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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for November 2010

Woman attacked while leaving Rite Aid

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Police are looking for a man who robbed a woman outside a Spokane drug store just after noon on Monday.

The man followed the victim as she left the Rite Aid, 5520 N. Division St., and attacked her, according to police.

She was in the parking lot when he grabbed her purse and knocked her to the ground before driving away in a full-size black pickup truck with 4x4 written on the back, police said Tuesday.

Surveillence photos and video show the robber to be a white man, about 6 feet tall, wearing a brown Carhartt jacket, jeans, white shoes and a light colored ball cap with a green bill.

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

Shooting at girl’s room gets man 79 mos

A man who fired a gun into an apartment room where a toddler was sleeping was sentenced this morning to about 6 1/2 months in prison. 

Joseph L. Bledsaw, 25, was arrested about a month after the shooting in a fiery car crash that saw a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy pull his passenger to safety.

Bledsaw pleaded guilty today to second-degree assault with a deadly weapons enhancement, two more counts of second-degree assault and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. Spokane County  Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza ordered him to serve 79 months in prison.

Police say Bledsaw was intoxicated on Feb. 27 when he fired shots into an apartment at 15917 E. Sprague Ave., after a couple complained to police about noise. One of the bullets struck a metal bed post and landed on the blankets covering a 3-year-old girl.

Bledsaw has previous convictions for drugs. He also was convicted of first-degree malicious mischief in Spokane County after crashing into several cars while fleeing a state trooper in 2004. (The picture up top is from that arrest.)

Bledsaw has a charge of attempting to elude arrest that has not yet been resolved, Cozza said.

Killer’s boyfriend pleads not guilty

The boyfriend of a woman serving 51 years in prison for murdering her husband pleaded not guilty this morning to charges connected to the same slaying.

Brian L. Moore, 44, remains in Spokane County Jail on $2 million bail. His trial is set for Jan. 24 after he pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for the Dec. 9, 2007, shooting death of Dale R. Stark.

Police don’t believe Moore was present when Stark was killed, but they believe he persuaded Shellye L. Stark to commit the crime in order to access the man’s assets, including a life insurance policy.

Spokane police traveled to California earlier this month to pick up Moore, who recently completed a 21-month federal prison sentence for an unregistered rifle and firearms silencer found in his Orange County warehouse last year.

It’s the second time prosecutors have pursued murder charges against Moore. They withdrew the original charges in October 2009 after a judge ruled key evidence from a private investigator hired by Moore and Stark couldn’t be used against Moore.

Past coverage:

Nov. 19: Killer’s beau jailed on $2 million bail

Family of man in river: ‘Heartbreaking’

A man found dead in the Spokane River on Sunday had a long history of mental illness and likely committed suicide, family said on Monday. 

Peter L. Jose, 34, had schizophrenia but regularly skipped his medication and frequently threatened to harm himself, said Mary Lee Gaston, mother of Jose’s ex-wife.

Gaston’s daughter, who also has schizophrenia, left Jose about a year ago, and he hadn’t seen their young daughter in months because of his ongoing struggle with his mental health, Gaston said.

Gaston learned of Jose’s death Monday after an autopsy by the Spokane County medical examiner’s office.

“It’s just heartbreaking, but it’s just totally out of our hands,” Gaston said. “When people are very, very mentally ill, they have another world they live in. And poor Peter did.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Jose is pictured during theater performances in 2000 and 2006. He was active in the now closed On Stage! theater group.

Felon wanted after missing trial date

A longtime Spokane felon who didn’t show up for his trial on theft and stolen property charges is wanted by police.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest repeat offender Kevin Leon Schimpf, 52, who has a 26-year criminal history in Spokane County.

A warrant was issued after Schimpf didn’t show up for his trial  in September on charges of second-degree theft and first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Police say he stole car keys from a finance counselor at Holy Family Hospital, then stole fishing equipment and a GPS device from his car and pawned them.

That was in July 2008. The two-years-in-the-making trial still hasn’t happened.

Schimpf, 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, last gave 3803 W. Greenwood Ave. in Spokane as his home address. His criminal history includes convictions for possession, delivery and manufacture of controlled substances; third-degree theft, DUI, driving while license suspended and probation violations.

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

Autopsy complete on body in river

A body found in the Spokane River on Sunday has been identified. Detectives are contacting family and expect to release the man’s name on Tuesday, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

Riverfront Park security staff spotted the body just north of the Skyride about 9:35 a.m. on Sunday and called police.

The corpse showed no obvious signs of trauma and did not appear to be in the water long, but officers said the cold temperature could be a factor. No identification was found.

Police said the man appeared to be about 30 years old. Investigation into his death continues.

Bank robbery suspect: I’m a ‘gentle guy’

A suspected serial bank robber implicated himself in several holdups and asked authorities if he “will get (messed) up in prison for armed robbery” after his arrest last month, according to newly unsealed court documents. 

Lucas G. Woodard, 33, thanked federal agents “for treating him well, explaining that…because of what he did, he could have been treated poorly,” according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court after Woodard’s Oct. 14 arrest.

“Woodard admitted that although he had a gun, he would never have used it,” according to the affidavit. “Woodard also stated that he was a ‘gentle guy’ apart from the robberies that he committed.”

FBI agents say the Oct. 14 robbery at Washington Trust Bank, 1906 W. Francis Ave., is consistent with bank robberies on Dec. 22, Feb. 13, April 19, May 18, May 26, July 28 and Aug. 24. The robberies netted $123,000, according to the affidavit. (Hold ups on July 28 and April 19 are pictured.)

Woodard has been charged with just one robbery - the Oct. 14 holdup in which he stole nearly $18,000 but was arrested after a witness followed Woodard - who was on a bike - while talking to 911.

A Spokane police sergeant driving home cut Woodard off at West Holyoke Avenue and West Bruce Avenue after hearing the call on his police radio.

Woodard had a loaded gun and ammo along with a black fleece face covering, a pair of black gloves, sunglasses, and brown and gray Eddie Bauer backpack and black Gap hooded sweatshirt, according to the affidavit.

Woodard, who has no criminal record and worked for the family-owned Woodard Construction, is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail. He pleaded not guilty Oct. 22 to felony charges of armed bank robbery and using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.

Cuts could end sex offender task force

Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Damon Simmons spends much of his time hunting for online sexual predators with the Spokane County Child Sexual Predator Task Force.

But Simmons’ time with the task force may be running out.

The task force, which focuses on finding new online offenders and managing known offenders, was created in 2008 with a nearly $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The money for his position runs out in a few weeks. Faced with budget cuts, it’s a position the department may not be able to keep.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach’s story here.

Brothers nabbed in property crime case

Two brothers are in jail after Spokane Valley detectives found $30,000 in stolen motorcycles and other equipment in their storage unit last week.

Neal T. Johnson, 45, was arrested after Detective Brad Gilbert obtained a search warrant for his unit at Secure-It Storage, 18815 E. Cataldo Ave., and saw Johnson entering the unit last Monday. Johnson’s brother, 55-year-old Kim D. Johnson, was arrested shortly after arriving at the storage unit, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Inside the unit, detectives found a Honda 250 Enduro motorcycle stolen Nov. 10, a 2008 Vespa scooter stolen in July and two pickup engines and transmission that Washington State Patrol Detective Jeff Thoet said were stolen, according to a news release.

They also found a $10,000 diesel welder and generator stolen from a Morgan-Osgood Construction Co. storage site near the Barker Bridge last July.

The Johnsons are at the Geiger Confinement Center after appearing in Superior Court last week on stolen property and theft charges.  They’re to be arraigned on Tuesday.

Neal Johnson’s criminal history includes covnictions for drugs, theft, burglary and possession of stolen property. Kim Johnson was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2007 after pleading guilty to possession of a controlled substance.

2 men charged in meth prison conspiracy

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Two Bellingham men have been charged with conspiracy to mail papers soaked in methamphetamine to inmates in state prisons.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle alleges that 31-year-old Joseph L. Garcia supplied ounces of meth to 47-year-old Kirk L. Rishor, who soaked the drugs into high-quality, cotton-fiber paper.

The complaint says Rishor put the paper into manila envelopes flled with legal paperwork and mailed the package to the prison.

Rishor and Garcia were arrested in Bellingham on Nov. 12. When investigators searched Garcia’s home with a warrant, they found $28,000 in cash and almost 40 ounces of meth.

An inmate in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Victor Martinez, also has been charged.

Happy Thanksgiving from Sirens!

Happy Thanksgiving from Sirens & Gavels! I hope everyone has a great holiday with their family and friends.  

Travel safe and enjoy your various family traditions. If you don’t have any, start some. (Did anyone else’s father make them write reports on Thanksgiving topics like the Pilgrims and present them to the family during dinner?)

The blog will be back Monday afternoon.

1 of 20 meth suspects gets 77 months

A Coeur d’Alene man was sentenced this week to 6 1/2 years in federal prison for his role in a large group of methamphetamine distributors.

Larry McMillan, 31, received 77 months in prison Monday after pleading guilty in September to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Investigators say McMillan and others bought meth in Seattle that was then distributed in the Coeur d’Alene area. He’s one of 20 suspects charged in the case. Eighteen have been convicted and 17 sentenced, including Brenda Barron and her daughter, Amber Larsen.

 McMillan’s lawyer said in court documents that McMillan traveled with Larsen and Shad Johnson to Seattle with the intent of selling his dump truck, but Johnson instead used the truck to settle a drug debt.

“Mr McMillan ended up with no dump truck and approximately two ounces of low grade methamphetamine,” according to the documents. Johnson (pictured) has pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine and is to be sentenced Jan. 25. 

That incident led to the charge against McMillan, who also sold a quarter ounce of meth to Larsen on three occasions, documents said. McMillan turned to selling drugs after his dry wall business went under about two years ago, his lawyer wrote.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office praised the sentence imposed on McMillan.

“Methamphetamine is a horribly addictive drug that poses a threat to our communities,” United States Attorney Wendy J. Olson said in a prepared statement. “The United States Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement partners will continue to aggressive(ly) investigate and prosecute methamphetamine distribution rings such as this one.”

Gunman in botched carjacking sentenced

Unable to complete sentences between tears, 56-year-old Donald Young explained how being shot in a botched carjacking last year “messed up” his life.

The man responsible, Joseph P. Ellery, 31, (pictured) pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree assault in exchange for prosecutors dropping other charges, including first-degree robbery and drive-by shooting during the bloody carjacking that occurred Dec. 18. He was sentenced to almost 13 years in prison.

“I get shot from some drug-induced … Why me? He screwed up my life,” Young told Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen. “I wanted to see what the guy looked like. I’ve never seen him before in my life.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Dec. 21: Man in carjack shooting said victim owed money

Insanity defense explored in ‘08 murder

The aggravated murder trial of accused crossbow killer Cole K. Strandberg will proceed in January following a hearing to allow his defense attorney to present a case that his client should be acquitted because he is insane. 

Defense attorney Chris Bugbee asked Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen Tuesday for what amounts to a mini-trial on Jan. 5 to present evidence about his client’s mental state at the time of the killing. Strandberg has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Eitzen reluctantly agreed, but said the January trial date is “written in concrete.”

Strandberg, who was featured earlier this year in a Discovery Channel episode of “Behind Bars,” is charged with sexually assaulting and using a crossbow to kill 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron on Jan. 7, 2008.

Militia man guilty in Idaho grenade case

A self-described militia leader pleaded guilty this week to federal gun charges connected to a grenade manufacturing operation at his trailer in Spirit Lake, Idaho.

Kenneth B. Kimbley Jr., 58, discussed bombing local bridges with an undercover federal agent and made threatening statements toward President Barack Obama, leading investigators last July to seize 20,000 ammunition rounds and several firearms from Kimbley’s property, where he and other suspected militia members gathered to construct grenades, according to court documents.

Kimbley, who remains in federal custody, pleaded guilty to Monday to unlawful possession of a firearm and attempt to make a firearm in violation of the National Firearms Act. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced Feb. 22.

“There was no plea deal,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan.

Past coverage:

Sept. 20: Glenn Beck inspired alleged grenade maker

July 6: Illegal grenade manufacturing uncovered in Spirit Lake

Man faces felony for Four Loko incident

A 49-year-old man who injured a sheriff’s deputy in a drunken crash nine years ago has been charged with felony driving under the influence for an incident last week in Spokane Valley, officials announced today.

 James L. Crabtree, a local real estate agent who worked as a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy in the 1980s, was arrested last week after other motorists block his vehicle at East Broadway Avenue and North Pines Road and told officials he appeared to be passed out at the wheel.

A Spokane County sheriff’s deputy smelled alcohol on Crabtree’s breath and found an open container of Four Loko in his car, the caffeinated alcoholic beverage now banned in Washington. Crabtree also allegedly had the prescription pill Clonazepam in his pocket.

He left jail on $3,500 bail after appearing in Superior Court Thursday on a drug possession charge.

Crabtree acknowledged he had drunk two beers and had a blood-alcohol level of .065, according to court documents. The legal limit for driving is .08. Crabtree received deferred prosecution for a DUI in 1997, then was sentenced to five years in prison in 2003 for vehicular assault after a drunken crash that nearly killed Earl Howerton of the Sheriff’s Office.

He was again convicted of drunken driving in 2007. Washington law allows for drunken driving suspects with prior convictions for vehicular homicide or vehicular assault while under the influence to be charged with a felony. Crabtree is to be arraigned Nov. 30.

3-crash survivor pleads guilty in fatality

 A man who has survived three one-car crashes on the same road near Plummer, Idaho, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for an August 2009 crash.

Joseph Michael Matt, Jr., 25, of Worley, was speeding and under the influence of alcohol and methamphetamine when he lost control of his 1997 Jeep Cherokee and left Lovell Valley Road in Benewah County road, killing William “Sonny” A. Davison, 22, of Desmet.

Matt has been in two other crashes on Lovell Valley Road but was not driving in either.

A federal grand jury indicted Matt, a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, for the Aug. 18, 2009, crash in June.

He pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene. He faces a maximum of eight years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years probation when he’s sentenced Feb. 23. He remains in federal custody.

Technician gets 9 years for child porn

A Canadian computer technician who illegally entered the United States with a laptop computer containing child pornography has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison.

Scott Andrew Henry, 25, will be on probation for 10 years after he leaves prison. He pleaded guilty in September to possession of sexually explicit images of minors and was sentenced Monday.

Henry illegally entered the United States near Bonners Ferry in May after cutting through a wire fence and driving his car through. border agents found him with a red Dodge Neon on Boundary Creek Bridge east of the Porthill, Idaho, entry.

He had his computer connected to a GPS receiver and to Google Maps and appeared to be trying to ram a locked gate before his car got stuck, according to federal court documents.  Investigators found more than 57,000 images of child pornography on his computer.

Henry has a prior felony conviction for fraud and has several forgery charges pending in New York state, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He first told investigators that he owns a computer company in British Columbia, the Komputer Clinic, and may have picked up the photos while serving clients’ computers, according to federal court documents.

Past coverage:

July 20: Computer tech charged in child porn case

Crime Stoppers targets repeat offenders

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“Three hots and a cot await these fugitives during the cold snap,” writes Sgt. Dave Reagan of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Crime Stoppers if offering a reward for tips that help arrest any of the suspects. All are classified as repeat offenders in Spokane County and are charged with escape from community custody.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Inmate fighting locks down state prison

WALLA WALLA, Wash. (AP) — Two more units at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla have been locked down because of a fight.

The disturbance escalated to include more than 20 inmates Monday. The prison said in a statement that three officers reported injuries and are being evaluated. No inmates suffered serious injuries.

The cause of the fight is being investigated.

Two other units remain under lockdown following a fight last week that involved nearly 50 inmates. One of those units is expected to return to normal operations on Tuesday.

Task force links Idaho duo to 13 crimes

A North Idaho law enforcement task force has connected 13 crimes to two people in what authorities describe as a large stolen property investigation. 

Justin Lee Christian, 39, of Kellogg, and Amanda Dawn Erickson, 24, of Coeur d’Alene, are in the Kootenai County Jail on more than 25 felony charges.

The North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force served several search warrants earlier this month that recovered stolen TVs, video games consoles, power tools, clothes, check books, credit cards and other stolen property.

The two are charged with thefts at a Phones Plus store and at the Wal-Marts in Post Falls and Hayden. 

Christian faces seven counts of burglary, six counts of fraudulent use of a financial transaction card and single counts of felon in possession of a firearm, possession of meth and possession of stolen property.

Erickson is charged with possession of stolen property, four counts of burglary and four counts of fraudulent use of financial transaction card.

Jail escapee arrested in north Spokane

A Whitman County Jail inmate who escaped with 18 days remaining on his sentence was arrested in Spokane on Sunday in after committing at least one burglary in Dayton, officials said today.

Ronald A. Rutledge, 29, was doing maintenance work outside the jail in Colfax when he fled on foot Saturday night. The convicted burglar had nearly completed his four-month sentence but now faces ” a much lengthier stay behind bars” for the escape, the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Rutledge called the Sheriff’s Office about 7:30 p.m. Sunday and arranged to turn himself in. He was arrested at a home in north Spokane just after 9:30 p.m., according to the news release.

Detectives tracked Rutledge to Dayton after learning he’d stolen a truck from a home near Colfax. They believe he stole a “substantial amount of cash” during a home burglary in Dayton, then stole another car and drove to Spokane.

Sheriff’s officials have recovered most of the stolen property, including both vehicles.

Rutledge is due in Whitman County Superior Court this afternoon.

State to close prison on McNeil Island

(AP) — State officials said Friday it will close the McNeil Island Corrections Center on April 1, the third Department of Corrections prison to close in the past year as officials grapple with a growing budget deficit.

The McNeil Island prison is the least efficient in the state, in part because it is on an island, Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail said.

“This will save the most money without compromising the safety of our staff, the offenders and the public,” he said.

The approximately 500 inmates at the prison near Steilacoom in south Puget Sound will be scattered among the remaining 12 institutions.

McNeil Island is also home to the state’s Special Commitment Center, where sexually violent predators are indefinitely held for treatment after completing their prison sentences. That center is operated by the Department of Social and Health Services and will remain open, prison spokesman Chad Lewis said.

Costs to operate ferries, barges and fire boats to McNeil Island will shift to DSHS, and service will likely be reduced when the prison closes, the Corrections Department said.

On Thursday, state officials learned the budget deficit for the rest of the fiscal year had swelled by an additional $385 million to more than $900 million. The 2011-2013 deficit is now pegged at about $5.7 billion out of a roughly $33 billion general fund.

Corrections must reduce spending by nearly $53 million this fiscal year as a result of 6 percent across-the-board cuts due to declining tax revenue. Earlier this week, the agency conducted a one-day lockdown of state prisons as a way to reduce salary costs. Such lockdowns will occur once a month.

Vail said additional cuts to the agency would be difficult to achieve.

“I don’t have any more fat or deadwood or waste or fraud in my agency,” Vail said.

He didn’t rule out the closure of more prisons in the future, although he said the state’s prison population has been on the decline.

There are a few hundred free beds at the other state prisons, he said. If those became full, he would prefer to contract with other states to house prisoners rather than crowd Washington prisons, Vail said.

McNeil Island was a federal prison from 1875 until it closed in 1976. The state leased it from the federal government and reopened the prison in 1981. The federal prison’s most famous inmates include Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” who was held there from 1909-12, and Charles Manson, who was an inmate from 1961-66 for trying to cash a forged government check.

The Corrections Department had originally planned to close Larch Corrections Center near Vancouver, but found that would not save enough money. The agency will save $6.3 million a year by closing McNeil Island, compared to $2 million by closing Larch.

In the past year, McNeil Island has been reduced from a a medium-security prison with 1,200 offenders to a minimum-security prison with 515 offenders. There are about 245 staff members.

“We will do all we possibly can to find them positions elsewhere in the agency,” Vail said. There are five prisons within a 90-minute drive of Steilacoom, the agency said.

This is the third prison the agency, which houses some 16,000 inmates, has closed within a year. Two minimum-security prisons, Ahtanum View Corrections Center in Yakima and Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women near Spokane, previously closed.

Larch Corrections Center will return to full capacity and house 480 offenders. It currently houses about 240 offenders.

Killer’s beau jailed on $2 million bail

A 2007 murder case in which a jury rejected the killer’s claims of forced prostitution and other abuse continued in Superior Court today as the convict’s boyfriend appeared on murder charges.

Brian L. Moore, 44, remains in Spokane County Jail on $2 million bail after appearing on charges first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for the Dec. 9, 2007, shooting death of Dale R. Stark.

Police don’t believe Moore was present when Stark was killed, but they believe he persuaded Shellye L. Stark to commit the crime in order to access the man’s assets, including a life insurance policy.

Spokane police Detective Kip Hollenbeck traveled to California this week to pick up Moore, who recently completed a 21-month federal prison sentence for an unregistered rifle and firearms silencer  found in his Orange County warehouse last year.

It’s the second time prosecutors have pursued murder charges against Moore. They withdrew the original charges in October 2009 after a judge ruled key evidence from a private investigator hired by Moore and Stark couldn’t be used against Moore.

The new charges were filed just days before Moore was sentenced in U.S. District Court on the federal weapons charges.

Public Defender John Whaley said the case against Moore is weak.

While reading the 20-page affidavit supporting the charges, “I never saw what the state must be thinking of as the smoking gun in this case,” Whaley said.

Moore was working as a paralegal in Southern California when he met Stark (pictured), who advertised online as a traveling prostitute named Nikita Jennifer.

Moore, who declined an interview request, has said his legal work focused on helping women escape prostitution and abusive relationships, but Spokane investigators believe he used that profession to manipulate women with low self-esteem for financial gain.

During a jury trial in March 2009, Shellye Stark claimed self defense and told sordid stories of forced prostitution and other abuse at the hands of her husband.

But jurors rejected her claims, which investigators believe were thought of, in part, by Moore. She’s serving a 51-year prison sentence.

The information used to support the news charges against Moore does not appear to be substantially different than what was presented last fall.

Moore and Stark’s former private investigator, Ted Pulver, remains a key witness, describing Moore as bragging about the plot and discussing Dale Stark’s life insurance policy in detail.

Dale Stark’s life insurance money went to his son with Shellye Stark, who then funneled money to Moore and his mother to pay her legal defense, according to the affidavit.

A 2007 yellow Pontiac Solstice convertible police say the couple bought with the money remains in police custody.


Grand jury indicts driver in fatal crash

A motorist who killed a pedestrian while intoxicated last April on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Andrea M. George, who was 18 at the time of the crash, is charged with involuntary manslaughter for the April 19 crash on Desmet Road at Ajot Road that killed Patrick A. Gourneau, 22, of Tensed, Idaho.

Gourneau was walking when George struck him while cresting a hill in a 2002 Honda Civic on Desmet Road just before 6 a.m.

George was airlifted to a Spokane hospital but has since recovered. She booked into the Kootenai County Jail Thursday after a grand jury indicted her on the involuntary manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum penalty of eights years in prison or a $250,000 fine and no more than three years probation.

The charge alleges George was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana and was speeding at the time for the crash. Her first appearance in U.S. District Court is scheduled for Monday in Coeur d’Alene.

Louisiana sex convict wanted in Spokane

A Spokane man convicted of a sex offense in Louisiana is wanted by Crime Stoppers for failing to register here. 

Details of Jermaine Geramy Johnson’s May 2004 conviction are not available, but the Spokane County sex offender registry lists him as noncompliant.

An arrest warrant was issued in August for failing to register as a sex offender.

Johnson, 31, has no local criminal convictions, according to Crime Stoppers. The fugitive apprehension organization is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of Johnson.

Johnson, 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds, last gave his address as 1729 E. Sprague, apt. C., in Spokane.

He’s a level 1 sex offender, the classification considered least likely to reoffend.

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

Mead pot shop burgled 2x in 1 week

Detectives are investigating the second burglary at a Mead medical marijuana dispensary in a week.

Spokane County sheriff’s deputies responded to a commercial burglary alarm at Evergreen Medical Inc., 12004 N. Market, about 10:15 p.m. Tuesday and found the south side door open with the Plexiglas window removed.

Nothing was stolen, but about $1,000 worth of glass bongs, bubblers and pipes were stolen last Friday. A motorist notified police of an open and broken glass door about 8:30 a.m. Deputies found a tire iron on the floor and pry marks on several locked drawers.

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

Spokane Deputy Prosecutor John Grasso said Thursday that he considers marijuana dispensaries such as Evergreen to be violating state law. It’s unclear if drug detectives also are investigating the business.

Four Loko can found in DUI suspect’s car

A 49-year-old Spokane man with a history of driving under the influence was arrested in Spokane Valley Wednesday after concerned motorists blocked his path. 

James L. Crabtree, a local real estate agent who worked as a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy in the 1980s, left jail on $3,500 bond Thursday after appearing in Superior Court on a drug possession charge. He’s prohibited from driving under an order from Judge Sam Cozza.

A Spokane County sheriff’s deputy smelled alcohol on Crabtree’s breath and found an open container of Four Loko in his car, the caffeinated alcoholic beverage now banned in Washington. Wednesday was the last day it could legally be purchased.

Crabtree’s friend Glenn Sap said the can belonged to a man who Crabtree had dropped off just minutes before his arrest.

Read my full story here.

Robber’s getaway rig? A lawnmower

AIKEN, S.C. (AP) — Police in South Carolina say a man attempted a slow getaway by lawnmower after robbing a convenience store.

Aiken County sheriff’s deputies told The Aiken Standard the man left the store on a riding lawnmower Thursday morning but didn’t get far before he was arrested.

Capt. Troy Elwell says Ricky New has been charged with assault and battery, first degree and armed robbery.

Investigators say the suspect beat a store clerk with a stick during the robbery. New was being held at the Aiken County jail. It wasn’t yet known if he has an attorney.

Tips sought on Avista copper caper

Thieves stole more than $1,000 worth of copper cable from an Avista substation in north Spokane this week.

Police are looking for tips on whoever cut the padlock at 8307 N. Regal and stole the coils of copper, which were discovered missing about 6:30 .am. Wednesday.

A copper ground cable embedded in the ground had been pulled out and stolen as well, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

“Three different types of Shawflex-brand cable were stolen: a 12-conductor #9 gauge, a seven-conductor #9 gauge and a four-conductor #9 gauge,” according to a news release. “In all, about 25 30-feet-long lengths of cable were stolen.”

Thieves often steal copper to sell to recycling firms.

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

Spokane jury hearing Pasco murder case

(AP) — Testimony continued today in the aggravated murder trial of a man accused of killing five people at a Pasco auto body shop 23 years ago.

The trial of 46-year-old Vicente Ruiz was moved to Spokane County from Franklin County after two mistrials. Court officials are from Franklin County, but the jury is comprised of Spokane County residents. Testimony began Wednesday.

The Tri-City Herald reports that prosecutors told the jury Ruiz was identified by the lone survivor of the 1987 shooting. Defense lawyers say it’s a case of mistaken identity. One man already convicted in the case is serving a life sentence.

This is the third trial for Ruiz. His first trial in 2008 was called off when more DNA testing was requested on evidence. The judge halted the second trial in June because the defense had not received some police reports.

Read an in-depth story from the Tri-City Herald on the trial’s opening day by clicking the link below

2 sex offenders register as transients

Two sex offenders considered likely to reoffend will be living as transients in Spokane County, the Sheriff’s Office announced today.

Jesus Lopez, 37, (right) was released from prison in 2005 after being convicted of first-degree rape in Grant County in 1994. His victim was a 27-year-old female who was not a stranger.

Keith Noel Vervair, 42, (left) was convicted of indecent liberties involving a 23-year-old woman 1994, and luring a child, a 15-year-old girl, according to news archives. 

Vervair’s extensive criminal record includes convictions for drugs, assault, trespassing and violating a no contact order.

Lopez and Vervair are level 3 sex offenders, the classification considered most likely to reoffend.

Neither is wanted by law enforcement, but authorities want the public to be aware of their presence.

Couple gets prison time for tax evasion

A former Colbert couple, who reportedly has made millions from the sale of porcelain figurines, has been sentenced to federal prison for refusing to pay more than $800,000 in income taxes.

Scott D. and Kristin W. Haynes, both 56, were sentenced late Tuesday after pleading guilty to five counts of failing to file tax returns for the years 1999 through 2003. They were arrested June 22 when they traveled to Florida after living for several years on a tropical island in the Caribbean that is part of Honduras.

Kristin Haynes is the artist and creator of figurines sold nationwide under the “Dreamsicles” trademark. Scott Haynes was a 50 percent shareholder in the corporation, from which the couple earned royalties from the sales of her creations.

Read the rest of the story here.

Deal possible in Barefoot Bandit case

SEATTLE (AP) — The attorney for the teenager accused of being the “Barefoot Bandit” is working with prosecutors to negotiate a plea deal the lawyer says could involve using movie- or book-deal profits to compensate the victims of an alleged two-year, cross-country crime spree.

Through his lawyer, defendant Colton Harris-Moore, 19, pleaded not guilty this morning to federal charges that include the theft of a small plane in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, last fall.

He also pleaded not guilty to four other federal charges for an alleged cross-coutnry crime spree that ended with his arrest in a stolen boat in the Bahamas

“He’s very reluctant to make a dime off this, he really is,” said his lawyer, John Henry Browne (pictured). 

However, Browne said that when he told his client that money from movie or book deals could be used to repay victims — and incidentally win him a more favorable plea deal, with less time behind bars — “that changed his mind a little bit.”

The U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle declined to comment on whether it is negotiating a possible plea deal with Harris-Moore. 

The “Barefoot Bandit” moniker was coined after a thief committed some of the crimes without socks or shoes and gained a big following on the Internet.

Harris-Moore is accused of leading authorities on a cat-and-mouse game in pilfered cars, boats and small planes after allegedly escaping a halfway house south of Seattle in 2008. This year he made a daring cross-country dash that ended four months ago after he allegedly stole a plane in Indiana, crash-landed it in the Bahamas and was captured by Bahamian police at gunpoint in a stolen boat.

Harris-Moore, who was indicted by a grand jury last week, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler on Thursday wearing prison khakis over an orange shirt. He stated his name and year of birth, and frequently looked down during the brief hearing.

He told the judge he understood the charges against him — interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, a stolen firearm and a stolen vessel, as well as being a fugitive in possession of a firearm and piloting an aircraft without a valid airman’s certificate.

Browne entered the not guilty plea on Harris-Moore’s behalf. Afterward, the attorney told reporters that discussions are in the early stages on a possible deal that could resolve federal and state charges against Harris-Moore.

Not guilty pleas are typical at this stage, even if defendants later intend to change their pleas.

Four of the five counts against Harris-Moore carry maximum sentences of 10 years in prison, and Browne said that realistically his client could be looking at anywhere from four to 12 years if convicted. Trial was set for Jan. 18.

The federal charges stem from a spate of crimes in late 2009 and early this year, when Harris-Moore is accused of flying a stolen plane from Anacortes, in northwestern Washington, to the San Juan Islands; stealing a pistol in eastern British Columbia; stealing a plane from a Bonners Ferry hangar where authorities found bare footprints on the floor and wall, and flying it to Granite Falls, Wash., where it crashed after running out of fuel; and stealing a 32-foot boat in southwestern Washington and taking it to Oregon.(The plane in Bonners Ferry was owned by a cattle rancher)

From Oregon, authorities said, the bandit hopscotched his way across the U.S., frequently stealing cars from the parking lots of small airports, until he made it to Indiana, where he stole another plane and made for the Bahamas.

In all, Harris-Moore, a self-taught pilot, is suspected of more than 70 crimes across nine states.

A possible plea deal by Harris-Moore would require the consent of prosecutors in other jurisdictions.

Some, including Greg Banks, the prosecutor in Island County, where Harris-Moore grew up and where he was first arrested at age 12, have indicated they want Harris-Moore to answer for local crimes in their courts, rather than in one overarching plea in federal court in Seattle.

If those prosecutors don’t want to cooperate, “I’ll bankrupt them,” Browne said, citing the expense of putting on a high-profile trial in small, rural counties.

The assertion drew a chuckle from Banks.

“I’ve had calls all morning about whether a jury trial over a bunch of burglaries is going to bankrupt our county, and the answer is no,” Banks said. “It was a funny thing for him to say.”

Banks, however, said he wouldn’t rule out agreeing to a global plea deal if it meant any profits could be used to repay victims, but he noted the complexity of working out such a deal. And, he said, Harris-Moore wouldn’t necessarily need to sell his story to pay restitution.

“He’s a fairly industrious young man,” Banks said. “By the time he gets out of custody he’ll probably be able to get a job and make some money. He’s talented.”

Browne said Harris-Moore has been in solitary confinement at the Federal Detention Center south of Seattle, where he’s been drawing airplane designs and reading about aircraft and nature. He’s received letters from his mother and aunt, but few visits, and he’s not interested in getting out of solitary, Browne said.

“He’d rather stay where he is, which is rather unusual,” the lawyer said.

Shot pregnant woman faces charges

A Spokane woman who was nine months pregnant and unarmed when she was shot by a Washington State Patrol sergeant during a drug raid has been charged with drug trafficking.

Keamia D. Powell, 24, was allowed to leave jail on her own recognizance Wednesday under the condition that she report directly to a west Spokane drug rehabilitation center.

Powell has been living at the center since she was released from the hospital after being shot in the shoulder in what Sgt. Lee Slemp, a 25-year veteran, has told investigators was an accidental shooting.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 6: Police want drug charges filed against pregnant woman

Oct. 1: WSP sergeant says shooting was accidental

Oct. 1 Sergeant who shot pregnant woman is 25-year veteran

Sept. 24: State patrol officer shoots unarmed pregnant woman

Six officers in fatal shooting identified

Six police officers fired a total of 26 shots at a man who refused to drop a shotgun near a busy Spokane intersection last week, investigators said Wednesday.

Ethan A. Corporon, 29, (right) died of two gunshots on the lawn of a Spokane Tribe of Indians building on West Indiana Avenue, which was riddled with bullet holes from police gunfire.

The Spokane Police officers who fired at Corporon were identified Wednesday as Dan Cole, Bill Hager, Bruce Palmer, Doug Strosahl, Kyle Heuett and Mike McNab. (The men are pictured above, beginning in the upper left with Cole.)

The six men, who have a combined 86 years of police experience in Spokane, were part of “a large contingent of officers” who responded to reports of a shotgun-wielding man Friday at 1402 W. Buckeye Ave.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 16: Gunman killed by police described as volatile, explosive

Nov. 12: Shotgun-shooting man killed by police

Breast exams lead to woman’s arrest

 BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Police arrested a woman in Idaho’s capital city after they say she impersonated a plastic surgeon and conducted breast exams on at least two women in local bars.

Kristina B. Ross was booked into Ada County Jail. She faces accusations of unlicensed practice of medicine.

It all started earlier this month, when Boise Police were called to a downtown medical office by employees of a licensed plastic surgeon.

They were getting calls from prospective patients who wanted to see a Dr. Berlyn Aussieahshowna.

But no doctor by that name worked there.

Police got names and contact details for the women who had called, interviewed them — and then identified the 37-year-old Ross, who isn’t licensed to practice medicine.

Detectives say they fear there may be others who had fake exams or were given the promise of plastic surgery.

Ross has a previous criminal record as a man, according to The Idaho Statesman.


Man guilty of assaulting Idaho trooper

A northern Idaho man has been convicted by a federal grand jury in Coeur d’Alene of assaulting a state trooper during an attempted traffic stop last year that resulted in one death.

Ricardo Daniel Rodriguez faces up to six months in prison at a Dec. 6 sentencing hearing.

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

Police say Ellenwood and Rodriguez were “seriously physically battering” Talbott when the officer fired his weapon at the unarmed men. Ellenwood died at the scene.

The FBI investigated the shooting because the chase began on the Nez Perce Reservation and Ellenwood and Rodriguez are tribal members. Talbott was cleared to return to work.

Man gets 5 years for fatal ‘09 crash

A 21-year-old Otis Orchards man was sentenced to about five years in prison today for a June 2009 crash that killed a 19-year-old woman and injured another man.

Alex C. Walker, 21, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was ordered by Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt to serve 59 months in prison. His 20-month sentence for vehicular assault will run concurrently.

Walker turned himself in after the June 26, 2009, crash that killed 19-year-old pedestrian.

Jennings’ 22-year-old friend broke both his legs. The two were walking in the road in the 14200 block of East Rockwell Avenue at 3 a.m. when they were struck by a 1979 Chrysler Cordoba driven by Walker, according to court records.

Walker then drove away from the scene but called Spokane Valley Police 45 minutes after the crash and was taken into custody at a convenience store on Barker Road.

He’s now awaiting transport to prison.

Tips sought on credit card thieves

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest thieves who used stolen credit cards to buy $18,000 in computer equipment and other items.

The credit cards were stolen from a 64-year-old woman who was shopping at Rosauers, 9414 N. Division St., then used to buy merchandise that same day. More than $7,000 was spent at the Target store at 13724 E. Sprague Ave. in Spokane Valley.

The theft occurred July 29, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office announced today. Detectives have not been able to identify the man and woman pictured on surveillance cameras using the stolen cards.

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

Carjacking, robbery gets man 15 years

A Spokane man who used a gun in a carjacking and bank robbery after escaping from a work release center in May has been sentenced to nearly 15 years in prison.

Brian E. Gorder, 32, was ordered to spend 171 months in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to three counts of first-degree robbery and one count of escape before Judge Maryann Moreno.

Federal agents and a police dog arrested him a day after he robbed Washington Trust Bank, 3810 N. Maple, at gunpoint and escaped in a Buick Lucerene he’d carjacked from a woman in the K-Mart parking lot on North Division Street.

Gorder was serving time for a police chase shown on “Cops” when he left the Brownstone Work Release Center and went on the crime spree.

In 2004, Gorder told the newspaper he needed help overcoming his addiction to methamphetamine.

“I’m not a bad person,” he said at the time. “The issue is I have a drug problem. Once I get going on this stuff, I do things I normally wouldn’t do.”

He’s now in jail awaiting transport to prison.

Report: Gunman was volatile, explosive

A gunman killed in a shootout with police last week had attempted suicide several times, been hospitalized at Eastern State Hospital and was described as “volatile and explosive” in a state psychiatrist’s report two years ago.

Ethan A. Corporon saw drug-induced images of aliens and spaceships, dreamed of killing himself with a shotgun and described intense mood swings that experts said made him dangerous and likely to commit crimes, according to a June 2008 report by Dr. William Grant, forensic psychiatrist at Eastern State Hospital.

In a 2005 interview with another doctor, Corporon said “what do I have to do to get some attention, kill someone?” and said he had access to a shotgun.

Read my full story here.

Court rulings support sheriff, police

Spokane area law enforcement prevailed in three cases, including two involving allegations that officers used excessive force, Tuesday in federal court proceedings.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of the city in the case of John Burton v. City of Spokane. In that case, Burton alleged that Spokane Police officers conducted an improper strip search and had a policy of performing similar searches without warrants.

Read Tom Clouse’s story here.

Gunman gets 63 years for 2 murders

A Spokane man who gunned down two men in a dispute over a car trade has been sentenced to nearly 63 years in prison.

Merle W. Harvey, 28, is in jail awaiting transport to state prison after Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced him on Friday to 753 months in prison.

A jury convicted him in late September of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm for the Sept. 26, 2009, killings of 41-year-old Jack T. Lamere and 45-year-old Jacob J. Potter.

Harvey had claimed self defense. He declined to speak at the hearing, which included testimony from victim family members. He was ordered to serve consecutive sentences for the murders with an extra 10 years because two firearms were used.

Defense lawyer Scott Mason had requested a sentence of 40 years. But Eitzen pointed out that she’d sentenced Harvey to an exceptionally low sentence after he was convicted of first-degree assault in 2000. She believed he would turn his life around then, but he proved her wrong.

Sept. 29, 2010: Harvey convicted of 2 murders

Sept. 23, 2010: Forced haircut preluded double homicide

Sept. 16, 2010 : Trial begins in double homicide over cars

Sept. 28, 2009: Suspect at large after shooting

Sept. 29, 2009: Victim had sought new life

Oct. 9, 2009: Hells Angels vowed to kill murder victim 10 years ago

Oct. 17, 2009: Man says he killed in self defense

Victim’s ex gets 9 mos. for hit-and-run

A man who left his former girlfriend for dead along the Pullman-Albion Road last November has been sentenced to nine months in jail after entering an Alford plea earlier this month.

Richard Pasma, apologized to the family of Kristen Grindley before being sentenced, turning to face them and saying, “I know you don’t think I’m sorry, but I am really sorry.”

His mother testified that Pasma and his family have prayed daily for Kristen’s health since she was found on the road on Nov. 11, 2009.  She suffered multiple skull fractures, broken bones, bruises and cuts. She left a rehabilitation center in Spokane after months of therapy.


Spokane man accused of lewd conduct

A Spokane man is wanted in Kootenai County on a charge of lewd conduct with a minor under 16.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of Louis Arturo Hernandez-Vera, 32.

His criminal case in Idaho is sealed pending his arrest.

Hernandez-Vera, 5-foot-4 and 220 pounds, last gave an address in the 500 block of South Freya in Spokane. He has no criminal record in Spokane County.

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

Brothers involved in bizarre shooting

A man shot and killed by his brother near Elk on Saturday has been identified as David A. Ruthruff, 41.

Ruthruff died of a single gunshot to his chest, according to the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office, which conducted an autopsy Monday.

Ruthruff’s brother, whose name has not been released, told deputies he was outside in the dark in the 13000 block of East Bridges Road when he was attacked by an unknown person about 8:30 p.m.

He retrieved a gun from the home and fired at the intruder, not knowing it was his brother, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said.

No arrests have been made.

Ruthruff’s girlfriend was questioned by deputies, as were his brother and his brother’s wife, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Man killed in police shootout identified

A gunman shot and killed by police last week near a busy north Spokane intersection was identified Monday as Ethan A. Corporon, 29.

 Corporon died of two gunshots wounds to his torso and lower extremities, the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office said after completing an autopsy.

Police say Corporon fired a shotgun at 1402 W. Buckeye Ave., while threatening his father about 3 p.m. Friday, then fled officers before abandoning his truck in Monroe Street and running westbound with the gun.

Corporon has convictions for harassment and violating a no-contact order and was charged with several felonies in Benton County in 2008 and 2009, including third-degree assault and second-degree malicious mischief.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 12: Police shoot, kill man in north Spokane

Police chase nets wanted sex offender

A level 3 sex offender who hasn’t checked in with authorities recently was arrested Sunday evening after he allegedly crashed into another car while fleeing Spokane police in a stolen Honda Accord. 

Travis R. Keene, 30, remains in jail on a probation hold after appearing in Superior Court Monday on charges of taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission, eluding police, possession of methamphetamine and illegal possession of a firearm.

The chase began about 7 p.m. Sunday near Division Street and Glass Avenue ended at East Empire Avenue and North Perry Street, where Keene crashed into another car, injuring a woman driver and an 8-year-old girl, police said. They did not need to be hospitalized.

Keene fled the crash scene on foot, according to police, but was chased down by Officer Sean Wheeler. He was taken to a hospital to check on back pain before being booked into jail.

Keene, classified as a sex offender considered most likely to reoffend, is on Department of Corrections supervision until 2013.

He was released from prison in November 2006 after serving three years for third-degree rape for attacking a 23-year-old woman he had just met. He also has a conviction as a teenager for lewd conduct.

The sheriff’s office sex offender registry lists him as noncompliant for failing to verify his address.

Stabbing suspect has violent history

A Spokane man accused of stabbing two people on Saturday has a violent criminal history that includes an animal cruelty conviction for running over a man’s dog as a teenager.

Charles Price Dimit, 24, remains in jail after appearing in Superior Court Monday on first-degree assault and first-degree robbery charges.

He’s accused of attacking his girlfriend, Ashley Patten, with a knife and stealing her purse at their home at 1012 S. Maple St., then stabbing Gabriel Dillon, 32, in the stomach. Only Dillon required hospitalization.

Spokane police arrested Dimit Monday about 12:10 a.m. at his grandmother’s home at 1069 S. Wall St., according to a probable cause affidavit.

Dimit has previous convictions third-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment. He pleaded guilty to first-degree animal cruelty after a jury deadlocked at trial.

1 man suspected in 4 Hillyard holdups

Spokane police are looking for tips on a serial robber suspected of targeting Hillyard convenience stores.

The latest holdup occurred Friday when police say a man with a handgun stole money from the Qwik Stop, 3021 E. Wellesley Ave., about 12:45 a.m.  after pulling a black and white scarf over his face. He’s described as in his 20s with dark complexion, 6 feet tall and average build. He wore a black coat and blue jeans. 

The same gunman is believed to have robbed two other Hillyard stores three times late last month, Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said today.

Surveillance photos from Conoco, 3501 E. Francis Ave., show a man in a blue hooded sweatshirt pointing a gun at a clerk and demanding cash on Oct. 24 about 7:45 p.m.

The same robber is believed to have struck Kwik Stop & Go, 4713 N. Crestline, the mornings of Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.

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

Economy spurs need for free legal aid

The sagging local economy has flooded local courts with people in financial trouble who can’t pay for what could help them most: an attorney to guide them.

Only a few local programs exist to help people who need lawyers, a need that has far outstripped the programs’ ability to find lawyers willing to work for little or no pay. As a result, court dockets are clogged with people trying – and failing – to wade through a complicated system of hearings and paperwork without legal help.

“It’s a pretty grim picture out there if you need a lawyer and can’t afford one,” said Al McNeil, an associate professor with University Legal Assistance, which provides free or low-cost legal services to low-income Spokane County residents and just celebrated its 35-year anniversary at Gonzaga University School of Law.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

2 marijuana grows found after shooting

Spokane drug detectives are investigating two marijuana grow operations found after a gunman was killed in a shootout with police on Friday. 

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office is conducting an autopsy right now on the gunman, who was killed after witnesses said he fired several shots and refused to drop his shot gun in the parking lot behind Shari’s restaurant on Monroe Street.

The man had fired shots at his father at 1402 W. Buckeye about 3 p.m., then fled police before abandoning his truck in Monroe Street and fleeing with the gun. He died near the intersection of Indiana Avenue and Madison Street.

Police found marijuana plants at the Buckeye Avenue home and at the gunman’s home on East 14th Avenue.

The Medical Examiner’s Office expects to release the man’s identity this afternoon.

Police ask any witnesses who have not been interviewed by detectives to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 and leave contact information.

Past coverage:

Nov. 12: Man firing shotgun killed by officers

Beer robbery suspect was on probation

A man on probation for drug offenses remains in jail after being accused of a beer robbery at 7-Eleven. 

Shane A. Lemmons, 26, was found hiding under a trailer after he fled from the car at Ninth Avenue and Ivory Street, about a mile from the robbery, about 3 a.m. Thursday.

He was ordered to say in jail on $35,000 bail after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court on Friday. He’s also being held on a probation violation.

Police believe he and another man stole two 18-packs of beer from the 7-Elven at 1317 S. Grand Blvd. about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, then pointed a gun at a clerk who tried to take a photo of their license plate.

At 3 a.m., a patrol officer spotted a Neon matching the description of the getaway vehicle and followed it for two blocks before the driver got out and ran. Police K-9 Leonitis later tracked the man to the trailer. Police also arrested passenger Nichole L. Roemer, 30, on an arrest warrant.

Lemmons was sentenced to 42 months in prison in March 2003 for second-degree robbery.he also has convictions for obstructing a law enforcement officer and theft, and is on probation for two drug convictions from September 2008.

Gunman shot, killed by Spokane police

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A gunman suspecting of shooting at a home was shot and killed by Spokane police officers Friday after abandoning his truck outside a busy restaurant and firing at officers, witnesses said. 

The man, whose name has not been released, died on the lawn in front of a Spokane Tribe of Indians building at the southeast corner of North Madison Street and West Indiana Avenue about 3:15 p.m. He appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s.

Officers were responding to a report of a man with a shotgun firing rounds at 1402 W. Buckeye Ave. (pictured), when the suspect fled in a white Chevrolet pickup with a canopy, said Sgt. Dave Reagan, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Read my full story here.

Life-savers honored at sheriff’s dinner

Two Spokane County sheriff’s employees have been honored for saving the life of a suicidal man after he was shot by officers.

Deputy Walter Loucks and Sgt. Dale Golman rushed to Michael E. Young after he was shot Dec. 27 and kept him breathing while medics arrived.

Although the move was later criticized as too risky in an internal investigation, Loucks and Golman were honored for their bravery this week during the annual SCOPE (Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort) and Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner.

Read my full story here.

4 stabbings in 2 weeks in Spokane Co.

Law enforcement in Spokane County are investigating the fourth stabbing in two weeks.
None appear to be connected, and suspects have been arrested in three.

The most recent stabbing occurred about midnight Thursday after three men left a party and were walking near Standard Street and Cozza Avenue when one was stabbed by an unidentified assailant.

The attacker confronted the group and said he knew one of the men, then pushed the victim to the ground and stabbed him at least once before fleeing on foot. The victim’s friends called police about 12:30 a.m. The wounds were not life-threatening.

The assailant is described as black, six feet tall and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and red bandanna. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

The stabbing comes after three stabbings occurred in two days late last month.

Two men are accused of attacking another man in his home Oct. 27. Another man is accused of stabbing his neighbor in an apparent attempt at revenge. Then on Oct. 29, 22-year-old Blain A. Gooding allegedly stabbed Rodney Barce in the stomach during a fight in the 6600 block of North Addison Street. 

All suspects in those cases are in jail.

Tips sought on woman last seen Sept. 20

Spokane police are asking for help finding a woman who has not contacted her family since Sept. 20. 

Heather L. Higgins, 39, was last seen in downtown Spokane.

Family members have posted flyers at area businesses asking for help finding her, but she remains missing.

Police say she has two misdemeanor warrants out for her arrest. She is bipolar and possibly an alcoholic, police said.

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

Gunshot victim eats before seeking help

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Police say a 25-year-old Connecticut man who was shot twice after buying a sandwich at a New Haven deli went home and ate his lunch before going to the hospital.

Miguel Soto said he was leaving the deli Tuesday when he heard three gunshots. One bullet hit him in the left leg, another in the groin. Police say he went home and ate the sandwich before asking his father to take him to a hospital.

Police did not say whether Soto realized immediately that he had been shot, or if he decided the injuries were not serious enough to require an immediate hospital trip.

Officers say his injuries were not life-threatening. A message was left Thursday for a New Haven police spokesman, and no arrests were immediately reported.

Joint, not cigar, celebrates baby’s birth

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Police say a new father faces drug charges because he lit up a marijuana joint, instead of a cigar, to celebrate his child’s birth at a western Pennsylvania hospital.

Police aren’t identifying the man found smoking the pot in a designated smoking area of Uniontown Hospital Tuesday morning, but say he’ll face marijuana possession charges.

Uniontown police Sgt. Jonathan Grabiak tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that a nurse smelled the marijuana when she took a cigarette break in the same area, and a hospital security guard called police about 3:20 a.m.

Grabiak says the man told him, “I’m having a baby and wanted to get a buzz” and then pulled a bag of marijuana from his shoe.

The man was released to a family member and made to leave the hospital.

Cuts could ax 45 jobs at Airway prison

Cuts at Washington state prisons will eliminate about 45 jobs at Airway Heights Corrections Center and could cancel a rehabilitative program designed to prepare inmates for reentry to society.

“It’s going to have very real impacts,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail. “It’s just a tough time.”

Eldon visited the prison Wednesday to discuss nearly $53 million in cuts the Department of Corrections could have to make as the state looks for ways to balance its troubled budget.

Read the rest of my story here.

Mug shot spotlight: the greatest ever?

This mug shot appeared on The Oregonian’s website today. 

It’s Mark David Siebenmorgen, a 46-year-old man arraigned on several charges for an alleged crime spree in the Portland area last month.

He was arrested last month after an employee at Safeway reported “unsettling” comments made by a customer, according to The Oregonian.

Read the story here.

Burglary suspect found at ‘The Alibi’ bar

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — Police say it didn’t take them long  to locate an Idaho man suspected in the robbery of a Cedars Inn — he was found next-door at The Alibi bar.

Lewiston police say 40-year-old Donald Mosley Jr. was arrested less than 15 minutes after he walked into the hotel and demanded cash from the desk clerk late Wednesday.

Police found Mosley at The Alibi, a bar located next to the hotel. Mosley was booked into the Nez Perce County Jail early Thursday and faces possible felony robbery charges.

The Lewiston Tribune reports this is the second time Mosley has been arrested in recent weeks.

In late October, police say he called in a fake fire report from a pay phone after he was declined a cup of coffee at a Lewiston fire station. It was unclear if Mosley had hired an attorney Thursday, when various state and county offices were closed in observance of Veterans Day.

Cops seek pot suspect w/ ‘shopping list’

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips on the location of a Spokane woman arrested for a marijuana grow during a burglary investigation. 

Detectives found marijuana plants at Allison E. Hubbard’s home at 106045 E. 6th last summer after a busted burglar, Jonothon A. Delay, said he had a “shopping list” of marijuana grow items to steal for her, according to court documents. Delay recently was sentenced to prison.

Hubbard, 29, has been wanted on a $10,000 warrant for manufacturing a controlled substance after she didn’t show up for an arraignment in September. She also has warrants for first-degree posession of stolen property and unlawful posession of a firearm, according to Crime Stoppers. Now Crime Stoppers is upping the ante.

Hubbard’s criminal history includes convictions for city assault, second-degree burglary and third-degree assault. Anyone with information on her location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Court ruling upholds online sex sting

The Washington Supreme Court, in a three-way opinion, has upheld the conviction of a man who tried to have sex with a 13-year-old girl he’d met online who really was a Spokane police detective.

All justices agreed with the ruling that upheld the attempted second-degree child rape conviction against Mitel H. Patel, (pictured) rejecting the man’s claim that the case should be thrown out because there was no actual underage victim.

Two sets of judges that agreed with the overall ruling but disagreed with the majority opinion submitted separate concurring opinions. “It’s really helpful to have some degree of clarification,” said Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Ed Hay, who supervises the sex offender unit. “It’s great to have some clarity and certainly will help investigators feel comfortable being proactive in their investigations.”

Read Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 2, 2004: Man charged with online sex solicitation

Man accused of assaulting deputies

Two Spokane County deputies received injuries Tuesday in a dispute that led to the arrest of a 44-year-old Spokane Valley man.

Steven W. Prater was arrested at 13924 E. Mallon Ave., in Spokane Valley, where two deputies responded to a domestic violence call about 8:07 p.m. Prater refused to talk to them and walked away, then refused commands to stop and resisted arrested, according to probable cause affidavit.

Prater “told deputies he wanted to fight” and hit two, deputies Petersen and Bohanek, in the face, according to the affidavit, which was filed to support two counts of third-degree assault, and single counts of fourth-degree assault, third-degree malicious mischief and resisting arrest against Prater.

Three residents witnessed the scuffle and described Prater as combative and said he’d broken a door prior to police arrival, deputies said.

Prater remained in jail on $20,000 bond late Wednesday after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court.

Bomb materials recovered in Idaho

A 20-year-old man charged in connection with an explosion that killed a man last weekend dumped bomb-making materials in a rural area in North Idaho, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday.

Christapher A. Harris was released from jail on his own recognizance Monday as detectives continued to investigate an explosion outside a costume party at 3110 E. Denison-Chattaroy Road that killed Cody Hathaway, 28.

Investigators believe Hathaway was checking on an ignited bomb that failed to detonate when the device exploded. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Another partygoer admitted to igniting the device. Detectives searched Harris’ apartment at 7723 W. Sunset Highway and his Chevrolet truck after a friend said he’d helped Harris load bomb making materials into the vehicle after Hathaway’s death.

Detectives found materials near a road in Osborne, Idaho, on Tuesday that included evidence of a methamphetamine lab. The investigation is ongoing.

Past coverage:

Nov. 9: Officials ID man killed by explosive device

Grand jury indicts Barefoot Bandit

A federal grand jury has indicted a notorious ex-teen fugitive for the theft of a small plane in Bonners Ferry last fall.

Colton Harris-Moore, 19, faces five charges in U.S. District Court in Seattle for an alleged crime spree that began after he escaped from a group home in April 2008, according to an indictment filed today.

“The grand jury action today is an important step in holding Colton Harris-Moore accountable for his criminal conduct,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny A. Durkan said in a prepared statement.

Harris-Moore is charged with interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft for allegedly stealing a Cessna 182 on Sept. 29, 2009, from the Boundary County Airport, then crash-landing it near Granite Falls, Wash., after it ran out of fuel. The $340,000 plane was owned by a Bonners Ferry cattle rancher.

The teen is charged with piloting an aircraft without a valid airman’s certificate for a flight he made in a stolen plane from Anacortest to Eastsound, Wash., on Feb. 10, and with interstate transportation of a stolen vessel for allegedly stealing a boat in Ilwaco, Wash., on May 31 and taking it to Oregon.

He also faces two gun charges for a Jennings .22 caliber pistol and for a .32 caliber pistol stolen in British Columbia and recovered near Granite Falls.

The gun and theft charges are punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Piloting an aircraft without an airman’s certificate is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Harris-Moore remains in federal custody in western Washington. He gained international attention as the Barefoot Bandit before his arrest in the Bahamas in July after a high-speed boat chase.

Past coverage:

July 23: Bandit’s lawyer: He was scared to death

Oct. 7, 2009: Teen bandit becoming national sensation

Pasco murder trial starts in Spokane

(AP) — Jury selection is under way this week in Spokane for the third aggravated murder trial of a man accused of shooting five men in 1987 at a Pasco auto body shop.

The trial of Vicente Ruiz was moved from Pasco to Spokane because of news coverage of his first two trials.

The first trial in 2008 was called off when more DNA testing was requested on evidence. The judge halted the second trial in June because the defense had not received some police reports.

The Tri-City Herald reports a sixth shooting victim who survived identified Ruiz as one of two gunmen, but his lawyer says it’s a case of mistaken identity.

One man already convicted in the case is serving a life sentence. Franklin County Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell is presiding over the trial, which is being held in room 400. A jury of Spokane County residents will be selected.

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

Woman accused of assault, kidnapping

A Spokane woman accused of kidnapping her girlfriend at knife point last weekend remains in jail on $10,000 bond.

Emily J. Lystad, 25, was arrested Saturday after her girlfriend, Serena King, told police Lystad assaulted her at Irv’s bar, 415 W. Sprague Ave., and drove her to a cabin in Worley, Idaho, while threatening her with a knife.

Lystad then drove King to their home at 10714 E. Augusta Ave., in Spokane Valley, where the couple have lived for about a month, according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Lystad choked and hit King after tying her to their bed “with ropes that were tied to the bed frame,” according to the affidavit.

A roommate helped untie King and noticed bruises on her face, deputies said. Lystad was arrested at 312 W. 8th and reportedly admitted to deputies that she’d assaulted King and forced her into her car at knife point. Deputies described her as “remorseful.”

“Lystad admitted to saying she wanted King dead if she could not be with her,” according to the affidavit.

Lystad appeared in Superior Court Monday on first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault charges. Her arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 16.

Dead killer’s accomplice gets 27 months

An accomplice to the murder of a state witness in 2008 has been sentenced to just over two years in prison.

Carl A. Hoskins, 58, will receive credit for time served in jail, where he was incarcerated from May 2008 until August 2009, when prosecutors allowed him to leave jail after agreeing to a tentative plea bargain.

Hoskins agreed to testify again Christopher Devlin but never was called to the stand during the trial last summer. Devlin died at the Spokane County Jail in September in an apparent suicide. He’d been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole a few days earlier.

Devlin was to go to trial for allegedly assaulting Daniel D. Heily, 52, of Chattaroy, when Heily was found shot to death in the cab of his pickup truck behind a Deer Park liquor store in May 2008.

Hoskins originally was charged with first-degree murder but instead pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, intimidating a witness and first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque sentenced him Monday to 27 months in prison and ordered him to pay $1,434 in restitution.

Hoskins, who was close friends with Heily, apologized at the hearing. Heily’s family declined to submit a victim impact statement for Hoskins, saying they felt he, too, was victimized by Devlin, a court clerk said.

Men admit to stealing dead people’s IDs

Two Spokane men who used the names of dead people to create driver’s licenses and pass bad checks are headed to federal prison.

Alphonso Guster, 46, and Vladimir A. Bibas, 25, were arrested in December after passing checks at Walmart in Moscow, Idaho. The men had about 25 fraudulent driver’s licenses they were using to pass checks at area businesses, according to court documents. Prosecutors say they bought merchandise with the checks, then returned the items for cash refunds.

The men faced felony forgery charges in Nez Perce County, but those charges were dismissed after a federal grand jury indicted them in February 2010.

Guster was sentenced Monday to 39 months in prison and five years probation after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in August.

Bibas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in August and was sentenced Oct. 25 to six months in prison and two years of probation. Both men are to pay $6,628.11 in restitution.

Suspect in fatal explosion leaves jail

A teenager accused of bringing bombs to a party that then exploded, killing a 28-year-old man, left jail Monday night.

Judge Michael Price allowed Christapher A. Harris, 19, to leave jail on his own recognizance after appearing in Superior Court on a felony bomb charge.

 Cody J. Hathaway, 28, died after checking on a homemade explosive device that was ignited outside a home at 3110 E. Dennison-Chattaroy Road late Saturday. Investigators say the device hadn’t exploded right away, but blew up after Hathaway approached.

Harris, 19, was arrested Sunday after 19-year-old John M. Williams, a roommate of Harris’ girlfriend, said Harris had gone to work after the party and told co-workers he’d taken explosives “and a guy died.”

“Williams said at one point Harris chuckled and said, ‘Huh, I killed someone,’” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Read my full story here.

Man in Murray threat held without bail

A Spokane man accused of threatening to kill U.S. Senator Patty Murray will remain in jail without bail, a judge ruled Monday.

John Jay Sieler, 50, is diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolarity and was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward before he drove by a U.S. senate candidates debate waving a meat cleaver (pictured) and shouting threats on Oct. 14, according to court testimony.

Sieler appeared in U.S. District Court Monday, where his lawyer, Jay McEntire, described him as a lifelong Spokane resident who owns a home and has worked at Dick’s Hamburgers for 29 years.

A 2006 court order prohibits Sieler from possessing firearms, but Sieler has admitted to having several in a storage unit in Spokane, prosecutors said.

U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno ordered Sieler to stay in jail, citing his access to firearms, history of marijuana abuse and his need for a structured release plan.

Sieler was arrested last month outside KSPS studios, where Murray and Republican candidate Dino Rossi were scheduled to debate later that night. Sieler was given $500 bail at the Spokane County Jail for misdemeanor charges but rearrested last week on a federal charge of threatening a federal official.

Sheriff’s Office stands by training

Facing the muzzle of a gun, a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy said he had one immediate thought: death.

Ryan Walter squeezed off eight rounds at the gunman, Donald J. Lafavor. His partner, Deputy Rustin Olson, fired three.

Lafavor survived the gunshot wounds and faces two counts of second-degree assault for allegedly pointing the gun at the deputies, who had responded to a domestic violence report at Lafavor’s Broadway Avenue apartment last November.

Afterward, Walter summarized his relief in an interview with investigators: “I’m glad we have good training.”

That training now is under scrutiny after four officer-involved shootings in the past 2  1/2 months in Spokane County. In three, sheriff’s deputies pulled the trigger.

Read my Sunday story here.

Raspberry theft leads to fugitive’s arrest

A second suspect in a burglary and stabbing late last month was arrested Friday after police said he tried to steal raspberry extract from a Spokane grocery store.

Tony N. Hairston, 42, (right) was wanted on burglary, assault and attempted robbery charges when security at Safeway, 1616 Northwest Boulevard, wrestled him to the ground and detained him on theft charges Friday about 10:50 p.m. Police say he had cocaine in his pocket.

Hairston is accused of stabbing Kenneth B. Barton in the head at 2821 N. Cincinnati Ave. Oct. 27, where police say he and Jarreau S. “Sweaty” Squetimkin, 26, fought with Barton and Audrey O’Grady while demanding money. 

Squetimkin, who knew Barton from prison, was arrested the night of the incident and remains in jail. (A police report from Squetimkin’s arrest incorrectly stated he was walking with victim Audrey O’Grady at the time of his arrest. In fact, O’Grady was with police in a squad car when they spotted Squetimkin.)

Witnesses told police that Hairston pinned Barton to a chair and punched him about 20 times while holding the knife, according to court documents. Barton was treated and released from a hospital. 

Hairston and Squetimkin (left) are charged with first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, attempted first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. Both are in jail on $100,000 bail. Hairston was given an additional $25,000 bond today for drug, theft and resisting arrest charges for Friday’s incident.

According to Crime Stoppers, Hairston has a nine-year local criminal history with convictions for city theft, drug possession, riot, second-degree possession of stolen property, driving on a suspended license, domestic violence assault, refusal to cooperate and probation violation.

Suspect in deadly explosion due in court

A young man accused of bringing explosives to a party that killed a 28-year-old man is due in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon.

 Christapher A. Harris, 19, is facing a felony charge of possession or manufacture of an incendiary device. Detectives are searching his truck today.

Investigators believe he brought the homemade explosives to a party Saturday night in the 3100 block of East Denison-Chattaroy Road.

When one didn’t explode right away, the victim apparently approached the device, which then exploded. Partygoers initially thought the victim was joking. Read more here.

Harris is pictured at the Kootenai County Jail in January, where he was booked on a drunken driving charge. He pleaded guilty in April and was given a year of probation, a 90-day driver’s license suspension and a $500 fine.

Man sentenced for theft caught in photo

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A man captured in a vacationing family’s photograph as he stole their bag in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol received a five-day jail sentence and a nearly $500 fine.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Saturday that Glenn Lambright was given credit for time already served after pleading no contest to misdemeanor theft earlier in October.

Vacationer John Myers of Bloomfield, N.J., had set the self-timer on his camera and hustled into the frame with his wife and two children in August. Meanwhile, a man grabbed a bag containing Myers’ wallet and other items.

After discovering the bag missing, Myers checked his camera and found a photo with a man picking up the bag in the background. Myers showed the photo to police, who recognized the man and tracked him down.

Cops lose box of drugs w/ ‘METH’ on it

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Officials in Wyoming want people to be on the lookout for a black box with white lettering that says “METH,” after a deputy lost a stash used to train police dogs.

Teton County sheriff’s Sgt. Lloyd Funk says the deputy accidentally left the box on a bumper after a canine training exercise Oct. 27. It contained nearly an ounce of methamphetamine.

The deputy drove off with the drugs perched on the vehicle.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that officers literally trying to get drugs off the street haven’t been able to find the box.

Anyone with information is being asked to call the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Jim Whalen says someone possessing the amount of meth that was lost would face a felony charge.

Whalen says his office is taking action to make sure the mistake isn’t repeated.

Md. jury convicts veil-wearing burglar

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — A Maryland jury has convicted a woman of burglary, assault and reckless endangerment for breaking into her neighbor’s house wearing nothing but a bridal skirt and veil on a snowy night in February.

Thirty-three-year old Melissa Wagaman testified Thursday that a combination of cold medicine and marijuana apparently made her hallucinate that she was getting married and her mother was locked in her neighbor’s basement.

Wagaman broke a dining room window with her head, causing shattered glass to cut an artery in her neighbor’s arm.

The jury rejected defense arguments that Wagaman truly believed she needed to enter the house and didn’t know she was endangering her neighbor.

She faces up to 23 years in prison.

Woman pleads guilty to child rape

A Grant County woman accused of sexually abusing children and broadcasting it on the Internet has pleaded guilty.

Pamela K. Ortega, 30, of Warden, pleaded guilty Tuesday to four counts of first-degree rape of a child.. Each count carries a possible sentence of 20 years to life in prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

The investigation began in April when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children contacted the Grant County Sheriff’s Office about possible child pornography or child prostitution involving Ortega through the Internet. An anonymous tip from Europe said Ortega offered a young girl for sex.

Ortega was interviewed at her apartment at 800 S. County Road in Warden in May, where she reportedly admitted to sexually abusing two relatives and a 2-week-old boy she babysat.

Ortega told police she was a methamphetamine addict who filmed herself abusing the children at the behest of people she chatted with on the Internet.

Pancake giveaway earns early release

CINCINNATI (AP) — A judge has granted early release to an inmate who was fired from a jail’s kitchen for handing out too many pancakes — earning himself the nickname Mr. Pancake.


Heriberto Rodriquez was fired while serving a 180-day term for stealing money from a concession stand at the Cincinnati Reds’ ballpark. The kitchen job allowed Rodriquez, 44, to get three days credit for each day in jail, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Authorities said Rodriquez was supposed to give inmates two pancakes each but sometimes gave them four, an act the newspaper said helped the judge decide to take pity on him and grant the early release.

“Mr. Rodriquez, you’re just one generous soul, aren’t you?” Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Melba Marsh said in court Wednesday before granting his request to be released after 73 days.

The judge had sentenced Rodriquez after he pleaded guilty to theft Aug. 24. Rodriquez, of Cincinnati, stole a money bag containing $3,000 from a concession stand at the Great American Ball Park after a Reds game and was caught on his way out.

With a grin, the judge told Rodriquez on Wednesday that he could go home.

“Get your big box of Aunt Jemima and eat all you want, Mr. Pancake,” she said.

Each pancake served at the jail costs 6 cents, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Barnett said, meaning Rodriquez cost taxpayers 12 cents each time he gave an inmate four pancakes instead of two.

“He just didn’t do what he was supposed to do,” Barnett said.

Rodriquez, who was fired from the kitchen job Sept. 23, told the judge Wednesday that his shift started at 10 p.m. to help get the food ready for breakfast the next morning. He said when he was doubling up on pancake servings he didn’t think he would be “jeopardizing my job.”

Feds: Man threatened to kill Sen. Murray

A Spokane man arrested outside a U.S. senate candidates debate with knives and a meat cleaver has been charged in federal court. 

John Jay Sieler, 50, is accused of threatening to kill U.S. Senator Patty Murray on Oct. 14 as he drove by her supporters waving a meat cleaver and shouting profanities.

Sieler was arrested outside KSPS studios, where Murray and Republican candidate Dino Rossi were scheduled to debate later that night. Police found other weapons (pictured) in his car.

Sieler was given $500 bail at the Spokane County Jail for misdemeanor charges but rearrested Wednesday evening on a federal warrant.

He appeared in U.S. District Court today on one count of threatening a federal official and was ordered to remain in jail until a bail hearing on Monday.

Artifact pillager gets probation, park ban

A Kettle Falls man who collects historic artifacts will be banned from Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and serve three years probation for removing archaeological resources worth about $2,000.

Sandie Rae McNeil, 45, also will be on home detention for 30 days and will pay a $2,000 fine and $2,000 restitution, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. He’s banned from the recreation site for three years.

Federal agents recovered projectile points, stone weights and tools, stone flakes, a gun cartridge and other protected archaeological objects from his Kettle Falls home in May 2005. McNeil told a park ranger he thought it was legal to remove the items.

In court documents, McNeil’s lawyer described McNeil as a tire shop worker and lifelong Kettle Falls resident who “has seriously pursued his passion for collecting historical artifacts there.”

“He knows the area as few do,” his lawyer wrote. “He loves the area as few do.”

In a prepared statement, U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby called the pillaging “reprehensible.”

“It is nothing less than stealing the cultural heritage of our ancestors,” he said.

Cops search jailed sex offender’s home

A sex offender has been jailed on child rape charges after three children told Cheney police he’d assaulted them. 

A forensics technician and a Cheney police detective searched a trailer belonging to Bruce L. Austin, 55, at 2225 1st St. in Cheney Tuesday, where they seized a computer, cameras and other evidence, including a letter from New York about sex offender registration.

Austin (pictured in 2002) is in Spokane County Jail on $250,000 bail, where he was booked Oct. 8 after his alleged victims described the abuse in interviews with child specialists.

Two girls said Austin had molested them while they were at Cheney Baptist Church and at Austin’s trailer.

A boy said Austin had raped him after giving him alcohol and night-time medication. Detectives obtained a search warrant for Austin’s home after the boy said he’d seen Austin viewing pornography in the trailer, according to the warrant, filed Wednesday in District Court.

Austin has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree child rape and first-degree child molestation.

A news article in 2002 described him as a level 3 sex offender who served a year in prison after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct with boys. He has a previous conviction in Alaska for sexual abuse of a child and first-degree sexual assault.

Spectacular car crash leads to charges

A man who knocked over a stoplight, a three-story light pole and a tree Sunday when he crashed his 1983 Chevrolet El Camino in downtown Spokane was cited for reckless driving, possession of marijuana and for having no insurance, police said.

Anthony J. Casados, 23, said he was at Zip’s on North Division Street when a man approached him with a gun. Casados said he sped away and the gunman and another man chased him in a white SUV.

Read Jon Brunt’s full story here.

Montana schedules Canadian’s execution

DEER LODGE, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge today scheduled a Jan. 31 execution date for the only known Canadian on death row in the United States.

District Judge John Larson’s order for Ronald Allen Smith’s execution came two days after a Helena judge issued an order staying the execution.

Smith, 53, of Red Deer, Alberta, is seeking a court ruling on whether the state’s method of carrying out the death penalty is unconstitutional.

Larson said the Helena judge’s ruling on Monday “attempts, in my view, to render what I have just done annulled.”

The Missoulian newspaper reported that Larson will ask the state Supreme Court to look at the apparently conflicting orders and clear up the issue before January.

Smith was convicted in 1983 of fatally shooting Harvey Mad Man, 24, and Thomas Running Rabbit. At the time of the 1982 deaths, Smith was 25 and had crossed the Canadian border on foot the previous day with two friends and a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle.

Prosecutors alleged that he robbed the Browning cousins and shot them execution-style in the woods near East Glacier.

Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of deliberate homicide, as well as two counts of aggravated kidnapping. In February 1983, he was offered a plea agreement that called for a 110-year prison sentence, but he rejected that in favor of a death sentence.

Smith changed his mind in 1984 and has been fighting his death sentence ever since, arguing he had ineffective counsel.

His appeal took the case to the Montana Supreme Court in 1986, which upheld the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court declined last month to hear the case.

Mother’s lawsuit faces challenges

Kathleen Smith was a sweet, 52-year-old woman whose body aged but her mind did not.

She lived in state care from age 14 until her death at the Lakeland Village Nursing Facility in Medical Lake in 2006. Smith drowned after she was left unattended in a bathtub despite having a seizure disorder that required arm’s-length supervision at all times.

Smith’s mother is now fighting to change a state law that makes it almost impossible to hold anyone responsible for her daughter’s death.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

May 15, 2009: Care provider acquitted in death

Judges get more power to restrict bail

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington voters overwhelmingly decided Tuesday to give judges more power to deny a suspect bail, after last year’s brutal slaying of four Lakewood police officers by a gunman who had recently been released.

The Legislature approved the measure in the spring, but it was a constitutional amendment and needed voter approval to be enacted. It was passing with about 86 percent of the  vote.

Previously, the only charge for which bail could be denied was aggravated murder. The amendment allows state judges to deny bail when a suspect is charged with any crime carrying a possible life  sentence and poses a danger to the community. About 4,100 defendants a year are charged with such crimes in the state.

“It is a new tool prosecutors and judges can use to keep the baddest of the bad off the streets,” said Reagan Dunn, executive director of the Remember Lakewood campaign. “This was a measured, common sense referendum to the people. It doesn’t violate defendants’ rights and it seems sensible to most people.”

Maurice Clemmons (right) had posted bail less than a week before he killed the four Lakewood officers last November. He had been arrested for investigation of child rape, which could have brought a life sentence because of his previous criminal record.

Among the measure’s supporters was Kim Renninger, the widow of Lakewood Sgt. Mark Renninger, who says it could save someone’s life.

Officers Greg Richards, Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Renninger (pictured clockwise from upper left) were ambushed at a coffee shop in a Tacoma suburb on Nov. 29. (Griswold’s sister works for the Spokane Police Department. Her parents live in Post Falls.) Clemmons eluded police for two days, but was shot and killed by an officer in Seattle after a massive manhunt.

Opponents of the measure argued that judges could already set high bail or other conditions of release. The problem in Clemmons’ case wasn’t that the judge who granted the release had too little authority, but too little information about the defendant’s extremely violent past, they said.

At least a dozen other states, including California and Florida, have constitutional clauses or statutes that allow judges to deny bail for charges other than capital crimes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Tucker wins 4th term as prosecutor

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker was reelected Tuesday night. 

Tucker (right) was leading defense lawyer Frank Malone 33,111 to 28,322 with 37 percent of ballots counted.

Meanwhile, Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Jim Reierson campaigned for write-in votes despite the fact that he wasn’t eligible to win the race because he lost in the primary. 

After complaining that the newspaper was ignoring his campaign, Reierson (left) backed out on a planned interview with a reporter on Tuesday, saying he wanted to enjoy the nice weather instead.

“I apologize for not calling you this morning, but I just did not feel like it,” Reierson said. 

Jim Camden has the full story at the Spin Control blog.

Knife-point devil rant ends in arrest

A Spokane man called trick-or-treaters demons while threatening them with a large stick during a Halloween night melee in the area of East Central Avenue and North Regal Street, according to police.

John M. Gouveia, 52, alias John Sweet, remains in jail on $7,500 bond after appearing in Superior Court Monday on two counts of second-degree assault and one count of harassment.

Police responded to the area about 6:30 p.m. Sunday after witnesses said Gouveia was threatening children with the stick and told one man “that he was going to cut his heart out,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Gouveia ran at police with an 11-inch knife and called them demons but dropped the weapon when he was about 25 feet away, according to the affidavit. He was handcuffed without further incident.

Gouveia has no criminal record in Spokane County.

‘86 murder suspect fights extradition

A murder suspect who is a person of interest in at least three other  Spokane slayings in the mid-1980s is fighting extradition from Montana.

Gary L. Trimble, 62, is in jail in Teton County, Mont., charged in Spokane County with first-degree murder for the Dec. 24, 1986, strangulation of Dorothy E. Burdette.

The first-degree murder charge alleges Trimble killed Burdette while trying to rape her.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll said he’s obtaining a governor’s warrant for Trimble’s arrest after the suspected killer refused extradition. A hearing will be held in Teton County.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 25: DNA links man to ‘86 Spokane murder

Holiday traffic stop yields 12 lbs of pot

Update: The marijuana possession charge against Chilcott was dismissed on Oct. 10, 2012; she pleaded no-contest to a charge of delivery of marijuana.

A Chewelah man was arrested in Oregon on Halloween with 12 pounds of marijuana.

Kristopher Lewis Sasse, 24, was a passenger in a rented 2010 Toyota Camry driven by Angela Caitlin Chilcott, 26, of Felton, Calif., when they were stopped for speeding at milepost 252 on Interstate 5, near Salem, according to the Oregon State Police. 

A drug dog helped find about 12 pounds of marijuana in the car, which state troopers say had Arizona license plates.

Sasse and Chilcott were booked into the Marion County Jail for unlawful possession and distribution of marijuana.

The bust comes about 10 days after a Spokane man was arrested with 20 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop on Highway 97 in Central Oregon.

Man accused of assaulting police dog

A Spokane man sought on a car theft warrant faces an additional felony charge for allegedly attacking a police dog. 

Cephas W. Parham, 34, choked Spokane police Officer Paul Gorman’s K-9 Maximus during a pursuit in the Shadle Park area.(Gorman and Max are pictured.)

Parham appeared in Superior Court on Monday on a felony charge of harming a police dog, a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. 

Police were trying to arrest Parham on a warrant for possession of a stolen motor vehicle when he ran from a home at 4207 N. Cannon on Oct. 25.

Maximus caught up with Parham three times, but Parham (pictured) assaulted the dog each time, police said. Gorman used a neck restraint maneuver to stop Parham from choking Maximus, who was thrown into a brick wall by his collar and also sustained injuries to the inside of his mouth, according to court documents.

“These injuries would be difficult to articulate based on obvious inabilities on the canine’s part to communicate injury and pain,” police wrote.

Parham was treated for dog bites at hospital before being booked into jail.

Revenge-seeking assault suspect jailed

A Spokane Valley man accused of assaulting his neighbor during a revenge-seeking break-in last week remains in jail on $50,000 bond.

Roger D. Holmes, Jr., 39, appeared in Superior Court Monday on first-degree burglary and first-degree assault charges

Holmes was hospitalized Wednesday night along with his neighbor at 12412 E. Eighth Ave., Kevin McLean, who underwent surgery for several stab wounds police believe were inflicted by Holmes.

Holmes was stabbed in the head with a pair of scissors by McLean, 47, after he broke into McLean’s home and attacked him, police said.

Holmes told police McLean had broken into his apartment a week ago and assaulted him, so he went to McLean’s apartment “to scare the (guy),” according to court documents.

“(McLean) broke into my house last weekend and nobody did a goddamn thing,” Holmes said. “I break into his house and all the cops in the world show up…He struck me first.”

Police found several sharp objected in the apartment, including a large pair of shearing scissors and a large military-style knife. Holmes was ordered to stay in jail Monday on $50,000 bond.

Agent sentenced for importing steroids

A former federal immigration agent was sentenced today to two years of probation for importing steroids.

Sean Patrick Ganley was a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent based in Blaine. He pleaded guilty to the felony in June, acknowledging that he ordered human growth hormone and steroids from China in April 2008.

Customs inspectors working at JFK International Airport in New York discovered the drugs and tied them to wire transfers made by Ganley. Ganley’s lawyer said in court documents that his client bought the steroids for personal use and did not distribute them.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Spokane handled the prosecution to avoid any appearances of a conflict of interest involving the U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle.

Rash of stolen Hondas leads to arrests

Spokane police recovered 50 stolen vehicles in a recent crack down on repeat car thieves. 

Nearly 70 Hondas from the late 80s to early 90s had been stolen since Oct. 19 - nearly twice the average - when police targeted several known car thieves as part of the county’s repeat offender program. 

Arrested were James T. Harris, 35; Gabrieal M. Hansen, 33; Daniel J. Maddock, 22; Timothy J. Lubben, 22; Leslie J. Olson, 28; and Cephas W. Parham, 34.

(Maddock, Lubben and Parham are pictured top to bottom.)

Parham was arrested late Oct. 25 after police responded to a home in the Shadle area.

Parham, who was wanted on warrants for possession of a stolen motor vehicle, ran from police but was contacted by police K-9 Max, police said. Parham tried to choke the dog but officers handcuffed him and took him to a hospital to be treated for his dog bites.

Max’s handler, Officer Paul Gorman, said Parham’s injures s “were more severe because Parham fought with Max rather than giving up,” according to a news release.

Parham is suspected of smashing a pickup into a North Division Street cell phone store in December and trying to steal the ATM, then prying upon the door of a nearby gas station 10 minutes later and burglarizing a display case.

The recent rash of car thefts prompted Spokane police to remind owners of older model Toyotas and Hondas to invest in theft prevention devices such as the Club.

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