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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for February 2011

Thieves targeting for-sale Valley homes

Real estate agents are being targeted in a theft ring that preys upon vacant, for-sale homes.

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

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 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.

New sheriff’s patrol car totaled in crash

A sheriff's patrol car in service for about a month was destroyed in a crash Sunday in east Spokane.

Deputy Chuck Sciortino and Reserve Deputy Kathleen Hurst were treated for back and neck pain at a local hospital then driven home after the crash, which occurred about 7:15 p.m. as they were westbound on Francis Avenue approaching Freya Street.

Clifford Berry, 63 was eastbound on Francis in a 2006 Dodge Ram pickup pulling a trailer full of household goods when he turned left and was struck by the patrol car, which was responding to a report of threats.

Sgt. Dave Reagan said Berry appeared to have violated a green light, which allows for left turns after oncoming traffic has cleared, but he wasn't cited.

Reagan did not say how fast the patrol car was driving or if it had its lights or siren activated. The car hit the pickup with its left front, then slid and hit it again with its left rear.

Detectives are awaiting data from the patrol's car computer before making a charging decision, Reagan said.

The 2010 Crown Victoria had been in service about a month. Damage was estimated at $21,000; officials consider it a total loss.

Fake cop probed after crash, drugging

Detectives are looking for other potential victims of a Spokane man accused of drugging a woman and falsely portraying himself as a Coeur d'Alene police officer to another.

Terence M. Washington, 36, who is out of jail on bond, was first contacted by police after he rear ended another motorist at 16th Avenue and Progress Road on Feb. 7 and demanded to be taken to jail because he was drunk, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today. He provided a Florida driver's license that police say was suspended.

Police contacted the owner of the Mitsubishi Washington was driving, who told them Washington lived with her and that he had been sleeping all day “and felt very drowsy as if she had been drugged,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan. The woman said she was missing a bottle containing 13 Ambien tablets and gave police a cup of water from which she said Washington had forced her to drink.

A tow truck driver found an empty bottle of Ambien near the crash scene. Washington's passenger told police she'd met him on the dating website PlentyofFish.com and that he'd identified himself as a Coeur d'Alene police officer “who was in the process of being hired by the U.S. Marshal’s Office,” Reagan said.

Jail staff found 10 Ambien tablets in Washington's jacket. Toxicology tests showed traces of Ambien in the cup of water the Mitsubishi owner provided to police.

The woman said Washington recommended she get an Ambien prescription to help her sleep. She said she allowed Washington to stay one night at her home after meeting him at Oz Fitness and that he'd refused to leave.

Police booked the suspect on a fourth-degree assault charge after finding evidence that he'd beaten the woman, Reagan said. Washington also faces drunken driving and driving while suspended charges for the crash, and police are recommending he also be charged with delivery of a controlled substance for drugging the woman, Reagan said.

Detectives are concerned Washington may have drugged other women after claiming to be a police officer. They urge anyone who's had contact with him to call Detective Kirk Keyser at (509) 477-3786.

Washington posted $5,000 bond Feb. 9.

An arraignment scheduled for Feb. 16 was stricken because prosecutors haven't yet filed charges.

Sex offender in child rape case arrested

A convicted sex offender accused of child rape is due in court this afternoon after being arrested over the weekend.

Glenn E. Sapp, 51, was booked into the Spokane County Jail Saturday at 4:26 p.m. He was arrested at a home on North Molter Road in Otis Orchards.

Authorities notified the public of Sapp's fugitive status on Friday after sheriff's detectives couldn't locate him.

Law enforcement began investigating Sapp Feb 9 after a man who bought a computer from Sapp said he found images and videos showing the sex offender sexually abusing a young girl.

Then on Feb. 20, a woman contacted police and said a camera memory card stolen from Sapp's apartment in the 10100 block of East Main contained sexually explicit videos and pictures of at least four young girls. The woman said she'd gotten the card form a man who claimed to have stolen the camera from Sapp. Police say the card contained 223 photos and 49 videos of a sexually explicit nature.

Sapp is a level 1 sex offender after being convicted in Chelan County in 1999 of child pornography possession after he photographed children in his neighborhood.

He's charged with first-degree child molestation, first-degree child rape, sexual exploitation of a minor and first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Reward for tips on taco stand vandalism

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of those responsible for vandalizing a Coeur d'Alene taco stand.

The owner of Tacos Los Panchos in Coeur d'Alene discovered the trailer's power line, propane line and heater line severed when he arrived for work about 8:30 a.m. Feb. 11.

The taco stand also was burglarized Dec. 6, some time after 6:30 p.m. Someone pried open the trailer's main door and stole cash, laptop computer, an MP3 player and DVD player.

Anyone with information on the crimes is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (208) 667-2111 or 1-800-222-TIPS. Tipsters do not have to use their name to collect a reward.

The stand also has recently been picketed by white supremacists.

King County assailant wanted in Idaho

A man on probation for assault in King County is wanted by Idaho authorities after failing to check in with the state Department of Corrections.

Grant “Bear” Timothy Larson, 31, may be traveling to Canada with Marie Thompson, 25, and their four-month-old baby, according to the Bonner County Sheriff's Office.

Larson was convicted of third-degree assault in King County in December and allowed to move to Idaho, but he didn't check in with authorities as required.

Now he's wanted for escape from community custody. He's also wanted on assault and battery charges from 2008.

Investigators believe Larson and Thompson are driving a white 1997 Toyota Rav 4, Idaho license plate, 7B7802, that belongs to Thompson's mother.

Larson, 5-foot-7 and 210 pounds, has numerous tattoos, including “savage” and “oso tight” on his neck.

Anyone with information is based to contact the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force at (208) 666-5747 or the Bonner County Dispatch at (208) 265-5525.

Sex offender jailed for child porn

A Spokane sex offender already in jail has been indicted on federal child pornography charges.

Daniel Elliot Ochs, 47, pleaded not guilty this week to two felonies after a grand jury indicted him Feb. 16.

He's charged in U.S. District Court with receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography in relation to a search at his home on July 27. He's accused of possessing sexually explicit images of children beginning in January 2010.

The FBI seized three cell phones; Ochs would relinquish ownership under a forfeiture charge included in the indictment.

Ochs has been in jail since July. In 2005, he was sentenced to 46 months in prison for possession of child pornography. He was released early, in late 2008, and was to be on probation for five years. He was arrested after an Internet site complained of uploaded images of child pornography. Investigators traced an email address to Ochs.

Ochs said in a written statement to the FBI that he started looking at child pornography again because of “stress and relationship problems.”

“It is an addiction and I am in treatment for it,” he wrote, according to court documents.
  

Suspect says ISP fired at fleeing vehicle

A fugitive shot by an Idaho State Police corporal claims he was driving away from the man when shots were fired. 

“Why did you shoot us in the heads while we were driving away from you. (sic) That’s not protocol,” Mark Marion Maykopet, 24, wrote of Cpl Dan Howard in a letter sent to The Spokesman-Review from the Kootenai County Jail. Maykopet also claims he was unarmed, but investigators say they found two firearms in his vehicle.

Maykopet was married to Christie O’Leary Little, 40, who was killed when Howard fired on the Jeep Cherokee following a high-speed chase initiated after Howard pulled the car over for speeding.

Howard has refused to talk with investigators from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.

A Kootenai County marriage license shows Little was divorced and refers to her as Christie Ann O’Leary of Butte.

“I love her more than you can imagine,” Maykopet wrote. He said he met her in April when she was released from prison in Butte. “We fell in love. No one wanted to see us happy but we didn’t care.”

Read Alison Boggs' story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 18: ISP corporal fired fatal shots

Feb 9: Fugitive shot dead by Idaho State Police trooper

Bank robber charged w/ CdA hold-up

A man sentenced to 10 years in prison for robbing two Spokane banks faces additional time in federal custody for an alleged hold up at a Coeur d'Alene bank.

Michael R. Kent, 38, is charged with bank robbery for a Jan. 12, 2010, heist at Washington Trust Bank.

He's already pleaded guilty to robberies Dec. 16, 2009, at Chase Bank, 822 W. Francis Ave., and Dec. 24, 2009, at Numerica Credit Union, 1916 W. Francis.

He was sentenced earlier this month to 129 months in state prison for those crimes. The bank robbery charge was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

Kent, who has at least 10 felonies in Washington and Idaho, also has a warrant in Kootenai County for forgery and grand theft charges from May 2009.

Funeral today for senior SPD volunteer

Members of the law enforcement community will say goodbye to one of its own today.

Senior volunteer Eugene “Gene” LaLiberte, 91, will be remembered at a ceremony 11 a.m. at Heritage Funeral Home, 508 N. Government Way.

At his request, he will be laid to rest wearing his volunteer uniform. In lieu of flowers, family suggests contributions to the Spokane Law Enforcement Museum.

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said LaLiberte “will always have a place of honor” in the department.

“Gene was a pillar of volunteerism,” she said in a prepared statement. “He is irreplaceable and will be truly missed.”

Read my story here.

In addition to volunteering with SPD and other activities, LaLiberte dressed as Santa Claus at Spokane International Airport each Christmas Eve for more than 30 years.

He was featured in this Christmas Day article in 2006.

Pa. man arrested at ‘going away’ party

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man who threw himself a going away party before his sentencing on drug charges was picked up on an outstanding warrant after police saw information about the party posted on flyers and his Facebook page.

Scranton Police Chief Dan Duffy says 28-year-old Keith Cardone was arrested early Wednesday during the party he threw for himself at a Scranton bar.

The Times-Tribune of Scranton reports Cardone is awaiting sentencing for his role in a drug ring that distributed $2.7 million in marijuana and cocaine in the area.

Duffy says two officers spotted ads for Cardone's “Going Away Ba$h” then picked him up on a warrant stemming from another drug charge.

Cardone is being held on $5,000 bail. It was not clear if he had an attorney.

Bicycling Seattle mayor has bike stolen

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle's bicycling mayor has had some explaining to do — to his wife about why her bike got swiped after he borrowed it to ride to work.

Seattlepi.com says Mayor Mike McGinn sent a message on Twitter late Wednesday about Peggy Lynch's wheels.

He says in a tweet: “I know I've been encouraging people to ride bikes more, but I didn't mean u could 'borrow' my wife's bike w/o asking.”

McGinn, a former Sierra Club leader, frequently commutes by bike and often rides to events and meetings. He's a strong advocate of making Seattle more friendly to cycles and pedestrians.

McGinn's spokesman says the mayor borrowed his wife's bike because he recently donated his own to a charity. It was taken from a city garage.

Tuna, lost wallet busts robbery suspect

A box of Chicken of the Sea tuna and a lost wallet recently led to felony charges against a Spokane man suspected of robbing a medical marijuana patient at gunpoint.

Jesse Ryder Bender, 29, is in jail on $35,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court on two counts of unlawful imprisonment and two counts of first-degree robbery. He was arrested Feb. 21 after being released from jail Jan. 3 because prosecutors hadn't yet filed charges.

Bender was first arrested Dc. 30 while working at the High Nooner in downtown Spokane.

Detectives identified Bender as a suspect through a wallet left at the scene of the Dec. 28 robbery , in the 8000 block of E. South Riverway Ave. in Spokane Valley. Fingerprints on a box of Chicken of Sea also were identified as belonging to Bender, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Police say Bender asked a woman at the home if she'd ordered Chicken of the Sea when she answered the door, then forced his way into the home and gunpoint and tied the woman up. Her son had a medical marijuana card and maintained a small grow operation at the home.

Bender and another man not identified in court documents are accused of binding the woman and her other son with zip ties and stealing marijuana plants while the pot patient was at work.

Detectives discovered Bender's wallet in the grow room and contacted him at the sandwich shop, where he told them he may have lost his wallet on the bus.

Chief wants to shift focus in shootings

Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said this week that she hopes to bring more public focus on the perception of officers involved in fatal shootings.

 ”We get so focused on whether a person is armed and is it a knife or whatever. We've got to change this focus. It's whatever the officer is faced with - is it life threatening to that officer?” Kirkpatrick said at a meeting of the city's Public Safety Committee.” We need to continue to bring this forward, because officers do get killed when there was no gun.”

City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi said the media and public don't focus on that. 

“The public or the media will focus on, from the public's perspective, you know, what occurred,” Treppiedi said. “The law focuses not on what the public perceived or what the witnesses perceived or even what the shooting victim perceived. The law focuses on what the chief said, and that is what did the officer perceive?”

Treppiedi continued, “whereas a lot of the public's discussion comes from 'but witnesses said x and the editor says y.'”

The discussion took place Monday as Lt. Craig Meidl presented to committee members internal affairs investigation data that included the number of officer-involved shootings since 2006 (three in 2010, two in 2009, zero in 2008, four in 2007 and zero in 2006.)

Committee member and City Councilman Bob Apple asked if the department was revamping policies and questioned shooting suspects who are armed with knives and not guns.

Kirkpatrick said she once had an officer shot in the line of duty with his own weapon.

“No one was armed when he showed up, but…he lost the wrestling match and the guy grabbed his gun and shot and killed him,” Kirkpatrick said.

 She emphasized that the threat of grievous bodily injury - one justification for the use of deadly force - can differ from situation to situation.

“What is grievous bodily injury is going to be very unique in that particular event that that officer is faced with,” Kirkpatrick said.

City Council President Joe Shogan said situations could end differently if police were called sooner. He referred to the Dec. 4 shooting of Jeremy Groom by police outside a Hillyard tavern.

Groom was shot as he pointed a gun at a man who turned out to be one of his best friends. His friends say Groom never would have shot the man and say officers didn't give him time to drop the gun.

The dispute began inside the tavern. Shogan said options seemed limited by the time police were called.

“I would hope that citizens would say 'OK if we're going to involve the police, let's involve them sooner than later,” Shogan said. “Don't wait until this gets to be a flash point and then hope that there are a lot of options, which, at that point, I don't think there are.”

Meth-addicted mail thieves sentenced

Two Spokane women who stole mail to help fuel their methamphetamine addictions are to repay nearly $50,000 and spend about four years in federal prison.

Jacquelyn A. Crawford, 40, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edward Shea to 53 months in prison after pleading guilty in October to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Charlene M. Haggard, 43, received 48 months for the same charges.

Both will be on probation for three years and are prohibited from accruing debt, opening checking accounts or obtaining bank cards without a probation officer's approval. They also are to repay nearly $47,375.16 for counterfeit checks they passed at area businesses.

Haggard and Crawford gathered materials for fake checks by ransacking rural mail boxes and prowling cars from February until April, when investigators searched Haggard's home at 5904 N. Regal St. and Crawford's room at the Apple Tree Inn, 9508 N. Division Street.

Crawford said she was “kind of relieved” when she was taken into custody, investigators said.

“She just began injecting methamphetamine, so in a way she was thankful she was caught,” Spokane County Sheriff's Office Detective Dean Meyer said in May. Crawford, a mother of three, completed in-patient rehabilitation and was allowed to stay with her mother in Spanaway pending sentencing. Haggard remains in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison.

Mohawked man wanted by police

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest a man suspected of possessing a stolen car.

Jedidah l. Selke, 36, was arrested Jan. 25 after a Spokane police officer spotted a stolen 1994 Acura Integra outside a home at 2718 W. Sharp Ave.

The officer watched the home until a tall man, later identified as Selke, got inside. Selke told police he'd been driving the car because he didn't want a friend to be arrested, according to court documents.

He was released from jail after charges weren't filed within 72 hours, then didn't show up for his arraignment Feb. 2.  A $5,000 warrant was issued Feb. 15.

Selke is also wanted on a $5,000 warrant for a drug possession charge from last summer.

Selke, 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, last gave a home address in the 900 block of West Augusta Avenue.

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

Killer w/ 67 arrests sentenced for drugs

A convicted killer who has been arrested 67 times since leaving juvenile detention is headed to state prison.

Nicholas A. Limpert, 25, was sentenced this week to one year and one day in prison with credit for 18 days served after pleading guilty to two counts of drug possession.

The felony convictions are his 10th and 11th since 2007. He still faces a second-degree burglary charge after police say they caught him in the act Feb. 7.

Limpert avoided prison as a teenager for his role in a murder because a judge believed he could be rehabilitated. He has been arrested 67 times since, mostly for property-related crimes.

Limpert's demeanor seems to have changed since he was a teen. He was described as smirking and laughing during his sentencing for first-degree murder in 2001; Spokane police say he’s now well known for crying upon arrest.

Suspects ID’d in heroin bust near school

Three people suspected of selling heroin across the street from a Spokane elementary school remain in jail after their arrest last week.

Eliseo Villegas, 52; Raeann L. Tevlin, alias Reanne McAlonan, 18; and Christopher Martinez, 37, were arrested Friday at 1723 E. Mission Ave., which is near Stevens Elementary School.

Tabitha D. Creel, 29, also was arrested but was released on her own recognizance Monday after appearing before Superior Court Judge Michael Price.

Villegas is jailed on $10,000 bond and driving while suspended charges; Tevlin and Martinez have $5,000 bond and unrelated charges also.

Police searched the home a confidential informant bought heroin from Villegas on several occasions. They recovered a money, scales, a small amount of heroin and several syringes.

Trial begins in alleged house theft, arson

A man charged with the theft and arson of his former landlord's house is on trial in Spokane County Superior Court.

Lawyers gave opening statements this morning in the case of Stephen J. Czako, who is charged with first-degree theft and first-degree arson.

Czako, 26, said he was buying the home at 4621 N. Post St. from Joanne Tucker; Tucker (pictured) says he forged her signature. Investigators believe Czako set the home on fire in October 2008.

The case took months for fire and police to investigate and hinges on the authenticity of documents and handwriting samples.

The trial before Judge Tari Eitzen is expected to last into next week.

Steve Garvin is prosecuting the case. Stephen Czako is represented by Chris Phelps. His sister, Shannon Czako, is to stand trial next month on charges attempted first-degree theft and official misconduct for allegedly using a notary on a document she knew was forged.

Past coverage:

June 3, 2009: Suspicious blaze at center of house dispute

Motor home rams patrol car in wild chase

A police chase with a motor home Tuesday night ended with a Spokane Valley man's arrest after the rig tried to ram a patrol car, officials said today.

Michael Manuel Chavez, 56, was booked into jail on a second-degree assault charge after inviting police into his home after the wild chase, which included Chavez directing his dogs to “get” officers, according to a news release.

The chase began when Spokane County sheriff's Sgt. Doug Marske was stopped to the side of Willow Road reading a computer message about 10 p.m. He saw headlights quickly approaching from behind and pulled ahead and off the road to avoid a collision, according to a news release.

The motor home stopped in front of Marske's patrol car and Marske exited his car, but the driver backed the rig toward the sergeant “while staring directly at him,” according to a news release.

The rig then took off southbound on Willow, and Marske activated his car's emergency lights and took off after it. The motor home again backed toward the patrol car at Willow and Appleway Boulevard but accelerated again and turned southbound on Farr Road before pulling into a yard on a private road.

The driver exited the vehicle and walked into a home, which officers surrounded.

Chavez exited the home with baseball bat and commanded his dog to “get 'em” while pointing at police, but he eventually invited them into his home and was arrested, according to a news release.

Police say Chavez had trouble standing, had slurred speech and smelled strongly of alcohol.

Steele’s lawyers want trial moved to Wyo.

Edgar Steele's lawyers want his murder-for-hire trial moved to Wyoming. 

A change of venue request filed by Robert McAllister and Gary Amendola cites “negative pre-trial publicity” that will hinder finding an impartial jury in North Idaho.

The lawyers say ongoing news coverage, including the release of phone calls that are the basis for a witness tampering charge against Steele, was assisted by the U.S. government or Spokane County Jail officials.

“There was no need for anyone to release evidence in a criminal case to the media other than to gain an unfair advantage,” according to the motion.

The phone calls were actually made from the Kootenai County Jail - not Spokane, where Steele has since been housed. The Spokesman-Review obtained the recordings after they were played in open court at Steele's bail hearing last June.

McAllister and Amendola want the trial moved to U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, Wyo., where potential jurors who “know nothing about the negative and highly prejudicial pre-trial publicity” are available. If the request is denied, the lawyers want to conduct “careful and deliberate voir dire examination” regarding pre-trial publicity.

Federal prosecutors have until Thursday at 5 p.m. to respond.

Steele is accused of hiring a hitman turned FBI informant to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele. Prosecutors say he was involved with another woman overseas. In a prepared statement, Cyndi Steele says she knew of the woman, who she says was contacted by her husband as part of his ongoing legal work to stop human trafficking.

The trial is set to begin March 7.

State patrol: DNA solving more crimes

DNA testing in Washington is identifying more criminals than ever before.

The Washington State Patrol crime lab reported 379 hits last year using a DNA index system and DNA samples from crime suspects and convicted felons. In 2009, 257 hits were recorded.

Officials attribute the increase to a new program that tests evidence from property crimes, as well as technological improvement. Investigators have gleaned more than 1,500 leads from DNA since the state implemented the system more than 10 years ago, according to a WSP news release. (Forensic scientist Anna Wilson is pictured above examining DNA evidence.)

The news release cited a Spokane grocery store robber arrested after DNA he submitted for a drug conviction was matched to DNA found on a fake wig he wore during the June 2009 crime (pictured).

Donald R. Wright pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery last May.

Other perhaps more notable examples include the recent arrest of Gary Trimble, who's accused of murdering Dorothy Burdette in 1986.

DNA obtained after a 2007 conviction in Montana matched DNA found on the Burdette's bra and on a blanket in which her body was wrapped. Trimble was extradited from Montana in January.

And just last month, 23-year-old Louis Kuster of Spokane was arrested for a year-old rape after DNA submitted for a property crime conviction matched DNA left on the victim.

“This is about arresting and convicting the guilty, and clearing the innocent,” WSP Chief John R. Batiste said in a prepared statement. “DNA is the most reliable way we’ve ever had for telling if someone was present at a crime scene.”

The DNA lab, located in Seattle, receives about 1,400 samples from convicted felons each month. The database contains more than 194,000 DNA profiles.

Samples are regularly compared to DNA evidence from more than 3,500 crimes statewide and to the national DNA database.

More than half of last year's hits were linked for burglaries, and about 39 percent were for violent crimes such as murder, rape, robbery or assault.

Nearly 80 percent of the 379 hits were from people convicted of non-violent crimes like burglary or drug possession, which WSP says “shows the value of capturing DNA from those convicted of less severe, mostly non-violent crimes.”

  

Few vacancies at Spokane County Jail

An increase in the number of inmates prompted the Spokane County Jail to begin limiting new bookings on Tuesday.

As of noon Tuesday, 665 people were housed at the jail. Booking restrictions are put in place once the population climbs above 650.

Bookings will be generally limited to major crimes, probation and U.S. Marshal holds or misdemeanor offenses with mandatory arrests like domestic violence incidents.

Drunken driving arrests also will be booked, along with warrants preventing release on own recognizance.

“No other misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges will be booked without a supervisor from the arresting agency contacting the Jail Shift Sergeant to request an exception,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

After three trials, jury convicts burglar

It took three tries, but a Spokane County jury has convicted Gary D. McCabe of his 17th burglary.

  A jury late Friday found McCabe, 45, guilty of residential burglary and possession of a controlled substance.

They acquitted him on one misdemeanor count of possession of stolen property. McCabe was convicted of stealing more than $25,000 worth of rare gold and silver coins from a man who began his collection in 1960.

McCabe, who recently was sentenced to seven years in prison for an earlier burglary, faces a similar sentence when he is sentenced on March 8 before Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque.

Two previous trials ended in mistrial, including when a juror deduced — correctly — that McCabe burglarized her home last August and a potential juror said he'd transported McCabe as a corrections officer.

Past coverage: Oct. 12: Burglar stole more than gold

March 27, 2009: Arrests may crack burglaries

Police juggernaut thwarts crafty crime

OK, maybe the headline is a bit of an exaggeration.

Two burglary suspects were arrested Monday after one invited police to search his apartment and they found a stolen TV.

Jarrod J. Howard, 29, assured Spokane Valley police Officer Chan Erdman he wouldn't find anything in his apartment at 10101 E. Main Ave. when Erdman arrived to investigate a burglary at a neighbor's apartment.

Erdman found the TV under a blanket on a bed.

A witness had called police after spotting Howard and another man stealing from the apartment. Police also found stolen knives and X-Box games.

Howard was booked into jail on a burglary charge with suspected accomplice Justin Spenser Johns, 25.

Discarded mail leads to fuel theft arrest

A suspected gas thief tipped off police by discarding her mail in the station trashcan and leaving her identification card with an employee.

Spokane Valley police tracked Lacey Nicole Trottier, 21, to her apartment in the 1800 block of North Hutchinson Road by checking the discarded mail.

She's suspected of stealing $60 in fuel from the Cenex Station, 15504 E. Fourth Ave., on Monday. When police arrived, the station employee said the same driver left her identification card behind while stealing $75 in fuel on Jan. 29.

Cpl. Darin Staley arrested Trottier on two new charges of second-degree theft, as well as driving with license suspended and possession of methamphetamine for a small quantity of meth found in her purse, according to a news release.

Trottier also was booked on a warrant for a 2009 second-degree theft case in which she's accused of stealing $400 from a cash register at TJ Maxx in the Valley mall, where she was employed.

Woman may need Bomb Reporting 101

A Spokane woman picked up a suspicious device and transported it across town before contacting authorities Sunday.

Police say the woman located the device in the area of 2800 E. Diamond Ave., then transported it to an apartment at 1405 N. Lincoln St .

A few hours later, at 9:30 p.m., she decided she didn't feel safe, took the device outside and called police. A bomb robot examined the device, and police concluded it “to be a small but crude attempt at a sparkler bomb,” according to a news release.

Police don't believe the device was intended to injure or scare anyone. They urge citizens to call them “PRIOR to moving any suspicious device or package.”

Seattle man accused of local child rape

A Seattle man visiting relatives in Spokane has been arrested for child rape.

James E. Norby, 67, is accused of sexually assaulting two young girls while visiting family in north Spokane County.

He was booked into jail Monday on charges of first-degree child rape and first-degree child molestation.

The girls were sleeping when one awoke to Norby “in the act of the sexual assault,” according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The girls' parents called police. Norby has no prior criminal history in Spokane County.
  

Felon jailed for arson, insurance fraud

A longtime felon who has filed at least 15 lawsuits against various government entities is in jail on federal arson and wire fraud charges. 

Anthony W. Sotin, 42 is accused of starting a fire in a vacant building on Nora Avenue and setting a car on fire Jan. 12, then filing a false insurance claim.

A hand-held torch was used to start the fires and in each case it was left behind by the arsonist.

Read Nina Culver's story here.

In 1997, Sotin was involved in a police chase that resulted in a story with this lead: Anthony Sotin has a history of bashing things: mailboxes, windows, his ex-wife’s nose. Read that story here.

Burglar hits Spokane Valley tattoo shop

Five tattoo guns were stolen from a Spokane Valley shop last Friday.

The owner of Feel Good Tattoo, 12 N. Skipworth Road, said he slept through a 4 a.m. call from his alarm company but awoke at 9 .am. and had an employee check the business.

The burglar entered the shop through a damaged door, according to Spokane Valley police Officer H.J. Whapeles.

Items stolen include a Kodak camera, a Ted Tattoo gun, a OnePulse tattoo gun, two Spalding tattoo guns and a Dixon tattoo gun, as well as Eternal and Starbright paints, safety glasses, disposable tubes and numerous tattoo needles.  Value of the items exceeds $1,000.

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

Tips sought to crack concrete caper

Police are asking the public’s help to identify the thief or thieves who struck a Spokane Valley business last Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

The owner of Clark’s Concrete told Officer Glen Hinckley that someone cut a hole through the south security fence, which is just north of Centennial Middle School at 1303 N. Ella.

Two padlocks were cut from semi-trailers used for storage, and an $800 Subaru generator and $500 pressure washer were stolen.  A pair of grinders also was stolen.

A small flashlight was left at the scene, as well as bolt cutters that appeared to have been broken on the heavier shank of a third padlock.

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

Unpaid bar tab leads to ID theft arrest

An unpaid bar tab led to a woman's arrest on identity theft charges in Spokane Valley late Saturday.

A man and woman left the Corner Club Bar, 2208 N. Park Road, with a $117 bar tab after their debit card was declined but said they were going to their nearby motel room to get cash.

When they didn't return, a bar employee gave the declined debit card to Spokane Valley police Officer Justin Elliot, who determined it was stolen.

Employees at the nearby Red Top Motel said the woman named on the stolen card had rented a room there, so Elliot and  Officers Dale Wells and David Lawhorn  went to the room “and contacted an intoxicated Kathryn Elizabeth Reed,” police said.

Reed, 24, first claimed to be the woman named on the card. She invited police to retrieve her medical marijuana card from her purse when police spotted pot on the nightstand.

Police didn't find the card, but they did find identification belonging to Reed, as well as financial information and mail from five other people, according to a news release. Each person lives in the area of 11800 East Maxwell Avenue, where the declined debit card was reported stolen in a car prowling Feb. 18.

Reed was booked into jail on a felony count of second-degree identity theft and misdemeanor counts of third-degree theft (for the bar tab) and possession of marijuana. 

Woman accused of OxyContin fraud

An additional '1' on an OxyContin prescription didn't earn a Deer Park woman the pill haul police say she wanted.

An employee at Medicine Shop Pharmacy in Deer Park called police Friday after Bowman attempted to fill a prescription for 160 Oxycontin pills.

The prescribing doctor had told employee that the prescription was for just 60 of the powerful pain pills.

The employee “noted the “one” in 160 was in a slightly different color of ink” and called police, according to  the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Dan Dutton arrested the suspect, Shannon B. Bowman, 33, on a felony charge of prescription fraud.

German police officer trains with SPD

A police cadet from Germany recently spent four weeks training with the Spokane Police Department.

Jens Muth spent time with various units, including the SWAT team, drug unit and gang unit. Muth rode with officers during each patrol shift and also trained with the K-9 unit.

Muth's relationship with the department began four years ago when he was visiting friends in Spokane. He rode along with Officer Rob Boothe and stayed in contact with him.

Muth began his law enforcement career as a government attendant (wachpolizei) in 2002, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, SPD spokeswoman. By 2008, Muth was studying to become a police public official (kriminal kommissar). He was required to undergo three training sessions.

After learning basic skills, he was invited to spend four weeks with a police department in another country, so he contacted Boothe.  Assistant Chief Jim Nicks approved the internship, which began Jan. 22 and saw Muth live with a Spokane police employee's family.

Muth returned to Hessian, Germany, on Sunday after a “fantastic experience” in Spokane, DeRuwe said.

Canadian gangster admits drug charge

A Canadian gangster who authorities say is responsible for major drug distributions in Eastern Washington faces eight years in prison under a plea agreement signed recently in Spokane.

Joseph P. Curry, an associate of imprisoned B.C. drug lord Clay Roueche, pleaded guilty Thursday to importation of Ecstasy, which carries a maximum 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors and Curry's lawyer, Chris Phelps, have agreed to recommend a 102-month sentence and three years probation at his sentencing May 5.

According to the plea agreement filed Thursday, Curry made an emergency landing in a small Cessna plane about 35 miles from the Canadian border in Okanogan County on Aug. 10, 2007.

Federal agents found three duffel bags containing 30 kilograms of Ecstasy nearby. Curry's lawyer called authorities on Aug. 13, 2007, and asked for the plane back, saying his client had experienced engine problems and bad weather. A grand jury indicted Curry the next month.

Curry was named as as a suspect in the Operation Blade Runner federal drug bust that included arrests in Eastern Washington and North Idaho and led to the suicide of young helicopter pilot Samuel Lindsay-Brown int he Spokane County Jail.

After Lindsay-Brown's suicide, another young Canadian man was arrested near Priest Lake with a helicopter filled with marijuana. The helicopter belonged to a friend of Curry's, and authorities believe Curry helped load the aircraft in Canada, according to court documents.

Curry is an associate of the United Nations gang in Vancouver, B.C.

Roueche, the gang leader, was sentenced to 30 years in prison last December. Prosecutors said he ran a drug ring that used a network of helicopters, planes, semi-trucks and other methods to move tons of marijuana and cocaine and millions of dollars through Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Curry and Roueche were photographed together (see left) at the funeral of a UN gang member who was killed in a drug-related shooting in Canada, according to federal court documents.

Federal agents believe a smaller drug ring was headed by four Canadian men, one of whom offered to cooperate if investigators let him continue his operation for a decade.

Rescued boys’ family to honor flight crew

The family of two boys who were rescued by a Spokane County sheriff's helicopter crew last month will be thanking the crew at a special ceremony this evening.

Volunteer pilot Dave Valenti and Deputies Chad Ruff and Brandon Armstrong will be recognized at the North Spokane Library Branch, 44 E. Hawthorne Road. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich will attend.

The boys, ages 7 and 9, became lost Jan. 16 as they hiked in the snowy Pine River Park area in north Spokane County.

Spokane Search and Rescue teams and the sheriff’s helicopter, Air One, were called out to assist regular patrol deputies after the boys were reported missing about 5:25 p.m.

The team used the helicopter's searchlight to find the boys on their second flight over the area. Ruff jumped from the craft as the crew performed a “one skid” landing on the hillside, the sheriff's office said.

He wrapped the 9-year-old with his flight suit after realizing he'd waded out into the Little Spokane River in a failed attempt to reach homes on the opposite bank, according to a news release.

The flight crew provided ground search teams with GPS coordinates and the boys and Ruff were removed by volunteers on ATVs. The boys have since recovered.

ISP corporal fired fatal shots at fugitive

An Idaho State Police report confirms that Cpl. Dan Howard fired the shots that killed one person and injured another after two Montana fugitives rammed his patrol car on Feb. 7.

Mark Marion Maykopet, 24, of Butte, was treated at Kootenai Medical Center then jailed on a $1.5 million bond.

His passenger, Christie O’Leary Little, 40, also known as Christie Ann Little, was killed.

Following the incident, detectives found two guns on the floor of the Jeep Cherokee driven by Maykopet, the report said. A fully automatic 9 mm was found behind the rear seat with an empty 32-round magazine.

A .25 caliber pistol was found under the passenger seat toward the rear with an eight-round magazine, but the chamber was not loaded.

Read Alison Boggs' story here.

Past coverage:

Feb 9: Fugitive shot dead by Idaho State Police trooper

Green River Killer admits 49th murder

SEATTLE (AP) — One of the nation's most prolific killers pleaded guilty Friday to killing a 49th person.

Gary Ridgway already is serving 48 life terms at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He entered his plea on a murder charge at the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent, a Seattle suburb.

Ridgway, who has been dubbed the Green River Killer, confessed to killing Rebecca “Becky” Marrero in 1982 as part of a 2003 plea deal that spared him the death penalty.

 Ridgway, who was a commercial truck painter, has been convicted of 48 murders and confessed to or been suspected of dozens more. Several victims were dumped in or posed along the Green River.

He preyed upon women and girls at the margins of society — runaways, prostitutes and drug addicts strangled in a spree that terrorized Seattle and its south suburbs in the 1980s.

Marrero, a 20-year-old mother, (right) was last seen when she left a motel in 1982.

Prosecutors originally declined to charge Ridgway in Marrero's death in 2003 because he was not able to provide conclusive evidence that he killed her. The plea deal required him to plead guilty to future King County charges based on new evidence.

Marrero's remains were discovered Dec. 21 when teenagers found a skull in a ravine at Auburn, south of Seattle. They were found 100 feet from where investigators found another of Ridgway's victims, Marie Malvar, in 2003.

 Ridgway, who turned 62 on Friday, was charged with murder on Feb. 7. He was brought from the state prison for the arraignment, where he sat handcuffed and shackled around his legs.

After Ridgway entered the plea, Marrero's sister, Mary Marrero, told county Superior Court Judge Mary E. Roberts that the family had agonized for 29 years, wondering what happened to her.

“I don't agree with this plea deal to spare his pathetic life,” she said in a halting voice, as Ridgway turned in his chair to face her and two other family members at a lectern. “It makes me sick to my stomach that he beat the system.”

Ridgway, she said, knows where all his victims are and what he did to them. She called them “his trophies.”

She told the judge, “If I had one thing to ask today, it would be to kill him.” (Marrero's mother, who stood by as her daughter spoke, is pictured at left.)

Ridgway rose and began to apologize to the family, but was cut off by a man in the audience who shouted, “Shut your mouth.”

“I'm sorry you had to wait this long for some truth and some justice,” Roberts said to the family.

The judge told Ridgway that in his case, “I can find no compassion,” then sentenced him to a 49th consecutive life term.

Ridgway was arrested in 2001 after advances in DNA technology enabled authorities to link a saliva sample he gave authorities in 1987 to some of the bodies. He pleaded guilty two years later, agreeing to help authorities locate as many remains as possible.

He is serving life without release in solitary confinement at the state prison, where he's allowed out of his cell one hour a day four times a week.

Basketball game pits SPD v. SCSO

Employees from the Spokane County Sheriff's Office and the Spokane Police Department will compete in a basketball game for charity tonight.

The game begins at 7 p.m. at the Hub Sports Center, 19619 E. Cataldo Ave. The location is east of Barker Road behind Freedom RV.

Admission is $3. Proceeds benefit the Salvation Army. Attendees are asked to donate non-perishable food items.

Canadian arrested with 71 lbs of cocaine

U.S. border patrol agents seized 71 pounds of cocaine near the Canadian border in Eastern Washington this week.

Jonathan Darren Smith, 39, is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail after agents near the Laurier border crossing spotted him on the east side of Highway 395 “frantically trying to climb the snowy berm at the edge of the roadway,” about 9:05 p.m. on Wednesday, according to federal court documents.

Smith,dressed in black with a backpack strapped to his chest and one strapped to his back, as ordered to the ground at gunpoint.

He told U.S. Border Patrol Agent Eric Forthun that he was returning to Canada after crossing into the United States by foot two days earlier. But Forthun recalled agents discovering snowy footprints near the border a day earlier and suspected Smith was a drug smuggler, documents say.

Investigators found 30 individually wrapped, sealed packages of cocaine in the backpacks. Smith also had $13 in U.S. currency and $175 in Canadian currency.

The suspect declined to talk to investigators. He appeared in U.S. District Court on Thursday and is represented by the federal public defender's office.

According to this article, Smith was caught with $165,000 in undeclared U.S. currency when he tried to enter B.C. in 2007.

Man jailed after abused dog seized

A Spokane Valley man is in jail after animal control officers say they found his dog whimpering in pain from months of abuse.

Jeffrey S. Brown, 40, faces a first-degree animal cruelty charge after neighbors called the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service and said Brown beat and kicked the dog at his home at 14819 E. 4th Ave.

Brown told investigators that he’d adopted the 1-year-old brown dog, Gizmoto, last June and said he’d recently taken it to a veterinarian, but the vet told police he hadn’t seen Brown.

Brown released ownership of the dog to SCRAPS on Jan. 13, and the organization paid for the dog to be examined. The dog had a broken femur that was about three or four weeks old but had been re-injured. The vet said the dog was in severe pain and likely would require surgery, according to court documents.

Brown’s wife, Jennifer Brown, told police she’d left the dog with her husband after Child Protective Services took their four-year-old son because of abuse.

Brown remains in jail on $10,000 bond after appearing before Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins on Friday.

Sex offender faces child porn charges

A registered sex offender is accused of receiving child pornography over the Internet. 

Andrew Vaughn Davis, 34, was arrested Thursday in Deer Park after a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography. The charges carry sentences of 15 to 40 years and 10 to 20 years in prison.

Davis is a level 2 sex offender after being convicted of two counts of third-degree child rape in Thurston County in 1998. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.

The new charges allege he received child pornography over the Internet from Sept. 9, 2005, to Nov. 19, 2008, when investigators found more than 600 sexually explicit images of children on computers at his Deer Park home.

Davis is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail.

Police arrest heroin suspects near school

Spokane police arrested four people today on suspicion of selling heroin across the street from an elementary school.

Drug detectives had used a confidential informant to conduct undercover purchases at the apartment, located in the upstairs of a home at 1723 E. Mission Ave., before police raided the place about 1 p.m., said Officer Tim Moses.

The home is near Stevens Elementary School.

“They were literally across the street from that playground,” Moses said. “You can throw a rock and hit a kid.”

Police recovered a small amount of heroin and arrested two men and two women. Their names were not immediately available. Moses said the group sold heroin from the home during the day while children played nearby

He said the suspects had syringes loaded with heroin when police arrived.

“It looked like they tried to unload some of their syringes by spraying them against the wall, but it didn't work,” Moses said.

Man shot by police acquitted of assault

A Spokane Valley man was cleared Thursday of charges that he assaulted the sheriff’s deputies who shot him in 2009, leaving him paralyzed below the chest.

David J. Glidden, 28, broke into tears as the Spokane County Superior Court jury read the verdict of “not guilty” on two counts of third-degree assault on law enforcement officers, neither of whom were injured.

“The cops overreacted. They shot me so many times. I was worried that no one would listen to me,” Glidden said after the decision.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 9, 2009: Man shot by police: 'It will be on the news'

Nov. 4, 2009: Man shot by police had pellet gun

Feds: Affair was Steele’s murder motive

A North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife was involved with another woman who received a letter from him after his arrest, federal prosecutors allege.

 Edgar J. Steele, 65, wanted his wife murdered because he “had been establishing a relationship with a young woman who lives outside of the United States,” according to documents filed this week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene.

Ukrainian officials interviewed the woman and say she provided them with a letter she received from Steele after his arrest last June.

Prosecutors say they plan to show jurors other letters and evidence outlining steps Steele took to meet the woman.  The new information regarding Steele’s alleged motive in the murder-for-hire plot was included in documents filed by prosecutors seeking to keep Steele in custody without bail pending his trial next month.

Read the rest of my story here.

$250k bond for arson, child rape suspect

A child rape suspect pulled from his burning Chattaroy home this week remains jailed on $250,000 bail after his first court appearance Thursday.

David Wayne Jewell, 40, faces first-degree child molestation and first-degree arson charges after he allegedly tries to torch his home at 34124 N. Newport Highway when deputies arrived to investigate a child rape report about 1:20 a.m Wednesday.

Jewell lit the home on fire and was pulled to safety by deputies after wielding a knife and homemade flame thrower, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. He was shocked with a Taser after refusing to drop the items.

Jewell denied the rape allegation in interviews with detectives at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he was treated before being booked into jail.

Jewell appeared before Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins Thursday via video from the jail.

Yoke’s night manager accused of theft

A Deer Park grocery store manager was arrested on suspicion of theft Thursday.

Renee K. Olson, 47, is accused of stealing more than $1,600 from Yoke's, 810 S. Main St., by making fraudulent cash refunds when no customers were present. She's due in Superior Court this afternoon via video from the jail, where she was booked on a second-degree theft charge.

Deputy Dan Dutton reviewed security video of Olson, the night manager, making the refunds after being called to the store about 7 p.m. Thursday.

Store employees believe she's been making the phony refunds since January. She has since been fired, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.
  

Drug robbery targets chronic DUI suspect

A violent home-invasion robbery in Spokane Valley last month targeted a former sheriff's deputy with a history of DUI crashes.

James L. Crabtree, 49, was struck in the head with a claw hammer early Jan. 21 by a man who demanded “dope and money,” according to charging papers filed Wednesday against suspects Matthias “Payback” Piggot and Sandy K. Perreira, both 29 (pictured left to right). 

The man, who detectives believe was Piggot, had arrived at the apartment in the 12700 block of East Shannon Avenue with a woman Crabtree said had been at his home two days earlier, police say. Detectives believe that woman was Perreira.

Crabtree told police he grabbed a folding knife but dropped it after he was threatened with the hammer. He told his attackers he didn't have any drugs or money, so the two left with his checkbook, wallet and credit cards, according to court documents. Crabtree suffered a concussion in the attack. His girlfriend, Cheryl L. Dassow, told police the robbers threatened to harm them further if they reported the attack.

Perreira faces an additional forgery charge for cashing a check on Crabtree's Numerica Credit Union account. She also faces drug and malicious mischief charges for an unrelated incident last December. 

Piggot's criminal history includes convictions for domestic violence and attempting to elude police. In June, he was suspected of stabbing a man in Spokane Valley but an uncooperative victim halted the police probe. He also was present when Andrew T. Burns allegedly shot a man last June.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest Piggot, who last gave an address in the 2900 block of North Maple Road, and Perreira, who last gave an address in the 800 block of East Sitka Avenue.

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

In November, Crabtree, (left) who worked as a Spokane County sheriff's deputy in the 1980s and caused a crash that injured Lt. Earl Howerton in 2001, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after motorists noticed him passing out at the wheel of his Cadillac and blocked in his car. Police found an open can of Four Loko in the car. But Crabtree's blood-alcohol level was under the legal limit for driving, and prosecutors haven't yet filed charges.

Jury to decide Cole Strandberg’s fate

A Spokane County jury will now decide whether Cole K. Strandberg should face the prospect of life imprisonment or indefinite commitment to a mental institution after a judge concluded he was sane in 2008 when he shot a woman with a crossbow. 

Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen was highly critical of the review of Strandberg’s case by mental health professionals at Eastern State Hospital, but found that the 24-year-old mentally ill man probably was not insane on Jan. 7, 2008, when authorities said he killed 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron.

“I cannot find… that Mr. Strandberg was insane at the time of the act,” Eitzen said. “But the question should be submitted to the jury.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 16, 2011: Strandberg trial testimony questions mental evaluations

Feb. 26, 2010: Strandberg on cable TV: 'The horror is real'

Jan. 16, 2008: Strandberg's parents struggled to get him treatment

DeLeon’s siblings can’t file death claims

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The adoptive siblings of a 7-year-old boy who died of starvation in the care of his adoptive mother can't sue for wrongful death, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled today.

The estate of Tyler DeLeon (pictured) had filed wrongful death claims against the boy's primary care physician and his psychiatrist and also alleged they were aware of the boy's injuries but failed to report them under the state's mandatory reporting law.

The high court affirmed a Spokane County Superior Court decision to dismiss a portion of the case against Dr. David Fregeau, the Rockwood Clinic, and psychiatrist Sandra Bremner-Dexter. But the Supreme Court said the doctors could be sued for failing to report the abuse.

The state Department of Social and Health Services and three employees also were sued, but the agency separately agreed to pay more than $6 million to Tyler's estate and other foster children in a 2008 settlement.

Tyler weighed only 28 pounds when he died Jan. 13, 2005, the day he turned 7. His adoptive mother, Carole DeLeon, was sentenced to six years in prison after entering a plea to criminally mistreating Tyler and another boy in her care. She was released last year after serving half of her sentence.

 The lawsuit on behalf of the boy and his adoptive siblings cites an extensive history of abuse complaints and health concerns regarding foster children at the DeLeon home, including broken bones, knocked-out teeth and withholding of food and water.

Tyler's adoptive siblings are considered second-tier beneficiaries under the state's wrongful death law, which means they can recover damages under that law only if they were dependent upon him for support. Their lawsuit against the doctors argued that they did depend upon him because DSHS provided $717 month in adoption support to Carole DeLeon for Tyler.

The doctors argued, and the Supreme Court agreed, that Tyler's estate and his adoptive siblings were not financially dependent upon them. The high court said “DSHS provided separate payments to Carole DeLeon to supplement her support of other children in her home.”

“I knew that we had a tough case it make, but I thought it was worth the effort since I think not compensating Tyler or Tyler's estate for what he suffered through is just wrong,” said Allen M. Ressler, a Seattle attorney representing the plaintiffs. “The legislation as written right now makes no sense to me.”

Justice Gerry L. Alexander concurred with the majority opinion, signed by eight justices, on the issue of whether the siblings were qualified to bring wrongful death claims. But he dissented with his colleagues on whether the doctors could be sued for failing to report child abuse or neglect.

The majority said the mandatory reporting law doesn't explicitly provide a civil remedy against a practitioner who fails to report suspected abuse but said it was implied as a means of enforcing the reporting duty. Alexander said the conclusion contradicts what the Legislature intended, which was to make it a misdemeanor crime to report child abuse.

Driver gets 33 mos. for crash w/ police

A Spokane woman who ran a red light and crashed into three police detectives last summer was sentenced to nearly three years in prison.

Tonia S. Vansant, 38, is to spend 33 months behind bars for the July 16 crash that seriously injured Spokane police Detectives Mark Burbridge, Jan Pogachar and Douglas Orr, Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque ruled Wednesday.

Burbridge was driving an unmarked patrol car when Vansant ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue and t-boned the car.

Vansant had traces of cocaine in her blood system.

A jury convicted her in December.

Woman injured in crash w/ stolen car

A police chase with a stolen car ended with the thief slamming into an elderly woman in an SUV this afternoon. 

The woman was taken to a local hospital after her SUV was knocked on its side by a stolen Acura driven by Shawn M. McCoy (pictured), according to the Spokane Police Department.

McCoy, 26, is a repeat offender and “prolific car thief” who fled police when they tried to stop near North Elm Street and West Montgomery Avenue just afternoon, according to a news release.

Police lost sight of the Acura near Cannon Park.

McCoy slammed into the SUV on Northwest Boulevard near Oak a few minutes later. He fled the scene on foot but was arrested a few blocks away.

Now he's in jail on outstanding warrants as well as new charges of attempting to elude police, possession of a stolen vehicle and hit and run.

Northwest Boulevard will be closed between Ash Street and Cannon Street this afternoon as investigators collect evidence.

Drunken church break-in leads to arrest

A transient was arrested for burglary Wednesday after a neighbor saw him drunkenly punch out a glass window and enter a Spokane Valley church, police said.

Officer Mike McNees found Paul M. Peterson, 50, straddling a window sill at Valley View Baptist Church, half inside and half outside of the broken window, and bleeding from a minor cut to one hand, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

A neighbor called 911 about 5:20 p.m. and said she'd watched Peterson try to open doors and windows at the church, 6006 E. Eighth Ave., before he punched out a glass window.

McNess and backup officers arrested Peterson without incident.

The suspect gave a St. Paul, Minn., address when booked into jail for second-degree burglary, police said.  He's to appear in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon.

Judge rejects Edgar Steele’s bail request

A North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring a hitman to kill his wife remains jailed after a failed attempted by his lawyers to implement a $1 million bond.

Edgar J. Steele's new private attorneys, Gary Amendola, of Coeur d'Alene and Robert McAllister, of Denver, asked U.S. Magistrate Candy Dale to allow Steele's wife and alleged victim, Cyndi Steele, to testify Wednesday regarding her willingness to put up her property in exchange for her husband's release pending trial.

But Dale refused and questioned their claim that her decision to keep Steele in jail last June was based on “foundation-less, hearsay-filled evidence.”  She read excerpts from phone calls Steele made to his son and wife after his arrest in which he urged her to tell authorities it was not his voice discussing the murder plot on secretly taped recordings.

“I think if you had taken the time to listen to the detention hearing…that you would not have even submitted this motion to the court,” Dale told McAllister. “There has not been a single change in circumstances.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Steele's supporters filled the courtroom Wednesday, including Cyndi Steele, Deon Masker and Stan Hess.

At one point, Hess, (pictured) a former Coeur d'Alene school and North Idaho College board candidate, confronted a supporter who sat in the courtroom holding a tattered paperback book with large swastikas on the cover.

Hess asked him why he insisted on being a walking stereotype. The book was “They Thought They Were Free” by Milton Mayer.

Hoopfest shooter faces 9 years in prison

The Hoopfest gunman who opened fire on rival gang members last year, injuring three bystanders in the downtown Spokane crowd, pleaded guilty today to assault charges.

Miguel C. Garcia, 19, was originally charged with 10 counts of attempted first-degree murder but instead pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree assault and unlawful possession of a firearm.

He’s expected to serve nearly nine years in prison but sentencing was delayed until April 12.

Because he used a gun in the commission of the assaults, six years of the agreed upon 105-month sentence would be served as part of a weapon enhancement.

Read Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 11: 3rd man in Hoopfest shooting sentenced

Oct. 1: Deal gives Hoopfest suspect light sentence

Sept. 13: Hoopfest suspect pleads to riot, gun charges

June 29: Hoopfest shots not 'surprising'

No charge in fatal Seattle police shooting

SEATTLE (AP) — Prosecutors said Wednesday they won't criminally charge a Seattle police officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding, homeless woodcarver during a brief encounter on a street corner in a case that has prompted angry protests and calls for increased scrutiny of police tactics.

Officer Ian Birk, who had been on paid leave since the Aug. 30 shooting, resigned hours after King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg's announcement. 

Relatives and other supporters of John T. Williams (pictured) had asked Satterberg to charge Birk, 27, with manslaughter, saying Williams didn't pose a threat to the officer.

The officer said he fired only after Williams failed to drop the three-inch knife despite being repeatedly ordered to do so.

 At a news conference, Satterberg said the shooting was a “good faith mistake, however tragic” and no charges would be filed.

Washington law protects police officers from a homicide charge unless there’s evidence of malice or bad faith, Satterberg said.

“Unlike the rest of us they do not have the option of walking away,” Satterberg said.

But the police department's Firearms Review Board separately released findings Wednesday that describe the shooting as “unjustified and outside of policy, tactics and training.”

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

Past coverage:

Jan. 21: Seattle inquest jury split on police shooting

2-time bank robber sentenced to 10 years

A longtime fraud convict who robbed two Spokane banks in December 2009 is to spend a decade in prison.

Michael R. Kent, 39, was sentenced to 129 months in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree robbery.

Kent also was ordered to pay $7,050 - the proceeds of robberies Dec. 16, 2009 at Chase Bank, 822 W. Francis, and Dec. 24, 2009, at Numerica Credit Union, 1916 W. Francis.

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

Kent already has at least 10 felony convictions in Washington and Idaho, including seven forgery convictions in Stevens County in 2005. He also faced an identity theft charge for ripping off an ex-girlfriend, but that charge was dropped after he pleaded guilty to the more serious robbery charges.

Kent also is suspected of robbing a downtown Coeur d'Alene bank in January 2010, court documents say. He has a warrant in Kootenai County for forgery and grand theft charges from May 2009.

He remains in the Spokane County Jail.

Man with 67 arrests pleads not guilty

 A Spokane man who avoided prison as a teenager for his role in a murder because a judge believed he could be rehabilitated pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a second-degree burglary charge. If convicted, it would be his 10th felony since 2007. 

Nicholas Adam Limpert, now 25, declined an interview request. His father, Thomas Limpert, attended his arraignment in Spokane County Superior Court and said his son has “had a rough life.”

Limpert’s criminal history began at age 15 with the November 2000 robbery and murder of a disabled janitor in northwest Spokane.

The decision to allow him to be charged as a juvenile angered the victim’s family, who said they doubted he could be rehabilitated.

Now news of a dizzying post-detention arrest record has the judge who sentenced him wondering the same thing.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 15: After lock up, teen killer arrested 67 times

Strandberg to Bugbee: ‘I have a wife’

Accused killer Cole K. Strandberg has done little during the two days he's spent in Judge Tari Etizen's courtroom. 

But on Monday, he made sure his marital status was clear.

 After his lawyer, Chris Bugbee, (left) asked a neuropsychologist about discussions of Strandberg's mystical world and plans by the defendant's fictitious wife for a trip to Europe, Strandberg blurted out, “I have a wife, asshole.” 

It was another bizarre moment in a court hearing set to determine if Strandberg can stand trial for January 2008 crossbow slaying of Jennifer Bergeron, or if he should be found not guilty to be reason of insanity.

“He says he was married in Las Vegas Washington, so there are no records in this world,” Dr. Craig Beaver testified on Monday. “He’ll just go to another time or his wife will come get him and take him to Europe. So (the criminal charge) just doesn’t matter.”

Strandberg has his wrists bolted to the courtroom table and his legs bolted to his chair.

On Tuesday, he wore a face mask at Bugbee's request. Strandberg had spit in the lawyer's face at the end of Monday's hearing.

Strandberg is pictured up top on Tuesday.

Past coverage:

Feb. 26, 2010: Strandberg on cable TV: 'The horror is real'

Jan. 16, 2008: Strandberg's parents struggled to get him treatment

Judge remembers Byron Scherf well

The retired judge who sentenced a Spokane-area sex offender now suspected of murdering a corrections officer said he's “just heartsick for that poor woman.”

Retired Spokane County Superior Court Judge Neal Rielly (above) said Tuesday that he remembers Byron Scherf (right) very well and said he was struck by the man's cunning intelligence when he sentenced him in 1996.

“He was really a brilliant man from an intellectual standpoint,” Rielly said. “Time and again, he would tell the psychologist what a terrible thing he'd done and how sorry he was.”

“I just don't know how you could ever trust him,” Rielly continued. “I can't believe that anybody would ever trust him, would ever leave him alone with any woman, period.”

Scherf is accused of strangling Department of Corrections officer Jayme Biendl, the lone guard at a chapel at Monroe Correctional Facility.

Reports say he acknowledged killing Biendl and said he was angry with the way she'd spoken to him. Scherf also had asked others who attended the chapel to pray for him two days before the killing because he was struggling with temptation.

Medical marijuana advocate pleads guilty

A medical marijuana advocate arrested on felony drug dealing charges has pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor.

Darren J. McCrea, 43, was given a suspended jail sentence and credited for two days already served. He was a given a suspended $5,000 fine, will be on probation for two years and is prohibited from selling marijuana under any circumstances.

McCrea, a medical marijuana patient and founder of the support group SpoCannabis, originally was charged with seven drug-related felonies for distributing marijuana to other medical marijuana prescription holders.

Police searched his home in 2008 and found 5 pounds of pot and $32,000. Spokane County prosecutors say Washington's medial marijuana law allows pot caretakers to distribute only to one person. McCrea pleaded guilty in Spokane County District Court last week to misdemeanor solicitation to commit delivery of a controlled substance.

His lawyer, David Miller, said the resolution was fair “under the current state of law.”

“I think that one day we will look back at these times and look at them as we do the prohibition days,” Miller said.

Man owes $15k for Craigslist rental scam

A Spokane man who swindled several potential renters out of about $15,000 has been sentenced to a year pin prison.

Jeffery S. Crutchfield, 40, pleaded guilty to first-degree theft and was ordered to spend a year and a day behind bars and pay $15,070 in restitution.

Crutchfield was considered a model tenant at 1328 E. Wabash Ave. when he began advertising the home for rent on Craigslist. He collected deposits from at least seven potential renters, but when they showed up to move in, they realized they'd been duped, court documents say.

Crutchfield has been in jail since his arrest last October.

He has previous theft convictions in Oregon, as well as a third-degree assault conviction relating to a 1996 drunken driving crash that paralyzed a woman. He was sentenced then to 13 months and jail and denied responsibility for the crash, according to previously published.

Child rapist now living in Colbert

A child rapist recently released from prison has registered at an address in Colbert.

 Devin K. Porter, 27, will be living in the 17900 block of North West Trial, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office announced today.

Porter served 12 months in custody for third-degree rape of a child in February 2010 after being sentenced to 18 months.. His victim was a 14-year-old girl.

Porter is a level 3 sex offender, the classification considered most likely to reoffend. He is being supervised by the state Department of Corrections.

Porter is not wanted by law enforcement, but the Sheriff's Office wants people to be aware of his presence.

A database of all sex offenders in Spokane County is available here.

Drive-by shooting targets club bouncer

A Spokane man upset that a club bouncer approached his girlfriend sprayed the man's home with bullets in a recent drive-by shooting, police say.

Derek L. Wilson, 24, (pictured above, in 2007) appeared in Superior Court Monday via video from the jail, where he is charged with seven counts of first-degree assault and seven counts of drive-by shooting for Feb. 3 gunfire at a home at 2812 E. Hoffman Ave. in Hillyard.

No one was injured in the shooting, which resident John Seyler, a bouncer at Raw, 723 W. 1st Ave., told police occurred hours after he'd approached a woman he'd frequently kicked out of bars for being underage.

The woman, later identified as Kassandra Darby, just recently turned 21 and was allowed to stay at the bar, but her boyfriend, later identified as Wilson, was angry with Seyler for approaching her, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Seyler said he saw the two in a black Audi at a convenience store at Market and Wellesley later that morning and noticed them watching him. They followed him to the residence on Hoffman; shots were fired about five minutes later. Bullets entered the home, where Seyler, three other adults and two children were staying.

Darby told police she'd been “manhandled” by a bouncer but denied knowing anything about a shooting.

Police found a .380 caliber handgun believed to have been used in the shooting at Wilson's ex-girlfriend's apartment at 4223 N. Progress Road and located a .380 caliber unfired bullet in Wilson's Audi. Wilson was arrested for driving while suspended on Feb. 4 and has been in jail since. Prosecutors filed the 14 felony charges on Friday.

Wilson is considered a gang associate by police.

He has previous convictions for second-degree robbery in 2005 and for second-degree assault in 2007 after a shooting at the skate park under Interstate 90 in downtown Spokane.

The picture above is from that arrest.

After lock up, teen killer arrested 67 times

A Spokane man sentenced for murder as a juvenile because a judge thought he could be rehabilitated marked his 67th arrest in the last five years last weekend.

Nicholas A. Limpert, 25, was released from jail last week after prosecutors failed to file charges within 72 hours of his arrest for burglary.

A felony burglary charge was filed just after his release, so the Spokane Police Department's new anti-crime patrol team, which focuses on crime trends and fugitives, tracked him down Saturday night. He's now jailed on a $100,000 bond and a Department of Corrections probation hold.

Officer Brian Eckersley said Limpert is very well known to police and often cries when he's arrested. (It shows in his mug shots. Check out two others here and here.)

Limpert was convicted of accomplice to first-degree murder when he was 15 and was in juvenile detention until he was 20. Limpert was to be incarcerated until he was 21 but was released early after being credited for time already served.

His release angered the family of his victim, Kenneth D. Brown, a 59-year-old mentally disabled janitor who was robbed by Limpert and Brandon R. Molony in November 2000 before being stabbed to death by Molony. 

Limpert smirked and laughed during his sentencing in 2001, (pictured left) and Brown's family doubted he could be rehabilitated.

His adult criminal history began shortly after his release and includes at least eight felony convictions and eight misdemeanors, including theft, malicious mischief domestic violence, vehicle prowling and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Drunk man can’t recall shooting sis’ car

A 19-year-old Nespelem man was so drunk he didn't realize he'd targeted his sister when he fired shots at people and cars on the Colville Indian Reservation in September 2009, according to court documents.

Robert L. Picard III is to serve 84 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to three counts of assault . A co defendant, John Edward McGinnis, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of assault last November and is to be sentenced in April.

According to court documents prepared for Picard's defense, McGinnis had recently been released from prison when Picard and others picked him up after a night of heavy drinking on Sept. 20, 2009. The men drove around Nesplelem looking shooting at cars after McGinnis said he was looking for someone, according to court documents.

“Mr. Picard was extremely intoxicated to the extent that he is unable to recall much, if anything, from that night. Ultimately, he had no idea who was in the vehicles that he shot at,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his public defender, Jaime Hawk. “He was particularly saddened to later learn that his own sister was an occupant of one of the vehicles.”

Picard was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Spokane. He's at the Spokane County Jail waiting transport to federal prison.

Complex case came down to 15 cows

 

For some of the best legal minds in Washington state, a complicated Spokane divorce that spanned two continents and a bloody civil war came down to this: 15 cows.

The missing herd was part of several legal arguments before the Division III Court of Appeals as justices contemplated custody of two children. In the end their mother, who relocated to Spokane from Sudan, retained custody.

“This saga spans southern Sudan to Spokane, and features a civil war, refugees seeking to escape Africa and a failure of consideration because the war prevented payment of the remaining cows owed the bride’s father,” Judge Kevin Korsmo wrote in an opinion released last week. “Against this chaotic backdrop, the facts and law are often unclear and in some dispute.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Suspects ID’d in Zip Trip mace attack

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UPDATE: Sweetland and Smith were arrested on Feb. 16.

Spokane police have identified two suspects in a convenience store robbery in which a clerk was attacked with bear mace.

 Crime Stoppers issued a reward offer today for tips that helps arrest Daniel A. Sweetland (left) and Alexander J. Smith (right), both 21, who are wanted for first-degree robbery.

Detectives identified the men through tips obtained after a surveillance video of the Nov. 28 attack at Zip Trip, 1523 W. 10th Ave., was released to media (see above).

They believe Smith entered the store first and asked for cigarettes to distract the clerk while Sweetland entered with the mace and stole an 18-pack of Bud Lite, according to court documents filed Friday. The clerk suffered eye pain and blurry visions for about two days after Sweetland's attack, police said.

Sweetland, 5-foot-5 and 145 pounds, has a 13-year arrest history but no convictions, according to Crime Stoppers. Smith, 5-foot-4 and 160 pounds, has an 11-year arrest history but also no convictions.

Sweetland last gave an address in the 700 block of East Heroy Avenue in Spokane Valley. Smith last gave an address in the 900 block of East Central Avenue in Spokane.

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

Steele’s supporters propose $1m bond

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Edgar Steele’s call to his wife

Edgar Steele's new lawyers want him freed from jail before his murder-for-hire trial. 

Steele's wife and alleged victim is prepared to “put all of her property on the line in order to obtain a bond for her husband,” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

The proposed $1 million bond would be covered by titles to the Steele's property and would be cosigned by Cyndi Steele, David Shelly, Jeff Miller and Allen Banks, according to a motion filed by Robert McAllister and Gary Amendola, who took over Edgar Steele's defense last week.

McAllister and Amendola say the evidence against their client, a UCLA law school graduate with no criminal record, is too weak to support keeping him in custody. They say the case depends on unreliable audio recordings and the word of the alleged hitman turned informant, Larry Fairfax, whom they describe as a petty criminal.

A hearing on the motion for bail is scheduled Wednesday in Coeur d'Alene. Stelele has been in jail since June, accused of hiring a hitman turned FBI informant to kill Cyndi Steele and her mother. His trial is set to begin in March.

He faces decades in prison under charges that include witness tampering for jailhouse phone calls he made to his wife after his arrest.

In the phone call (posted above), Steele urged her to tell federal authorities that the voice on the recording of the murder-plot discussion does not belong to him.

“No matter what you hear, no matter what you think, no matter what you feel, you have to say the following: ‘No, that is not my husband’s voice,’ ” Steele said. “Then, like a rhinoceros in the road, you have to stand your ground and refuse to say anything but that.”

In the 15-page motion, Steele's lawyer say Cyndi Steele doubts the authenticity of the murder-plot discussion recording.

“She said that whenever there were discussions about the alleged plot she noticed changed in background noise and her husband's voice lost certain inflections that were very familiar to her,” according to the motion. “She told FBI agent Suyak that the tapes were untrustworthy in her opinion.”

In documents filed Feb. 7, McAllister and Amendola said they intend to “introduce expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect bearing on his guilt and his lack of a knowing or intentional mental state.”

“As of this time, no such notice has been filed by the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Defendant,” the lawyers wrote.

K-9 helps nab sibling burglary suspects

A sheriff's dog helped deputies arrest two brothers suspected of an attempted burglary this morning in north Spokane County.

A resident in the 1000 block of West Eastmont Way called 911 a few minutes before 7 a.m. and said he was following two burglars. He lost sight of them, but deputies spotted suspects Joseph E. Whipple, 23, (pictured) and Luke R. Whipple, who turns 22 on Tuesday, behind a bank at 7300 N. Division St.

Joseph Whipple was arrested just after fleeing; Deputy John Cook and his K-9, Ekko, tracked Luke Whipple to a basement window well of a home north of Holy Cross Cemetery.

Neither suspect was injured in the pursuit and arrest, but a sheriff’s deputy suffered a minor hand injury while climbing a fence, said Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The brothers were booked into jail on charges of attempted residential burglary and possession of marijuana.

Luke Whipple also faces a charge of obstructing a police investigation, and Joseph Whipple had an arrest warrant form the Department of Corrections for a 2009 second-degree robbery conviction.

Bar owner attacked in Spokane Valley

A Spokane Valley tavern owner was robbed of her purse and suffered a bloody nose as she arrived at the business Sunday morning, police said today.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest the person who attacked the 61-year-old woman about 10:20 a.m. at Poppy's Tavern, 415 S. Dishman-Mica Road.

A man put her in a choke hold as she was facing the business' door, then punched her twice in the face, knocking her to the pavement, according to a news release. The man stole her purse and shopping bags and ran east toward a nearby mobile home park, where police officers later found the stolen items in a heap outside a trailer.

Officers also found the robber's red and gray jacket, black baseball hat and black gloves. They believe he ditched the items after seeing police converge on the area.

The victim received minor head injuries but did not require hospital treatment.

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

Probe continues into pedestrian crash

For a vehicular homicide charge to be filed against a Spokane police officer who hit and killed a pedestrian last month, investigators must show that he was intoxicated, driving recklessly or driving with a flagrant disregard for the safety of others, according to Washington law. 

Authorities said this week that Officer Gordon Ennis, an eight-year veteran, was driving between 34 mph and 39 mph in a 30 mph zone without his emergency lights and siren on when he struck John A. Van Curler, 52, at Monroe Street and Montgomery Avenue on Jan. 30.

Toxicology results from a blood-alcohol sample submitted by Ennis are pending. 

High speed can be a factor in vehicular homicide charging decisions, but Ennis was driving just slightly over the speed limit.

“Is 34 to 39 driving down Monroe a willful or wanton disregard for life? No. That’s the average speed on Monroe,” said Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Dave Thornburg, who is investigating the incident with a team from the Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police Department and Washington State Patrol. “It’s not that I’m a fellow officer and I want to protect him. If we had probable cause that night, we would have made an arrest.”

On June 10, a pizza delivery driver who was slightly speeding ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle, killing a 9-year-girl; the driver received a $500 ticket for negligent driving.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 3: Officer in fatal crash to return to patrol

Reward for tips on alley robbery suspect

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of a robbery suspect. Corbin C. Royce, 22, is accused assaulting a man and stealing his wallet in a downtown Spokane alley last fall.

Keith McKay told police he met up with Royce, known to him as Kyle, and others at the Spokane Transit Authority Bus Plaza on Nov. 22 and walked with them to Money Tree on West Third Avenue to cash a $25 check.

Afterward, Royce attacked McKay in an alley near 1st Avenue and Madison Street when Royce punched him in the head until he lost consciousness. McKay broke a tooth and also lost his glasses and $1,500 hearing aid, according to a probable cause affidavit. 

A second suspect was been identified in court doucments. McKay identified Royce through a photo montage. A $25,000 warrant for first-degree robbery was filed Feb. 3.

Now tipsters can get a cash reward for turning him in.

Royce, 6-feet tall and 195 pounds, is a transient who also has warrants in Western Washington.

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

Pot provider acquitted of drug charges

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — A Southwest Washington man who grew marijuana for a dying cancer patient has been acquitted of drug charges.

Mark Hensley of Vancouver was arrested a year ago with 133 marijuana plants, many of them small clones. Hensley's lawyer, Douglas Hiatt, says he was producing cannabis oil for a tenant who had esophageal cancer.

The tenant, William Britten, died in August.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Rich Melnick found Hensley not guilty on Friday.

Hiatt says his client was allowed to grow more than the state medical marijuana law's presumptive 15-plant limit because it takes a lot of marijuana to produce oil. Hiatt says the case cost Hensley a lot of time, grief and money.

The Seattle attorney is supporting an initiative to legalize marijuana for all adults because he says he's tired of seeing marijuana patients and their providers arrested.

Online posts lead to officer’s resignation

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) — A sheriff's lieutenant in Douglas County, Colo., being investigated for posting controversial comments from his county computer while on duty has resigned.

Denver's KMGH-TV reports that Lt Jeff Egnor, with the sheriff's department for 13 years, resigned Tuesday in the middle of an investigation by his supervisors.

The investigation was looking into reports that while using a screen name, Egnor posted hundreds of comments on Denver TV websites. The posts ranged from bashing Gov. John Hickenlooper to attacking illegal immigrants and gays in the military.

KMGH filed an open-records request to find out who was posting the comments after readers complained about them. Sheriff's officials started investigating

County officials say Egnor's conduct was a clear violation of their policy on Internet use. KMGH says it couldn't reach him for comment.

Report: Rapist admits to guard’s murder

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MONROE, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state reformatory inmate has acknowledged killing Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl in the prison chapel, saying he was angry with the way she spoke to him minutes earlier, according to a search warrant made public Friday.

The search warrant said inmate Byron Scherf, 52, a Spokane-area sex offender, acknowledged the crime to detectives Wednesday in a videotaped interview, The Herald newspaper of Everett reported.

“I'll just get right to the point. I'm responsible for the death of the correctional officer at the Monroe, uh, correctional facility,” he said, according to excerpts cited in the court papers. “I strangled her to death on Jan. 29 at approximately 8:40 p.m. in the chapel.” 

The interview came after Scherf asked detectives for a chance to tell them what happened, according to the warrant, which said he acknowledged his right to remain silent, then confessed.

Scherf's public defender, Bill Jaquette, did not immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.

Scherf reportedly told detectives he was angry at Biendl over how she had spoken with him at about 8:15 to 8:25 while he worked in the prison chapel that evening.

As he thought about it more, “I got to the point where I knew I was going to kill her,” he reportedly said.

According to the search warrant, Biendl sent the inmates back to their cells at about 8:30 and began closing the chapel. Scherf said he decided to hang back and attacked Biendl from behind, it said.

He detailed a struggle that lasted about four minutes, with Biendl trying, and apparently failing, to radio for help, in part because he disabled her communications equipment, according to the document.

Scherf said Biendl bit and scratched him and stomped on his foot trying to get free. They wound up on the ground and he used a cable from an amplifier to fatally choke her, he reportedly told detectives.

He was described as becoming emotional as he said, “I'm certainly sorry.”

Scherf since 1997 has been serving life in prison without possibility of release after being convicted of three attacks on women.

The search warrant was obtained to look for trace evidence that would be expected to have been left behind inside the chapel if the fight happened as Scherf described.

The warrant is one of several made public in the last few days. One released Thursday said Scherf had asked others who attended the chapel to pray for him two days before the killing because he was struggling with temptation.

A slideshow from Biendl's funeral is above.

3rd man in Hoopfest shooting sentenced

A teenager involved in a shooting at Hoopfest last summer was credited for time already served in jail after pleading guilty to two felony assault charges this week.

Adam Doe, 19, remains in jail pending the resolution of riot and assault charges related to an October 2009 stabbing outside Club Uno in downtown Spokane. Trial is set for March.

Doe pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree assault and third-degree assault related to the June 28 shooting at Hoopfest that hit three bystanders. Police say the shooting occured when the men approached rival gang members.

The accused gunman, Miguel C. Garcia, remains in jail on several assault charges. Spokane police say Garcia passed the gun to Doe after the shooting, and Doe fought with an officer trying to detain him. Doe was on house arrest at the time after his release from jail on the Club Uno stabbing charges.

Another accomplice in the Hoopest shooting, Marquis Johnson, was given an exceptionally low sentence of six months after pleading guilty to second-degree assault last October.

A third suspect, Rashjel “Reggie” Cage, is to receive a light sentence for gun and riot convictions once he testifies at Garcia's trial.

All four men had originally been charged with about a dozen counts of attempted murder.

Past coverage:

June 29: Hoopfest shots not 'surprising'

Sheriff’s deputy fired for bad behavior

A Spokane County sheriff’s deputy was fired recently after multiple investigations into allegations of criminal misconduct and poor work performance revealed a pattern of bad behavior.

“If you’re a law enforcement officer, you shouldn’t be committing crimes,” said Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

The latest internal investigation of former Deputy Travis Smith’s behavior began last year after Smith stuck a knife into someone’s seat while searching their vehicle.

He had initiated a routine traffic stop and, after finding some marijuana, obtained a search warrant for the vehicle and seized it. A search the next day turned up brass knuckles with a three- to four-inch knife blade attached and a bandanna with a swastika on it.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Guard’s alleged killer asked for prayers

MONROE, Wash. (AP) — A search warrant issued in connection with the death of a Monroe correctional officer says the suspect had asked people to pray for him because he was struggling with temptation, the Daily Herald reported Friday.

Inmate Byron Scherf, a Spokane-area sex offender, submitted a prayer request Jan. 27, asking others who attended the chapel at the Washington State Reformatory to “pray for me for very pressing temptations I have been dealing with — I want to do the right thing but am really struggling.”  The chapel's lone officer, Jayme Biendl, was strangled Jan. 29.

Scherf, 52, is a three-strikes offender serving a life sentence for rape convictions. He volunteered at the chapel where he worked as a janitor and clerk. He's jailed in Everett for the homicide investigation.

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said he can't discuss Scherf or the case against him until detectives complete their investigation.

Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis also said she could not discuss the case or comment on what Scherf may have told investigators.

Detectives this week identified roughly 60 more people they want to interview as part of the criminal investigation, Willis said. Many are inmates.

The search warrant made public on Thursday is one of several that have been sought in the case in recent days. Combined, the warrants shed new light on what detectives believe happened:

Surveillance camera footage from the prison shows Biendl propping open the door to the sanctuary for Scherf at 8:08 p.m. so he could get baptismal blankets. He then returned to a chapel office where he spent most of the evening. A fellow inmate brought Scherf his jacket around 8:30 p.m., closing time. The jacket had been left in the sanctuary.

An inmate told investigators that he and Scherf left the chapel at the same time the night of the killing, but Scherf said he needed to go back, claiming that he'd left behind his hat.

Click the link below to read the rest of the Associated Press story .

Bizarre jury verdict leads to mistrial

Wails from a victim’s daughter filled the courtroom just after the judge read what was presented as a unanimous acquittal. But seconds later, a juror said she didn’t agree with the verdict. Then five more said the same thing.  

The bizarre series of events, which several longtime Spokane County court officials said they’d never before seen, led to a mistrial Thursday in the vehicular homicide and assault trial of a Spokane stockbroker who broadsided a motorcycle in June 2009, killing the passenger, Lorri Keller, (right) and paralyzing the driver, her husband, Gary Keller.

A new trial for Jon A. Strine, 43, (above) is expected to begin in March.

The Keller family declined comment. Strine and his lawyer, premier private defense attorney Carl Oreskovich, also declined comment.

Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady said she was “so surprised by what happened.”

But, she said, “This was a very tough case…Sometimes people just can’t agree.” 

The 12 jurors left without speaking to media.

“I know this has been extremely difficult for everyone,” Judge Tari Etizen (left) said in court.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Jan. 21: Husband recounts fatal crash

June 25, 2009: Driver sued over deadly wreck

June 4, 2009: School district on crash victim: 'Everybody just loved her'

Police detective accused of obstruction

A Spokane police detective has been placed on administrative leave after he was charged with obstructing a Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officer.

Detective Jeff Harvey, 46, who is vice president of the Spokane Police Guild, was charged with the misdemeanor offense last week in connection with a January incident in which it’s alleged he “did willfully hinder, delay and obstruct” an investigation into illegal hunting.

Capt. Mike Whorton, of the Region 1 office of the state Fish and Wildlife Police, said he could not comment beyond what was in the report.

“This is one individual. It certainly doesn’t reflect on the professionalism of the Spokane Police Department,” he said. “They are working with us on the case.”

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said she placed Harvey on paid administrative leave at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“We will be thorough and complete in our investigation,” Kirkpatrick said. “He will remain on paid administrative leave for as long as it takes to do the internal investigation. The criminal matter needs to be handled independently of us.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Man accused of raping 15-year-old girl

UPDATE: Bear was arrested on Feb. 13.

A reward is being offered for tips on a 33-year-old Spokane man suspected of raping a 15-year-old girl.

Tracy M. Bear is charged with unlawful imprisonment and two counts of second-degree rape for an alleged incident on Nov. 12.

The girl told police she met Bear at a park then accompanied him to a party, where she said he raped her in the bathroom. A stranger opened the bathroom door, allowing her to escape, according to court documents.

The girl ran from the house, which is in the 2300 block of West Everett Avenue, screaming that she'd been raped. She underwent a sexual assault examination at Providence Scared Heart Medical Center.

Bullet holes on Bear's Suburban helped identify him as a suspect. A $75,000 arrest warrant was issued Feb. 2.

Bear, 5-foot-9 and 215 pounds, is considered to be a gang associate by police and has several felony convictions, including second-degree robbery, first-degree possession of stolen property and third-degree theft.

He last gave a home address in the 100 block of South Magnolia Street. Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Jurors want to pay man they acquitted

CLEVELAND (AP) — At least three jurors in Cleveland say the evidence was so thin against a man jailed for weeks in an assault case that they want to give him their juror pay.

The jury quickly acquitted 19-year-old Demrick McCloud on Friday. He'd been charged with leading other teens to beat a high school student and threaten him with a gun on Oct. 13. McCloud was arrested that day and held in jail until the trial.

The three jurors tell The Plain Dealer newspaper there was a “sheer lack of evidence,” so they'll each give McCloud the $100 they were paid for jury service if he earns a high school equivalency degree.

A prosecutor's spokesman maintains in a statement that the victim was steadfast in identifying McCloud as an attacker.

Police: Ohio DUI suspect pulled self over

SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) — Police in Ohio can't take too much credit for stopping a woman they say was drinking and driving — they say she pulled herself over.

Officers in the Lake Erie town of Sandusky say the woman stopped because she thought she saw police lights, but it turns out the flashing lights were from a skating rink sign.

The Sandusky Register reports that the woman's car got stuck in a snowbank near the sign when she stopped early Monday and another motorist called police.

Officers say they took 27-year-old Nicole Scott to jail on charges of operating a vehicle under the influence. Police say Scott denied she had been driving. There is no telephone listing for Scott and it isn't clear whether she has an attorney.

Kevin Coe appeals civil commitment

Attorneys gave oral arguments Wednesday in an effort to undo the civil commitment of South Hill rapist Kevin Coe, whose legal fight has now moved into its fourth decade. 

An attorney representing Coe argued that Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor erred in 2008 when she allowed evidence from several uncharged cases where women alleged that Coe raped them.

Coe (pictured in 2008) also made an argument, through his attorney, of ineffective counsel at his civil commitment trial.

The Division III Court of Appeals gave no time frame when judges would rule on the case.

The arguments Wednesday followed more than 230 pages of briefs filed by Coe’s appellate attorney, Casey Grannis, and Assistant Attorney General Malcolm Ross, who represented the state in the trial in October 2008 where a jury determined that Coe was a sexually violent predator who was likely to reoffend if released.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Judge nixes publicity law in Hendrix case

SEATTLE (AP) — A federal judge has struck down parts of Washington's “right of publicity” law in a long-running legal fight over the use of the name and likeness of legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly made the ruling this week in a case brought by Hendrix's estate against a company run in part by the guitarist's brother, Leon Hendrix.

The judge says that Leon's company can market items using Jimi's name, likeness and artwork as long as it doesn't infringe on any trademarks held by the Hendrix estate.

Zilly ruled earlier in the case that some actions by Leon's company, including using the name HendrixLicensing, did violate such trademarks, and a jury trial is scheduled for May to determine damages.

The judge said that in 2008, the Legislature amended the state's Personality Rights Act to allow anyone to claim publicity rights in Washington state even if they had no connection here. Zilly said that was random and unconstitutional.

Mobster fugitive captured in rural Idaho

MARSING, Idaho (AP) — To his neighbors, he was Jay Shaw, the guy with the vaguely New York accent. He was known for fixing computers, buying everything with cash, raising cows and knowing how to handle a gun.

To the FBI, he was a New England mobster who vanished in 1994 after a botched attempt to whack his boss.

On Wednesday, the 42-year-old dark-haired man, dressed in a yellow jumpsuit and his hands cuffed behind his back, strolled into a courtroom in Boise, sat down at a table and spoke calmly to a judge.

“My name is Enrico M. Ponzo,” he said.

After the judge read a long list of charges against him, Ponzo replied: “Not guilty, your honor.”

Ponzo, 42, (pictured in 1994) appeared relaxed during his 40-minute court appearance, at times smiling at a handful of friends nearby and exchanging laughs with his attorney. He told the judge he is originally from Boston.

To the people who knew him in Marsing, a farming and ranching town southwest of Boise, the news about the man they called by his nickname “Jay” for the past decade pushed them to dig deep into their memories for signs of an elaborate hoax.

“It was probably all just fiction,” said rancher Bodie Clapier, 52, (pright) whose family owns about 1,000 acres and lived next door.

Authorities said Ponzo had been living in Marsing under the name Jeffrey Shaw, but they declined to say how the FBI discovered him. During his arrest Monday, agents seized 38 firearms, $15,000 and a 100-ounce bar of either gold or silver.

Ponzo's farm is pictured above.

Click the link below to read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Jessie L. Bonner.

Trooper charged with poaching moose

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho State Police trooper accused of shooting a moose in Bonner County before the start of last fall's hunting season has been charged with misdemeanor poaching.

Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson says he filed a misdemeanor charge because Cpl. Jeff Jayne has agreed to plead guilty. Jayne has said he incorrectly memorized the dates for the start of hunting season.

A plea agreement calls for a $500 fine, six months of unsupervised probation and the revocation of Jayne's hunting and fishing privileges for two years.

Mother charged w/ baby’s 1957 murder

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — Judith Post says she remains haunted by a memory more than half a century old — the sight of her older sister tossing her own baby several feet and watching the infant land on the floor. Though Post tries to forget the scene, a fresh court case has forced her to confront those thoughts again.

Post's sister, Ruby Klokow, 74, (pictured) of Sheboygan pleaded not guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder in the 1957 death of her daughter, after her son came forward to police in 2008 with stories of horrific childhood abuse.

Klokow, wearing a red prison jumpsuit, did not speak at the preliminary hearing, during which a judge determined there was enough evidence for her to stand trial.

Post, 69, isn't sure how to react to the allegations. She told The Associated Press that Klokow regularly abused her when they were children, and she said she once watched Klokow toss her baby daughter Jeaneen to the ground. It's not immediately clear how that alleged incident might relate to Jeaneen's death.

“How do I feel about how she should be punished? I don't know,” Post said, pausing for a moment and taking a deep breath. “That's up to God.”

The case is proceeding now because of James Klokow Jr.

The 55-year-old went to police with stories of his mother regularly beating him, choking him and kicking him in the legs with steel-toed boots so often that he still has knee problems. He spoke of his mother breaking his arm and nose.

He said she once forced him to stay in the basement for so long that he quenched his thirst by lapping water from the floor. He also described his mother covering the head of his mentally challenged younger brother and striking the wailing boy's toes one by one with a hammer.

But despite the physical torture, James Klokow told investigators, one of the worst pains he endured was his mother blaming him for his 7-month-old sister's death.

Click the link below to read the rset of the story by Associated Press writer Dinesh Ramde.

Several probes into DOC officer’s death

MONROE, Wash. (AP) — Several investigations are under way in the strangling death of Monroe Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl.

Monroe police must wrap up their investigation of suspected inmate Byron Scherf, a Spokane area sex offender, before the Monroe Correctional Complex can conduct its own investigation, The Daily Herald of Everett reported Wednesday.

 Police served more search warrants in the past few days and are wrapping up interviews and collecting evidence, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

 “They're slowing down, but it's continuing,” she said Tuesday.

The newest search warrants were for records and paperwork documenting Scherf's life, she said. That includes records for housing, education and his brief stint in the military. Investigators also are looking through his medical records, including his history of medications and psychological evaluations.

As of Tuesday night, Scherf had declined to speak with investigators, Willis said.

Scherf, 52, is a convicted rapist serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

The state Department of Labor and Industries also is investigating. It will determine whether state workplace safety laws were violated, agency spokesman Hector Castro said. That agency is required by law to finish its investigation in six months. If those officials find something wrong, they can issue citations and fines.

And, Gov. Chris Gregoire wants an independent review by the federal National Institute of Corrections.

Biendl, 34, was found Jan. 29 in the prison chapel at the Washington State Reformatory.

Monroe police will forward their completed investigation to Snohomish County prosecutors, who will decide on charges. Killing a corrections officer can lead to the death penalty in Washington.

Monroe Correctional Complex Superintendent Scott Frakes said he must wait until police are finished before investigating what happened the night Biendl was killed. Among other things, he wants to know why it took more than an hour to find Biendl after Scherf was apprehended in the chapel lobby.

No verdict yet in vehicular homicide trial

The jury in the Jon Strine vehicular homicide trial has gone home for the day.

The 12 jurors deliberated until about 5 p.m. today and will reconvene Thursday at 9 a.m. They deliberated for about an hour and a half on Tuesday following closing arguments. That includes time reviewing jury instructions and choosing a foreman.

The jury is to decide whether Strine, 43, was criminally negligent when his Mercedes crashed into a motorcycle in June 2009, paralyzing the driver, Gary Keller, and killing the passenger, Keller's wife, Lorri Keller.

Strine, a stockbroker, admits to drinking before the crash but disputes a state test that placed his blood-alcohol level at .20.

Jurors watched surveillance videos from Fast Eddie's bar in which Strine does not appear to be visibility drunk. They also viewed video from Washington State Department of Transportation camera that shows Strine driving with the flow of traffic.

Other motorists who witnessed the crash have testified that Strine was driving erratically just before the crash.

Last week, Strine said he falsely told a doctor he hadn't anything to drink after the crash because a police officer was listening.

“I was afraid,” said Strine, who is charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. “I knew (Spokane police Officer Paul) Watson was going to try to pin this on me.”

Past coverage:

Feb. 4: Strine says he wasn't drunk during fatal crash

Jan. 26: Sleepy juror removed from Strine trial

June 25, 2009: Driver sued over deadly wreck

June 4, 2009: School district on crash victim: 'Everybody just loved her'

Teen sentenced for ‘09 fatal beating

A teenager involved in the fatal beating of a Spokane man in November 2009 was sentenced recently to five months in jail.

Justin A. Summa, 18, also will be on probation for a year after pleading guilty to second-degree assault.  He had been charged with second-degree murder for the beating death for Kent S. Moses.

A second suspect, Nicholas X. Parrish, 19, is in jail awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge.

Police say Parrish and Summa were drunk when they attacked Moses, 60, in an alley behind Moses' home near Bridge Avenue and Nettleton Street on Nov. 29, 2009. Moses later died at hospital. A shoe print on his face helped identify the suspects.

Summa’s girlfriend told detectives that Parrish was the assailant and Summa had tried to stop him. She also said Parrish had returned to the alley to rifle through Moses’ pockets and beat him again, which led to the premeditation allegation against him, according to court documents.

Summa served five days in jail before posting bond in December 2009. He returned to finish his five-month sentence on Feb. 2 after pleading guilty before Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

Prosecutors offered the second-degree assault plea deal on the fourth day of an evidence hearing. Parrish's trial is set to begin May 9.

Chainsaws stolen in business burglary

Here's a news release from the Spokane Valley Police Department:
    
“A thief smashed a window in the front wall of Country Homes Power Equipment overnight and made off with a pair of high-end Stihl chainsaws.  The store is located at 5323 East Sprague.

The company received an alarm at 1:09 a.m. Wednesday, but a manager opted to not call police.  When employees arrived later, they discovered the 7’ by 7’ window shattered and the two saws taken from a display shelf.

Value of the stolen saws was set at more than $1,800.  Anyone with information about this smash-and-grab burglary is encouraged to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.”

Phone scam targets jury duty absconders

A nationwide identity theft scam is targeting citizens who may have neglected to fulfill their civic duties.

The Grant County Sheriff's Office is warning of a cam that involves a caller telling citizens a warrant has been issued for the their arrest because they failed to respond to a jury duty summons.

The caller requests Social Security numbers and birth dates to verify information.

“Give out your Social Security number and birth date, and bingo, your identity was just stolen,” Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said in a prepared statement.  “When in doubt, don’t reveal your personal information.”

Authorities called the scam “particularly insidious” because it uses intimidation by people pretending they are with the court system.

The fraud has not been reported in Grant County but has surfaced in at least 11 states, including Arizona.

The FBI and the federal court system are also warning about the scam.

Steele’s lawyers hint at defense plan

Two private defense attorneys representing accused North Idaho lawyer Edgar Steele said in documents filed this week that they intend to “introduce expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect.”

That disease or defect has “bearing on (Steele's) guilt or his lack of a knowing or intentional mental state,” according to the document, filed Monday by Steele's attorneys, Robert T. McAllister, of Denver, and Gary Amendola, of Coeur d'Alene.

The document offers a glimpse at a possible defense strategy for Steele, who is accused of hiring a hitman turned FBI informant to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele, and her mother.

Steele faces decades in prison under federal charges that allege he hired a man who affixed a pipe bomb under his wife's SUV.

Prosecutors say they have tape recordings of Steele talking about the plot with the would-be hitman, Larry Fairfax. In one recording, Steele tells Fairfax “to make sure that they were dead after the accident because Edgar Steele did not want to take care of a paraplegic” according to an affidavit prepared by the FBI.

Wesley Hoyt, a lawyer representing Cyndi Steele, has said the federal government is capable of manufacturing Edgar Steele's voice on those tapes. Cyndi Steele is adamant that her husband is innocent and visits him at the Spokane County Jail on a weekly basis.

Steele had been represented by Roger Peven, executive director of the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, but U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill approved Steele's request for new counsel during a closed hearing Monday in Coeur d'Alene.

Amendola is a longtime Coeur d'Alene defense attorney who's handled many high-profile cases.

McAllister does not have a license to practice law in Idaho but is licensed in Colorado. He was an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago and Denver from 1976 to 1983 and has been in private practice since.

Before and after: Montana fugitive

A Butte man arrested after a police shooting that killed his passenger in North Idaho had escaped from a halfway house in Helena last October.

Mark Marion Maykopet, 24, is pictured at the far left in 2009, courtesy of the Montana Deparmtent of Corrections.

The picture to the right is at the Kootenai County Jail after his arrest Monday night.

Investigaors say the deadly police shooting occured just after Maykopet rammed an Idaho State Police car.

Christie Ann Little, 40, (right) was shot by a trooper and pronounced dead at Kootenai Medical Center on Monday. 

Charges filed against Maykopet allege he rammed Cpl. Dan Howard’s patrol car during a police chase.

Kootenai County Sheriff’s Lt. Stu Miller said he could not confirm that Howard is the trooper who fired the shots, but authorities said previously that the trooper who fired shots did so after the Jeep collided with his patrol car.

Read my full story here.

Woman’s dragging death still unsolved

Vicky Littell will never lose hope. 

Two years after her daughter was dragged to death by a motorist who has never been identified, the Spokane woman prays that someone, somewhere will help her find closure.

 “There is someone out there who knows who did this,” Littell said.

Today is the two-year anniversary of the death of Susette G. Werner (pictured).

Read the rest of my story here.

Dec. 28, 2009: Months after dragging death, police out of leads

Feb. 11, 2009: Victim's father to killer: 'I forgive you'

Suspect sought in pizza place hold-up

Detectives are asking for help finding a man suspected of robbing a Newport pizza place last week.

Benjamin Thomas Watson, 24, is considered armed and dangerous after the Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office linked him to a robbery at Westside Pizza, 325 S. Washington Ave., on Friday.

Thomas is described as 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds with blue eyes and very short hair or a shaved head.

He's believed to be driving a grey 1987 Nissan Pathfinder, with Washington license plate 837UBL.

Anyone with information on Watson's location is asked to call the sheriff's office at 1-800-669-3407. If you see him or his vehicle, call 911.

Deputies saw Clemmons before murders

SEATTLE (AP) — Two deputies in Washington state encountered a convicted felon less than eight hours before he slaughtered four police officers, but a warrant check came up empty, leaving the man free to commit the slayings, documents state. 

Those details, first reported by The Seattle Times, were included in more than 2,000 pages of law-enforcement documents released under a Public Records Act request this month.

The Times, The News Tribune, The Associated Press and Seattle television stations KING, KOMO and KIRO sued to obtain the documents and ultimately prevailed when the state Supreme Court unanimously ordered the release.

The documents show that at 12:38 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2009, Deputies William Marquiss and Levi Redding were on patrol when they pulled behind Maurice Clemmons' 1976 Lincoln Continental.

“Deputy Marquiss informed me he was familiar with the vehicle and immediately had me run Maurice Clemmons to check for possible warrants,” Redding wrote in an incident report. “I informed Deputy Marquiss that Maurice returned with a clear status, as the vehicle parked in a driveway .. We drove by slowly and Deputy Marquiss confirmed Maurice was the passenger but could not identify the driver.”

Clemmons had previously been held for investigation of child rape and had posted $190,000 bail six days earlier with the help of Jail Sucks Bail Bonds in Chehalis. He had engaged in activity that could have resulted in warrants being issued, including failing to report to his community corrections officer and cutting off a monitoring bracelet provided by Jail Sucks.

Hours after the deputies saw Clemmons, he walked into the Forza Coffee Shop in Parkland and opened fire on four officers as they sat preparing to go out on patrol. Killed were Officers Greg Richards, 42,  Tina Griswold, 40, Ronald Owens, 37, and Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39 (pictured above, left to right).

Click the link below to read the rest of the story by Associated Press Writer Gene Johnson.

2 searches reveal meth in rectum, bra

Two law enforcement searches Sunday and Monday revealed methamphetamine in a man's rectum and in a woman's bra.

A jailer found 14 grams of meth in Richard D. Hall's shoe and “a bodily orifice” after the 27-year-old was arrested with a drug pipe, cash and scale during a traffic stop Sunday morning.

Deputies Chuck Sciortino and Jeff Thurman had stopped the Chevrolet Cavalier in which Hall was a passenger after they spotted it tailgating another westbound vehicle on Interstate 90 at the Sunset off-ramp, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The deputy “obtained permission to search the car” after smelling marijuana, according to a news release, and found a meth pipe and marijuana in a purse belonging to driver Jenelle L. Cuculich, 24. 

Then on Monday, a jailer found meth, marijuana, and mushrooms in the bra of a woman arrested on a Department of Corrections escape warrant during a traffic stop.

Trisha L. Boulton, 25, (pictured) was a passenger in a 1993 Cadillac driven by her husband when Officer Justin Elliot stopped it for equipment and license violations about 1:30 a.m.

Boulton's husband wasn't cited.

In a news release, Sgt. Dave Reagan said Boulton  “probably wishes the contents of her bra had remained (Victoria’s?) secret.”

9th Circuit hears arguments in Zehm case

SEATTLE — A jury should be told Otto Zehm hadn’t committed any crime before he was beaten by a Spokane police officer who claims Zehm was aggressive and defiant when confronted in a North Side convenience store, a federal appeals court panel was told Monday.

Federal prosecutors have appealed a pretrial ruling by U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle in Spokane that excludes evidence of Zehm’s innocence as prejudicial and inflammatory. They told a three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals it would help the jury decide whether Thompson was lying when he later described Zehm with words like sinister, aggressive, defiant and resolute.

But an attorney for Officer Karl Thompson said the trial judge is right to keep such information from a jury when the trial starts, because Thompson didn’t know those facts when he approached Zehm. It’s inflammatory and could prejudice the jury against the officer, attorney Carl Oreskovich said.

Read the rest of Jim Camden's story here.

Robbery suspect escapes drug rehab

A robbery suspect allowed to leave jail for drug rehabilitation is wanted by police for escape.

Aaron Lee Goldstein, 18, left Spokane Addiction Recovery Center, 812 S. Walnut Ave., on Friday, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.

He’d been in custody since December, charged with first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Detectives believe he’s connected to armed robberies in November and December at the Holiday gas station on North Argonne Road, Sam’s Stop and Shop on East Sprague Avenue, Nevada Street Brew Espresso, McQuick Mart on South Regal, and the Zip Trips at Fourth Avenue and Sullivan Road and at Illinois Street and Perry Place.

Two other suspects, Sean T. Smith and Vanessa E. Orr, both 23, are in jail. Goldstein, a transient with family in Northern California, is described as 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes.

He has tattoos of two teardrops under his left eye, and “Bay Boy” tattooed on his neck.

Anyone with information on Goldstein’s location should call 911.

Crime Stoppers also is offering a reward for tips that lead to Goldstein's capture.

Phony name helps bust sleepy fugitive

A fugitive wanted by Crime Stoppers since November was arrested Saturday after reportedly trying to use a phony name during a traffic stop.

Shanell L. Haddon, 27, was a passenger in a 1996 Cadillac when Spokane Valley police Officer Juan Rodriguez stopped the car at Mansfield Avenue and Wilbur Road just before midnight because it was registered to someone with a suspended license and its windows were so tinted the driver couldn't be seen.

The driver , David J. Embree, 35, was not the owner but was cited for having no driver's license on him and for not providing proof of insurance, police said. Embree's sleeping passenger, gave a false name to Rodriguez's backup, Officer Dale Wells, but Rodriguez “immediately recognized her as Haddon,” according to a news release.

Haddon was arrested on a Department of Corrections escape warrant. Police say she had 16 car keys, some of which had been altered.

Embree was released at the scene; Haddon was booked into jail on the warrant and two new charges of possession of motor vehicle theft tools and making a false statement.

Police: Officers caught burglars in act

Two burglars were caught in the act this morning in north Spokane, police say.

Spokane police officers saw two men flee an unsecured garage and drop items in a backyard after responding to a burglary in progress in the 4000 block of North Cincinnati Street at 5:58 a.m. 

The men jumped fences and tried to hide, but police found suspect Nicholas A. Limpert, 25, (right) hiding under a car in the 900 block of East Heroy Avenue.

A second suspect, Robert J. McNabb, 20, (left) also was arrested and booked into jail on a second-degree burglary charge.

Limpert is a convicted felon who has been wanted by Crime Stoppers twice since 2008. 

His criminal history includes convictions for domestic violence assault, possessing a dangerous weapon, city theft, second-degree theft, first-degree theft, malicious mischief and vehicle prowling.

McNabb was sentenced in October to 33 days in jail and two years probation for first-degree attempted burglary, possession of a controlled substance, second-degree theft and forgery.

Bank swindler faces new fraud charges

A convicted bank swindler who boldly walked out of a federal courtroom in Spokane three years ago to avoid arrest is back in jail, accused of another scheme.

John Earl Petersen, the key figure in the collapse of a Montana bank more than a decade ago, is accused of stealing nearly $170,000 from a brother and sister in 2006 after telling them they would receive $100 million in return.

Petersen is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail. He’s pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion and is to stand trial in May, U.S. District Judge Edward Shea ruled recently.

It’s the latest for an admitted con man and frequent Las Vegas gambler who had a business office in Spokane when he was arrested in 1998, accused of masterminding the $10.5 million collapse of Montana Bank of Whitefish, Mont. Read the rest of my story here.

Petersen is pictured at the very top in 1997, and at the top left in 2008.

Past coverage:

Feb. 1, 1998: Agent paints Petersen as loan-sharking mobster

Man sentenced in love triangle stabbing

A man who stabbed his lover's estranged husband was released from jail after pleading guilty to a felony assault charge.

Dumont P. Whitt, 35, was sentenced to 2.25 months in jail Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court but credited for time already served and good behavior in jail.

He pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree assault for a stabbing Dec. 28 at a home at 2415 E. 1st Ave.

Spokane police initially believed Whitt may have stabbed Robert D. McQueen in self defense after McQueen confronted Whitt  and McQueen's wife, Alicia McQueen, but Whitt was arrested about a week after the incident.

McQueen was hospitalized with critical injuries from several stab wounds but has since improved and was arrested on a trespassing charge.
  

DOC changes policies after officer slain

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state Department of Corrections is changing some of its procedures in response to the killing of a female guard at the Monroe prison last weekend.

Jayme Biendl was found strangled in the prison's chapel last Saturday night. An inmate has been arrested in the killing.

Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail said Friday that prisons immediately will begin counting staff members whenever an offender is missing; officers will begin regularly checking in on guards who serve at duty posts alone; and prisons will start conducting drills on the use of silent alarms on the hand-held radios that guards carry.

In addition, the department says it will no longer hold modified lockdowns once a month at the state's eight major prisons. The lockdowns coincided with furloughs of nonessential staff to save money. Spokesman Chad Lewis says that stopping the lockdowns will make the prisons safer because those nonessential staff members will be present.

Biendl had previously complained that she didn't feel safe working alone in the prison chapel.

Bank robbery suspect, 69, shot by police

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — Police in Lewiston have released the name of a 69-year-old man who was shot by law enforcement officers after a bank robbery.

David L. Payton of Clarkston, Wash., is hospitalized in critical condition in Seattle.

Officers investigating the robbery of a US Bank branch Thursday morning found Payton walking nearby about 15 minutes after the robbery.

Capt. Tom Greene says when officers approached, the suspect pointed a gun at them and he was shot multiple times. He underwent surgery at a Lewiston hospital and was flown to Harborview Medical Center Thursday night.

Greene says the suspect pointed the gun at the teller and made off with a “fair amount” of cash. Payton has no significant prior criminal record.

The officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave

GPS app cracks Sandpoint phone caper

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — Recovering a stolen cell phone? There's an app for that.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports 22-year-old Sean B. Mahoney of Sandpoint pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft and possession of drug paraphernalia on Wednesday in a case that was cracked by the owner of a stolen cell phone. Mahoney was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

A Sandpoint resident reported a cell phone, snowboard and goggles were taken from his sport utility vehicle on Dec. 18.

The GPS-enabled phone contained a software application that can be activated when the device is stolen. The owner used the app and a laptop to track the handset to a house where the items were recovered, along with two other stolen snowboards, several holiday checks apparently taken from neighborhood mailboxes, drug pipes and marijuana seeds and stems.

Jury rejects lawsuit against CdA police

A federal jury recently rejected a Coeur d'Alene man's claims of excessive force by police related to a May 2008 traffic stop in which he was shocked with a Taser several times.

Jurors found that Coeur d'Alene police Officers Jonathan Cantrell and Timothy Neal did not use excessive force when they arrested DeLoyd Scott (pictured).

They also ruled that Cantrell had reasonable suspicion to stop plaintiff Conrad Steele and search his vehicle.

The lawsuit, filed by Hayden lawyer Larry Purviance in February 2009, stemmed from a May 15, 2008, incident in which police stopped Conrad for not using his turn signal near 14th Street and Coeur d'Alene Avenue.

Scott, then 54, approached on his bicycle without a light and a confrontation ensued between him and police. Officer Erik Turrell shocked Scott with a Taser several times, but it “appeared to have no effect,” police said at the time. Police said Scott was combative and hit Turrell in the face with a flashlight.

Scott pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace in December 2008 and was credited for two days served in jail.

Several witnesses who filmed the incident were originally plaintiffs in the lawsuit, claiming their civil rights were violated when police tried to take the camera. A judge dismissed that portion of the lawsuit last summer.

The jury verdict was returned Friday after a four-day trial.

Strine: Cops pinned fatal crash on me

A Spokane stockbroker admits to drinking alcohol the day his Mercedes crashed into a motorcycle, paralyzing the driver and killing the passenger, but he told jurors he wasn’t drunk.

He’d told the doctor who examined him after the June 2, 2009, crash that he hadn’t had anything to drink because a police officer was in the room, listening.

“I was afraid,” said Jon A. Strine, who is charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular assault for the crash. “I knew (Spokane police Officer Paul) Watson was going to try to pin this on me.” 

Read the rest of my story here.

Closing arguments are scheduled Tuesday afternoon because Strine's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, will be in Seattle on Monday for a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing regarding the Karl Thompson-Otto Zehm case.

Oreskovich, who is representing Thompson, will be arguing against federal prosecutors' request that jurors be informed of the fact that Zehm did not commit a crime prior to the fatal confrontation.

Edgar Steele seeks new defense lawyer

Edgar Steele is set to ask for a new attorney in his murder-for-hire case.

Longtime Denver defense lawyer Robert T. McAllister said a hearing will take place Monday morning in Coeur d'Alene.

 “I am not Mr. Steele's attorney of record at this point in time, but I have been asked to represent him,” McAllister said. “If the court permits me to enter as his attorney, I intend to do so.”

Steele, an anti-Semitic North Idaho lawyer who describes himself as the “attorney for the damned,” currently is represented by Roger Peven, executive director of the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho.

Peven was not available for comment.

Steele (pictured above) has been in the Spokane County Jail since last summer, accused of hiring a hitman to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele. Prosecutors say the alleged hitman, Larry Fairfax, told the FBI of the plot and recorded Steele discussing the plan. 

Fairfax was arrested a couple days after Steele when auto shop workers discovered a pipe bomb under Cyndi Steele's car. Fairfax said he didn't tell the FBI about the device (pictured) because he thought it was no longer on the vehicle. He also said he'd rigged it so it wouldn't explode but pleaded guilty in October to two federal weapons charges related to the bomb.

He was to be sentenced on Monday, but that hearing has been delayed until after Fairfax's testified at Steele's trial. Steele's trial is set to begin March 7. Fairfax's new sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 16. 

Steele faces decades in prison under charges of use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, tampering with a victim, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence.

Cyndi Steele denies the charges and is critical of prosecutors' treatment of Fairfax. She said Fairfax set up her husband to try to cover up his theft of silver coins. Prosecutors say Steele gave those coins to Fairfax as a down payment in the murder plot.

Cyndi Steele is represented by Colorado and Idaho lawyer Wesley Hoyt, who said McAllister is prepared to go to trial in March, but there are “conditions that might dictate otherwise.”

Both lawyers will be at the federal courthouse in Coeur d'Alene Monday morning.

“It's going to be a very, very interesting time,” Hoyt said.

Editor links ex-Klansman to ‘64 murder

FERRIDAY, La. (AP) — Arthur Leonard Spencer says sure, he made some mistakes back when he was a “snot-nose kid,” like joining the Ku Klux Klan. But murder?

  No, the 71-year-old Spencer says, a small-town weekly paper got it wrong when it reported recently that he may have been involved in burning down a black man's shoe repair shop in 1964 with the owner inside.

“I feel sorry for his family, but I didn't have nothing to do with it,” said Spencer, pictured last August.

  No law enforcement agency has named Spencer as a suspect. But for the dead man's family, still praying for justice 46 years later, it's a welcome if not entirely solid lead.

The allegations were reported by the Concordia Sentinel of Ferriday, whose editor, Stanley Nelson, has dedicated the past four years of his life to an all-consuming investigation of the blaze that killed 51-year-old Frank Morris. (Morris is pictured above, fourth from right wearing a visor, in front of his shoe repair shop in the 1950s.)

Nelson (right) has written more than 100 stories about the case, culminating in an article that quoted Spencer's estranged son, his ex-wife and her brother as saying the former Klansman confessed to taking part in the crime.

Morris' slaying is one of more than 100 unsolved cases from the civil rights era that the FBI reopened in recent years. But for Nelson, the Morris case was unique, because it happened in his town. He has pledged to solve the crime once and for all.

The motive for the attack is not clear.

By most accounts Morris was well liked around town by both his black and white customers. He was separated or divorced and lived alone in a back room at his shop.

He was not known to be actively involved in the civil rights movement, which made black men targets in those days. And FBI documents indicate at least one witness debunked rumors that Morris had courted white women — a virtual death sentence in that era. Still, just being a successful black businessman with a white clientele and having contact with white women was enough to enrage many people back then.

Others have speculated that Morris may have been targeted for refusing to do shoe repairs for a corrupt sheriff's deputy, who wanted the services for free.

Whatever the case, heavily censored FBI files from the time paint a chilling picture of Morris' death.
Read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Holbrook Mohr by clicking the link below.

Judge’s son suspected in casino heist

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The bankrupt son of a Las Vegas judge followed a crude holdup at a posh casino by racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling losses and spending a week like a high roller, but got caught after trying to hawk his stolen chips online to poker players, police said Thursday.

 An arrest report for the helmeted bandit, who ran out of the Bellagio hotel-casino with $1.5 million in chips during a gunpoint heist Dec. 14, said Anthony M. Carleo (pictured) lost about $105,000 at the resort over the next month — including $73,000 on New Year's Eve. He stayed at least one week at the resort in late January, enjoying meals, drinks and rooms furnished by the casino.

“He likes to gamble,” Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Steiber said as he described for reporters how Carleo, 29, was nabbed late Wednesday on the same casino floor from where the chips came.

Carleo wasn't armed and offered no resistance when he was taken into custody.

 Police recovered $900,000 in chips of different types — the ones stolen ranged from $100 to $25,000 — and can account for $1.2 million, Steiber said.

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

Giant spoon stolen in Bellingham

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Hey, diddle, diddle! The cat and the fiddle … the thief ran off with the spoon?

The owner of Bellingham's Fountain Bistro is hoping someone will spot a 4-foot-tall silver spoon that vanished from the restaurant over the weekend.

Jill Holmes says the spoon was screwed onto the north side of the building along with a giant fork. She noticed it was missing Sunday morning so figures it must have been taken late Saturday night.

In the nursery rhyme, “the dish ran away with the spoon.” Holmes suspects a thief with a screwdriver.

Holmes tells the Bellingham Herald she has a sense of humor about the theft now, but she still wants her spoon back. She says the fork is lonely.

Prosecutors want Sanders off cases

SEATTLE (AP) — Prosecutors in five Washington counties want former Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders barred from continuing to rule on cases — an effort he calls a blatant attempt to manipulate the court. 

Sanders (left) was narrowly defeated by Charlie Wiggins (right) in his bid for a fourth term last fall, and his tenure on the court expired last month.

Following historical practice, the remaining justices gave him an extra two months to wrap up the 70 or so cases in which he heard arguments that the court has not yet ruled on.

Previous temporary appointments of justices have garnered little attention, but the one given to Sanders — a self-described libertarian who often sides with defendants — raised the ire of prosecutors from King, Clallam, Snohomish, Skagit and Grant counties.

They asked the court to revoke it on the grounds that the state Constitution allows only judges or retired judges — not defeated ones — to be appointed pro-tem. 

The high court unanimously rejected the requests without explanation.

“It doesn't appear that there's any mechanism that allows him to be appointed as a pro-tem, so he probably shouldn't be appointed as a pro-tem,” said Grant County Prosecutor Angus Lee. Sanders said Thursday the prosecutors singled him out because they don't like his views.

Click the link below to read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Gene Johnson.

Eye surgeon convicted in murder plot

SEATTLE (AP) — The co-founder of a Northwest chain of eye-surgery centers has been convicted of plotting to kill his business partner.

Dr. Michael Mockovak of Clearly Lasik eye centers was found guilty Thursday of four counts, including attempted murder. The King County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days.

Prosecutors said Mockovak was willing to pay more than $100,000 to have business partner Dr. Joseph King killed, and that he solicited an employee to hire an assassin. The jury acquitted Mockovak of trying to have the company's former president also killed.

Mockovak's lawyers claimed the employee goaded him into the plot after Mockovak raised the idea as a joke.

Clearly Lasik has offices throughout the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. The company reported earnings of $17 million in 2007, but that figure dipped to $10 million in 2008.

Mockovak will be sentenced in March.

Prison guard’s family prepares for funeral

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — The family of slain Monroe prison guard Jayme Biendl released a statement through police Thursday saying they are devastated by the loss. 

They thank law enforcement and the community for their support but don't want to talk to media.

The family says it is focusing on memories and preparing for the memorial service at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Comcast Center in Everett.

Biendl was strangled Saturday night in the chapel at the prison.

An inmate suspected of the killing, Byron Scherf, is jailed in Everett for the investigation.

Man sentenced for robbing credit union

A bank robber turned in by his girlfriend's mother will spend about two years in prison.

Eric C. Mason, 42, was sentenced to 28 months and will be credited for 166 days served in the Spokane County Jail after pleading guilty Wednesday to second-degree robbery, second-degree assault and first-degree theft.

Mason robbed the Spokane Teachers Credit Union, 8703 N. Indian Trail Road, on April 23. He did not display a weapon.

girlfriend's mother told police her daughter drove him to the robbery, leading to Mason's arrest in August.

Mason's public defender, Anna Nordtvedt, asked for him to receive 22 months; Deputy Prosecutor James Kaufman called for 29 months. Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno handled the sentencing.

Mason has previous felony convictions for drugs and burglary in Whatcom County in 2004. He is in jail awaiting transport to prison.

Officer in fatal crash to return to patrol

The Spokane police officer involved in fatal collision with a pedestrian Sunday is scheduled to return to full patrol duty.

The officer, identified Wednesday as Gordon Ennis, an eight-year veteran, has been interviewed by investigators and is scheduled to return to full patrol duty. He provided a blood sample the night of the crash, which killed John A. Van Curler, 52.

Investigators have not said if Ennis was driving with his lights or siren on, or at what speed, when he hit Van Curler at or near the intersection of North Monroe Street and West Montgomery Avenue about 10:30 p.m.

  Ennis was responding to a report of trouble unknown at a home on West Spofford Avenue.

Van Curler (left) was born in Spokane and graduated from Shadle Park High School. He worked for years at Inland Empire Plating and had recently been living with his stepmother and collecting cans to exchange for cash, family said.

His brother, Jdon Van Curler, said the man battled alcoholism.

“Our heart goes out to the officer that was involved, because it obviously was not intentional or malicious,” Van Curler said. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”

The case is being handled by a team of investigators from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police Department and the Washington State Patrol.

Strine to testify in vehicular homicide trial

A Spokane stockbroker accused of paralyzing a motorcyclist and killing a woman during a drunken crash in 2009 is expected to testify today.

Jon A. Strine, 43, is to take the stand this morning, one of the final days of his vehicular assault and vehicular homicide jury trial.

A state test put Strine's blood-alcohol level at .20, but his lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, said the test is unreliable and has presented testimony from experts who say Strine's alcohol consumption prior to the crash would have kept him within the legal limit for driving.

Jurors watched surveillance video from Fast Eddie's bar downtown, where Strine went with a waitress from Press bar on South Grand after the woman said she'd applied for a job there, and Strine offered to introduce her to the owner.

They drank alcohol and left in Strine's 2002 silver Mercedes. Minutes later, Strine made a last-second lane change, then smashed into the Gary and Lorrie Keller.

Oreskovich has said Strine made a simple driving error, not a criminal act, and should be found not guilty. Strine has already settled a lawsuit from Keller out of court.

Past coverage:

Jan. 26: Sleepy juror removed from Strine trial

Jan. 21: Husband recounts fatal crash

June 25, 2009: Driver sued over deadly wreck

June 4, 2009: School district on crash victim: 'Everybody just loved her'

Child prostitution concerns at Super Bowl

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — As thousands of football fans descend on Texas for Sunday's Super Bowl, law enforcement agencies are keeping watch for a different kind of out-of-town visitor: pimps selling children for sex.

Cities that host the big game often attract a bustling sex trade. This year, Texas authorities and advocacy groups are stepping up their anti-prostitution efforts, especially where young girls are concerned.

“Most people don't know that our children are being brutalized this way, and we have to stop it,” said Deena Graves, founder of Traffick911, a Texas organization that launched the “I'm Not Buying It” campaign for Super Bowl XLV. “We need to get mad. We need to get angry about what's happening to our kids right here.”

For weeks, volunteers have been canvassing neighborhoods in Dallas and other cities, distributing door hangars and posters with information. Others have placed coasters in restaurants and bars. Traffick911 has also made public-service announcements, some featuring current and former NFL players.

“As a man and as a father of two beautiful girls, I'm not buying it — and neither should you,” Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff says in one television ad. “If you're one of these men buying these young girls, I'm telling you that real men don't buy children. They don't buy sex.”

Pimps hawking young girls see the thousands of men who travel to the Super Bowl each year as a gold mine of potential clients. Police in and around host cities have tried for years to crack down on prostitution by conducting stings or increasing patrols during Super Bowl week. Only in recent years have underage girls come to light in increasing numbers.

“This is a very large issue. We want people to know what human trafficking looks like,” said Thomas Lawrence, an assistant Dallas police chief. Last year's Super Bowl in Miami drew as many as 10,000 prostitutes, including children and human trafficking victims, police said.

Read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Angela K. Brown by clicking the link below.

2 prior attacks on women at state prison

SEATTLE (AP) — Two other women were assaulted in the past six months at the Washington state prison where a female guard was strangled, adding to questions about the safety of prison workers.

Officer Jayme Biendl, 34, was killed Saturday night in a chapel at the reformatory unit for medium-security inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex, about 30 miles northeast of Seattle.

Union officials have questioned why she was alone after complaining to supervisors about being the only guard working in the chapel without anyone checking on her. Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday called for an outside investigation focusing on whether prisons are adequately staffed.

Police say their prime suspect is inmate Byron Scherf, serving a life sentence after convictions for two violent rapes, including one in which the victim was bound and set on fire. He had served as a chapel volunteer after a decade of good behavior behind bars.

Scherf, 52, was found by guards outside the chapel after he missed a head count, and he told them he had tried to escape but changed his mind. Biendl's body was found about an hour later when she failed to check in at the end of her shift.

Police say there is no evidence Biendl was raped; she was fully clothed and wearing a coat when found.

Monroe prison Superintendent Scott Frakes said that on Sept. 24, an inmate put his hands on the neck of a counselor.

“He somehow inappropriately grabbed her,” Frakes told The Daily Herald of Everett.

The case was investigated as a possible fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor.

On Aug. 24, a female custodian reported being grabbed by an inmate in a maintenance department office.

Frakes said she was able to pull away from the inmate and run out of the room. She took a medical leave and recently returned to a different job, he said.

That case remains under investigation. No charges have been filed in either incident.

Monroe police say they also investigated two reported assaults on male workers at the complex last year, including one in which a guard broke his wrist after being tackled by an inmate in a unit for mentally ill offenders.

Frakes said the greatly outnumbered officers and prison staff also routinely endure such things as having feces thrown at them, being spit on and bumped into.

He said he would like the state Legislature to make such incidents crimes.

Tips sought on ‘09 Idaho Oxy robberies

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North Idaho law enforcement is asking for help solving two OxyContin robberies from 2009.

The robberies - one an attempted - occurred Sept. 30, 2009, at Walgreens, 706 E. Seltice Way, in Post Falls at 5:28 p.m., and on Oct. 27 at the Walgreens at 260 W. Honeysuckle Ave. in Hayden at 5:59 p.m.

The robber left empty handed in Hayden after store clerks said none of the powerful painkiller was in stock. 

Surveillance photos (right) show him wearing black pants and a dark blue and black North Face winter coat with the hood over an orange billed beanie hat. A video is posted above.

Police said today that he displayed a silver handgun and wore black Vans type shoes, with brown or light colored soles.

The billed beanie hat in that robbery appears to be  the same beanie worn during the robbery in September.

In that case, a man with a bandanna covering his mouth (pictured above) handed an employee a note saying he had a gun and demanding the drug. He wore a tan and white sweatshirt and a fleece jacket.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that solve either robbery. Anyone with information is asked to call (208) 667-2111 or 1-800-222-TIPS. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should use a code name or number.

Valley man sentenced for bank robbery

A Spokane Valley bank robber arrested less than 90 minutes after the heist has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison.

Jesse R. Adams, 44, received 46 months in prison Monday after pleading guilty to first-degree robbery before Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

He was arrested last April after a gunpoint hold-up at Washington Trust Bank, 301 N. Argonne Road.

Police reviewing surveillance footage recognized  Adams from a domestic incident investigation a week earlier. He was arrested after officers spotted him walking through the parking lot at his apartment complex, 10101 E. Main Ave.

The robbery apparently didn't net Adams much cash - he's only required to pay $139 restitution.

Adams has previous felony convictions for theft and forgery.

Police: Man helped friend commit suicide

An acquaintance of a Spokane man who police believe took his own life last summer is now accused of assisting in the suicide.

Family members of William P. Pickard, 38, say Melvin Alephus Gillespie, 40, lied to police for months after Pickard’s death, which detectives believe was staged with rope to look like a homicide.

Pickard’s body was found under the Sunset Bridge on June 30. His car was found four miles away the next day.

Gillespie was arrested Monday on charges of obstructing a public officer and promoting a suicide attempt and is being held at the Spokane County Jail.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Jan. 25: Man's death in June believed to be 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

Criminal history leads to mistrial, again

A convicted burglar's criminal history has led to the wheels of justice getting derailed for him once again.

Jury selection was underway Tuesday when attorneys asked if any of the 40 prospective jurors knew Gary D. McCabe, 45, who is accused of stealing more than $25,000 worth of rare gold and silver coins.

One man said he'd transported McCabe several times while a correction officer at Geiger Corrections Center and has transported McCabe several times.

Because other potential jurors were present when the man referenced McCabe's criminal history, Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark dismissed all 40 people and reset the trial for later this month with a new jury pool.

The same case nearly went to a jury last month before one of the jurors realized that McCabe probably burglarized her South Hill home.

A mistrial was declared, and the woman identified her stolen camera in the evidence pool.

McCabe already is to serve seven years in prison for a 2009 burglary.

Past coverage:

Oct. 12: Burglar stole more than gold

March 27, 2009: Arrests may crack burglaries

CdA woman admits to abusing twin girls

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — The mother of twin 2-year-old girls found living in squalor in their Coeur d'Alene apartment pleaded guilty Monday to one count of felony injury to a child.

Elisabeth Crossley, 27, (right) entered her plea as part of a deal with the Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office. Under terms, Crossley could face up to 10 years in prison.

Acting on a tip from neighbors, authorities found the twins in December locked in a bedroom at their apartment, investigators said. Both remain in state custody. Investigators say the girls were sealed inside the bedroom with no clothes, bedding or furniture.

They say the walls of the room were covered in fecal matter, and both girls were bruised and had open sores.

Police also said a couch cushion was tied to the inside of the bedroom door to muffle noise from the twins banging on the door. 

First District Court Judge John Luster said the facts of the case are “disturbing,” and he scheduled sentencing for April 13.

Crossley was released from Kootenai County jail on her own recognizance pending sentencing.

The judge ordered that she remain in Idaho. Crossley said little at her hearing Monday and kept her face covered with her long hair, according to the Coeur d'Alene Press.

She has offered authorities no explanation for the injuries or living conditions inside the apartment.

Last week, Crossley's mother, 55-year-old Ruth K. Cassidy, (left) entered an Alford plea to felony injury to a child.

Crossley's estranged husband, Scott Lewis Crossley, 41, says he plans to get a paternity test so he can take custody of the girls. He said traces of his life with his wife were destroyed in a burn barrel on a California beach while on an “acid trip.” Scott Crossley said he worked as a professional wrestler from 1999 to 2002 under the name Mutant, but isn't working now because of a heart-rhythm disorder, according to the Associated Press.

Prison guards seek assault compensation

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A few days after a state corrections officer was killed in a state prison, prison guards lobbied for a change in law that would allow them to collect money from the inmates who assault them.

Supporters of the bill say it's not about the money, but about deterrence.

Attorney Brandon L Johnson says that taking money from the inmates will limit their access to everyday foods and other goods that they are allowed to purchase in prison. Inmates who work make little money, sometimes as low as $.65 an hour.

The bill sets inmate income deductions for prison guards of 20 percent for gross wages, 15 percent from any gratuities and 20 percent from all other deposits.

Officials say that 34-year-old prison guard Jayme Biendl was killed Saturday night at Monroe Correctional Complex's chapel by a convicted rapist.

2 cars, 3 lbs of pot seized in Cheney

A multi-agency marijuana investigation led to the seizure of two cars and 3 1/2 pounds of marijuana in Spokane County recently.

Cheney resident Brandon M. Collins, 27, is believed to have led the operation, which detectives say distributed more than five pounds of pot each week, mostly in Cheney and at Eastern Washington University.

Collins was arrested last Thursday following several undercover drug sales, according to a news release. He left jail on Friday after being released on his own recognizance. Investigators say Collins picked up several pounds of pot in Bellevue and often made deliveries while working for a cellular phone store in Cheney.

A second suspect, identified as a 25-year-old EWU student, has not been arrested or charged.

Investigators working with the Washington State Gambling Commission and Northern Quest Casino say Collins and his associates “appear to have laundered more than $380,000 through the casino during the last three years,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The investigation is being conducted by the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force, which is comprised of investigators from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police and Spokane Valley Police Departments, Washington State Patrol, Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Murder suspect worked in prison chapel

The suspect in the murder of a prison guard had served as a chapel volunteer after a decade of good behavior. 

Byron Scherf, a serial rapist with ties to Spokane , told officers he was trying to escape but had changed his mind when he was found in the chapel lobby after it was noticed he was missing.

Guard Jayme Biendl's body was found an hour later, fully clothed and with no evidence of sexual assault. The 34-year-old woman had a two-way radio with an alarm, but prison officials don't know whether she tried to call for help.

Two days after Biendl's death, Gov. Chris Gregoire called for an outside investigation focused on whether there is adequate staff at the medium-security reformatory unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex, about 30 miles northeast of Seattle.

“There's a lot of grief and sorrow, and I think there are probably pockets of anger as well,” said Dan Pacholke, the Department of Corrections' deputy director of prisons.

  Union officials questioned why Biendl, a nine-year veteran of the department, was alone after complaining to prison supervisors about being the only guard working in the chapel without anyone checking on her.

Recent budget cuts have forced staffing reductions and union members have been worried about the impact on safety, said Teamsters 117 spokeswoman Tracey Thompson. 

Prison officials said staffing levels among guards who deal directly with inmates weren't down; just one person worked in the chapel for the past 15 years.

Guards always have been outnumbered by inmates, and prisons are full of people who have committed crimes as bad or worse as Scherf's, Pacholke said.

Budget cuts have forced hiring freezes among administrative and support personnel, officials said, but there's been no reduction in the number of “front-line” officers.

Scherf had not had a serious infraction since 2001, had a prison job, wasn't in a gang and had earned privileges for good conduct, Pacholke said.

Everything seemed to indicate he was “serving his incarceration in an acceptable fashion,” he said.

However, he said that did little to comfort prison staff trying to cope with their “tremendous sorrow” at the loss of a personable young woman who in 2008 had been named Monroe's corrections officer of the year.

Gregoire said Monday that in addition to the standard department review, she has asked for an outside review by federal officials at the National Institute of Corrections.

The 800-inmate unit was locked down and could stay that way the rest of the week as the criminal investigation continues, Pacholke said.

New charges in senior home break-ins

A Spokane man suspected of burglarizing South Hill retirement homes has been charged with burglarizing another center in Spokane Valley.

Pavel V. Altukhov, 23, faces three counts of residential burglary and one count of second-degree burglary for break-ins at apartments at the Park Place Retirement Community, 511 N. Park Road, on Nov. 19.

He's already charged with five counts of burglary and one count of first-degree trafficking in stolen property for burglaries at the Waterford and Rockwood retirement communities about the same time.

Police say they found more than 1,000 pieces of jewelery in a Altukhov's car when they arrested him in December.

More than 50 victims had reported thefts from their apartments at just Waterford and Rockwood, police say.

Altukhov has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail. He's to be arraigned on the four new felonies within the next two weeks after making his first court appearance on Monday.

Boise woman pleads guilty in son’s death

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Boise mother pleaded guilty Monday to aiding the killing of her 8-year-old son, whose disappearance in the summer of 2009 set off a massive, week-long search across the city. 

A plea agreement was reached with Melissa Sue Jenkins that could send her to jail for 25 years and no chance of parole, Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower said.  

Jenkins, 31, and her then-boyfriend Daniel Ehrlick were charged in the death of Robert Manwill, whose body was found a week after his disappearance floating in an irrigation canal southwest of Boise.

Jenkins pleaded guilty under the agreement to aiding and abetting second-degree murder. The deal still needs a judge's approval. 

Investigators said Ehrlick beat the boy in a pattern of escalating violence that ended with a fatal head injury. Jenkins knew about the beatings but did nothing to stop it and concealed it from state child protection staff, prosecutors said.

Ehrlick has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and his trial is scheduled to begin in April.

Jenkins acknowledged Monday at a hearing at the Ada County Courthouse that she was aware Ehrlick was physically abusing her son, and that she had hidden the boy from Idaho Health and Welfare workers and family members so they would be not be aware of his injuries.

She also told the judge she is taking medication to manage post-traumatic stress disorder, something diagnosed after her son's death, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The boy's disappearance launched what police have described as the biggest search in Boise history.

One week after Manwill was reported missing, more than 2,300 residents spent an entire day scouring a 2-square-mile area around Jenkins' apartment. Jenkins lost custody of Manwill in 2008 but had visitation rights.

At the time of his disappearance, the boy was visiting his mother.  Court records show she told investigators she should have sought medical attention for Robert on the morning of his death, when he was complaining of back, chest and stomach pain and stumbled when he tried to walk.

Hells Angel admits pot smuggling role

A Canadian Hells Angel who fought extradition to Spokane for two years has pleaded guilty to a federal marijuana charge.

Brian Lee Hall faces up to five years in prison when he's sentenced April 6, but his lawyer said he'll ask that his client receive credit for time already served in jail and two years probation.

A co-defendant, David A. Sidwell, 61, already is serving 40 months in federal prison.

According to Hall's plea agreement, the case began when border patrol agents spotted Sidwell near the border in February 2003, hiding under a truck registered in Spokane. A backpack with nearly $185,000 was located about five feet from him. Sidwell's phone showed extensive contact with Hall and Canadian marijuana smuggler Glen Misko.

In September 2003, a confidential informant in Portland said he'd been receiving marijuana that had been transferred into the United States by Misko, then brought to Portland by Sidwell, according to Hall's plea agreement. The informant traveled to Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, and recorded conversations with Sidwell in which Sidwell described losing the cash in what he said was a close call.

Sidwell pleaded guilty in May 2009 to two marijuana charges and one count of attempting bulk cashing smuggling.

Hall, described in court documents as a full-patch Hells Angel, was arrested in British Columbia in 2008 and was in jail and on home-monitoring before consenting to extradition earlier this year. He arrived in Spokane in May and was allowed out of custody on bond pending trial.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import marijuana in Spokane last Wednesday and will stay out of custody pending sentencing.

Guilty plea in Grant Co. triple homicide

EPHRATA, Wash. (AP) — A 25-year-old man who pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder for a 2009 shooting in Mattawa faces more than 38 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 14 in in Ephrata.

 The Columbia Basin Herald reports Grant County prosecutors lowered the charges from first-degree murder in a plea deal with J. Guadalupe Martinez-Lopez.

He said he shot the men in retaliation for a rape.

Grant County Sheriff’s detectives think Martinez-Lopez used the same gun to rob a store of beer and money before sitting down with his girlfriend and two others for dinner before his arrest.

Past coverage: Dec. 17, 2009: Man told police he killed revenge

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