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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for July 2011

Photo Red warning period ends today

The grace period will end tonight for red light runners caught on camera at the three latest Spokane intersections to be equipped with the surveilance devices, police warned today.

Starting first thing tomorrow, anyone caught on camera running a red light will receive a ticket in the mail.

The three new intersections are at southbound Browne St. at Third Ave., southbound Maple St. at Second Ave. and westbound Second Ave. at Walnut Street. The three cameras went live on July 1 and officers have sent out 500 warning notices since they were installed, said police spokeswoman Teresa Fuller.

The city has issued more than 25,000 citations for running a red light since the first cameras were installed, Fuller said. The fine that goes with the citation is $124.

Warning: Light posting ahead

I will be out of the newsroom until Tuesday. Colleagues may be updating this blog occassionally but don't expect anything substantial until I return.

Body in river that of missing teenager

The body pulled Tuesday from the Spokane River is that of Alexander Allen, 18, who was reported missing July 22, Spokane police said today.

There does not appear to be signs of foul play, police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said.

Allen was last seen in the downtown area around midnight July 19.

His family has been notified of the death.

The Spokane Fire Department pulled the body from the river in the area of West Boone Avenue and North Evergreen Street.

Kayakers had spotted it about 11:10 a.m. Tuesday. Firefighters were able to quickly find the body and retrieve it from the river.

DNA reveals new suspect in ‘07 murder

Authorities in Spokane are questioning whether the wrong man was sent to prison for the murder of a porn-shop owner in 2007. A recent DNA match in the case has identified a new suspect. 

Jeramie R. Davis, 37, (left) was recently transferred to the Spokane County Jail the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, where he was serving a 40-year sentence for the fatal baseball bat beating and robbery of 74-year-old John Gordon Allen Jr., owner of Best Buy Adult Bookstore on East Sprague Avenue. 

 In March, DNA found on the baseball bat during the initial investigation came back as a match to Julio J. Davila, 45, (right) after Davila’s DNA was collected for an unrelated felony conviction.

In an interview with police June 27, Davila denied knowing Allen or Davis and said he didn’t know why his DNA would be on the bat.

But on July 5, Spokane police detectives talked to an informant who reported seeing more than a dozen new and sealed pornographic videos that Davila traded with people for drugs around the time of the murder.

Read the rest of the story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 14, 2008: Man guilty in store owner's death

Feb. 6, 2008: Trial begins in adult bookstore murder

June 21, 2007: Sister says suspect in shop killing innocent

Fuel card thieves rack up $5k+ in sales

Police are trying to identify two vehicles driven by thieves who have stolen thousands of dollars worth of fuel since May.

 Someone stole a fuel car from an Environment West vehicle in the 7500 block of North Argonne and paid for gas purchases worth more than $2,000, including one in Adams County, before the card was returned to the vehicle.

 On June 7, someone cut through security fencing at the Central Valley School District, 19300 E. Cataldo Ave., and stole fuel cards from several buses. 

“The thief, and presumably his friends, has racked up more that $5,000 in stolen fuel bills,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release. “All of the gasoline was stolen from Pacific Pride fuel stations, and most was stolen at the Newman Lake site.” 

Surveillance photos from gas stations show a mid-90s green standard cab Dodge pickup that is lifted and has a silver passenger door and after-market wheels.

Also pictured is a mid-to-late 90's white GMC or Chevrolet Tahoe (possibly a Suburban) that has a roof rack, white taillight covers and a pitbull sticker in the right rear window.

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

Judge critical of FBI in MLK bomb case

An FBI plan to not tell domestic terrorism suspect Kevin W. Harpham why he was arrested has raised the ire of the federal judge presiding over the case in which the Stevens County man is charged with leaving a bomb along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March.

According to documents released today, U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush expressed his “concerns as to the several hour delay in advising Kevin Harpham of the reasons for his arrest after taking him into custody and also the failure to give the Defendant Miranda warnings during that several hour period,” the record states.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Man with 12+ felony cases sentenced

A man charged with more than 12 felonies within seven months is headed to prison for 10 years after a hearing recently in Spokane County Superior Court.

George W. Butrick, 33, still has not resolved a federal charge of felon in possession of a firearm but did resolve about a dozen cases last week when he pleaded guilty to second-degree theft, two counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, first-degree robbery, second-degree burglary and possession of a controlled substance.

He was ordered to pay $1,325 restitution and and serve 129 months in prison.

Butrick was arrested in fall 2009 after stealing an ATM from a convenience store but posted bail on about a dozen charges a couple months later. He was arrested again in February after threatening a bail bondmen at gunpoint, and he was also charged in a violent home-invasion robbery that targeted a woman with a safe full of cash in January.

Police say Butrick worked with Ronald Foreman, who has been charged with leading organized crime.

Marijuana suspect calls on Willie Nelson

The daughter of a Spokane medical marijuana dispenser recently indicted in federal court is calling on legendary singer and pot advocate Willie Nelson to take up his cause.

In an email to The Spokesman-Review, Jessica Vogel-Laberdee asks Nelson, who plays outside at Northern Quest Casino on Sunday, “to speak out about the unjustice that my dad is facing.”

“I am aware that you owe us nothing, and doing this would be a gesture that would fulfill only my wildest dreams,” Vogel-Laberdee writes, “but I am sending you this because there is a chance that you will step into my dad's shoes (if only for a moment) and decide to take action.”

Nelson's publicist says he is on vacation until his concert and unavailable for comment. The country music legend has pot problems of his own - a judge in Texas recently rejected a proposed plea bargain that would have resolved a misdemeanor marijuana case with a fine.

Vogel-Laberdee is hoping Nelson can relate to her father, who she described as “completely unconventional” and said he “has the audacity to stand up for his belief that all people deserve to be happy, even in the face of illness.”

“He does not make any money for what he does, but he dedicates all of his time to his cause,” Vogel-Laberdee said. “…He is a man filled with wonderful visions and has taught me to be an individual in a world of drones.”

Jerry Wayne Laberdee is among five people charged with federal marijuana crimes for their work at dispensaries in Spokane, which were raided by federal agents three weeks after being told to shut down.

Laberdee and Medical Herb Providers co-owner Dennis Whited - who has said he began using medical marijuana after losing his leg in a crash in 2009 - are charged with distribution of marijuana, which carries up to five years in prison; manufacture of marijuana, which carries five to 40 years; and maintaining a drug-involved premise, which carries up to 20 years in prison.

The five defendants also face a forfeiture charge that calls for them to forfeit any property or proceeds derived from their illegal operations.

Read Vogel-Laberdee's entire letter to Nelson by clicking the link below.

Gunfire in west Spokane leads to arrest

An argument between two men erupted in gunfire early Saturday in west Spokane, leading to the arrest of a man on assault and gun charges.

The victim told police he was arguing with John J. Felch, 19, about 2:30 a.m. in the intersection of West Boone Avenue and North Lindeke Street when Felch returned about a half hour alter and fired several rounds from a gun.

The victim, identified only as Patterson in court documents, called police about seven hours later to turn himself in on an unrelated warrant and to report the shooting. Two other witnesses told also police that Felch fired several shots, and a man who lives in the 2600 block of West Boone reported hearing gunshots and finding 9 mm shell casings near a street curb.

Police searched Felch's bedroom at 1922 W. Broadway Ave., where they found a 20 gauge shotgun. The 9 mm handgun used in the shooting was not located.

Felch was booked into jail on charges of first-degree assault and first-degree felon in possession of a firearm; police said he as a previous conviction for first-degree robbery, but court records show the charge was actually attempted first-degree robbery, which was ajudicated in juvenile court and is not considered a felony conviction. A previous version of this post also said witnesses described Felch as a gang member, but Felch isn't actually a gang member.

Family defends accused child abuser

A baby boy is fighting for his life in a Spokane hospital and his 19-year-old Coeur d’Alene father is accused of causing the bleeding in the infant’s brain by repeatedly handling him too roughly.

James Dean Blanchard has been charged with felony injury to a child. Bond was set Monday at $100,000 during Blanchard’s first appearance before Kootenai County magistrate Judge Clark Peterson. A preliminary hearing is expected within 14 days.

When Peterson imposed a no-contact order prohibiting Blanchard from seeing his 20-day-old son, Noah, Blanchard said, “I want to be able to see my son again. I’ll do anything.” Blanchard’s mother, father, stepmother and two brothers attended the hearing and said afterward that Blanchard loves his son and would never hurt him.

Read the rest of Alison Boggs' story here.

Coeur d'Alene police said today that Noah remains in “very critical condition.”

“Our hopes and prayers are with this child,” said Sgt. Christie Wood.

Experts detail problems with Knox case

By ALESSANDRA RIZZO,Associated Press
PERUGIA, Italy (AP) — The investigators who collected the genetic evidence used to convict Seattle student Amanda Knox of murder in Italy made a series of glaring errors, including using a dirty glove and not wearing caps, two independent forensic experts said Monday.

 The experts had been appointed by an Italian appeals court to review the DNA evidence used in Knox's trial, including some found on a kitchen knife believed to be the murder weapon and some found on the clasp of the victim's bra.

That evidence played a crucial role in securing the convictions of Knox (right) and her co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito (left) in the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a Briton who shared an apartment with Knox while they were both exchange students in the city of Perugia.

 Knox, 24, and Sollecito, 27, have denied wrongdoing and have appealed. The evidence review was granted at the request of their defense teams.

In the first trial, prosecutors maintained that Knox's DNA was found on the handle of the kitchen knife and Kercher's DNA was found on the blade. They say Sollecito's DNA was found on the clasp of Kercher's bra.

But the independent experts told the appeals court that the collection of evidence fell below international standards and may have resulted in contamination. They used slides to refer to international protocols for the collection and sampling of evidence, including one from the U.S. Department of Justice and others from various U.S. states.

One of the two experts, Stefano Conti, (pictured) cited several cases of forensic police entering the crime scene or coming into contacts with objects there not wearing protective equipment such as masks or hair caps. He said that while evidence should be wrapped in paper or kept in a paper bags, police often used plastic bags, heightening the risk of contamination.

“There are various circumstances do not adhere to protocols and procedures,” the forensic expert told the court.

In footage and framegrabs shown to the court, two police officers collected the bra clasp, and the glove worn by one of the two appeared to be dirty on two fingers. Conti noted the bra clasp was collected 46 days after the Nov. 1, 2007 fatal stabbing of the 21-year-old Kercher.

“Over those 46 days several objects were moved, and in at the same time several people will have come in and out,” he noted, again stressing the risk of contamination.

The other expert, Carla Vecchiotti, (pictured) explained to the court that the genetic profile on the knife's blade that was attributed to Kercher is dubious and cannot be attributed with certainty. She said the original testing did not follow recommendations of the international scientific community for dealing with DNA testing.

Vecchiotti said the review concurred with the original testing in saying that the genetic profile on the knife's black plastic handle could be attributed to Knox. The knife was found at Sollecito's apartment.

The independent experts, both from La Sapienza University in Rome, will be questioned and cross-examined in the next hearing, scheduled for Saturday. That will be the last hearing before the summer break.

The full review, a 145-document obtained by The Associated Press, was filed to the Perugia court last month.

Dead man’s family doubt SF police claims

In this photo from July 20, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, bottom, addresses Bayview residents upset about the police shooting of Washington state parolee Kenneth Wade Harding in San Francisco. About 300 people gathered for the meeting which ended early following outbursts from some attendees. (AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle, Noah Berger)

By TERRY COLLINS,Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Distraught relatives of a Washington state parolee who San Francisco police believe fatally shot himself while running away from officers said Monday they are demanding more answers.

Kenneth Harding's family and their attorney said they are troubled with how police have portrayed the shooting. Police first said that the 19-year-old was fatally shot by officers, then said they believed Harding killed himself with his own gun.

“I'm angry and I'm hurt,” Harding's mother, Denika Chatman of Seattle said at a news conference in Oakland. “I want the truth and I want justice to be done.”

Police said officers tried to stop Harding (pictured) while checking for fare evaders on a light-rail train July 16 in the city's Bayview district. His mother said her son, who would have turned 20 on Aug. 5, was in the San Francisco Bay area to visit family and embark on a rap music career.

She also said that her son was enrolled to attend a community college in Seattle this fall.

“We know based upon the police department's shifting stories, conflicting statements, allegations, claims and retractions that the truth seems to be far from at hand,” said Adante Pointer, Harding's family attorney. “A truth that the family is entitled to.”

Police initially said officers gunned down Harding in self-defense after he first shot at them. They later said Harding was a parolee sought for questioning about the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman in Seattle.

Police also that gunshot residue on Harding's right hand backed officers' accounts that Harding fired the first shot as well as audio of the shots captured by a gunshot-detection system used by police.

But angry community reaction to the shooting and videos posted online show Harding bleeding helplessly in the middle of the street as police stood around him with guns drawn and a crowd gathered.

At a packed town hall meeting last week, Police Chief Greg Suhr was cursed and shouted down by outraged residents a short distance from where the shooting took place.

Suhr later said that he now believes Harding shot and killed himself with his own gun. Suhr said after officers shot him in the leg, Harding lurched and fired his gun and the bullet entered the right side of his neck and lodged behind his cheek.

Authorities say they do not know whether Harding killed himself — either intentionally or by accident — with a .380-caliber bullet. A similar bullet was found in Harding's jacket pocket, police said as the gun he apparently used is still missing.

Police said officers only shot Harding in the leg and could not have fired the fatal bullet because they use .40-caliber handguns that cannot fire .380 ammunition.

On Monday, Harding's sister, Mikcolyn Curtis, said her brother told her just hours before her his death that he wanted to provide a better life for their mother.

“He didn't have nothing on his mind to want to blow his brains out,” Curtis said.

Pointer said Harding's family reject the notion that he was on the run and requests police provide them with a preliminary autopsy report, witness statements, surveillance video and the gunshot residue tests.

“So they can have the closure they are entitled to,” Pointer said.

Pointer said they also want witnesses who saw what happened to come forth.

“What's in dispute is the truth and we want to get to the bottom of this situation,” Pointer said. “We've been told a number of different things and we have information that is conflicting. We need to sort this out.”

SAfrican man wakes in morgue fridge

By NASTASYA TAY,Associated Press
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African man awoke to find himself in a morgue fridge — nearly a day after his family thought he had died, a health official said Monday.

Health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the man awoke Sunday afternoon, 21 hours after his family called in an undertaker who sent him to the morgue after an asthma attack.

Morgue owner Ayanda Maqolo said he sent his driver to collect the body shortly after the family reported the death. Maqolo said he thought the man was around 80 years old.

“When he got there, the driver examined the body, checked his pulse, looked for a heartbeat, but there was nothing,” Maqolo told the Associated Press.

But a day after staff put the body into a locked refrigerated compartment, morgue workers heard someone shouting for help. They thought it was a ghost, the morgue owner said.

“I couldn't believe it!” Maqolo said. “I was also scared. But they are my employees and I had to show them I wasn't scared, so I called the police.”

After police arrived, the group entered the morgue together.

“I was glad they had their firearms, in case something wanted to fight with us,” Maqolo said.

He said the man was pale when they pulled him out.

“He asked, 'How did I get here?'” Maqolo said.

The health department said the man was then taken to a nearby hospital for observation and later discharged by doctors who deemed him stable.

Kupelo, the health department spokesman, urged South Africans to call on health officials to confirm that their relatives are really dead.

The man's family was informed that he was alive during a family meeting convened to make funeral arrangements. They're very happy to have him home, Maqolo said.

But Maqolo said he is still trying to recover from the traumatic experience.

“I couldn't sleep last night, I had nightmares,” he said. “But today I'm much better.”

Arson suspected in Valley house fire

Arson caused a fire that damaged a home in Spokane Valley early Sunday, officials said today.

The blaze at 4418 E. 15th Ave., caused more than $100,000 in damage to the home and took more than 25 firefighters to quickly contain.

The family was away camping for the weekend, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Crews were called to the home about 3 a.m. and saw smoke and flames coming from the front of the building. They believe the fire burned and smoldered “for some time” before it was reported, according to a news release by Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford, department spokesman.

Neighbors reported hearing noises and seeing a dark-colored vehicle with hits headlights off speeding away from the home, which is owned by Mandi J. Nordhagen, according to property records.

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

5 indicted in $65k check forgery ring

Five Spokane residents have been charged in a year-long check forgery ring that bilked business in the Inland Northwest of more than $65,000.

36-count federal indictment alleges John A. Campisi, 45 (right); Darryl P. Sargent, 46 (left); Andrea N. Hartnett, Brande S. Garabedian and Chelce A. Zimmerman made and passed 431 counterfeit checks between Sept. 21, 2008, and Aug. 5, 2009, at Fred Meyer, Home Depot, Winco, Wal-Mart, Babies R' Us and Safeway stores.

 All five suspects are charged with conspiracy to utter counterfeit securities of an organization, which carries up to five years in prison.

Campisi and Hartnett each face 10 charges of uttering and counterfeit securities, Sargent is charged with seven counts and Garabedian and Zimmerman face two counts each. That charge brings a maximum 10 years in prison if convicted.

Campisi and Sargent, who are in custody at the Spokane County Jail, also are charged with possessing five or more false identification forms and producing false identification documents, which each carry a maximum 15 years in prison.

They pleaded not guilty last week in U.S. District Court.

Sargent has a previous federal felony conviction for methamphetamine.

Zimmerman has previous theft convictions and was living at real estate mogul Joe Ward's home overlooking Long Lake when her boyfriend fired shots at the home in “retaliation for Chelce sleeping with Joseph Ward,” according to court records.

Police: Women stole from grandmother

Two Medical Lake women are accused of stealing from their 91-year-old grandmother.

Twin sisters Jamee M. and Jackee D. Stearns, 23, were arrested Sunday after the alleged victim told police she'd returned from her hair appointment and found at least $300 missing from her purse at her home in the 700 block of East Ladd Street, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The woman said her granddaughter, Jamee Stearns, had talked to her for several minutes while she was in her front yard and she suspected that her other granddaughter Jackee had entered her home through the backdoor at that time.

Jackee Stearns told Deputy Jeff Conway she stole the cash to pay rent, according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Conway “confirmed with her” that Jamee had distracted their grandmother so Jackee could commit the theft, Reagan said. Text messages on Jamee Stearns' phone showed she'd told her sister when to enter the home and when the grandmother was going back inside.

The sisters were booked into jail on charges of residential burglary and third-degree theft.

The grandmother said the women had stolen from her before and were not allowed around or inside her home, according to the sheriff's office.

News archives show the women each have convictions for second-degree theft in November 2009 after being arrested at their grandmother's home that summer.
  

Trip to concert leads to fugitive warrant

UPDATE: Stafone Fuentes was booked into jail Saturday and is due in court today.

A Spokane man is wanted on a felony warrant after his unauthorized trip to a concert in Montana was publicized because his uncle was killed outside the show.

  Stafone Nicholas Fuentes, 26, (right) was awaiting trial on witness tampering charges when he was arrested on misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges at the hospital where his uncle, Angelo Lorenzo Fuentes, 41, (left) also of Spokane, was pronounced dead from a traumatic head injury.

Missoula police believe the elder Fuentes was mortally wounded during a fight outside the concert late June 17 at the Missoula Hell Gate Elks Lodge.

Sgt. Travis Welsh of the Missoula Police Department said investigators are seeking witnesses in Fuentes’ death, some of whom may be from Spokane.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 20: Spokane man dies of head trauma in Missoula

Donations wanted for fatal fire victim

An account has been created to raise money for the family and funeral expenses of a 67-year-old woman killed in a fire at her northeast Spokane home last week.

The fire at 4128 E. Princeton Ave. destroyed the home where Inez L. Williams lived.

Family members are hoping to raise funds to pay for Williams' memorial service and burial and for the clean up of the charred remains of Williams’ home.

“Everything’s for Grandma,” said Melissa Hebert, 19.

Williams was an animal lover who knew tragedy well - her other son, Terry Palm, was killed in 2002 in a murder case that remains unsolved.

Williams is pictured in 2008 with a photo of Palm.

Fire officials say Williams died of smoke inhalation July 15 after her cigarette ignited her oxygen supply. Several pets, including at least two dogs, died in the fire.

Donations can be made at any Numerica Credit Union under the account “Memorial account for Inez Williams.”

Tribe member guilty of manslaughter

A federal jury in Spokane convicted a 22-year-old Colville tribal member of involuntary manslaughter Friday.

Rudy M. Garcia was acquitted of first-degree murder and other lesser included offenses following a two-week trial in U.S. District Court, said Tom Rice, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Garcia faces a maximum of eight years in prison. His sentencing is set for Oct. 27.

Garcia turned himself into tribal police in December 2010, about a month after tribal member David E. McCraigie, 22, was shot to death at 810 Sixth St. in Omak.

The men argued at a party before Garcia retrieved the rifle from his Jeep about 2 a.m. Nov. 5, 2009, according to court documents. Garcia claimed self defense.

12-hour car impound for DUI arrests

(AP) OLYMPIA — As of Friday, Washington motorists arrested for DUI will also have their vehicle impounded.

The new state law requires a 12-hour hold be placed on cars driven by suspected drunk drivers.

One of the major reasons behind the law is that many jails don't have the room to hold DUI suspects overnight, and are often forced to release them while they are still intoxicated.

“This is about making sure that impaired drivers don't return to their cars and drive again before they've sobered up,” said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “This isn't about trying to punish someone for driving drunk. If they're found guilty that will become the court's job.”

The three exceptions to the DUI impound law are:

* If the vehicle is owned by someone other than the arrested person, such as a business owner, the owner may reclaim the car at the tow lot.

* A registered co-owner may go to the tow company and redeem the vehicle.

* Commercial or farm transport vehicles reclaimed by a legal owner who is not the arrested subject. Commercial and farm transport vehicles are the only types that can be released at the site of the arrest.

Drivers who don't meet these exceptions will be allowed to retrieve their vehicle from impound 12 hours after their arrest.

Suspected molester claims ax attack

A Spokane man is accused of molesting a 10-year-old girl his girlfriend was babysitting.

Dewitt Allen “D” Harrelson, 46, is in jail on $10,000 bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court Friday on a first-degree child molestation charge.

The girl told a Stevens Elementary School counselor about the alleged contact, which she said occurred in late 2009 and early 2010 at her babysitter's home when the babysitter wasn't present.

Court documents say the girl's father was “expressed rage and anger” toward Harrelson and “expressed resentment that child molesters were frequently treated too leniently by the criminal justice system.”

Harrelson later told officers that the girl's father had hit him in the head with an ax handle but he didn't call police, documents say.

Charges were filed April 1; Harrelson was arrested on Thursday.

Police say suspect admitted bank heist

Police say a sex offender admitted to robbing a bank Wednesday in north Spokane.

Lawrence A. Wideman, 43, remains in jail on $150,000 bond for first-degree robbery. Police pulled him from the Spokane River after a chase that began with a gunpoint robbery at Wells Fargo, 6228 N. Monroe St.

Bank employees said the robber pointed a gun at a female employees and said “give me all the money or I'll shoot her,” before he fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.

A woman driving on Monroe Street followed Wideman after spotting him running with orange smoke billowing from his pocket, police said. She watched him climb inside a 1991 Subaru Legacy and called police with the license plate number.

Spokane police Detective Kip Hollenbeck was watching traffic near Spokane Falls Community College when he spotted the car and followed it on Government Way. Wideman sped through a metal gate at a military cemetery, abandoned the car and ran into the river, where police arrested him. A loaded .40 caliber Taurus semiautomatic was located near the river.

Police found a bag of dye-covered cash inside Wideman's Subaru, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Wideman is a level 2 sex offender with a 2009 conviction for third-degree rape of a child. He has several tattoos, including the phrase “God forgives. Outlaws don’t.” on his left shoulder, according to the Spokane County sex offender registry.

Northside constructon trailers looted

Here's a news release from Sgt. Dave Reagan:

Someone broke into a pair of construction trailers overnight Wednesday and made off with about $2,200 worth of tools and equipment.

A foreman for Graham Construction told Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Terry Liljenberg that the trailers were parked below new bridges being constructed at Wandermere for the North-South freeway. The break-ins were discovered about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Thieves stole an Echo chainsaw, a Husquavarna demolition saw, a DeWalt roto-hammer, two 100-foot 220 amp power cords and a Honda 220 amp generator.

The thieves unsuccessfully attempted to break into a third trailer, he said. Anyone with information is encouraged to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

20+ indicted on meth, cocaine charges

At least 22 people have been indicted in a major cocaine and methamphetamine investigation in Eastern Washington.

Federal agents arrests suspects in the Tri-Cities, Grant County and Spokane areas Thursday.

The indictment, which is filed under seal in U.S. District Court, includes charges of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and five kilograms or more of cocaine.

Those indicted include Flavio Ramos-Chaidez, Hilario Garcia-Moreno, Jr., Jazmin Acosta-Beltran, Cruz Mendoza, Israel Benjamin Wright, Jacqueline Ramos, Alex Villanueva-Garcia, Luis Cerna, Felix Ruben Rodriguez, Cody Lee Poole, Cruz Rangel, Caleb Vanden Dormaier, Nelson Perez, Gabriel Santiago Medina, Dusty Blue Zarate, Heath Wisdom, Sandra Duffy, Jesus Enrique Meza-Valdez, Jayro Alvarez-Farias and Elizabeth Arroyo-Toro.

‘Dog-gone thieves’ swipe bulldog statue

A statue of a bulldog was stolen from the front porch of a south Spokane home recently.

A resident in the 3000 block of East Tara Drive in the Moran Praire neighborhood noticed the cast-iron bulldog missing from her front porch Tuesday morning.

She said the $300 statue “is very heavy and would have taken two persons to lift,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan titled “Dog-Gone thieves.”

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

Cops think botched theft led to murder

When a gunman shot and killed a 63-year-old retiree in a quiet Colville-area neighborhood, detectives say he left behind a crucial piece of evidence: The suspected murder weapon.

A handgun located near Gordon R. Feist, who was found in the wreckage of his utility terrain vehicle Sunday with two bullet holes in his head, helped police identify Eric Lee Booth, 26, (pictured) as a suspect in Feist’s murder, Stevens County Sheriff Kendle Allen said today.

Booth, who was arrested Wednesday, appeared in Stevens County Superior Court today on charges of second-degree murder and possession of a stolen firearm. He remains in jail on $750,000 bail.

Investigators believe Booth was trying to burglarize Feist’s upscale rural home south of Colville when he encountered Feist and told him he needed help because his car had run out of gas.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

Photos place Harpham at MLK march

Federal prosecutors for the first time today revealed that domestic terrorism suspect Kevin W. Harpham took pictures of himself at the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March, where he is charged with leaving a bomb along its route.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Rice said in court that Harpham, 37, also photographed young black children gathering for the march and a Jewish man who was wearing a yarmulke.

“Whether rightfully or wrongfully, how the defendant sees the world,” Rice said of Harpham, “he intended to target those individuals.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

NY man accused of purloining parrot

AUBURN, N.Y. (AP) — Police say a 43-year-old central New York man entered a woman's home, stole her parrot, computer and dryer knobs and unplugged her refrigerator.

Lee L. Baker Jr. of Auburn, near Syracuse, is accused of burglarizing the home of the woman who had an order of protection issued against him.

City police say they picked him up Monday on a warrant and charged him with felony burglary and two misdemeanors.

Police say the stolen items, including a green and red Cinnamon Cheek Conure parrot, were returned by Baker's girlfriend.

Baker was released on bail and is to return to court at a later date. There was no phone listing for Baker in Auburn and his lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Police: Dead murder suspect shot self

San Francisco Police chief Greg Suhr speaks at a news conference next to undated booking photos of Kenneth Harding in San Francisco on July 18. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By TERRY COLLINS,Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A police shooting that stirred community outcry and street protests took a stunning turn Thursday when investigators said they now believe a 19-year-old Washington parolee being sought for questioning in a Seattle murder fatally shot himself in the neck.

Kenneth Harding died Saturday in what San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr previously described as a shootout with police in which Harding fired the first shot.

However, police Cmdr. Mike Biel said Thursday that preliminary autopsy results showed the caliber of the bullet that killed 19-year-old Kenneth Harding did not match the caliber used by police.

“We believe that the fatal wound on Mr. Harding's body was self-inflicted,” Biel said.

John Sanchez, a criminalist at the San Francisco Crime Lab, said the .380-caliber bullet found in Harding's head was not consistent with the.40-caliber guns issued to San Francisco police.

“The bullet could not have been fired from any department-issued firearm,” Sanchez said.

Medical personnel found an unfired .380-caliber bullet in Harding's right jacket pocket, but the gun itself was not recovered, Biel said.

“We want to take this opportunity to reach out to the community in locating the correct weapon,” Biel said. “We believe the weapon that we are looking for is a .380-caliber handgun.”

A gun recovered by police late Saturday as part of the investigation was a .45-caliber pistol and could not have fired the fatal shot, police said.

The only other wound to Harding was a gunshot to his left leg, according to Chief Medical Examiner Amy Hart.

Authorities had not determined whether Harding shot himself on purpose or by accident, police said.

Harding was the main person of interest in last week's South Seattle shooting death of 19-year-old Tanaya Gilbert, Seattle police said. A Seattle police spokesman said he did not have information on the caliber of the gun used in the shooting of Gilbert. No weapon was recovered in that case, Seattle police Detective Mark Jamieson said.

In April, Harding was released from a Washington state prison after he served 22 months for attempting to promote prostitution involving a 14-year-old girl in King County.

Harding had initially been stopped by police in a routine check for fare-beaters on the city's light-rail train system, police said after Saturday's shooting.

Police said Tuesday that gunshot residue on Harding's right hand backed officers' accounts that Harding had fired the first shot, as did audio of the shots captured by a gunshot-detection system used by San Francisco police.

On Tuesday, 43 people were arrested in a raucous rush-hour march to protest Harding's death at the hands of what all believed at the time was police.

On Wednesday night, Suhr was shouted down at a town hall meeting in the city's Bayview neighborhood a short distance from where the shooting took place.

Keevin O'Brien, a minister who co-organized Wednesday's meeting, said he was still trying to process Thursday's developments.

“Nonetheless, we have a dead young man that could've probably changed his life if the police had gotten to him sooner,” O'Brien said. “This should not have happened the way it did.”

O'Brien said the Bayview community is going to have a hard time with the findings.

“They're not going to believe this,” O'Brien said. “They're so broken and hurt by what they already saw. This is going to be hard to digest.”

Biel said Thursday that he also understands likely cynicism in the community.

“I understand how the community feels, however, our investigation is based on total fact. That's what we have now,” Biel said.

O'Brien said he planned on going out in the community Thursday evening to “check its pulse.”

‘Lawn order’ vandals damage school

Authorities say vandals broke 80 sprinkler heads off the irrigation system at Trentwood Elementary School, 14701 E. Wellesley Ave., sometime during the weekend.

The vandals had “no respect for lawn order,” Spokane Valley police spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.

An employee told Crime Check the vandalism took place sometime between 3 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Monday, Reagan said. Damage was limited to the front of the school.

School officials estimate the loss at about $1,000, he said.

Anyone with information regarding the act of malicious mischief is encouraged to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Man busted in Valley with stolen car

An Elk man was arrested this morning in Spokane Valley after authorities discovered the vehicle he was in was stolen.

Officers responded to the River Rock Apartments at 12700 E. Shannon Ave. about 10:30 a.m. for a report of a “suspicious male ducking down inside the parked Honda and smoking something,” said Spokane Valley Police spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan. Officers contacted the car’s occupant and identified him as Christopher L. Dahlman, 20.

Dispatch notified officers the license plate on the back of the Honda was stolen off another vehicle, and when police ran the car’s identification number, they learned the car was stolen, as well. The car’s Montana plates were not located, Reagan said.

Reagan said Dahlman was nervous and claimed to have borrowed the car, but could not identify its actual owner and was arrested for possession of a stolen motor vehicle and booked into Spokane County Jail.
  

Cross-deputization helped nab escapee

A convicted burglar who escaped Friday from Benewah County Jail has been recaptured, thanks in part to Kootenai County’s cross-deputization agreement with the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police.

Tribal officers made the arrest working with Plummer city police and the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office, authorities said Wednesday.

Jesse John Wilkenson, 20, also known as Jesse Brebner, was recaptured at 2 a.m. Wednesday on Conklin Park Road, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

Read the rest of Alison Boggs' story here.

Past coverage:

July 19: Benewah County kept jail escape quiet

Woman with $26k in bra pleads guilty

A woman who had $26,000 in her bra when booked into the Spokane County Jail is to repay another $7,500 after pleading guilty to first-degree theft.

Lukeisha A. Harris, 25, was credited for three days already served in jail after her arrest in March 2010.

The Seattle-area resident was accused with Corey B. Jones, Charles H. Kendrick and Elicionne L. Washington of stealing thousands of dollars from Spokane banks.

The three were arrested at the North Pointe branch of Chase Bank after employees at the Washington Trust Bank, 438 E. Hastings Road, reported a “heavyset” woman in black clothes and pink shoes had tried to get money with a stolen credit card.

Harris matched the bank employee’s description of the culprit - she’s 6-feet tall and 400 pounds. Police found the cash stash, along with bank receipts, in Harris' bra during booking at the jail.

The Associated Press called it “a fraud bust, indeed” in a short story that quickly went viral and really just made other reporters wish they had thought of that.

A detailed description of the fraud is available here.


  

Jury indicts 5 for medical marijuana

THC Pharmacy owner Charles Wright the operator of a marijuana dispensary, gives a quick thumbs up to chanting cannabis activists outside his store during a raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration on April 28. Wright was indicted Wednesday on federal drug charges.

The owners of two medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane have been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Charles Wesley Wright and Jon Richard Vivian, owners of the THC Pharmacy on South Perry Street, and Jerry Wayne Laberdee and Dennis Lewis Whited, owners of Medical Herb Providers, face time in federal prison under multi-count indictments filed today in U.S. District Court.

The charges are the latest in an escalating effort by federal authorities to rein in marijuana sales in states where voters have approved its medical use.

“I think I’m more shocked than surprised,” Spokane lawyer Frank Cikutovich, who specializes in marijuana cases.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

April 7: Spokane medical marijuana dispensaries on federal notice

March 17: Owners, law agencies disagree on legality of pot shops

June 28, 2009: Pot's legal ambiguity clouds law enforcement

County to pay $230k in jail mail lawsuit

Spokane County will pay $230,000 to settle a lawsuit over restrictions on jail inmates’ mail.

County commissioners and Sheriff’s Office officials also agreed Tuesday to abandon a policy of requiring messages from friends and families of prisoners to be written on postcards.

A consent decree negotiated with Prison Legal News also will prohibit other mail policies that county officials dropped less than a month after PLN filed suit Jan. 21.

Read the rest of John Craig's story here.

Past coverage:

March 2: Jail changes postcards-only policy

1-time Hells Angels cook pleads guilty

In a case of be careful of who you cook pasta for, a Spokane marijuana grower faces a potentially longer prison term because of his culinary association with known members of the Hells Angels biker gang.

Patrick D. Bozarth Jr., 31, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to grow marijuana, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The case could have been prosecuted under more lenient state statutes, but was sent to federal authorities because of his association with the Spokane chapter of the Hells Angels. 

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Ex-CdA developer guilty in murder plot

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal jury has unanimously convicted a former Coeur d'Alene-area developer of crafting a murder-for-hire scheme to kill a prosecutor and key witnesses in a North Idaho drug case.

Kelly J. Polatis was found guilty Wednesday of 14 combined counts of witness tampering and using interstate commerce in the commission of a murder-for-hire. The jury acquitted Polatis of three charges. Defense attorney Lawrence Leigh says he'll appeal.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups will sentence Polatis on Sept. 30. He faces more than 130 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Polatis attempted to hire an undercover FBI agent posing as a hit man to kill five people who spoke to authorities about his involvement in a marijuana growing operation in Coeur d'Alene. Polatis was acquitted of the drug charges in 2010 and arrested on the murder-for-hire charges the same day.
  

May 24: Trial set in U.S. attorney murder plot case

May 13, 2010: Couple in pot case murder plot sentenced

April 21, 2010: FBI: Murder plot uncovered in marijuana case

Creach family seeks $15mil from county

The family of slain Spokane Valley pastor Wayne Scott Creach has filed a $14.7 million wrongful death claim against Spokane County, which is the first step in filing a civil lawsuit.

“A jury may come in and feel highly aggravated at what happened,” said the pastor’s son, Alan Creach. “They may award a very large sum.”

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who is on vacation, said Tuesday that he knows the claim has been filed. “Since it’s gone into the lawsuit phase, I don’t have any comments, per our legal advice.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Jury deliberating in Idaho murder plot

A federal jury in Salt Lake City on Wednesday continued to deliberate the fate of a former North Idaho developer accused of plotting to kill several witnesses and a federal prosecutor connected to a drug case filed against him in Idaho.

 Jurors began their second day of deliberations in the murder-for-hire case of 41-year-old Kelly J. Polatis, following a 7-day trial and closing arguments in the case, which wrapped up Tuesday.

Read the full story from the Salt Lake City Tribune here.

Past coverage:

May 24: Trial set in U.S. attorney murder plot case

May 13, 2010: Couple in pot case murder plot sentenced

April 21, 2010: FBI: Murder plot uncovered in marijuana case

Stevens Co. slaying baffles neighbors

A 63-year-old retiree is dead after a weekend attack outside his upscale home near Colville, sheriff’s officials said Tuesday.

Gordon R. Feist was shot twice late Sunday on Smart Way, a private cul-de-sac about four miles south of Colville, as he rode a small utility vehicle. He was taken off life support Monday at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

A neighbor reported a car crash to Stevens County officials about 11:20 p.m. after witnessing Feist crash into a utility pole as he rode a small vehicle that another neighbor described as a Kubota-style golf cart. Medics arrived to find Feist bleeding from two gunshot wounds, said Stevens County Sheriff Kendle Allen.

Sheriff’s officials say they have no suspects or motive in the slaying but say they don’t believe it was accidental.

Read the rest of my story here.

Man pleads guilty to CdA bank robbery

A man who robbed two Spokane banks will serve his 10-year prison sentence the same as a pending sentence for a Coeur d'Alene bank robbery.

 Michael Richard Kent, 39, pleaded guilty to bank robbery Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene for a Jan. 12, 2010, robbery at Washington Trust Bank, 218 Lakeside Ave.

Kent left with $3,175 after handing a teller a note that referenced a gun, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Kent already is due to serve 129 months in a Washington prison for robberies Dec. 16, 2009, at Chase Bank, 822 W. Francis Ave., and Dec. 24, 2009, at Numerica Credit Union, 1916 W. Francis.

He faces up to 20 years in federal prison when he's sentenced Sept. 27, but a plea agreement calls for him to serve the sentence concurrently with the Washington state sentence.

Video and surveillance photos released after the robbery led several of Kent's acquaintances to tip the FBI to his identity.

Benewah County kept jail escape quiet

UPDATE: Wilkenson was arrested early Wednesday in Kootenai County. Read more here.

State authorities issued a warning that a convicted felon escaped Friday from Benewah County Jail after learning local officials failed to do so.

“Anytime someone is running from the law, we consider them to pose a measure of risk because they may be acting desperately and irrationally,” said Jeff Ray, a spokesman for the Idaho Department of Correction. “You gotta hit the red button when these guys get loose.”

Jesse John Wilkenson, also known as Jesse Brebner, is 20 and has brown hair and brown eyes. He is 5-foot-8, 146 pounds and has a medium complexion, a news release from the Idaho Department of Correction said Tuesday.

Wilkenson was sentenced Friday to a year-long retained jurisdiction program following a burglary conviction and a probation violation. Judges can retain jurisdiction over offenders during evaluation and treatment. If they complete the program successfully, offenders can be released on probation and avoid longer prison sentences, the release said.

Wilkenson escaped a few hours after the sentencing, the news release said.

Ray said Benewah County officials alerted the Department of Correction about the escape in the notes column of a form faxed to the state Monday that details when a prisoner can be transported.

As a felon, Wilkenson falls under the state’s jurisdiction, Ray said.

“We didn’t know about it until Monday and then it was buried,” Ray said. “If it’s an offender under our jurisdiction, we want to know if he’s loose.”

Benewah County Sheriff Robert Kirts did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Anyone with information about Wilkenson’s whereabouts is asked to call local law enforcement.

Tribal member pleads guilty to 2 rapes

A member of the Colville Confederated Tribes pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to two counts of aggravated sexual abuse.

Clarence J. Stensgar, Jr., was charged last September with sexually assaulting two different women in 2007 on the Colville Indian Reservation.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of up to life in federal prison, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Ohms recommended a sentence of just more than 11 years in federal prison.

As part of the plea negotiation, a third count of aggravated sexual abuse and a single count of kidnapping were dismissed, according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen set Stensgar's sentencing for 9 a.m. on Oct. 12.

Police seize meth, heroin, cash, gun

Spokane police seized meth, heroin, cash and a handgun from an apartment at 406 E. Montgomery on July 14. (Spokane Police Department photos)

Spokane police seized heroin, methamphetamine, a handgun and nearly $800 from a suspected drug home last week.

 Penni L. Cornwell, 46, was arrested during an early-morning search at her apartment at 406 E. Montgomery Ave. on Thursday, where police say two undercover drug purchases had occurred.

The Spokane Police Department's special investigative unit began looking into Cornwell after an informant told them Cornwell received heroin from a man who purchased large amounts in Seattle.

 The same confidential informant, who is being paid, recently led Spokane police to a large heroin bust at the Bel-Air Motel, according to a search warrant used to seize items from Cornwell's apartment.

Police searched Cornwell's apartment one day after she told the informant she had “plenty” of heroin for sale, according to the search warrant.

Cornwell has a felony conviction in 2005 for distribution of methamphetamine. She was arrested on two counts of delivery of heroin and one count of felon in possession of a firearm and remains in jail.

See more photos at the Spokane Police Department's Facebook page.

Fair-weather murder witness charged

A man who backed out of an agreement to testify at a fellow gang member's murder trial has been charged with two felonies for his alleged involvement in the slaying.

Antonio E. Cook, 29, appeared in Superior Court Monday on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

He's accused of conspiring with accused killer Edward Lee “T.D.” Thomas to commit the assault that led to the death of John S. Williams, and of helping hide Thomas when he was sought on a first-degree murder charge. DNA found on the rifle used to kill Williams matched Thomas' DNA, according to court documents.

Cook has confessed to providing the weapon to Thomas and has said that Thomas was angry with a gang member who had “disrespected him,” according to court documents.

Thomas was driven from the murder scene by Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton, who is in prison for rendering criminal assistance. Police say Thomas went to Cook's house after the shooting and stayed there until the next day.

Police wanted Cook charged with second-degree murder under the state's accomplice law, but prosecutors instead opted for the assault charge.

It's the third felony case filed against Cook since June, after it became clear he would not be testifying against Thomas, who's to stand trial Aug. 22.

Cook already is due to serve 22 months after pleading guilty in May to unrelated third-degree assault and witness tampering charges. He's already awaiting sentencing after a jury convicted him last week of first-degree burglary, fourth-degree assault and witness tampering for an unrelated domestic violence case.

Cops: Man attacks son-in-law w/ knife

An ongoing dispute between a man and his son-in-law culminated a knife attack at a north Spokane home Friday, police say.

Vernon Ray Zielinski, 57, was arrested for first-degree assault after his son-in-law, Tad Howard, and witnesses said Zielinski stabbed him in the hand as Howard tried to fight off the attack.

Family members told police that Zielinski had threatened Howard before and once wrote him a letter saying he wanted to “cut him into little pieces” and mail him to his mother, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Three young children witnessed the attack about 1:30 p.m., Spokane police said.

Driver who hit trooper wanted for DUI

A Spokane man who injured a state trooper in a crash on Interstate 90 three years ago is wanted on a felony drunken driving charge.

William David Zink, 32, was charged last month, nearly one year after a sheriff's deputy pulled him over for speeding on East Broadway Avenue and observed slurred speech, poor balance and the smell of alcohol.

Zink failed sobriety tests and provided breath samples that showed blood-alcohol levels of .202 and .189, according to court documents. The legal limit for driving is .08.

Zink was sentenced to 15 months in prison for causing a car crash in August 2008 that injured state Trooper Allen Larned and a driver who had been stopped by Larned. Having a felony conviction for vehicular homicide or vehicular assault while intoxicated means any future drunken driving arrests are felony cases.

Crime Stoppers offered a reward Monday for tips that lead to the arrest of Zink, whose criminal hsitory includes convictions for reckless driving, driving while license suspended, vehicular assault, violation of a court order, failure to cooperate, first-degree possession of stolen property, first-degree theft, third-degree theft, domestic violence assault and DUI.

Zink, 5-foot-11 and 145 pounds, last gave a home address in the 7600 block of East Broadway in Spokane Valley.

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

2 men charged in series of fuel thefts

Two men have been charged with a series of fuel thefts that damaged Spokane-area businesses.

Richard Lee Trower, 38, (pictured) and David A. Sitton, 34, are accused of burglaries at industrial properties between October 2009 and January 2010 Trower is to be arraigned this week on five counts of second-degree burglary for alleged break-ins at Coast Crane, 3920 E. Boone Ave.; Crux, 16707 E. Euclid; Eljay Oil, 16009 E. Euclid; SMK Services, 3830 E. Boone; and Garco Construction, 4114 E. Broadway.

Sitton is charged with two counts of second-degree burglary for the Garco and SMK Services break ins. Both Trower and Sitton are charged with theft of a motor vehicle, second-degree theft and second-degree malicious mischief for allegedly stealing a truck from SMK Services on Oct. 12, 2009.

Trower faces an additional second-degree theft charge for allegedly stealing a fuel tank and 375 gallons of fuel from Coast Crane. Trower reportedly admitted to the burglaries in interviews with Spokane County sheriff's detectives last year.

Prosecutors filed charges this April, and Trower was arrested July 8. He remains in the Spokane County Jail. Sitton is wanted on a felony warrant after he didn't show up for a court hearing this month.

Trower also was arrested after a police chase last year.

Red-light runner hits Spokane police car

A Spokane police officer was treated for minor injuries after a driver ran a flashing red light and crashed into his patrol car early this morning.

Officer Chris Bode was taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure, where he was treated for a bump on his head and neck pain.

Bode was westbound on West Second Avenue with a flashing yellow light when he entered the South Monroe Street intersection about 2:10 a.m. and was struck by a southbound vehicle.

The  westbound car had a flashing red light, which requires drivers to stop. Neither speed nor alcohol was a factor, police said. The offending driver, whose name has not been released, was cited for failing to stop for a flashing red signal. The driver was not injured.

Bode was involved in another collision in May in which a teenager being chased by police allegedly rammed his patrol car.

Native American tribe sues over raid

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — A Washington state Native American tribe is suing several Mississippi municipalities over allegations that their law enforcement officials illegally invaded tribal lands during an FBI-led raid earlier this year.

The target of the Feb. 16 search was property that belongs to King Mountain Tobacco, which was under federal investigation in a black-market cigarette conspiracy. The city of Tupelo and Marshall County in Mississippi are among targets in the lawsuit.

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of Yakama Nation claim police barged onto tribal land without prior notice and invaded their peace.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington, seeks a court order compelling the defendants to notify the tribe of any entry onto reservation lands.

News of the lawsuit came Friday in a city of Tupelo memo obtained by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. In it, the city's attorney, John Hill, asked City Clerk Glenda Muse to put on the City Council's July 19 agenda a proposal to hire a Washington State law firm to represent Tupelo.

In Hill's memo, he explains that a Tupelo police officer has been assisting federal authorities with the cigarette investigation and participated “in an action” on the Yakama reservation in Washington. Other Mississippi entities are named for similar reasons.

The tribe says the raid, which it calls an invasion, was a violation of the Yakama Treaty of 1855 and other federal laws.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a memo written June 22 that the warrant to search the eastern Washington state reservation “was to seek evidence of a crime, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed” or used in the commission of a crime.

In this case, the allegations claim King Mountain Tobacco, housed on the Yakama reservation, engaged in efforts to avoid federal and state taxes on their cigarette sales.

Documents obtained by the Daily Journal earlier this year claim King Mountain Tobacco officials repeatedly met with Lee County, Miss., cigarette warehousers and illegally shipped their products through Mississippi to avoid the taxes.

No criminal charges have been made public against any King Mountain Tobacco officials, although the federal documents claim they have been shown substantial evidence against them.

Recently the U.S. Attorney's Office in North Mississippi filed court papers to seize nearly $1 million and some 22 vintage vehicles reportedly purchased with the proceeds of King Mountain's alleged illegal activity.

Tupelo wholesaler Jerry Burke has gone to prison for his parts in the conspiracy, and others have been sentenced or await sentencing for their guilty pleas.

Man sentenced for sexually abusing girl

A Post Falls man will spend at least five years in prison for sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl.

Terence William Turner, 39, (pictured) was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison with eligibility for parole after five years for lewd conduct with a minor. He will receive credit for time served in the Kootenai County Jail, where he has been since his arrest in March.

Turner's previous criminal history includes only misdemeanor traffic offenses. Judge Lansing Haynes cited Turner's “use of violence” during the abuse when he sentenced Turner, according to the Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office.

Prosecutor Barry McHugh praised the Post Falls Police Department and Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen.

McHugh said the sentence was “appropriate given the long-term nature of this unconscionable conduct, the lack of accountability by this defendant, and the continuing risk of predatory conduct by the defendant.”

Victim in fatal fire knew tragedy well

A woman and her dogs died in a fire that ripped through her northeast Spokane home Friday. 

Inez L. Williams, 67, was described by friends and family as an animal lover who had lived at 4128 E. Princeton Ave. for decades.

Fire officials are investigating how the fire at the double-wide trailer began, but the woman’s niece, Kim Staggs, said her aunt had large oxygen tanks in the home and often smoked in bed.

Read the rest of my story here. Williams’ son, Terry Allen Palm, and his girlfriend, Angela Walsh went missing in 2002 in a case that remains unsolved. Read more here.

(Williams is pictured in 2008 with a photo of Palm.)

Hells Angel faces 6+ years after plea

A member of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang pleaded guilty today to conspiring to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine and grow more than 100 marijuana plants.

Michael R. Fitzpatrick, 33, was arrested on March 3, the same day federal agents arrested club Sergeant at Arms Ricky W. Jenks at the club's headquarter at 1308 E. Sprague Ave. He was allowed to leave jail the next day but has been in custody since the federal indictment was filed in April.

Fitzpatrick had faced up to 40 years in prison, but attorneys for both sides agreed upon a sentencing recommendation of 6 ½ years in federal prison.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Julio Cesar Martinez and Patrick Bozarth are also charged in the case.

Fired detective wants $10 mil. from city

Fired Spokane police Detective Jeff Harvey and his attorney filed a $10 million claim against the city today, arguing that police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick terminated him because he spoke out against the chief’s policies as the vice president of the Spokane Police Guild.

“Chief Kirkpatrick has for some time expressed her retaliatory desire/intent to terminate Detective Harvey’s 24-year law enforcement career due to his ongoing vocal opposition to her disparate and unlawful treatment of union members,” Harvey’s attorney, Bob Dunn, wrote in the tort claim.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

July 15: SPD detective fired for 'troubled history'

Feb. 10: SPD detective accused of obstruction

Couple hurt in Fourth of July attack

 Police are trying to identify a group of assailants who beat a young couple near the Spokane Arena on the Fourth of July.

Shantell Rushing, 21, and her boyfriend Jorge Ruiz, 21, were walking north on Howard Street from Riverfront Park when a group of about 10 juveniles attacked them near Cataldo Street.

Ruiz was knocked unconscious and needed stitches for to seal a head wound; Rushing suffered facial wounds and other injuries.

Rushing said they passed the group on the walk but didn't have any contact until the assault. They said the juveniles appeared to be about 15 and said nothing during the attack. Four of them returned to continue beating Ruiz and stole his wallet, keys and cellphone, Rushing said.

Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said detectives have little information regarding possible suspects.

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

Police pension group OKs hypnosis

A retired Spokane police officer will have his hypnosis weight-loss therapy paid for by city tax money.

Members of the Spokane Police Pension and Relief Board unanimously approved the unusual claim from board member Gary Gow at its meeting Thursday.

Gow, who retired from the Spokane Police Department in 1985 after 20 years of service, abstained from voting. He’s been a member of the pension board for 21 years.

Read the rest of my story here.

The story was posted on LawOfficer.com's Facebook page today. The comments are quite interesting.

Man in ‘94 Colville rape moves to Valley

A man who sexually assaulted a woman in front of her 4-year-old daughter in 1994 has moved to a new address in Spokane Valley.

David Robert Rickard, 50, was released from prison in 2004 after serving nine years for first-degree burglary with sexual motivation.

Rickard recently moved to a home in the 7300 block of East Seventh Avenue in Spokane Valley, the Sheriff's Office announced today.

Rickard had a history of stalking women when he broke into a Colville woman's home in July 1994 and tried to rape her. Police say Rickard had stalked the woman.

At sentencing in 1995, the victim pleaded with a judge to give Rickard a longer sentence and described how the attack terrorized her young daughter and son. The woman suffered a partially detached tongue from the attack.

Rickard is a level 3 sex offender, the classification considered most likely to reoffend. He's been convicted of domestic violence assault, violation of a protection order, money launder, drug possession and domestic violence malicious mischief since his release.

He is not under Department of Corrections supervision and is not wanted by authorities; rather, the sheriff's office wants the public to be aware of his presence.

A registry of Spokane County sex offenders is available here.

Man, 30, dies in CdA police custody

A 30-year-old man who lost consciousness while in Coeur d’Alene police custody died early Thursday at Kootenai Medical Center.

Nicholas Andrew Clason was pronounced dead at the hospital , where he was admitted late Sunday for a possible drug overdose.

Police first contacted him about 10:40 p.m. Sunday at the Fourth Street on-ramp of westbound Interstate 90 after officers received reports of a suicidal man. Police reports say Clason was diabetic.

Read the rest of my story here.

Mother charged in crash disappearance

Police say a Spokane mother who caused a car crash last month removed her injured child from the scene before medics arrived because she feared getting in trouble.

Tamika L. Hill, 28, appeared in Superior Court Thursday on a second-degree criminal mistreatment charge and two counts of vehicular assault for a June 27 crash at North Ralph Street and East Upriver Drive that injured her passenger, Andrew Neil Powell, and her young daughter, identified by the initials T.W.

A woman who witnessed the crash said she arrived to find Powell unconscious and bleeding, but Hill repeatedly asked her not to call the police, according to court documents.

The woman said the inside of Hill's Ford Escort smelled like alcohol and that Hill called someone to pick up her daughter.

The woman pleaded with Hill to keep her daughter at the scene because she appeared to be injured, but Hill refused “saying that she could get in trouble,” according to court documents. The child was driven from the scene by an unknown person, the woman told police.

Hill didn't tell responding officers that her daughter was involved in the crash but police later contacted the child and learned she'd been treated for minor injuries at Holy Family Hospital.

Last year, Hill was watching a woman's three children when she left them with a neighbor, causing an argument with their mother that led to a stabbing. Read more here.

SPD detective fired for ‘troubled history’

Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick fired Detective Jeff Harvey on Wednesday as a result of an alleged confrontation Harvey had with a state Fish and Wildlife officer and what his termination letter labeled a “troubled work history.”

The incident was “part of the pattern of behavior that (the department) had documented over the years with this particular employee,” said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist.

Harvey is the former vice president of the Spokane Police Guild.

Mayor Mary Verner said she “backs the chief’s decision.”

Havey’s termination letter was hand-delivered to his home, Feist said.

Read the rest of Jonathan Brunt's story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 10: SPD detective accused of obstruction

John Wayne mocking leads to assault

 A homeless man was sentenced today to 15 months in prison after he attacked another man with a claw hammer for making fun of John Wayne.

Joel S. Parsons, 42, had been charged with first-degree assault but agreed to a plea agreement for second-degree assault with a deadly weapon enhancement.
 
According to court records, Parsons met Kevin Murphy on Dec. 24 through a mutual friend at the Salvation Army. Murphy allowed Parsons to stay with him at his apartment on West 8th Avenue in Spokane.

They were walking to get beer Dec. 30 when Murphy informed Parsons that he could only continue to stay in the apartment if he agreed to continue sexual relations.

Parsons became angry and said he would not pay for rent with sex, according to the records. The two men returned to the apartment and Murphy put in a John Wayne movie that Parsons began to mock, so Murphy told Parsons to leave.

That's when Parsons struck Murphy in the head with a claw hammer.

Murphy told Parsons he was going outside to get some fresh air but instead went to a neighbor, who called police. Murphy suffered as many as eight blunt force wounds, many of which had cuts from the hammer's claw.

“I lost control of my emotions,” Parsons said today. “As soon as I saw the blood, I dropped the hammer. I'm sorry for what I did.”

The sentence imposed by Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno was the least amount of time available. Parsons had no criminal record.

Cheaper paint offered to combat graffit

The Spokane Police Department has introduced a new method for combating graffiti: cheap paint to cover it.

Police are partnering with local paint stores to offer discounts for citizens whose property has been vandalized.

Citizens with 10-day notices from the city to remove graffiti from their property can get a 35 percent discount on “selected paint products” at  local Miller Paint, Columbia Paint and Sherwin Williams Paint  stores, according to a news release by Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

The discount is available for 10 days from the date of the notice.

Police say local graffiti costs residents thousands each year to cover up.
  

Fatal police shooting ruled justified

From upper left, Spokane police Officers Dan Cole, Bill Hager, Kyle Heuett, Mike McNab, Bruce Palmer and Doug Strosahl were involved in the fatal shooting of Ethan Corporon.

Police were justified when they shot and killed a 29-year-old man who was running with a shotgun outside a busy Spokane restaurant last fall, the Spokane County prosecutor’s office has ruled.

 Ethan A. Corporon fired six shots at a home at 1402 W. Buckeye Ave. on Nov. 12 before fleeing police and abandoning his father’s pickup in the middle of southbound Monroe Street in front of Shari’s restaurant. Witnesses at the time said Corporon appeared to be firing the shotgun while running from officers, though a police investigation determined Corporon never fired but did refuse to drop the weapon.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll said Corporon’s refusal to drop the shotgun gave police legitimate concerns for their own safety and the safety of others.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past covergae:

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

Nov. 12: Shotgun-shooting man killed by police

2 stabbed in fight over woman’s clothes

A confrontation over a woman's clothing led a Spokane man to stab two people late Tuesday, police say.

Raymond L. Bell, 45, is accused of stabbing Gary Smith and his son, Jonathan Smith during a fight that began about 10:45 p.m. at 2517 E. 1st Ave.

According to court documents, Bell banged on the door and demanded clothes belonging to his girlfriend, but when Smith said he didn't have the items, Bell took a black folding knife out of his pocket and stabbed him in the left arm.
Jonathan Smith was stabbed in chest and hospitalized with a partially collapsed lung.

A police K-9 tracked Bell to a garage at 2415 E. 1st Ave., where he was arrested on two counts of first-degree assault. He remains in jail on $30,000 bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court on Wednesday.

Police ombudsman rules downgraded

An arbitrator this week revoked a law that strengthened Spokane’s police ombudsman powers because the city did not consult the Spokane Police Guild before it was approved last year.

The decision by arbitrator Michael H. Beck effectively reverses rules that strengthened the ability of police Ombudsman Tim Burns to investigate alleged officer misconduct independently of police. The opinion was dated Monday; the city received it Tuesday.

The power to examine police wrongdoing separate from the police department’s own investigators is a change in working conditions that must be negotiated with the guild, Beck ruled.

Read the rest of the story here.

Past coverage:

June 29: Spokane police ombudsman gains power

Woman charged in deadly I-90 crash

A Coeur d'Alene woman who rear-ended another driver on Interstate 90 in December has been charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Lisa Marie Calbick, 33, was seriously injured in the crash that killed Donald Graham, 77, of Rathdrum. Graham was driving a yellow Chevrolet Equinox westbound near milepost 3 when he was struck by Calbick's Kia Optima, according to Idaho State Police.

Graham lost control of the Chevy, which rolled off the right shoulder and landed on its top. He was pronounced dead at Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d’Alene.

Calbick was hospitalized in critical condition but has since recovered and is wanted on a $50,000 warrant in Kootenai County District Court.

Anyone with information on her location is asked to call the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department at (208) 446-1300.

Brothers charged in baseball bat attack

 Two brothers from a notorious Spokane family are accused of a baseball bat attack in a park that left a man with a permanent lip disfigurement.

Jayce Leon Elton Pirtle Jr., 23, (right) and Andrew Lee Elias Pirtle, 21, (bottom left) were charged this week with second-degree assault for allegedly beating Luke Coulson with a bat in Cannon Hill Park, 800 W. 19th Ave., just after midnight on May 14. 

Coulson and his girlfriend were at the park with a group of friends when men approached with baseball bat and began striking him in the face. Witnesses told police the attack was retaliation for a previous assault.

Witnesses also told police that Jayce Pirtle picked one victim up by his neck and threw him backward before striking another man and breaking his right wrist, according to court documents.

Jayce Pirtle was arrested Friday when law enforcement searched his apartment at 1808 E. Pacific Ave.

Pirtle's probation officer had found a .357 handgun in his apartment after learning that police were investigating him for a burglary. Spokane police obtained a search warrant and seized the handgun, along with two rifles.

Jayce Pirtle has previous convictions or second-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault and is in jail on $50,000 for the new charges. He's also held on a DOC warrant for violating his probation. Pirtle's previous convictions count against the three-strikes law. He could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted on his latest assault charge.

Andrew Pirtle has been summonsed to court for an arraignment on the assault charge and is not in custody.

The Pirtles are the nephews of notorious Spokane double murderer Blake Pirtle, who killed two Burger King employees in 1992. His death sentence was overturned after a judge ruled Spokane police had violated his civil rights during his arrest.

The Pirtles claim police unfairly target them because of that case.

Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said the family has a “propensity for crime” that earns police attention.

“If they made a significant effort to clean up their act, then they wouldn't be getting our attention,” DeRuwe said. “Historically, some member of the family is committing a crime so they're receiving our attention.”'

Read more in tomorrow's edition of The Spokesman-Review.

Cops: Herpes fear led to pot robbery

An invitation to smoke marijuana turned into a robbery last weekend in Spokane because the suspect feared contracting herpes from a water pipe.

Aziem L. Richardson invited the teens to an apartment at 1119 W. Augusta Ave., to smoke marijuana in celebration of his 19th birthday, which was Saturday.

Richardson left after several minutes and returned with a shotgun and threatened the teens, telling them “I heard your or your girlfriend has herpes and we have been sharing a bong,” according to a search warrant. “If I get herpes, I'm gong to kill you both.”

Richardson, who has two previous felony convictions for robbery as a juvenile, ordered the men to empty their pockets and stole a wallet and cellphones, police said.

Police used a search warrant to retrieve the stolen property from the apartment just after midnight Sunday, as well as a shotgun, bong and shotgun shells.

Richardson remains in jail on $30,000 bond for first-degree robbery.

Robbery, kidnapping suspect arrested

A fugitive targeted with tear gas in an unsuccessful SWAT team search on Monday was arrested early today in downtown Spokane.

Kenneth J. Kheel, 21, (left) was arrested during a traffic stop by Spokane Sgt. Kurt Vigesaa near Riverside Avenue and Monroe Street just after midnight, police said.

Kheel and Jarred T. Many, 22, are accused robbing two men at gunpoint after they victims arranged to buy a ring from Many at 1124 W. Nora Ave. on June 17.

Many was arrested at the Nora Avenue home Monday buy Spokane police SWAT team members, but Kheel was not inside as police expected.

Now he's in jail awaiting his first appearance in Superior Court today on two counts of first-degree robbery and one count of first-degree kidnapping.

Kheel was released from prison last September after being sentenced in June 2009 to two years in prison with credit for 143 days served for second-degree assault. He had been arrested in January 2009 after off-duty police Sgt. Brad Thoma suffered a minor stab wound during a confrontation with Kheel in downtown Spokane.

‘Senseless’ shooter gets 15 years

For the first three months after he was shot through the head, Shane Reilly would wake up in horror not understanding why he his body didn’t move below his nose or why he was strapped to breathing machines in the hospital.

“We had to tell him 10 or 12 times a day that he had been shot and was paralyzed,” his mother, Linda Reilly, said Tuesday. “I prayed to God to take him. I couldn’t stand to see him suffer. But now he is getting stronger. He is an unstoppable miracle of strength.”

The 26-year-old man, whom every doctor said would not survive or move again, raised a hand and wiped a tear Tuesday as his father stood next to Reilly’s assailant and described the family’s anguish to a full courtroom.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 7: Police say man shot victim after false molestation allegation

Pharmacist who killed robber gets life

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma pharmacist convicted of murder in the shooting death of a teenager who tried to rob the south Oklahoma City pharmacy where he worked was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole Monday in spite of his defense attorney and supporters' pleas that he be set free.

Jerome Ersland, 59, showed no emotion as District Judge Ray Elliott imposed the sentence recommended by a 12-member jury that found Ersland guilty of first-degree murder in the May 19, 2009, shooting death of 16-year-old Antwun Parker during an attempted robbery at the Reliable Discount Pharmacy.

Ersland claimed he was defending himself and two female co-workers when he shot Parker after he and a second teenager came into the pharmacy wearing ski masks and demanding money and drugs. Parker, who was unarmed, was struck in the head and knocked out. Ersland chased the second armed teen, Jevontai Ingram, now 16, out of the store.

Prosecutors said Ersland was justified in firing the first shot but went too far when he grabbed a second gun and fired five more bullets into Parker's abdomen, wounds that the Medical Examiner's Office said killed him.

Ersland claimed the unconscious teen was still moving.

Ersland, shackled at the hands and feet in a jail-issued jumpsuit, stood before Elliott while defense attorney Irven Box asked the judge to suspend the life sentence.

When the judge asked if he had anything to say, Ersland replied: “I don't have anything to say. Thank you.” Later, as he was led from court by sheriff's deputies, he responded to a reporter's shouted question by calling the sentence “an injustice of a monumental proportion.”

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

Regional meth dealer pleads guilty

A Spokane man who sold large amounts of methamphetamine in the Inland Northwest pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

James Stewart, 49, faces up to life in prison when he's sentenced in October. Stewart, who has a previous methamphetamine conviction in San Diego County, Calif., never failed a drug test while on pretrial supervision, according to court documents. He remains out of custody pending sentencing.

His plea agreement was filed under seal, but a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office says Stewart and co-conspirators picked up methamphetamine in Southern California and transported it back to the area in Stewart's vehicle.

“On at least one occasion, Stewart transported over 500 grams of methamphetamine,” according to the news release.

Stewart will forfeit at least $180,000 under the plea agreement, which is equal to the value of property that he was used to facilitate or was derived from his drug sales.

Co-defendant Shad Johnson, 38, of Rathdrum, Idaho, is to be sentenced Aug. 8 for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Other defendants in related cases include Brenda Barron and her daughter, Amber Larsen, as well as Larry McMillan.

Man gets house arrest in grenade case

A North Idaho man who was arrested as part of a federal probe into illegal explosives manufacturing in Spirit Lake will be on house arrest for eight months and probation for five years.

Steven E. Winegar, 52, of Harpster, Idaho, was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene, where Judge Edward Lodge cited his lack of criminal history, military service and the cost of caring for his medical and mental conditions when imposing the light sentence, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Winegar pleaded guilty in December to illegal possession of a firearm for a .45 pistol he possessed on July 3, 2010, when FBI agents raided a trailer in the Spirit Lake area owned by Kenneth B. Kimbley, Jr.

Agents seized hand grenades, firearms and more than 10,000 rounds of rifle ammo from the property at 28128 N. Highway 41.

Kimbley, 59, is prohibited from possessing firearms because of a previous felony conviction. His lawyer said Kimbley never threatened anyone but feared a communist takeover and was inspired by his idol, Glenn Beck.

Kimbley pleaded guilty in November to attempting to make explosive devices and illegal possession of a firearm. Sentencing is set for August 8.

SWAT nabs 1 of 2 robbery suspects

A Spokane man who went to prison for a fight with off-duty police officers is now wanted on robbery and kidnapping charges.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of Kenneth J. Kheel, who is accused with Jarred T. Many, 22, of robbing two men at 1124 W. Nora Ave. on June 17.

Many was arrested at the home about 10:30 p.m. Monday by Spokane police SWAT team members and hostage negotiators. Police pumped tear gas into the home and found Anthony L. Haines, 24, hiding in the basement but not Kheel.

Haines was arrested on unrelated warrants; Kheel, 21, is still at large.

Police believe Many and Kheel escorted two men who showed up at the home to buy a ring last month, then pushed them to the floor and beat and pistol whipped them before holding them at gunpoint and stealing their money. The robbers also allegedly threatened to kill the victims if they called police, Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said in a news release. Spokane police major crimes Detective Neil Gallion developed information identifying Many and Kheel as suspects.

Anyone with information on Kheel's location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (509) 327-5111.

Kheel was released from prison last September after being sentenced in June 2009 to two years in prison with credit for 143 days served for second-degree assault. He had been arrested in January 2009 after off-duty police Sgt. Brad Thoma suffered a minor stab wound during a confrontation with Kheel outside the Steam Plant Grill.

Thoma said Kheel and another man were harassing his fiancé, Spokane police Officer Amy Ross.

Duncan’s death penalty NOT overturned

BOISE – The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ordered convicted child-killer Joseph Duncan back into court in Idaho, saying a federal judge should have ordered a competency hearing before allowing Duncan to waive his appeal of his death sentence.

The high court ordered U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to hold a “retrospective” competency hearing, exploring whether Duncan was competent in November 2008 when he told Lodge he didn’t want to appeal his triple death sentence for the kidnapping, torture and murder of a North Idaho boy. If he’s found competent after the hearing, the death sentence would go forward.

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

Cabbie shot in head in 2003 faring well

Eight years ago, longtime Spokane cab driver Jack Gordon felt the passenger in the back seat press a gun barrel to his right temple.

Gordon agreed to hand over the money in his pocket but extended his hand only a few inches before the gun exploded.

Bright light. Jarring impact. Pressure and blood.

“The first thing that came across my mind was, ‘Did this just really happen?’ ” Gordon said, recalling the shooting on Dec. 1, 2003. “There was blood everywhere, but I was still there. I knew I wasn’t going to be for very long.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Chronic DUI suspect arrested again

A chronic drunken driving suspect was arrested on new drug charges early today. 

A warrant already had been issued for James L. Crabtree after he was caught driving on July 3, which violates his release conditions on drug and DUI charges from his last arrest April 22.

A sheriff's deputy arrested Crabtree, 50, in Spokane Valley about 4 a.m. today after an anonymous caller reported Crabtree as a possible domestic violence suspect.

Deputies learned of his arrest warrant and located him at 10500 E. Broadway Ave., where they say he had a cigarette pack with meth and a glass pipe with burnt methamphetamine residue.

Crabtree, a real estate agent, told police he uses meth, according to court documents.

Public defender Kevin Griffin asked for Crabtree to be released or for his bond to be lowered because of his strong community ties and diligence in showing up for court.

But Deputy Prosecutor Mary Doran said Crabtree's problem “is not so much failure to appear as it is failure to comply.”

Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor agreed and imposed a bond of $25,000 for both cases. He also has $100 bond for a driving while suspended charge.

“Mr. Crabtree has apparently some serious drugs issues and also apparently some serious driving issues,” O'Connor said.

It's Crabtree's third felony arrest since November, when he was picked up on suspicion of drunken driving after motorists noticed him passing out at the wheel of his car.

Police found an open can of Four Loko in the car, but his blood-alcohol level was under the legal limit for driving, and he hasn't been charged.

Then in April, he was arrested on drug and DUI charges after an early-morning traffic stop.

Also, in January, Crabtree, who was a Spokane County sheriff's deputy in the 1980s, was assaulted in a home-invasion robbery in which two assailants demanded “dope and money,” according to court documents.

Crabtree was convicted of vehicular assault in 2003 for causing a crash that nearly killed sheriff's Lt. Earl Howerton. That conviction means any DUI arrests are felony cases.

Cash for tips on drug robbery suspect

A drug robbery suspect who failed to report for electronic home monitoring pending trial now has a warrant out for his arrest. 

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of Bradford C. Thayer, 20, (right) who is charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and second-degree assault for an incident last October in which his codefendant, Silvino Dos Santos, 20, was stabbed.

Gang detectives contacted the two at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Police say the men traveled to Spokane from Okanogan County with a shotgun to use in the robbery, but the intended victim fought back and stabbed Dos Santos.

Dos Santos (left) was sentenced last month to three years in prison for first-degree robbery.

Thayer, who has no criminal convictions, was allowed to leave jail in March under the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring, but an arrest warrant was issued in June after he failed to do so.

Crime Stoppers announced the reward offer today.

Thayer, 5-foot-4 and 115 pounds, last gave a home address in the 12800 block of East Main Avenue in Spokane Valley.

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

Mistrial after juror blasts defense lawyer

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. (AP) — A mistrial has been declared in a Kitsap County drug case after a juror was overheard expressing a desire to punch prominent Seattle defense attorney John Henry Browne in the nose. 

The Kitsap Sun reports that Browne, whose high-profile clients have included “Barefoot Bandit” Colton Harris-Moore, repeatedly sparred with Superior Court Judge Theodore Spearman during the trial.

Browne (pictured) reportedly ignored the judge's order that he keep his objections to a single word and was twice fined $500.

Browne said the judge's rulings in the case called his mental state into question.

By last week Browne refused to continue to participate in the trial in protest of Spearman's handling of the case. A mistrial was declared after a bailiff overheard a juror expressing a desire to punch the attorney.

Browne's client, Dominic Briceno, had been accused by county prosecutors of six drug-related felonies. Spearman ordered a fact-finding hearing concerning Browne's conduct for July 27.

Large jail population limits bookings

UPDATE: The jail was downgraded to emergency status as of 3 p.m. with the population dropping below 620. That means staff will book all charges in the general bail order and will book and release all other gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors. 

It was a busy weekend at the Spokane County Jail.

So many people have been taken into custody that the jail began limiting bookings at 6 a.m. today when the population exceeded 650 inmates.

Until the population drops below 650, bookings will be limited to:

    * All felony charges, new or warrants.
    * All probation violations, Department of Corrections or U.S. Marshal
    * Legislatively-mandated misdemeanor charges or warrants for domestic violence
    * All NEW Driving while Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs charges
    * All DUI warrants, including those with bonds
    * All warrants stating “No release own recognizance/Spokane County Jail”

“Charges that won’t be booked include misdemeanor thefts, malicious mischief, trespass, etc.,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release. “Exceptions can be made by jail shift sergeants depending on circumstances.”

The jail was built to house 470 inmates and has been upgraded with double-bunking in some areas to increase capacity to 650.  Administrators consider population greater than 650 inmates to be unsafe.
  

Absconder in chase returns to prison

A Spokane man who triggered a weeks-long federal manhunt and a wild police chase in Montana is going back to federal prison.

 Anthony E. Burke, 23, was sentenced to a year in prison last week for escaping from a halfway house last spring. After he serves that sentence he's to return to Montana, where he's to serve four years in prison for criminal endangerment related to the April 2010 chase.

Burke, alias Garver, served three years in federal prison after police found him with 100 rounds of Russian ammunition at his family’s Spokane-area home. He was prohibited from having the bullets because he’d been committed to a mental hospital as a teen.

Burke was to report to a work release center when released from prison, but he never showed up, triggering a search that ended with his arrest on July 31, 2009. He was sentenced to an additional seven months but later left a halfway house for an eye appointment and never returned.

A warrant for his arrest was issued the same day Burke led Montana law enforcement on an intense chase that included Burke driving the wrong way on Interstate 90, driving in reverse, sideswiping barriers and trial, smashing a guardrail. Police drew their guns on him “several times” before h e was arrested after trying to swim away in a creek, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Burke has serious mental health issues and has threatened to kill public officials and cause mass casualties at public events, according to court documents. Documents portray Burke as a troubled man haunted by his stepfather’s abuse and angry at authorities for calling him mentally ill.

Burke will be on probation for nine months after his release. 

CdA police officer saves family from fire

A Coeur d’Alene police officer saved a family of four from a structure fire early Friday.

The police department received a report of a structure fire about 4:33 a.m., according to a news release. Officer Gus Wessel was the first to arrive at the fire on West Vista Drive, where he found the home’s attached garage in flames.

Wessel entered the home and woke an adult female and three children and escorted them, along with the family pet, to safety, the news release said. He also moved the family’s car away from the fire to prevent damage to it.

Wessel has been full time with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department for three years, where he has been assigned to the patrol division.

Prior to his full-time employment with the department, Wessel worked as a bike patrol officer assigned to the downtown summer program.

Racist knocked out by hate-crime target

A self-proclaimed skinhead was knocked unconscious by a black man after threatening to stab him last weekend in Bayview, Idaho, officials said Friday.

Daren Christopher Abbey, 28, was booked into jail on malicious harassment charge after being treated at a hospital for facial fractures, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.

Abbey is accused of threatening to stab Marlon L. Baker, 46, inside J.D.'s Resort July 3 in Bayview after telling him he didn't belong in the bar because he was black, said Lt. Stu Miller.

Baker left the bar to avoid a fight, but Abbey followed to a marina about 300 yards away, called him racial slurs and again threatened to stab him.

“He said black people don't belong in Bayview,” Miller said.

Baker punched Abbey once in the face, knocking him to the ground unconscious.

Sheriff's officials already were in Bayview patrolling the Independence Day weekend festival that included a boat parade that night. Miller said they arrived about 8:50 p.m. to find Abbey unconscious.

Abbey apparently was unaware of the writing on the back of Baker's t-shirt: “Spokane Boxing Club champion.”

“If he had been able to read that maybe he wouldn't have done that,” Miller said.

Spokane Boxing Club President Rick Welliver said Baker, who could not be reached for comment, is not affiliated with his organization and is not a boxer.

Miller said Baker acted in self defense.

“He felt threatened - there was an actual threat that was made that he was going to get stabbed,” Miller said. “(Abbey) actually followed him for quite some distance”

Baker told deputies he punched Abbey instinctively as the skinhead approached, Miller said.

Abbey has several neo-Nazi tattoos and told Coeur d'Alene police in 2004 that he was an “independent skinhead” who didn't like minorities, Miller said.

The 2004 contact with police didn't lead to an arrest or citation, Miller said. Miller didn't have details on the reason for the contact but said Abbey's twin brother was there and said he wasn't racist but was in the area helping his brother look for work.

Abbey, of Sacramento, Calif., said he lives as a transient in the Coeur d'Alene area after moving from Montana, Miller said. He remains in jail on $75,000 for felony charges of malicious harassment (Idaho's hate crime law) and battery.

Autopsies: Bhutanese men drowned

Three Bhutanese refugees found dead in the Spokane River drowned in their submerged vehicle, officials said today.

Krishna Dhital, 21; Dilli Ram Bhattarai, 28; both of Tukwila, and Bhattarai’s cousin, 17-year-old Krishna Dhakal, of Spokane (above, left to right), were missing for nearly a month when police found their bodies in an Acura pulled from the river on Wednesday.

Police found a beer can in the car and say alcohol and speed may have been a factor in the crash.

But the men were in the river long enough that determining whether they were intoxicated when they died is difficult. The Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office is not pursuing toxicology reports.

The condition of the bodies also prevented them from formally identifiying the men until today.

Dhital, Bhattarai and Dhakal were last seen at a gathering June 11 at 1608 E. Mission Ave. They left about 10:30 p.m. in Dhital's Acura. Police believe the Acura left an embankment near the apartment complex before crashing into rocks and hitting the water.

News of their disappearance worried the Bhutanese community of 300 in Spokane. Their deaths have devastated their families and friends.

Read Jody Lawrence-Turner's story here.

Past coverage:

July 7: Three bodies found in car in river

Veteran in VA nurse assault gets 3 years

An Army veteran will spend just over three years in prison for permanently injuring to two Veterans Affairs nurses during a 2009 attack.

James P. Scott, 43, apologized to the two nurses at his sentencing in U.S. District Court Thursday, saying he could not remember anything. Medical personnel say Scott’s blood alcohol content was .38 percent, or nearly five times the legal limit.

Scott, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, injured the men as they attempted to treat him on Aug. 19, 2009, at Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Although prosecutors offered Scott a plea bargain of time served, he took the case to trial in January, where a jury convicted him as charged. Both men testified about permanent injuries they sustained from the attack.

“I’m sorry,” said Scott, who was honorably discharged from the Army in 2000 after nearly 12 years of service. “Because I gave up, you got hurt. I can’t take that away.”

U.S. District Judge Edward Shea sentenced Scott to 40 months in prison even though the standard range of the offense was between 57 and 71 months.

“It is a terrible tragedy that two men serving the Veterans Administration suffered … these permanent and lifelong injuries while treating a veteran,” Shea said.
  

2 Seattle terror plot suspects arraigned

A federal building that houses the Seattle Military Processing Center is seen June 23 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE (AP) — The two men charged with planning to attack a Seattle military recruiting station have pleaded not guilty.

 An indictment released by the U.S. attorney's office Thursday charges 33-year-old Khalid Abdul-Latif (pictured) of Seattle and 32-year-old Walli Mujahidh of Los Angeles with conspiracy to murder federal agents and officers, as well as conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh pleaded not guilty to all counts at a Thursday afternoon hearing. Trial was set to begin Sept. 7.

Both men also face additional weapons charges, and Abdul-Latif is accused of soliciting a crime of violence.

According to allegations previously laid out in an FBI complaint, the two were arrested June 22 after they arrived at a warehouse garage to pick up machine guns to use in the attack. Investigators said they learned of the plot when someone Abdul-Latif recruited to obtain weapons turned to Seattle police and then acted as a paid confidential informant.

Past coverage:

June 23: Two arrested in alleged Seattle terror plot

Drunk men take dead gator off-roading

 The flattened and preserved reptile is at the center of possible legal action against three Michigan men charged with its theft and subsequent display on a Ford pickup at a nearby mud-bogging party

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say three intoxicated men stole a 14-foot flattened and preserved alligator, strapped it to a pickup truck and took it off-roading.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reports that 55-year-old Douglas Ward of Linden, 60-year-old Roy Griffith of Linden and 53-year-old John Sanborn of Harrison are charged with breaking and entering.

The charges stem from a June 25 theft from a barn in Hartland Township, about 40 miles northwest of Detroit. Sheriff Bob Bezotte says the alligator's owner found tire tracks near his barn and followed them to a party in Deerfield Township where the men were driving their vehicles around in the mud.

The men are due in Livingston County District Court July 20.

The Associated Press sought comment from the men's defense lawyers Thursday morning.

Jail inmate: Lack of porn violates rights

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan jail inmate says he's being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because he can't have pornography.

In a handwritten lawsuit, 21-year-old Kyle Richards claims his civil rights are being violated at the Macomb County Jail. Richards says denying his request for erotic material subjects him to a “poor standard of living” and “sexual and sensory deprivation.”

The Michigan Department of Corrections tells The Detroit News that prisons allow some pornographic material, though it's banned at the jail. The American Civil Liberties Union says prisons have a lot of leeway.

Richards was charged with bank robbery after police followed a trail of snowy footprints and dropped money to his apartment from a bank robbery scene in January in Fraser, north of Detroit.

Richards pleaded guilty. Sentencing is Aug. 2.

Cyclist died from injuries in hit-and-run

A north Spokane bicyclist struck by a hit-and-run driver on North Division Street last month died from injuries suffered in the accident, an autopsy showed.

Dennis Widener, 66, died after a blood clot traveled to his lungs from deep within his body, the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s office said today.

Widener died on Wednesday in what family members said appeared to be heart attack.

Read the rest of Mike Prager's story here.

Man executed despite White House pleas

By MICHAEL GRACZYK,Associated Press
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas executed a Mexican citizen Thursday for the rape-slaying of a teenager after he and the White House pleaded in vain for a Supreme Court stay, saying he was denied help from his home country that could have helped him avoid the death penalty.

 In his last minutes, Humberto Leal (pictured) repeatedly said he was sorry and accepted responsibility.

“I have hurt a lot of people. … I take full blame for everything. I am sorry for what I did,” he said in the death chamber.

“One more thing,” he said as the drugs began taking effect. Then he shouted twice, “Viva Mexico!”

“Ready warden,” he said. “Let's get this show on the road.”

He grunted, snored several times and appeared to go to sleep, then stopped all breathing movement. The 38-year-old mechanic was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms.

After his execution, relatives of Leal who had gathered in Guadalupe, Mexico, burned a T-shirt with an image of the American flag in protest. Leal's uncle Alberto Leal criticized the U.S. justice system and the Mexican government and said, “There is a God who makes us all pay.”

Leal was sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda, whose brutalized nude body was found hours after he left a San Antonio street party with her. She was bludgeoned with a 30- to 40-pound chunk of asphalt.

Leal was just a toddler when he and his family moved to the U.S. from Monterrey, Mexico, but his citizenship became a key element of his attorneys' efforts to win a stay. They said police never told him following his arrest that he could seek legal assistance from the Mexican government under an international treaty.

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

3 bodies found in car in Spokane River

Krishna Dhakal and his family braved death to flee from Bhutan to Nepal to escape harsh cultural persecution and human rights abuses. He spent most of his life in refugee camps in Nepal, and resettled in Spokane two years ago seeking a better life.

Tragically, Dhakal, 17, likely died in the cold Spokane River, along with two life-long friends.

Foul play does not appear to be involved, police said.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Inquest set for ex-trooper’s ‘98 death

CHEHALIS, Wash. (AP) — The Lewis County coroner has scheduled an inquest in October in Chehalis to answer questions about the 1998 shooting death of former Washington State Trooper Ronda Reynolds, a Cheney High School graduate, at her home in Toledo. 

Coroner Warren McLeod says the inquest jury will be asked to determine the manner of death. Reynolds' death was initially ruled a suicide by the coroner at the time, Terry Wilson.

Reynolds' mother, Barb Thompson of Spokane, believes the death was a homicide. She sued, and in 2009 a jury found Wilson erred.

The coroner appealed, and the case is before a state appeals court, which decided to wait for the inquest.

When McLeod took office this year he reclassified the cause of death from suicide to undetermined.

Thompson says she won't be satisfied until it's homicide.

Best-selling author Ann Rule’s newest book, “In the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds and Her Mother’s Unceasing Quest for the Truth” looks at Reynolds’ death and what Rule calls a botched investigation by authorities too quick to believe an estranged husband’s claim of suicide.

Past coverage:

Oct. 15: State trooper's death focus of Ann Rule book

Safeway beer theft leads to robbery arrest

A beer theft at a north Spokane grocery store led to a felony robbery arrest for a 19-year-old man accused of fighting with a store clerk.

Cole Matthew Kendall and a friend were trying to steal beer from Safeway at 902 W. Francis Ave. when Kendall pushed a clerk as they fled, Spokane police say.

A police dog helped track the thieves, and witnesses identified Kendall as the man who stole beer and pushed the clerk.

He was released from jail on his own recognizance after appearing in Superior Court Wednesday on a first-degree robbery charge. The name of the second suspect was not included in documents details the case against Kendall.

Theft-turned-robbery cases have become a hot topic in Spokane County. A judge gave an exceptionally light sentence to a college student arrested on robbery charges after bumping into a clerk while shoplifting.

A jury also recently convicted a drug addict of robbery for using force while stealing a single sheet of tinfoil.

South Hill Subway robbed at gunpoint

A South Hill sandwich shop was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday night.

A man walked into Subway, 3014 E. 29th Ave., at 8:40 p.m. and demanded money from the store clerk. He displayed what appeared to be a handgun and left with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The robber is described as a white man in his 20s with a long-sleeve gray shirt, white sorts and white shoes.

No injuries were reported.

Major crimes detectives ask anyone with additional information to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Man jailed after odd encounter with infant

A man prohibited from possessing firearms was arrested with a gun in a Spokane cemetery last weekend after confessing his love to a baby and asking if he could be her “Uncle Bob,” police say.

The child's mother was at the Fairmount Cemetery, 5200 W. Wellesley Ave., with her infant daughter and a friend when a man with two dogs approached, rubbed her shoulder and picked up the baby from her stroller without permission, according to court documents.

The suspect, later identified as Robert F. Asterino, Jr., 46, held the child for several minutes before becoming distracted by a couple approaching with their own dogs, according to police. When he bent over to place the baby back in her stroller, the woman observed the handle of a handgun in his waistband. He also had a beer bottle in his front pocket, she told police.

The woman's friend said she was frightened “and did not feel she could tell him to put the baby down due to his large size, his strange demeanor and the fact that he had been drinking,” according to court documents.

Spokane police used a search warrant to recover from Asterino's 1968 Chevy pickup a 9mm glock with 16 rounds in the magazine, as well as an extra bullet. He was jailed on a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm, which was later dismissed. 

This story has been updated from its published version. A reference to an earlier felony conviction in New Mexico was deleted after Asterino provided evidence that the charge had been reduced to a petty misdemeanor. Also, information of the dismissal of the firearm charge was added. 

Hit-and-run victim dies of heart attack

A north Spokane man who was injured in June by a hit-and-run driver died of a heart attack Wednesday

Dennis Widener was struck while out exercising on his bicycle at Division Street and Garland Avenue about 5:45 a.m. on June 23.

He was hospitalized at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center with broken ribs and other injuries and then transferred to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute.

The collision was the subject of a story in Wednesday's edition of The Spokesman-Review.

Spokane police said they had little evidence to solve the felony case other than a vague vehicle description, possibly a brown Toyota Avalon.

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

Judge: Scherf confession is open record

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — A Snohomish County judge ruled Wednesday that documents containing Spokane County sex offender Byron Scherf's alleged confession to the killing of a Monroe corrections officer are public records and should not be sealed.

Washington law favors public access, Judge Thomas Wynne said, adding that in criminal cases a defendant must show he'll face prejudice if the documents are released.

“For the most part, this standard cannot be met in this case,” Wynne said.

Scherf's attorneys said they plan to appeal Wynne's ruling, so it's not clear when the records may become public.

Scherf, 52, is charged with aggravated murder and could face the death penalty for the Jan. 29 strangling of Jayme Biendl in the chapel at the Washington State Reformatory. The serial rapist already was serving a life sentence when Biendl was killed.

Scherf's lawyers last month asked Wynne to order prosecutors to seal roughly 325 pages of police reports, transcripts and other records related to the investigation. The Daily Herald of Everett and other news outlets sought the documents after Scherf was charged in March.

Scherf's lawyers did not object to last week's release of about 1,600 pages of police reports about the case. Those documents described how Scherf calmly explained to corrections officers who found him alone in the chapel that he'd fallen asleep. He also reportedly was trying to clean his fingernails minutes after her death.

Scherf attorney Karen Halverson told the judge that her client's right to a fair trial would be damaged if potential jurors learn the contents of the sealed records. The documents include Scherf's alleged confession to strangling Biendl.

They also include records that for decades have been available for public inspection in courthouses where Scherf was prosecuted for earlier attacks on women, plus documents in the files of various state agencies, including the state Department of Corrections and the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board.

Deputy prosecutor Lindsey Downs said her office was taking no position on the records requests. In her brief, she noted that courts are sometimes asked to balance dueling obligations between public access and ensuring a fair trial.

Prosecutors said they expect to be ready for trial by March or April. Scherf's attorneys said they may not be ready for trial before fall 2012.

___

Felon arrested for kidnapping, threats

A Spokane man released from prison in March is accused of kidnapping his girlfriend and threatening to kill her.

Duane L. Comeslast, 32, is charged with felony kidnapping, harassment and car theft after his girlfriend told police he forced her into her Jeep Cherokee at 2130 E. North Crescent Ave. and drove toward Upriver Drive, where he told her “he was going to kill her and throw her body in the river where no one would find it,” according to court documents.

The woman told police she acted complaint and asked Comeslast to talk her to East Longfellow Avenue and North Florida Street to use the bathroom, knowing she had friends near the park.

She got out of the Jeep and Comeslast recognized her uncle's car and tried to drag her back to the Jeep, but she was able to break free, according to court documents.

Police arrived at her uncle's home at 4111 E. Longfellow and discovered the alleged victim with bruises and swollen lip. Comeslast was arrested and held in Benton County on a parole violation until he was transferred to the Spokane County Jail to face charges.

He appeared in Superiro Court Tuesday and remains in jail on $75,000 bond. Comeslast has previous convictions for domestic violence assault.

Comeslast and his family were featured in this 1995 article about his younger brother's arrest on murder charges.

Man’s use of elderly woman’s cash probed

The investigators who rescued a 105-year-old woman in late May from a squalid Kettle Falls, Wash., home are now looking into whether the woman’s care provider was also improperly using her money.

Stevens County sheriff’s Detective James Caruso said he and other deputies on Tuesday again searched the home where on May 26 they found Frances Swan, who has since turned 106, begging for food in a house that was filled with trash, rotting food, dogs and feces.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

June 21: Man held after police rescue famished woman, 105

2nd vehicular homicide trial moved to Nov.

The second trial of a Spokane stockbroker accused of killing a woman in a crash two years ago has been postponed until Nov. 14.

Jury selection was set to begin Tuesday in the vehicular homicide trial of Jon Strine, but his lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, has appealed Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzens' rejection of his motion regarding double jeopardy.

Oreskovich contends Strine cannot be tried because a jury verdict of 'not guilty' already was read after his first trial in February.

But jurors weren't unanimous in their decision, which led to a mistrial.

Strine admits to drinking before the June 2009 crash but disputes a state test that placed his blood-alcohol level at .20.

Strine was driving a Mercedes when he crashed into a motorcycle, paralyzing the driver, Gary Keller, and killing the passenger, Keller's wife, Lorri Keller.

Past coverage:

Feb. 10: Mistrial declared in vehicular homicide case

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

Jan. 21: Husband recounts fatal crash

Prisons chief quit after affair uncovered

 

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s former secretary of corrections said Tuesday that he abruptly departed his job last week because of an extramarital affair with a subordinate.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Eldon Vail said that he learned last week of a video that apparently showed him and the employee leaving a motel near Olympia. He said he heard rumors that the video may be made public, so he decided his only choice was to resign.

“This is no one’s fault but my own,” Vail, 59, told The Times. “It’s not the employee’s fault. It is not my wife’s fault.” 

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

Slain guard named in inmate complaints

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Newly released documents show several grievances were filed by inmates of the Monroe Correctional Complex over operations of the prison chapel in the years before corrections officer Jayme Biendl was strangled there last January.

Biendl was the subject of numerous grievances by prisoners over the years because of her enforcement of prison policies at the chapel.

The grievances, obtained by The Associated Press from the state Department of Corrections, were all dismissed as without merit.a Spokane County sex offender, has been charged with aggravated murder in the case.

But the past grievances help shed light on the pressures of working inside the walls of the state's prisons, even in a place as relatively peaceful as the chapel.

Other newly released information details an apparent grudge Scherf held against Biendl, inlcuding calling her “evil” and blaming her for the cancellation of a program that made extra food available behind bars.

Read more by clicking the link below.

Deputy offers tips to stop property crime

Mary Beth Jorgensen learned the hard way that theft can occur anywhere. Even in church.

On June 26 people started arriving for Sunday service in the large Coeur d’Alene church Jorgensen attends. Jorgensen, who usually sings in the church’s choir, was instead filling in for the organist.

A bit nervous for her upcoming performance, Jorgensen left her purse on a receptionist’s desk outside of where the service was to take place.

As Jorgensen discovered, theft can occur anywhere, at any time, to anyone. Deputy Travis Pendell, (pictured) a crime-prevention specialist with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, has a few tips to help people avoid becoming what he calls “participant victims.”

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Killer’s history not communicated at DOC

When a rapist who murdered one of his cellmates in the Spokane County Jail requested a transfer to a medium-security prison several years later, the approval process at the Washington Department of Corrections was quick and routine.

Although prisoner Michael Lee West Jr. was known for his disturbing levels of violence, he’d managed to avoid serious trouble for about four years. The transfer request was approved, and a prisoner long deemed a serious threat arrived at Airway Heights in 2010 as a minimum-security inmate.

The results were tragic.

Just 10 days into his stay, the 35-year-old attacked two cellmates in what prison officials describe as a horrific barrage that left one man blind. Prison staff who rushed to the cell found a victim with his left eye hanging from the socket and his right eye severely damaged. West stood by, chanting religious phrases and proclaiming himself Lucifer.

Despite a well-documented history that included pleas by prison officials for lifetime lockup, none of those warnings and concerns traveled with him. The brutal assault was the Airway Heights staff’s first indication that this new inmate was prone to severe behavioral problems – even though West had warned his psychiatrist that he planned to stop taking his medication after his transfer.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 14: 'Graphic' attack leaves inmate blind

Biker cites gender disorder at sentencing

A Sandpoint biker awaiting trial on charges of recruiting criminal gang members was drawn to crime because of a rare gender disorder that causes him to be self conscious about his masculinity, his lawyer says.

Dale Michael Champine, 42, (right) suffers from epilepsy, bi-polar disorder, depression and an extra sex chromosome from hypogonadism and Klinefelter's Syndrome, which causes him to develop female phsyical attributes “and associated psychological challenges,” according to documents prepared by Missoula lawyer Johnna Baffa, who represented him on a federal conspiracy charge.

 Champine was sentenced in Missoula last Thursday to five years of probation and six months of home arrest for a federal conspiracy charge involving the transportation of a motorcycle across state lines. Baffa cited his disorder as a reason to keep him out of a federal prison, where she said he faced significant risk because of his abnormal physical characteristics.

“…Even when treated, he continues to display the physical symptoms of hypogonadism which place him at a significant risk of harm if incarcerated,” Baffa wrote.

Champine was born with the syndrome but not diagnosed until his late 30s. Even as he began establishing a masculine identity, Champine's “physical development betrayed him,” Baffa wrote. He found acceptance in the Hermanos motorcycle gang.

 “As his mother points out in her letter, it may have been that he sought acceptance by this group not only for camaraderies, but as a way to be perceived as more masculine, all while struggling with a medical condition that forced his body to develop a more femine appearance,” Baffa wrote.

“In his constant search for acceptance by himself and others, Mr. Champine has 'acted out' in ways that have often resulted in criminal conduct. As his mother acknowledges, he is constantly seeking to be viewed and accepted as a more masculine person, leading him to act in ways that he perceives as 'masculine' or 'tough,'” Baffa continued. “Unfortunately, such behavior had landed him in the midst of the crminal justice system.”

Champine is scheduled to stand trial next month in Bonner County District Court on a felony charge of recruiting criminal gang members. He and other Hermanos members were arrested last fall as part of a long-term investigation by the Bonner County Sheriff's Office. The Hermanos group is a chapter of the international Bandidos outlaw biker gang.

Also charged is Hermanos member Steven Jay Beal (left), who is awaiting sentencing in U.S. District Court in Montana for the stolen motorcycle case.

Hermanos associate Paul Leslie Spencer, 57, (right) was convicted last week of conspiracy in relation to the stolen bike. Bonner County detectives bought the stolen bike's motor form Spencer last August. Beal told them it was stolen and suggested burying the cases with identification numbers on his property, according to court documents.

Spencer faces up to five years in prison. The men, who were indicted in January, are to pay a combined restitution of $6,695 to cover the cost of the stolen motorcycle.

Man stole $24k from 2 Spokane charities

A former treasurer for two Spokane charities who became involved with a cash-strapped woman he met at a spa has been ordered to repay $24,000 after pleading guilty to felony theft.

Curtis G. Wasson, 59, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree theft last week for embezzling from the North Lions Club and the Hillyard chapter of the Knights of Columbus. Along with restitution, he was credited for one day served in jail.

The North Lions Club is a non-profit group that helps people with vision or hearing impairments. Wasson had been the treasurer for at least 10 years. Group members began investigating Wasson after a donation check to a Spokane high school student who was volunteering with hurricane relief assistance bounced and the student was charged overdraft fees. Police believe Wasson stole about $18,000 from the group beginning in 2004.

Wasson also stole about $6,000 from the Knights of Columbus, a charity for the sick and disabled.

The group was due for an audit in February 2009, but Wasson, a self-employed tax accountant, delayed it, saying he was too busy. Washington Trust Bank advised group members of unusual activity in their account two months later.

Wasson wrote several unauthorized checks at grocery stores and also cashed 20 unauthorized checks between November 2008 and April 2009. He also wrote checks to Brandie Meyers, who police believe was desperate for cash to pay her child custody attorney.

Meyers told police she met Wasson while working at Suzi's Spa. She said she “provided Wasson with girls when he requested it” and that he paid her in exchange, and that he also helped her with money for her attorney.

Wasson later told police he paid Meyers for sex but that she used photographs and recordings to extort him. Records show Wasson and his wife of 27 years are divorcing.

FBI: ‘Bad Hair Bandit’ now in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The FBI says the so-called “Bad Hair Bandit,” sought in connection with as many as 18 bank robberies or attempted robberies in Washington, is now suspected in a robbery in the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego. 

Portland FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele says the woman approached a teller Friday afternoon in a Key Bank branch, indicated she had a weapon and demanded money. She walked out with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Steele says the woman wore a distinctive short dark wig and fits the description of other heists by the “Bad Hair Bandit,” who is pictured during a Feb. 10 robbery in Auburn, Wash.

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to conviction of the robber.

The FBI believes the same woman may have robbed two banks in Spokane last summer in Spokane last summer.

She's also believed to have robbed a north Spokane bank in May after robbing banks in Ellensburg and Moses Lake in April.

Driver hits off-duty SPD sergeant’s pickup

Negligent driving caused a three-car crash Friday afternoon on Interstate 90 in Spokane, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Neida Rios, 58, of Fair Oaks, Calif., was in a Nissan Altima westbound on I-90 when she crossed the median and hit an eastbound Chevrolet Tahoe driven by Patricia Sodorff, 55, of Sandpoint, according to a WSP news release.

Rios also hit Joel Fertakis, 49, of Spokane, (pictured) who was eastbound in a Chevrolet pickup towing a 27-foot trailer. The crash caused the trailer to roll into the median and one of the lanes.

 Sodorff and Rios were injured but not taken to a hospital, the news release said.

Fertakis, a sergeant with the Spokane Police Department, was not injured.

State prisons chief Eldon Vail resigns

Three days after a man who shot seven people at the Tacoma Mall took a prison guard hostage and a convicted Spokane killer was shot to death on a fork lift, state prisons chief Eldon Vail has resigned.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who reportedly learned about Vail's decision just today, quickly named a temporary replacement. Jim Camden has more at Spin Control.

Look for a story in The Spokesman-Review next week examining the Department of Corrections' reaction to the eye-gauging assault at Airway Heights Corrections Center last fall by a man already convicted of murdering a cellmate.

Chronic prescription forger arrested again

A Spokane woman arrested on prescription forgery charges six times in one year returned to jail again this week less than two weeks after pleading guilty to four felonies.

Theresia L. Beckett, 56, was out of jail on bond awaiting sentencing when she was arrested for the same thing she's been arrested for six other times since last June: forging a prescription and trying to pass it at a local pharmacy.

She was arrested Wednesday at Deaconess Pharmacy, 800 W. 5th Ave., for allegedly trying to collect on a forged prescription for Ambien.

Beckett earned the ire of Superior Court Judge Michael Price last month when she was arrested for the sixth time.

“I've seen Ms. Beckett time in and time out,” Price said at the time. “I'm certainly not trying to be gruff or rude to her, but…every time she bonds out, arguably, she just goes right back out and does it again, possibly within hours.”

Beckett's bond was set at $150,000 Thursday.

She's expected back in court for four no-bail warrants for the cases she's awaiting sentencing on. Her lawyer, Tim Note, told Price he was “speechless” over her latest arrest.

Jury convicts Boise man in boy’s death

By JESSIE L. BONNER,Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Ada County jury took just two hours Thursday to convict an Idaho man of first-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend's 8-year-old son.

Prosecutors told the panel in closing arguments that 38-year-old Daniel Ehrlick was a “ticking time bomb” on the day in 2009 when he killed Robert Manwill. The boy's body was found in an irrigation canal about a week after his disappearance triggered a massive search across the city of Boise. Robert would have turned 10 earlier this month.

Ehrlick's sentencing was set for Sept. 2. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

During his closing argument earlier in the day, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Dan Dinger told jurors that Ehrlick panicked because Robert, who had been visiting his mother in Boise, was covered in bruises and about to go home to his father, who lived in New Plymouth.

“He was feeling that pressure, he was feeling that fear because that day was fast approaching,” Dinger said.

Prosecutors claim Ehrlick feared Robert would tell about the abuse and he would lose his girlfriend's other son, an infant who had been previously removed from the home. “It's been a long two years but today the system worked and we got some justice for my son,” Charles Manwill, Robert's father, told reporters after the verdict was announced.

Jurors saw autopsy photos and heard recorded interviews in which Ehrlick told police he would hide Robert in a closet when social workers visited the apartment multiple times a week to check on the infant. Dinger told jurors that Ehrlick tortured the boy and hiding Robert in the closet was part of the abuse.

“He was preying on one of Robert's fears,” Dinger said. “He knew that Robert hated to be alone.”

The boy lived with his mother, Melissa Jenkins, and Ehrlick for about seven weeks and was bruised for much of that time, Dinger said.

The defense, however, rejected the notion that Ehrlick despised Robert and countered that Jenkins was responsible for much of the abuse the boy had suffered.

The prosecution examined more than 100 witnesses but did not present evidence that proved Ehrlick had killed the boy, said defense attorney Gus Cahill.

“He's told you under oath he didn't do this,” Cahill said. “There's no confession, there's no admission.”

Prosecutors claim Ehrlick, who weighed 277 pounds that summer, tortured the 50-pound boy in a pattern of escalating violence that ended with a fatal head injury.

“He'd been hurting him all summer long, but he hurt him one last night and he killed him,” Dinger said.

In an agreement with prosecutors, Jenkins pleaded guilty in January to aiding in Robert's killing. She faces up to 25 years in prison at her August sentencing.

Valley SWAT standoff turns up empty

A SWAT team surrounded a Spokane Valley home for several hours Thursday hoping to apprehend a suspected thief with a long rap sheet, but he wasn't home.

  Michael G. Grant, 37, has warrants for being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm.

Police also believe he is connected to stolen vehicles that have been dumped in the Valley and other thefts.

Read Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Grant was featured in a 2005 article in which he accused then-Mayor Jim West of sexually abusing when West was a sheriff's deputy. He said the alleged abuse led to his deep-seated distrust of law enforcement.

3 new red-light cameras now operating

A 30-day warning period begins today for new red-light cameras at three intersections in the downtown Spokane area.

Beginning at 8 a.m., drivers caught on camera running a red light will earn a warning notice for the vehicle owner. No fine is attached, but red-light runners will begin receiving $124 citations on July 31.

The new cameras are at westbound Second Avenue at Walnut Street, southbound Maple Street at Second and southbound Third Avenue at Browne Street.

Spokanealready has seven intersections equipped with cameras that have captured more than 23,000 violations since Oct. 1, 2008:

Browne Street southbound at Sprague Avenue, Hamilton Street northbound at Mission Avenue, Division Street north and southbound at Francis Avenue, Wellesley Avenue eastbound at Ash Street, Freya Street northbound at Third Avenue, Thor Street and Second Avenue both westbound and southbound, and Division Street northbound at Sprague Avenue.

 The warning period for those intersections ended long ago.

Fatal Idaho police shooting ruled justified

An Idaho State Police trooper who shot a fugitive to death during a pursuit north of Coeur d’Alene in February will not face charges.

Trooper Dan Howard was justified when he used deadly force to stop a Jeep that was approaching him after he exited his police car following a collision, the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday.

Howard fired several shots, six of which hit the Jeep. Investigators believe he was aiming at the driver of the Jeep, Mark M. Maykopet, a fugitive from Butte, but one of the shots hit Maykopet’s wife, 40-year-old Christie Ann Little, alias O’Leary, who also was a fugitive.

Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Shawna Dunn said Little’s seat was slightly reclined, which led to her being shot even though bullet holes on the Jeep showed Howard was aiming at Maykopet in the driver’s seat.

“Her seat was basically in the line of fire between the trooper and the driver,” Dunn said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

March 19: Idaho trooper interviewed about fatal shooting

Feb. 24: Couple shot by ISP trooper were married

Feb. 18: ISP corporal fired fatal shots

Feb 9: Fugitive shot dead by Idaho State Police trooper

Man flips off Casey Anthony prosecutor

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Courtroom cameras captured a 28-year-old waiter extending his middle finger toward a prosecutor during the Casey Anthony murder trial, and the man was promptly sentenced to six days in jail.

Matthew Bartlett also was ordered to pay a $400 fine after he was photographed making the obscene gesture toward prosecutor Jeff Ashton on Thursday.

Bartlett, who had been watching the trial from the courtroom gallery, was immediately escorted out by deputies and was brought back inside to face Judge Belvin Perry once the jury was sent home for the day. He was assigned a public defender.

Bartlett apologized for his actions during a brief hearing and was then sentenced by Perry. He was taken to jail by deputies.

Perry says Bartlett will have six months to pay his fine.

The defense rested Thrusday in Anthony's first-degree murder trial. She faces a possible death penalty if convicted. Read a full story on the case by clicking the link below.

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