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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for April 2011

Man, woman guilty in ‘09 fatal stabbing

The families on three sides of a stabbing death of a Spokane man sobbed Friday as a jury returned guilty verdicts against the man and woman who fought the man they killed in 2009.

The jury found Matthew M. Nedeau and Maggie M. Tyler, both 26, guilty of second-degree murder in connection to the July 6, 2009, slaying of 24-year-old Vitaly Shevchuk. Tyler is pictured.

“I am really, really sorry for their mothers,” said Lyudmila Shevchuk, the mother of the victim. “They are not the enemy. From all my heart, I pray for them every night for strength. But their children are still alive.”

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

April 20: Man, woman on trial for fatal '09 stabbing

Experts dispute Fairfax’s claim re: bomb

This pipe bomb was attached to Cyndi Steele's car June 15 when she went to a Coeur d'Alene auto shop for a routine oil change. The photo was shown to jurors today in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

BOISE - A Spokane County bomb expert said at Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire trial today that the pipe bomb attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV last June was capable of exploding and unlike any device he's seen.
 
“It's the largest pipe bomb that I've dealt with,” said Sgt. Mike Kittilstved, head of the Spokane County bomb squad, which dismantled the device.
 
Though hitman-turned-informant Larry Fairfax has said he rigged the bomb so it wouldn't explode, Kittilstved and other experts said that's wasn't the case.
 
Kittilstved said the device contained “a significant amount” of powder.
 
“Definitely enough to ignite the device,” he said.
 
Fairfax has said he cut the fuse in several places to prevent it from burning through.
 
But Agent Brennan Phillips, an explosives expert for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the black tape on the device would still burn in place of the fuse.
 
“In fact, the tape will burn a little bit faster,” he said.
 
Phillips said the construction of the device showed him that “certainly there's a desire to make sure this thing works,” he said.
 
The bomb experts were today's last witnesses. 
 
The prosecution is expected to rest Monday after testimony from Steele's alleged European love interest.

Phone records back up Steele recordings

BOISE - Edgar Steele's lawyers have questioned the reliability of recordings that show their client discussing the plot to kill his wife with alleged hitman-turned-FBI-informant Larry Fairfax.

Prosecutors used phone records provided by the defense to poke a hole in that claim this morning.
 
Steele told his wife, Cyndi Steele, after his arrest that he expected investigators to provide a manufactured recording that combined several conversations into one.
 
In the recordings, which jurors listened to Wednesday, Fairfax calls Steele as he's driving to his Sagle-area home. 
 
A time-stamped record of that phone call is in records shown to jurors today by the defense. Lawyers were showing jurors the numerous and lengthy phone calls between the Steeles.
 
Cyndi Steele acknowledged the phone record but emphasized that she firmly believes her husband is innocent.
 
Steele's lawyer Robert McAllister mentioned his client's legal work with the Aryan Nations today while cross examining Cyndi Steele. 
 
Prosecutors objected, saying it isn't relevant, but Judge B. Lynn Winmill allowed the testimony. 
 
Cyndi Steele agreed with defense lawyer Robert McAllister that her husband had represented unpopular causes, including Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations and said her family has had previous threats made on their lives.
 
Steele has said she believes her husband was framed by the federal government.
 
Cyndi Steele also said she was helping her husband with his research into the Russian mail order bride scam. She agreed with McAllister that the emails her husband sent to the women amounted to cyber-space fantasy.
 
She agreed that Edgar is an “excellent writer” who was very capable of writing emails and sounding like “a love-sick teenager.”
 
She said Edgar never threatened her or her mother and recently helped with her mother's mortgage before his arrest.
 
She said Edgar told her to go to Oregon to help her mother.
 
“He never objected,” she said. “He was always sad to see me go, but he never objected.”
 
Cyndi Steele's testimony has ended. 
 
Kevin Mitchell, who owns CoinNuts in Coeur d'Alene, testified briefly, telling jurors how he'd cashed in a large amount of silver for Edgar Steele in April. 
 
Josh Young, who was working at the Quik Lube in Coeur d'Alene when he spotted the pipe bomb under Cyndi's car, also briefly testified.
 
Mark Fox of the Spokane County Sheriff's Office bomb squad will continue testifying after the afternoon break. He helped dismantle the pipe bomb.

Edgar sent 14k+ emails to other women

BOISE - Jurors this morning saw emails Edgar Steele sent to a 25-year-old European woman with whom prosecutors say he was seeking an intimate relationship. The messages were among more than 14,000 Steele sent through a Ukrainian online dating website in the months before his arrest last June.

Steele told Tatyana Loginova he was looking for “his second half, a girl he couldn't live without,” and that he was not in love with his wife.
 
Edgar Steele told her he had “produced the greatest children in the world, but I deserve more. I will never have another American woman, never again,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said.
 
In testimony this morning in U.S. District Court in Boise, Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, said the correspondence was simply part of his research into the Russian mail order bride scam.
 
She said the activity differed from her husband's inquires into online dating more than 10 years ago, which led to a divorce petition by Cyndi Steele in 2000. The couple reconciled.
 
Cyndi Steele said her husband, who is on trial for an alleged murder plot against her, said she knew of the correspondence.
 
“He told me about it because he wanted to discuss it with me, and how I felt about it…so I would know it was not like before,” Cyndi Steele said. “And that's exactly what I did know, it was not like 2000, and this was nothing but research trying to bring down the bride scam.”
 
Whelan said she reviewed emails with Cyndi Steele in her office last month to avoid surprising and embarrassing her at trial.
 
But, Cyndi Steele said today, “I knew what they were before I went in…I wasn't going to be embarrassed because I know about them.”
 
But Edgar Steele could have made up any identity and told the women anything to gain information, Whelan said. Instead, he described his life to Loginova, sent her pictures of his home and the family's newborn kittens and even mentioned the couple 's, Rex.
 
In one email, Edgar Steele says he's worried Rex's mother will be at the home while he's visiting for spring break.
 
Cyndi Steele told jurors she wasn't concerned.
 
“He was setting up a ruse the same way the FBI agents did with my husband's arrest,” she said.
 
Jurors were shown photos of  Loginova from her online profile.
 
“That looks like one of the many pictures of girls that he showed me,” Cyndi Steele said of the images. “All of the girls I saw were pretty like this and very similar in body structure.”
 
Whelan also focused on Cyndi Steele's theft report regarding $45,000 in silver. She reported the theft in September, more than two months after her husband's arrest.
 
Whelan mentioned that Edgar Steele had called his son, Rex, in July and also asked him to report the theft, telling him that it was “very important”
 
“You were trying to establish this idea that your husband told you that Larry Fairfax may have stolen from you to help your husband's defense,” Whelan said.
 
“I based my investigation on things that my husband had told me, and then I investigated,” Steele replied.
 
Whelan said Edgar Steele viewed his wife's dream - her horse farm - as “a symbol of wasted money.”
 
“He knew in reality it was not a money maker, but he knew it was my dream and supported it,” Cyndi Steele said.

CdA coke kingpin sentenced to 15 years

A longtime Coeur d'Alene cocaine dealer who laundered money through a bar and restaurant has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

James Roy “Slim” O'Neill, 49, was the kingpin of a cocaine distribution ring that supplied the drug in North Idaho for at least a decade and operated partly out of Chiller's bar on Sherman Avenue.

According to court documents, O'Neill also grew marijuana near Mineral Ridge, a popular hiking area that gives a spectacular view of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

O’Neill used proceeds from cocaine and marijuana sales to finance an expensive lifestyle, including cars, recreational vehicles and annual trips to the Daytona 500 race in Florida.

He pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to distribute cocaine/marijuana and conspiracy to launder money. He was sentenced last week to 180 months in prison.

Others arrested in the case include O’Neill’s wife, Lecia D. O’Neill, as well as Gary A. Votava; Christopher B. McFarland; Stephen J. McCabe; and Debra L. Margraff, all of Coeur d’Alene.

Arrested in Kennewick was Manuel Rivera. Investigators believe Rivera supplied cocaine to O'Neill, who in turn supplied it to others. He pleaded guilty this month to a cocaine charge as well as a forfeiture charge that calls for hm to give up $50,000 and an SUV believed to have transported the drugs.

The other codefendants also have entered plea agreements and are awaiting sentencing.

O'Neill sold cocaine to a confidential informant six times, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He and his wife also deposited about $200,000 into their bank account over a six-year period while claiming an income of little more than $3,000.

Chris McFarland was a longtime friend of O'Neill. He sold cocaine to “a handful of persons” through Chillers and used the proceeds to pay back O'Neill for fronted cocaine, according to court documents.

McFarland's wife, Linda McFarland, owned Chiller's. She's charged in Kootenai County District Court.

Authorities began investigating O'Neill after finding his phone number in former school booster and imprisoned cocaine addict Jerry Carlson's phone records.

Past coverage:

May 26: DEA raid shuts down alleged cocaine ring

Reward for tips on CdA rape suspect

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest a Coeur d'Alene rape suspect wanted fore more than two weeks.

Scott Patrick Giordano, 30, is accused of raping the girl last Wednesday at a home in the 800 block of Mullan Avenue.

The victim said she was sleeping when the attack occurred, according to police.

Giordano is a friend of her family, police said. He is from Arizona but has a criminal history in Kootenai County dating back to 1999.

He was last seen in the Priest River area two weeks ago and may be traveling to Florence, Ore.

Anyone with information on his location should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. Callers do not have leave their name but should leave a code name or number.

Jurors hear Steele’s jail phone call to wife

BOISE - “This phone call is protected under husband-wife privilege, even if they're recording it, they can't use it for any purpose.”

Edgar Steele said that to his wife, Cyndi, in a June phone call played for jurors today in his murder-for-hire case in U.S. District Court in Boise. The call led to a victim tampering charge against him.

Only a portion of the call had been released before today. The entire phone call was played for the 13 women and 1 man hearing the case. Two of the women are alternates. 
 
In the call, Cyndi Steele says she has a “small doubt” because of an earlier incident. 
 
“You have not been yourself, and you told me to get out of your life and get out of the way,” she said. Steele said he was in the hospital on drugs.
 
“You've got to know me better than this,” he said.
 
“Sweetie, I love you. I love you; you've got to believe me,” he continued. “If I were to get rid of you, I would just walk away from you. I would never hurt you. Twenty-five years we spent together, you should know that by now.”
 
Fairfax testified earlier today that Steele rejected his suggestion of divorce because he said his wife wanted too much when she petitioned for divorce in 2000. Prosecutors submitted that divorce petition as evidence; in it, Cyndi Steele asks for $1,400 a month in child support as well as alimony payments to cover counseling.
 
In the June phone call, Steele acknowledges he feared she may be seeing another man.
 
“The last few months you seemed distant, and you sure haven't been around, and I've missed you terribly, and I did wonder if you had someone else,”he said.
 
Cyndi Steele tells her husband that she “told you I was giving you six months. That was the idea, that I needed you to heal before we had any talks.”
 
She testified today that she was not seeking a divorce.
 
Steele told his wife the recording she was to listen to would be “a very high-class production. I expect this to be very convincing, and it's total fucking bulls**t.
 
“This is going to be Mission Impossible-level convincing,” he continued. He said the recording likely would be collection of recordings combined into one incriminating phone call. (Defense lawyers wanted two people to testify regarding flaws they found in the recordings, but Judge Lynn Winmill declined; neither expert had supported their findings. One of the experts said he wouldn’t describe the glitches as “suspicious,” because a variety of factors could have caused them.)
 
Cyndi Steele asks if it's possible that local FBI agents are “oblivious” to the plot.
 
“Yes, it's likely. In fact, it's absolutely likely,” Edgar Steele said. “Most of the FBI agents are good people doing a good job. They're being used. They wouldn't know the difference if they were handed this kind of tape.”
 
He reminds his wife, “If I go to prison, it will only be because of what you tell them tomorrow.”

Cyndi says she knew of Edgar’s women

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Edgar Steele’s call to his son
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Edgar Steele’s call to his wife

These are portions of phone calls from the Kootenai County Jail that were played for jurors today in the murder-for-hire trial of Edgar Steele.

BOISE - Cyndi Steele testified today that she knew her husband was talking to European women online but said the communication was part of his research into Russian mail order brides.

She said the two often sat in his home office reading the correspondence from the women. “We would end up laughing together, because we didn't believe it was always the pretty girl behind the writings,” she testified today, the second day of testimony in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire trial. “It could be a man as far as we knew.”
 
Cyndi Steele (pictured at a press conference last October) said she knew Edgar told the women he was divorced and wanted to have babies with them, though she admitted she didn't know he'd sent them pictures of their Talache Road home.
 
“I gave him the go ahead because I trusted him,” she said. “He would let me read anything I wanted; I knew what he was sending…I knew all about it, and I knew it was a case, and I knew he saw a book in it.”
 
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan emphasized that Cyndi Steele didn't read every email.
 
“He was lying to you, Cyndi,”  Whelan said. 
 
Cyndi Steele, the victim of the alleged murder plot, said she knew Edgar wrote to one of the women, Tatayna Loginova, from the jail confessing his love. Whelan questioned why he would continue to lie for research purposes while jailed on such serious federal charges.
 
Steele's testimony was interrupted repeatedly as prosecutors called for her responses to be stricken because they didn't address the questions. The final dispute arose just before scheduled adjournment at 2:30 .m., so attorneys for both sides will meet with Judge B. Lynn Winmill at 8:15 a.m. Friday to discuss. Cyndi Steele's testimony is expected to continue at 8:30 a.m.
 
Much of today's testimony focused on Edgar her husband's correspondence with other women and the couple's past marriage problems.
 
Steele and her mother owned a dance studio in San Francisco when her mother was injured in a car crash. Someone recommended they seek counsel from a law office. Edgar Steele had recently been hired there. The Steeles married in 1985. 
 
But by the late 1990s, Edgar Steele had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and his wife was experiencing “issues” that kept them apart, according to testimony. Cyndi Steele briefly sought a divorce in 2000 after creating a fake Match.com profile to see if Edgar, who advertised himself as single, would respond.
 
Whelan asked Cyndi Steele if the marriage was saved because Edgar Steele said he “merely wanted to try on other women but had decided that you were the one for him.”
 
“That's a very small summary of it, but I'd say yes,” Cyndi Steele said.
 
“Because he was so unhappy, he was looking to see if our home life was really what he wanted or if there was something better,” she continued. “I think he was really questioning his life about everything.”
 
Whelan then asked about this past year, when Cyndi was splitting her time between Edgar's health problems in North Idaho and her mother's health problems in Oregon.
 
“It was very hard, because I need to be in both places,” she said. “I had to go where the most emergency was…I had to weigh it, and it was hard to weigh it because I had two people who I very much loved who need me.”
 
“I can understand why he felt I was maybe neglecting him,” Cyndi said of Edgar. “I hadn't been getting enough of him, either.” 
 
But she emphasized that the situation was “much different” than the problems that provoked the divorce petition 11 years ago.
 
Aftrer her husband's arrest, Cyndi Steele reported $45,000 in silver missing from the home and listed FBI informant Larry Fairfax as the suspect.
 
Defense lawyers say Fairfax set up Edgar to cover up his theft of silver from the Steeles.
 
But Whelan said today that Edgar had cashed about that same amount in silver last April. 
Cyndi said she was aware of that and factored it in when counting their silver.
 
Jurors heard phone calls Edgar Steele made to Cyndi and their son, Rex, from the Kootenai County Jail after his arrest that led to tampering with a witness charges.
 
Steele told his wife he feared she was seeing someone else.
 
“I'm only suffering because I love you and I'm not getting enough of you,” he said.
 
He also urged her to stand “like a rhinoceros in the road” and tell authorities the voice on the recordings with Fairfax “was not my husband's voice.” 
 
Cyndi Steele said she doesn't believe her husband was trying to unduly influence her in the call.
 
“He was trying to tell me he was innocent, and that's what he was standing up for,” Cyndi Steele said. “He never asked me to lie, and he knows I would be upset if he wrongly went to prison.”
 
In the phone call, Cyndi told Edgar that she rmembered him telling her to get out of his life after his surgery. Edgar said he made the comment while heavily medicated; Cyndi testified today that he didn't mean the comment.
 
“i don't count that as he wanted a divorce; he was extremely sick,” she said 

Cop details Steele’s reax to wife’s death

BOISE - Idaho State Police Trooper Jess Spike has notified families of about two dozen deaths in his career.

Never has he seen a reaction as stoic as that of Edgar Steele at his Sagle-area home last June when Spike told him his wife, Cyndi Steele, had died in a car crash after being run off the road near Portland, Ore., Spike testified today. 
 
“It was flat, paused, almost contrived. It was as if he was trying to retrieve something in an archive and come up with what the answer was. It wasn't natural,” Spike said. “He kind of choked up. It appeared as though he was trying to develop tears, and no tears developed.” 
 
Investigators then told Steele his wife had been run off the road but the assailant had crashed and was hospitalized, and that the man was “somewhat conscious” and detectives “were trying to put the pieces together,” Spike said.
 
“I think that was the first point that I noticed a change in his demeanor. He seemed somewhat surprised at that point in time, that what he had expected had kind of gotten away from him, and it wasn't something he'd planned for,” Spike said. “It was more genuine in reaction.”
 
FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka asked Steele if he knew Larry Fairfax. Steele replied that he did. 
 
Sotka asked if Steele suspected his wife might be having an affair. 
 
“I do remember him saying, 'well, she is over there a lot,'” Spike said. 
 
Sotka continued to push Steele to see if he would repeat what he'd promised Fairfax he would say in the recorded conversation.
 
 “He just kind of took it hook line and sinker and just went with it,” Spike said. “I remember him patting his stomach implying that (Fairfax) was heavy set and that he didn't think Mrs. Steele would go for someone like that.”
 
According to a recording played for jurors Tuesday, Steele told Fairfax he would tell investigators about a suspected affair if Fairfax was arrested.
 
 “Like in ‘Mission: Impossible,’ I will disavow your existence,” Steele said, according to the recording. “… There won’t be anything I can do except throw you to the … wolves.”
 
Steele had also said he planned a lunch appointment with a friend as part of his alibi. Steele's friend Allen Banks showed up the day at of his arrest for a meeting with Steele, investigators said.
 
When investigators told Steele his mother-in-law had been shot, Spike said the lawyer's reaction was simply “F**k me.”
 
“It was almost, I'm searching for the word, surprise and disbelief?” Spike said.
 
Steele mentioned organizations that may have been out to get him and his family, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Spike said.
 
Then Sotka took a phone call and told Steele he'd just been informed that Fairfax told investigators “to ask Mr. Steele what was going on, that he could answer all of the questions that he had.”
 
Spike said Steele “had no reaction whatsoever.”
 
That's when investigators told him his wife wasn't actually dead and that he was under arrest for hiring Fairfax to kill her, Spike said.
 
Fairfax testified Wednesday that Steele had a list of about 12 others he wanted killed, too. He finished testifying this morning and denied arranging the plot to set up Steele. 
 
Defense lawyer Robert McAllister emphasized that Steele never confessed to being involved in the plot.
 
“The whole idea was to get him to crack, to make some kind of omission, and he never did,” McAlliser said of Spike's false death notification.
 
But Spike said investigators wanted to see if Steele would do what he told Fairfax he would.
 
From mailing items at the Post Office to transporting lumber and arranging a lunch appointment, “there was just a number of things that all lined up,” Spike said.
 
“This 'ruse' as the defense counsel put it was to basically cross those ts and dot those i's so we could put two and two together,” Spike said.
 
Along with Spike, this morning's witnesses included an FBI agent in Portland who notified Cyndi Steele of the alleged plot, and a Coeur d'Alene FBI agent who led the search of Steele's Talache Road home the day of his arrest. Cyndi Steele could testify this afternoon.

Larry Fairfax says he’s writing a book

The main witness against Edgar Steele is writing a book he says is fiction and “may have” said he hopes to be on the Oprah show. 

Larry Fairfax (left) admitted that under cross examination this morning in U.S. District Court in Boise, the second day of testimony in Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

Steele's defense lawyer, Robert McAllister, said Bonner County Jail inmate Daryl Hollingsworth (right) was asked by Fairfax “if he could design the cover for your book.”

“You kept it a secret from the FBI, secret from the government and secret from the defense, but you told Daryl Hollingsworth about it?” McAlliser said.

Fairfax said no one but Hollingsworth had inquired. He said Hollingsworth saw him writing in jail one day and asked what he was doing.

McAllister said Fairfax also told his cousin he planned to make himself out to be the hero in the book, but Fairfax denied that. McAllister also said Hollingsworth says Fairfax claimed he'd been paid to set up Steele.

Fairfax said Hollingsworth, who is in jail for stabbing someone in Sandpoint, had a reputation as a liar. 

Fairfax has said he was paid $10,000 in silver coins as a down payment for the murders. He said he gathered the coins from a desk drawer in Steele's garage, but McAllister implied that Fairfax actually stole it.

McAllister emphasized that Fairfax knew where the Steeles hid their silver and could “easily” remove it, but Fairfax said that wasn't true.

Cyndi Steele had filed a theft report regarding $45,000 in silver from their home. Fairfax was listed as the suspect, McAllister said. He denied taking the coins during testimony this morning.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan, Fairfax said the theft report was not filed until after Steele was arrested.

Fairfax said the stash spots he helped construct at Steele's home were for “stashing weapons when the economy collapsed and everyone was rioting.” He said the spots were covered in drywall and not easily accessible.

McAllister questioned Fairfax about his bankruptcy filing and desire for money. He's said in his opening statement that Fairfax set up Steele to cover up his theft of silver.

“How many times do you think you lied to Edgar Steele?” McAllister asked.

“Maybe twice,” Fairfax replied.

“What were those lies?” McAllister said.

“That I would kill his wife…(and) that I would kill his mother-in-law,” Fairfax replied.

McAllister focused on statements Fairfax reportedly made regarding coming up with “a big lie.”

Fairfax said that comment was in regards to a story he told his wife about why he was traveling to Portland. (Fairfax says he went there under FBI surveillance to make Steele believe he was following through with the murders.)

Fairfax's testimony just ended.

Fairfax says Steele rejected divorce idea

BOISE - When Larry Fairfax spoke with Edgar Steele about a plot to kill Steele's wife, he asked the North Idaho lawyer why he didn't divorce his wife instead.

“He said the last time he was going to get a divorce form her she was going to take too much, and we didn't want to part with all his possession and money,” Fairfax said today in U.S. District Court in Boise.
 
According to court records, Cyndi Steele filed for divorce in June 2000, alleging her husband “misrepresented his marital status and eligibility” in online dating profiles “with the sole intention of meeting women” in San Mateo, where he maintained a law office. The case was dismissed two months later and the couple remained married.
 
Now prosecutors allege Edgar Steele wanted his wife killed because he believed she was having an affair and because he was interested in a young woman in Europe.
 
Fairfax, the alleged hitman-turned-FBI informant, testified this morning that Steele had said “he hired a private investigator to follow his wife around and that she was having an affair with an old high school flame in Portland.”
 
Fairfax also said Steele was planning a 30-day trip to Europe.
 
Fairfax said he was working at Big Al's in Post Falls when an FBI agent called him on June 15 after the pipe bomb was found under Cyndi Steele's car. 
 
He's been in custody since and is to be sentenced after the trial for two federal firearms charges.

Brother: FBI set up taco truck protester

The man who boasted online about taking part in racist protests of taco-trucks in Coeur d’Alene and now faces an illegal weapons charge was the victim of government entrapment, his brother says.

Jeremiah Daniel “J.D.” Hop, 29, was set up earlier this month by an FBI informant who suggested the two of them go shooting and even supplied the shotgun that federal authorities now accuse him of illegally possessing, said Michael Hop, the suspect’s younger brother.

J.D. Hop has a previous felony conviction, which prohibits him from possessing firearms.

“The FBI took him out shooting and then arrested him,” Michael Hop said. “If an informant hands you a gun and asks you to shoot it, that’s entrapment in my book.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage: April 20: Felon targeted by FBI linked to taco truck protests

Jurors hear Fairfax-Steele recordings

In this sketch by Ward Hooper, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws is shown at the podium during the trial of Edgar J. Steele today. Steele is shown at right.

BOISE - Larry Fairfax told jurors in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial that though he accepted money from Steele, he never intended to kill anyone and told the FBI about the plot because he feared retribution.

“Mr. Steele was getting agitated, and he said if i didn't take care of the job he would find someone else to do the job, and me,” Fairfax said.
 
Fairfax, who lived near Steele in Sagle, Idaho, testified today in U.S. District Court in Boise, where he is being housed at the Ada County Jail for the trial.
 
Fairfax contacted lawyer Jim Michaud, and the two arranged a meeting with federal authorities. The FBI gave Fairfax a recording device, and he secretly taped two conversations with Steele at his Talache Road home, east of Sagle near Shepherd Lake.
 
Jurors heard recordings of those conversations this afternoon.
 
Steele's lawyers have questioned the authenticity of the tapes.  His supporters, including his wife, believe Steele has been framed by the government.
 
In the first conversation, on June, 9, Steele is heard agreeing to give Fairfax a $400 “advance” to pay for his trip to Oregon City, where Cyndi Steele was visiting her mother.
 
Steele tells Fairfax “I'll take it out of your f**king hide; you gotta get this job done.” He said a car crash could trigger an insurance policy payment.
 
“You've got a big payday riding on this one. I've set it up that way on purpose,” Steele says
 
Steele acknowledges that the death investigation could trace back to him.
 
“We'll be sharing a cell together,” Steele said.
 
But he said he hadn't had second thoughts.
 
“The only second thought I had is ever talking to you,” Steele told Fairfax.
 
Steele told Fairfax he and a friend were to travel to Spokane the next day - the day his wife was to be killed - to go to a lumber yard and to eat lunch. The trip was part of an alibi Steele planned, according to the conversation. 
 
“I'll make myself memorable at whatever restaurant we go to,” Steele said.
 
He also said he planned to mail something in Spokane and get a receipt, then go to Sandpoint that afternoon.
 
He said he would go to the bank and post office in Sandpoint for “something that creates a record with a time stamp” and would say something memorable to the clerk.
 
But, the self-proclaimed “lawyer for the damned” said, “I always say memorable things. If I didn't say anything memorable, that would be unusual.”
 
Steele told Fairfax he anticipated a visit from authorities but wasn't sure if they'd be there to arrest him or simply notify him of his wife's death.
 
“I hope to God I can answer the door and seem normal,” Steele said.
 
He said if Fairfax was to get caught, he would tell the police that Fairfax was possibly in love with his wife and killed her because she wouldn't sleep with him.
 
“Like in Mission Impossible, I will disavow your existence,” Steele said. “…There won't be anything i can do except throw you to the f**king wolves.”
 
In testimony, Fairfax said Steele was very angry with him one day and suspected he'd been in his home without Steele's permission.
 
Steele told him if he went in the house again “he would shoot me” and put his children to work, Fairfax told jurors.
 
That touches on a key allegation by the defense - that Fairfax had stolen silver from the Steeles and set up the murder plot probe to cover up the theft.
 
Court is adjourned for the day. Fairfax's testimony will continue Thursday at 8:30 a.m., Boise time.

In ruse, FBI told Steele wife was dead

BOISE - The day Edgar Steele was arrested for an alleged murder plot against his wife, investigators first told him his wife had died in a car crash to see if he would go along with alibis he'd mentioned in a secretly recorded conversation with an FBI informant.

The 65-year-old lawyer did so, FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka testified today, including making a comment that he suspected his wife was having an affair with Larry Fairfax.
 
Investigators had just told Steele that Fairfax was involved in the crash but was coming out of a coma and beginning to talk, Sotka testified.
 
Steele had told Farifax that if Fairfax was ever caught down in Oregon, Steele would tell authorities that Fairfax was having an affair with his wife, Sotka testified. Sotka is in charge of the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force, which led the investigation into Steele.
 
Agents soon told Steele his wife wasn't actually dead and that they knew he'd hired Fairfax to kill her.
Steele stood up and and the “odor of fecal matter” filled the air, Sotka said. 
 
The agents “feared that Mr. Steele had defecated himself,” Sotka said.
 
But defense lawyer Robert McAllister emphasized that Steele never confessed to the murder plot during that ruse by the FBI.
 
Sotka said he would have liked for Steele to have confessed, but he was more there “to see if he was going to follow his alibi and make statements that he made the day before about what his alibi would be.”
 
Sotka said Steele's reaction to news that his wife had been killed in a car crash, and that his mother-in-law had been shot to death in her home, was not typical.
 
 But McAllister questioned why Sotka didn't feel Steele's statement of “what the f**k”?” qualified as shock.
 
“That's three words,” Sotka replied.
 
McAllister also emphasized that the recording of the conversation between Fairfax and Steele isn't original -
it's a version of the recording that was downloaded from the recorder to a computer.
 
“The defense doesn't have an opportunity to listen or examine the original recording, isn't that correct, sir?” McAllister asked Sotka.
 
Sotka disagreed. 
 
He said that because the FBI does not listen to recordings directly from the device, the first download is considered the original copy.
 
Fairfax is the next witness. His testimony will continue about 1:30 p.m., Boise time, after a 15-minute break. Court is expected to let out at 3 p.m., Boise time.

Defense: Fairfax stole silver, set up Steele

BOISE - The murder-for-hire case against Edgar Steele is really the work of financially strapped man desperate to cover up his theft of silver from Steele's home, defense lawyer Robert McAllister said this morning.

“This case is as much about a man named Larry Fairfax as it is about Edgar Steele,” McAllister said in his opening statement. 
 
“You will see no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Steele ever made an explosive device, ever touched an explosive device, ever approved of an explosive device or ever told Larry Fairfax to make an explosive device,” McAllister said.
 
McAllister described Steele as a lawyer, father and “established author or writer” who was living “the good life of retirement” in Sagle after “a career of representing clients, some of whom were very unpopular.”
 
“First question,” McAllister said, “why would Edgar Steele want to kill his wife and mother-in-law, and, if he did, why would he ask somebody like Larry Fairfax to do it?” 
 
Steele nearly died and underwent surgery in late 2009. Cyndi Steele took care of him when he returned home. She split her time between Sagle and Oregon City, where her mother was battling cancer, McAllister said.
 
The Steeles talked on the phone nearly every day.
 
“They would literally spend 45 minutes at a time talking about each other and talking about the problems that faced their lives,” McAllister said.
 
At that same time, unbeknownst to the Steeles, Fairfax was cashing in silver he'd stolen from them, McAllister said.
Fairfax was a handy man who had worked for the Steeles for about 10 years. He'd gained their trust and knew where their silver  - their life savings - was stored.
 
The Steeles “didn't really trust banks or the economy or the way things were going, so they put their life savings in silver and they kept it in their house, and they trusted Larry Fairfax to know where the silver was located,” McAllister said. He said evidence will show “that (Fairfax is) a man desperate for money, and he's a man who has admitted to being a liar. He's a man who has filed for bankruptcy, and he's a man who would do anything for money.”
 
Fairfax claims the pipe bomb he affixed to Cyndi Steele's car was rigged so it couldn't explode.  But he never mentioned the device when he first approached the FBI about the alleged murder plot.
 
“He never tells them that Cyndi Steele is driving hundreds of miles back and forth from Oregon City with this device on her car,” McAllister said.
 
Experts are expected to testify that, despite Fairfax's claims, the device was capable of exploding.
 
Fairfax, McAllister said, “didn't tell the whole truth, he didn't tell nothing but the truth. The evidence will show, and he admits it, he lied to the law enforcement agencies.”
 
McAllister said Edgar Steele had no reason to want his wife dead.
 
He said the women Steele was talking to online were part of his research for a book on human trafficking. Jurors will read letters and emails sent by Steele that “are not the type of letter written by a murderer, or someone who wanted to attempt a murder,” McAllister said.
 
McAllister said Fairfax told FBI agents “I can set up Edgar Steele; I can show you how he told me to do this” when he first approached them June 8.
 
Fairfax secretly recorded a conversation with Steele the next day. Steele was arrested June 11 and has been in federal custody since.
 
Fairfax also is in custody on federal firearms charges related to the pipe bomb on Cyndi Steele's car. He's to be sentenced after Steele's trial.
 
“This is a case built on evidence, and I think you will see before the case is concluded, that all the evidence points back to Larry Fairfax,” McAllister said. “Larry Fairfax is at the center of this case. You will see from the evidence - it's undisputed - that this is all his doing.”
 
FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka was the first witness to testify.
 
Court is on an hour break right now; testimony will continue at 11:35 a.m., Boise time.

Prosecutors: Case against Steele ‘simple’

BOISE - Prosecutors say the case against Edgar Steele is simple.

“It's the story of a man who wanted to murder his wife, hired somebody else to do it, and fortunately, they didn't succeed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws said in his opening statement this morning.
 
Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, often traveled to Oregon City, Ore., to visit her mother. Steele was recovering from a major surgery in December 2009 and often home alone.
 
“The evidence is going to show that he was angry; the evidence is going to show that he resented Cyndi,” Haws said. “He suspected she had a boyfriend.”
 
Today is Edgar and Cyndi Steele's 26th wedding anniversary, says Steele's lawyer, Robert McAllister.

The Sagle, Idaho, lawyer accused of hiring a man to kill his wife was also developing “some interest in some young Russian women” and often chatted with them online, Haws said.
 
One woman, Tatyana Loginova, will testify via video, Haws said. Steele wanted his wife murdered so he could spend more time with Loginova, prosecutors say.
 
“This case involves the intersection of two lives: the life of Larry Fairfax and the life of Edgar Steele,” Haws said. “…Edgar Steele, who had money, but he couldn't bring himself to kill wife, and really didn't know how to do things with hands. And you had Larry Fairfax, who knew who to do things with his hands, but he didn't have any money.”
 
In a recorded conversation that will be played for jurors, Haws says Steele tells Fairfax that if investigators trace the murder back to Steele, “we'll be sharing a cell together.”
 
Fairfax asks if Steele has second thoughts.
 
“Mr. Steele says, 'have you seen a second thought in me yet?'” Haws said. Steele also tells Fairfax of a television show he saw in which a woman was paralyzed in a car crash and her husband took care of her for the rest of her life. Steele is adamant that that can't happen, Haws said.
 
“If I abandoned her at that point, my kids would hate me forever. This could actually become a much worse situation than it is…Do not leave me like that,” Haws described Steele as saying.
 
Haws said Steele continues, “I'm pissed off at Cyndi, but I don't want her to suffer, and I don't want her to realize, as the lights are going out, what's happened…I spent 25 years married to her, and it wasn't all fun and games. But either way, I don't want to see her go out suffering. I want this over with. There aint no second thoughts.”
 
Steele had already paid Fairfax $10,000 in silver and promised much more money if he went through with the murders, Haws said.
 
Fairfax is expected to testify. Haws said investigators presented Steele with his wife's fake death certificate when they arrived at his home to arrest him June 11.
 
Haws' opening statement just ended. Opening statements from Steele's defense team are next, after a 10-minute break. 
 
Steele's supporters, including his wife, believe he has been framed by the federal government.
 
Cyndi Steele said the Russian women prosecutors refer to were involved in her husband's legal work against human trafficking.

13 women, 1 man to hear Steele case

BOISE - Thirteen women and one man will hear the case of a North Idaho attorney accused of hiring a man to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

Two of the 14 jurors selected Tuesday for the trial of Edgar Steele will be alternates. All will hear opening statements today beginning at 8:30 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Boise.
 
The jurors were selected from a pool of 65. At least 20 said they'd heard of the case through the media, but all said they still felt they could be impartial.
 
All jurors were asked if they were affiliated with groups that advocated “racial or ethnic superiority” or opposed it.
 
Only one said yes - a woman who said her daughter served as the youth representative for the Ada County Human Rights Commission. She was not stricken because of that.
 
Steele faces at least 30 years in prison if convicted of possessing a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence. He's also charged with use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and tampering with a victim. 
 
Steele's supporters, including his wife, say he has been framed by the government to silence him for his views  and legal work. Steele calls himself “attorney for the damned” and is known for defending the Aryan Nations against the lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group. 
 
Past coverage:
 
April 26: Jury selection begins in Edgar Steele trial

Hells Angel arraigned on federal charges

A member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club pleaded not guilty Monday to gun and drug charges.

Michael Ryan Fitzpatrick, 33, was booked into Spokane County Jail after his arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Fitzpatrick is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of cocaine and three counts of distribution of marijuana.

He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Two others are charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana, but their names are redacted in the indictment, which was returned last week.

Fitzpatrick was arrested on a marijuana charge March 3 but was allowed to leave jail the next day, and Spokane County prosecutors never formally charged him. Now he's at the Spokane County jail without bail on the federal indictments.

A hearing to determine if Fitzpatrick should be allowed to leave jail on bail is set for Thursday. He's represented by Chris Phelps.

Feds release Harpham booking photos

 

The U.S. Marshals Service has released booking photos of Kevin William Harpham.

The photos were taken the day of his arrest in connection with the bomb found along the planned route of the Martin Luther King, Jr., United march in downtown Spokane Jan. 17.

Photos of Harpham after he was booked into the Spokane County Jail already have been released.

The recently released images were taken before those shots and show Harpham in his street clothes.

Harpham, who turns 37 on Sunday, pleaded not guilty Monday to a superseding indictment charging He now faces a minimum of 30 years in prison if convicted.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Ex-Spokanite dies in Mo. police shootout

A former Spokane man with a 2006 arrest warrant for felony theft died in a shootout with police in Missouri last month.

Lonnie Eugene Moore, 41, died March 29 after he shot at a police officer after being pulled over on a freeway near Kansas City and the officer returned fire.

The Kansas City Star reported Saturday that Moore's extensive criminal history includes several convictions in Western Washington.

His years in Spokane were mostly quiet, though he was wanted on a $10,000 warrant for attempted theft after a security guard at Holy Family Hospital spotted him trying to break into a vehicle, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Moore was the prime suspect in seven Kansas City-area bank robberies beginning last July.

Jury selection begins in Edgar Steele trial

BOISE - Jury selection is underway in the trial of a North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring a hitman to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

Edgar J. Steele, 65, faces at least 30 years in prison if convicted of his most serious charge - possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence.

Steele also is charged with use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and tampering with a victim. The tampering charge stems from a phone call he made to his wife, Cyndi Steele, from the Kootenai County Jail after his arrest. 

A pool of 65 potential jurors was called to the federal courthouse in Boise this morning. Fourteen will be selected; two as alternates.

A couple jurors have already been dismissed because of scheduling conflicts and financial difficulties.

About 20 potential jurors said they'd heard of the case before today, but all said they could still be impartial. One woman said she heard about the case from her sister who lives in North Idaho.

“I would hope I would be able to put it out of my mind, yes,” she said.

She was stricken from the pool not because of that incident but because she said serving would be a personal hardship because she needs to help her husband with their cattle farm.

One man said he told a friend he couldn't make lunch today because of jury selection. The friend replied via email that the “Steele case” was underway and that he should “tell them you don't like lawyers,” the man told U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

He remains in the jury pool.

Steele's supporters say he has been framed by the government to silence him for his views and legal work. Steele calls himself “attorney for the damned” and is well known for defending the Aryan Nations against the lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group.

Cyndi Steele believes he is innocent and has criticized prosecutors for not pursing more serious charges against the alleged hitman-turned-FBI informant, Larry Fairfax. Fairfax (pictured) is expected to testify at trial.

Fairfax was arrested June 15 after Coeur d’Alene auto shop workers found a pipe bomb under Cyndi Steele’s car. The FBI says Fairfax put it there but never told investigators.

Fairfax pleaded guilty last October to two federal weapons charges and is to be sentenced after Steele's trial.

Prosecutors say Steele wanted his wife murdered because he “had been establishing a relationship with a young woman who lives outside of the United States,” according to court documents. Cyndi Steele says her husband was helping the woman in relation to his work fighting human trafficking. 

Steele's lawyers wanted to call expert witnesses who believe the recordings of Fairfax and Steele discussing the plot have been altered, but a judge rejected that last week.

The trial was moved to Boise after it was delayed at the last minute March 7 in Coeur d'Alene.

Court is scheduled until 5 p.m. today. Opening statements could take place this afternoon.

Trial for the rest of the week is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Past coverage:

April 13: Audio experts to testify at Steele trial

Mother-daughter child abusers sentenced

A Coeur d’Alene woman and her mother were ordered imprisoned today for their roles in the neglecting of twin 2-year-old girls.

Elisabeth Crossley and her 55-year-old mother, Ruth Cassidy, each will spend up to five years in prison, with no less than two years.

Crossley’s twin daughters were found Dec. 5 locked in a bedroom at a Coeur d’Alene apartment.

The girls were naked, covered in fecal matter and had bruises and open sores, authorities said.

The woman who alerted police to the girls' conditions, Brandi Conklin, was honored last month with the Coeur d'Alene Police Department's Civilian Humanitarian Award.

Crossley and Cassidy were each charged with two counts of felony injury to a child. 

Crossley pleaded guilty to one count while Cassidy entered an Alford plea, in which she did not admit guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence for prosecutors to obtain a conviction.

Past coverage:

Feb. 1: CdA woman admits to abusing twin girls

Dec. 6: Feces-caked 2-year-olds rescued in CdA

Romantic ties figure in Plummer slaying

Jealousy may have led to the fatal stabbing of a Spokane man in Plummer, Idaho, last week, a friend said.

Victim Antowyn D. “Tony” Swiney, 37, (left) was with his girlfriend when her ex, Jody A. Miller, arrived with a group to celebrate Miller’s 41st birthday at Chan’s Dragon Inn in downtown Spokane April 16, said bar owner Namva Chan.
 
Swiney left the bar to avoid the confrontation and went to his girlfriend’s home in Plummer, Chan said.
 
Swiney’s girlfriend exchanged words with Miller, but Swiney did not, Chan said.
 
Now Miller; his wife, Kelly A. Miller, 40; her son, Irael Kennedy, 21; and Stephen Milton, 22, are in the Benewah County Jail, accused of stabbing Swiney to death early April 17 in Plummer. 
 
Read the rest of my story here.
 
Jody Miller, Milton, Kelly Miller and Kennedy are pictured above, clockwise from the top left.

Man gets 10 years for beating death

A Spokane transient has been sentenced to 10 ½ years in prison for the slaying of a 46-year-old man last April.

Roland E. Benton II, 35, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree manslaughter with a deadly weapon for the beating death of Douglas J. Klages.

Klages' bludgeoned body was found April 30 in a small cave at Camp Caro Community Park at Dishman Hills.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza sentenced Benton to 126 months, which is the high end of the sentencing range for the manslaughter charge.

The charge came with a deadly weapon enhancement that mandated two years in prison. Benton had been charged with first-degree murder before attorneys worked out a plea agreement.

In solving the case, detectives retraced Klages’ final hours and found video of him leaving a Spokane Valley Rosauers store with Benton on the day Klages’ body was discovered by hikers in the area.

Detectives arrested Benton May 5. He'd been released from jail just days before the slaying.

Past coverage:

May 5: Homicide victim hoped for fresh start

Smash-grab burglar targets cigs in Valley

Police are looking for tips on a smash-and-grab cigarette burglary that damaged a Spokane Valley convenience store early today.

A burglar smashed glass from a front window at the the Broadway Mini Mart, 10304 E. Broadway Ave., early today and stole cigarette packs. 
 
An alarm sounded a few minutes after midnight; police arrived to find the smashed out window, then viewed a surveillance video that showed the burglary umping onto the counter and grabbing the smokes from a display rack.
 
A police dog searched the area but came up empty. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

86’d from Walmart, return leads to arrest

A Spokane woman banned from all Walmarts was arrested for felony burglary Sunday after returning to the Spokane Valley store.

Billee Jo Koller, 36, tried to steal more than $80 in men's clothing from the store at 15727 E. Broadway Ave., according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.
 
Koller was prohibited from going to the Walmart after she was caught shoplifting last October, police said.
 
That condition upgraded her shoplifting allegation to a second-degree burglary charge. She also was booked for third-degree theft and warrants for theft and drug possession.

Crash in stolen Honda leads to 2 arrests

An early-morning crash involving a stolen Honda led to two arrests and the discovery of drug material in the driver's purse today in north Spokane.

Rachel A. Banks, 24, and her passenger, Randy A. Fisher, 24, ran from the car after Banks crashed into the back of a Ford pickup parked in a driveway in the 700 block of West Wedgewood Avenue shortly after midnight today, authorities say.
 
Spokane County sheriff's deputies found Banks and Fisher walking near North Monroe Street and West Avon Avenue. Banks was wanted on a warrant for driving while suspended; Fisher had a warrant for city theft.
 
A neighbor identified them as the pair who fled the crash scene. Banks' purse contained a drug scale, meth pipe, a baggie with prescription rugs, shaved keys and a lug nut key, according to a news release.
 
Fisher was booked into jail for his warrant; Banks was booked for her warrant as well as second-degree possession of stolen property, hit and run, and two drug charges.

Man gets 27 years for ‘06 murder

A Nespelem, Wash., man has been sentenced to 27 years in prison for the knife-murder of a woman on the Colville Indian Reservation in 2006.

Ryan Martin Seideman, 24, was sentenced to 327 months for second-degree murder on Thursday. He'll be on probation for five years after his release.

The body of Lillian Jolene Lee, 42, was found in her home on March 20, 2006. Seideman was arrested in January 2009 after his DNA was identified in a blood stain on Lee's underwear, who was stabbed at least 30 times, according to court documents.

Lee had allowed Seideman into her home and treated him like a son, prosecutors said in court documents.

“It remains difficult to imagine the amount of pain, fear and torture that Ms. Lee experienced up to her last breath and yet the Defendant showed her no mercy, no compassion and no humanity,” according to a sentencing memorandum. “He simply left her there to bleed to death for the community to find her fully exposed, debased and degraded.”

A jury convicted Seideman in December. He remains in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to federal prison.

 “I hope the victim’s family finds some solace in the resolution of this case,” said Michael Ormsby, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said in a statement.

Skinhead promises speech at bench trial

A self-described skinhead says he has prepared a speech to read at his federal bench trial this afternoon for allegedly assaulting an accused child molester.

James D. Bacon, 23, is charged with misdemeanor assault for punching Darrell W. Monzingo, 44, as the men shared a holding cell at the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse on March 10.  The assault was captured on video, accoridng to a trial brief.

In an April 9 jailhouse letter to The Spokesman-Review, Bacon said he is a member of the Valhalla-Bound Skinhead movement, which was founded by Keegan Van Tuyl. Van Tuyl is scheduled to be released from federal prison in September. Authorities consider him extremely dangerous.

Bacon said his three-page speech will shock the judge.

“However, it is written with an eloquent passion from my heart,” Bacon wrote. “It is by no mean's vulgar, & it addresses my beliefs as a skinhead, as a man, & as a person utterly disgusted with sex offenders.”

Bacon wrote that he hopes victims of sex crimes can be consoled by “knowing that people like myself are fighting in their honor.”

Bacon, who was convicted of armed robbery in 2004, was wanted for a felony drug violation and Department of Corrections warrant when he ran from police near Wellesley Avenue and Regal Street on Dec. 7.

Police arrested him in a struggle, then realized he was armed with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun.

Monzingo, whose trial is set for September, faces up to 30 years in prison after Spokane police found child pornography during a search of his home in the 3400 block of E. Fairview Ave. on Dec. 16. He's charged with manufacturing the material.

Eddie Ray Hall: Man or myth?

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“Goodbye Eddie Ray Hall”
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“On the Lam Again”
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“The Ballad of Eddie Ray Hall”

Eddie Ray Hall's lawyer, Ron Van Wert, said at sentencing last week that he was concerned about bias in the community regarding his client's perceived criminal history.

Van Wert said Hall's history has been well documented by the media and referenced a song by Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark, “The Ballad of Eddie Ray Hall.” 

But Van Wert said he's had no trouble getting along with Hall, and he questioned why the man was facing such a longer prison sentence than his codefendent, Ron Hipkiss, who led the meth distribution and pleaded guilty to more serious charges than Hall.

I've always thought of Hall as a great example of a media-made celebrity. His rise to fame can be traced to this 1998 newspaper article.

Authorities used him as an example of how much criminals cost society, estimating Hall had cost about $1 million.

Frankly, having seen quite a few criminal histories over the last couple of years, I was surprised when I looked at Hall's. It really wasn't as bad as I expected, and compared to some of the histories I've seen, Hall is a lightweight (granted, this doesn't include his misdemeanor history.)

Guys like Casey Beckham have more convictions than Hall.

Van Wert argued that Hall's history didn't even qualify him as a career criminal. U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley never ruled on that because even without the classification, Hall's standard sentencing range called for more than the 15 years mandated for career criminals.

Here is Hall's criminal history from 2006, which doesn't include four felonies to which he pleaded guilty that year. He was sentenced to 51 months in prison for two counts of bail jumping and single counts of possession of meth and second-degree possession of stolen property and was back in trouble again right after his release.

But compare Hall's history to that of Jody A. Miller, a suspect in the stabbing death of a Spokane man in Plummer, Idaho, April 17. Miller has a rival number of felonies, and far more violent crimes.

Friends and family spoke at Hall's sentencing said they hopes he gets the help he needs in prison.

“I watched Eddie go from being an inspiring athlete who should have had a good career ahead of him to where he is now,” said Sue O'Brien.

But, she added, “Eddie is not a violent person. He never has been.”

Judge Whaley took exception to that. Read more from the sentencing here.

Grand jury indicts Hells Angel member

A grand jury has indicted a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang on federal drug and gun charges.

Michael Ryan Fitzpatrick, 33, is accused of conspiring with two unidentified people to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

Fitzpatrick was arrested on a marijuana charge March 4, the same day investigators searched the Hells Angels clubhouse, 1308 E. Sprague Ave., in what they said was an ongoing investigation.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

March 5: 2nd suspect in Hells Angel probe leaves jail

Tattoo leads to murder conviction in LA


LOS ANGELES — The process was routine. Los Angeles County Sheriff's homicide investigator Kevin Lloyd was flipping through snapshots of tattooed gang members.

Then one caught his attention.

Inked on the pudgy chest of a young Pico Rivera gangster who had been picked up and released on a minor offense was the scene of a 2004 liquor store slaying that had stumped Lloyd for more than four years.

Each key detail was right there: the Christmas lights that lined the roof of the liquor store where 23-year-old John Juarez was gunned down, the direction his body fell, the bowed street lamp across the way and the street sign — all under the chilling banner of RIVERA KILLS, a reference to the gang Rivera-13.

As if to seal the deal, below the collarbone of the gang member known by the alias “Chopper” was a miniature helicopter raining down bullets on the scene.
  

Read the rest of the story by Robert Faturechi of the Los Angeles times here.

Repeat DUI suspect Crabtree jailed again

A man with a history of driving while intoxicated was arrested again early today in Spokane Valley.

James L. Crabtree, who was a Spokane County sheriff's deputy in the 1980s, was arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine and felony driving while under the influence after a traffic stop at East Mansfield Avenue and North Pines Road about 1:15 a.m.

Deputies say Crabtree, 49, appeared to be high on methamphetamine when they approached him. He was stopped for driving with an inoperable left headlight.

He failed field sobriety tests, and a sheriff's deputy found a baggie of methamphetamine in his pocket. Crabtree agreed to give a blood test after speaking to an attorney over the phone.

“Crabtree then spontaneously said that he was 'screwed' because he knew methamphetamine would be present during an analysis of his blood,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Crabtee also said there were other bags of methamphetamine in his car, along with a material used to cut the drug to make it weigh more, according to the affidvait.

Deputy Chuck Sciortino searched Crabtree's 2005 Buick this afternoon and found two one-eighth baggies of meth, a misdemeanor amount of marijuana “and what appeared to be a buy/owe list” regarding drug sales, Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release tonight.

Crabtee, who seriously injured sheriff's Lt. Earl Howerton in a cocaine-induced crash in 2001, was arrested last November on suspicion of drunken driving after motorists noticed him passing out at the wheel of his car. Police found an open can of Four Loko in the car, but his blood-alcohol level was under the legal limit for driving, and he hasn't been charged.

In January, Crabtree was assaulted in a home-invasion robbery in which two assailants demanded “dope and money,” according to court documents.

Crabtree remains in jail on $10,000 bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court today.

Child molester sentenced for child porn

A child molester was sentenced today to 12 years in federal prison for possession child pornography.

Donald D. Holloway, 51, of Valley, Wash., received a longer sentence because of previous conviction in Stevens County for second-degree and third-degree child molestation.

The level 3 sex offender was arrested in December 2009 after three computers containing child pornography were seized from his home 2900 block of Bakie Road in Valley, along with digital media and printed images.

Holloway was already on probation for a 2002 marijuana conviction. He also was convicted of indecent liberties in 1981.

“Repeat offenders have proven that they have no place in our neighborhoods,” Michael Ormsby, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said in a prepared statement.

The case was prosecuted under the federal Project Safe Childhood initiative.

Accordng to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Project Safe Childhood (PSC) Initiative has five major components:

• Integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases, and to identify and rescue child victims

• Participation of PSC partners in coordinated national initiatives

• Increased federal enforcement in child pornography and enticement cases

• Training of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents

• Community awareness and educational programs

To report these crimes, visit www.cybertipline.com or call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s hotline at 1-800-843-5678.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

Murder victim may have been tortured

A 19-year-old woman accused of helping murder a Cheney man told a friend she was with the victim the day of the murder and watched as her brother and another man beat him for hours. 

Breeanna C. Sims (left) said her brother, Justice E. Sims, 18, (right) believed Nicholas J. Thoreson, 22, had held her against her will, which led to an hours-long assault with a machete that ended with Thoreson dying of a gunshot to the head.

His charred body was found in the trunk of his burning 1987 Ford Thunderbird at Forker and Bigelow Gulch roads about 12:30 a.m. on April 13. A burned gasoline can was nearby.

  The Simses also told a friend that Thoreson was a “snitch” who had told on Breeanna Sims and that Justice Sims stabbed him several times before shooting in the head at an apartment occupied by Taylor J. Wolf, 20 (right). 

The details were included in probable cause affidavits unsealed Thursday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

April 14: Man in burned car was shot in head; suspect jailed

The Simses and Wolf are pictured in court, courtesy KHQ.

MLK bomb suspect not due in court today

UPDATE: Harpham's arraignment was moved to Monday.

Kevin William Harpham is to be arraigned on a hate crime charge in U.S. District Court today at 1:30 p.m.

A grand jury indicted the Martin Luther King, Jr. march bomb suspect Thursday.

Harpham, who has been in the Spokane County Jail since his arrest March 9, already has pleaded not guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and unauthorized possession of an unregistered explosive device.

The superseding indictment includes those charges, as well as the hate crime and a charge of use of a firearm (the bomb) in relation to a crime of violence (the hate crime).

The hate crime charge alleges Harpham, who recently turned 37, targeted the march “because of actual or perceived race, color and national origin of any person.”

Harpham faces up to life in prison if convicted.

His father, Cecil Harpham, has told The Spokesman-Review that his son was with him Jan. 17, the day the backpack bomb was discovered along the planned march route.

Read past coverage here

Ruling a setback for Steele’s defense

BOISE - Edgar Steele’s defense won’t be able to call two expert witnesses it lined up to question the authenticity of FBI tapes of Steele talking with Larry Fairfax about an alleged murder-for-hire plot against Steele’s wife, Cyndi, a federal judge in Boise ruled Thursday.

The testimony and expertise from one proposed expert was unreliable, U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill found, and the qualifications and testimony of the second were irrelevant, at least at this point.

Steele, a self-described “attorney for the damned” who’s represented clients including the Aryan Nations, goes to trial on Tuesday on four felony charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife and mother-in-law; he faces up to 30 years in prison.

Cyndi Steele’s lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, is the one who contacted the proposed experts and sent them the FBI tapes. “Mrs. Steele believes that the tapes were manipulated,” he said after the judge’s ruling Thursday. “The victim is totally supporting the accused. She believes in his innocence.”

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

Past coverage:

April 19: Evidence hearing set for Edgar Steele

April 13: Audio experts to testify at Steele trial

Cop killer attends biker bill signing?

Robert Christopher is possibly pictured fourth from left at the bill signing April 13.

OLYMPIA – One of the bikers gathered around the table as Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill outlawing “motorcycle profiling” may have been a member of an outlaw gang whose conviction for killing a Portland police officer in 1979 was overturned.

A photo of the bill-signing, first published in The Spokesman-Review, has law enforcement officials studying the faces and patches on some motorcyclists who applauded as the bill was signed, then posed with Gregoire and several legislators.

Read the rest of Jim Camden's story here.

Man’s 1974 traffic violation dismissed

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) — A Rhode Island man has finally settled a warrant issued for a traffic violation in Massachusetts nearly four decades ago.

Michael Young, of Warwick, R.I., asked a judge in Attleboro District Court on Tuesday to dismiss a driving to endanger charge issued in September 1974.

He was 23 at the time. The now 60-year-old told the court he found out about the warrant recently when he went to conduct business at the Rhode Island Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro reports that Judge Daniel O'Shea noted that half the people in court had not even been born at the time of the traffic violation. He granted Young's request, dismissing the case with payment of $100 in court costs.

Prosecutors agreed with the dismissal.

Eddie Ray Hall sentenced to 16 years

One of Spokane’s most notorious career criminals is headed to federal prison for 16 years.

Eddie Ray Hall, who turns 47 next month, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Spokane to 195 months in prison.

He cried as family members spoke of their support for him, and he read a letter to Judge Robert Whaley in which he apologized and said he’d changed.

He said he hopes to get help for post-traumatic stress disorder, which doctors have told him stems from a 1987 burglary in which he was shot. Hall said he also once saw a friend shot to death.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Jan. 26, 2011: Eddie Ray Hall pleads guilty

June 14, 1998: Eddie Ray Hall is Spokane's $1 million man

Edgar Steele trial drew volunteer jurors

Here's a report from Betsy Z. Russell:

BOISE - When a federal court prepared to select a jury in Coeur d’Alene last month to try former Aryan Nations lawyer Edgar Steele on charges including murder for hire, the court got a rare surprise: Some people showed up and tried to volunteer.

Steele now is scheduled to go to trial in Boise on Tuesday. At a hearing Wednesday on pre-trial issues, U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill said , “There was a rather unusual event in Coeur d’Alene - several individuals showed up and wanted to volunteer to be on the jury.”

Winmill said he’s never seen that happen in all his years of judicial service. “It was rather odd,” he said.

So when jury selection starts in Boise on Tuesday, the judge said, court personnel have been instructed to not admit any prospective volunteers.

Steele faces up to 30 years in federal prison on four felony charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

Prop. 8 judge speaking at GU tonight

The federal judge who ruled California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional will be speaking today at Gonzaga Law School.

Retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker will be discussing cameras in the courtroom in a lecture titled  “Hauptmann’s Ghost.”

“The lecture’s title refers to the media frenzy surrounding the trial of Richard Hauptmann, who was convicted of kidnapping and killing the Lindbergh baby in 1932,” according to a news release. “The subject of media in the courtroom is an ongoing controversy in the federal courts.”

The lecture, part of the annual Justin L. Quackenbush Lecture series, begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Barbieri Courtroom at the Gonzaga University School of Law.

Taco protester arraigned on gun charge

A Whitman County man who bragged online about being involved with racist taco-truck protests in Kootenai County pleaded not guilty to a federal gun charge today.

 A bail hearing for Jeremiah Daniel “J.D.” Hop, 29, is set for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno.

Hop, who is at the Spokane County Jail, was arrested Wednesday morning. He told Imbrogno he had “just a little stress, that's all,” when she asked if he suffered from mental conditions that might prohibit his understanding of the court proceedings.

Hop, who was convicted in California of third-degree rape of a child in 2005, is not a member of the Aryan Nations but is involved in racist circles.

Under the name WhitePhoenix, a man who identified himself as Hop wrote on the racist website Stormfront about his work protesting taco stands in the Coeur d’Alene area.

Read the rest of my story here.

Alert police sgt. nabs car theft suspect

An alert police sergeant followed a suspicious driver in Spokane Valley Wednesday night and discovered that the vehicle was stolen and the driver was wanted on warrants

Justin C. Luce, 31, 12500 E. Eighth Ave., was booked into Spokane County Jail on possession of a stolen vehicle, driving while license suspended and court warrants for his arrest for three previous misdemeanors.

Sgt. Matt Smith spotted a gray Dodge Durango near University Road and Valley Way about 10:30 p.m. and followed the vehicle as the driver circled slowly through the adjacent neighborhood.

When Smith approached the vehicle, he saw it had no rear license plate and stopped it.

It turned out the vehicle had been stolen earlier on Wednesday from Blue Chip Motors, and Luce was listed as the suspect, said Sgt. Dave Reagan in a news release.

Wash. farms named in trafficking suit

Kay Buck, left, executive director of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery Trafficking, speaks at a news conference Wednesday, April 20, 2011, to announce the filing of a human trafficking lawsuit that stretches across California , Hawaii, and Washington. Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC in the Los Angeles District, center, and Chanchanit Martorell, executive director for the Thai Community Development Center, listens in.

By AMY TAXIN, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal agency has filed lawsuits claiming Thai workers were physically abused and forced to live in rat-infested housing after being recruited by a California-based labor contractor to work on farms in Hawaii and Washington.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it was the largest human trafficking case to date pursued by the agency in the agriculture industry.

The two lawsuits filed Tuesday involved 200 workers in Washington state and Hawaii against Beverly Hills-based Global Horizons Inc. along with six farms in Hawaii and two in Eastern Washington.

“Global subjected the claimants to uninhabitable housing, insufficient food and kitchen facilities, inadequate pay, significant gaps in work, visa and certification violations, suspension, deportation, and/or physical violence,” the legal action states.

Global Horizons lured Thai workers to the U.S. between 2003 and 2007 with promises of steady jobs and agricultural visas, then confiscated their passports and threatened to deport them if they complained about conditions, commission officials said.

The workers lived in dilapidated, rat-infested rooms — where many didn't have beds — and were often threatened and physically abused in the fields, officials said. They also were isolated from non-Thai workers, who were believed to work under different conditions.

“Once they arrived here in the United States, the story of discrimination began,” Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC in Los Angeles, said Wednesday at a news conference announcing the legal action.

Global Horizons could not be immediately reached for comment because the phone numbers listed on its website were not working.

The EEOC is seeking back pay and up to $300,000 in damages for each of the workers. Attorneys said they could not estimate how much was owed in wages and expected the number of workers in the case would increase.

Global Horizons recruited Thai workers under the federal government's agricultural guest worker program, known as H-2A. The company subjected workers to intolerable conditions, while the farms turned a blind eye or failed to know about the practices of the contractor, the lawsuits state.

Chanchanit Martorell, executive director of the Thai Community Development Center, said her organization received its first report of abuse from a worker who escaped from a farm in Hawaii in 2003.

More workers came forward with similar claims about different farms that contracted with Global Horizons in different states, she said.

Workers said they had undertaken exorbitant debts in Thailand, with many using their family's land as collateral to guarantee recruitment fees they had to pay in the U.S.

Many workers were not given the jobs or wages they were promised and were forced to endure threats and abuse, Martorell said.

On one Hawaiian farm, workers were so hungry they ate the leaves of plants behind an abandoned schoolhouse where they slept, she said. Workers also were housed in a freight container, where wooden shelves were used as beds, she said.

Martorell said her organization helped workers file claims with the EEOC and secure a special visa intended for trafficking victims. About 1,100 Thai workers were brought into the country by Global Horizons, she said.

Attorney Clare Hanusz, who represents nearly 100 Thai laborers who claim discrimination, said the workers had to wait until now for action after making complaints about conditions that occurred years ago.

“It seems like now the EEOC is playing catch-up,” Hanusz said. “The way they're going about it, I don't really understand. But I'm glad they're doing something.”

Six Global Horizons recruiters and two Thai labor recruiters were previously indicted in federal court in Hawaii on charges of luring 600 workers from Thailand with promises of lucrative jobs before confiscating their passports and failing to honor their labor contracts.

The indictment said workers paid between $9,000 and $26,500 in recruitment fees and worked in a number of states, including Mississippi and Utah.

Supervisors threatened to send the workers back to Thailand when they complained about a lack of work and poor living conditions, knowing many would be afraid to return because of the substantial debts incurred to finance the trip, court papers said.

Defendants cited in the latest EEOC lawsuits include Captain Cook Coffee Co., Del Monte Fresh Produce, Kauai Coffee Co., Kelena Farms Inc., Mac Farms of Hawaii and Maui Pineapple Co., all in Hawaii, along with Valley Fruit Orchards of Wapato, Wash., and Green Acre Farms of Harrah, Wash.

Messages left at three of the Hawaii farms seeking comment were not immediately returned. Del Monte said it would have a statement later in the day. Captain Cook Coffee Co. said it had not yet reviewed the suit. It was not immediately possible to reach Kelena Farms. John Verbrugge of Valley Fruit and Jim Morford of Green Acre Farms did not immediately return telephone messages.

Also on Wednesday, the EEOC announced it had filed a lawsuit in Mississippi against marine services company Signal International alleging 500 Indian welders and pipe-fitters faced discrimination and substandard living conditions in Mississippi and Texas. Signal officials declined to comment on pending litigation.

The suits came amid a push at the EEOC to focus on human trafficking cases.

___

Associated Press writer Mark Niesse contributed to this report from Honolulu. Shannon Dininny contributed to this report from Yakima, Wash.

Tips sought on unregistered sex offender

UPDATE: Morton was arrested on April 22.

A Spokane sex offender is wanted on a felony warrant for failure to register. 

 Damon Sean Morton, 20, was convicted of indecent liberties with force in Spokane County in 2006.

He was registered at an address on South Murphy Road in Cheney but moved out in February without notifying authorities.

A $25,000 warrant for failing to register as a sex offender was issued April 12.

Morton is 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest him.  Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Spokane man accused of child rape

A Spokane man is accused of raping a young girl

Richard Lee Syers, 40, was arrested on charges of first-degree child molestation and first-degree child rape on Tuesday.

He's accused of assaulting the girl last month. Syers is a friend of the alleged victim's mother.

The girl told police her assailant had large fingers. Syers matches the description - he's 5-foot-11 and 385 pounds.

He's expected in Superior Court today after refusing to go on Wednesday.

Prostitute attacked in torture chamber

SEATTLE (AP) — A text message helped save a prostitute who was chained and tortured for hours — including by electrical shock — in a room with 8-inch-thick walls, chains, ropes and paddles, police said.

Authorities allege that in addition to repeatedly shocking the 24-year-old woman, John Joseph Hauff Jr. struck her with a paddle, used a catheter to force liquid into her bladder and assaulted her with a gynecological instrument.

Hauff stopped when the woman told him that she had texted his car’s license plate number to her boyfriend before entering the man’s home, and asked him to call police if she wasn’t heard from by midnight, according to a probable cause statement.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

Kirkpatrick 5-year tenure nears end

When Anne Kirkpatrick was interviewed to be Spokane’s police chief, she was asked how long the city could expect her to stay.

Her answer was frank: about five years. Nearly five years later, that position hasn’t changed.

Kirkpatrick confirmed Tuesday that she has suggested Mayor Mary Verner start thinking about finding a replacement.

Kirkpatrick, however, stressed that she hasn’t picked a departure date and would be open to serving during a transition “if I’m in the good graces of the city, the department and the community.

“We need to start looking at 2012 and beyond,” Kirkpatrick said. “I plan to run hard through the finish line, wherever it is.”

Read the rest of Jon Brunt's story here.

Washington is 10th least-violent state

Washington is one of the most peaceful states in the nation, according to a new study that examined various factors such as homicide and violent crime rates. Idaho ranked 16th.

The Institute for Economics and Peace, a nonpartisan think tank, examines violence from an economic standpoint, publishing the U.S. Peace Index in hopes that successful state models can be emulated.

“Violence and incarceration create large costs for government and the economy,” the study notes. “This study estimates that if the U.S. had similar levels of peacefulness to Canada, the conservative economic effect on the U.S. economy would be $361 billion per annum.”

In addition to violent crime rates, the study examined rates of incaraceration, numbers of law enforcement officers per capita, and availability of small arms.

“This study does not make any moral or value judgments about the appropriate levels of any of the indicators,” the authors wrote. “It is acknowledged that without police, higher levels of crime would exist and that it is necessary to incarcerate individuals who pose a danger to the rest of society. However some societies are more peaceful than others and by understanding the societal structures and attitudes associated with these societies a more enlightened public policy debate will ensue.”

Hillyard police shooting ruled justified

Two Spokane police officers were justified when they shot a man who was pointing a gun at another man outside a Hillyard bar last December, the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office said Tuesday. 

Cpl. Zachary Storment and Officer Christopher Douville will not be charged for the shooting, which killed Jeremy Groom, 34, on Dec. 4. 

Storment and Douville arrived outside the Special K Tavern, 3817 N. Market St., to see Groom pointing a gun at a man who turned out to be his best friend.

Douville ordered Groom to drop his pistol and shot him when he did not, Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release Tuesday. Reagan is the spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, which led the investigation.

Storment said he didn’t believe he had time to order Groom to drop the gun. He feared Groom would shoot the other man instead of dropping the gun, so he also shot Groom, Reagan said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 6: Friends question Hillyard police shooting

Man, woman on trial for fatal ‘09 stabbing

Two accused killers are on trial in Spokane County Superior Court this week for a July 2009 stabbing death.

Lawyers for Maggie Mae Tyler, 26, (pictured) and Matthew M. Nedeau, 26, say the two acted in self defense during the fight that killed Vitaly M. Shevchuk, 24.

Shevchuk died from a stab wound to the neck, which Nedeau's lawyer, John Stine, said was inflicted by Tyler after she saw Shevchuk readying to assault Nedeau with an iron pipe.

But Deputy Prosecutor Tom Treppiedi, who is handling the case with Deputy Prosecutor Eugene Cruz, said Tyler and Nedeau “continually escalated their aggression toward Vitaly Shevchuk.”

He said evidence will show that Shevchuk was trying to retreat from the fight at East 5th Avenue and South Greene Street July 6.

Shevchuk's friend Peggy Hill was first to testify after opening statements Tuesday afternoon. Also expected to testify is Savannah Frye, who was in the car with Tyler and Nedeau at the time of the confrontation.

Nathan Gilstrap also was with the group, but he was shot to death last summer. His murder still is unsolved.

Hill and Shevchuk were walking to Fred Meyer to buy cigarettes when the suspects drove by in a red Toyota, and Shevchuk yelled something at them. The car turned around, and the fight ensued. Shevchuk was stabbed in the back, then hurled a rock through the car's back window, according to testimony.

He was then stabbed in the neck and died at a hospital the next day. Judge Kathleen O'Connor is presiding over the trial. Kari Reardon is representing Tyler.

Tyler was featured in the Discovery Channel's “Behind Bars” episode filmed at the Spokane County Jail. Her relationship with her inmate boyfriend was profiled in what the show's announcer said proves “that love in lock down is still possible.”

Past coverage:

July 23, 2009: Woman arrested for second-degree murder

Evidence hearing set for Edgar Steele

A judge will review evidence in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire case at a hearing Wednesday in Boise.

Federal prosecutors are concerned about reports from two defense experts that they say are repetitive and lack the substance needed to be admitted at trial, which is set to begin with jury selection next Tuesday in Boise. One report is a “copy and paste” of the other, prosecutors say.

Trial was to begin March 7, but prosecutors wanted defense expert Dr. George Papcun excluded from trial, and U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said he couldn't issue a ruling then. Prosecutors then joined in the defense motion to continue trial, leading to the delay.

Winmill said he would review Papcun's report at the evidence hearing. On March 17, defense filed an expert notice for Dennis Walsh, but prosecutors say Walsh's report is identical to Papcun's report. They've asked for Walsh's testimony to be excluded or for him to provide “a more full report,” accoridng to court documents.

Winmill is to consider those issues on Wednesday.

In a memorandum filed Monday, prosecutors cited case law that says courts “may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered” and exclude testimony.

They said neither Papcun nor Walsh submitted reports that indicate their testimony will be based on sufficient facts or reliable principals.

“Interestingly, the opinion provided in George Papcun's report seems to have been “cut and pasted” into Dennis Walsh's report verbatim,” according to the memo.

The reports say the recordings, which investigators say show Steele discussing the murder plot with hitman-turned-FBI-informant Larry Fairfax, are unreliable and “do not accurately reflect the sounds and conversations that actually occurred.”

But prosecutors say they do not offer details.

“The experts unsupported opinion that the voices on the recordings are dubbed or do not belong to Steele is designed to confuse the jury,” accoridng to the memo.

Steele's lawyers, Gary Amendola and Robert McAllister, were not immediately available for comment. 

Steele was to undergo a mental health examination last week in Boise at the request of prosecutors.

His wife, Cyndi Steele (left), said he will not be presenting an insanity defense, rather, Steele's lawyers will argue that he was under the influence of medication and could have been easily influenced and manipulated by Fairfax. 

Those expected to testify for the defense include Daryl James Hollingsworth (right), a Bonner County Jail inmate who recently pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

Hollingsworth may have had contact with Steele and/or Fairfax while in jail.

Past coverage:

April 13: Audio experts to testify at Steele trial

June 20, 2010: Arrest puts Steele back in public eye

Read more past coverage here.

$1 mil. bond for sibling murder suspects

Two teenage siblings arrested in the gunshot slaying of a Spokane man remain jailed on $1 million bond after appearing in court Monday.

 Breeanna C. Sims, 19 (left), and Justice E. Sims (right), 18, face charges of first-degree murder, second-degree arson, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree rendering criminal assistance for the death of 22-year-old Nicholas J. Thoreson, who was found shot to death April 13 in the burning trunk of his 1987 Ford Thunderbird at Forker and Bigelow Gulch roads.

  Taylor J. Wolf, 20, who was arrested 22 hours after Thoreson's body was found, is jailed on a second-degree murder charge but expected to soon face the same charges as the Sims, authorities say.

The Simses and Wolf are pictured in court, courtesy KHQ.

Breeanna Sims was arrested Friday afgter they followed her to Forker and Bigelow Gluch, where she was looking for evidence. A sheriff's dog led detectives to a .38 caliber pistol and a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun. The pistol is believed to have been used to kill Thoreson.

Justice Sims was arrested after leaving his apartment in north Spokane, where detectives had set up surveillance. He flashed a hand sign at supporters before being led out of District Court after his first appearance Monday.

No motive for the slaying has been released. Wolf has ties to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and worked briefly at Fessco Fleet & Marine with the gang's enforcer, Ricky Jenks, who is jailed on federal guns charges. Investigators haven't said if Thoreson's murder is related to the Hells Angels.

Affidavits detailing the case remain sealed, though Spokane County sheriff's Sgt. Dave Reagan said there are no other suspects. A status conference for the case is set for April 21.

Thoreson was the father of an 11-month-old baby. Friends say he knew Wolf through a job corps program.

Thoreson's mother, girlfriend and other friends attended Monday's hearing but declined comment.

April 14: Man in burned car was shot in the head; suspect jailed
  

More details released in Plummer murder

Four suspects in the slaying of a man in Plummer, Idaho, after a birthday party at a Spokane bar have waived extradition and are charged with first-degree murder.

Jody A. Miller (left) was celebrating his 41st birthday with his wife, Kelly A. Miller, her son, Irael S. Kennedy, 21; and Stephen R. Milton, 22, when a dispute with Antowyn D. Swiney, 37, (right) broke out at a downtown Spokane bar, police said. 

Swiney fled to tribal housing in Plummer with two others, but the four suspects followed, and Swiney was stabbed to death early Sunday morning, said Benewah County Prosecutor Douglas Payne.

Payne said Monday that each suspect should arrive in Benewah County this week after waiving extradition from Spokane, where they’ve been held at the jail since their arrests Sunday night.

The murder case is Benewah County's third in 17 years.

Read the rest of my story here.

Man gets 6 months for assisting suicide

A Spokane man was sentenced today to six months in jail for his role in the suicide of a longtime friend who jumped off the Sunset Bridge.

Melvin Alephus Gillespie, 41, wept as he apologized to the family of William P. Pickard, (pictured) who died June 30 after jumping from the bridge above High Bridge Park. Gillespie helped bind Pickard with a cord to make the death look like a homicide.

“I feel like I failed Billy, I failed God, and I failed his family,” Gillespie said today. “I’m just ashamed more than anything.”

Read the rest of my story here.

 Past coverage:

Feb. 1: Man accused of assisting in Sunset Bridge suicide

Aug. 11: Man was bound before slaying

Aug. 7: Victim's family, friends hold vigil below bridge

July 1: Police find dead man’s car, hope for clues

Woman’s beating leads to man’s arrest

A Post Falls woman is in critical condition at Kootenai Medical Center after being hit on the head in what police believe was an act of domestic violence.

Officers responding to a disturbance at 2595 N. Bradley Drive today discovered the woman unconscious and bleeding in the front hallway.

William F. Gardner III, 53, (pictured) was arrested by Post Falls Police and booked into the Kootenai County Jail on suspicion of aggravated battery. He is being held on a $500,000 bond.

Police ask that anyone with information about the altercation contact Post Falls Police Department at (208) 773-3517 or the tip line at (208) 777-COPS.
  

CdA rape suspect may be Oregon bound

A rape suspect wanted by Coeur d'Alene police may be traveling to Florence, Ore., authorities announced today.

Scott Patrick Giordano, 30, was reported to be in a 1973 GMC truck, but police located that vehicle, and the owner said he gave Giordano a ride but never let him borrow the truck.

Giordano may be with his girlfriend, Grace Emery, and their three-month-old baby. He is accused of raping a 17-year-old girl last Wednesday at a home in the 800 block of Mullan Avenue.

The victim said she was sleeping when the attack occurred, according to a police report.

Giordano is a friend of her family, police said. He is from Arizona but has a criminal history in Kootenai County dating back to 1999.

Anyone with information on his location is asked to call Coeur d'Alene police at (208) 769-2320.

Reward for tips in vacant home burglaries

A $1,500 reward is being offered for tips that solve a burglary ring that preys on vacant homes.

Crime Stoppers already had offered a reward for tips that help solve 23 burglaries in Spokane Valley in which kitchen appliances were stolen from vacant homes.

Now the Spokane Association of Realtors has pitched in to increase the amount of cash available for helpful tipsters.

Police say the thief first steals the real estate lock box from the front door of the vacant homes that contains the key, then returns with a truck to steal ovens, stoves and refrigerators.

“The boxes are designed to be difficult to break open, so the thief does that elsewhere,” according to a February Crime Stoppers news release.

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

3 men charged in burglary, gun thefts

Three Spokane men have been charged with a series of felonies for their alleged roles in firearm thefts last December.

Steven Charles Corkery, Jr., 27, is accused of burglarizing a home in the 4400 block of East 16th on Dec. 6, then pawning stolen property, including two firearms.

Investigators believe Corkery and his brother, Thomas J. Corkery, 29, burglarized the home and were driven from the scene by Lucky Joe Guzman, 27.

Steven Corkery, who has felony convictions for theft and malicious mischief that prohibit him from possessing firearms, then pawned a stolen shotgun and bow, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Steven Corkery also is accused of pawning a .357 Magnum revolver that had been stolen from a home n the 13500 block of North Muzzy Road on Nov. 23.

He appeared in Superior Court Friday on charges of residential burglary, possession of a stolen firearm, second-degree theft, two counts of theft of a firearm and two counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Guzman and Thomas Corkery, who also has a felony conviction for theft, are charged with second-degree theft, residential burglary and two counts of a theft of a firearm.

Man gets 21 months for robbing store

A man who robbed the convenience store he frequented in downtown Spokane was sentenced recently to 21 months in prison.

Zachariah T. Puckett, 28, had been out of jail on $5,000 bond since just after he pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in March. He was booked back in Friday to await transport to prison.

A sweatshirt worn during the robbery at Divine food mart and gas station, 1428 W. 2nd Ave., helped identify Puckett, who was armed with a knife, after police spotted his girlfriend wearing it at their apartment complex at 151 S. Adams St.

Puckett and his girlfriend were regular customers at the store. (Disclaimer: So am I.)

Gov. says she won’t sign medical pot bill

SEATTLE (AP) — Gov. Chris Gregoire says she won't sign legislation to create licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington state after the Justice Department warned it could result in a federal crackdown.

The two U.S. attorneys in the state told Gregoire in a letter Thursday that bills passed by the Washington House and Senate would permit large-scale marijuana growing and distribution systems in violation of federal law. They warned that growers, sellers, landlords and even state employees who license such operations could face prosecution.

Gregoire says there's no way she can sign a law that would open state employees to federal prosecution. But she says there are problems with the state's medical marijuana law that make it difficult for sick people to get the drug, and she'll cooperate with lawmakers to address those problems.

Past coverage:

April 7: Spokane medical marijuana dispenaries on federal notice

Sex offender registers in Colville

Authorities are warning of a sex offender considered likely to reoffend who recently registered at an address in Colville.

Clifford T. Morton, who was born in 1985, is living in the 1100 block of Basin Road, the Stevens County Sheriff's Office said today.

Morton, a level 3 sex offender, was convicted in Whatcom County of third-degree rape of a child in 2004 and second-degree assault and second-degree burglary in 2006.

He is not wanted by law enforcement, but the sheriff's office wants people to be aware of his presence.

“This notification is not intended to increase fear,” the sheriff's office said in a news release. “Rather, it is our belief that an informed public is a safer public.”

Burned body in car ID’d; suspect arrested

A 20-year-old Spokane man with a juvenile criminal record and a February conviction for domestic violence has been arrested in connection with a burned body discovered in the trunk of a car.

 Taylor James Wolf, 20, is accused in the gunshot slaying of Nicholas James Thoreson, 22, who authorities say died of a gunshot wound to the head before his body was burned in the trunk of a Ford Thunderbird.

Wolf was arrested on a second-degree murder charge as he tried to leave his apartment at 13615 E. Trent Ave. in a taxi late Wednesday.

He appeared in Spokane County District Court on Thursday. Judge Donna Wilson sealed a probable cause affidavit supporting his arrest at the request of police and prosecutors, who cited an ongoing investigation.

Friends and other sources say Wolf has ties to the outlaw motorcycle gang the Hells Angels.

Read the rest of my story here.

Marijuana theft leads to shotgun threat

A Spokane man is accused of pointing a loaded shotgun at a man in retaliation for a marijuana theft.

Steven T. Casados, 21, is jailed on a first-degree assault charge after witnesses told police he arrived at an apartment in the 900 block of East Eighth Avenue armed with a shotgun Tuesday about 8:15 p.m.

Casados reportedly kept his finger on the trigger when he approached the alleged thief's brother, police said. Casados told the man his brother had “robbed him of a quarter pound of weed,” police say.

One woman said she heard Casados say “I'm not playing; this is serious” and heard a gunshot “within a couple of seconds” of Casados leaving the apartment, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Casados also is accused of breaking an apartment window with a rock about a week ago.

He told police the broken window  was “a forewarning for him to pay me back,” according to the affidavit.

Casados' bond was set at $50,000 at his first appearance Thursday before Superior Court Judge Michael Price.

Steve Tucker makes public appearance

“I'm 4,” says Aidan Cameron to Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick at the YWCA Thursday. Kirkpatrick, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and County Prosecutor Steve Tucker read to children at the YWCA to support continued federal and state funding for early childhood programs.

Education experts describe children as sponges of learning, soaking up language and information from those around them.

 “They, like adults, learn languages best in an environment where learning enhances their self-esteem and reinforces their sense of who they are and who they are becoming,” according to the International Children's Education.

A revelation Thursday by largely inaccessible Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker could serve as Exhibit A in that theory.

Tucker, who joined Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich to support early childhood learning programs at the YMCA, shared a humorous vignette about his 3-year-old grandson's impressive vocabulary, including the toddler's unprompted uttering of this all-too-familiar phrase: “I am not availabe to answer that question at this time.”

Coeur d’Alene police seek rape suspect

Coeur d’Alene police are looking for a 30-year-old man suspected of raping a 17-year-old girl.

 Scott Patrick Giordano may be with his girlfriend, Grace Emery, and their three-month-old baby, police said today.

Giordano is accused of raping the girl early Wednesday at a home in the 800 block of Mullan Avenue.

The victim said she was sleeping when the attack occurred, according to a police report.

Giordano is a friend of her family, police said. He is from Arizona but has a criminal history in Kootenai County dating back to 1999. He may be driving a red pickup with a canopy.

Anyone with information on Giordano’s location is asked to call Coeur d’Alene police at (208) 769-2320.

Ohio cops cancel hundreds of tickets

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — Motorists are off the hook for more than 900 speeding tickets automatically issued by a mobile police camera in southwest Ohio.

The camera had been stationed in a park in Hamilton on April 2 at the same time a youth soccer tournament, the Mid-American Soccer Classic, was being held.

Police Chief Neil Ferdelman tells The JournalNews of Hamilton that he canceled the tickets because of the tournament, which he says drew many out-of-towners who were unaware the camera was in use.

The tournament's director says there would have been consequences for next year's event if Hamilton had decided to pursue the tickets.

At $95 each, the 900 tickets would have totaled more than $86,000. The chief says 70 of the tickets were mailed. Those motorists have been sent letters telling them: never mind.

Woman convicted in Craigslist killing

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A jury has convicted a woman for her role in a fatal home-invasion robbery in Washington state that was linked to an Internet ad for a diamond ring.

The trial of 22-year-old Amanda Knight went to the Pierce County jury Wednesday. Jurors returned the guilty verdict Thursday on charges of murder, robbery and assault.

Knight's lawyer argued Knight was forced to participate by Kiyoshi Higashi, who already has been convicted of shooting Jim Sanders in front of his family last April at his Edgewood home. Higashi was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
 
The News Tribune reports two other men, Clabon Berniard and Joshua Reese, have pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges and await trial.
 
Detectives allege the four went to Sanders' home posing as customers who wanted to buy a diamond ring that Sanders posted for sale on Craigslist.

Suspected serial burglar pleads innocent

A felon accused of stealing the gun used in a gang-related murder last year has been charged with five burglaries.

 Robert J. Frates, 27, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to four counts of felony second-degree burglary and one count of attempted second-degree burglary.

He's accused of breaking into Sunny Buns Tanning, 2821 E. 27th Av., on March 15, Smart Smoke, 12924 W. Sunset Highway, Metro Sign and Banner, 1403 N. Greene, and another building in Airway Heights on March 25.

He's also charged with attempted-second-degree burglary for a break-in March 26 at Super Sonic Blind Cleaners, 3612 E. Broadway Ave.

Police arrested Frates that day after an officer followed him using a GPS tracker affixed to Frates' Bronco.

Last June, Frates told police he'd to traded four stolen firearms to a man for $600. One of the guns was the Ruger mini 30, which was used to kill John S. Williams. Edward L. “TD” Thomas is scheduled to stand trial June 20 for Williams' murder.

Past coverage:

April 1: Police link burglary suspect to gun used in gang slaying

Dec. 14: Man arrested in sports card crime spree

Man indicted on child porn charges

A Spokane Valley man caught with child pornography last fall has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Cory R. Greer pleaded not guilty Monday to transportation of child pornography, receipt of child pornography, and a forfeiture calling for him to give up a laptop computer seizure from his home last fall.

Spokane County sheriff's investigators searched Greer's apartment at 19221 E. Buckeye Ave. on Oct. 12.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children notified them of child pornography was being sent through email coming from a local Internet Protocol address; Deputy Damon Simmons traced the address to Greer, who was 28 at the time of the search.

Greer “was cooperative and not considered a threat to the community” and was not arrested.

He was allowed to remain out of custody after his arraignment but is on home detention.

Accused would-be killer jailed, again

A suspect in a stabbing that left a man with a cut on his throat from ear to ear is back in jail after detectives say he tried to intimidate witnesses in the case.

 Izaac Jermel Innes, who is on probation for second-degree murder, called several people after his arrested and asked them to try to persuade witnesses to change their stories, according to an affidavit filed Tuesday.

Innes, who was free on $50,000 bond, was arrested Tuesday night and appeared in Superior Court on Wednesday, where Judge Michael Price set his new bail at $100,000 for intimidating a witness and two counts of tampering with a witness.

Innes, a self-proclaimed member of the Deuce Avenue Crips, also pleaded not guilty Wednesday to attempted first-degree murder for the alleged incident outside a party in the 12700 block of East 31st Ave. April 2.

Innes, 30, was released from prison in January after serving time for a second-degree murder conviction from 2003.

Past coverage:

April 8: Convicted killer charged w/ attempted murder

Shupe avoids prison in medical pot case

Spokane medical marijuana dealer Scott Q. Shupe will avoid prison on drug-trafficking charges.

  “In this case it was clear you didn’t intend to break the law, which is in a state of flux as we speak,” Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen said during a Tuesday sentencing hearing. “But the jury found you guilty. That’s what I’m stuck with.”

Eitzen imposed the lowest possible jail term under the state’s standard sentencing guidelines, which is six months given Shupe’s criminal history, but then delayed the punishment if Shupe appeals and comes up with a $5,000 bond.

He also was ordered to avoid selling drugs to anyone.

“I think it’s funny that he may be the only person convicted for a dispensary, which may be legal in a week,” said defense attorney Frank Cikutovich, referring to efforts in Olympia to clarify the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law.

“I think it was a complete waste of resources as far as the county is concerned.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Cops: Missing woman may have drowned

Investigators believe a Kamiah, Idaho, woman missing since April 1 may have drowned in the Clearwater River.

They're not sure if Lavina Hietala's disappearance was the result of foul play and are asking for information on the activities of her grandson, Justin M. Hietala, from March 28 to April 1.

The man has not been named a suspect. He remains in the Lewis County Jail on burglary charges.  

Detectives say Justin Hietala, 27, did not provide “any information concerning his grandmother's whereabouts.

Detectives developed information indicating the 72-year-old woman likely ended up in the river, but police declined to elaborate.

“Due to the potential of her being in the Clearwater River, search efforts have been scaled down,” accoridng to a news release from the Idaho State Police. “Because of the low water temperature and high water flows it is unlikely Lavina could survive being in the river since April 1. ”

Anyone with information on Justin Hietala's activities is asked to call ISP Lt. Charlie Spencer at (208) 799-5020.

Charge upgraded in Wenatchee murder

WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) — The charge against a Wenatchee man accused of killing a 17-year-old girl has been upgraded to first-degree murder. 

Chelan County Prosecutor Gary Riesen amended the charge Tuesday against Christopher Scott Wilson.

He has been held since October on a second-degree murder charge. 

The Wenatchee World reports the prosecutor believes there's enough evidence to prove the February 2010 killing of Mackenzie Cowell was premeditated.

The Wenatchee High School student was beaten, strangled and stabbed. If convicted of the new charge, the 30-year-old Wilson would face a longer sentence of 20-to-26 years in prison.

Past coverage:

Dec. 16: 2nd arrest in slaying of Wenatchee teen

Audio experts to testify at Steele trial

A forensic audio examiner with the FBI and a private forensic consultant are expected to be called as prosecution witnesses at Edgar Steele's trial.

David Snyder works for the FBI in Quantico, Va., and has reviewed reports by defense experts regarding the authenticity of audio recordings that reportedly show Steele discussing a plot to murder his wife with hitman-turned FBI informant Larry Fairfax. 

Snyder has been conducting tests on the records and the cording device to rebut defense claims that the recordings are manufactured.

His supervisor, Kenneth Marr, who reviewed and approved Snyder's work, is also listed as a witness in case Snyder can't travel to the trial, which is scheduled to begin with jury selection April 26 in Boise.

Dr. Gina Richardson, of Arlington, Va., also reviewed the recording and prepared transcripts.

“She determined the recordings are true and valid representations of the words spoken by the parties to the conversation,” according court documents filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. “Her unique expertise may be represented to rebut any claims of Dr. George Papcun or Dennis Walsh that the recordings do not represent a true and valid representation of reality or that they do not accurately reflect the sounds and conversations that actually occurred.”

Richardson, who earned a doctorate in linguistics from Georgetown University, has been a forensic consultant since 1989.

Steele was to undergo a mental health examination last week in Boise at the request of prosecutors.

His wife, Cyndi Steele, said he will not be presenting an insanity defense, rather, Steele's lawyers will argue that he was under the influence of medication and could have been easily influenced and manipulated by Fairfax.

Those expected to testify for the defense include Daryl James Hollingsworth, a Bonner County Jail inmate who recently pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

Hollingsworth may have had contact with Steele and/or Fairfax while in jail.

Read past coverage here.

Probe continues into Sh***y Goulsby

Police continue their investigation into Rai A. “Sh***y” Goulsby this week, serving search warrant on his car and laptop computer.

Goulsby, 45, was arrested last week on a leading organized crime charge for allegedly directing a check forgery ring.

Goulsby reportedly told police he manufactured checks for others to cash and used the money “to fund a drug habit,” according to court documents.

Goulsby said a computer and printer he used to make the checks were located in his 2010 Chevrolet Malibu.

Spokane County sheriff's Detective Dean Meyer, a member of a federal task force, search the Malibu on Monday with a Secret Service agent and seized the computer and printer, as well as a counterfeit checks, check stocks, file folders, cell phones and marijuana.

Meyer gave the computer to a digital forensic specialist for examination.

Goulsby has 27 felony convictions in Washington, several of which are for crimes of deception, according to search warrants.

Eerie similarities in NY, Calif. cold cases

Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian, at podium, gives a statement during a press conference on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 in San Rafael, Calif., regarding the arrest of Joseph Naso of Reno, Nev. Naso, 77, is accused of murdering four women whose bodies were found across Northern California over two decades. (AP Photo/Independent Journal, Alan Dep)

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) — A Nevada man's arrest in four cold-case deaths in California has authorities scrambling to determine whether he's connected to killings in other states, including the notorious “Double Initial Murders” of three girls in upstate New York in the early 1970s.

 Joseph Naso of Reno, Nev., (pictured) was being held Tuesday on suspicion of murder in the deaths of four women whose bodies were found across Northern California from 1977 to 1994.

Like the “Double Initial” case, all four women had matching initials for their first and last names. Another eerie similarity: One of the California victims and one of the New York victims shared the same name — Carmen Colon.

Authorities also said Naso, 77, once lived in the Rochester area and traveled between there and the West in the early 1970s.

New York state police are looking into whether there's a connection between Naso and the “Double Initial” case, in which three girls were raped and strangled and their bodies dumped in the Rochester, N.Y., area, Trooper Mark O'Donnell said Tuesday.

But they have so far found no evidence linking him to the case, and a DNA sample taken from one of the New York victims did not match Naso, O'Donnell said. There also are differences in the facts of the cases, including the victims' ages; the California victims were women, while the New York victims were a 10-year-old and two 11-year-olds.

Still, New York authorities say they're not ready to eliminate Naso as a suspect, and they hope area residents who might know him will be able to help, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported.

Naso was arrested in South Lake Tahoe late Monday after being released from El Dorado County Jail, where he was serving time on an unrelated probation violation. Authorities said he was on probation for a 2009 grocery store theft in California when a random search of his Reno, Nev., home in April 2010 turned up guns and ammunition.

The search also uncovered evidence that helped link him to the Northern California killings, said Nevada authorities, who soon after launched a task force to look into cold cases possibly connected to Naso.

Investigators say Naso was a professional photographer who often traveled the country for work and may have killed in other states.

“We think there are others out there we haven't discovered yet,” Chris Perry, acting director of the Nevada Department of Public Safety, told reporters Tuesday. “Typically when you are talking about a person who has killed more than once, this doesn't stop.”

Naso was being held without bail Tuesday in Marin County. Through guards, he declined a request from The Associated Press for a jailhouse interview.

Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian obtained permission from other jurisdictions to try all four of the Northern California cases. He said he planned to seek the death penalty against Naso, who's scheduled for arraignment Wednesday on four counts of murder with special circumstances.

The first victim was Roxene Roggasch, whose body was found in Fairfax in Marin County in 1977, Berberian said. According to news archives, investigators interviewed a prostitute at the time who claimed her pimp kidnapped, tortured and killed the 18-year-old Roggasch, though no one was ever arrested in the case.

The second victim was Carmen Colon, whose body was found near Port Costa in Contra Costa County a year later, Berberian said.

Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya were separately found dead in Yuba County in 1993 and 1994 respectively, the prosecutor said.

Tafoya was 31 when she was killed, according to death records. Parsons was a 38-year-old waitress whose body was found on a Marysville road, according to news archives.

Nevada and California authorities declined to release any details about the victims or their cases out of concern that it would compromise the ongoing investigation.

Naso's criminal history dates back to 1955 and his convictions are mostly related to petty thefts, authorities said.

Public records show Naso, a New York native, has listed California addresses in Sacramento, Piedmont, Oakland, San Francisco and Yuba City, as well as a Minneapolis address in the past. Investigators believe he moved to Reno in the mid-1990s, Perry said.

“The person has traveled around the country, has been engaged with law enforcement across the country, so we suspect — and have to suspect — that any cases that may emerge in the future have a rather long potential list of states that may been impacted,” said Washoe County, Nev., Sheriff Mike Haley, who helped launch the task force.

Suspect too drunk to proceed w/ court

A Nespelem man accused of spitting in a Spokane police officer's face while drunk was back in court today after a judge deemed him too intoxicated to proceed with a hearing last week.

Jack Vincent, a.k.a. Turner, who turned 40 on Monday, was “incredibly inebriated” when he spit in the face of Officer Aaron Kirby after Kirby responded to a call of a disorderly person at 907 W. 3rd Ave., on Thursday, Superior Court Judge Michael Price said today.

Most of the saliva did not hit Kirby “but droplets hit him in the face and the front of his uniform,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Vincent faces a third-degree assault charge for the alleged saliva. Police also wanted him charged with disorderly conduct for swearing at them, but prosecutors say they are not pursuing that charge.

Vincent appeared in Spokane County Superior Court on Friday, but was “frankly, under the influence, and we just couldn't continue with the hearing,” Price said today.

Vincent's bond was set at $1,000 today.

Shupe, friends protest before sentencing

Scott Shupe and other medical marijuana dispensary supporters are protesting outside the Spokane County Courthouse right now.

 They'll be there until at least 4 p.m., when Judge Tari Eitzen is to sentence Shupe, 56, on three felony drug charges.

A jury convicted him last month in the first criminal case brought against a commercial dispensary owner in Washington.

Shupe, who has a previous felony conviction for a marijuana grow discovered at his home in 2006, said he hopes to avoid prison time. He still faces felony drug charges in Oregon related to a 2009 arrest.

It's been a big month for medical marijuana in Washington.

The state House passed a bill Monday that sets up a regularity system for dispensaries, and the U.S. Attorney's Office announced last week that dispensary operators and their landlords face federal prosecution if they do not shut down.

Most dispensaries remain open, and no law enforcement action has been reported.

Medical pot bill passes w/o pizza clause

OLYMPIA – Rules for growing, processing and selling medical marijuana passed the Washington state House of Representatives after heated debate Monday on whether the proposed law has enough safeguards to prevent sales to children.

Read the rest of Jim Camden's story here.

The bill passed the House without an amendment proposed as a joke by Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City (pictured).

 The amendment would require the state to reimburse medical marijuana patients for the cost of pizza they ate while high on legal pot.

The Department of Health would reimburse the patient “no later than five business days after the patient submits a receipt for the pizza,” according to the amendment, which Anderson withdrew on Monday.

The department would not reimburse for delivery charges, tips or more than three toppings.

“For purposes of this section, “pizza” means a pie with a bread crust topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and various toppings,” according to the amendment. “”Pizza” includes Chicago style deep dish, New York style thin crust, and stuffed crust.”

Some advocates criticized the amendment has insensitive to medical cannabis patients; others found it humorous.

Driver loses 100 gals. of fuel in Valley

Police are looking for a driver who lost as much as 100 gallons of diesel fuel on a busy Spokane Valley road this morning.

Fuel began spilling from a vehicle in the southbound lanes of 2400 North Sullivan Road just before 9:25 a.m.

The trail of diesel continued south and into the left turn lane for Euclid Avenue, then about two blocks eastbound on Euclid.

Police believe the driver stopped there to fix the leak but did not report the spill to police “leaving a quarter-mile long mess for officers and firefighters to eliminate,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.

Lanes on Sullivan Road were closed while crews tried to clean up the mess.

Sgt. Dale Golman said he doesn't know if the culprit vehicle was a commercial truck or a jerry-rigged vehicle used to steal fuel from construction sites, which has occurred several times recently.

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

Trial set for last suspect in ‘09 stabbing

A teenager involved in a shooting at Hoopfest last summer will stand trial this week for an unrelated stabbing outside Club Uno in 2009.

Jury selection began Monday in the trial of Adam Doe, 19, who is charged with first-degree assault for an October 2009 stabbing that injured two men. Opening statements are expected Wednesday morning.

Doe had a tentative plea deal in the case until his arrest in the June 28 Hoopfest shooting. He pleaded guilty in February to second-degree assault and third-degree assault in connection with the shooting. Gunman Miguel C. Garcia, 20, also pleaded guilty that month to three felonies and is expected to receive nine years in prison.

At the time of the shooting, Doe was supposed to be on house arrest after his release from jail on the Club Uno stabbing charge.

The main suspect in the stabbing, John Proctor, was acquitted of all charges after a jury trial last October. Proctor was near the scene of the wild fight but said he did not participate and was falsely accused; the jury quickly acquitted him.

Doe is on trial before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza. Steve Garvin is prosecuting; Dennis Dressler is representing Doe.

The Oct. 28, 2009, stabbing injured Kenneth R. Budik and Charles L. Lucious. Witnesses said one of defendants said, “There’s Kenny! Murder One Crips!” and “You messed with Murder One,” before the attack, according to court documents. Budik was a victim in a shooting in 2007 that killed gang member Adama Walton.

Also charged in the stabbing were brothers Rashjel G. “Reggie” Cage and Rakee D. Cage, who pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree assault. Parrish J. Johnson pleaded guilty to riot; William Alexander-Durr’s charge was dismissed.

Extreme neighbor dispute ends in arrest

A 47-year-old Cheney man is accused of burglary after his 25-year-old female neighbor said he’d repeatedly threatened to “chop her head off” before bursting into her apartment and trying to pull her shirt off.

The extreme case of a bad neighbor occurred Sunday in a motel on B Street in Cheney, where the alleged victim said a man in a nearby rental unit was harassing her via telephone and had also contacted her in person, according to court documents.

Police arrived to find the woman being consoled by two friends in the room. The woman said she believed the man, identified as Paul A. Columbus, was capable of carrying out the threats. She said he'd burst into her room after she called 911 but she was able to push him outside and lock the door.

The woman said she was never in a relationship with Columbus and that he has never been allowed inside her room. Her two friends told police they witnessed Columbus threatened to cut the woman's head off and kill her dog.

Columbus remains jailed on $7,500 bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court on a first-degree burglary charge.

Jury: Lawyer stole jail phone services

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — A judge has found a Yakima defense lawyer guilty of stealing phone services from the Yakima County Jail.

Visiting Judge Brian Altman found Kimberly Grijalva guilty Monday of second-degree theft, saying he believed the lawyer knew her free phone privileges were being misused by a housemate and friend. The Yakima Herald-Republic says the theft charge is a felony.

The judge noted the volume of calls — more than 900 over a six-week period. He also found the lawyer guilty of a misdemeanor charge of introducing contraband into the jail, saying she let an inmate use her cell phone during a visit.

The lawyer has said she was unaware the private line was being used improperly and thought it was OK for an inmate to use her cell phone during a visit. She left court without comment.

Hundreds of state convictions in doubt

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — At least 17 criminal convictions in Whatcom County could be overturned on appeal because jurors were questioned inside a judge's chambers, possibly violating the defendants' rights to a public trial.

The Bellingham Herald reports appeals courts have been overturning cases based on state Supreme Court rulings and sending them back for new trials.

Pam Loginsky with the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys says similar appeals could affect hundreds of cases statewide.

In Spokane, legal experts say at least one case and no more than a few overall could be affected.

The association has asked the state Supreme Court to revisit a 1995 ruling in a Whatcom County case on public trials.

Plea deal expected for Barefoot Bandit

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington's “Barefoot Bandit,” who is accused of evading authorities for two years as he pilfered cars, boats and airplanes in a daring cross-country crime spree, could wind up reaching a blanket plea agreement that would avoid trials in more than a dozen jurisdictions, his lawyers said Friday. 

Colton Harris-Moore, 20, crash-landed a stolen airplane in the Bahamas last year and was arrested at gunpoint before being returned to the U.S.

Though he has pleaded not guilty, his attorney, John Henry Browne, has freely discussed Harris-Moore's intent to accept responsibility if a deal resolving state and federal charges in about 17 jurisdictions can be reached. 

Browne (right) declined to discuss Friday how much prison time he expects his client to receive under any deal, but he previously said Harris-Moore is looking at anywhere from four to 12 years if convicted.

A deal could also involve Harris-Moore donating any movie- or book-deal profits to repaying victims, Browne said.

“Everyone is trying very hard to resolve every case … in this case,” said Browne, pictured right.

The U.S. attorney's office says Harris-Moore is the primary suspect in scores of crimes since he escaped from a group home near Seattle in April 2008. They include stealing five airplanes, three of which were wrecked in crash landings; dozens of break-ins at homes and businesses; and the theft of cash, food, electronics, firearms, cars and boats across nine states, British Columbia and the Bahamas.

The federal charges stem from late 2009 and last 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.

From Oregon, authorities said, the self-taught pilot 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.

His escapades earned him cult status as an authority-mocking folk hero.

Harris-Moore appeared before U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones for a status conference Friday. Both his lawyers and Assistant U.S. Attorney Darwin Roberts told the judge they've made progress toward a plea deal, which could be reached by the end of May.

“There are still a lot of moving parts,” Roberts said. “We think it can all work out.”

After the hearing, Browne said the plea deal would likely involve Harris-Moore pleading guilty to federal crimes in federal court, and all Washington state crimes in a single state superior court — most likely in Island County, which encompasses Camano Island, where he grew up and was known to police from boyhood.

He also faces charges in San Juan County and Skagit Counties, and prosecutors and police in other counties, including Snohomish, Mason and Kitsap, are still investigating cases that may be linked to him.

Browne said he plans to travel to the Midwest soon to meet with prosecutors there.

Armed man surrenders to pepper spray

A domestic violence suspect arrested after a standoff in north Spokane on Saturday made statements about “shooting it out with police” and “suicide by cop,” police said today.

James Michael Vandyke, 41, is to appear in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon on a second-degree assault charge after police used pepper spray to force him from a home in the 5500 block of North Greenwood Boulevard on Saturday.

Officers arrived to find Vandyke forcibly holding his wife while clutching a gun. He refused to drop the gun and went inside before allowing his wife and others to leave. The standoff last several hours.

After Vandyke exited because of the pepper spray, police found two loaded .40 caliber handguns and a loaded assault rifle on the living room floor.

In a news release issued today, Officer Teresa Fuller said police “have responded to several of these types of incidents in the last couple of months.”

“They are highly unpredictable and, as we’ve seen in jurisdictions around the country recently, can end in citizens and/or officers seriously injured or worse,” Fuller wrote. “Officers of the Spokane Police Department rely on expert training and state of the arts tools they have to try and resolve the incidents as peacefully as possible.”

Not all law enforcement officials carry pepper spray. Spokane County sheriff's officials say it comes down to personal preference.

Suspect’s nickname is profane word

A man whose nickname is a profane word faces a charge of leading organized crime for an alleged check forgery ring in Spokane County.

Rai A. “Sh***y” Goulsby, 45, (pictured) is accused of directing two sisters to cash forged payroll checks from McDonald's.

Shakayla Fay Delcambre, 18, and Rayna R. Delcambre, 27, were arrested for forgery March 27 after Walmart employees in Airway Heights called police. The store had been warned after two women cashed similar fraudulent checks at the Shadle Park Walmart.

A Secret Service agent interviewed the suspects in jail, where they said a man named Sh***y “offered her an opportunity to make some money cashing checks, and that the only repercussion, if any, would be damage to her credit score,” according to an affidavit.

Shakayla Delcambre said she was to receive $300 for cashing the checks at the Shadle Park store, and that Sh***y received two-thirds of the cashed check after each transaction.

Goulsby denied providing checks to the sisters but told police he provided self-manufactured checks to other people and used the money “to fund a drug habit,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed Friday.

Goulsby was arrested Thursday and appeared in Superior Court Friday on the leading organized crime charge, which can carry 10 or so years in prison, pending on a defendant's criminal history. He remains in jail on $100,000 bond.

Also arrested in the case was Wendy Y. Kelly, 40, who's accused of cashing a forged check for Goulsby.

Chronic drunken driver arrested for DUI

A chronic drunken driver convicted of vehicular homicide in 1990 was arrested early Thursday on suspension of drunken driving.

Lance Dean Falcon, 44, of Plummer, Idaho, had a blood-alcohol level of .167 and .162 in two breathe samples submitted at the Spokane Public Safety Building after a Washington State Patrol trooper stopped him for speeding about 6 a.m. near Madison Road and Dishman Mica Road.

Falcon had an unopened can of Keystone Ice beer in his car, and police say they found an empty can of the same beer tossed in the street near where Falcon’s pickup stopped. They also say he smelled of alcohol and had glassy, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.

Falcon said he was headed to a laundry mat than a golf tournament at Circling Raven that day at 11 a.m. He told police he’d had a “few” drinks and four to five hours of sleep, according to a police report. He gave an initial breath test of .169 before he was arrested for drunken driving and taken to the police station.

“Falcon said several times that he was done because this was his third strike,” according to the report.

Falcon faces a felony DUI charge because of his previous conviction for vehicular homicide. He also was arrested for drunken driving in 1996, 1998 and 2008, according to Idaho court records.

The 1998 arrest resulted from a serious car crash in North Idaho that injured a pregnant woman and her 3-year-old son.

Spokane man sentenced for ‘99 rape

A Spokane man was sentenced essentially to time served today for a sexual assault in 1999 that remained unsolved until DNA caught up to him.

Originally charged with second-degree rape, prosecutors agreed to allow Robert C. Graham, who also was convicted in 2000 of third-degree rape in a different case, to plead guilty to second-degree assault with sexual motivation.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno sentenced Graham, 31, to 17 months in prison, but with credit for time served he faces little prison time.

Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald said the victim was first elated to know her attacker had been caught. But processing the case brought back horrific memories that she no longer wanted to face. Thus, the victim asked that no trial take place.

Although he’s already a registered sex offender, he must register for 15 years under the latest conviction.

Graham apologized, saying he had no recollection of the event because of his alcohol abuse.

“I never meant to hurt anybody,” he said.
  

Cop gets top award for sword rescue

LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — A sheriff's sergeant will receive the state's top law enforcement award for saving a woman in her 70s from a sword-wielding man identified as her son by authorities.

Sgt. Troy Brightbill of the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office burst into the West Longview home on Dec. 3, just as the man was charging the woman with the samurai sword.

In a split second, Brightbill shoved her out the door with one hand while firing his Taser at the man with his other.

“I could probably never pull it off again if I practiced it a million times,” Brightbill told The Daily News. “To this day I'm still baffled that both of those Taser darts hit him.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire will present Brightbill with the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor during a May 6 ceremony in Olympia.

Brightbill called the award a surprise.

“I've got a bunch of great guys that work with me, and we all train together,” he said. “I knew that if I fell short I could count on them and they knew what to do.”

Sheriff Mark Nelson nominated Brightbill and said his calm, quick action helped avert what could have been a tragedy.

Brightbill and other deputies were called to the home while Daniel Lee Davids was intoxicated and threatening people with the sword while he punched walls and broke doors, authorities said.

Deputies evacuated Davids' brother through a bedroom window, but his mother was still in the home. Others kept watch with handguns and rifles as a deputy kicked in the door, and Brightbill went inside, pushing the woman out the door and firing his Taser.

After shocking Davids, Brightbill said he had to wrestle with him to get him into handcuffs.

Davids was being held in the Cowlitz County Jail, where he awaits trial on charges of second-degree assault, felony harassment and third-degree malicious mischief.

Recipients of the medal are selected by a committee of representatives of the governor, attorney general, Washington State Troopers Association, Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, Washington State Law Enforcement Association, and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Brightbill, who is married and has two young sons, started working for the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office in April 1999. He was promoted to sergeant in April 2008 and is assigned as a patrol team supervisor.

One other Cowlitz County law enforcement officer has received the honor since it was introduced in the mid-1990s. Longview Police Sgt. Dennis Davenport was wounded by a bullet in 1997 as he pulled a child from the arms of a man with a gun.

Convicted killer charged w/ att. murder

A suspect in a stabbing that left a man with a cut on his throat from ear to ear has been charged with attempted first-degree murder.

 Izaac Jermel Innes, 30, who was recently released from prison for murder, is accused of stabbing a man outside a party in the 12700 block of East 31st Ave. last weekend.

Innes has been on probation since January after leaving prison work release. He  pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2003 , but his current public defender, Kari Reardon, said Thursday that he had no role in the slaying and was simply waiting outside the scene of the murder for two friends to buy marijuana.

“I frankly don't know why he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder,” Reardon said. “He certainly wasn't alleged to be involved in any sort of violence.”

Innes, who has been working at McDonald's, posted $50,000 bond after his arrest for first-degree assault but was rearrested on a probation violation and the attempted murder charge. He appeared in Superior Court on Thursday.

Innes told police he fought with a man at the party but was not involved in stabbing and did not have a weapon. “The only guy I put hands on is in the hospital,” Innes reportedly told detectives before pausing and adding, “I don't know why he had to go to the hospital for me just punching him,” according to a probable cause affidavit by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor approved a $50,000 bond for Innes over the weekend, which he posted before being rearrested Monday for a probation violation. He told his probation officer he was a member of the Deuce Avenue Crips gang, according to the affidavit. D

eputy Prosecutor Steve Garvin requested Thursday that Innes stay in jail without bail, calling the suspect “a clear, immediate and present danger to public safety.”

But Judge Michael Price said the facts of the case have not changed since O'Connor approve $50,000 bond, so he set the new bond at just $50,100.

Fugitive’s claim to fame? 50+ mug shots

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest a repeat offender with more than 50 mug shots.

Robert Dean Raider, 36, is wanted for escape from community custody for allegedly violating his probation conditions on a drug possession convictions.

Raider's dizzying criminal history spans 24 years and includes convictions for criminal impersonation, driving while license suspended, drug possession, making false statements, possession of stolen property, city theft, vehicle theft, resisting arrest, attempting to elude a police vehicle, third-degree theft, criminal trespass, fourth-degree assault, second-degree theft, first-degree theft, disorderly conduct, city assault, intimidation with a weapon, second-degree burglary and probation violations.

Raider, 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, last gave a home address in the 2500 block of West Garland Avenue in Spokane.

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

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

Ohio man charged after barking at K-9

MASON, Ohio (AP) — Police say an Ohio man has been charged with a misdemeanor for barking at a police dog.

A police report says 25-year-old Ryan James Stephens was charged with teasing a police dog in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason.

Officer Bradley Walker wrote that he heard the K9 dog barking uncontrollably inside his patrol car while he was investigating a car crash at a pub early Sunday morning. Walker says Stephens was making barking noises and hissing at the animal.

Walker reported that Stephens said “the dog started it” when asked why he was harassing the animal. The officer said Stephens appeared highly intoxicated.

There was no answer to calls to Stephens' home in Mason. He is to appear April 21 in municipal court.

Deliberations begin in Barry Bonds trial

RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The eight women and four men sat in the jury box for more than 4½ hours, listening to angry arguments from federal prosecutors and Barry Bonds' attorneys at the end of a 12-day trial that exposed the dark world of baseball's Steroids Era.  Now, Bonds' fate is up to them.

After listening to tawdry accusations of drug use, theft and body parts that grew (Bonds' head) and shrank (his testicles), the 12-member panel gets to decide whether the home run king will become a convicted felon.

Bonds' trial on charges he lied to a grand jury more than seven years ago when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs ended Thursday with closing arguments from both sides that were filled with virulence and self-righteousness.

“There's a real irony to this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella concluded. “These substances that the defendant took to make himself strong — he wasn't strong. He was weak. He was too weak to tell the truth despite all the anabolic steroids.”

And with that, at 3:51 p.m., U.S. District Judge Susan Illston turned to the jury box and said: “At this point ladies and gentlemen, we're turning it over to you.”

The jury's first order of business when it starts deliberations today — the day the World Series flag is raised at nearby AT&T Park, home of Bonds' San Francisco Giants — is to elect a foreman. Then it must sort through the testimony of 25 witnesses and hundreds of exhibits that include syringes, vials and dizzying computer graphs of drug tests.

A seven-time MVP regarded as among the greatest hitters ever, Bonds is charged with three counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice. His lawyers ridiculed the prosecution as being celebrity obsessed and willing to cut deals with anyone who would implicate perhaps the top player of his generation.

“It's part of an effort to demonize Barry Bonds, and it's very wrong,” lead defense lawyer Allen Ruby said.

 Cristina Arguedas, another of Bonds' attorneys, repeatedly took off her glasses and pointed them contemptuously at Jeff Novitzky (right), the tall, bald federal investigator who was seated at the prosecution table.

“They have the power to end careers and to ruin lives,” she said to the jury, her voice quavering. “And nobody gets to test that evidence unless they have the wherewithal and internal strength to come to a jury trial — to you.”

Read the rest of the AP story by clicking the link below.

Spokane man missing after bizarre call

The mystery of the man’s disappearance began with what his fiancée described as a bizarre ending to a phone call.

 Leighton Welch, 35, was walking in Spokane and talking on his cellphone to Michonda Weaver, his girlfriend of nearly four years.

Weaver said he described a steep cliff, then said he’d been spooked by a pit bull in the area. Then, a crash and a scream before the phone went dead. That was March 28.

Weaver (pictured above with her two children and right with Welch) has not heard from Welch since.

No one else has either, she said, and his family is frantic.

Read the rest of my story here.

Ormsby bros. on 2 sides of medical pot

There's an odd family dynamic in U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby's shut-down-or-face-federal-prosecution warning to Spokane-area medical marijuana dispensaries Wednesday.

His younger brother, state Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane, pictured left), is among the Washington legislators trying to legalize and regulate the production and sale of medical marijuana in this state.

So as one brother readies teams of police and federal agents for potential raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that refuse to comply with orders to shut down, the other is trying to legitimize and control the growth of voter-approved pot use. 

Might be an interesting Easter gathering this year for the Ormsby family.

As for the legislative efforts in Olympia, Senate Bill 5073 is awaiting final approval in the state House, having already passed through the Ways and Means Committee with help from the younger Ormsby.

It's already passed the state Senate. Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for greater clarity in the state's medical marijuana law and has indicated she'll consider signing 5073 into law but wants to see the final version before committing herself.

Whether a legislative fix will be enough remains unclear, though.

The elder Ormsby is bound by federal law, which still considers all marijuana use illegal. It would take an act of Congress to change that.

Although Ormsby's boss, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, issued a directive in 2009 urging federal prosecutors to respect state medical marijuana laws, the memo appears primarily aimed at protecting individuals engaged in state-santioned personal use.

The attorney general's guidance on how to deal with commercial dispensaries is more ambiguous, arguing on the one hand that prosecutors respect state laws but on the other advising that “prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority.”

Scherf warned of danger before murder

MONROE, Wash. (AP) — A Washington inmate charged with strangling a corrections officer barraged state officials for decades with letters complaining about the conditions of his confinement, suggesting at least once that he might hurt someone if he didn't get sex-offender treatment.

  Convicted rapist Byron Scherf, 52, a Spokane County sex offender, is accused of killing guard Jayme Biendl in a chapel at the Monroe Correctional Complex in January. He had been a volunteer at the chapel.

The Herald of Everett reported Thursday that newly released records show that Scherf has been a prolific jailhouse letter writer. The corrections department released the letters to The Herald under state public records laws.

In letters to officials including Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail, Scherf griped about limited opportunities for exercise, restrictions on the number of books allowed in his cell and the quality of prison-approved earplugs.

Scherf also repeatedly asked for sex-offender treatment and said he couldn't control his compulsions.

“I never know from one minute to the next where my compulsions may direct me!” he wrote in 2002.

The corrections department refused the costly treatment because it's reserved for inmates expected to be released.

State officials receive thousands of letters from inmates each year, often making requests for access to programs and change in custody, state corrections spokesman Chad Lewis said.

“Some of the letters make threats against the secretary and the governor,” Lewis said.

In 2001, Scherf quoted scripture as he argued against rules that then prohibited him and other lifers from arranging conjugal visits with their wives. His most recent complaints focused prohibitions on medium-security inmates wearing sweaters, and concerns over how the corrections department has tested his urine for signs of drug use.

The letters also document how Scherf campaigned for sex offender treatment from 2000 to 2006, which he was repeatedly denied because he is serving life behind bars without release for a 1997 rape conviction in Spokane.

In responses to Scherf, Vail denied his treatment requests and refused to change the rule that prohibited lifers from receiving conjugal visits. That rule was tossed out in 2006, and Scherf and his wife have been allowed regular visits over the past five years, records show.

He's now being held at the county jail in Everett. He is expected back in court in two weeks. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.

Past coverage: Feb. 11: Guard's alleged killer asked for prayers

Feds fight release of Harpham records

Federal authorities want to block the unsealing of court records related to the arrest of domestic terrorism suspect Kevin W. Harpham.

 In a 13-page response Wednesday to a request by The Spokesman-Review, with support from The Seattle Times and The Associated Press, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Harrington argued against unsealing the documents, citing an ongoing investigation and concerns about pre-trial publicity.

“It is well settled that there are qualified common law and Constitutional rights of access to judicial documents,” Harrington wrote. “The right, however, is not absolute … and the public can be properly denied access if there are compelling reasons for keeping records sealed.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Missing woman’s jailed grandson probed

The grandson of a woman missing in the Kamiah, Idaho, area has been named a person of interest in her disappearance.

Justin M. Hietala, 27, was arrested on suspicion of burglary on April 1 and is in the Lewis County Jail in Nez Perce, Idaho.

Police learned his grandmother, Lavina I. Hietala, 72, was missing then.

The two lived at her home in Kamiah.

Anyone who may have seen Justin M. Hietala, 27, in or around Kamiah, east of Lewiston, between March 28 and April 1 is asked to contact Idaho State Police Lt. Charlie Spencer at (208) 799-5020 or by email at charlie.spencer@isp.idaho.gov.

“We're just trying to follow up on a bunch of leads,” Spencer said today.

Feds warn local marijuana dispensaries

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane face federal prosecution if they do not end their operations immediately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Federal authorities hope for voluntary compliance but are prepared “for quick and direct action against the operators of the stores,” according to a statement by Mike Ormsby, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

Federal authorities will target both the operators of the stores and the owners of the properties where the stores are located, he said.

“We intend to use the full extent of our legal remedies to enforce the law,” Ormsby said. Depending on the amount of marijuana, some federal crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years or more.

Read the rest of my story here.

Steele will undergo mental health exam

The former Aryan Nations lawyer accused of hiring a man to kill his wife will undergo a mental health examination.

Edgar J. Steele, 65, is to be evaluated by a licensed psychologist Friday at the Ada County Jail in Boise.

Psychologist Robert Engle is to submit a report by April 13 detailing Steele's “physical well-being, psychological functioning and mental health condition” currently and at the time police say Steele hired Larry Fairfax to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele, according to an order by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

Prosecutors requested the mental evaluation after Steele's lawyers filed a notice saying they intend to introduce expert evidence regarding a mental disease or defect that has “bearing on (Steele's) guilt or his lack of a knowing or intentional mental state.”

Cyndi Steele has said she believes her husband is innocent and that tapes reportedly containing recorded conversations between Steele and Fairfax were manufactured by the federal government.

The Steeles say the case is an attempt to silence Edgar Steele, self described “attorney for the damned,” because of his unpopular views.

Steele is to stand trial April 26 in U.S. District Court in Boise.

Read past coverage here.

Files released in Notorious BIG’s murder

In this Dec. 6, 1995 file photo, rapper Notorious B.I.G., who won rap artist and rap single of the year, clutches his awards at the podium during the annual Billboard Music Awards in New York.

By ANTHONY McCARTNEY, AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — FBI agents on both coasts participated in a nearly two-year investigation aimed at finding out who gunned down the Notorious B.I.G. and whether any Los Angeles police officers were involved, according to recently released records.

The inquiry ended in early 2005, after federal prosecutors concluded there wasn't enough evidence to pursue a case against any officers or another man implicated in the rapper's 1997 shooting death.

The decision was made after agents in Los Angeles, San Diego and New York tried to track down potential suspects and witnesses who might shed new light on the unsolved killing that came months after another rap superstar, Tupac Shakur, was shot dead in Las Vegas.

The investigation started out as a civil rights violation and public corruption review, but efforts were made to solve the homicide case. The FBI's file included police reports.

Informants told the FBI that the killing of B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace, may have been aided by corrupt police officers. The heavily redacted files include several mentions of sources who wouldn't talk to Los Angeles police investigators about Wallace's death because of suspicions about corruption.

The records showed that agents conducted surveillance on one man in San Diego who they thought may have fired the fatal shots at Wallace, and even went through his mail and garbage. They also showed an agent consulted frequently with a civil attorney who was pursuing a wrongful death on behalf of Wallace's estate against the city of Los Angeles.

No one has been arrested for Wallace or Shakur's killings, although both deaths have been the subject of rampant speculation about the motives. The one-time friends became rivals and instigators in an East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry during the mid-1990s.

Wallace was fatally shot with a 9mm gun on Wilshire Boulevard in March 1997 after leaving a Los Angeles music industry event.

The FBI released Wallace's file on March 27 on its website, The Vault, which contains the bureau's most requested case documents that can be released. The FBI on Friday publicized that it had added more than 25 new files that it had never released electronically and by Wednesday, fans and journalists were poring over the Wallace file.

Wallace's family dismissed a federal lawsuit against Los Angeles last year, which their attorney said was done in order for the FBI and other agencies to pursue new leads in the case. A 2005 trial ended with a mistrial after attorneys for Wallace's family discovered the city had withheld a trove of LAPD documents.

Attorney Brad C. Gage said Wednesday he had not reviewed the recently released FBI documents.

Plea deal drops attempted murder case

A Spokane man whose attempted murder trial ended in a mistrial last week was sentenced this week to nearly 10 years in prison.

Don R. Davis, Jr., 29, pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance and drive by shooting in a plea deal that dropped the attempted first-degree murder charge.

He was ordered to serve 116 months in prison by Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque on Wednesday. Leveque declared a mistrial last week after a witness offered testimony that Davis' lawyer, Rob Cossey, said was a surprise.

The charges stem from a wild car chase on Oct. 4, 2009, that includes several collisions as Davis attempted to force his ex-girlfriend and former best friend off the roadway.

He also was accused of breaking into an apartment and stealing a handgun that was used in a drive-by shooting.

Duncan returns to federal death row

A man who tortured and killed two boys in California and Idaho has been returned to death row in federal prison.

Federal prison officials say 48-year-old Joseph Edward Duncan III — who spent more than two years in a Riverside County jail — arrived at a federal prison in Indiana Wednesday.

Duncan was sentenced Tuesday for killing Anthony Martinez, who was kidnapped in 1997 as he played near his Beaumont home. Duncan confessed to the crime after his arrest in Idaho.

He was convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing a Coeur d'Alene boy, Dylan Groene, in 2005 and beating to death the boy's older brother, mother and her fiance with a hammer.

He will await execution in Terre Haute, where the nation's federal death row inmates are held.

Read past coverage here.

Yakima bans sex offenders at swim pools

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — The Yakima City Council has voted to ban sex offenders from using city swimming pools, a move allowed under a little-used 2006 state law.

City officials believe the ban approved Tuesday is a first under a Washington trespass law that allows cities and other entities such as schools, libraries and day-care centers to ban certain sex offenders from pools, parks, playgrounds and other facilities with the primary purpose of educating or caring for children.
 
“This is just one protection that we feel is important,” said Councilwoman Kathy Coffey, who pushed for the policy. “We're doing what we can to protect the youth of our city.”
 
The pre-emptive application of the law, rather than on a case-by-case basis, could draw a civil rights challenge, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.
 
The ban applies only to Level 2 or Level 3 sex offenders whose crimes involved children.
 
There are about 50 sex offenders residing within city limits and another 50 in the Upper Valley who qualify for the ban, interim police Chief Greg Copeland told the council.
 
A detective already assigned to track sex offenders would add notifications to his caseload and update the list on a quarterly basis, Copeland said. Process servers will ensure notifications are made in person.
 
City officials became aware in December that a Level 3 sex offender had been swimming at Lions Pool, one of the city's two municipal pools. The other is Franklin Pool.
 
The 49-year-old man attended a budget hearing at City Hall because he had heard a rumor the council was considering closing Lions Pool. Then-police Chief Sam Granato recognized the man, who has a history of run-ins with police. The man was convicted of attempting to molest an 8-year-old girl in 1996.
 
Many states ban registered sex offenders from living close to or loitering at schools and other places frequented by children.

Masked gunman robs North Idaho store

A masked gunman robbed a store north of Hayden Tuesday night and specifically requested a pack of Marlboro Red cigarettes.

The man entered the Alpine Country Store, 17568 North Highway 95, about 11 p.m. and forced the clerk to empty the cash register while pointing a gun at her, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

The man fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash. A sheriff’s dog tracked the robbery to a where investigators believe he may have escaped in a vehicle, possibly a blue Dodge Intrepid.

The robber is described as 5-foot-11 and wearing a brown “Bomber” type jacket, gloves, black pants a black hat and a black mask.

Police dog busts 3 burglary suspects

A Spokane police dog helped his handler arrest three burglary suspects late Monday.

Arlyanne M. Ellicott, 21, fought with K-9 Maximus before Officer Paul Gorman arrested her on suspicion of burglary in the 5000 block of North Lacey Street, police said today.

Gorman and Officer Michael Russo were responding to a report of a burglary in progress at 11:13 p.m. when they saw a broken window at the vacant home, then saw a man throw a furnace motor out a window. 

Ellicott fled the home and tried to scale a six-foot fence before Maximus caught up with her, police said.

Gorman noticed a large knife discarded on the basement stairs and called for others in the home to exit. He released Maximus when there was no response, police said.

The dog found suspect Bryant T. Graham, 38, hiding in the basement, then on a second trip found Harry D. Lashbrook, 47, hiding in the attic under insulation.

Ellicott, Graham and Lashbrook were treated at a hospital for dog bites before being booked into the Spokane County Jail on charges of residential burglary and first-degree malicious mischief, where they remain on $10,000 bond.

In a news release, Sgt. Kevin King said the case “illustrates how quick and effective police K-9s are.”

“Police K-9s can perform a search quicker, more thoroughly and more safely than their human counterparts,” King wrote.

It's been a busy few days for Maximus, who's pictured with Gorman.

On Saturday, he tracked a domestic violence suspect for two blocks, leading to the man's arrest.

CdA shooter arrested on heroin charge

A man who shot two men in downtown Coeur d’Alene in what a grand jury ruled was self defense  jail returned to on a heroin charge after a SWAT team raid in Post Falls.

Adam M. Johnson, 27, was in a room with a syringe loaded with heroin when police arrived on Friday with a search warrant.

Johnson, the founder of a telecommunications company and a member of the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, “denied ownership of the syringe and advised me that he did not know who it belonged to,” according to a report by Post Falls police Detective Brian Williamson.

When he was arrested, Johnson had on him a plastic straw with brown residue, police say, which is typically used to ingest drugs.

Johnson told The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday that he’s passed a drug test and had no knowledge of drugs in the home until the raid.

Read my full story here.

Johnson was featured in The Spokesman-Review a weekend before the shooting in a story about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.. He was also featured in 2007 in a story about his business, Convertec.

Financial experts charged with tax crimes

A Moses Lake couple who runs an financial consulting and insurance brokerage firm have been charged with failing to pay taxes.

J. Scott Vrieling and his wife, Patrica Dionn Vrieling, are each charged with four misdemeanors for allegedly failing to pay taxes from 2004 through 2007.

The charges carry no more than a year in prison, a $100,000 fine and a year of probation.

The Vrielings own Vrieling Financial in Moses Lake. The firm opened in 1949 and provides brokerage and consulting services to businesses and executives.

A grand jury indicted them Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Judges uphold Russell’s convictions

Appellate judges on Tuesday upheld the vehicular homicide convictions against Frederick Russell, who was convicted in 2007 of killing three Washington State University students and seriously injuring three others in a drunken crash a decade ago on the highway that connects Moscow and Pullman.

 However, the Division III Court of Appeals will return the case to Superior Court Judge David Frazier so that Russell can be given credit for the time he served incarcerated in Ireland as attorneys fought for his extradition back to the U.S. to stand trial.

Russell had fled the country through Canada to avoid prosecution of the case.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Jury indicts man for cop’s stolen gun

A felon suspected of stealing a handgun from a Spokane County sheriff's detective's squad car last April has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

 James W. Peterschick, 29, faces up to 10 years in federal prison for felon in possession of a firearm, unlawful concealing and storing stolen ammunition and unlawful possession and sale of a stolen firearm.

Investigators believe Peterschick smashed out a window on Detective Leroy Fairbanks' government-issued vehicle April 21 at 5830 N. Division St. and stole fishing poles and a backpack containing electronics, a Glock handgun, handcuffs, a flashlight, badge and IDs for the Sheriff’s Office and FBI.

A jail inmate looking for a break on drug charges told detectives of a dumpster at Garland Avenue and Post Street where most of the items had been dumped.

Peterschick, who was arrested in February 2010 for a suspected burglary spree in Pullman, was released from jail after no charges were filed but has been in custody since March on new drug charges.

A grand jury indicted him on the federal charges today in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

$260k to woman strip-searched in jail

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The city of Olympia has agreed to pay $260,000 to a woman strip-searched and zapped with a stun gun in the city jail.

Cynthia Brown's lawyer Edwin Budge calls the agreement “vindication to some degree.”

While settling, the city denies liability. Its outside counsel for the case, Donald Law, says the city accomplished its primary goal, which was to “reach a fair settlement with Cynthia Brown.”

Brown had sued the city in September, alleging her civil rights were violated and that the strip search was illegal.

The Olympian says public documents show Brown was arrested and taken to the jail on Aug. 19, 2008, on a misdemeanor trespassing accusation, which was later dismissed. Records show Brown refused an order to strip to her underwear without a female officer present, then was shot with a Taser. She then removed her clothes.

The newspaper says the city changed jail booking procedures related to strip searches as a result of the case.

Report: Shot pregnant woman apologized

A state trooper who accidentally shot an unarmed pregnant woman during a drug raid in Spokane last fall was emotional in interviews with investigators and was overheard asking why the shot couldn’t have missed.

Washington State Patrol Sgt. Herbert Lee Slemp recently returned to work in an administrative position after prosecutors concluded no criminal charges should be filed against him for the Sept. 24 shooting of Keamia D. Powell, 24.

After Powell was shot, she “reportedly apologized for not listening to the officers and not doing what she had been told,” according to police reports obtained by The Spokesman-Review under the state’s open records laws.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

March 22: No charges in shooting on pregnant woman

Oct. 1: WSP sergeant says shooting was accidental

Sept. 24: State patrol officer shoots unarmed pregnant woman

Stabbing leaves man with ear-to-ear cut

A fight outside a party Friday left a man with a cut on his throat from ear to ear, police say.

Izaac Jermel Innes, 30, (right) who was on prison work release after being convicted of second-degree murder in 2003, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree assault after witnesses said he fought with David Gilliland outside a party in the 12700 block of East 31st Ave.

Witnesses said Innes got into a car and pulled up alongside Gillian, then got out and attacked him.

Gilliand was treated for a stab wound to his back and for a “laceration under his neck that extended basically from ear to ear,” according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Innes told police he'd fought with an unknown man but denied having a weapon or being involved in the stabbing.

Innes left jail over the weekend after posting bond.

Innes was convicted of second-degree murder in 2003 for his role in the shooting death of Cody Glotfelty on Jan. 29, 2002, in what police described as a drug robbery.

Innes was sentenced to 10 years in prison and began probation in January after being on work release, according to the Washington Department of Corrections.

Correction: An earlier post said Innes was currently on work release, because of incorrect information provided by the DOC.
  

Stabbing at Carlyle apts. leads to arrest

A fight between two roommates at the Carlyle Apartments in downtown Spokane ended with one arrested and the other receiving staples for to close his stab wounds.

Scott P. McGuire, 43, remains jailed for first-degree assault after police say he stabbed his roommate in the forehead, left arm and right leg.

McGuire is a new resident at the Carlyle, which houses people with mental health issues.

McGuire, described by staff as “volatile,” was paired with Patrick Estell, a three-year resident with a “sweet disposition,” police said.

Staff followed a trial of blood from McGuire's room to the activity room last week, where he was bleeding from a cut on a finger.

Both men are said to have paranoid schizophrenia.

Thief hits Phillies pitcher’s Wash. home

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — Police are searching for thieves who burglarized the Mount Vernon, Wash., home of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick and took his World Series ring.

Lt. Chris Cammock said Monday that the thieves also took other valuable items. He says Kendrick and his family were not home at the time of the burglary, which occurred in late March.

The 26-year-old (pictured in March) graduated from Mount Vernon High School and turned down an opportunity to play quarterback at Washington State to sign with Phillies.

Cammock says he wants to alert the public in case Kendrick's items are resold on the secondary market.

Man arrested 30 mins after eluding police

A police chase through downtown ended this morning because officers deemed it too dangerous, but the suspect was arrested 30 minutes later.

Leroy K. Berra, 44, was stopped just before 3 a.m. near Monroe Street and Shannon Avenue and arrested for drunken driving, driving while suspended and for cocaine found in his pants pocket.

His female passenger told officers she feared for her safety during the earlier pursuit, which began when Officer Scott Lesser tried to stop Berra's speeding gray Chevrolet Suburban about 2:30 a.m. in downtown Spokane, police said.

The Suburban had ran red lights without slowing down, and Berra looked at Lesser and accelerated once Lesser tried to stop him. Lesser ended the pursuit because Berra driving “was so reckless that it presented a danger to vehicle and pedestrian traffic,” police said.

Berra faces an unlawful imprisonment charge for not allowing his passenger out of the car during the chase, according to a news release.

He was arrested on the same charge in July 2001 after a woman called police and said he would not let her out of the car as he sped away from police on Fort George Wright Drive, according to news archives.

Berra is due in Superior Court this afternoon.

Police dog catches fleeing fugitive

A Spokane police dog tracked a man for two blocks after a domestic dispute Saturday, leading to the suspect's arrest.

Maximus, Officer Paul Gorman's K-9, found Leo Kenneth Landon, 30, hiding in the backyard of a home in the 1600 block of West 11th Ave., after responding to a domestic dispute at 1617 W. 12th Ave., at 11:13 p.m., police said.

Landon's wife told police her husband had a felony warrant for escape and had ran northbound as officer arrived. Officers set up a perimeter the neighborhood and brought in Maximus.

Landon “quickly surrendered” when he heard the dog, police said.

Landon was booked into jail for a felony warrant for escape from community custody.

Lawyers’ feud continues in messy lawsuit

A dispute between two law partners that sent one to jail following an armed confrontation at their Spokane office in 2007 continues today as a messy civil lawsuit lingers in court.

Connie Powell and Dean White's law partnership unraveled into a feud marred by allegations of extramarital affairs and physical abuse, including a Nov. 7, 2007, fight that began outside a bar and culminated in their office, where police said White held a gun to Powell’s head in their law firm, threatening to kill her.

White was sentenced to 30 days in jail in 2008 after an Alford plea to charges of third-degree malicious mischief and unlawful imprisonment involving domestic violence in connection with the gun incident. Powell filed a lawsuit against White and his wife, Vita White, seeking money for defamation and emotional damages as well as a court-ordered solution to how to split up the law firm’s assets.

Dean White filed a counterclaim alleging Powell had taken money from the law firm after his arrest and tried removing him from the name of the corporation without court approval. He also alleges Powell used the firm’s money to pay for her current office at 1316 W. Dean Ave.

Craig Mason, who works at Powell’s law firm, was hired to represent Powell but ordered off the case Nov. 10, 2009, by Adams County Superior Court Judge Richard Miller after Vita White’s lawyer, Dennis Cronin, noted Mason could be called as a witness at trial.

Mason recently notified The Spokesman-Review that he's back on the case after successfully appealing Miller's decision to the Division III Supreme Court Commissioner.

The Washington State Supreme Court rejected a request from Cronin to overturn the ruling, Mason said in an email last Thursday.

“Finally, I can get put back on the case,” Mason wrote.

Past coverage:

Nov. 25, 2009: Law partners' feud lives on in suit

Dec. 4, 2007: Attorney suspected of assault turns self in

Sheriff’s gun expert charged w/ DUI

The lead firearms instructor for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving last weekend in Coeur d’Alene.

Deputy Daniel Knight, 42, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 and 0.188 during breath tests administered after his arrest early Sunday. The legal limit for driving is .08.

Knight is on his scheduled days off but will remain on patrol pending the outcome of the criminal case, said Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

“We’re waiting for the criminal process to finish and then we’ll hand out the disciplinary action,” Knezovich said. “It appears to be a standard DUI arrest. He cooperated fully and it’s just one of those things that I would never have really expected from a deputy of Dan’s quality.”

Knezovich had previously said that he would no longer sign waivers to allow employees convicted of drunken driving to operate patrol cars while their licenses are suspended. But he said Friday that the policy change hasn't gone into effect yet because he's still in negotiations with the deputies union, so it won't apply to Knight.

Read the rest of my story here.

Federal prosecutor’s son jailed in Idaho

The son of a North Idaho federal prosecutor is in the Bonner County Jail for a drunken vehicle prowling spree last December.

Christopher Alan Cook, 22, was ordered this week to serve 30 days in jail for misdemeanor theft after a felony burglary charge was dismissed. He'll be credited for 10 days already served.

Cook was arrested March 20 for a series of car break-ins in Sandpoint between Dec. 17 and Dec. 20.

He pleaded guilty on Wednesday and was sentenced to 365 days in jail with 335 suspended. He also was fined $1,000 with $700 suspended and will be on unsupervised probation for two years.

Alcohol was a factor in the crime, said Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank.

Cook, of Dalton Gardens, is the son of Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Cook. He is being housed away from federal inmates at the Bonner County Jail, according to the court documents. Jailers told him he can be placed in a single cell if problems arise, but only as a last resort.

April Fool’s Day burglary arrest ‘no joke’

A suspected burglar told police he'd been suspended from work without pay and had gambled away most of his paycheck trying to win money to pay rent.

Police spotted Luqman F. Muhammad, 32, running from the Pines Manor Apartments office, 512 N. Pines Road, with a lockbox under his arm two minutes after midnight today, said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

A witness had called 911 to report hearing and seeing someone break into the manager's office. Police found cash, checks, rental receipts and paperwork in the box.

Muhammad is due in Superior Court this afternoon on a second-degree burglary charge.

In a news release, Reagan called the April Fool's Day arrest “no joke.”

Torture video leads to murder arrest

A video provided to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office helped detectives in Western Washington identify suspects in a torture and murder case.

Someone notified the sheriff's office “a while ago” about the video, and a detective picked it up, said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

“We observed what appeared to be somebody being tortured or tormented on the video” and contacted law enforcement in the Tacoma area on the advice of the person who provided the video,  Reagan said.

The video led Lakewood police to arrest Michael E. Crosman, 25, on Wednesday. He was arraigned Thursday on an aggravated first-degree murder charge and is being held on $5 million bail.

If convicted, the charge carries the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

The Tacoma News Tribune says a warrant has been issued for the arrest of 30-year-old Maalo Samaota.

Prosecutors allege Crosman videotaped a young man who'd been bound and gagged with duct tape and was tortured with a knife. Court documents allege that Samaota is the attacker on the video, according to the Associated Press.

According to court papers, Crosman told detectives the victim had stolen a vehicle that contained drugs and the attack was payback.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist says detectives believe human remains found March 10 near Harts Lake in Pierce County are those of the still-unidentified victim.

Burglary suspect linked to murder gun

A suspected serial burglar tracked by police using a GPS device is believed to have stolen the gun that was later used in a gang-related murder.

Robert J. Frates’ arrest on Tuesday is his third since December, when police picked him up on suspicion of breaking into several sports card stores in Spokane Valley.

No charges have been filed in that case, but Frates, 27, has a trial scheduled in June for charges related to the sale of stolen property, including several firearms.

One of those firearms, a Ruger Mini rifle, was used in the shooting death of John S. Williams on Jan. 17, 2010, police said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Photos released of MLK bomb suspect

 

 

 

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office has released booking photos of Martin Luther King, Jr., bomb suspect Kevin William Harpham.

Capt. John McGrath emailed the photos to mediaThursday night in response to public records requests. The photos show Harpham, 36, after he was booked into the Spokane County Jail on March 9. He was arrested that morning near his property north of Addy, Wash. A second set of photos from the U.S. Marshals Service has not been released.

Harpham has pleaded not guilty to a federal indictment charging him with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and unauthorized possession of an unregistered explosive device and is being held without bail. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Harpham's father, Cecil Harpham, told The Spokesman-Review that his son was with him the day the backpack bomb was discovered along the panned route of the Unity March on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in downtown Spokane.

Federal investigators say the device was capable of inflicting mass causalities and have called it an act of domestic terrorism.

Kevin Harpham has posted more than 1,000 comments on the racist website Vanguard News Network under the name “Joe Snuffy.”

Robbery suspect also a heroic rescuer

A man suspected of robbing three Spokane convenience stores last weekend rushed to a car crash to help a father and three children one year ago today.

Joseph D. Maine, 23, was working in his backyard with his brother when he heard the crash at 32nd and Ray on April 1, 2010. He and his brother rushed to the scene.

 “Hearing those little kids screaming. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I almost wanted to cry,” said Maine, who said he had two children of his own.

One year later, Maine is in the Spokane County Jail, after being arrested Wednesday for robberies Saturday at Mike's Grocery, 2025 N. Hamilton St., and at Zip Trip, 2005 N. Hamilton, and the Broadway Mini Market, 10304 E. Broadway Ave., on Sunday.

The victims on Sunday reported seeing the butt of a handgun in the robber's waistband.

Maine told friends he robbed the stores because he need money to pay bills, police say. The robber at Mike's Grocery reportedly told the clerk, “Sorry, bro. Gotta pay the bills,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

A tip led police to Maine, who told officers he was an unemployed heroin addict with a family to support. He said he used a BB gun during the robberies and “even apologized to the clerks because he had bills to pay,” according to the affidavit.

Police seized a black Daisy BB gun from a home where Maine was staying in the 3800 block of South Bowdish Road. Police also found drugs in Maine's jeans and noted in the affidavit that Maine asked them to “remove used needles from under his daughter's mattress.”

Maine remains in the Spokane County Jail on $100,000 bond.

Maine served time in jail last year for several counts of third-degree driving while license suspended.

He's pictured above last April.

State prison staff waiting for more safety

State prison guards who were promised safer working conditions following the Jan. 29 slaying of a corrections officer in Western Washington are still waiting.

At Airway Heights Corrections Center near Spokane, for example, self-defense pepper spray that experts recommend all officers carry while on duty remains locked up in an armory that only certain employees can open.

Other changes recommended by a panel whose report has been embraced by Gov. Chris Gregoire are still potentially months away from being implemented.

“We’re waiting to see if anything is going to come of this,” said Darren Kelly, president of the Washington Staff Assault Task Force and a corrections officer at Airway Heights. But he is skeptical the recommended changes will be made promptly enough. He added that the lack of staff and proper safety gear create ongoing workplace hazards.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

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