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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for January 2010

Truckers and chili rarely a good combination

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) — Police say a lumber truck crashed into a Massachusetts home after the driver was knocked unconscious when he choked on chili from Wendy’s.

Lowell police say Eric Gremm reported that he choked on the chili when the truck hit a bump, causing him to pass out. The flatbed truck veered off the road and slammed into the foundation of the home.

The 59-year-old Tyngsboro resident was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Police say he could be cited for eating while driving.

Imprisoned contractor helped bust school booster

A former Bayview contractor now serving time in federal prison for selling marijuana helped federal drug agents bust a once-prominent Coeur d’Alene insurance agent and school booster weeks before he was sentenced last year.

That insurance agent, Jerald S. “Jerry” Carlson, 47, pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony charge of attempting to possess cocaine with intent to deliver in a plea deal that dismissed two other felony cocaine charges.

Carlson’s plea avoided a trial in which an acquaintance who sold him the cocaine that led to his arrest, Theodore L. Bruck, was scheduled to testify.

Idaho State Police detectives began investigating Bruck, 53, in 2005 after a man who claimed to work for him was arrested in Arizona with about 100 pounds of marijuana, according to court documents.

He pleaded guilty in October 2008 to charges related to the distribution of thousands of pound of marijuana from at least 2000 to April 2008 and is serving nearly 7 years in a federal prison in California.

Months before Bruck was ordered to prison, Carlson wrote a letter to a judge describing contracting work Bruck performed for Carlson over the years.

Carlson called Bruck, who had a previous federal marijuana conviction, “very reputable and trustworthy.”

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

Past coverage:

Feds wants Carlson’s car, cash

CdA businessman faces federal cocaine charges

CdA civic booster busted on cocaine charge

Verdict means life in prison for rapist

A child rapist faces life in prison after a Spokane County jury convicted him Friday of three crimes involving sexual assaults against prostitutes.

Pierre D. West, 49, clenched his jaw and shook his head as Superior Court Judge Michael Price said a jury had convicted the registered sex offender of two counts of second-degree rape, two counts of unlawful imprisonment and one count of second-degree assault with sexual motivation.

He was acquitted of nearly 10 counts, including harassment, first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.

The jury of six men and six women deadlocked on two counts. One of the women who testified against West cried when she learned the jury acquitted him of raping her.

West qualifies for the state’s two-strikes, life-in-prison law for violent sexual offenders because of a previous conviction for third-degree rape of a child in 1988, said Deputy Prosecutor John Love.

Read the rest of my story: Sex offender convicted of rape, assault

Previous coverage:

Man convicted of raping prostitutes will get new trial

Jury convicts man of raping prostitutes

Trial begins for man accused of assaulting prostitutes

Valley man charged in rapes of 5 women

Mom cited for drunken driving

A Spokane Valley mother faces criminal charges after police say her toddler walked away from a drunken car crash as she tried to free her vehicle.

Denice L. Goode, 42, was booked into Spokane Count Jail today on misdemeanor charges of drunken driving and reckless endangerment after the 1:45 a.m. crash at East Bridgeport Avenue and North Marguerite Road.

Goode reportedly told deputies she’d cut a corner too sharply and driven onto boulders, then allowed her three-year-old son to play outside as she tried to free her 2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, according to a news release.

Spokane Valley police officers found the boy at the 7-Eleven on North Argonne Road, about two blocks from the crash scene. The boy’s father, who was working, picked him up, according to a news release.

Goode remained in jail on $1,000 bond this morning.

She was convicted of drunken driving twice in 2002, according to news archives.

‘All the nudes that’s fit to sprint’

A news release from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office calls it a clear case of “all the nudes that’s fit to sprint.”

A 53-year-old Spokane Valley man was cited for indecent exposure Thursday after a police officer found him naked and fondling himself in front of traffic on East Sprague Avenue.

Gene F. Young ran when he saw Officer Chuck Sciortino approaching about 9:50 p.m., and Sciortino caught up with him when he fell in parking lot next to an auto parts store.

Young, who police believe was intoxicated, was issued a citation for indecent exposure before being allowed to walk to his home about 50 yards away in the 4700 block of East First Avenue.

He was sentenced to 10 days in jail in August for the same crime, according to news archives show.

Disbarred lawyer captured in Mexico

He lived the high-life he’d become accustomed to in Spokane, escaping to southern Mexico and bragging about his exploits on a Web site that nearly led to his capture.

But after evading authorities for more than a decade, disbarred Spokane lawyer and developer Claude Irwin, Jr, is set to return to Spokane County to face the creditors and investors he’s accused of duping out of millions of dollars in a failed lakeside development in North Idaho.

Federal agents arrested Irwin, 62, Wednesday night as he stepped off a plane in Los Angeles, part of an international ruse arranged by the U.S. Marshals Office.

He’s awaiting extradition to Spokane County on a felony theft warrant filed in 1998, a year after he vanished and left his multimillion-dollar, 390-acre real estate development near Harrison, Idaho, Powderhorn Ridge Ranch, facing at least $3 million in unpaid judgments and claims.

“He needed to come home,” said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Eric Marks in Spokane.

Once in Spokane, Irwin be held without bail.

Irwin’s arrest came after a tipster contacted a Spokesman-Review reporter in August with questions about the case and information about Irwin’s possible location and new identity in Mexico.

The newspaper, as is customary, urged the tipster to alert law enforcement to any information regarding potential criminal matters, and – with the tipster’s permission – helped arrange for the tipster and federal marshals to contact each other.

Irwin was nearly caught in 2000 after a reporter found a web site he’d created.

The pictures above were taken from that site. Irwin labeled the top photo “Ayatolla.”

Read the rest of my story: Fugitive developer captured in international ruse

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

Police seek mom and daughter’s alleged accomplice

A mother and daughter accused of beating and robbing a man pleaded not guilty in Spokane County Superior Court today, but police haven’t been able to find a man suspected of helping them.

Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to his capture.

Robert L. “Junior” Hensley, 21, is wanted on a first-degree robbery charge for a Nov. 29 incident.

Detectives say Hensley, Alisson D. Taylor, 34, (aka Alisson D. Hall) and Breeanna C. Sims, 18, picked up Jeremy Brotherton at Denny’s in Spokane Valley and told him they had money they owed him.

They then assaulted Brotherton and drove him to his apartment at 9015 E. Cataldo, where they stole his cash, according to court documents.

Hall and Sims reportedly implicated themselves in the crimes in interviews with detectives in December.

The mother and daughter are in Spokane County Jail, charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for help finding Hensley.

His nine-year Spokane County criminal history includes convictions for harassment – threats to kill, unlawful possession of a firearm, making false statements, drug possession, reckless driving, city theft and violations of anti-harassment orders, according to a news release.

Police chief testifies in Olympia

From Jim Camden at Spin Control:

OLYMPIA — Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was among law enforcement brass who told said they should be allowed to fire an officer who lies without fear of being overruled by an arbitrator.

Kirkpatrick joined sheriffs from King and Chelan counties who supported SB 6590, which was drafted to clarify a problem with state law raised in by a recent state Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling overturned the firing of an officer for lying, saying the there was no explicit state policy that requires an officer to be truthful, so firing him was arbitrary. An officer would have to be lying about a “material fact” in a case, Kirkpatrick said.

An arbitrator should be able to rule on whether the department meets all the standards set down in the disciplinary process, she added; but if that’s done, the decision to fire or not fire shouldn’t be overturned by the arbitrator.

Read more at Spin Control.

Woman accused of drive-by shooting

A woman accused of driving two men from a shooting outside a McDonald’s in August pleaded not guilty to two felonies this week.

Nicole R. Dituri, 24, is charged with drive-by shooting and first-degree rendering criminal assistance after police say she drove Jason Giles and Toby Hunt to and from a shooting on Aug. 6.

Hunt, 31, was sentenced to 40 months in prison Jan. 5 after pleading guilty to three counts of second-degree assault and riot. Giles, 31, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in December for second-degree assault.

The incident began with a dispute over a woman, Giles told police. Giles told Hunt his ex-girlfriend had been assaulted by the male victim, with whom Hunt was already angry over money.

“They decided to go beat him up,” according to the affidavit. Giles headbutted a car before Hunt fired several shots from a silver handgun as the car drove away.

Police believe Dituri drove Giles and Hunt around the South Hill in her Lexus SUV before they spotted the victims in the McDonald’s parking lot, 2903 E. 29th Ave.

Crime Stoppers issued a reward for information leading to Dituri’s capture Dec. 22, and she was arrested Dec. 30. She told detectives she was happy to talk about the incident, according to court documents.

She was arraigned Tuesday.

Oxy addict who targeted elderly gets 7 years

A man who robbed elderly women in grocery store parking lots to support his OxyContin addiction will spend seven years in prison.

Ryan Xavier Burgess, 22, was sentenced to 86 months in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree robbery, one count of attempted second-degree robbery and and four counts of second-degree theft. He’ll serve his sentences concurrently.

“I’m terribly sorry for my actions,” Burgess said. “I started getting high, running with the wrong crowd.”

A sheriff’s deputy allowed Burgess to hug and kiss his 2-year-old son, Alex, before he was taken back to the jail. One of his victims hugged the boy, too. Burgess was arrested Sept. 29 after a police officer found him hiding in a shed near the 5 Mile Shopping Center.

That same day, an elderly woman identified Burgess in a photo montage as the man who accosted her outside Huckleberries market on South Monroe. Police spotted Burgess at the 5 Mile Shopping Center after recognizing him from surveillance video.

Burgess was convicted of four women between Sept. 20 and Sept. 28.

His first victim was a 96-year-old woman who uses a walker.

“She was absolutely frightened about having to come into court and testify and face Mr. Burgess,” said Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz. “I believe it still has an impact on her today.”

Burgess wrestled and was on the honor roll in high school. He told Judge Maryann Moreno that he became addicted to OxyContin while a student at Spokane Community College.

He was born in California but moved here in middle school with his father. His mother is a crack cocaine addict who served prison time for welfare fraud, said public defender Brooke Hagara.

“Mr. Burgess is a very intelligent young man who has a lot of potential and has a lot of remorse for what he’s done,” Hagara said.

Burgess’ father, uncle and aunt testified at his sentencing.

“I know he would have never, ever did this in the right state of mind,” said his aunt.

Reorganization at SCSO

Scrambling to reorganize amid spending cuts, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is moving Sgt. Dave Reagan into a supervisory role over the property crimes division, effective March 1.

Reagan, the longtime public affairs officer and the wit behind many of the double entendres that find their way into some departmental news releases, will continue to serve as primary spokesman for the sheriff, departmental policy and major crimes. Other deputies will be trained to help with day-to-day public affairs.

Doctor on trial for overprescribing

The second trial of a former Shoshone County doctor accused of overprescribing drugs is set to begin this week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene.

Christopher Arthur Christensen faces 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.

Christensen had been indicted on additional counts relating to the care of at least five patients, including a Mullan, Idaho man who died in February 2001 after taking a mixture of methadone and alprazolam.

A North Idaho jury acquitted Christensen on six counts in June after a federal trial but couldn’t reach a verdict on 12 counts.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office dismissed all but the three counts Christensen faces at trial this week.

Federal prosecutors will call four witnesses, including the case investigator for Idaho State Police and a former employee of Christensen’s, according to a trial briefing filed last week.

Also expected to testify is ISP Detective Beth Bradbury, who posed as a patient visiting Christensen during the investigation, and Dr. Arthur Jordan, an experts on the drugs Christensen is accused of overprescribing.

Christensen’s attorney, David E. Dokken, of Lewiston, plans to call Dr. Jon Hillyer, of Bremerton, Wash., and former patients of Christensen’s.

“Certainly, the defendant in no way acted as a ‘pusher,’” according to a trial briefing prepared by Dokken. “…He was a thorough and competent doctor who passionately pursued his practice.”

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

Raid had ‘toothless’ connection

A sheriff’s raid last week that sought guns stolen from a firearms collector has a connection to the suspected toothless burglar.

Kevin McMaster reportedly told sheriff’s detectives that he’d stolen guns, tools, coin sets and stamps from Kerry Miller’s Newport Highway home with Victor Hackett.

Hackett is the same man thought to have helped suspected toothless burglar Shawn Michael Westlie rob two Quizno’s stores in October.

According to a search warrant, McMaster told detectives that he and Hackett stole the items from Miller, then McMaster sold a gun and stable saw to William H. “Farmer Bill” Gearhart, 47.

Gearhart, who has felony convictions that prevent him from possessing firearms, lives at 4905 E. Deer Park-Milan Road.

Detectives raided that home Jan. 21, along with a home 1311 W. Dalton. Other items from Miller’s home were found at 1621 E. Dalke on Jan. 7, according to a search warrant.

A $1,000 tattoo machine was recovered on Jan. 15, according to the warrant.

No arrests have been made in connection that the raids; investigators said they’re waiting for the prosecutor’s office to file charges.

Past coverage: Sheriff’s raids target stolen guns

Police: Gun in homicide belonged to felon

A gang member involved in a fatal shooting five years ago is accused of possessing the gun that was used to kill a man outside a north Spokane party 10 days ago, newly filed documents alleged.

ahdwEric Burton Jr.,Ö is charged with illegal weapons possession after police determined a semiautomatic rifle used to kill John S. Williams, III on Jan. 17 belonged to Burton. Burton, 24, has previous felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing owning firearms.

Burton was arrested two days after the slaying murder but is free on $10,000 bail. No charges have been filed in Williams’ death — the city’s first homicide this year — and detectives haven’t determined who killed him.

Police found Williams, 38, dead in an alley outside an apartment building at 5405 N. Crestline about 3:40 a.m., then spotted Burton running into an apartment, according to court documents.

He volunteered to be taken to the police station for questioning, where he told police he’d driven a rented 2008 Nissan Altima to the party. Police had found the gun used to kill Williams in the back of that Altima.

The car was rented to Burton’s girlfriend, Lacey L. MeachamÖ, 27, according to court documents. Burton reportedly told police he’d driven the car back to the party alone.

About 40 people had gathered at 5405 N. Crestline, apartment 3, for a birthday party that night before fights broke out and shots were fired, witnesses told police.

One man told police he’d heard two or three gunshots “and then heard someone saying ‘What did I do? What did I do?,’” according to a search warrant.

The man then saw a man matching the description of Burton try to enter apartment 3 three before entering a nearby unit.

A defense lawyer listed in court records for Burton, Christian Phelps, did not return an after-hours phone call seeking comment.

Burton was convicted of second-degree assault in 2005 for the New Year’s Day murder of 24-year-old Calvin Banks, who police said was a rival gang member. Burton was first charged with second-degree murder but took a plea deal that gave him a year in prison.

This year’s shooting victim, Williams, was at the birthday party on Crestline with his 21-year-old son, police said.

Williams was enrolled at the Spokane Community College Apprenticeship and Journeyman Training Center, according to a March 2009 newspaper article. He joined the painters union and praised the training he’d received but told the newspaper he needed to “clock hours” to have insurance coverage for his family.

“It’s hard right now,” he said. “There’s no work out there.”

Prisoner loses battle to play D&D

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A man serving life in prison for first-degree intentional homicide lost his legal battle Monday to play Dungeons & Dragons behind bars.

Kevin T. Singer filed a federal lawsuit against officials at Wisconsin’s Waupun prison, arguing that a policy banning all Dungeons & Dragons material violated his free speech and due process rights.

Prison officials instigated the Dungeons & Dragons ban among concerns that playing the game promoted gang-related activity and was a threat to security. Singer challenged the ban but the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld it as a reasonable policy.

Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures, often working together as a group, with the help of complicated rules.

Singer, 33, has been a devoted player of the fantasy role-playing game since he was a child, according to the court ruling. After the ban went into effect, prison officials confiscated dozens of Dungeons & Dragons books and magazines in his cell as well as a 96-page manuscript he had written detailing a potential scenario for the game that players could act out.

Prison officials enacted the ban in 2004 after an inmate sent an anonymous letter expressing concern about Singer and three other inmates forming a “gang” focused around playing the game.

Singer was told by prison officials that he could not keep the materials because Dungeons & Dragons “promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling,” according to the ruling. The prison later developed a more comprehensive policy against all types of fantasy games, the court said.

The appeals court said the prison’s policy was reasonable and did not violate Singer’s rights.

“After all, punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment, and prisons may choose to punish inmates by preventing them from participating in some of their favorite recreations,” the court said.

Singer was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 after being found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in the killing of his sister’s boyfriend. The man was bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer.

Department of Corrections spokesman John Dipko said the department was pleased with the decision and will continue to enforce rules that are designed to maintain a safe environment.
Singer’s court-appointed attorney, W.C. Turner Herbert of North Carolina, also did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Accused robbers due in court today

A man and a woman arrested after homeowner reported fighting with one during a burglary early Sunday are due in Spokane County Superior Court today.

Cody J. Wolk, 24, and Peta N. Schimanski, 24, are to appear in court via video feed from the Spokane County Jail, where they’re booked on charges of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary.

Officers answered a report of a burglary in the 1100 block of East Nora Avenue about 2 a.m. and “confirmed a handgun was involved,” according to a news release.

Police arrested Wolk and Schimanski at 922 E. Ermina Ave., about 6:30 a.m. after a SWAT-team standoff.

Also due in court is Aleksey Y. Solodyankin, 30, a suspect in two smash-and-grab burglaries last month. He and Yan G. Yefremov are accused of targeting Pawn One, 3705 N. Market, and Pounders Jewelry, 3131 N. Division Ave., on Dec. 7 with vehicles stolen earlier that day from Spokane Community College.

Yefremov, whose prior convictions include theft and burglar, was arrested Dec. 9 after sheriff’s deputies found him with the third stolen vehicle, a 2001 Lexus, in the Motel 6 parking lot near Interstate 90 and Argonne, police said. He is out of jail on $50,000 bond, according to court records.

Solodyankin is to appear today on charges of first-degree vehicle prowling, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and attempted to allude police.

 

Plea deals reveal drug ring details

Several Spokane businesses were fronts for a multimillion dollar marijuana distribution ring busted after a four-year investigation that involved a Massachusetts donut shop, tens of thousands of tapped phone calls and a car crash that revealed a $130,000 cash stash, new documents allege.

The operation crumbled last February after federal agents raided homes in Seattle and Spokane, arresting more than 20 people in a vast drug conspiracy they say operated in the region since 2001. Of the 30 people charged, 18 pleaded guilty in the last week, many accepting plea deals that depend on their cooperation in federal trials scheduled for this summer.

At the center of the case is Luyen V. “John” Doan, who’s been in Spokane County Jail since February. He pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal drug and investment charges and will give up more than 15 properties in Stevens, Spokane and Kootenai counties, including Lefty’s Steakhouse and Sports on North Division and a home on Diamond Lake, as well as a boat and 2007 Mercedes Benz, according to court documents.

 Federal prosecutors say the 43-year-old Doan amassed an empire of wealth by masterminding a drug operation that distributed thousands of pounds of marijuana throughout Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana, then investing in several Spokane restaurants and nail salons.

As his wealth accumulated, documents allege, Doan, who used the nickname “Tiger,” removed himself further from drug ring, employing dealers through businesses like Lefty’s, the Teriyaki House on East Sprague, and Trick Shot Dixie Outlaw Saloon and BBQ on West Sprague.

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

2nd suspect named in hold up

A man police think was involved in a recent espresso stand robbery with a suspected toothless burglar has been identified as Jeremy L. Hubbard, 37.

Hubbard is wanted for first-degree robbery. He was last seen driving a 1994 silver 4-door Ford Taurus with Washington license plate 070-SIL, Spokane police said today.

His alleged accomplice, Shawn Michael Westlie, 44, was arrested after a standoff last week and accused of a string of robberies, including the robbery of Spokane’s Best Espresso, 5226 N. Division St.

Police think Hubbard was the man recently seen on video surveillance using a credit card stolen during the robbery, and a reward is being offered for information that leads to his capture.

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

Past coverage: ‘Toothless’ burglar linked to multiple robberies

Jury convicts 24-time felon in 24 minutes

It took a Spokane jury as many minutes as the defendant has felonies to convict him this week of two more crimes.

Sean M. Maney, 45, was taken to jail Thursday after Judge Tari Eitzen read guilty verdicts on residential burglary and attempted theft of a motor vehicle.

“He seems like a nice enough fellow,” Eitizen said in court. But, she said, “his criminal history just takes your breath away.”

The jury had deliberated for 24 minutes. Not counting his recent convictions, Maney has 24 felonies dating back to 1978. (The jury, of course, knew nothing of his criminal history.)

Maney was arrested in June after witnesses said he kicked in a back door in the 5800 block of West Greenwood and tried to steal a motorcycle.

His newest convictions carry a standard prison sentence of 63 to 84 months, but Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens said he plans to seek an exceptional sentence because of Maney’s criminal history.

That could be as long as 180 months, Stevens  told the judge.

Maney’s convictions include city theft, third-degree theft, second-degree theft, possession of stolen property, forgery, burglary, second-degree escape, obstructing a police investigation, refusing to cooperate and driving on a suspended operator’s license, according to Crime Stoppers. He was released from prison in 2007 after being sentenced in March 2003.

He also was sentenced to 35 months in prison in January 2000 by Judge Eitzen for a variety of property crimes, news archives show. In 1995, he was arrested in a car theft ring police said was led by a 14-year-old girl, according to previously published reports.

Accused killer backs out of deal

A man arrested in a fatal stabbing last year turned down a plea deal today that would have sent him to prison for two years on riot charges.

Instead, Christopher Harper, 28, will go to trial on one count of second-degree murder for the March 3, 2009, stabbing death of Michael ” Mickey” Lyng, 19. He was scheduled to be sentenced today but backed out, said his public defender, Al Rossi.

Trial is set for late February. Harper is the last of three defendants facing charges for Lyng’s death.

His younger brother, Joseph T. Harper, 25, was sentenced to 75 months in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter in December. Robert T. Waters, 28, was sentenced to 65 months on Wednesday after pleading to the same charge.

“Each person who was arrested was in a little bit of a different circumstance,” Rossi said.

Joseph Harper stabbed Lyng in the upper back, but the fatal stab wound came from a larger knife wielded by one of his co-defendants, Harper’s public defender, Dick Sanger, said last month.

Chris Harper’s wife, Amie C. Schott, 20, is accused of driving the Harper brothers from the scene of the crime. She’s scheduled to go to trial next month on three counts of first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

Schott married Christopher Harper after he was in jail and unsuccessfully asked a judge in July to lift a no-contact order between them.

Lyng was at Joseph Harper’s home, 1008 W. Spofford Ave., when he stepped into a fight between Harper and another man over allegations that Harper had hit the man’s girlfriend.

Shortly after the fight, Lyng was at an apartment at 916 W. Augusta Ave. when he had a threatening telephone conversation with one of the defendants.

The three men showed up outside the apartment, and a brawl ensued before Lyng was stabbed.

Detectives recovered two knives – one from under the Maple Street Bridge – believed to be used in the killing.

Canadian pot smugglers: We’re guilty

Two Canadian men who smuggled marijuana into Ferry County last fall pleaded guilty to three federal drug charges today.

William Richard Paterson, 50, and Jahrum David Oakes, 32, both of Kelowna B.C, pleaded guilty to three counts of possession with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a minimum of three. No plea deals were made.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Spokane drove to Ferry County Nov. 1 after a tip that drug smugglers were near a home at Fourth of July Creek Road in Danville, adjacent to the border, according to court documents.

Paterson and Oakes were arrested trying to smuggle in eight duffel bags filled with marijuana, weighing about 235 pounds. The men will be sentenced April 22.

Past coverage:

Men arrested after DEA  finds pot near border

Pot suspects get new attorneys

Trial set for Elton on threat charges

A man accused of threatening to kill City Council President Joe Shogan and the chairwoman of the company that owns The Spokesman-Review will go to trial in April, a judge ruled today.

David H. Elton, who turns 44 on Friday, is charged with three counts of felony harassment for alleged threats made to Shogan, Cowles Co. chairwoman Betsy Cowles, and Elton’s ex-wife, Robin Stewart.

Elton was arrested Feb. 10 after police obtained an email in which Elton said he wanted “to murder”several people, including Cowles and Stewart. Elton was suspected of threatening to kill Spokesman-Review Publisher Stacey Cowles, but that charge was dropped the day of his arrest after Cowles “expressed no fear or concern about Mr. Elton’s conduct,” according to court documents.

Elton has said the emails were a joke and that he would never hurt anyone. Spokane police Detective Corey Turman testified on Thursday that Elton said he wanted the Cowles family to sue him so he could use the evidence process to obtain company records.

But Elton, who described himself as a “hyperactive political activist,” claimed “he was not willing to commit a crime just to get them in court,” Turman said.

On Thursday, Judge Maryann Moreno, the eighth judge assigned to the case, ruled that statements Elton made to police were voluntary and can be admitted at trial.

She also ordered that sixty Spokane County residents should be called for a jury pool. Jury pools typically have about 35 people.

Elton’s defense attorney, longtime trial lawyer Mark Vovos, has filed a motion asking for the charges to be dismissed because of judicial mishandling.

Past coverage:

‘Murder’ email meant as joke, suspect says

Toothless burglar’s accomplice sought

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Spokane police are looking for a second suspect in the recent robbery of a north Spokane espresso stand that’s been tied to a suspected toothless burglar.

Shawn Michael Westlie, 44, was arrested after a standoff Friday and charged with multiple counts of first-degree armed robbery for a spree of robberies, including the robbery of Spokane’s Best Espresso, 5226 N. Division St.

But detectives believe a second man, recently seen on video surveillance using a credit card stolen during the robbery, may be involved.

The man pulled into a local 7-Eleven store driving a dark-colored, four-door sedan with a temporary license plate in the back window, police said.

Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest by calling (800) 222-TIPS or (509) 327-5111, or leave a tip online.

Past coverage:

‘Toothless’ burglar linked to armed robberies

Big day in Boys’ Ranch abuse trial

An unexpected witness may testify that former Morning Star Boys’ Ranch director Joseph Weitensteiner had him procure boys for sex and then gave him money to keep it quiet years later, according to a motion today in the first sex-abuse trial against the ranch.

The dramatic revelation in the sex-abuse lawsuit by Kenneth Putnam came outside the presence of the Superior Court jury Thursday morning when Judge Kathleen O’Connor demanded to know why Putnam’s attorney had called an unscheduled witness three weeks into proceedings.

Read the rest of Kevin Graman’s story here.

On Wednesday, the jury was told that Patrick O’Donnell – whose infamy as the abuser of as many as 66 children was inextricably linked to the scandal that bankrupted the Catholic Diocese of Spokane – also insinuated himself into Morning Star Boys Ranch.

Read that story  here.

O’Donnell is pictured left testifying at a trial in Seattle in May. (Read more on O’Donnell: Pedophile priest free to roam )

Wife killer in MySpace case gets 18 years

A Spokane man who killed his estranged wife, then impersonated her on MySpace to try duping family members into thinking she was still alive, will spend 18 years in prison, a judge ruled today.

Uriah J. Brosnan, 34, (pictured above, courtesy KHQ) pleaded guilty to the Jan. 28, 2009, beating death of Becky Brosnan, 32, in December in a plea deal that called for him to serve 220 months, the most possible for second-degree murder.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen imposed that sentence today after about two hours of testimony from family, including Uriah Brosnan’s current girlfriend.

“This was a vicious murder that went on for some period of time,” said Eitzen. “220 months is all the law allows me to impose, and I apologize for that because I don’t think it’s long enough.”

The Brosnans were married for about 10 years and had two children before a contentious divorce sparked the ongoing custody dispute that court documents say led to Becky Brosnan’s murder.

Detectives found her body Feb. 9 in a debris pile behind a roofing company where Uriah Brosnan worked.

Past coverage:

Man faces 18 years in wife’s death

Man impersonated wife online after killing her

Brosnans had no contact order in 1997

‘This isn’t a time for just yakking’

Sentencing for a Spokane man was delayed today after a judge demanded more information from the defense.

Anthony D. Singh, 21, faces about 16 to 18 years in prison for a shooting in a downtown parking lot that didn’t injure anyone but brought his gang affiliations the focus of a jury trial last month.

At issue during the late afternoon hearing before Judge Kathleen O’Connor were sentencing-related matters like Singh’s offender score, sentencing range and the defense’s briefing.

“This isn’t a time for just yakking about it, counsel,” this is a time for analysis and case law, O’Conner told Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell and defense lawyer Thomas Cooney.

The lawyers argued in the courtroom after the hearing before storming away. The new sentencing date is set for Feb. 10. Singh, who O’Connor said was at one point considering acting as his own attorney, objected to the delay.

Singh’s ties to the violent Crips street gang were key to the prosecution’s case, which netted Singh convictions for second-degree assault, conspiracy to commit second-degree assault, drive-by shooting, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and witness tampering. The jury acquitted him of witness intimidation.

Singh has been in jail since July 30, 2008, four days after a bullet struck Alex Tauala in his right shoe in a parking lot near Sprague and Stevens. Prosecutors say the shooting was in response to a challenge from Tauala and stemmed from a culture of retaliation and intimidation rife in gang life.

Cooney has said he plans to appeal. He filed an unsuccessful motion earlier this month asking for a new trial because a Spokane police officer mentioned one of Singh’s previous criminal convictions in front of the jury.

Singh “was convicted on his propensity to commit crime and for being a bad person who is a gang member, rather than on admissible character evidence,” Cooney wrote.

Past coverage: Crips gangster on trial in Spokane

Cocaine dealer gets 8 years

A 27-year-old Hayden man will spend at least three years in prison for selling cocaine.

Logan M. Young was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday, with eligibility for parole after three years, the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office announced today. He’s to pay a $10,000 fine.

Young pleaded guilty in November to trafficking 28 grams or more of cocaine. The conviction stemmed from May 2008, when he bought more than two hundred grams of cocaine from a confidential informant working with the North Idaho Regional Violent Crimes Task Force.

“The large quantity of cocaine delivered by Mr. Young, along with Mr. Young’s stated desire to continue trafficking cocaine in large quantities, justify the sentence imposed in this case,” Deputy Prosecutor Ann Wick said in a prepared statement. “We hope the sentence deters him and others from dealing drugs in our community.”

CdA meth dealer gets 15 years

A Coeur d’Alene methamphetamine dealer was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison in U.S. District Court recently.

Paul D. Hartman, 44, was given 188 months in prison and four years probation by Judge B. Lynn Winnill on Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced today.

Hartman pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, nearly two years after a traffic stop launched an investigation.

Another defendant in the case, Teri L. Stoddard, was sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty to the same charge last summer, according to court records.

A Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputy found 3 ounces of methamphetamine in a black bag that belonged to Harman during a November 2007 traffic stop.

“After almost two hours, the detectives got Hartman to admit that he was buying, using and selling various amounts of methamphetamine with and to several individuals in and around the Coeur d’Alene area,” according to court documents. “Soon thereafter, the State would dismiss and Mr. Hartman would be under federal indictment.”

Investigators say Hartman picked up the drugs in Spokane or had them delivered to North Idaho.

18 ounces of meth seized in traffic stop

Sheriff’s deputies seized 18 ounces of methamphetamine in a traffic stop near the Northern Quest Casino parking lot early Tuesday.

A 41-year-old Ritzville man was arrested along with a 19-year-old woman who was with him in his Mazda 626. A deputy monitoring the casino parking lot stopped the Mazda after learning its owner had a suspended license.

The owner wasn’t in the car, but driver David B. Hill was arrested after the deputy learned his license was suspended, too, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies found a small bag of meth in Hill’s pocket along with more than $1,600. In the Mazda were about 18 ounces of methamphetamine, a .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol and more than $15,000 in cash, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Passenger Tara Leena Rader of Spangle was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant and is due in Spokane County Superior Court today on one count of felony possession of a controlled substance. Hill is out of jail on bond.

Rader was featured in several Spokesman-Review stories in 2004 after she was shot in the face at close range by her then-boyfriend, Reza Abghari.

Abghari, who said he was pretending to be a gangster when he accidentally shot Rader, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and is back in jail on armed robbery charges for an alleged crime spree last fall.

Previous stories:

Teen girl wounded in accidental shooting

Injured teen faces life-threatening surgery

Man convicted in shooting

Suspect and victim were codefendants in ‘99

A Coeur d’Alene man accused of stabbing another man last night has a criminal history that includes a kidnapping trial 10 years ago.

His co-defendant in that case? The same man police believe was stabbed last night.

Alan D. Burtness, 36, (right) is due in Kootenai County District Court today on an aggravated battery charge.

 In 1999, Burtness and last night’s alleged victim, Daniel B. McCullough, were acquitted of first-degree kidnapping and battery in 1999 after a jury trial.

But the jury convicted the men of misdemeanor unlawful imprisonment in a case that involved a California girl who was visiting family in Athol.

Now Burtness is accused of stabbing 36-year-old McCullough in his left hand and arm during a fight in the 3100 block of North Seventh Street Tuesday evening. McCullough (left, in 2006) was treated at Kootenai Medical Center for injuries that weren’t life threatening.

In the 1999 case, the girl said Burtness and McCullough had offered to give her a ride home from a party but instead drove her to an out-of-the-way trailer near Spirit Lake and attacked her, according to a previous story.

Eventually, the girl ran from the men through a field, and smeared mud on her face and hair to disguise her light complexion. She hid under a car until the sun came up, and went to a nearby house for help.

Defense attorneys called her story “so fantastic it’s just not believable.” A jury apparently agreed, at least partially.

Read the story from 1999: Kidnap case ends in misdemeanor

Boys’ ranch trial enters day 2

Either Morning Star Boys’ Ranch management turned a blind eye to decades of child sexual abuse or it is being persecuted by discreditable former residents looking to make a buck.

Those were the strategies outlined by legal adversaries in the first of 19 lawsuits against the facility in opening remarks to jurors Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Read the rest of Kevin Graman’s story here.

Video: Masked toothless burglar suspect

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Police believe the shotgun-toting robber who wore a military-style gas mask at Sunset Market in November is suspected toothless burglar Shawn Michael Westlie.

Westlie, 44, is on this afternoon’s Spokane County Superior Court first appearance docket for two counts of first-degree robbery, along with his alleged accomplice, Victor A. Hackett.

Shoe prints, surveillance video and detective work led police to identify Westlie, 44, as a suspect in at least nine armed robberies, police said Tuesday.

Westlie was arrested after a SWAT team standoff Friday at 2109 W. Mansfield Court, one day after a man returned to his Nettleton Avenue home to find a toothless intruder police believe was Westlie rifling through his belongings.

Westlie allegedly tried to Taser the man but dropped the weapon and lost a shoe when he fled.

A police dog tracked the burglar to the home across the street from where Westlie was arrested Friday.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Lt. Dave McGovern. “He would have just kept right on going and going until he hurt somebody or somebody hurt him.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Man dead in lake led police on chase in ‘08

An elderly man found dead in Lake Coeur d’Alene this morning led police on a wild chase in 2008 that was featured on the cable television show “Most Daring: Senior Smackdown.”

A couple walking their dog spotted the body of Ira L. Loudenback about 8:15 a.m. a short distance from the shore of Sanders Beach.

Loudenback was 75 when he was involved in a chase with three police cars in Coeur d’Alene. Police say he rammed several cars during the July 2008 pursuit before finally being pinned by squad cars. At the time, police said Loudenback was drunk, but they now believe he suffered a medical condition.

The chase was featured on the TV show “Most Daring: Senior Smackdown” on the cable channel Tru TV.

In the video, an officer can be heard yelling “Stop your vehicle! Stop your vehicle before you kill somebody.” Loudenback is shown driving his 1987 Oldsmobile the wrong way on Ramsey Road, playing chicken with a police cruiser, and ramming a cruiser before, as the very dramatic announcer put it, “squads on three sides crush his vehicle like a vice.”

Police used a Taser on Loudenback and dragged him from his car, and the TV announcer promises that the “wave of destruction that whipped through the city” won’t soon be forgotten. “Especially because it was 75 years in the making.”

Loudenback did not have visible injuries to his body when he was found dead this morning, and police still are investigating, said Sgt. Christie Wood.

Read a story on the chase by clicking the link below.

Jury convicts Spokane man of rape

A Spokane jury today convicted a 22-year-old man of raping a woman more than a year ago.

Brandon S. Coristine cried, sighed and buried his head in his hands after Judge Michael Price read the verdict this afternoon in Spokane County Superior Court.

The jury of five women and seven men found him guilty of second-degree rape after about two full days of deliberation and a four-day trial.

Coristine raped a woman who was passed out drunk at his home at 2304 W. Broadway on Dec. 7, 2008.

Charges were filed on Aug. 31, 2009, after the Washington State Patrol crime lab confirmed Coristine’s DNA, according to court documents. Coristine, who is in jail, will be sentenced March 3.

Sharon Hedlund prosecuted the case. Jeff Compton was Coristine’s public defender.

Another charged in crime spree shooting

Another man has been accused of a shooting that left a teenager wounded and began a crime spree that included shots fired at a Spokane police officer.

Greg Sharkey, Jr., 25, (left) is due in Spokane County Superior Court today on 10 counts of first-degree attempted murder, the sames charges facing 20-year-old Tony E. Dawson.

Police say the men each fired shots at a group of 10 people outside a house party in the 1100 block of W. Frederick Avenue on Dec. 22. A party-goer apparently had shined a laser pointer at the men, according to court documents. Witnesses told police one of the men said “west side” before firing several shots.

Police found shell casings from a .45-caliber handgun - the same gun Dawson is accused of using to shoot at Officer Kristopher Honaker early the next morning. Honaker had been guarding the scene of the earlier shooting. Detectives don’t believe the group drove back to the shooting scene on purpose.

Detectives later learned Sharkey also had fired shots at that group, but he used a .38 caliber Rossi revolver that didn’t leave behind shell casings, Lt. Dave McGovern said today.

Dawson, (right) Sharkey and Margaret D. Shults, 22, are accused of stealing a Suburban minutes before Dawson fired shots at Honaker. Police don’t believe Sharkey had anything to do with that shooting other than being in the Suburban at the time, McGovern said.

Court documents detailing the investigation show the shootings appear to be orchestrated by Dawson, who Shults said had been carrying two handguns the night of the shooting and “was acting like Jesse James.”

She said at one point, Dawson took two guns from his waistband and compared himself to the famous politically minded bandit (a dreadfully inaccurate comparison), declaring “I’m Jesse (expletive deleted) James.”

Past coverage: Accused shooter acted like ‘Jesse James’

Man, 20, accused of shooting at police

Police officer targeted by gunman

Tumwater man killed with toilet paper

OLYMPIA (AP) — An autopsy determined that a man found dead Friday outside a Tumwater residence suffocated on tissue paper stuffed in his mouth.

He’s identified as 55-year-old Gerald F. Haag of Seattle.

Thurston County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 49-year-old man for investigation of murder.

The sheriff’s office says Michael Kerby of Seattle told the victim’s sister he had killed her brother. Lt. Chris Mealy told The Olympian Kerby is cooperating with investigators.

 

Trial this week for accused prostitute rapist

Jury selection is set to begin today for the second trial of a convicted sex offender accused of raping prostitutes.

Pierre D. West, 49, was convicted of two counts of second-degree rape, three counts of unlawful imprisonment, three counts of felony harassment and two counts of second-degree assault after a trial in May.

Those convictions were overturned in July after a juror acknowledged she knew West but had claimed otherwise during the selection process.

Opening statements in West’s second trial are expected this week before Judge Michael Price.

West has been in Spokane County Jail since his arrest in August 2007 on 15 felony counts after prostitutes claimed he’d terrorized them for years.

West acknowledged hiring prostitutes and enjoying rough sex, investigators said.

Past coverage:

Man convicted of raping prostitutes will get new trial

Jury convicts man of raping prostitutes

Trial begins for man accused of assaulting prostitutes

Valley man charged in rapes of 5 women

One dead in weekend shooting

Police have seized guns and drugs as part of their probe into the city’s first homicide this year, a suspected gang-related shooting early Sunday in a north Spokane alley.

Multiple shots were fired after fighting partygoers spilled from an apartment at 5403 N. Crestline St. into the muddy alley. The gunfire killed a 38-year-old man, whom friends and neighbors identified as John Williams.

Neighbors said it sounded like fireworks as at least 15 bullets riddled garages and fences.

“I sprang out of bed when I realized it was gunshots. It freaked me out, so I made sure my doors were locked,” said Aimee Kowell, who lives with her three school-age boys across the alley.

Read the rest of John Stucke’s story here.

Attempted murder charges dropped in July shooting

A man first charged with attempted murder for a July shooting will be released from jail soon after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Michael R. “Mikey Mike” Gardner, 23, tried to break up a fight July 24 between two groups of women, which led to him punching a woman after she attacked him, lawyers said today.

Gardner, who was arrested Nov. 1, “had nothing to do” with the shooting of two other women, said his public defender, Thomas Krzyminski.

The accused shooter, Timothy “Stoney Boy” Lucious, 38, remains in Spokane County Jail on attempted murder and assault charges.

“I don’t believe Mr. Gardner’s role reached that level in any way, shape or form,” Krzyminski said.

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla apparently agreed, and Judge Michael Price this morning approved a plea agreement that gave Gardner four months in jail with credit for 80 days served after he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. He’ll be on probation for one year.

The incident began with a fight at a north Spokane bar that festered at a party, then erupted near Seventh and Perry when the two groups of women met again.

Lucious, who was arrested Oct. 18, is accused of shooting one woman in the chest and another in an arm. His trial is set for February.

In court today, Gardner, a father of two, told Price he planned to make “better decisions” and “move forward with my life, get school taken care of and be a parent.”

Past coverage: Two women shot in crosstown melee

SWAT team nabs robbery suspect

A man police believe robbed a coffee stand was arrested Friday after a SWAT team standoff.

Shawn Michael Westlie, 41, hid inside a home in the 2100 block of Montgomery Avenue in west Spokane when police arrived about 3:30 p.m. but surrendered about 90 minutes later without incident, said Officer Glenn Bartlett.

Detectives believe Westlie robbed Best Espresso, 5226 N. Division St., at gunpoint Wednesday, Bartlett said.

The robber had a silver handgun and matched the description of a would-be robber earlier that day at the Jack in the Box restaurant at Hawthorne Road and North Division about 3 miles away, but police don’t know if the crimes are connected, Bartlett said.

“We’re definitely looking into it,” Bartlett said. Police didn’t find a gun on Westlie Friday but were preparing to search the home about 6 p.m.

Westlie has a history of burglary and theft dating back to at least 1997, according to news archives.

His most recent conviction was in February 2009 when he pleaded guilty to third-degree theft and was credited for 21 served in jail and put on probation for a year.

He made the news a couple of times in the late 90s.

Click the link below to read the (brief) items.

Teen gets 10 years despite victim’s plea

A teenager who burned a homeless man in a dispute over beer money received a plea for leniency from an unusual source today.

Peter H. Krueger, the man John C. Palmer badly burned in May, urged a Spokane County Superior Court judge to go easy on the 17-year-old at his sentencing for first-degree assault.

“I don’t want you to go to prison. You’re too young,” Krueger told Palmer. “I just want to know why.”

Palmer didn’t have an answer.

“Since I’ve been locked up I’ve been asking myself the same question. I haven’t found the answer,” the boy said.

Before Judge Maryann Moreno approved recommendations from the prosecution and defense and sent Palmer to prison for 10 years, the teen apologized to Krueger and shook his hand. Physical contact with defendants generally is prohibited in court; Moreno and courtroom deputies made an exception Thursday

Palmer has been in Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center since May 18, two weeks after he set a blanket on fire and threw it on Krueger as he slept near Sprague Avenue and Sheridan Street, east of downtown.

Palmer told police he was upset that Krueger had kept the money Palmer had given him to buy beer. Krueger was burned on his face and hands and told Palmer on Thursday that he’s never been the same.

Krueger urged Moreno to spare Palmer from prison, but the boy’s first-degree assault conviction left the judge no room for leniency.

The charge, coupled with a weapons enhancement because fire was used, carries a standard range of at least 117 months in prison - just less than 10 years.

In court today, the boy wore a yellow shirt with “honor level” written on it in red letters, a sign of his achievements while in juvenile detention.

Palmer will have a counselor with the Department of Corrections.

“This is a very harsh sentence, but you need to learn how to live a productive life,” Moreno said.

Past coverage:

Teen faces 10 years for attack on transient

Man set ablaze in dispute over beer money

Sometimes you just need a nap

The snores started a few minutes into the court hearing.

She was there to support Peter Krueger, the man badly burned by John C. Palmer, but Krueger grew upset when the woman wouldn’t wake up and left court without her.

So she kept sleeping, eliciting stares and chuckles.

“This person is just following the example of the esteemed counsel,” cracked one lawyer.

After Krueger ditched the woman, a deputy entered the courtroom and tried to rouse her.

No luck.

The deputy shook her hard, but the woman wouldn’t budge.

Judge Maryann Moreno didn’t seem to mind.

“It’s OK,” she told the deputy. “It’s a warm place to be, so that’s OK.”

But she was still there after Palmer’s sentencing ended.

Court officials planned to call 911 to get medics to remove her.

Police keep $400k from vacant house

WALLA WALLA, Wash. (AP) — The Walla Walla Police Department can keep $401,000 officers found in a vacant house.

Walla Walla Superior Court Judge Donald Schacht ruled Thursday that it be forfeited as drug money and a man who claimed it is not the rightful owner.

Officers responding to a noise complaint in 2006 found the money at a house. An investigation led officers to methamphetamine, marijuana and cocaine at a storage unit in Umatilla County, Ore.

A man caught attempting to flee out the back of the house initially said the money was not his but later tried to claim it.

Police Officer Tim Bennett says the department can only use the money for drug enforcement but it will be a big help in paying for equipment and training.

Jail deputy accused of beating wife

A Spokane County Jail deputy accused of attacking his wife last month was arrested again after police say he violated a court order.

Jeffrey S. Leavey, 40, (right) was booked into jail just after noon today. He was arrested at his lawyer’s office after his wife told police he’d been sending her text messages, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Leavey reportedly sent the woman more than a dozen text messages just on Wednesday, despite a court order prohibiting him for contacting her.

Leavey was first arrested Dec. 19 at his home in Colbert and placed on paid administrative leave with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, where he’s worked for two years.

Leavey reportedly told investigators he’d held his wife down on their bed, told her she couldn’t leave, threw a box at her and hit her in the arms “five to 25 times,” according to court documents. His wife had red marks on her arms and chest, deputies said.

Leavey is charged with unlawful imprisonment, two counts of fourth-degree assault and third-degree malicious mischief.

He’s in jail without bail for violating a court order, according to jail records.

 

Man back in jail on rape charges

A 20-year-old former Post Falls church volunteer accused of raping teen girls is back in jail on new charges.

Jordan C. Vernon was arrested Tuesday on three counts of felony rape of a minor. He’s in Kootenai County Jail on $100,000 bail.

Vernon faces five additional rape charges stemming from his first arrest on Dec. 28, said Dave Beck, a detective/sergeant with the Post Falls Police Department.

Police had said Jan. 6 that the new charges would be filed because a 16-year-old came forward after learning of Vernon’s arrest.

A 14-year-old and 17-year-old girl had already accused Vernon of inappropriate contact between 2007 and 2009, which launched a police investigation in September, Beck said.

Police think Vernon used his position as youth leader in training at Real Life Ministries to take advantage of the girls, Beck said. Idaho law doesn’t differentiate between rape and statutory rape.

Past coverage:

More charges likely in sex abuse case

Ex-church leader accused of rape

Today at the courthouse…

The classic architecture of the Spokane County Courthouse rises above the fog covering downtown Spokane Wednesday in a photo by Christopher Anderson.

Today’s happenings at the courthouse include a trial for a 22-year-old man accused of second-degree rape, jury selection for the Morning Star Boys’ Ranch trial (opening statements are expected Tuesday) and a sentencing at 2 p.m. for the teenager who burned a homeless man over missing beer money.

The rape trial began this week in Judge Michael Price’s courtroom.

Brandon S. Coristine is accused of raping a woman on Dec. 7, 2008, after he found her passed out drunk, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The charge was filed on Aug. 31, 2009, after the Washington State Patrol crime lab confirmed Coristine’s DNA, according to the affidavit.

Seattle judge smacked in mouth

A mental patient threw his sandal at King County Superior Court judge Palmer Robinson, hitting the judge in the mouth but causing minimal injury.

Three bailiffs subdued the attacker, who was identified by The Associated Press as 22-year-old Abdi Abukar of Seattle.

Find the AP story by clicking through to see the whole post.

New police dogs ready for patrol

Rico sprang out of the police cruiser and demonstrated a takedown he’d perfected during more than 400 hours of training with the Spokane Police Department.

The 3-year-old Belgian Malinois (left) grabbed the pad-covered arm of the provoking deputy and didn’t let go. He was demonstrating today at the Spokane Police training center in honor of his graduation from K-9 school.

Joining him were two German Shepards: Ayk, with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, and Iron, with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department. 

The three dogs are the latest graduates of the Spokane police K-9 school and soon will begin patrol duties with trained handlers.

“Anything that a patrolman can do, we can do safer with the dogs,” said Okanogan County Deputy Tait Everett.

Trainers say the dogs’ keen sense of smell makes them ideal for tracking suspects and recovering evidence. They’ve undergone intense obedience training and have practiced takedowns, tracks and chases.

A 15-year veteran, Everett will work with Ayk (pronounced Ike) as a replacement for a dog that retired in April. Rico, a former Naval Special Forces K-9, will work with Sgt. Troy Teigen.

Iron will work with Kootenai County Sheriff’s Deputy Nate Nelson.

Rico was donated to the Spokane police. Ayk and Iron cost between $7,500 and $10,000.

Rico will be the sixth patrol dog in the Spokane Police Department. Two other dogs are trained on narcotics detection.

Two puppies, Ajax and Alex, remain in the Spokane police K-9 puppy training program.

Past coverage:

Police training awaits donated puppy

Grizzly killers lose hunting rights

Two men who killed a grizzly bear in Pend Oreille County are prohibited from hunting for two years and will be on probation for five years, according to a plea deal approved this week.

Brandon D. Rodeback, 26, and Kurtis L. Cox, 30, of Moses Lake, killed the bear on Oct. 1, 2007, while hunting in a designated grizzly bear recovery zone near Ione.

They skinned and buried the bear in Moses Lake. A tip to authorities led to federal charges in July. The men pleaded guilty Monday to transporting wildlife against federal law, a misdemeanor.

In addition to probation and forfeiture of hunting rights, Rodeback and Cox will pay a $3,000 fine and $14,857 to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for endangered species recovery projects, according to court documents.

The bear was tagged with a radio transmitter and had been followed for the past 14 years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called the bear’s death “a set-back to state and federal efforts and protect this iconic species.”

“With grizzly bear populations struggling to survive, every single bear is critical to the species’ recovery,” according to a prepared statement.

Another hate crime reported in CdA

Someone early Friday spray-painted swastikas on a car outside the downtown Coeur d’Alene home of a woman who regularly has African-American friends visiting.

In addition, about two weeks ago, some men drove past the Front Avenue home in a white pickup, slowed down and yelled a racial epithet while flying a confederate flag, the residents told police.

Stephanie Guy, (above, left) who has rented the home for two years, called the police around noon on Friday, the Coeur d’Alene police report said. Guy’s daughter, Tara Silva, told police that she went to bed around midnight the night the vandalism occurred. She was awakened by the family’s dog barking around 2 or 3 a.m. but did not get up.

This is the eighth documented incident of racial harassment in the Inland Northwest since the spring, said Tony Stewart of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.

Read the rest of Alison Bogg’s story here.

Past coverage:

Brothers accused of hate crime appear in court

Vandals leave racist message

Swastika affixed to door of Human Rights Center

Rights educator finds noose on porch

Sentencing for criminally insane could change

Legislation inspired, at least in part, by criminally insane killer Philip Arnold Paul’s escape from a mental hospital field trip to the Spokane County Fair last fall, is getting a gubernatorial push in Olympia.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is calling for an overhaul of the way mentally ill offenders are sentenced.

Also helping give the proposal a big push is the recent slaying of four Lakewood police officers by a mentally ill offender released against the advice of authorities from an Arkansas facility.

The latest from The Associated Press on the governor’s plan can be found in the extended post:

Man sought in north Spokane rape

A 16-year-old girl was raped last Friday near the NorthTown Mall, and police are looking for help finding the assailant.

The rape occurred during the middle of the afternoon, police said. Police said the rapist was last seen by residents walking west toward the mall from Mayfair Street and Walton Avenue, east of the mall.

The man described as white, in his late teens to early 20s, skinny with sunken cheeks, short hair and bright green eyes. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, baseball hat and jeans.

The police sexual assault unit is handling the case.

Anyone with information is asked to call (800) 222-8477 or 327-5111.

Charges dropped against bondsman

A bail bondsman once called “a threat to the administration of justice” by a prosecutor has been cleared of wrongdoing in a case his lawyer said amounted to a “media circus.”

Ryan M. Holmes, 46, owner of Holmes Brothers Bail Bonds, was accused of forcing a customer to give him thousands of dollars. He was arrested in front of TV news crews last August at the Spokane County Courthouse.

But charges against Holmes and his bounty hunter, Brian D. Steenhard, 38, were dismissed this week after the prosecutor realized they’d done nothing criminal.

“It reads like a pretty heinous crime” in the police affidavit, Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson said today. But, “there was a fundamental assumption that turned out not to be correct.”

Police thought Holmes had collected $6,000 from the 70-year-old alleged victim that he’d already gotten back from the court.

Instead, Holmes was collecting money owed to him for investigative costs, Johnson said. The man had signed a contract authorizing him to do so, Johnson said.

Charges of first-degree theft, attempted first-degree theft, first-degree identity theft, obtaining a signature by duress or deception and offering a false instrument for filing or record were dismissed Monday against Holmes.

Steenhard’s charges of first-degree theft and obtaining a signature by duress or deception also were dismissed.

Holmes had his bondsman license suspended over the incident and is still working to get it back, said his lawyer, Tim Note.

“He’s had some pretty big harm done to his business,” Note said.

Holmes will be speaking with media on Thursday.

Past coverage: Bail bondsman faces theft charges

Man robs bank in Coeur d’Alene

A man robbed a bank today in Coeur d’Alene.

The robber, who authorities said did not appear to be armed, entered the Washington Trust Bank, 218 East Lakeside Ave., about 12:30 p.m. and left with an undisclosed amount of cash.

He was last seen walking north through the Las Palmitas restaurant parking lot on North Third Street before turning east in front of the Torch Lounge, according to Coeur d’Alene police.

The man is described as 5-foot-10 with an average build and a dark brown goatee. He was in his early 30s and wore a dark blue zip-up style jacket with a white t-shirt underneath. He wore light blue jeans and a light grey baseball hat with a tan bill and sunglasses above the bill. He also wore light grey wool gloves.

The FBI is investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call (208) 664-5128.

Lawyer mistaken for bank robber

Coeur d’Alene lawyer Scott Reed was handcuffed in his office last month after police mistook him for a possible bank robber.

This case of mistaken identity prompted Reed to commend the department’s handling of the situation. It also prompted his son, who was President Clinton’s domestic policy adviser, to write about it in a column for the online magazine Slate.

Five police officers, prompted by a burglar alarm, approached Reed - two with their guns drawn - about 7 a.m. Dec. 23 at the Bank of America building downtown.

Reed’s office is on the second floor of the Front Avenue building, where he can see, as his son wrote “the gems of a career well spent—from the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, which he has gone to court dozens of times to protect, to the pines of Tubbs Hill, a 120-acre public park he fought a half-century-long battle to preserve.”

Reed was handcuffed but let go at the scene. His commended the officers in a letter Dec. 29.

In his column on Friday, Bruce Reed offered a number of explanations for his father’s reaction:

…the main reason my father wasn’t upset is that police across the Pacific Northwest have good reason to be on edge. Since Halloween, six officers in Seattle and Tacoma have been shot to death and two others wounded. While the overall murder rate in the United States dropped sharply in 2009, the number of police officers gunned down in the line of duty jumped 25 percent nationwide.

Read Bruce Reed’s Slate.com column: How Mike Huckabee got my 81-year-old father arrested for bank robbery.

Pot conviction is least of teen’s problems

The teenage roommate of a murdered marijuana dealer was sentenced to time served in jail on a drug dealing charge last week.

But Miguel A. Rodriguez-Barbosa won’t be getting out of jail anytime soon. He was in the country on a work VISA and faces deportation after being convicted of a felony.

He also faces an ongoing investigation into a murder that detectives believe he knows all about.

The 18-year-old was credited for 72 days served in Spokane County Jail on Thursday.

Search warrants filed that same day show detectives are convinced he was involved - not just a ‘person of interest’ - in the shooting death of his roommate, 25-year-old victim Jesus Torres Valdovinos.

Valdovinos was found dead and wrapped in a blanket and plastic bags along Day-Mount Spokane Road Oct. 18.

Rodriguez-Barbosa declined comment to a reporter when reached by cell phone shortly after Valdovinos’ body was found. He was arrested Oct. 27 on one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

An acquaintance, Marco Antonio Noriega-Lopez, 27, was arrested on drug charges late last month and also is a suspect in the case, according to a search warrant filed last week seeking phone records.

“Based on the known association between Barbosa and Noriega, the numerous phone calls between their phones the day of the murder and their fingerprints being found on the plastic bags from the victim’s body, your affiant believes they are both somehow involved with the victim’s murder,” according to the search warrant.

Past coverage

Murder victim’s roommate eyed as suspect

 Homicide victim linked to drug sales

 Homicide victim’s roommate arrested on drug charges

Madsen sworn in as new chief justice


OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state Supreme Court has a new chief justice.

Barbara Madsen was sworn in to the top administrative role on the state’s high court Monday morning.She replaces Gerry Alexander, who has served as chief justice since 2001.

Alexander, who is set to retire at the end of 2011, will serve out the remainder of his term as an associate justice.

Madsen, 57, was unanimously elected to the position by her colleagues in November. She is the second woman to hold the position. Madsen was first elected to the state Supreme Court in 1992. She will serve as chief justice for the remainder of Alexander’s term.

Drugs, helicopters and death threats

A reputed drug runner who leased the helicopter flown by the young man who committed suicide in Spokane County Jail has been indicted in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

This came after Colin Martin reportedly tried negotiating U.S. protection for his smuggling ring in exchange for handing over his coconspirators.

Martin’s offer is detailed in the indictment filed Dec. 23, which led Canadian authorities to warn him of possible death threats.

It’s the latest development in the Operation Blade Runner drug bust, a multimillion-dollar international smuggling operation that used helicopters to distribute thousands of pounds of marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy, landing in remote sites in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

The indictment shows co-conspirators apparently blamed Martin for the botched run by Samuel J. Lindsay-Brown (top right), allegedly sending Blackberry messages that said Martin “will be lucky if he is not dead.”

They reportedly wanted him to pay for the lost load, estimated to be worth $4 million to $5 million. That was back in February. Canadian authorities thought the guys might be a little ticked when public court documents filed last month detailed Martin’s alleged offer to tell U.S. drug agents all about them.

Read my latest story: Drug ring details emerge

Past coverage: A tale of drugs, money and helicopters

Pilot’s story sought for big, small screens

Drug runner sentenced in closed proceeding

Murder trial delayed, again

Trial for the man accused of killing two people in north Spokane nearly two years ago has been delayed again.

Justin W. Crenshaw will go to trial in May on two counts of aggravated first-degree murder for the February 2008 deaths of Tanner E. Pehl and Sarah A. Clark.

His lawyer, Chris Bugbee, request the extension because of evaluation scheduling issues with experts.

Crenshaw refused to sign the court documents.

Read past coverage here.

Man cleared in CdA shooting

A man accused of shooting two men during a night of drinking in downtown Coeur d’Alene left jail Friday after a grand jury declined to indict him.

Adam M. Johnson, 25, said he shot Brandon R. Burgess and Bradley J. Phillips in self-defense after the men and their friends threatened him during an early-morning argument Dec. 27.

The men had argued at a bar hours earlier, and police said Johnson was attacked by the men only after he fired a gun at them.

A grand jury apparently disagreed and refused to indict Johnson, the CEO of a Coeur d’Alene-based telecommunications company.

Charges of attempted murder and aggravated battery were dismissed Friday in Kootenai County District Court.

“The facts in the case, I think, pointed to self-defense, absolutely,” said public defender Anne Taylor. “We were developing a very good case.”

Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public, and witness testimony and evidence is confidential. Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen, who conducted the two-and-a-half-day proceeding, declined comment.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Barry Black said he wished he knew what went into the decision.

“Are we disappointed? Sure,” Black said. “We felt that there probably was enough to go forward … otherwise, we wouldn’t have proceeded.”

Phillips, 25, told police Johnson pulled a .40-caliber handgun after one of Phillips’ friends said, “If you want to do something then let’s just settle it right now,” according to a police report.

Phillips was shot in the knee and Burgess, 25, was shot in the stomach when Johnson was tackled, according to police reports.

Read the rest of my story here.

Join the conversation at Dave Oliveria’s Huckleberries blog

Accused killer ‘severely disturbed’

A 24-year-old accused killer is not mentally competent to be tried for the crossbow slaying of a Spokane woman two years ago, a judge ruled today.

Cole K. Strandberg, charged with first-degree murder for the Jan. 7, 2008 slaying of 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron, has a “long, long standing history of being severely, severely disturbed,” said Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

“He needs to be and he must be involuntarily medicated,” Eitzen said.

Eitzen rejected claims from Eastern State Hospital doctors that Strandberg was either faking the symptoms or had experienced methamphetamine-induced psychosis.

She said the two-day competency hearing showed Dr. Randall Strandquist left out crucial information in his reports, causing her to reject that evaluation and focus on the past reports themselves.

She also rejected Dr. William Grant’s suggestion that Strandberg had been faking his mental illness for years to create a defense for murder.

There’s too much information in evaluations beginning in 2002 to suggest Strandberg was lying about his condition, Eitzen said.

Strandberg, who is accused of assaulting and harassing jailers and court officials, has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Strandberg is fascinated with Nazi, swastikas and World War II and refuses to work with his lawyer, Chris Bugbee, because he thinks Bugbee is Jewish, Eitzen said.

“Also Mexican,” Strandberg interrupted. He said nothing else.

Past coverage: Strandberg’s parents struggled to get him treatment

Deputy remembers his slain niece

Strandberg says he wants to plead guilty

Lieutenant accused of drunken driving

A Spokane County sheriff’s lieutenant with 25 years on the job was arrested in a suspected drunken driving crash early Friday.

Liberty Lake police responded to a 911 call about 1:30 a.m. that a sport utility vehicle had rolled near Third and Molter Road and a power pole was blocking the roadway, said Sgt. Dave Reagan, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

Lt. Stephen P. Jones, who was driving a Lincoln Navigator, appeared intoxicated at the scene, so the Washington State Patrol was called in, officials said.

He was taken to a hospital to be treated for a gash to his head, and consented to give blood for the drunken driving investigation.

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

2 bars named in DUI complaint

The family of a Canadian woman killed in a hit-and-run crash in downtown Spokane wants two bars that reportedly served the suspected driver alcohol that night held responsible for her death.

Elaine Price-Cornell, 63, died after she was hit by a car while crossing Browne Street at Spokane Falls Boulevard in November.

The accused driver, Cameron B. Olsness, is charged with vehicular homicide.

A complaint filed in Spokane County Superior Court this week seeks unspecified damages from Olsness and two downtown bars where police say the 24-year-old drank at least five mixed drinks and seven shots of tequila within an hour before hitting Price-Cornell with his Suburban and trying to drive away.

Olsness spent most of Nov. 20, the night of the crash, at Talotti’s 211, 211 N. Division, according to a police report. The bar is named as a defendant along with Irv’s Bar, 415 W. Sprague Ave., where Olsness reportedly had a drink or two before returning to Talotti’s.

Employees at each bar should have known Olsness was too drunk to be served, according to the complaint.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage: Victim in downtown hit and run crash dies

Kids bust dad in break-in

EVANS, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado man accused in a weekend break-in was nabbed when police say he ran into some unexpected guests — his own kids.

Police say 33-year-old Raul Gaucin-Valenzuela (gow-SEEN’ val-ehn-ZWAY’-lah) accompanied a friend Saturday to break into the home of a friend’s ex-wife and beat up her new boyfriend.

But the plan was foiled when the men ran into Gaucin-Valenzuela’s children, ages 8 and 11.

Police say he didn’t realize the woman who lived there was baby-sitting his children. The kids recognized their dad, even though his face was covered by a bandanna.

No one was hurt in the break-in. Gaucin-Valenzuela was jailed on suspicion of second-degree burglary and other charges. The friend hasn’t been located.

Men shot in CdA seek payment

A Moses Lake man shot in downtown Coeur d’Alene has filed a complaint against the accused shooter, seeking at least $10,000 to cover medical costs and other damages.

Bradley J. Phillips, 25, was shot in the leg Dec. 27 in downtown Coeur d’Alene. A complaint filed Tuesday in Idaho’s 1st District Court says 25-year-old Adam M. Johnson negligently shot Phillips, resulting in more than $2,000 in medical costs.

Phillips’ friend Brandon R. Burgess, who was shot in the stomach, filed a complaint last week seeking lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses he said have exceeded $10,000, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Idaho’s 1st District Court.

Johnson is in Kootenai County Jail on charges of attempted murder and aggravated battery. He said he shot the men, who were with six others visiting Burgess’ mom for Christmas, out of fear.

Johnson is due in court tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. for a probable cause hearing. A grand jury has been hearing testimony in the case.

Past coverage: Gunman in CdA shooting claims self defense

2 men shot in downtown Coeur d’Alene

More details here.

Police union backs Thoma

The Spokane police union is asking the department to reinstate and give back pay to a sergeant fired after a drunken hit and run crash.

A grievance notice was sent to Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, Assistant Chief Jim Nicks and Human Resources Director Dave Chandler Dec. 30. Kirkpatrick sent Bradley N. Thoma a formal letter of termination that same day.

Thoma, 44, (right) was fired after refusing an offer from Kirkpatrick to accept a layoff and be eligible to be rehired as a detective if he completes a court deferral program for his drunken driving charge. In the meantime, the city would work with Thoma to determine if he was eligible for other positions.

That offer came after Kirkpatrick ruled that Thoma was unable to work as a police officer under the court program because it requires him to have an ignition interlock device on his car.

But that decision was wrong because it didn’t rightfully considers Thoma’s alcoholism as a disability, said Thoma’s lawyer, Bob Dunn.

Dunn filed a $4 million claim against the city of Spokane, claiming Thoma was wrongfully fired because he’s an alcoholic.

A handful of citizens (pictured above) protested the lawsuit outside his downtown Spokane office today.

A letter Dunn sent Tuesday to Kirkpatrick shows he’s confident he’ll prevail.

“Firing someone without pay for two years, then suggesting he would be “eligible” to re-apply at that time without guaranteed rehire, doesn’t constitute an accommodation,” Dunn wrote. “If that is the legal advice you are receiving, it arrogantly ignores how police departments across the country are dealing with this stress related, police culture disability and what the experts have to say about necessary departmental intervention and/or prevention efforts for this disease.”

He predicted the litigation will result in Thoma’s reinstatement with damages awarded.

Past coverage:

Thoma files $4 million claim against city

Police sergeant avoids prosecution

Health worker tipped police to accused bomb maker

A home health care provider turned in a suspected Spokane Valley bomb maker after spotting packages of unusual liquids in his mail.

The woman had been helping Raymond for about two months and said he “expressed great bitterness” over his recent divorce and had been researching bombs on the Internet, according to a search warrant filed Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

“She became more alarmed when he mentioned to her that he could hide materials on his wheelchair and no one would notice,” according to the warrant.

That warrant was used to search Raymond’s home Monday at the Oakwood Club Apartments, 726 N. McDonald Road, where detective seized a jar of suspected triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, an explosive popular with terrorists.

Detectives also found acetone, hydrogen peroxide and glass beakers, among other items.

Read more here.

Decision soon on accused killer’s mental state

A judge will decide Friday if accused murderer Cole Strandberg is competent to stand trial for the crossbow killing of a 22-year-old Spokane woman two years ago.

During a two-day hearing this week in Spokane County Superior Court, prosecutors argued Strandberg was faking signs of a mental condition.

Doctors from Eastern State Hospital said if he ever was afflicted with anything it was because of his methamphetamine use. (Strandberg's shown left in a December 2007 family photo, but he's lost a lot of weight in jail.)

His defense lawyer, Chris Bugbee, says those doctors ignored key details about Strandberg in order to fit their preconceived opinions. He argues that Strandberg is mentally incompetent to stand trial and needs treatment. 

Doctors from Sacred Heart Medical Center have for years diagnosed Strandberg as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Strandberg's mother, Barbara Strandberg, testified on Tuesday that his problems seemed to begin when he reached puberty. “His interests were bizarre and different,” she said.

“Talking to him would be impossible.”

Her testimony echoed much of what she said about a week after her son's arrest in 2008. (Read the story here.)

Strandberg is charged with first-degree aggravated murder for the brutal slaying of 22-year-old Jennifer M. Bergeron on Jan. 7, 2008. (Read past coverage here )

He faces additional charges of second-degree assault, third-degree assault and harassment for four alleged incidents with jailers, his former attorney and a psychologist.

Judge Tari Eitzen is expected to rule on Strandberg's mental competency Friday afternoon.

Robbers tie up disabled woman

Two people seeking prescription drugs tied up a Bonner County woman in her home early today.

Cynthia White was asleep on her couch when the robbers entered, forced her into her wheelchair and tied her to it about 3:50 a.m. in the Cedar View Estates area south of Oldtown on Highway 41.

In a press release, sheriff’s Lt. Doug Harris said the robbers searched the house for prescription drugs and did not injure White, who has physical disabilities.

The robbers untied the woman before leaving. A K-9 from the U.S. Border Patrol joined deputies in an attempt to follow the robbers.

The trail led to a nearby road before it was lost. Harris said the robbers apparently left in a vehicle from there.

Anyone with information about the case should call Bonner County Sheriff’s investigators at (208) 263-8417, extension 3051, or the dispatch center at (208) 265-5525.

Ex-church leader accused of sex abuse

A former Post Falls church youth leader was arrested last week on suspicion he had sexual and inappropriate contact with multiple minor girls from the congregation.

Jordan Vernon, 20, (right) is accused of allegedly having sex with at least two girls ages 14 and 17, and having inappropriate contact with at least two others ages 12 and 14 while serving as a youth leader in training at Real Life Ministries in Post Falls from 2007 to 2009, said Post Falls Police Detective Sgt. Dave Beck.

Vernon was arrested Dec. 28 for sexual battery of a minor child under the age of 16, lewd conduct with a minor child under the age of 16, and statutory rape for having sexual intercourse with child under 18, among other charges, police said.

Luke Denman, 28, (left) a relative of Vernon, was also arrested for intimidating a witness.

Denman allegedly went to the church after learning authorities planned to arrest Vernon, and threatened a church member, Beck said.

Cause of deputy’s crash may be medical

EPHRATA, Wash. (AP) — An autopsy today on the Grant County sheriff’s deputy killed in a one-car crash may indicate whether a medical condition figured in Sunday’s accident.

Undersheriff John Turley says the autopsy on Deputy John Bernard was being conducted for the county at the Forensics Institute at Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake.

Bernard (left) was not on his way to an emergency and he was wearing a seatbelt when his patrol car left a road nine miles south of Ephrata and rolled.

Turley says Bernard appeared to be in good health, but two years ago he underwent treatment for leukemia and was later hospitalized for vertigo and headaches from a blood disorder related to the chemotherapy.

A Washington State Patrol team continues to investigate the crash. Bernard had worked as a deputy in the county for the past four years.

Prior to that, he was a patrol officer for Ephrata police from 2002 to 2006. He had been a corrections officer in the county from 1997 to 2002.

Bernard was married with two sons, one of whom, Brandon, is also a Grant County sheriff’s deputy. The two are pictured above at Bradon’s graduation from the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien. The Sheriff’s Office called it “one of the most memorable days in John’s life.”

Sheriff Frank T. DeTrolio said in a news release that Bernard “was a tireless public servant whose commitment to law enforcement and serving the citizens helped make Grant County a safer place.”

Thief at cheerleading event sought

Police say this photo of a Dec. 19 East Valley High cheerleading event is a key clue in a purse snatching that occurred there.

The woman holding a pink jacket and standing behind the cheerleaders is accused of stealing a purse of a 17-year-old cheerleader who was helping the younger girls, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

The purse had the girl’s military ID, teal iPod and a small amount of cash.

Her companion is seated next to her, police said, wearing what appears to be a red and white letterman’s jacket and black and white baseball cap.

The photo has been circulated to all of the school district’s elementary school staff, but no one has recognized the woman, according to a news release.

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

Fingerprints key in Green Bluff homicide case

Fingerprints lifted from plastic bags on a body near Green Bluff have given detectives their first break in a homicide that’s remained unsolved for more than two months.

Miguel A. Rodriguez-Barbosa, the teenage roommate of 25-year-old victim Jesus Torres Valdovinos (right) has been in Spokane County jail on drug charges since shortly after Valdovinos’ body was found wrapped in a blanket and plastic bags along Day-Mount Spokane Road Oct. 18.

Now Rodriguez-Barbosa, 18, and an acquaintance, Marco Antonio Noriega-Lopez, 27, are considered persons of interest in the homicide of a man described in court documents as a major marijuana dealer.

A love seat sought in the investigation has never been found, but recently filed court documents say Rodriguez-Barbosa told them he removed it Oct. 14 from the Vicksburg Avenue home he shared with the victim after spilling hot sauce on it.

The teen also said a hole in the ceiling above where the love seat had been, which detectives believe was caused by gunfire, had been there for months.

But according to court documents, several witnesses said they’d never seen the hole and claimed the love seat had been there the morning detectives believe Valdovinos was killed, Oct. 17.

Fingerprints found on plastic bags wrapped around Valdovinos’ head match prints belonging to Rodriguez-Barbosa and Noriega-Lopez, according to court documents.

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

Past coverage:

Homicide victim linked to drug sales

Homicide victim’s roommate arrested on drug charges

Police: ‘Ninja’ biker tried to tow away SUV

Spokane police sent to check out a vehicle prowler at a North Side apartment complex this morning discovered a man with a long criminal history trying to steal a Chevrolet Suburban by towing it away.

The call turned into a chase with man police identified as Daniel F. Humphrey, 33, who was arrested after crashing into another vehicle when he ran a red light at Rowan Avenue and Nevada Street about 5:45 a.m. The driver of the second vehicle had minor injuries.

Humphrey, described in a news release as “widely known to the police for his criminal activities,” was booked into Spokane County jail on charges of vehicular assault and attempting to elude an officer.

Police said he was driving a Jeep Cherokee and unhooked the Jeep from the Suburban before taking off on the chase near Lincoln Road and Napa Street.

Humphrey was arrested last summer after police say he eluded them twice while riding a lime green Kawasaki VX12 Ninja motorcycle with a shortened muffler that made the bike very loud.

Police ended two chases because they were too dangerous and accused Humphrey of driving more than 100 mph in a 30 mph zone. He was arrested at his home July 30, according to court documents.

Humphrey’s criminal record dates back to at least 1992 and includes 20 convictions for driving with a suspended license and four for attempting to elude police.

He also has convictions for theft, escape, burglary and drug possession.

Slight delay in Morning Star Boy’s Ranch trial

The first of numerous lawsuits alleging abuse of a former resident of Morning Star Boys Ranch was delayed today while the Spokane County Superior Court judge assigned to hear it reviews pretrial motions in the case, Kevin Graman reports.

Trial of the civil case, brought by Kenneth Putnam, will begin Tuesday in Judge Kathleen O’Connor’s courtroom.

Putnam (pictured above in 2005) is one of 19 former residents accusing the ranch of allowing physical and sexual abuse by ranch employees. It is expected that O’Connor will rule on several motions this week, as well as begin to seat a jury in the case.

“The history of Morning Star is going to be presented in this trial,” as generations of abuse victims “finally get their day in court,” Timothy Kosnoff, the attorney whose Seattle firm is representing Putnam and 14 other plaintiffs, said in an article you can read here.

Checking in: Fake paraplegic

Columnist Doug Clark’s annual Budnick awards were a fun reminder of the odd stories that made news in 2009.

He mentioned one case that deserves an update - that of former Bonner County sheriff’s Deputy James M. Sebero, who pleaded guilty in April to charges relating to him lying about being paralyzed and defrauding the federal government out of more than $1.5 million in benefits.

Sebero was sentenced in November to 15 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $950,000. He was ordered to report to prison at a date determined by the probation office, and he’s not in custody, according to the federal inmate locator.

Sebero claimed to be paraplegic after serving in the Air Force in the 1970s, according to indictments filed last year in Idaho and Eastern Washington federal courts.

The scheme fell apart after federal agents investigating Sebero for fraudulently performing annual inspections on airplanes learned he’d been receiving VA benefits since 1976, a year after he ended a six-year stint in the Air Force at Fairchild Air Force Base.

In September 2007, more than a year before he was indicted on charges related to the VA fraud, investigators secretly videotaped Sebero being examined at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in northwest Spokane. He used a wheelchair then, but government surveillance cameras showed him walking in and out of the U.S. Courthouse downtown the next day, according to previously published reports.

Read past coverage here.

Man faces 11 counts of attempted murder

A 20-year-old man accused of shooting at a Spokane police officer faces 11 counts of first-degree attempted murder for the alleged two-day crime spree.

Tony E. Dawson is due in Spokane County Superior Court via video this afternoon.

He’s been in jail since Dec. 23, accused of shooting an 18-year-old man, then beating a woman and trying to steal her car before firing shots at a Spokane police officer from a stolen Suburban.

Dawson faces 10 counts of first-degree attempted murder for allegedly firing shots at a group of 10 people outside a home at 1103 W. Frederick, hitting the teenager in the back. He faces an additional count for allegedly firing at least four shots at Officer Kristopher Honaker, who had been guarding the scene of the earlier shooting.

He’s also charged with first-degree robbery and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. Read more here.

One point of order:

While Dawson’s alleged robbery accomplice told police he’d been “acting like Jesse James,” a look at his case, coupled with the in depth examination of James provided by T.J. Stiles in his fine book “Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War” shows that comparison to be painfully inaccurate.

James was a politically minded outlaw set on furthering the Confederate cause and continuing the fight against the Union in the years following the Civil War. While he touted guns and fired shots, he did so with a political thirst for attention that led to a partnership with a Missouri newspaper editor, John Newman Edwards.

The comparison of Dawson to James seems to have been spurred by his gun-touting antics, but James’ rise to a historic figure was driven by much more than weapons.

Stiles’ book on James is the best biography I’ve read. I’m still looking for a chance to enjoy his latest work, “The Last Tycoon: the Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt,” winner of the National Book Award.

Claim filed after juror dies outside courthouse

When 84-year-old Kay Mita got a jury summons, he regarded it as a sign the government was acknowledging a six-decade-old injustice. His first day of jury service, however, turned out to be the last day of his life.

Now the widow and son of a juror who died of exposure overnight on the courthouse steps two years ago have filed a $5 million claim with Spokane County, a possible prelude to a federal lawsuit against the county and Guardsmark LLC, which provides courthouse security.

Steve Bartel, the county’s risk manager, said his office is reviewing the claim to determine whether the county has any liability in what he acknowledged is “a terrible event.”

Mita reported for jury duty the morning of Nov. 26, 2007, left the jury room for the lunch break, but didn’t return at the scheduled time. He apparently became confused and disoriented and was unable to find his car, parked less than a block away. He wandered around the courthouse and its grounds for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Read the rest of Jim Camden’s story here.

Family seeks Spokane man’s killer

Everywhere she goes, Heather Tipke looks for him. The man with glasses and short, “military-style hair,” as the few people who saw her brother’s killer have described him.

It’s been nearly five months since William O. “Billy” Floyd, 22, was stabbed to death in a central Spokane parking lot.

His assailant hasn’t been found, but his family remains hopeful. “We’re never going to give up,” said Tipke, 25. “As long as my heart keeps beating, I’ll keep looking.”

Floyd (right) died Aug. 15 in the parking lot of the Spokane Dance Company at 902 W. Indiana Ave. He’d been stabbed in the heart.

He and a friend were walking to an apartment to get something to eat after a night of playing video games and drinking alcohol when they encountered a man at Shannon Avenue and Lincoln Street.

Ge’d been walking east from Monroe and handed Floyd a cigarette when they asked, police said. But the 2 a.m. encounter quickly turned contentious, and Floyd soon stumbled to the ground with a knife wound to the heart. He died shortly after medics found him almost unconscious and barely breathing.

The assailant ran northeast toward Shannon Avenue and has never been identified.

Floyd’s relatives are convinced he’s still in Spokane. They say someone has been ripping down police sketches of the man posted throughout the city. (The sketch is shown at left.)

They wonder: Could it be the killer? Or someone covering for him?

Police haven’t ruled it out. “I’m convinced someone knows who it is and they’re protecting him,” said Spokane police Detective Terry Ferguson.

Read the rest of my story here

Read past coverage here.

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