sept. 6 after she fought with him and a friend over sexually suggestive text message the friend had sent her, according to court documents.

The woman’s boyfriend saw the messages, documents say.

Cook allegedly stole a knife from the woman after punching her, leading to a first-degree robbery charge.

He posted $10,000 bail in November, but a warrant was issued this week and police were looking for tips on his location. Cook also had warrants for unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance and bail jumping.

To be filed in the “small world” category, the victim told police she knew Cook because his girlfriend had been a victim with her in shooting earlier in the year.

That’s the shooting from back in June that started across town. One man arrested in the case pleaded guilty to a third-degree assault charge but is back in jail, accused of a stabbing last month. The accused shooter, Timothy Lucious, is in jail awaiting trial. (Read more here.)

Rapist sought for failure to comply

A man who raped an elderly woman at knife point in 1995 hasn’t been checking in with authorities, and detectives are looking for tips on his location.

 Justin J. Stevens, 33, a level 3 sex offender, was released from prison in 2004 after serving 114 months in prison for first-degree rape. His victim was a 78-year-old woman.

Stevens’ last know address was in the 6000 block of North Rambo Road, and he may be driving a silver 1988 Ford Thunderbird, Washington license plate 331UUJ.

He has tattoos on his left and right arms, chest and left shoulder.

Detectives with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office have made several attempts to find him, leading the state Department of Corrections to issue a warrant for his arrest.

Stevens already is on probation for failing to register as sex offender. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail with credit for 48 served after pleading guilty in August 2008, according to news archives.

Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts should call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

UPDATE: Stevens was arrested on Sunday, Feb. 14.

Exceptional sentence for gang member

A reputed gang member sentenced to 15 years in prison for a shooting that didn’t injure anyone was given an exceptionally high sentence because of issues with the statutory maximum and firearms enhancements.

Anthony D. Singh, 21, could only serve a maximum of 120 months for his convictions if all served concurrently.

With two firearms enhancements, that meant he’d essentially only serve a year or so for his assault conviction and go unpunished for his other crimes, Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell argued and Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor agreed.

So O’Connor ordered Singh to serve the 120-month concurrent sentence for second-degree assault, drive-by shooting and unlawful possession of a firearm before serving a 60-month concurrent sentence for witness tampering and conspiracy to commit assault, instead of serving the sentences at the same time.

“Otherwise, Mr. Singh will not receive appropriate punishment,” she said.

Singh, a father of two, worked at Taco Time at the time of the shooting. He got the job after another judge in a different case chastised him for never having one, said his lawyer, Thomas Cooney.

“He was very proud of the fact that he obtained that job,” Cooney said.

Cooney has said he’ll appeal Singh’s convictions. Read my story on Singh’s case here.

Crack bust targets gang members

A drug bust in Spokane that uncovered crack cocaine targeted members of the same gang that detectives believe has ties to an unsolved homicide last month.

Sheriff’s detectives raided two homes Wednesday as part of an ongoing investigation into suspected drug dealing by members of the Atlantic Drive Crips gang, according to search warrant filed in Spokane County District Court.

Andrew T. Burns, 35, of Los Angeles, was arrested at 14827 E. Mission in Spokane Valley, where detectives seized crack cocaine, money and a 2006 Dodge Charger, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives also seized marijuana from a home at 2502 E. Marshall.

The investigation stems from tips that Atlantic Drive gangster were selling large amounts of crack cocaine, according to a search warrant.

Affiliates of that gang were present at a party on Jan. 17 that ended with the shooting death of 38-year-old John S. Williams III.

Drug or gun charges have been filed against at least two party goers, but no one has been charged with murder.

Robber headed to familiar place: prison

A man sent to prison for shooting his teenage girlfriend in 2005 is headed back there after pleading guilty to second-degree robbery.

Reza Abghari, 26, was sentenced to 15 months in prison this morning by Judge Sam Cozza.

He was arrested Oct. 28 with Nedzad Mesanovic, 21, and Miroslav Veselinovic, 22, after a Spokane police officer recognized their car from a robbery report at the Zip Trip at 711 W. Hastings.

  Mesanovic (left) is scheduled to go to trial on March 1 on first-degree robbery charges.

Veselinovic took a plea deal Wednesday and was credited for 104 days served in jail.

He promised Judge Maryann Moreno she would never see him in her courtroom again and said he’d learned a lot about himself while in jail.

“Truly, I am sorry,” Veselinovic said.

Moreno asked if he thought he’d be able to find a job with felony conviction.

Veselinovic said he’s hopeful he can get his job at Wal-Mart back.

“There’s a lot of felons down there, so I think I could,” Veselinovic said.

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

That (now former) girlfriend, Tara Leena Rader, was arrested last month after deputies said she was in a car with more than 18 ounces of methamphetamine.

Read more on the October robbery here.

2 jurors dismissed from Boys’ Ranch case

Two jurors will be removed from deliberations in the Morning Star Boys’ Ranch sexual abuse case because of misconduct.

The two discussed the case outside of deliberations, which led Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor to dismiss them this morning. Two alternate jurors will be brought in.

The alternates were present for the lengthy trial but have not been taking part in deliberations, which began Tuesday.

Read coverage of the trial here.

DNA on fake beard nabs robbery suspect

A seven-month-old robbery may be solved thanks to DNA from a fake beard worn by the culprit.

Donald R. Wright, 35, was arrested today in connection with the June 23 robbery at the Grocery Outlet at 7810 N. Division after the state crime lab matched his DNA to DNA found on the beard.

Wright is accused of robbing the store while wearing the wig and beard. He ran from the store and through a nearby backyard before telling the homeowner that he needed a ride because he was being chased, according to a search warrant filed today in Spokane County District Court.

When the homeowner returned to the area, he learned of the robbery and told police he may have inadvertently driven the culprit from the scene, according to the search warrant.

Police found the wig and beard in the man’s backyard. The Washington State Crime Lab reported a match with Wright on Jan. 29. His DNA was on file because of a previous felony conviction. The robber’s getaway driver picked out Wright’s mug shot in a line up, according to the search warrant.

Detectives used the search warrant to obtain a new DNA sample from Wright today. He’s in Spokane County Jail and is excepted to appear in court tomorrow on a second-degree robbery charge.

Police have said the Grocery Outlet robbery may be connected to a robbery at the Cash Store at 5920 N. Division, but Wright is accused of only the Grocery Outlet incident right now.

Ex-caregiver gets 30 days for scheme

A caregiver who tried to steal money from a dead man will spend a month in jail, a judge ruled today.

Ronald L. Brown, 41, has 10 days to report to the Spokane County Jail to serve a 30-day sentence imposed this morning by Superior Court Judge Michael Price.

Police began investigating Brown after he showed up at Providence Sacred Heart Hospital in January 2009 with what he told hospital workers was a will written by a client he cared for, James Shelly Gant (left). 

Gant, 68, had died the day before, and Brown, Gant’s caregiver through Home Care of Washington, had a note stating he was to receive all his money - about $7,000.

Police say that note was forged, and a jury convicted Brown of first-degree attempted theft last month.

The trial included testimony from state Rep. Matt Shea, who was a character witness for the defense.

Shea, who did not return a phone call seeking comment, fought in the Iraq war with Brown.

Gant’s death was ruled accidental after family members initially were told it may have involved suspicious circumstances, which triggered investigations of Brown by police and Adult Protective Services.

Gant, who was paralyzed and in a wheelchair, died suddenly from a fast-spreading bacterial infection caused by a contaminated catheter that had been surgically implanted after he was paralyzed in a bicycle accident in the 1980s.

He had complained to his sister about Brown, who had been his caretaker since November 2008, according to court documents.

Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson said the sentence imposed by Price was fair.

It addressed the vulnerabliity of the victim but also “the fact that (Brown’s) 41 and had no convictions until now,” Johnson said.

Past coverage:

Dead man’s caregiver sought on theft charge

Serial robber gets 10 years in prison

A 20-year-old man who as a teenager terrorized Spokane payday loan stores in a drug-fueled armed robbery spree was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday.

Before Zachary T. Allen apologized for his crimes, family members described a sweet boy with a bright future who lost his way to the prescription drug OxyContin.

“I sincerely wish everyone had a chance to know Zach like I know him, before the bad influence of people and drugs,” said his older sister, Kiley Allen.

Testimony from Allen’s family came after a court official read a prepared statement from a clerk was so terrorized by Allen that she quit her job at a north Spokane payday loan center and has reoccurring nightmares.

“In my dream, I didn’t make it out of the situation alive,” Jennifer Counts wrote.

Allen’s robberies came at the height of Spokane’s OxyContin-fueled crimes –which has included dozens of robberies by mostly young men with no criminal records.

He and his then-girlfriend, Kimberley A. Norman, went on a month-long robbery spree in January 2009 that led some stores to lock their doors and demand customers to show identification before entering. Even then, Allen tried robbing one of the businesses – screaming and banging on the door as the clerk hid.

The two were arrested Feb. 6, 2009, after police detectives identified them through confidential informants, high school yearbooks and MySpace postings, according to court documents.

“You made some choices that horrified this community and terrified this community,” said Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno before approving a plea deal Wednesday that sends Allen to prison for 129 months.

Read the rest of my story: Serial robber sentenced to 10 years

Previous coverage:

Robbery spree haunts clerks, prosecutor says

OxyContin robberies will continue, police fear

Measures aim to halt hold ups

Idaho contemplates new fees on criminals

Anyone who’s ever sat through even a few felony dockets in just about any courthouse nationwide probably has noticed the same overwhelming pattern among criminals: They tend to be dirt poor, often as a result of their own poor choices but, no matter how the blame gets assigned, broke nonetheless. Further, ask any jail administrator how many inmates are taking up beds in their facilities for failing to pay fines, restitution or other fees and most will just roll their eyes.

That’s why all the congralutatory back-slapping going on at the Idaho capitol today over a plan to impose new fees on criminals to help offset the state’s spending cuts is a bit perplexing, and raises questions about whether any of the lawmakers enthusiastically embracing this concept have ever sat through a felony docket or toured a cram-packed county jail.

Here’s the first draft of a story out of the Idaho Capitol today from the SR’s Betsy Russell, and here’s a link to an interesting post on her Eye on Boise blog.

More than your average neighbor feud

When a north Spokane man awoke last weekend to the sound of his car alarm and found his window smashed, police traced fresh footprints leading from the crime scene to a neighbor’s home.

It was no surprise to the victim – he told police he’s known the man since the mid 1990s and suspects him of several other break-ins.

But the case is more than just an apparent feud between two neighbors. The alleged victim is a Spokane County Sheriff’s detective, the car an unmarked patrol cruiser.

And the suspect? The same guy arrested in an undercover sting last fall after investigators say he tried to sell a camera that had been stolen from the same detective’s car last year.

Now, Nick A. Peters, 26,(right) is in jail and facing criminal charges in connection with the Saturday break-in of sheriff’s Detective Bryan Miller’s unmarked police car. And authorities are lamenting a case in which the suspect doesn’t appear to be learning any lessons.

“We’d like to be able to park our cars out front like anybody else,” said Sgt. John Nowels.

Read the rest of my story here.

Previous coverage:

Craigslist camera sale leads to arrests

Canadian coke smuggler: I’m guilty

A Canadian man arrested with 38 kilos of cocaine last fall recently pleaded guilty to a federal cocaine charge.

Michael B. Yuill, 36, (left, dressed as Shrek for Halloween 2005 in a picture from his hometown paper, the Observer), pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.

The charges carries a prison sentence of 10 years to life. No plea deal was accepted when Yuill pleaded guilty Feb. 2.

He’ll be sentenced May 3. Yuill, a father of two with no previous criminal record, was arrested Oct. 7 after employees at a Spokane International Airport rental agency told investigators he’d rented several SUVs and returned them after racking up unusually high mileage – some 3,000 miles apiece.

Yuill, a resident of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, a small community about 300 miles north of Spokane, was arrested after U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents spent two days tailing him throughout Eastern Washington.

Previous coverage:

B.C man in coke bust to stay in jail

38 kilos of cocaine seized in Eastern Washington

Plea deal accepted in March murder

A man who rejected a plea deal last month in connection with a fatal stabbing changed his mind and will spend the next year in prison after pleading guilty today.

Christopher R. Harper, 28, had been charged with second-degree murder following the March 3 stabbing death of 19-year-old Michael “Mickey” Lyng. However, prosecutors agreed with assistant public defender Al Rossi to allow Harper to plead guilty to two felony charges of riot.

Superior Court Judge Annette Plese approved the deal this morning and accepted Harper’s plea. As a result, Harper was sentenced to 24 months in jail, but that time will be cut in half because Harper will be credited for having already spent about a year in jail awaiting trial.

Rossi said he believed he could have won Christopher Harper’s acquittal. But if he didn’t, Harper would have faced a much longer prison sentence.

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

Past coverage:

Accused killer backs out of deal

Man gets 6 years in fatal stabbing

Bloody knife could hold clue to March murder

Arson suspect caught on tape

Fire investigators think the man pictured is responsible for an arson fire behind a Spokane Valley convenience store last month.

The fire was reported just after 6 p.m. on Jan. 18 behind the Hico Village at 1201 North Barker Road.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department determined the fire was intentionally set and are looking for tips identifying the culprit, the department announced Monday.

Anyone with information is asked to call (509) 928-1700, or call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Rape alleged at Spokane church

A man is accused of raping a woman early Saturday at a Spokane church where he works.

Police arrested Michael J. Bosch, 47, early Saturday after a woman said he attacked her in the basement of Mending Fences Ministry, 1906 E. Sprague, according to court documents. 

Bosch met the woman on East Sprague about 2:30 a.m. and the two discussed “possible sexual activity” before going to Mending Fences, documents allege.

Bosch works at the church and had a key, police said.

Bosch smoked crack cocaine before tying wire around the woman’s face and mouth and placing a plastic bag over her head, according to court documents.

Bosch tied the woman to a metal pipe before sexually assaulting her, police said.

The woman smashed a window and ran to a nearby motor home, where a resident called police.

Officers found the woman with a wire around her neck and face with pieces of a plastic bag stuck to it. Bosch had a scratch on his cheek and cut on a finger that he told police he’d gotten earlier in the week.

Church pastor Kevin Ch’en allowed detectives to search the building. Mending Fences ministers to the homeless and people with problems like drug addiction.

Bosch’s bail was set at $50,000 after he appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Monday via video feed from the jail.

Robbery nets $83, 2 felony charges

A convenience store robbery that landed a Spokane man in jail on felony charges netted $83, according to court documents.

Jakob B. McMath, 25, appeared in Superior Court today on charges of first-degree robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. McMath was arrested late Saturday after a tipster told police McMath was driving a stolen red Honda Civic and planned to rob a gas station.

Police stopped the Civic at LaCrosse and Maple and found items stolen from the Fairco Mini-Mart, 2020 W. Francis, earlier that night.

Court documents say McMath kept his right hand in his sweatshirt pocket during the robbery as if to indicate he had a gun.

The robber told the clerk she had 10 seconds to open the till and began counting down before she handed him the money, which totaled $83, according to court documents.

McMath appeared in Superior Court today, where his bail was set at $50,000. Family members attended, along with lawyer Tim Note.

Note represents McMath on a fourth-degree assault charge and is to represent him in this case, too.

Police: Man drugged woman before rape

A 20-year-old Spokane man is accused of drugging a woman, then raping her after a church function last fall.

Adric T. Watson is in jail on $10,000 bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court Monday on one count- of second-degree rape.

Watson turned himself in to police Friday in connection with the alleged incident on Nov. 14.

Watson reportedly told detectives he’d given the 19-year-old woman sleeping pills before he had sex with her, Deputy Prosecutor Sharon Hedlund said.

Watson and the alleged victim met at an event through Lighthouse ministries before they went to a friend’s home in the 300 block of East Crown, where the woman said Watson raped her as she slept.

The woman underwent a sexual assault examination at a local hospital, where she also was interviewed by detectives.

“This is a serious, violent offense,” Hedlund said. “He’s looking at a lengthy prison sentence.”

Man wanted for passing fake money

A man passed counterfeit $100 bills at two store last week, and detectives are looking for help identifying him.

The man used one bill to buy lottery scratch-it tickets at the GTX Truck Stop, 18723 E. Cataldo, on Feb. 3 at 2:30 p.m.

The next day, the man used another $100 bill to buy $50 of scratch-it tickets. The man has been described as in his 40s or 50s, balding and with a beard.

One witness said he appeared about 5-foot-4 and 165 pounds. Surveillance video at one of the businesses captured the above photo of the man.

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

9th Circuit rejects Spokane man’s appeal

A Spokane sex offender with a long list of lawsuits against various entities recently lost an appeal to one of the country’s highest courts.

Robert M. Waggy argued to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that his arrest in 2004 on a bench warrant was unlawful.

Waggy was arrested on April 19, 2004, after reports that he’d threatened to kill a Department of Social and Health Services caseworker and planned to “conduct a shooting rampage at a local elementary school,” according to court documents. He posted bail but was rearrested the next day on a bench warrant after authorities ruled he’d violated the terms of his supervision child rape and molestation charges.

Waggy appealed the U.S. District Court’s rejection of his lawsuit over the bench warrant arrest to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, alleging Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald acted outside her role as a judicial advocate when she obtained the bench warrant.

Waggy also claimed Spokane County had an “unconstitutional policy” and didn’t properly train or supervise prosecutors on bench warrants.

The 9th Circuit rejected Waggy’s appeal in an 11-page opinion issued Feb. 5, ruling that a prosecutor applying the law  to get a bench warrant isn’t acting an investigator as Waggy claimed, but is a judicial advocate.

Waggy also claimed that Spokane County had a unconstitutional policy, but “he failed to allege any facts supporting this claim,” according to the ruling. “He points us to no express county policy or custom, and he provides no evidence showing even an inference that such a procedure exists.”

Waggy also claimed Spokane County failed to supervise and train prosecutors on bench warrants.

But Waggy failed “to provide any facts” about what policies allegedly violate the constitution, according to the ruling.

Reached by phone today, Waggy said he hadn’t heard of the ruling and declined comment.

While the 9th Circuit rejected Waggy’s claims in a slam-dunk, hands-down ruling, news archives could lead you to believe he knows his way around the court system.

In May 2007, Waggy filed a $250 billion lawsuit against the state, alleging officials repeatedly refused to allow him contact with his daughter.

Waggy has filed a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Cowles Publishing Co., saying a Spokesman-Review news item about the state lawsuit was libelous.

He has also filed recent lawsuits against, U.S.. Bank, Spokane Mental Health, the state Department of Corrections and Spokane County, according to court records.

Ranch trial could go to jury Tuesday

Closing arguments are expected tomorrow in the Morning Star Boys’ Ranch sex abuse trial.

The lengthy trial is the first of more than a dozen cases that could go to trial in Spokane County Superior Court.

On Thursday, the Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner (pictured above) said that he would sometimes get angry during his 52-year career at Morning Star Boys’ Ranch, but that he “never, never” sexually abused the boys in his care.

“I was a parent, and I did things that parents do,” said Morning Star’s former director, adding that included losing his temper at times.

Read Kevin Graman’s story: Former ranch director denies abuse allegations

Full coverage here.

Tucker puts Stevens on leave

A Spokane County deputy prosecutor who announced this week that he’s running for his boss’ job has been placed on paid leave and faces possible discipline.

Prosecutor Steve Tucker said his complaints against David Stevens are “obviously” connected to Stevens’ decision to challenge him in the August primary, but he declined to specify further, citing contract rules.

Stevens has until Wednesday to respond to a letter sent to him today by Tucker.

Stevens declined to release a copy of the letter but said Tucker wrote in it that Stevens had “violated behavioral standards by not effectively communicating with other county employees and not getting along with other coworkers and managers.”

The move comes one day after Stevens announced his candidacy and blasted Tucker’s leadership in the Prosecutor’s Office, calling him an “absent administrator.”

Tucker questioned Thursday why “the public should be paying somebody to run against his boss” and noted that he resigned as a deputy prosecutor before challenging the incumbent, Jim Sweetser, in 1998.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage: Tucker deputy wants top job

Meth lab busted in Bonner County

Bonner County authorities raided a methamphetamine lab and arrested two men Thursday after a three-month investigation.

Louis Gillette, 52, (left) and Allan Krebs, (right) 64, were jailed on $100,000 bail after investigators found a meth lab at Krebs’ home at 4433 Colburn Culver Road, the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office announced today. Gillette also lives at the home, the sheriff’s office said.

A hazardous materials team disposed of the lab, which Sgt. Marty Ryan said “appeared to be in prep for starting another cook.” Krebs appears to be a longtime resident of the Sandpoint area.

Fourteen years ago, he was quoted in an article about a Winter Carnival that began with a swim in chilly Lake Pend Oreille.

“In Idaho, we will do anything for entertainment,” Krebs said at the time.

If you really want to read the 1996 article on the Winter Carnival in Sandpoint, click the link below.

Hockey game pits police v. sheriff’s office

Local law enforcement will take to the ice next week in a hockey game to raise money for the children of the slain Lakewood police officers.

Members of Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office will play a hockey game at 5 p.m. Feb. 13.

Admission is free with a ticket to the Spokane Chiefs game that night at 7 p.m.

Donations will be accepted during the Chiefs game.

The Chiefs will be holding a silent auction to raise money for the children, too, according to a news release.

The game was organized by Officer Brad Moon, Deputy Khris Thompson and the Spokane Chiefs Hockey Club. Members of Lakewood Police Department will be present for both games. 

Bust nabs 80 pounds of marijuana

The suspected leader of an interstate marijuana distribution ring was arrested this week after investigators seized more than 80 pounds of marijuana, his Mercedes Benz and several guns, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Trent R. Harris, 27, of Kennewick was arrested Wednesday by sheriff’s detectives and members of the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force, the sheriff’s office announced today.

Arrested Thursday was 32-year-old Anthony Andre Wofford, alias Anthony Dre, who investigators say had more than $11,000 in suspect drug money connected to Harris’ operation.

Investigators had “developed information” after Harris’ arrest that led to Wofford’s arrest during a traffic stop by Washington State Patrol, according to a news release. 

Investigators placed a GPS tracking device on Wofford’s 2002 GMC Envoy on Jan. 22, according to a search warrant.

Detectives say Wofford routinely traveled to Spokane to collected money and distribute large quantities of marijuana. Wofford was arrested Thursday and is due in Superior Court today on one charge of delivery of a controlled substance.

Harris was arrested Wednesday and was released from jail after appearing in court Thursday, records show.

Idaho State Police and the Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force are working with the Spokane County investigators.

Stevens challenging Tucker for prosecutor

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Dave Stevens has announced that he’ll challenge his boss, Prosecutor Steve Tucker, in the August primary.

Both Tucker (right) and Stevens (left) are Republicans, and the battle is off to a tough start.

“Until I came here, I’ve never seen a total lack of leadership,” Stevens said in an interview today with Spokesman-Review reporter Jonathan Brunt. “There needs to be a determined leader, not an absent administrator.”

Tucker told me yesterday afternoon that he is running for reelection.

Brunt has more on the race at the Spin Control blog.

Stevens’ campaign manager is Michael Cathcart, who was removed as a juror for a first-degree murder trial after Stevens reported a a comment Cathcart had made about a prosecutor’s hair. (Story here.) Cathcart said today that Stevens was just doing his job.

Jury clears doctor in drug case

A jury cleared a former North Idaho doctor this week of allegations that he overprescribed drugs nearly a decade ago.

Chris Arthur Christensen was acquitted on three federal charges in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene after a week-long jury trial.

It was the second trial for the former Silverton, Idaho doctor, who was indicted in 2006 after a lengthy investigation by Idaho State Police.

The first jury acquitted Christensen on six counts in June but couldn’t reach a verdict on 12 counts.

Federal prosecutors retried Christensen on three counts of prescribing methadone, hydrocodone and/or alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug, “outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose” for incidents between Dec. 28, 2000 and Jan. 12, 2001. Witnesses included an ISP detective who posed as a patient to visit Christensen.

Christensen always denied wrong doing, according to his defense lawyer, David E. DokkenÖ, of Lewiston.

“He was a thorough and competent doctor who passionately pursued his practice,” according to court documents prepared by Dokken.

Christensen originally was indicted on charges relating to the deaths of several patients.

In 1998, a state investigation found that Christensen prescribed painkillers and narcotics to seven patients without treating their underlying problems, according to previously published reports.

In 2001, Christensen agreed to voluntarily give up his license for two years and undergo at least a six-month pain management course after the Idaho State Board of Medicine accused him of prescribing drugs that resulted in a patient’s death.

He also agreed to pay the state $2,000 to cover its investigative costs.

Jurors deliberated for about 10 hours before acquitting Christensen on Wednesday.

Christensen had a practice in Victor, Mont, as of May 2009, but it’s unclear if it’s still open.

Sheriff: Critics are ill-informed ‘whiners’

BOISE - A Kootenai County human rights group sent a letter to the Idaho Legislature on Thursday saying criminals are going free in Benewah County because the sheriff there refuses to sign a cooperative agreement with the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police.

Benewah County Sheriff Bob Kirts vigorously disputes the letter, calling the assertions “ill-informed” and from “whiners.”

Read the rest of Betsy Z. Russell’s story here.

The Spokesman-Review explored racial tensions in Benewah County in this September 2008 story: Tensions linger.

Killer’s father charged with ID theft

The story of a woman who worked as a prostitute before murdering her husband has reemerged in an otherwise low-level theft case in Spokane County Superior Court.

CKLCurtis A. JohnsonÖ, 69, is scheduled for trial next month on one count of first-degree identity theft after police say he cashed two checks with signatures forged to look like murder victim Dale R. Stark’s.

Stark, 48, was gunned down in south Spokane home on Dec. 9, 2007, by his estranged wife and Johnson’s daughter, Shellye L. Stark (left)Ö. A jury convicted Shellye StarkÖ, 47, of first-degree murder in March, and she’s serving 50 years in prison.

On Dec. 28, 2007, less than a month after the murder, Stark’s slaying, someone transferred $9,500 from Dale Stark’s home equity line on Dec. 28, 2007, into a credit union account Shellye Stark took control of after her husband’s murder.

Then on Jan. 3, 2008, one day after his daughter left jail on $250,000 bond, Johnson reportedly cashed two checks from that credit union account – one for $3,000, which the account already had in it; the other for $9,500 that had been transferred in - in Newport, Wash, prosecution documents allege.

A handwriting expert with the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab said Johnson signed Stark’s name to the checks, according to court documents.

Johnson, of Priest River, Idaho, could not be reached for comment.

Reached by phone, his daughter Karen JacquettaÖ said she knew little about the case and couldn’t comment.


The murder case took an unusual twist in April when Spokane police arrested Shellye Stark’s boyfriend, Brian L. MooreÖ, on accusations that he helped plan the murder, then concocted a sordid tale of spousal abuse to try to dupe authorities into thinking the murder was in self defense.

But a judge ruled last summer that material from a private investigators hired by Moore, 43, that had been included in Stark’s defense lawyer’s files couldn’t be used to support first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges against Moore.

Moore’s defense lawyers then moved to dismiss the charges because of lack of evidence, but prosecutors dismissed the charges before the defense request could be heard. Prosecutors have said they’ll refile the charges.

Meanwhile, Moore is at the Santa Ana Jail in California on two federal charges of possession of an unregistered firearm in connection with a rifle and firearm silencer on a pistol seized from a his warehouse in Orange County, Calif.

His trial is set for May.

The murder case took an unusual twist in April when Spokane police arrested Stark’s boyfriend, Brian L. Moore, on accusations that helped plan the murder, then concocted a sordid tale of spousal abuse to try to dupe authorties into thinking the killing was in self defense.

But a judge ruled last summer that material from a private investigators hired by Moore, 43, that had been included in Stark’s defense lawyer’s files couldn’t be used to support first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges against Moore.

Moore’s defense lawyers then moved to dismiss the charges because of lack of evidence, but prosecutors dismissed the charges before the defense request could be heard. Prosecutors have said they’ll refile the charges.

In the mean time, Moore is at the Santa Ana Jail in California, where he was just granted permission to wear reading glasses in his cell, according to court documents filed Jan. 27.

Moore’s public defenders filed the request on Jan. 21 after a doctor recommended hewear glasses.

He faces two federal charges of possession of an unregistered firearm in connection with a rifle and firearm silencer on a pistol seized from a his warehouse in Orange County, Calif.

His trial is set for May.

Shady mannequin leads to car pool fine

ISLANDIA, N.Y. (AP) — The tipoff was the sunglasses.

A New Yorker faces a $135 traffic fine for using a mannequin as her plus-one in the high-occupancy lane of the Long Island Expressway.

An alert sheriff’s deputy on Long Island became suspicious when he saw the “passenger” wearing sunglasses and using the visor. The only problem: The sky was overcast.

When he stopped the vehicle, he found the mannequin, fully dressed with a long dark wig, blazer, shirt and scarf.

The 61-year-old driver left with a summons, according to Suffolk County Sheriff’s Deptartment.

No death penalty for Deer Park man

A Deer Park man accused of murdering a witness in an assault case against him will avoid the death penalty because of prosecutors mismanaged the case, a judge ruled today.

Spokane County prosecutors failed to disclose for months pertinent statements from suspect Christopher H. Devlin’s alleged accomplice that raise questions about where the slaying occurred.

Although a legal technicality, the statements from co-defendant Carl A. Hoskins that the victim, 52-year-old Daniel D. Heily of Chattaroy, was killed in Stevens County instead of Spokane County are critical to the question of proper jurisdiction.

Devlin’s defense lawyers weren’t told of the discrepancy until months after he requested to move his case to Stevens County.

Meanwhile, the county spent tens of thousands of dollars on defense lawyers qualified for death penalty cases, and a legal debate raged over the proper county to hold the expensive trial.

Hoskin’s statements about the location of the murder could have been used to support Devlin’s change-of-venue request, lawyers Mark Vovos, of Spokane, and Roger Hunko, of Yakima, argued.

Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque agreed, ruling this morning that the mismanagement by prosecutors was inadvertent but affected Devlin’s right to a fair trial. Devlin’s trial is set for July 19.

Prosecutors are expecting to to take longer because Vovos, a longtime trial lawyer, is involved.

“Normally, I would say 1 to 2(weeks),” said Larry Steinmetz. “With Mr. Vovos, I would say 3 to 4.”

Read the rest of my story: No death penalty in Deer Park case

Read a declaration from John Rodgers, director of the Spokane County Public Defender’s Office, here.

Past coverage: County balks at case transfer

Homicide victim was Chattaroy man

Ignition device law a test for agencies

Changes to a state law put a fired Spokane police sergeant in a new class of drunken drivers: first-time offenders required to drive with an ignition interlock device.

That new requirement led to Brad Thoma’s dismissal from the Spokane Police Department after the department said public safety would be compromised by having an officer who had to pass a breathalyzer test any time he needed to start his patrol car. It appears to be the first time a law enforcement agency statewide has had to consider the issue.

Now officials with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office are wondering what the requirement could mean for a lieutenant suspected of a drunken car crash in Liberty Lake.

While the Spokane Police Department and Washington State Patrol handle similar situations on a case-by-case basis, Sheriff’s Office policy calls for employees to be fired after their second drunken driving offense.

“It’s still kind of unclear as to what that means for somebody who is working,” said Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

Read the rest of my story here.

Gym teacher accused of sexual abuse

A high school gym teacher and local cheerleading coach is accused of sexually abusing a teenager.

Darin J. DeBolt, 26, a teacher at Lakeside High School in North Idaho, appeared in court today on one count of sexual battery of a minor child ages 16 or 17 and one count of sexual intercourse with a minor child.

DeBolt was arrested Tuesday at the 130-student high school in Plummer, where the Spokane resident has worked for five years, said Judi Sharrett, superintendent of the Plummer-Worley School District.

“The district is fully cooperating with police,” Sharrett said.

DeBolt remains in Benewah County Jail on $50,000 bail.

The alleged incident occurred last month, according to the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office.

DeBolt was on the cheer squad at Eastern Washington University (he’s pictured above in September 2008) and is a coach with All Star Cheer and Dance in Spokane Valley, according to the group’s Web site.

Chase in Everett leads to police pileup

Fortunately no one was severely injured in this pileup this morning, and the suspect was apprehended, but it makes you wonder how many times the words “oh crap” or similar variation on that phrase were uttered.

Here’s the initial coverage out of Everett from speed wire:

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — Four patrol cars — two Everett city police and two Snohomish County — were involved in crashes after a stolen car chase in Everett.

Sgt. Robert Goetz says four officers were taken to a hospital. One city officer suffered two broken wrists and a broken knee. Another city officer suffered broken fingers. Two deputies were evaluated and released.

The incident began with a deputy chasing a stolen car. The stolen car crashed about 2:20 a.m. Wednesday, and the driver tried to flee on foot.

Officers were responding to the scene when one struck two patrol cars parked at a downtown intersection. A fourth car veered into a planter.

Other officers caught the fleeing driver, 32-year-old Andrew Holden, a suspect in multiple car thefts.

Suspect arrested in weekend stabbing

A man who told a judge two weeks ago that he planned to “make better decisions” and “be a parent” is back in Spokane County Jail after police say he stabbed two men early Saturday.

Michael R. “Mikey Mike” Gardner was booked into jail Tuesday, three days after an early morning fight at 616 S. Helena that sent Larry L. Lucious, 49, and Michael T. Lomax, 26, to the hospital with stab wounds to their stomachs.

Police think Gardner, 23, was one of three men involved in the stabbed, which occurred about 3 a.m. at the apartment of Tamika L. Hill, 26.

Hill told police she was watching Michelle Gardner’s three children but one wasn’t feeling well, so she left them at Gardner’s apartment with “an unknown white female,” according to a search warrant filed Tuesday.

The women argued about that later, then Hill heard a fight in the living room and saw Michael Gardner and two others fighting with Lucious and Lomax.

Neither victim cooperated with police, according to court documents, and detectives believe the case is gang-related.

Detectives found crack cocaine on a dinner plate underneath the bathroom sink, along with a plastic bag of crack in a bedroom dresser drawer, according to a search warrant.

Gardner was released from jail just weeks ago after pleading guilty to an assault charge for a July 24 shooting.

Gardner had been charged with two counts of attempted murder, but those charged were dropped in a plea deal that gave him a year of probation and credit for about four months served in jail on a third-degree assault charge. Lawyers say he punched a woman after intervening in a fight.

The suspected shooter, Timothy L. “Stoney Boy” Lucious, 38, (right) remains in Spokane County Jail on attempted murder and assault charges. His trial is set to begin Fe. 22.

It’s unclear if Timothy Lucious and Larry Lucious are related.

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

Gardner is due back in Spokane County Superior Court today on new charges of first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree assault, according to jail records.

Past coverage:

Attempted murder charges dropped

Two women shot in crosstown melee

Move over, toothless burglar

A burglar dressed in skin-tight leotards and a red bandana went screaming from a Spokane Valley home this morning after being surprised by a 14-year-old occupant.

The boy told officers he was in the shower and heard his dogs barking in the kitchen about 6:40 a.m., police said.

He went to the kitchen, where he met the burglar running up from the basement and out of the house, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

The burglar was described as white, in his 40s with thin blond hair.

Officers searched the home and found no sign of forced entry and nothing appeared to have been taken.

Man accused of stabbing drinking buddy

An argument between two men drinking at a North Side apartment early Tuesday ended with one stabbing the other, Spokane police said.

Matthew J. Blizzard, 32, is accused of stabbing Paul J. Erickson, 39, with a pocket knife inside Erickson’s apartment at 6616 N. Addison about 4:10 a.m.

The men had met earlier that day and were drinking with a woman at Erickson’s apartment when Blizzard “became belligerent,” according to court documents.

Blizzard plans to argue self defense and is hoping to get treatment for his alcoholism, Spokane County Public Defender Victoria Johnston said at his first Superior Court appearance Tuesday.

Judge Maryann Moreno set Blizzard’s bond at $2,500. Erickson was taken to a local hospital and was reported as stable with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Blizzard was convicted of battery in Kootenai County in July 2009. (His picture is from the Kootenai County Jail.)

Gaming machine thief caught on tape

Detectives are looking for a man they say broke into gaming machines at a Spokane Valley convenience store.

The man was captured on security video around the time of the theft, which detectives say occurred Jan. 24 about 4:30 p.m. at the Hico Village, 1201 North Barker Road.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that helps identify the man.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts should contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS or (509) 327-5111, or leave a tip online.

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

A 9th Circuit ruling that might surprise you

For all that grief that 9th Circuit appeals judges take from those who consider them too liberal, here’s a ruling, issued this morning, that might come as a surprise: 22 years too lenient for al Qaida-trained bomber captured in Washington state with a vehicle full of explosives while on his way to blow up LAX. Here’s the initial AP brief from the speed wire:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court says the 22-year prison sentence is too lenient for al-Qaida-trained terrorist convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport at the turn of the millennium.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the sentence Tuesday. It also removed the Seattle trial judge from the case and assigned the re-sentencing of Ahmed Ressam to another federal judge.

Border agents in Washington state arrested Ressam in December 1999 after he entered the United States from Canada on a ferry with a car packed with explosives.

A judge cited Ressam’s cooperation with investigators in meting out the original sentence. But since Ressam recanted his cooperation after two years, the appeals court says he deserves a longer sentence.

Shoe thief suspect nabbed in Newark

NEWARK, Del. (AP) — Newark Police have arrested a 46-year-old man they say is responsible for the theft of thousands of shoes after recovering much of the stolen property at the suspect’s house.

Walter J. Rubincan of Newark was arrested Friday.

He is charged with 25 counts of second-degree burglary and 77 counts of theft. Police say he’s been stealing shoes for about 20 years.

Police say they have recovered three truckloads of stolen property from Rubincan’s house, including 150 boxes of shoes and photographs, eight guitars, a mandolin, eight snowboards and a surfboard.

Officers say of hundreds of shoes in duffel bags found along a creek in Elkton, Md., last weekend were also part of the shoe burglar’s stash.

Rubincan is being held on $138,000 cash only bail.

Gunman threatens bail bondsman

A man accused of trying to steal an ATM last fall was arrested today after a bail bond company employee said he pointed a gun at her.

George W. Butrick, 32, pulled a 9mm Ruger handgun on a woman who works at Angel’s Bail Bonds, 1215 N. Monroe St., about 12:38 p.m., Spokane police said.

Butrick, who court records show used the company to post $85,000 bond for 13 felony charges on Dec. 21, became upset when the employee accused him of violating his release agreement, witnesses told police.

“They were asking for more collateral to bolster the bond, and I don’t think he cared for that too much,” said Spokane police Officer Tim Moses.

A woman who answered the phone at Angel’s Bail Bonds declined comment.

“Nobody wants to talk about it,” she said.

Butrick was jailed on charges of assault and unlawful possession of a firearm, police said. He is prohibited from possessing firearms because of felony convictions.

He’s accused of smashing a convenience store window and trying to steal an ATM on Oct. 21 (the culprit is pictured at left) - two days after he left Spokane County Jail on $15,000 bail after being arrested with illegal weapons and drugs, including heroin, according to court documents.

Butrick was arrested for the alleged attempted ATM theft Nov. 4 but left jail again but was rearrested Nov. 27 after a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy found him with a an 8-inch knife, a hatchet and methamphetmine during a traffic stop, according to court documents.

A court order prohibits him from possessing weapons.

Since then, he’s accrued a slew of felony charges that he bonded out on in late December, including charges of second-degree identity theft and second-degree theft for allegedly cashing a forged check on Oct. 29, according to court documents. He’s charged with attempted second-degree theft, second-degree burglary and third-degree malicious mischief for the alleged ATM incident.

While a suspect in that attempted ATM theft, Butrick has not been accused of any ATM burglaries involving stolen vehicles smashing through storefronts.

No charges have been filed in those recent cases, but a group of career criminals was recently charged with a string of similar ATM thefts in early 2009.

Buyer turned burglar gets 10 years

A Stevens County man who posed as a home buyer, then burglarized the house as the seller vacationed with his family, will spend 10 years in prison.

Aaron Leigh, 32, was sentenced last week in Stevens County Superior Court to 80 months for residential burglary, to be served concurrently with sentences for several counts second-degree of possession of stolen property.

He got an additional 45 months after the Department of Correction revoked his participation in the drug offender sentencing alternative program on a prior offense, according to the Stevens County Prosecutor’s Office

The case began in August after a homeowner showed him around a house that was for sale and mentioned he family was going camping Aug. 22 and 23. When the family returned, they found the home ransacked. Investigators found items stolen from the home in Leigh’s car.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen wrote about the case in his weekly column.

Click the link below to read the rest of the column.

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