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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for May 2011

Meth suspect nabbed after chase in Idaho

A convicted Spokane methamphetamine maker awaiting trial in federal court was arrested during a police chase in North Idaho today.

William Troy Tomblin, 40, was on a motorcycle when the U.S. Marshals Service began pursuing him in the area Wilbur Avenue in Coeur d'Alene.

The chase continued to the area of North Ramsey Road and Wyoming Avenue in Hayden about 3:15 p.m. before Tomblin drove his motorcycle into tree near Lancaster Avenue and Hayden Lake Road and ran into the woods on foot.

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Department and Idaho State Police helped set up a perimeter, and Tomblin was located before a K-9 arrived.

Tomblin was transported to the Spokane County Jail on a federal warrant related to a January grand jury indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of pure methamphetamine. He's scheduled to go on trial in August with a co-defendant, Wheeler Joseph Paavola, 29.

Paavola, who has at least eight felony methamphetamine convictions dating back to 2001, has been in jail since February, but Tomblin had been allowed out pending trial.

Tomblin has previous drug and stolen property convictions and was sentenced to 39 months in state prison in 2006 for manufacturing methamphetamine.

Trooper on leave amid perjury allegation

A veteran state trooper accused of perjury in an Idaho Supreme Court decision that vacated a murder conviction has been placed on paid leave.

Cpl. Fred Rice is accused of  lying on the stand during the road rage trial of Jonathan Wade Ellington of Athol, who was convicted of second-degree murder for running over a woman on New Years Day 2006. Ellington is serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Read the full statement from Idaho State Police at the Eye on Boise blog.

Traffic stop reveals meth, stolen property

A suspected methamphetamine dealer was arrested early today after deputies spotted him driving on a suspended license, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said.

Anthony L. Haines, 23, had a checkbook and credit card stolen in a burglary when deputies stopped his 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass at West Dean Avenue and North Cedar Street about 3 a.m., according to a news release. One of the checks was written to Haines and dated after the theft.

Haines was arrested for driving on a suspended license. Deputies found a cigarette package with seven baggies of meth on Haines, then found a larger baggie of methamphetamine in a sunglasses case in his car.

“Despite it being 3 a.m., Haines received nine calls on his cell phone during the investigation.,” according to a news release.

Haines was booked into jail on charges of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, forgery, second-degree possession of stolen property and third-degree driving while license suspended.

Woman falsley claims to be fugitive

A passenger who lied about her identity during a traffic stop Monday provided the name of another woman who had a warrant for her arrest.

Michael Lynn Polello, 37, provided her real name after a records check revealed the warrant for the other name, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today.

Polello didn't have any warrants, but she did have a small baggie of methamphetamine in her purse, deputies said.

Deputies encountered Polello after stopping a Toyota 4-Runner for making an improper turn near West Wellesley Avenue and North Wall Street in Spokane about 8 p.m.

The driver, 45-year-old Rodney Harold Bruhjell of Spokane, received a warning but allowed the deputies to search his SUV, which turned up a marijuana pipe and led deputies to ask Polello for her name.

Polello was booked into jail for possession of methamphetamine and making false statements.  Bruhjell was cited and released for possession of marijuana. Polello was ordered released on her own recognizance after appearing in court this afternoon.

Charges sought in inmate’s drug death

Detectives are seeking a manslaughter charge against a former Spokane County Jail inmate they believe provided prescription drugs used in another inmate's suicide.

Ronald F. Edwards, 41, could be charged with delivery of a legend drug and second-degree manslaughter under a charging recommendation sent  to Spokane County prosecutors.

Detectives believe Edwards provided the prescription antidepressant amitriptyline to Christopher H. Devlin, a convicted killer who died of an overdose on Sept. 20, five days after being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Edwards was one of two jail inmates prescribed the drug.

Investigators believe Edwards gave his daily dose to Devlin after hiding the pills in his mouth so jail employees would believe he'd ingested them.

DNA on a pill hidden in Devlin's mattress matched a DNA sample taken from Edwards at state prison in Forks, Wash., May 6, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office announced today.

Edwards is serving 25 months for third-degree assault. Detectives say Edwards frequently spent time with Devlin when the two were out of their cells.

Devlin was convicted last August of the May 2008 shooting death of 52-year-old Daniel Heily, who was to testify against Devlin in an assault case.

Murder conviction tossed in ‘06 road rage

BOISE – State Supreme Court justices have thrown out the second-degree murder conviction of a North Idaho man, citing prosecutorial misconduct and the likelihood that an Idaho State Police officer committed perjury during the 2006 trial.

Jonathan Wade Ellington, of Hayden, was sentenced to 25 years for second-degree murder and 15 years each on two counts of aggravated battery charges for running over a woman during what was described as a road-rage encounter on New Year’s Day 2006.

But Friday, Idaho’s high court unanimously ruled Ellington should get a new trial. In the 32-page ruling, the justices wrote the Kootenai County prosecutor engaged in misconduct during the trial, in part by engaging in improper questioning meant to turn the jury against Ellington.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

When Ellington was sentenced in December 2006, his girlfriend, Ann Thomas, vowed to appeal. “Eventually, it’ll get to a real court,” Thomas said.  Ellington called the case against him “mind-boggling.” “I don’t understand this – I never will,” he said. Read that story here.

Other past coverage:

Sept. 8, 2006: Ellington found guilty

Aug. 25, 2006: Daughter describes mother's death

Scheme promised to harness lightning

A Spokane man who claimed to have invented a computer chip that could capture energy from lightning strikes is set to ask for his relese from jail today on federal charges that he defrauded investors of more than $2.5 million.

Robert B. Hiatt, 65, presented himself to investors for a decade as a successful inventor and businessman, according to the indictment on three counts of wire fraud returned Wednesday by a grand jury.

Hiatt pleaded not guilty Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno. Hiatt claimed to have inside tracks to contracts with major companies and solicited investors using front companies that looked real, according to the indictment.  A bail hearing is set today before Imbrogno.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Skinhead’s lawyer: Jail only worsens him

A self-described skinhead will spend nearly 10 years in prison for a federal gun charge. 

James Daniel Bacon, who deputies say damaged a jail house door during a recent tantrum, has spent more than a third of his life in jail.

The 23-year-old's lawyer cited that when asking for him to receive a sentence of just 70 months instead of the 92 to 115 recommended by federal prosecutors.

“Prison clearly has not reformed Mr. Bacon to date,” according to a sentencing memorandum by John B. McEntire. A lengthier prison sentence “will further engrain into Mr. Bacon violence and aggression - more so if he is designated to an Administrative-Maximum United States Penitentiary, which is likely the case,” McEntire continued.

Bacon has been in solitary confinement at the Spokane County Jail since his arrest in December 2010. McEntire said anger, destruction of property and attacks on jail staff “are the exact type of conduct that (an expert) mentions as being a byproduct of solitary confinement.”

A doctor who evaluated Bacon in April said his intelligence and insight make him a good candidate for behavioral therapy to address his antisocial personality disorder, McEntire said.

U.S. District Judge Wm. Fremming Nielsen rejected McEntire's request last Thursday and ordered Bacon to spend 115 months in prison, with credit for time served in jail. Bacon was arrested Dec. 7 after running from Spokane police with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun.  He pleaded guilty to felon in posession of a firearm.

He also was convicted of misdemeanor assault for punching a man charged with producing child pornography when the two shared a holding cell at the federal courthouse in March.

Arsonist, career criminal gets 10 years

A serial arsonist’s criminal past earned the wrath Friday of a federal judge who sentenced the man to 10 years in prison.

Anthony W. Sotin, 42, previously agreed to accept responsibility for setting his own car on fire on Jan. 12 and torching a commercial building at 13412 E. Nora Ave. on Feb. 9.

U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush was reluctant to accept the terms of the agreement, noting that Sotin’s first criminal conviction came at age 14.

“I have been on the federal bench from Houston, to Las Vegas to San Francisco and thousands of cases in my home district,” he said. “I don’t know that I have ever seen as an egregious criminal history as with you. A rational judge could conclude that Mr. Sotin should be locked up for the rest of his life to protect others.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 1: Arsonist pleads guilty after just 13 days

Feb. 19: Arrest made in building, vehicle fires

Aug. 8, 1997: Latest antics add to Sotin's long rap sheet

Whiskey bottle could hold clues in theft

A whiskey bottle could hold clues in a burglary at the Chapman Lake Resort near Cheney.

Someone cut a padlock from a gate overnight Wednesday and stole about $3,000 worth of tools and tool cabinets from an equipment trailer, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today.

The victim said the thief or thieves apparently used a shovel and ax to pry open the side door of the trailer before stealing  two Craftsman-brand tool boxes, one a red four or five-drawer unit and the other a smaller yellow unit.

But the thief left a bottle of whiskey in the front office area, and Deputy Todd Saunders seized it for fingerprint examination.

Several of the items had been moved closer to the door, indicating someone may have planned to make a return trip. Only one family currently lives at the resort.

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

Steele may sue over jail book policy

SANDPOINT, Idaho — A North Idaho attorney convicted by a federal jury for his role in a plot to kill his wife has filed a tort claim against Bonner County, alleging the jail’s policy for providing books to inmates violates his religious freedoms. 

Edgar Steele, 65, was convicted on four counts in U.S. District Court in Boise earlier this month in a murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife and mother-in-law last year.

He faces at least 30 years in prison and is being held in the Bonner County Jail pending sentencing scheduled for August. Steele, who once represented the Aryan Nations, is now taking aim at the jail’s book policy, claiming Bibles are the only religious texts delivered to inmates, a limitation he said infringes on his right to religious freedom.

Steele said he is a Taoist, a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes compassion, moderation and humility with roots in sixth century China.

In his claim, Steele also contends the jail essentially censors other inmate reading materials because they are passed out by chaplains and heavily influenced by Christian fundamentalist themes.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

Charge dropped in car seat death

A vehicular homicide charge was dismissed Thursday against a Post Falls mother whose daughter was fatally injured while riding in an improperly installed car seat five years ago.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen agreed with defense arguments that 26-year-old Eileen C. Jensen’s failure to correctly use the car seat was tragic but not criminally negligent, ending a legal case that brought widespread public attention to car seat safety issues.

Read the rest of my story here.

Read the rest of my story here.

Feb. 18, 2009: Mother arraigned on vehicular homicide charge in car seat case

Nov. 28, 2007: Vehicular homicide charge possible in infant's death

Crashes lead to 2 hit-and-run charges

A 43-year-old Greenacres man is accused of crashing his pickup into a parked vehicle twice before witnesses followed him from the scene.

Steven J. Bays was followed from the 14800 block of East Fourth Avenue by a witness who reported his red Ford truck's license plate number to Spokane Valley police.

The truck had knocked into the parked truck in the westbound lane of Fourth about 2 a.m., then backed up and ran into a the truck again before fleeing eastbound, witnesses said. Police impounded the victim vehicle after they weren't able to contact its owner.

Officers traced the license plate to the 18000 block of East Springfield, where they found the red Ford parked the wrong way with damage to its driver's side.

Bays' sister told police he'd recently arrived home but didn't know how his truck was damaged. Bays told police the same thing. Officers believe he was intoxicated and arrested him on a misdemeanor charge of hit-and-run.

The incident came less than a day after a Marshall, Wash., man was arrested for hitting a woman's car in north Spokane and fleeing the scene. Arnold Marvin Knuth, 57, also is accused of resisting arrest.

Spokane County sheriff's deputies say he fought with them as they placed him in handcuffs and received “some minor cuts,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

“Because he was carrying blood pressure medicine, the deputies had paramedics check him out before driving him to jail,” Reagan wrote.

The noon-hour crash at Cascade Way and North Division Street caused minor damage to a 43-year-old Spokane woman's car.

She told deputies the other driver “profanely refused to stay to exchange information” but she wrote down the license plate of his red Oldsmobile Cutlass, leading police to identify Knuth as a suspect. Deputies say

Knuth refused to provide a driver's license or other identification, “making a custodial arrest necessary,” Reagan said.

FBI: Racist felon had ammo, 5 firearms

A Whitman County man arrested on federal gun charges last month had several guns and a large collection of ammunition when investigators searched his properties, a new indictment alleges.

Jeremiah Daniel “J.D.” Hop, 29, faces two counts of felon in possession of a firearm and a forfeiture charge that demands he give up four rifles, a 12-gauge shotgun, and more than 150 rounds of shotgun shells and other ammunition.

A grand jury indicted him on the new charges this week in U.S. District Court.

Hop was convicted in California of third-degree rape of a child in 2005, a felony that prohibits him from possessing firearms or ammunition.

Hop was arrested during an FBI investigation April 20 for allegedly possessing an Izhmash 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun on March 25.

His brother, Michael Hop, said he was set up by an FBI informant who supplied the shotgun after suggesting they go shooting.

Hop has bragged online about being involved with racist taco-truck protests in Kootenai County. He remains in custody without bail at the Spokane County Jail.
  

Ex-Senate candidate faces gun charge

A former state Senate candidate faces new weapons charges after police say he brought a knife and loaded gun into a veterans hospital in Walla Walla.

Roy H. Murry, 26, reportedly told his doctor that he carries a firearm “24-7” during an examination April 8, according to a police report filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Hospital staff observed a “bulge” on Murry's back right side and contacted hospital police, who learned that Murry is also known to be armed from the Walla Walla Police Department, which has dealt with Murry on numerous occasions, according to the report.

Police noticed a knife handle clipped to Murry's right front pants pocket. He initially denied having a gun but told officers were to find it after they confiscated his knife, which had a blade larger than 3 inches, according to the report.

The 9mm Beretta was loaded with a round in the chamber, police said.

Weapons are prohibited in veterans hospitals.

Murry told police he “doesn't pay much attention to signs” when asked if he saw signs warnings of the weapons ban.

Murry also told police “he knew it would be a hassle to carry the weapon on to the VA facility and was not sure why he did it,” according to a report by U.S. Veterans Affairs Police Sgt. Brandon Needham. “He also told me that he was applying for a State Department job and that this was going to ruin that.”

A grand jury indicted Murry, who is not in custody, Thursday on misdemeanor charges of possession of a firearm in a federal facility and possession of a dangerous weapon in a federal facility.  Each charge carries a maximum one year incarceration and a $100,000 fine.

Murry was nominated in January to fill Bob McCaslin's state Senate seat, along with state Rep. Matt Shea and Jeff Baxter. Spokane County commissioners appointed Baxter in February.

He was arrested in Las Vegas in January after being found asleep in his car and allegedly carrying a concealed weapon.

Reached by phone Thursday, Murry declined to comment on the new charges but said the charges in Las Vegas are “in the process” of being dismissed.

Shot bank robbery suspect remains free

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A 69-year-old Clarkston, Wash., man is out of jail but barred from casinos after being arraigned on charges related to a bank robbery.

David Payton was shot by officers after robbing a U.S. Bank in Lewiston at gunpoint Feb. 3, Lewiston police said. He was hospitalized for two months.

Nez Perce County prosecutors asked Magistrate Judge Jay Gaskill to arrest Payton Wednesday because of the seriousness of the charges and because Payton has been seen casinos. Police suspect gambling debts may have been the motive for the robbery.

Gaskill allowed Payton to remain free, but ordered him not to enter casinos. Payton is charged with robbery and four counts of aggravated assault. His preliminary hearing is set for June 8.

18th birthday brings jail, four felonies

A Spokane resident celebrated his 18th birthday today by appearing in Superior Court on four felony charges.

Quinn Mikal Ray was arrested Monday after a wild police chase that included Ray trying to run over a police officer and briefly pinning another officer inside a patrol car, charges allege.

But his stint in juvenile detention didn't last long - prosecutors filed charges against him in adult court Tuesday, and he was moved to the Spokane County Jail, where he turned 18 today.

Ray is charged with attempt to elude a police vehicle, two counts of first-degree assault for allegedly trying to hit two officers with his car and one count of second-degree assault for hitting Officer Chris Bode's patrol car and pinning him in the vehicle, according to court documents.

Police believe Ray was intoxicated.
  

Woman stabbed to death in Grant County

SOAP LAKE, Wash. (AP) — The Grant County coroner says the woman found dead at her home Sunday in Soap Lake was stabbed to death.

The autopsy was conducted Wednesday on 44-year-old Kimberly Jo Bradford.

Grant County sheriff's detectives are investigating the homicide.

Repeat sex offender gets 15 years to life

A sex offender with a lengthy criminal history in Oregon will serve 15 years to life in prison for molesting a girl in Post Falls.

Roy L. Goldsborough, 52, was arrested in December after a 12-year-old girl told family members about the abuse.

Post Falls police recorded a phone call between the girl and Goldsborough in which he confessed to the abuse, according to court documents. He pleaded guilty in March to lewd conduct with a minor under 16 and being an habitual offender.

Kootenai County District Curt Judge John Mitchell sentenced him Wednesday to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 15 years, with credit for time served in the Kootenai County Jail.

Mitchell noted Goldsborough's extensive criminal history, the nature of the offense and his “blame shifting” when sentencing him, accoridng to the Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office.

Goldsborough's criminal history includes convictions for two counts of sexual abuse, two counts of felony assault and single counts of petit theft, delivery of a controlled substance and driving under the influence. Goldsborough moved to Post Falls last fall.

In a prepared statement, Prosecutor Barry McHugh said the sentence “was appropriate given the unconscionable nature of the offense and the continued predatory conduct by the defendant.”

Cops: Brawl led to witness intimidation

An early-morning brawl left a Spokane man unconscious with a 6-inch gash on his head, police say.

Joshua L. Schmidt, 28, and Christopher M. Martin, 26, beat Eric W. Ledoux after Ledoux called Schmidt a profane name while they were in a car May 10 about 3:38 a.m.

The car stopped and Schmidt pulled the victim from the backseat at 2518 E. South Altamont Blvd. and punched and kicked him unconscious as Martin threatened two passengers and told them not to say anything.

The defendants and victim had just met that night, witnesses told police.

Witnesses said Martin prevented anyone from helping Ledoux, who was treated at a hospital for cuts and gashes, including a shoe print on his bottom chin. Police arrived to find Ledoux covered in blood with his face badly swollen; Schmidt had swollen knuckles and Martin had blood spots on his shoes.

Both suspects were booked into jail.

Martin pleaded not guilty Monday to attempted first-degree assault and three counts of intimidating a witness. Schmidt pleaded not guilty today to attempted first-degree assault.

Police: Thief busted with ‘smart food’

Here's a news release from Spokane Valley police spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan titled, “Stolen “Smart Food” No Help to Thief.”

A 24-year-old Spokane man was arrested Tuesday evening after he attempted to steal $329 worth of Blu Ray DVD’s and an egg roll, a burrito and an item labeled “smart food.”

Officer Lamont Peterson was called to the East Sprague Avenue and North Sullivan Road Fred Meyer store about 7 p.m. after a security officer stopped Mordekye A. Layman as he attempted to leave the store with the items hidden in a canvas bag.

Peterson arrested Layman for third-degree theft and returned the property to the store.

Man gets 22 mos after refusing to testify

A man was sentenced to just under two years in prison Tuesday after reneging on his promise to testify in two shootings.

Antonio E. Cook Jr., 29, previously pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and witness tampering in cases unrelated to the two shootings, and Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Mark Cipolla agreed to dismiss the charges in exchange for his testimony.

Cook has since refused to testify, Cipolla said, so the charges were reinstated and he pleaded guilty.  Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza sentenced Cook to 22 months in prison Tuesday.

Cook was a witness to the July 2009 shooting that injured two women. Timothy “Stoney Boy” Lucious was convicted of second-degree assault, which was his third strike and resulted in a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In the other case, John S. “Q” Williams was shot to death on Jan. 17, 2010. Alleged triggerman Edward “TD” Thomas, 25, and six other people have been charged in the investigation, which was assisted by Cook’s statements to police.

Cook testfied at Lucious' trial, but Thomas' trial hasn't happened yet.

FBI: Man masturbated on Spokane flight

A Florida man masturbated during a flight from Spokane to Denver last week, a criminal charge alleges.

Two 18-year-old passengers told an FBI agent that they saw Kyle Devin Pearce, 25, masturbating while on board United Airlines Flight 340 on May 19.

One witness said he was sitting behind Pearce when he saw what he was doing and “hit him with my book in the arm, which caused him to stop and leave to the bathroom. After a while he returned,” according to an affidavit. Both witnesses said Pearce's penis was visible.

Pearce was to connect to an Orlando-bound flight but was instead arrested at the airport and appeared before a federal judge in Denver. He posted $25,000 bond Tuesday.

Pearce is charged with crimes aboard aircraft, which carries a maximum 90 days in jail, $5,000 fine and one year probation.

SWAT team called to hostage situation

A sheriff's SWAT team helped arrested a fugitive Tuesday after officers said he may be holding hostages at a home in north Spokane County.

Jeremy Rian Albright, 30, left a home in the 6500 block of North Normandie Lane after two teenage boys left the home at the behest of their mother, who called them from work at the request of a SWAT team member, according to the sheriff's office.

Albright has been wanted since February on a $25,000 warrant for second-degree assault.

Members of the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force saw Albright inside the home through open blinds about 4:30 p.m. and set up containment before knocking on the door. The teen boys approached the door but retreated, Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.

The SWAT team was called because investigators felt the boys may have been held against their will, and because Albright is considered a violent offender and was rumored to be armed.

Albright was arrested without incident. Sheriff's officials did not report finding a weapon.

No one was injured, but the SWAT team broke basement windows during the standoff, Reagan said.

Boy says he witnessed Plummer murder

ST. MARIES, Idaho (AP) — A Plummer woman testified that her former boyfriend and two other men broke into her house and stabbed her live-in boyfriend to death last month in front of her 13-year-old grandson.

Angelita Ashby testified that she and Swiney had run into Jody A. Miller, 41, (right) at a downtown Spokane bar earlier in the evening and Swiney told Miller that Ashby “is my woman” now. The boy testified he saw Miller stab Swiney.

After Monday's preliminary hearing in Benewah County, Magistrate Patrick McFadden bound Miller, of Spokane, over to District Court for trial on first-degree murder for the April 17 stabbing death of 37-year-old Antowyn “Tony” Swiney (left).

 The Coeur d'Alene Press reports 22-year-old Stephen Milton and 21-year-old Israel Kennedy waived preliminary hearings on first-degree murder charges.

Prosecutors say Milton is expected to accept a plea agreement on a lesser charge.

Suspect in ‘92 murder pleads not guilty

A sex offender and convicted felon linked to a 1992 murder by DNA on a fake beard pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge Tuesday.

Patrick K. Gibson, 59, appeared via video before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price, who set a trial date of July 18 but acknowledged the case would likely be postponed.

Gibson was charged earlier this month after Spokane County sheriff’s detectives re-tested some evidence from the cold case and it came back as a DNA match to Gibson, a registered sex offender living in Stanwood, Wash.

He’s accused in the shooting death of Brian Cole, 48, of Nov. 7, 1992, during a robbery at Cole’s Traditions in Oak, a furniture store on East Sprague in Spokane Valley.

Past coverage:

May 4: Suspect arrested in '92 murder of furniture store owner

Wave goodbye to road rage?

The National Motorists Association has designated June as Lane Courtesy Month and is urging drivers across America to engage in the practice of yielding or moving over for faster moving traffic on multi-lane roads.

Seriously. We're not making this up.

Here's a prepared statement that accompanied the group's announcement: “When more drivers practice lane courtesy and proper lane merging techniques, highway travel will be safer for all.”

Good luck with that.

Cop pinned in car during chase w/ teen

A 17-year-old driver briefly pinned a Spokane police officer inside his patrol car during a chase Monday that ended with the boy's arrest, officials said today.

Police were called to a  fight near North Chestnut Street and West Mallon Avenue about 10:30 p.m., where people were reportedly throwing sticks and trying to run over others with their vehicles.

The suspect's vehicle drove toward Officer Art Dollard as he interviewed a witness, causing Dollard and the witness to jump out of the way to avoid serious injury.

Sgt. Dave Overhoff tried to stop the vehicle after it fled the scene, and a pursuit ensued. The boy hit the bumper of Officer Chris Bode's police car before Bode nudged the back bumper of the vehicle with his patrol car, forcing it into a spin that brought it to a stop.

But the boy accelerated, and Bode was briefly pinned inside his patrol car, Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said in a news release.

The boy, whose name was not released, was booked into the Spokane County juvenile detention center on assault and eluding charges. He also faces a drunken driving charge. His passenger was released.

Police: Drunk mistook railway for road

A drunken driver mistook railroad tracks for a roadway early Sunday in southwest Spokane County.

Miles D. Matthews, 43, jumped from his  2002 Mercury Mountaineer just before a train hit it head on about 2 a.m. near Cheney-Spokane and Scribner roads in Marshall, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today.

Matthews had turned onto the railroad tracks and tried to drive toward Spokane with one tire on a rail and the other in the rocky roadbed, according to a news release.

The Mountaineer became stuck on loose rock, and Matthews tried removing it until a southbound freight train approached.

The train knocked the SUV backward into a culvert shelter made of railroad ties and rock. The crash totaled the vehicle and caused minor damage the freight engine, but no one was injured.

Matthews, of Spokane, was booked into jail on a drunken driving charge. He also was issued an infraction for stopping/parking on railroad tracks and failure to provide proof of insurance.

Tire iron assault, car theft leads to arrest

A Spokane man is accused of beating another man in the head with a tire iron and stealing his car.

Grant T. McAdams, 24, asked Emad Mohammed Salih for a ride outside the 7-Eleven at West Indiana Avenue and North Washington Street May 9, then told him to pull over at North Standard Street and East Ermina Avenue and get out of the vehicle, according to a probable cause affidavit.

McAdams allegedly struck Salih with a tire iron several times, then chased him down the side walk and continued to hit him in the head before he collapsed about a half block from his 1997 Chrysler and McAdams hit him about a dozen more times with the tire iron, police said.

McAdams then ran back to the Chrysler and drove away, allegedly. Spokane police recovered the stolen vehicle the next day at 3000 N. Mayfair St.

Salih was treated for a severe concussion and is being treated at St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute in the severe head trauma unit, according to the affidavit.

Salih identified McAdams from a photo lineup, and he was arrested at 717 E. Rich Ave. on May 20.

McAdams appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Monday on charges of first-degree assault and first-degree robbery.

McAdams, a 2010 Crime Stoppers graduate, has previous felony convictions, including second-degree burglary and residential burglary.

Trial set in U.S. attorney murder plot

Trial for a man accused of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor and witnesses in a North Idaho marijuana case is set for July. 

Pre-trial motions in the case of Kelly J. Polatis are due by June 1 with jury selection set to begin July 11, a federal judge in Utah ruled last week.

Polatis has been in federal custody in Utah since April 2010, just after a North Idaho federal jury acquitted him of drug charges related to a mairjuana grow operation in Post Falls.

Before his acquittal, prosecutors say Polatis tried to kill his co-defendants by hiring a man who turned out to be an undercover FBI agents. 

A judge recently rejected a request by his lawyers to dismiss the murder-for-hire charges for outrageous government misconduct. The defense alleged the FBI agents led Polatis on when he was drunk, and also alleged prosecutors were vindictive when they filed the case right after Polatis was acquitted on the marijuana charges.

According to court documents, Polatis met with FBI Agent Greg Rogers, who was posing as a hitman, on May 13, 2009, at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, where they gambled, ate lunch and discussed a murder-for-hire proposal. Rogers told Polatis he would need a $15,000 down payment, and Polatis said that was fine.

Two days later, Polatis called Rogers and said he wanted to hire him”to cut off the finger of a man he believed had been cheating with his common-law wife,” accoridng to court documents. “Polatis also indicted that having Agent Rogers commit that act would give Polatis absolutely confidence in Roger in connection with the murder-for-hire.”

Prosecutors say Rogers knew the name of one of Polatis' intended victims before the meeting but not others.

“…Agents were unaware of the identities of those victims until Polatis actually met with Agent Rogers,” according to court documents. “Agents were also completely surprised when Polatis raised the issue with Agents Rogers of killing Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Cook.”

Polatis is represented by Lawrence Leigh of Slat Lake City and Gabriel Grasso of Las Vegas, who was part of former football great O.J. Simpson's defense team in 2008. They say Polatis was set up by the FBI, and that Rogers badgered him into discussing the plot while intoxicated.

Polatis is a former partner with Kirk-Hughes Development, LLC, which fought Kootenai County’s rejection of its proposed Chateau de Loire lakeside development. The firm's lawyer appeared in court with him when he was first arrested.

Past coverage:

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

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

Morbid question leads to legal oddity

Questions about whether an accused killer had sex with his victim before or after she was dead has led to the suspect's lawyer being named a witness in the case.

A judge ruled Monday that defense attorney Chris Bugbee will continue to represent accused crossbow killer Cole K. Strandberg (pictured in February).

Bugbee has a different recollection of what his client said during a mental health exam regarding when he had sex with the victim than the doctors, putting the defense lawyer in the unusual position of having to present Strandberg’s legal defense as well as present testimony as a sworn witness.

Because of that potential conflict, Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Mark Cipolla asked Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen to remove Bugbee as Strandberg’s attorney. The judge rejected it.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

5th Somali guilty plea in piracy killings

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Two Somali men pleaded guilty on Monday to piracy in the hijacking of a yacht that left all four Americans on board dead, while new details emerged about who fired at the hostages.

Burhan Abdirahman Yusuf and Jilani Abdiali face mandatory life sentences, but as part of a plea agreement they could serve less time and eventually be deported to Somalia.

 The men are among 14 people from Somalia and one from Yemen facing charges related to the February hijacking of the yacht Quest. (Three are pictured in March.) Three of the 14 men have already pleaded guilty to piracy in plea deals, and all five face sentencing in August and September.

Two others are expected to make similar deals Tuesday. Whether any of the men who plead get less prison time may not be known until long after their sentencing hearings because the government wants their cooperation for any future charges in this and possibly other cases.

Abdiali told U.S. District Judge Mark Davis through a translator at a hearing Monday that he had never committed a crime in the past before becoming a pirate and would work tirelessly for the U.S. government.

“We hope the string of convictions in this and other cases help send a message to others that piracy against American vessels will not be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement.

 The owners of the Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle (pictured), were shot to death several days after being taken hostage several hundred miles south of Oman.

They were the first U.S. citizens killed in a wave of pirate attacks that have plagued the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in recent years. Prosecutors said the men intended to bring the Americans to Somalia and hold them for ransom there. Pirates typically seek millions of dollars for hostages.

In a statement of facts Yusuf agreed to Monday, he said the 19 men who had taken control of the yacht would have split 65 percent of the ransom money among themselves and an interpreter. The other 35 percent would be given to a financier. In Abdiali's statement of facts, he said he saw that pirates were making a lot of money and had big houses and cars, so he spoke with a financier about joining an expedition that ultimately led him to board the American yacht.

Their plan to make money fell through when U.S. Navy warships began shadowing the Quest.

Yusuf said a man aboard the yacht named Ibrahim was in charge at the time of the shooting. According to Yusuf, Ibrahim told the Navy, “We are not going to stop, you try to stop us if you can.” Other court records say it was Ibrahim — who is among four pirates who died aboard the boat — who gave the order to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at a Navy ship as a warning shot.

Yusuf said some of the other men on board said they were going to massacre the hostages in order to get the U.S. boats to retreat.

Before the shooting, five men were guarding the Americans with guns pointed at them, including two who later died.

Yusuf identified Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar as the men who survived the ordeal and who fired on the hostages.

When U.S. special forces scrambled onto the occupied vessel, they found the Americans and two of the pirates' bodies. Two other pirates died in the operation.

The original indictment against the 15 men says at least three of them shot the Americans, but it had not previously identified who pulled the trigger.

Past coverage:

March 15: Somali pirate suspects charged with piracy

Apparent suicide at in prison at Connell

CONNELL, Wash. (AP) — Coyote Ridge Corrections Center officials say the death of an inmate found hanging in his cell appears to be a suicide.

Spokeswoman Lori Wonders says 26-year-old Michael Araiza was found Saturday and could not be revived by corrections officers and medical staff.

The Tri-City Herald reports he was in the general prison population but didn't have a cellmate.

Araiza had been at the Connell prison since November 2010, serving a sentence from King County for assault with a deadly weapon. He was set to be released in June 2013.

‘Photo Red’ comments lead to trouble

An executive at the company that provides red-light cameras in Spokane has been suspended after a newspaper in Western Washington discovered he misrepresented himself as a local resident on its website and made comments to promote business in the area, a company spokesman said Friday. 

Bill Kroske, the vice president of business development at American Traffic Solutions Inc., based in Scottsdale, Ariz., also posted comments on The Spokesman-Review’s website. The Herald, of Everett, reported that it tracked posts made by Kroske to the company in Arizona, and that he had signed up for the Herald’s website using his real name and work email.

n 2010, from January through July, Kroske posted nine comments on The Spokesman-Review’s website under the name Obie1, which is registered to his email at American Traffic Solutions.

In his Spokesman-Review posts, all of which addressed red-light cameras, he wrote as if he lived in Spokane.

He refers to critics as the “camera paranoia group” and suggests they start a campaign to get rid of the cameras “by no one running red lights so no money for the city.”

“If you are successful you can be smug…and the city will say Bravo,” according to the comment, posted Jan. 27, 2010.

He posted the same comment on another story the next day. After several people posted comments criticizing the cameras, Kroske said their response “is just why we need the cameras.” “It is that same lack of common sense and emotional control that is found in aggressive and dangerous driving,” Kroske wrote.

Read the rest of thestory here.

Army honors slain Spokane native

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The Army presented a heroism medal Monday for a Spokane native credited with being the first to try stopping the Fort Hood gunman before being slain in the rampage. 

Michael Grant Cahill clutched a chair over his head and ran at the gunman soon after gunfire erupted on Nov. 5, 2009, and was fatally shot, according to several witnesses' testimony at an evidentiary hearing last fall for the suspect, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan. Among 38 others who were wounded was Post Falls soldier George Stratton III.

Cahill ran track at Rogers High School, where he graduated in the mid-1960s. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Washington University in 1973.

The 62-year-old, who was among 13 people killed and more than two dozen wounded, worked as a civilian contractor and his position made him ineligible for a military award, so getting approval for the medal took time, said Chris Haug, a Fort Hood spokesman.

Cahill was a physician assistant in the medical building where soldiers returning from or preparing for deployment had to get vaccines and routine tests. 

“Although we may never know why it happened, we do know that heroic actions took place that day,” Brig. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo (pictured right) said at the ceremony Monday afternoon in presenting the Secretary of the Army Award for Valor to Joleen Cahill, his widow.

“He will forever be a source of inspiration.” Kerry Cahill said her father, who was retired from the military, believed in chocolate every day, reading and “doing the most good whenever possible, and it was always possible.”

“There are a lot of heroes who have emerged from that day … and continue to emerge, and I am very proud to count my father among them,” Kerry Cahill (pictured below)  told the crowd of about 200 at Fort Hood.

The same medal was presented to the two Fort Hood police officers who stopped the shooter after a gun battle.

At that ceremony on the one-year anniversary of the rampage, 50 other medals were presented to soldiers and emergency responders who helped that day, but Capt. John Gaffaney was the only victim awarded a medal posthumously.

Gaffaney, who had thrown a chair at the gunman, was awarded the Soldier's Medal. But at least one other victim received an award in the mail, although he has never been recognized publicly.

About a year ago the family of Spc. Jason Dean “J.D.” Hunt received the Meritorious Service Medal for his “heroically protecting several nurses while under fire during the Fort Hood shooting.”

The award also says Hunt saved at least one life with little regard for his safety. Hunt was one of three young soldiers fatally shot while protecting civilian nurses hiding under a desk, according to testimony at Hasan's hearing.

“The military is not being consistent,” his sister Leila Hunt Willingham told The Associated Press. “For our family, it's not about the medal and getting recognition, because J.D. wouldn't have wanted it that way. It's about finding out what our loved one did in that building that day and getting some closure.”

Fort Hood officials in charge of the anniversary ceremony did not know about Hunt's medal, but it's unclear why there was a lack of communication with Hunt's chain of command who nominated him.

Haug, who has not seen the medal, said it appears to be an award presented after a soldier is killed to recognize his military career — although the medal says it was specifically awarded for Hunt's actions during the Fort Hood shooting.

Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Fort Hood's commanding general, Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, is reviewing evidence in the case and will decide whether Hasan is court-martialed and if he will face the death penalty.

Two colonels previously recommended that Hasan, who was paralyzed after being shot that day and remains jailed, should be tried and face the death penalty. U.S.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, have filed a proposed law that would make the Fort Hood victims and wounded soldiers eligible for the Purple Heart, now awarded only to troops attacked in a combat zone.

Under the bill, the Fort Hood rampage is deemed to have happened in a combat zone and at the hands “of a terrorist and an enemy of the United States.”

Charge: Worker stole from judges group

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — The former bookkeeper from the Washington State Judges' Association has been charged with stealing nearly $452,000 from the taxpayer-supported group.

Barbara Jo Ericsson, also known as Barbara Jo Fulton, is accused of three counts of bank fraud according to charges unsealed Monday at U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

Prosecutors say she wrote checks to herself or organizations she was affiliated with, forged the name of the judges association's president or treasurer, and presented phony records to hide where the money really went. Prosecutors say it had been going on since at least 2007.

Ericsson is expected to plead guilty Thursday. Her attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The judges association was established by the state Legislature. Its mission is to improve the court system and communicate with other government officials and the public.

Child safety event focuses on ‘sexting’

The Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff's Office are co-hosting an event Wednesday to raise awareness about child safety.

The “Take 25” national campaign calls for parents, guardians and educators to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about safety.

Law enforcement officials will offer tips, conversations starters and safety-oriented activities Wednesday at the Spokane Valley Mall from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The emphasis will be on sexually explicit text messages, or sexting.

“51% of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason they send sexy messages or images; only 18% of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason,” according to a police news release. “Law enforcement officials encourage parents to maintain communication with their children by staying calm, being supportive and learning as much as possible about the situation. Talking, sending or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, even if it’s you, it’s a crime. Teens have been removed from sports teams, faced humiliation and have been in trouble with the law.”

Take 25 was started by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in honor of National Missing Children's Day, which is Wednesday.

The campaign comes as Spokane police detectives are investigating several child pornography cases, including two that resulted in searches at two addresses last week.

A 22-year-old man was targeted in a search at 5202 S. Ferrall St., and a 17-year-old boy was targeted during a search at 2917 E. Hoffman. Neither suspect has been arrested, but detectives say they are confident charges will be filed for pornography on computers, camera and other digital devices seized during the searches.

The material will be forensically examined before charges are filed.

“Each photo depicting a minor engaged in sexually explicit behavior will add an additional charge,” Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said in a news release.

Document details Steele’s trial request

Edgar Steele's lawyers have 10 reasons he should receive a new trial, including alleged untimely production of Larry Fairfax's notes, errors in admitting the video tapped deposition of his alleged Ukrainian love interest, and newly discovered evidence about the viability of the explosive device.

Federal prosecutors listed the reasons in a document filed last week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene in response to a sealed document by  defense lawyers Robert McAllister of Colorado and Gary Amendola of Coeur d'Alene that talks of intent to seek a new trial.

The defense document was filed a week after a jury in Boise convicted Steele of four felonies related to a plot to kill his wife and mother in law.

According to prosecutors, McAllister and Amendola included the following reasons:

1) Newly discovered evidence regarding Jeff Buck and the viability of the explosive device (from Fairfax's sentencing);
2) Defense was unable to secure the attendance of Dr. George Papcun to testify;
3) Contention that the Court erred in excluding the testimony of Dennis Walsh;
4) Alleged violation of attorney-client communication privilege;
5) Alleged untimeliness of production Fairfax’s “fictional book” notes;
6) Alleged error in allowing cross-examination of Cyndi Steele using the petition for divorce from 2000;
7) Alleged error of admitting the video tape deposition of Tatyana Loginova;
8) Alleged error in sustaining objections to testimony of Bob Stoll, DVM;
9) Allegations of error in sustaining Government objections during cross-examination of Larry Fairfax; and
10) Allegation of error in instructing the jury as to the second question of the jury during deliberations.

The sealed motion filed last week apparently was not an actual motion for anew trial - it asked for more time to file that motion.

Prosecutors objected to that request, saying the fact that the defense was able to list 10 reasons for a new trial seven days after the verdict was proof they didn't need more time.

But U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill gave the defense until June 30 to file final post-trial motions. Steele is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22; he faces at least 30 years in prison.

Body in river identifed as missing man

Michonda Weaver, center, waits for word of what happened to Leighton Welch, while two of her children Elijah, left, and Zackahriha have a snack in their South Hill apartment April 6. Welch's body was recovered from the Spokane River last Thursday. (Jesse Tinsley/SR)

A body found in the Spokane River on Thursday has been identified as a Coeur d’Alene tribal member missing since a phone call with his girlfriend ended abruptly in March.

An autopsy by the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Leighton L. Welch, 35, drowned, the Spokane Police Department confirmed Friday.

His body was pulled from the river close to the Stevens County line and near the Nine Mile boat launch, police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said.

Welch’s girlfriend, Michonda Weaver, said she was talking to him via cellphone on March 28 when he described a steep cliff and said he’d been spooked by a pit bull in the area.

The phone went dead after a crash and a scream, Weaver said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

April 6: Spokane man's disappearance a mystery

Bayview murder suspect unfit for trial

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — A district judge has suspended the criminal case against a Bayview man accused of attacking four neighbors with a hammer, killing one, because a psychologist has determined he’s unfit to stand trial.  

 The ruling last week is in the case of Larry Cragun, 31, who is charged with first-degree murder and other felonies in the Dec. 19 death of Patricia Heath, 43, and attacks on others.  

Cragun has been ordered into the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction for care and treatment. First District Judge Benjamin Simpson also ordered a progress report on Cragun’s status in 90 days.  

Kootenai County Prosecutors Barry McHugh told The Coeur d’Alene Press the case will no longer go forward until Cragun understands the charges and is better able to assist in his own defense.  

Cragun is accused of bursting into his neighbors’ trailer home and attacking them with a hammer and knife. He has pleaded not guilty.   

The attack at 34552 N. Limekiln Road in Bayview followed weeks of problems between the Heaths and Cragun, including bizarre claims by the suspect that authorities say were unfounded, including an allegation that Heath's son was “placing pubic hair in Cragun's food,” according to a police report.

After the attack, customers at JD's Resort told authorities that Cragun had said he needed to call 911 because he'd killed three or four people. He didn't complete the phone call. Instead, he grabbed a customer's beer “drank it, and left a dollar on the bar,” according to the police report.

Witnesses told police Cragun posted flyers suggesting there was an umbrella submerged in Lake Pend Oreille that, along with GPS tracking satellites, allowed the government to read peoples’ minds.  

Heath died of massive head trauma the day after the attack, and three others were injured. He also faces two counts of first-degree attempted murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and burglary.  
The judge ordered a mental health evaluation for Cragun in March.

The evaluation was conducted by Dr. Chad Sombke, of Boise, who concluded Cragun is unfit mentally to proceed with his case.

Past coverage:

Dec. 20: 1 dead, 3 injured in Bayview hammer attack

Teen killer gets 20 years for fatal beating

A teenager who beat a Spokane man to death in November 2009 has been sentenced to nearly 21 years in prison.

Nicholas X. Parrish pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt last week to 250 months in prison.

Police say Parrish was drunk when he and Justin A. Summa attacked Kent S. Moses, 60, in an alley behind Moses' home near Bridge Avenue and Nettleton Street on Nov. 29, 2009.

Moses later died at hospital. A shoe print on his face helped identify the suspects. Parrish returned to the alley after the beating to rifle through Moses’ pockets and beat him again.

Summa pleaded guilty in February to second-degree assault and was sentenced to five months in jail.

Parrish also is to pay $3,719 restitution. He remains in the Spokane County Jail waiting transport to prison.

Man arraigned in Top Hat bar stabbing

A Spokane man pleaded not guilty Thursday to a first-degree assault charge for a stabbing outside the Top Hat Tavern.

Bobby S. Galloway, 23, is accused of stabbing Mickey Davis during a fight May 5 about 1:30 .m. Davis suffered a serious but non-life threatening stab wound to his stomach.

Police arrived at the bar, 6412 N. Division St., and found Davis lying on his back near a booth inside the bar.

Galloway was found walking near West Princeton Avenue and North Wall Street. Witnesses identifed him from photo lineups, polcie said.

He remains in Spokane County Jail on $75,000 and a Department of Corrections probation hold.

Woman wanted for vehicular assault

A woman is wanted for vehicular assault after Spokane police said she crashed her car, injuring her passenger, then asked an officer, “Can I leave my car like that?”

Michelle R. Purkey, 47, smelled of alcohol when police responded to a crash at North Crestline Street and East Illinois Avenue about 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 5.

Purkey's Ford Escort crashed into a power pole, and her passenger, Louis Austin, suffered a broken nose, broken teeth, broken arm, two broken ankles and a fractured pelvis, according to court documents.

Police said Purkey admitted to drinking but was argumentative and said she was leaving before her arrest.

Purkey was to report to jail for booking after her arrangement, but she never did, leading to an arrest warrant that calls for her to be held without bail. Purkey last gave an address in the 700 block of West Maxwell Avenue in Spokane.

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

Jury seated in Casey Anthony trial in Fla.

As expected, the Casey Anthony child-murder trial in Florida is a complete circus.

The defense recently added a mitigation expert who left her high-society, powerhouse lawyer husband for a serial killer on death row, and jury selection is taking longer than most trials in Spokane County Superior Court do.

TV pundit Nancy Grace, who has covered the case since the beginning and has apparently been in the courtroom, refers to Anthony only as “Tot Mom.” The Orlando Sentinel has the best coverage, including a live video feed from the courtroom.

Jury selection continued Friday with a self-described mentally ill woman interrupting the proceeding to scream “She killed somebody, anyway.” Seriously. She was ordered to serve two days in jail.

Here's the story by Associated Press writer Kyle Hightower:

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Nine women and eight men were sworn in as jurors Friday for the murder trial of a Florida mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter.

The swearing in concluded an exhaustive selection process that lasted nearly two weeks and was hampered by several delays, including an outburst in the courtroom Friday.

Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her daughter Caylee. Anthony has pleaded not guilty and has said a baby sitter kidnapped the child.

The girl's decomposed body was found with duct tape over the mouth of her skull in December 2008, not far from where she had lived with her mother.

If convicted, Casey Anthony could face the death penalty. 

Jury selection was held in the Tampa Bay area because of intense pretrial publicity.

More than 200 potential jurors were questioned, many of them excused.

A juror purposely talked to a reporter in order to be dismissed, an entire panel of 50 prospects was tainted by a potential witness and Anthony's lead defense attorney missed a day for personal reasons.

The oddest distraction may have when a woman sitting the courtroom yelled: “She killed somebody, anyway” in the direction of Anthony while the judge was questioning a prospective juror.

The woman, Elizabeth Rodgers, was quickly escorted out by deputies and Judge Belvin Perry sent the potential juror to a holding room.

Rodgers, 29, was crying and hyperventilating when she was brought before the judge a few minutes later.

With tears and mascara rolling off her cheeks, she attributed her actions to being bipolar and said she was on medication.

“I never meant to hurt nobody,” she said. “… Please don't punish me … I may have made a mistake, but I'm not a bad person.”

Perry held her in contempt of court and sentenced her to two days in jail.

The potential juror was excused, and a visibly upset Perry slammed his hand down in frustration.

The trial is set to begin Tuesday.

Skinhead accused of damaging jail door

A skinhead jailed on a federal gun charge could be charged with an additional felony for damaging a jail door. 

James Daniel Bacon, 23, allegedly slammed the door to a jail day room backwards against a concrete wall so hard that the middle and bottom hinge bolts broke from the concrete.

Bacon refused to stop and was forcefully removed from the room by the jail's crisis response team, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said. He was placed in a restraint chair, where he told a jail deputy that “he had nothing to say other than to ask what charges he now faces,” according to a news release.

The room will be out of service for about two weeks as the door frame is replaced.

Bacon could be charged with felony malicious mischief, depending on how much the repair costs.

Bacon says he is a member of the Valhalla-Bound Skinhead movement, which was founded by Keegan Van Tuyl.

He recently was convicted of misdemeanor assault for punching a man charged with producing child pornography.

He's been in jail since Dec. 7 after running from Spokane police with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun. He's charged in U.S. District Court with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Authorities believe Bacon is trying to draw attention to himself.

He told The Spokesman-Review in a jailhouse letter that he had a speech planned at his bench trial for the assault, but no one from the newspaper went. He also sent the newspaper a copy of the speech he read, but that was ignored, too.

Overheated car leads to heroin bust

Things went from bad to worse for a Colbert man whose car overheated outside a liquor store Thursday night.

Eric Joseph Powell, 24, was arguing with his female passenger in his overheated Toyota Corolla about 11:30 p.m. when Deputy Robert Brooke arrived to see why the car was parked in front of the closed Deer Park Liquor store, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

The passenger was calm, but Brooke said Powell was nervous and didn't keep his hands out of his pockets as requested.

When a deputy arrived as backup, Brooke “asked Powell what drugs he had on him” and Powell gave permission to remove items from his pocket, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Brooke found a dime-sized piece of tar heroin wrapped in plastic and another quantity in a container hanging around his neck. Deputies also found OxyContin and Amitriptyline, a prescription drug. Powell was booked into jail on three felony drugs charges; his passenger was release.

Mom’s stolen truck leads to son’s arrest

A woman's report of a stolen pickup led to her son's arrest in a separate car theft, authorities said today.

Robert Kevin Reeder, 43, was arrested after Spokane Valley police saw him driving away in a red Ford pickup that had been stolen from M2 Tech Services, 4207 E. Rowan Ave., overnight, according to a news release.

Reeder's mother had called police to her home at North Burns Road to say her son had loaned her pickup to someone to move items but it hadn't been returned.

Police haven't recovered that pickup, but they did recover the red pickup, as well as a motorcycle,  air compressor and two tube-type heaters that had been stolen from M2 Tech Services. A lawnmower also was stolen; police say the thief cut a padlock on the firm's storage lot.

Reeder was booked into jail on charges of third-degree possession of stolen property and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

Suspect who also is victim was fugitive

Crime Stoppers was offering a reward for tips on a Spokane woman who's both accused of a crime and the alleged victim of a crime.

Moleasha M. Barker, 32, (left) is charged with first-degree burglary, fourth-degree assault and resisting arrest. Barker was arrested Jan. 6 and told the court she would be staying at 12721 E. Shannon Ave. after she was released on her own recognizance.

 An investigator with the Spokane County Prosecutor's Office tried to locate Barker at that address May 11 to serve a subpoena for her to testify at the trial of Cameron D. Wilder (right), who is accused of assaulting her.

The apartment complex manager said Barker has not lived there in at least the past three years, leading to an arrest warrant that calls for her to be jailed without bail.

Barker is accused of drunkenly kicking down the door to an apartment at 2619 N. Market St. in January, allegedly screaming, “I am going to kill you,” as the victim was feeding her children and grabbing one of the chidlren by the arm.

A Spokane police officer said she was belligerent and called him a “white supremacist cop” as she was arrested, according to court documents.

Barker was arrested Thursday and appeared in Superior Court this afternoon.

‘Bicycle Bandit’ faces 17-22 years

A bike-riding bank robbery who terrorized local bank tellers for almost a year faces between 17 and 22 years in prison after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court Thursday.

  Lucas G. Woodard, 34, pleaded guilty to nine counts of armed bank robbery that netted a total of more than $166,000.

He's to be sentenced Sept. 7 at 9:30 a.m.

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

May 19: Plea expected in bank robbery spree

Nov. 29: Bank robbery suspect: 'I'm a gentle guy'

Oct. 18: Bike-riding bank robbery suspect identified

Idaho murder suspect to get mental eval

A 26-year-old woman accused of killing her uncle in St. Maries, Idaho, will undergo a mental evaluation.

 Melisa R. Bates could be heard yelling uncontrollably from her holding cell upstairs from the Benewah County courthouse Wednesday, according to KHQ.

Bates was to be arraigned on a murder charge, but that has been postponed 30 days as she completed a mental health evaluation. Bates will be held at a mental health institution in Lewiston, KHQ reports.

Bates was arrested near Bayview Tuesday after deputies found the burned remains of her uncle, Robert Dean Marek, 43, while checking to see why he didn't show up for work.

A motive for the slaying has not been released.

Sibling murder suspects plead not guilty

Two teenage siblings pleaded not guilty to aggravated first-degree murder charges Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court. 

Video conference at the jail isn't working, so Breeanna C. Sims, 19, and Justice E.D. Sims, 18, appeared in person before Judge Michel Price, wearing light blue jail jumpsuits and shackles.

Breeanna Sims appeared to smile or smirk during the hearing. She sat apart from her brother, and the two had no contact during the afternoon hearing.

Friends and family of murder victim Nicholas J. Thoreson, including the mother of his 1-year-old son, attended the arraignments, which came one day after defendant Taylor J. Wolf, 20, pleaded not guilty to aggravated first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, second-degree arson, and taking a motor vehicle without the owner's permission.

The Simses face the same charges, though Breeanna Sims also is charged with rendering criminal assistance for allegedly trying to remove guns from a field near where Thoreson's body was found in the back of his burning Thunderbird on April 13.

The Simses and Wolf remain in the Spokane County Jail on $1 million bond. The Simses are pictured in court, courtesy of KHQ.

Past coverage:

May 19: Suspect spoke of murder in jail call

May 3: Homicide victim remembered in obituary

April 21: Homicide victim may have been tortured

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

2 children seized in Maffia meth bust

A two-week old girl and an 18-month-old boy were taken from a Spokane Valley apartment during a methamphetamine investigation early Thursday, police said today.

Detectives with the Spokane police drug unit arrested Matthew P. Maffia, 34, (pictured) and Kayli N. Hamilton, 24, were arrested for possession of meth with intent to deliver.

Police seized meth, paraphernalia, scales and cell phones from the apartment, 12020 E. Marietta #17, spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said in a news release.

 The children were placed with Child Protective Services and referred to Spokane County's Drug Endangered Children program, which provided medical evaluations and follow-up care.

Police also found two revolvers and a rifle at “a nearby location” that could bring more charges against Maffia, who has felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms. The serial number on One of the revolvers was ground out, leading police to believe it is stolen.

Maffia's extensive criminal history includes 16 felony convictions for drugs and stolen property, DeRuwe said.
  

Man w/ HIV gets 31 months for assault

A Spokane Valley man with HIV who had unprotected sex with two girls has been sentenced to 31 months in prison.

 Edward I. Casto, 20, will be credited for 212 days served in the Spokane County Jail. He was arrested last October.

Police said he told his 15-year-old girlfriend he had HIV when their relationship began but didn't use a condom when he had sex with her and didn't tell her friend, also a minor, that he was infected.

Casto pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and two counts of first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and was sentenced by Judge Maryann Moreno last week.

His arrest came less than a week after another Spokane Valley man, Zuriel E. Roush was sentenced to 87 months in prison for lying to his sex partner about his HIV status.

Charges: Thefts cost Seattle stores $6M

SEATTLE (AP) — The crime appeared petty on the surveillance video: a mother-daughter team of heroin-addict shoplifters nonchalantly wheeling a cart of boosted items through the open sliding doors of a grocery store.

But their arrest early last year led investigators to the organizers of a major, international theft operation, prosecutors say — one of two unrelated rings that cost Seattle-area stores an estimated $6.1 million in lost merchandise, money the chains try to recoup by raising prices for everyone else. The busted rings represent just a tiny fraction of what is an enormous regional and national problem, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg told a news conference Thursday.

“What we are talking about today are people who direct armies of shoplifters,” Satterberg said.

Jason Moulton, a former FBI agent who heads local loss-prevention efforts at the Safeway grocery chain, has spent years lobbying law enforcement on the problem, and it was a workshop he conducted that prompted local police departments, including Normandy Park south of Seattle, to start paying closer attention. When a QFC grocery store reported thefts by the mother-daughter team, investigators from Normandy Park arrested them and joined police from neighboring Burien in launching an investigation.

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

Party photos help ID shooting suspects

Three suspects have been arrested in connection with a shooting at a house party after Spokane County sheriff’s detectives used photos from a digital camera to identify witnesses.

 The alleged shooter, 16-year-old Tarique R. Jeske, was hiding in the trunk of a car when his sister, Meghan L. Jeske, 22, (pictured) and Francisco D. Mora, 23, attempted to flee detectives in the 15000 block of South Molter Road on Tuesday, according to a news release by sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Detectives believe Tarique Jeske shot a 23-year-old man during a drunken dispute between the victim and Meghan Jeske at a party at 16016 S. Molter Road in Rockford early Sunday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Per request, bank suspect lowers hood

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The FBI says an Ohio bank robbery suspect left authorities with good surveillance photos because he lowered his hood when an employee told him to.

FBI Special Agent Harry Trombitas says the man in his mid-20s entered a Columbus PNC Bank on Wednesday with his dark hood up, covering most of his face.

Trombitas says in a statement that the bank has a “no hats, no hoods” policy, so a bank employee told the man (pictured) to pull his hood down, and he complied.

The FBI says when the suspect got to the counter, he handed the teller a note saying he had a gun and to give him money or he would shoot. He fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Columbus police haven't announced an arrest.

Mayor calls for hiring more officers

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner ordered the hiring of at least six new police officers to fill vacant positions within the department and called for adding more officers next year.

The move comes after Verner, facing a contested bid for re-election this year, sent two plans to City Council members last week that would balance next year’s municipal budget without raising taxes and provide enough money to reverse recent cutbacks to the police force.

“Even in the midst of a Great Recession, the city continues to strive to make Spokane the safest city of our size in the nation,” Verner said. “We are simply having to think creatively about other ways to reach that goal.”

Read the rest of Kevin Graman's story here.

Drug suspects lose meth, children in raid

A Spokane man awaiting trial on methamphetamine charges was arrested today during a SWAT team raid at his home.

Gerald A. Ogelsbee faces new meth charges in an investigation that led to four children being taken by Child Protective Services today, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Oglesbee was arrested at 1724 E. 1st Ave. about 7 a.m. The sheriff's SWAT team and drug detectives also raided a home at 4005 E. Fifth Ave., where they arrested Cheryll M. Anstine, 41, Diania Anstine, 63, and Tianna R. Hurd, 29.  A 17-year-old boy also was arrested on a warrant for second-degree trespass.

The four children at the home were 8 to 16 years old. Investigators also recovered a 1990 Acura Integra stolen from the Northtown Mall Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the theft. They recovered also the vehicle owner’s credit cards and checkbooks and seized other items associated with identity theft, according to the sheriff's office.

Oglesbee and Cheryll Anstine each face four counts of delivery of meth related to drug sales to a confidential informant.

Diania Anstine and Hurd face single counts of delivery of a controlled substance. Police found OxyContin, Ambien and methamphetamine today, which may lead to further charges.

Oglesbee was arrested on meth delivery charges last December, along with Hurd, and left jail on $5,000 bond. His trial in that case is set to begin July 11.

Stolen Supra catches air in police chase

A 26-year-old man tried escaping police by driving more than 100 mph in a 35 mph zone in north Spokane County early Tuesday.

The stolen 1989 Toyota Supra Kory L. Zielke was driving went airborne for more than 100 feet as he sped away from a Washington Sate Patrol trooper about 6:50 a.m., according to court documents.

The trooper found the Toyota abandoned on Russell Road at Highway 2 with steam billowing from under the hood.

Zielke's mother arrived and said her son had called her from her home a half mile north on Russell Road and said he'd run from police.

Police arrested him outside the home.

The Toyota was reported stolen about two hours later. Zielke was booked into jail on a felony charge of eluding police and misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and city theft.

Cop killer’s driver convicted of murder

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — The getaway driver in the coffee shop killings of four Washington police officers was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday, but he escaped an automatic life sentence because jurors determined he was not a major participant in the bloodshed.

Dorcus Allen, 40, drove gunman Maurice Clemmons to and from the neighborhood where he ambushed the four Lakewood officers, who were preparing for their Sunday morning shift on Nov. 29, 2009. Allen maintained at trial that he didn't know why Clemmons needed the rides.

Clemmons was shot in the abdomen by one of the officers, but kept on the run during an intense two-day manhunt that ended when he was killed by a Seattle patrolman on a dark city street.

“You got what you wanted, but you will not get them back,” Allen told reporters as he was led out of court.

He faced four counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of Officers Greg Richards, 42, Tina Griswold, 40, Ronald Owens, 37, and Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39 (pictured above, left to right).

Griswold's sister works for the Spokane Police Department, and her parents live in North Idaho.

Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty against Allen, so if convicted as charged, he would have been sentenced automatically to the only other possible punishment for aggravated murder, life in prison without the possibility of release.

Jurors convicted Allen of four counts of first-degree murder after finding that he was not a major participant in the shootings. But the jury agreed that the victims were police — an aggravating circumstance that gives the judge the option of sentencing him to life in prison.

Prosecutors will ask for four life sentences when Allen is sentenced June 17, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist told The News Tribune of Tacoma outside the courtroom.

“Justice was done in this case, and we're thrilled with this verdict,” Prosecutor Mark Lindquist told The News Tribune of Tacoma outside the courtroom. “You don't have a getaway driver who doesn't know what's up.”

Peter Mazzone, one of Allen's defense attorneys, had a different reaction.

“I think an innocent man was convicted,” Mazzone said. “We'll appeal as quickly as we can. This was a lynching, man.”

Of seven Clemmons friends or family members arrested after the killings, Allen was the only one charged with murder. Five people have been convicted of either helping Clemmons or possessing firearms. One was acquitted.

Clemmons had previously been held for investigation of child rape and had posted $190,000 bail six days before the shootings.

Clemmons had been convicted in Arkansas of felonies stemming from a seven-month crime spree and was ultimately sentenced to 108 years in prison. He was granted clemency in 2000, despite a history of violence in prison, and he moved to Washington state.

Past coverage:

Feb. 9: Deputies saw Clemmons before Lakewood murders

Jan. 14: 3 sentenced in Lakewood police murders

Cops: Road rage with gun yields heroin

A convicted felon is accused of brandishing a gun during a road rage incident on U.S. Highway 395 that led to the discovery of heroin.

Brian L. Sellers, 34, is in jail on felony assault, gun and drug charges after the alleged victims called police about 3:45 p.m. May 3 and said a man in a Toyota was pointing a silver handgun at them while following too close on the highway near Wild Rose Road. Sellers appeared in court Wednesday after police recommended further charges.

The caller said the Toyota was following them at 90 mph and was just inches from their rear bumper. Two children ages 1 and 2 were in the back of the caller's vehicle, police said.

A Washington State Patrol trooper and a Spokane County sheriff's deputy stopped Sellers' car and arrest him and a passenger, Michael George Swan, 41.

Sellers told police about the gun, which they found sitting on the passenger-side floorboard with a loaded magazine next to it.

Sellers is on Department of Corrections probation and has several felony convictions, including first-degree theft and forgery, which prohibit him from possessing weapons.

The victim said she saw the Toyota driving erratically and trying to pass her before the driver exited and tried to stop her. She drove away, but Sellers followed and motioned with his gun for her to pull over, according to court documents.

Police found a baggie of methamphetamine in Seller's 2002 Toyota Tundra.

A search with a K-9, Jet, revealed a digital scale with 84.6 grams of black tar heroin.

Suspect spoke of murder in jail calls

After Spokane County sheriff’s detectives took a man into custody on suspicion of murder last month, a man who witnessed the arrest expressed his surprise to a childhood friend. 

“Justice told her that he couldn’t believe that Taylor was being arrested for something he had done,” according to a probable cause affidavit prosecutors filed to support aggravated murder charges against Taylor J. Wolf, 20, (right) Breeanna C. Sims, 19, and Justice E.D. Sims, 18 (left).

But detectives believe all three share culpability, and Wolf has reportedly described his involvement in phone calls to friends from the Spokane County Jail. 

Wolf told Britney Bjork, girlfriend of jailed Hells Angels Sergeant at Arms Ricky Jenks, he was going to shoot Nicholas J. Thoreson, 22, but “I couldn’t do it, so me and Justice did it together,” according to court documents, citing recorded phone conversations from the Spokane County Jail. “But we had gloves on and stuff.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Wolf's public defender, Thomas Krzyminski, unsuccessfully asked Judge Michael Price to reduce Wolf's $1 million bond at his arraignment Wednesday. Friends and family of Thoreson (pictured) attended.

 Krzyminski emphasized that he understands the serious allegations but said Wolf's mother, Jami Wolf, has offered to let her son stay with her, and reminded Price that Wolf is innocent until proven guilty. 

 Krzyminski said a $1 million bond “is certainly something Mr. Wolf and his family have no chance to post.”

Deputy Prosecutor Kyle Treece said that was the intention.

“I'm certain that I don't need to remind you of the serious, heinous nature of the probable cause affidavit in this case,” Treece told Price.”Mr. Wolf is alleged to have committed acts of torture, assault - eventually murder. The facts of this case are rather egregious.”  Wolf already was on probation for felony resideintial burlgary when he was arrested April 13.

Price said he had serious concerns about community safety and Wolf showing up for court and kept bond at $1 million.

Past coverage:

May 3: Homicide victim remembered in obituary

April 21: Homicide victim may have been tortured

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

Man shot by police won’t be retried

Prosecutors have dismissed assault charges against a man shot by Spokane Valley police in 2009. A jury was split 6-6 after Michael E. Young's trial last March in Spokane County Superior Court.

Prosecutors decided not to pursue another trial, and Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson dismissed two counts of second-degree assault against Young this week.

Young's lawyer, James Kirkham, called the move “the correct result.”  He said Young is still recovering from his injuries.

“All along he's maintained that he didn't do anything wrong,” Krikham said.

Deputies Walter Loucks, Darell Stidham and Scott Bonney shot Young outside his home at 11709 E. Fairview Ave., on Dec. 27, 2009.

Young had reportedly threatened to kill himself and was armed with a .40-caliber Glock. The charges alleged Young pointed a gun at the officers before he was shot.

A neighbor who witnessed the shooting said Young never pointed his gun at deputies but refused orders to drop it.

Loucks and Sgt. Dale Golman received life-saving awards for their work on Young after he was shot, but a review of the shooting by sheriff's officials criticized the move.

“Was it possible their rapid response saved the suspect's life? Possibly,” according to a report by Pat Knight, the sheriff's lead firearms instructor. “But rushing up to someone who was armed and just fell to the ground is dangerous…The deputies could have stayed in position and assessed the situation for a short period of time before making the approach to ensure their safety.”

Golman is credited with helping control Young's bleeding; Loucks established an airway to keep Young breathing, according to a sheriff's office report.

Sheriff's officials recommended reiteration training on how to respond to injured suspects and to “continue to reinforce the concept of 'shoot until the threats ceases to exist.'”

Happy 2nd birthday, Sirens & Gavels!

Two years ago today, this blog was born.  

It started with a post about a devil-worshiping sex offender upset that a commenter said he was not a true member of the Church of Satan.

Since then, this blog has become a hub for crime and court news in the Inland Northwest. I also like to throw in interesting Associated Press stories on Friday mornings or if national events of local interest occur.

I enjoy hunting for fun - and not-so-fun - items to put on here and am proud to say readership keeps growing. Your praise and criticism is needed and appreciated. I am best reached at meghannc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5534.

Here's to a great future for Sirens. (Let's hope the 'terrible twos' thing is just a phase humans go through.)  Be sure to 'like' the blog on Facebook to show you're a true fan.

By the way, I recently received an email from a woman who identifies herself as the devil-worshiping sex offender's ex-wife. Let's just say she agrees with law enforcement's decision to classify him as a sex offender likely to reoffend.

Plea expected in bank robbery spree

A Spokane man suspected of a series of armed bank robberies is expected to plead guilty today.

Lucas G. Woodard, 34, faces up to 25 years in prison. The Federal Bureau of Investigation believes he may be the bicycle-riding bank robber responsible for a spree that began Dec. 22, 2009, and ended last October. More than $144,000 was stolen, according to court documents.

(A July 28 robbery at Spokane Teachers Credit Union on Indian Trail is pictured above; Chase Bank on April 19 is below.)

 Attorneys have been negotiating a plea deal, and prosecutors filed eight bank robbery new charges against Woodard Wednesday

He was previously charged with using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime, which carries seven years to life in prison, but that charge could be dismissed as part of a plea deal.

Woodward has been in jail since his arrest Oct. 14 after a gunpoint robbery at Washington Trust Bank on West Francis Avenue. Witnesses told 911 dispatchers where the robber fled, and Spokane police Sgt. Jason Hartman, who was in plain clothes and driving home, intercepted Woodard as he approached Salk Middle School.

Woodard's bike collided with Hartman's car, and the suspect's gun fell to the ground. Woodard reached for the weapon, but Hartman restrained him until backup arrived, police said.

The incident earned Hartman the medal of valor, the Spokane Police Department's highest recognition. He's pictured with Mayor Mary Verner and Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

“Sgt. Hartman had prior knowledge of this serial bank robber and knew him to be extremely dangerous,” according to the SPD website. “Even though he was in plain clothes and not wearing a vest, Sgt. Hartman made the courageous decision to confront the suspect at that time to prevent his escape or his further endangering of innocent citizens, even if it meant he had to shoot it out with him then and there.”

Woodard had no criminal record, was employed at Woodard Construction and was reportedly a regular at Maggie's South Hill Grill.

He lived alone in a rental home on High Drive on the South Hill. After his arrest, he thanked federal agents “for treating him well, explaining that…because of what he did, he could have been treated poorly,” according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court. “

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

Along with the Oct. 14 heist, Woodard is accused of the following robberies:

  • Dec. 22, 2009: Sterlving Savings Bank, 3000 S. Grand Blvd.
  • Feb. 13, 2010: Chase Bank, 2215 W. Northwest Blvd.
  • April 19, 2010: Chase Bank, 2215 W. Northwest Blvd.
  • May 18, 2010: Chase Bank, 3007 E. 57th Ave.
  • May 26, 2010: U.S. Bank, 621 E. 30th Ave.
  • July 28, 2010: Spokane Teachers Credit Union, 8703 N. Indian Trail
  • Aug. 13, 2010, Inland Northwest Bank, 2110 N. Ruby St.

Mud thwarts father-son theft suspects

A father and son became stuck in the mud Tuesday while leading police on an interstate chase after attempting to steal merchandise from the Wal-Mart just east of the Idaho-Washington border.

Michael R. Dyczok, 64, (left) and Michael Dyczok, Jr., 35, (right) were arrested near East Wellesley Avenue and North Harvard Road just before 11 p.m. after leading Post Falls police on a high-speed chase in a blue Volkswagen Jetta.

Post Falls police began watching Wal-Mart after an employee said the men had filled storage containers with merchandise earlier that day and placed them near the fire exit. Police saw the men grab the storage containers and flee through the fire exit, then speed away in the Jetta.  

But the father and son duo drove down a dead end road just across the Washington border and got stuck in mud, police say. Liberty Lake police assisted with the arrests.

Police say the Dyczoks threw a stolen X-Box from their car during the chase. It was recovered, along with other stolen merchandise located in the Jetta.

The men were booked into jail on charges of eluding police and tampering with evidence. The younger Dyczok also faces a charge of driving on a suspended California license.

Grand jury indicts man for gun threats

A Worley, Idaho, man has been charged with assault for allegedly threatening two people with a gun.

Timothy R. Allen, Jr., 19, was arrested March 12, accused of assault Daniel J. Hutchins by pushing him with the firearm and threatening him and of assaulting Sharleen Archer by pointing the gun at her and threatening her, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Allen was jailed on state charges of aggravated assault, minor in possession of alcohol, damaging property, aiming a firearm at others and disobedience of a court order.

Because the assault occurred on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, where Allen is a tribal member, the case was sent to U.S. District Court.

A grand jury indicted him Tuesday on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, three years probation and a fine of $250,000.

Man admits to stalking, bomb charges

A man who tried to blow up his wife with a homemade bomb after transporting the device from Omak, Washington, to Kamiah, Idaho, in 2009 has pleaded guilty to three federal felonies.

Levi Wayne Mendenhall, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison and three years probation after pleading guilty Tuesday in Coeur d'Alene to stalking, transporting explosives with intent to kill, injure, or intimidate, and use of explosive material during the commission of a federal felony.

Mendenhall  constructed the device using a three-inch plastic pipe filled with explosive powder, razor blades and BBs after buying the components at stores in northeastern Washington, according to the Idaho U.S. Attorney's Office.

He wired the device to a battery and placed it inside a box, then set the device to trigger an explosion when and items was removed from the box. He placed the box on the hood of a car outside his estranged wife's home. The homeowner found the box and called authorities after she saw wires.

The Spokane County bomb squad safely disarmed the device.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms nd Explosives recovered explosive powder matching the device and a receipt for two of the bomb components at Mendenhall's home in Omak. They also found video of him buying the components at four Washington stores, and located Mendenhall's fingerprint on the outside of the box that held the bomb.

Mendenhall is to be sentenced Aug. 2 before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge in Coeur d'Alene

“Women who end domestic relationships must be free from violence and fear of violence,” U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said in a prepared statement. “This defendant's conduct endangered many lives. His guilty plea ensures that he will not present a danger to his now ex-wife or any other person for a long time.”
  

Court: Bankrupt woman must pay $47k

A former Mullan, Idaho, woman now living in Oregon is required to pay nearly $50,000 in restitution for concealing property during a bankruptcy filing.

The $47,927.95 restitution is the amount Vicki Jean Fehrs, 56, earned from the sale of a property in Mullan she'd transferred to her son before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Idaho in 2006, the U.S. Attorney's Office said today.

After settling the case in 2006, Fehrs sold the property and used some of the money to buy a home in Washington state.

Fehrs failed to disclose the sale proceeds to the trustee or creditors in her bankruptcy case and was charged in U.S. District Court with contempt, a misdemeanor, for disobeying a lawful order of a bankruptcy court.

She pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced Tuesday. She'll be on probation for five years.
  

Shooting victim ID’d; clues still sought

UPDATE: Three people have been arrested. Read more here.

A 23-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound to his upper left thigh during a part in South Spokane County last week.

Detectives with the Spokane County gang and major crimes units say they were hampered by a non-cooperative victim, identified in court documents as Christopher M. Comer, and uncooperative witnesses.

Comer's wife, Christina Pearson, called 911 about 1:39 a.m. Sunday and said her husband had been shot. She said she was unsure of her exact location, but sheriff's deputies located the home at 16016 S. Molter Road after responding to the area of Molter and Elder Road.

Comer was lying on the back outside stairs; Pearson said she was “extremely drunk” and that she and Comer had been driven to the party, and that she “could not remember anything prior to hearing a 'pow' and going outside,” according to a search warrant.

She found Comer bleeding on the stairs and a black man standing near him holding what she soon determined was likely a gun. The man hit Comer in the head, causing a large laceration, Pearson told police.

But Pearson had a bloody nose, cuts on her nose, bruises on her right arm, side and back and blood on her clothes, along with “an old healing black eye,” according to the search warrant , which was used to seize items from the home, including shot gun pellets, cell phones, a digital camera and a box of shotgun shells.

“Pearson said that she must have been in a fight with someone recently but could not remember who or where,” according to the warrant. “Pearson said that she didn't know who lived at the house and did know anyone who was there at the time of the shooting.”

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

CdA man sentenced for child porn

A Coeur d'Alene man was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in federal prison for possessing child pornography.

Cyle Anthony Wyckoff, 35, pleaded guilty to possession of sexually explicitly images of minor in December 2010 after members of the multiagency North Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force searched his home in July 2009.

Police began investigating Wyckoff in November 2008 after developing information that a computer registered to him contained child pornography. A forensic examiner found 49 images and 65 videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The images were sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which confirmed that least some of the images were of identified minors,  including children from Washington state, Connecticut, Utah, Kentucky, Belgium, Germany, England, and Russia.

In addition to 84 months in prison, Wyckoff will be on probation for 10 years and will pay $3,000 restitution to his victims, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge ruled.

“Crimes against children taint our communities and do harm that reverberates, at times, for generations,” U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson said in a prepared statement. “In Idaho, federal, state and local law enforcement officers work together in cases such as this one to ensure that those who traffic in these images are caught and punished.”

For more information, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

Man sentenced for girlfriend’s overdose

A Stevens County man who provided methamphetamine to a woman who later died of a brain hemorrhage  has been sentenced to 51 months in prison.

James W. Swinney, 51, obtained meth and shared it with his girlfriend, Tamara Anderson, 39, in March 2010. The drug caused Anderson's blood pressure to increase, resulting in a hemorrhage in her brain that resulted in her death a few days later.

Swinney pleaded guilty to homicide by controlled substance on March 22 and was sentenced in April.

He filed a motion asking the court to reconsider the sentence, then filed another motion asking to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial.

A judge rejected that request May 10.

Swinney said “getting the meth, was not a me thing, but a we thing,” Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen wrote in his weekly column. “He apparently did not feel he had really done anything wrong when he shared the meth he had obtained with Ms. Anderson.”

Federal public defender’s job opens

The future of the top federal public defender in Eastern Washington and North Idaho could be in doubt, with the board that oversees the attorney’s office advertising for his replacement even as the attorney, Roger Peven, prepares to represent domestic terrorism suspect Kevin W. Harpham. 

The federal public defender’s office is facing a civil lawsuit by three former employees, who essentially claim that they were fired in retaliation after they raised concerns about a lack of leadership on the part of Peven.

The lawsuit also claims the three employees forced an intervention that resulted in Peven seeking inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

1987 Weflen cold case gets fresh look

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John Polos, left, and Jake Hockett, both with search and rescue experience, are taking a fresh look at the cold case of missing person Julie Weflen.

A former co-worker of a Deer Park woman who disappeared in 1987 is hoping to bring fresh attention to one of the region’s most publicized cold cases.

John Polos met Julie Weflen when she attended training for U.S. Bonneville Power Administration in the Vancouver, Wash., area, where Polos worked as an engineer.

Polos, a former reserve deputy, is a volunteer search-and-rescue technician for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, and he has experience investigating cold cases. He’s hopeful his training will help rekindle an investigation he feels is in need of a fresh look.

“I knew I wasn’t going to come up here and trip over a body and solve the case in one day,” Polos said Monday. “What we need to somehow do is get the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to put this case back on the front burner.”

Read the rest of my story here.

An in-depth story on the Weflen case from 2007 is available here.

A video from 20007 is posted above.

Weflen was one of three women who went missing across the Inland Northwest in 1986 and 1987. Investigators don’t know whether the disappearances of Weflen, Sally Anne Stone and Debora Jean Swanson are related.

Crime Stoppers offered a reward for information on Stone and Swanson Monday, which was the 25th anniversary of Stone’s disappearance in Coeur d’Alene.

 Stone, 21, (left) was an exotic dancer at Kontiki Bar at Stateline but was off work because of an injury when she was last seen at her physical therapist’s office in Coeur d’Alene on May 16, 1986.

Swanson’s car was found in the Third Street parking lot on March 29, 1986, undisturbed with her purse, wallet and identification inside, as well as flower bulbs she bought that day for her garden.

The 31-year-old Sorensen Elementary School teacher (pictured right) was last seen walking onto Tubbs Hill at 4:40 p.m.

Read the rest of my story here.

An in-depth story on the Swanson case from 2006 is available here.

$100 offer helps bust robbery suspects

Spokane police paid a confidential informant $100 for information that helped arrest two robbery suspects last week.

The informant, who had been arrested on a Washington Department of Corrections warrant, told police that he saw a TV and laptop computer in Jeremy L. Standon's apartment that was believed to have been stolen from a home at 1415 N. Post St. May 9.

The informant said Standon, 29, received the items from John G. Dean, who stole them in a robbery, but police say both Standon and Dean, 29, were involved. (Standon is pictured right; Dean is below.)

Police say the two were allowed inside the home May 9 about 11 p.m. and that once inside, Dean displayed a black semi-automatic pistol and ordered three people to “pull out your pockets.”

Dean continued to hold the gun as Standon retrieved $150, a 16-inch imitation gold chain, two lap top computers and a 40-inch Toshiba flat screen TV, according to a search warrant.

Police spotted Standon and Dean in the drive through at Jack in the Box in downtown Spokane May 13 about 8 a.m.

Both men were booked into jail; police say Dean had a Glock 22, .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol that was stolen in Wilbur, Wash., on March 30. Dean remains jailed on gun charges; Standon is jailed on a probation hold and a felony drug charge.

A 2010 Crime Stoppers graduate, Standon's criminal history includes convictions for driving on a suspended license, money laundering, drug possession, second-degree identity theft, first-degree burglary, theft of a firearm, first-degree robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm, second-degree theft, malicious mischief and vehicle prowling.

A 2009 Crime Stoppers graduate, Dean's criminal history includes convictions for riot, making false statements, refusing to cooperate, forgery, theft, harassment, obstructing an investigation, a dozen probation violations and the obligatory driving while license suspended.

Purse thieves drag victim w/ stolen car

A woman was dragged through a Spokane Valley grocery store parking lot by two purse snatchers last week.

The woman told detectives she was getting into her car outside Fred Meyer, 15609 E. Sprague Ave., May 9 about 3:05 p.m. when a white vehicle pulled up and a woman tried to grab her purse.

The male driver accelerated, and the victim was dragged for 15 to 20 feet before she was able to free herself from the purse’s shoulder strap, accordng to a search warrant. The purse contained cash, car keys, a checkbook and business credit cards.

The male driver was described as a wearing a blue baseball cap and white t-shirt. The victim could not describe the female.

Witnesses recorded the license plate of the robbers’ white Honda Accord, which police found abandoned in the area of North Pines Road and Mirabeau Parkway. It had been stolen from 14730 E. Indiana Ave. earlier that day. Police found vehicle theft tools inside.

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

Stabbed man sought after jail no show

UPDATE: Casarez was arrested in Coeur d'Alene on May 20.

A burglary suspect who was injured in a wild fight involving a knife and a Taser is wanted by authorities.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest Jose R. Casarez, 31, who police say was stabbed in the back when he and several others, including Sandra L. Blindauer, 19, forced their way into Blindauer's ex-boyfriend's home and beat him March 17.

Casarez pleaded not guilty to first-degree burglary on April 18 and was to report to the jail for booking by April 22.

He never did, leading to a no-bail arrest warrant on May 3.

At least five others have been charged in the case, which Superior Court Judge Michael Price called “really just an extraordinary situation that could have ended up much worse.”

“But all things considered, it's still pretty bad,” Price said in March.

Casarez, 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, last gave a home address in the 3900 block of North Crestline Street in Spokane.

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

Victim helps identify prowling suspect

Officers credit a victim with helping them arrest a man they believe is responsible for numerous burglaries, vehicle thefts and vehicle prowlings in the Spokane area.

Travis W. Talley, 35, stole a truck from a man living near S. 5000 Quail Ridge Circle, along with the owner's wallet, according to the Spokane Police Department.

The victim was notified the next morning that his credit card had been used at Sunset Food Mart, 2627 W. Sunset Blvd. He went to the store and viewed the surveillance tape.

The victim and the manager identified the suspect, whom they then saw entering the West Wynn Hotel across the street.

Police found several stolen identifications, credit cards and a small bag of methamphetamine in Talley's room.

Talley was booked into Spokane County Jail on Friday for forgery, two counts of third-degree possession of stolen property, and one count of possession of a controlled substance, along with five outstanding warrants.

He remains in jail after appearing in Superior Court Monday.

Another man, Gabriel M. Hansen, 34, who police say was in the hotel room with Talley, was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.

Man gets 6 months for spider smuggling

By GREG RISLING, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A German man considered to be among the world's top spider smugglers was sentenced to six months in federal prison Monday for bringing hundreds of tarantulas into the United States by mail.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said he hoped the sentencing of Sven Koppler, 37, of Wachtburg, Germany, would deter others from trying to smuggle animals into the U.S.

Court documents filed in the case estimated the illegal wildlife trade generates as much as $20 billion a year.

Koppler earlier this year pleaded guilty to one count of smuggling goods into the U.S. and faced up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors had recommended Koppler serve 10 months.

Koppler portrayed himself as a spider breeder and said shipping the arachnids is legal in Europe and other countries. A prosecution expert said in court documents he believed Koppler was one of the three largest spider smugglers in the world.

“I just can say I'm very sorry about what happened and it wasn't my intention to defraud anyone or anything,” said the slender Koppler, who wore a dark suit and striped tie in court. “I definitely would not do this again.”

Federal prosecutors said Koppler sold thousands of tarantulas to more than 50 people in 16 countries between 2008 and 2010. Some of the spiders, including a protected Mexican species, were mailed by Koppler from Germany to Los Angeles.

Fish and Wildlife Service agents intercepted the packages then posed as customers and ordered dozens more spiders. Koppler made nearly $350,000 by selling spiders, authorities said.

Federal public defender Neha Mehta said her client's reputation has been tarnished, and no one will be willing to do business with him in the future.

“He has spent his whole life for the preservation of wildlife,” Mehta said. “He had no intention of harming any wildlife.”

Koppler said many of the spiders he shipped were babies. However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Williams said some of the animals were adults and measured six inches long.

Williams also noted Koppler purposely mislabeled the protected tarantulas to avoid detection by U.S. customs.

Koppler also must pay $4,000 in fines and will be placed on three years of probation. He will likely be deported to Germany once he finishes his sentence.

Reward for tips on suspect in gun theft

UPDATE 5/20: Guzman is in jail.

A Spokane man accused of helping two brothers steal firearms in a burglary is wanted by authorities.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest Lucky Joe Guzman, 27.

Investigators believe Guzman drove Steven Charles Corkery, Jr., 27, and Thomas J. Corkery, 29, from a home in the 4400 block of East 16th Ave. on Dec. 6.

Steven Corkery, who has felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms, then pawned a stolen shotgun and bow, according to a probable cause affidavit. Corkery also is accused of pawning a .357 Magnum revolver that had been stolen from a home n the 13500 block of North Muzzy Road on Nov. 23.

Guzman is charged with second-degree theft, residential burglary and two counts of a theft of a firearm. He has previous convictions for vagrancy, attempted second-degree arson and vehicle prowling.

A $15,000 arrest warrant was issued May 2 after he didn't show up for his arraignment.

Guzman, 5-foot-10 and 125 pounds, last gave a home address in the 6600 block of North Addison Road in Spokane County.

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

Drive-by shooting kills ‘Dougie’ rapper

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) M-Bone of the rap group Cali Swag District, which scored a hit last year with the song “Teach Me How to Dougie,” was killed in a weekend drive-by shooting as he sat in a car outside a liquor store, police said Monday.

The motive for Sunday night's shooting was under investigation, Lt. James Madia said.

The 22-year-old Inglewood man, whose real name is Mante Ray Talbert, was sitting alone in his car shortly after 10:30 p.m.

“Another car pulled alongside, gunshots were fired, and the victim was struck twice in the head,” Madia said.

Talbert died at a hospital.

Witnesses gave varying descriptions of the fleeing car, Madia said.

Talbert was “the victim of a random act of violence,” said a statement from Cali Swag District's publicist, Greg Miller.

“He was a hardworking, passionate artist and dancer that will be deeply missed,” Miller said.

Bandmate C-Smoove tweeted Monday that his life changed drastically in the blink of an eye, and added “rip mbone.”

Cali Swag District's hit “Teach Me How to Dougie” is based on the “Dougie” dance, which first appeared in Texas and is noted for its leaning stances, shoulder and arm movements.

The dance was not only performed in dance clubs and the streets but by celebrities as well, from Wolf Blitzer to Washington Wizards star John Wall; even first lady Michelle Obama recently performed the dance as part of her “Let's Move” initiative.

“Teach Me How to Dougie” spent several months in the top 10 of Billboard's hot rap songs. The group also performed the dance on several television shows.

Overdose traced back to inmate’s pills

A convicted killer who committed suicide at the Spokane County Jail did so using pills prescribed to another inmate. 

Now detectives are investigating whether the pill provider could be at least partly responsible for the suicide of Christopher H. Devlin, who was found dead in his jail cell Sept. 20, five days after being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

An autopsy determined Devlin, 58, died of an overdose of amitriptyline, an antidepressant prescribed to only two jail inmates.

Detectives are awaiting test results comparing inmate Ronald F. Edwards' (pictured) DNA to the DNA found on a pill hidden in Devlin’s mattress.

Read the rest of my story here.

CdA man accused of attacking store clerk

A 29-year-old Coeur d'Alene man has been arrested for a robbery that occurred outside 7-Eleven in Hayden last week.

Timothy Wesley Allen is accused of assaulting a clerk and stealing her purse as she left work just after 10 p.m. on May 11.

Allen was arrested Saturday about 4:30 p.m. at his home on Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department. He remains in jail on charges of robbery, grand theft, and aggravated battery.

Allen's arrest history in Kootenai County includes charges of inattentive driving, burglary, shoplifting, a probation violation and two warrants in Benewah County.

Escapee accused in drive-by shooting

A federal convict who escaped from a halfway house is a suspect in a drive-by shooting in north Spokane.

Kenneth Joseph “Joker” Maravilla, 23, is accused of shooting at a car with three people in the area of North Nevada Street and East Bridgeport Avenue in retaliation for one of the victims assaulting a friend.

Maravilla was driving a black 1998 Mitsubishi when he pulled alongside a vehicle with Rickie Hall inside and fired at least one shot on April 16, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Police found the abandoned Mitsubishi crashed into a pole in a parking lot at 3704 N. Nevada.

The car had been reported stolen from 817 E. North Foothills by Desarae M. Dawson, but police believe Dawson allowed Maravilla to drive the Mitsubishi after her uncle, Chad Maxwell, was assaulted by Hall. Dawson falsely reported it stolen after learning of the shooting and crash, documents allege.

Police found two 9 mm bullets in the Mitsubishi.

Maravilla was arrested May 5 during a traffic stop at East Lacrosse Avenue and North Perry Street. Officers forced him from the vehicle and placed him in a neck restraint after he was uncooperative, police said.

Maravilla faces second-degree assault charges; Dawson, 23, faces a charge of accomplice to second-degree assault.

Maravilla was ordered to serve 40 months in federal prison in April 2009 for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was transferred to Spokane Residential Re-entry Center from federal prison March 3 and was to be released next August, but lhe eft the center that day and never returned.

He's now in the Spokane County Jail.

500-pound pig Tasered, shot in Valley

A 500-pound pig was shot to death by a Washington State Patrol trooper in Spokane Valley this afternoon after escaping a van and absorbing several Taser shocks.

Trooper Morgan Mehaffey saw the pig running down the sidewalk near North Pines Road and East Mission Avenue after spotting a van driving erratically with its back window broken out.

Read the rest of my story here.

Edgar Steele requests new trial

A North Idaho attorney convicted last week of hiring his handyman to kill his wife and mother-in-law has requested a new trial.

 Lawyers for Edgar J. Steele, 65, filed a motion for a new trial Thursday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

The motion is sealed. Lawyer Robert McAllister, of Colorado, declined to discuss its contents, and Gary Amendola did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Steele faces at least 30 years in prison when he's sentenced in August.

A jury convicted him May 5 of use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and tampering with a victim after a week-long trial in Boise.

The hitman-turned FBI informant, Larry Fairfax, was sentenced to 27 months in prison Wednesday for a pipe bomb he attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV.

Cyndi Steele believes her husband was framed because of his defense of clients like the late Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nations.

Traffic stop leads to meth, stolen car

A man who escaped from a Hoopfest jail work crew last summer was arrested again this morning with a stolen car.  

Gary J. Todd, 29, was stopped near North Pines Road and East Grace Avenue just after midnight for driving a Honda with an inoperable headlight. Police determined the car was stolen and also had stolen license plates, Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.

Todd's drivers license was suspended, and officers found a shaved key in the Honda's ignition, as well as stolen and forged checks in Todd's backpack, Reagan said.

Officers also found methamphetamine and paraphernalia in the car, which they believe Todd had been living in since its theft on May 9.

A female passenger was not arrested, but Todd was booked into jail for possession of a stolen motor vehicle, possession of methamphetamine, unlawful possession of an access device (forged check), possession of motor vehicle theft device (shaved keys), third-degree possession of stolen property (stolen license plates on car), and second-degree driving while license suspended.

Todd was arrested with another stolen vehicle last July after escaping from an inmate work crew at Hoopfest while incarcerated for drunken driving. He pleaded guilty to second-degree escape and second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission and was credited for time served in jail.

His arrest early today occurred about three hours after another man was arrested for possession of methamphetamine.

Felix P. Wilson, 45, was stopped on the Interstate 90 on-ramp near Pines Road after police learned he had three Spokane Municipal Court warrants charging with with domestic violence. Police found a small baggie of meth in Wilson's wallet and another bag in his 1998 Mazda's glove box, according to a news release.

Man gets 5 years for Colville meth house

A Colville methamphetamine addict has been ordered to spend five years in federal prison after a search of his home revealed guns and video tapes of him using methamphetamine.

Michael Wayne Alexander, 55, allowed people to use meth at his home on Valley Westside Road in Colville since at least 2000 until January 2009, when a search warrant revealed meth, heroin, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and ammunition for.357 caliber and .45 caliber firearms.

Polcie found a .357 caliber Ruger revolver and a .45 caliber Remington handgun in a storage unit belonging to Alexander. They also found video tapes showing Alexander using meth with other people in his home and shop.

He pleaded guilty in February to being an unlawful user of controlled substances in possession of a firearm and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

He was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court to five years in prison, followed by three years probation.

“Those who are involved in the use of illegal substances while possessing firearms pose a dangerous threat to our communities and will be responded to accordingly.” U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby said in a prepared statement.
  

Five accused of kidnapping, torture

Five suspects have been accused of kidnapping and torturing a Spokane woman before shaving her head and writing “narc” and “thief” on her face.

Waylon M. “Creeper” Azure, 33, pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and torture charges Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court, five weeks after police say he helped abduct Doreen Wiker from the Select Inn, 1420 W. Second Ave., in Spokane.

Wiker said one of her assailants was in a wheelchair when he threatened her with the gun.

Read the rest of my story here.

Clarkston bomb maker jailed w/o bail

A Clarkston, Wash., man will remain in the Spokane County Jail without bail after federal agents found explosive materials at his home during an investigation into online posts advocating jihad.

Investigators believe Joseph Jeffrey Brice, 21, posted comments advocating suicide bombings on YouTube and discussed through email plans to rob a bank in Lewiston, Idaho after planting bombs near a school to district police.

Authorities began investigating Brice after he was injured when a bomb he made exploded on April 18, 2010. Whitman County deputies didn’t pursue charges, but federal investigators probed Brice further after learning he posted videos of explosions on YouTube under the name “StrengthofAllah.”

Investigators used search warrants to access identifying information on Brice’s email accounts and IP addresses.

They discovered videos Brice posted to an extreme video website that depict suicide bombings in Pakistan, and also links to a terrorism magazine with instructions on how to make explosives, according to the search warrants. Investigators believe Brice also registered an email address under the name of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh.

In February, Brice wrote on YouTube that he found an “FBI or ATF tracking device on his vehicle” and that the FBI had singled him out in their investigation into the explosive device left along the planned route of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity march in Spokane on Jan. 17, according to the warrants. The only suspect in that case, Kevin W. Harpham, was arrested near Addy, Wash., on March 9 and remains in jail.

Brice was arrested on a federal charge of manufacturing an unregistered firearm May 9 after a search at his apartment, 538 Riverview Blvd., in Clarkston.

U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno ordered him held without bail after a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

‘Batman’ charged w/ trespassing in Mich.

PETOSKEY, Mich. (AP) — Holy trespassing, Batman!

A 31-year-old man dressed as the comic book Caped Crusader was arrested Wednesday in Petoskey after he was seen hanging from the top wall of a downtown business. 

The Petoskey News-Review reports officers went up on the roof about 12:40 a.m. and pulled the 31-year-old man back onto the building.

Public Safety Director John Calabrese says he believes the man “enjoys doing this.”

Officers confiscated a baton-like weapon, a can of chemical irritant spray and lead-lined gloves.

The Harbor Springs man, pictured after his arrest, is awaiting arraignment on charges of trespassing and possession of a dangerous weapon.

He's being held in the Emmet County jail.

Petoskey is in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula, about 225 miles northwest of Detroit. ;

Cop gives confiscated beer to colleague

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) — A 19-year veteran of a Tennessee town's police department is appealing his firing after beer confiscated from minors was given to a fellow officer.

According to testimony at a Wednesday hearing, Cpl. Tim Horne was one of several Kingsport officers who responded to a party where there was underage drinking. Officers confiscated three full cases of Natural Lite beer and part of a fourth case.

The Kingsport Times-News reported that Horne admitted laughing at a comment that the beer should be given to another officer, although he denied making the comment. Later the beer was given to the other officer and Horne approved a report stating it had been destroyed. The officer who received the beer resigned.

Horne's attorneys said firing him was an overreaction.

Kingsport is in eastern Tennessee.

4 bragged online about Texas robbery

HOUSTON (AP) — Authorities say four people were indicted in a Houston bank robbery after bragging about it on Facebook.

Federal prosecutors say two former tellers at the International Bank of Commerce recruited a boyfriend and a brother to steal more than $62,000 on March 23.

Prosecutors say former tellers 18-year-old Estefany Danelia Martinez and 19-year-old Anna Margarita Rivera; Martinez's boyfriend, 19-year-old Ricky Gonzalez; and Rivera's brother, 22-year-old Arturo Solano were indicted Wednesday on charges of bank robbery and embezzlement.

Authorities say an anonymous tip led investigators to Facebook posts. In one Martinez wrote, “IM RICH.” Another post said: “WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS.”

Gonzalez's attorney, Lance Hamm, says his client is “extremely remorseful for what he's accused of doing.”

Attorneys for the others did not immediately return messages Wednesday night.

Car stolen from NJ in ‘75 found in Calif.

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A classic muscle car stolen from New Jersey's largest city nearly 36 years ago has been recovered on the other side of the country.

A Santa Maria, Calif., man bought the 1969 Chevy Camaro SS from a seller on eBay in February. But Keith Williams tells KSBY-TV he contacted the California Highway Patrol after certain features of the car didn't match the model.

Police discovered the vehicle was stolen from Newark, N.J., on July 8, 1975.

The original owner, Janice Maffucci, told the TV station the car was stolen from the post office where her father worked. She can't believe the vehicle was recovered.

Maffucci says she plans to sell the car.

Police are tracing the registration in hopes of finding the thief.

Crime Stoppers sought tips on jail inmate

Crime Stoppers offered a reward this week for information on a suspect who's already in jail on a U.S. Marshal's hold.

 Douglas Ray Mobley, 30, (left) is to be sentenced May 26 for extorting now former sheriff's Deputy Velven York, who worked at the Spokane County Jail.

A jury convicted Stephanie A. Strong of second-degree extortion last November. She's serving 55 months in prison. 

York alerted authorities to the extortion attempt last June after he was contacted by a caller threatening to disclose his improper off-duty contacts with Strong, a former inmate.

Police believe that caller was Mobley, who was dating Strong.

Sheriff’s policy prohibits employees from contacting criminal suspects when off duty. York had been giving Strong rides from a drug treatment program to a halfway house where she was living and meeting her while she was a jail inmate.

York (right) resigned from the sheriff's office in July, Sgt. Dave Reagan said today.

Strong and Mobley were arrested after they retrieved $5,000 York left for them in an undercover sting at Dick's Hamburgers.

Strong was under supervision for a federal mail theft and fraud conviction from 2007. Mobley was on federal probation for a gun conviction. He's in jail on a federal hold for that case, so prosecutors requested a bench warrant be issued to ensure his appearance at sentencing.

Crime Stoppers issued the reward offer Tuesday but rescinded it today. Still, it gave me a good opportunity to check up on the case.

Past coverage:

June 30: Convicts deny extortion plot against jailer

Tips sought on robbery victim, suspect

UPDATE: Vanscoik and Dahlen were booked into jail on May 13.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest both the victim and suspect in a home-invasion robbery that occurred one year ago Wednesday.

Aaron T. Vanscoik, 19, (left) pleaded guilty to residential burglary, second-degree assault and second-degree robbery in a plea agreement that calls for prosecutors to recommend an exceptionally low sentence of credit for time served.

Vanscoik is to testify truthfully about the incident, including the roles of Levi Ehli and Brittany Cesario, according to the agreement.

 Ehli and Cesario are the only suspects who haven't resolved their charges in the case, which began when several people assaulted William Hans Dahlen, 52, in his home at 2922 E. Providence Ave. on May 11, 2010.

Vanscoik was allowed to leave jail after his plea agreement, but an arrest warrant was issued May 5 after he failed to maintain curfew and check in with the court as required.

Crime Stoppers also is offering a reward for tips that help arrest Dahlen (right), who's wanted on a material witness warrant to ensure his appearance at trial. Cesario's is set to begin May 23; Ehli's is scheduled for June 6. 

Dahlen is the ex-boyfriend of Lisa Jo Wareham, who told police she recruited Ehli (her son) and others to give Dahlen “a taste of his own bulls**t,” according to an affidavit.

“She said that no one was supposed to get hurt except “maybe a broken kneecap was OK,” according to the affidavit.

Wareham (left) was sentenced to 92 months in prison in March after pleading guilty to first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, second-degree robbery and first-degree theft.

Co-defendant Braiden M. Conner was sentenced to 51 months in prison after pleading guilty to burglary and assault charges; Tony A. Darling was sentenced to 30 years in prison in another case in which Vanscoik was a witness. Darling's sentencing was a plea deal to avoid a three-strikes life-in-prison sentence.

Vanscoik, 5-foot-7 and 200 pounds, last gave a home address in the 3900 block of East Eighth Avenue.

Dahlen, 5-foot-5 and 200 pounds, last gave an address in the 1800 block of East Rockwell Avenue.

Anyone with information on their current locations is asked to call at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters don't have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Was the Bad Hair Bandit here last year?

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A serial bank robber dubbed “the Bad Hair Bandit” may have robbed two north Spokane banks last year.

The FBI is investigating whether a woman believed to be responsible for 14 robberies since last December also struck two Banner Bank locations in Spokane last summer.

On June 30, a heavyset woman robbed Banner Bank at 933 E. Mission Ave. wearing a red wig and sunglasses. Police say the same woman wore a black wig while robbing Banner Bank at 3919 N. Market on Aug. 2.  

Nearly five months later, a wigged woman started robbing banks in Western Washington and continued through April.

The FBI believes the same woman robbed banks April 26 and April 27 in Ellensburg and Moses Lake, then Chase Bank on Francis Avenue in Spokane Monday.

Investigators say the Bad Hair Bandit may be staying at cheap motels in the Spokane area. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to her capture. Anyone with information should call at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters don't have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Surveillance photos from those robberies are pictured left and right. Enjoy a slideshow of photos from the 14-bank robbery spree above.

Here's a list of the robberies tied to the Bad Hair Bandit since December:

  • Dec. 22, 10:15 a.m., U.S. Bank, 870 S. 38th St., Tacoma
  • Jan. 5, 11:05 a.m., Key Bank, 5400 Capitol Blvd, Tumwater
  • Jan. 12, 10:30 a.m., Key Bank, 3501 S. 19th St., Tacoma
  • Jan. 14, 3:30 p.m., Wells Fargo, 15004 Pacific Ave., Spanaway
  • Jan. 21, 4:20 p.m., Heritage Bank, 8002 Pacific Ave., Tacoma
  • Jan. 26, 2:59 p.m., Cathay Bank, 18030 E. Valley Highway, Kent
  • Jan. 27, 1:36 p.m., First Security, 14808 N.E. 24th St., Redmond
  • Feb. 10, 5:24 p.m., U.S. Bank, 401 SE 15th St., Auburn
  • Feb. 19, 11:45 a.m., Wells Fargo, 2615 W. Bridgeport Way, University Place
  • March 25, 5:43 p.m., Sound Community, 2941 S. 38th St., Tacoma
  • April 9, 12:49 p.m., Wells Fargo, 2615 W. Bridgeport Way, University Place
  • April 21, 2:12 p.m., Cathay Bank, 13238 N.E. 20th St., Bellevue
  • April 26, 3:25 p.m., Wheatland bank, 205 S. Main St., Ellensburg
  • April 27, 10:02 a.m., Key Bank, 314 E. 3rd Ave., Moses Lake
      

7-Eleven employee robbed in Hayden

A robber attacked a 7-Eleven employee in Hayden Wednesday night, the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department said today.

The woman was walking to her car after her shift about 10 p.m. when a man grabbed her purse and ran eastbound along Hayden Avenue.

A sheriff's K-9 tracked the man's scent to where investigators believe he may have gotten into a car.

The victim was treated for minor injuries at Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d'Alene.
  

Judge: Suspect ‘lucky he wasn’t shot’

A 20-year-old man who sped through downtown Spokane to escape arrest also avoided being shocked with a Taser in a wild chase that nearly led to police gunfire late Tuesday, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Andre R. Hallman was “told he would be shot” if he continued to refuse orders from Trooper R. Hill after speeding through downtown at 60 to 70 mph about 8:50 p.m. and exiting his car at 1921 W. Pacific Ave., according to a probable cause affidavit.

Police say Hallman was trying to open the trunk of his car after repeated orders from Hill to show his hands. He stood up and showed his hands after Hill warned of gunfire, but he refused to lay flat on the ground and ran from Hill when a Taser misfired.

The Taser missed again as Hallman ran onto Pacific Avenue, police said. He was arrested about three blocks away.

“He was lucky he wasn't shot, frankly,” Superior Court Judge Michael Price said at Hallman's first court appearance Wednesday.

Price said the eluding case was “just extraordinary” and called Hallman “a menace to the community” before imposing $25,000 bond.

Three female passengers, ages 18, 17 and 15, were not arrested. Hallman's aunt said he took the car from her without her permission.

Police found an unloaded 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun in the trunk. Hallman is a convicted felon, which means he's prohibited from possessing firearms.

He also had a warrant for first-degree robbery from last October. He was booked on that charge and new charges of attempting to elude police. Charges for the shotgun are pending.

Did Cyndi Steele read Fairfax’s diary?

Edgar Steele's lawyers, Robert McAllister and Gary Amendola, obtained selections of Larry Fairfax's handwritten journal notes last week after U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a ruling he now says was a mistake

Now prosecutors are investigating whether McAllister and/or Amendola orders by allowing Cyndi Steele to read those notes.

Cyndi Steele read a statement at Fairfax's sentencing Wednesday that Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan says contained information directly from Fairfax's notes.

Whelan said her office will investigate; Winmill said appropriate action will be taken if Steele's lawyer did violate the court order.

Fairfax (pictured) was sentenced to 27 months in prison Wednesday.

Read the rest of my story here.

11 felonies for burglary, credit card theft

A Spokane Valley man was arrested on suspicion of burglary and theft after a police officer recognized him from surveillance photos.

Ryan P. Haddigan, 36, (right, allegedly) is accused of burglarizing a home in the 3600 block of South Vercler Lane and stealing credit cards and two Apple iPhones.

The woman discovered the burglary May 6 and said Haddigan was listed as a possible suspect. She said he'd given an iPhone to an acquaintance at the apartment that day and said the phone would only work for a day or two.

Surveillance video from Washington Trust Bank captured images of a man using one of the stolen credit cards. The victim said Haddigan sometimes babysat chidlren at his ex-wife's home at the Keystone Apartments on East Third Avenue.

Officer Ken Dodge was at the apartment complex Saturday when he spotted a man “who looked and dressed like the suspect in the security photo” and asked him to come talk to him, which prompted the man to throw stolen credit cards on the ground.

Police also found a syringe loaded with meth in Haddigan's clothing. Haddigan was booked into jail for residential burglary, possession of meth and nine counts of second-degree theft.

Suspect in ‘92 murder returns to Spokane

A longtime felon and convicted armed robber is back in Spokane on a first-degree murder charge for the 1992 shooting death of a furniture store owner.

 Patrick K. Gibson, who will be 59 in a week, did not contest the $1 million bond request from prosecutors today in Spokane County Superior Court, which Judge Michael Price granted.

Gibson was booked into Spokane County Jail Tuesday at 3:24 p.m. after he was arrested May 4 at his home in Stanwood, Wash., where he was registered as a level 3 sex offender.

Gibson has convictions in Oregon, Nevada and California for kidnapping, rape, robbery and bank robbery.

DNA from a fake beard worn during the Nov. 7, 1992., robbery and shooting at Cole’s Traditions in Oak connected him to the crime.

Prosecutors have sealed the probable cause affidavit that supports a first-degree murder charge against Gibson. Gibson is to be arraigned May 24.

Past coverage:

May 4: Suspect arrested in '92 murder of furniture store owner

Reunion with deputy leads to arrest

A transient was arrested early today after a Spokane County sheriff's deputy recognized him from previous arrests in Idaho.

Having been arrested before is hardly probable cause to be rearrested, but, according to the sheriff's office, Timothy Karl Turnbull, 52, (pictured) had a suspended driver's license and a warrant from the Idaho Department of Correction.

Turnbull was stopped after Deputy Chuck Sciortino spotted him driving a car without a seat belt in the West Plains area.

Sciortino had previously arrested Turnbull while a Kootenai County sheriff's deputy. He ordered Turnbull out of the car to arrest him after learning of the suspended license and warrant. A baggie of methamphetamine feel from Turnbull as he stood up, a news release said.

Turnbull was booked into jail for the driver's license misdemeanor and a felony drug charge. He may face fugitive charges related to the warrant and felon in possession of ammunition charge for bullets found under the driver's seat of his car.

Turnbull has previous drug convictions in Kootenai and Boundary counties, according to the Department of Correction.
   

No updates today

The blog is on a break until Wednesday afternoon.

Assault at skinhead meeting earns prison

A Spokane man has been sentenced to at least four years in an Idaho prison for beating and threatening to kill a man during a skinhead gathering.

Daniel Gean Wilson, 34, (left) and Keegan Van Tuyl (right) beat a man for answering questions about the white supremacist movement wrong after a day of heavy drinking at a home near Spirit Lake  in July 2009, according to the Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office.

The beating escalated after they accused the victim of being a drug user. Wilson then urinated on him, held an 8-inch knife to his throat and threatened to kill him if he told police. Wilson has “an extensive criminal record” in several states and has previous convictions for numerous property and violent crimes, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Wilson was sentenced to 12 years in prison with eligibility for parole after four years and credit for time served. He had pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in March.

Van Tuyl, co-founder of two Odinist-skinhead groups, Vangard Kindred and Valhalla-Bound Skinheads, is to be released from federal prison this fall on a weapons charge.

Camera catches man w/ stolen credit card

Police are asking for help in identifying a potential suspect in a residential burglary.

Surveillance photos at the Washington Trust Bank ATM on Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley captured images of a man in a black hat, dark glasses and jacket using the victim's credit card last Tuesday just before 9 a.m.

The suspect arrived and left southbound on Sullivan on foot.

Anyone with information on the man's identity is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 or Spokane Valley police Detective Mark Renz at (509) 477-3330.

3 suspects charged w/ aggravated murder

Three suspects in the homicide of Nicholas J. Thoreson, whose body was found in the trunk of his burning Thunderbird last month, face life in prison without the possibility of parole under charges filed this week.

Taylor James Wolf, 20; Justice Edward Dean Sims, 18; and Breeanna Catherine Sims, 19; have been charged with aggravated first-degree murder, which is punishable only by the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla said Thursday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Thoreson is pictured.

Past coverage:

May 3: Homicide victim remembered in obituary

April 21: New details released on Forker Road homicide

April 14: Homicide victim was shot in the head; suspect jailed

Jury convicts Edgar Steele on all counts

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Idaho U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson is pictured after the verdict. In back, from left to right, are two unidentified officials, Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan, FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws. Above that photo is a slideshow of photos showing Edgar Steele through the years. 

BOISE – A North Idaho lawyer accused of plotting to kill his wife failed to persuade a federal jury that he was the victim of a government conspiracy to silence him.

The U.S. District Court jury of 11 women and one man Thursday convicted Edgar Steele of hiring handyman-turned-FBI-informant Larry Fairfax to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele, and mother-in-law.

Cyndi Steele, pictured with her attorney, Wesley Hoyt. vowed to appeal the verdict. She believes her husband was targeted because of his defense of unpopular clients.

Read the rest of my story here.

A previous version of the story with more than 20 reader comments is available here.

A no-contact order between the Steeles has been lifted, and they are free to visit in jail whenever visiting hours permit.

A background piece on Steele is available here.

Steele was convicted of the following felonies:
1. Use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission for murder (for directing Larry Fairfax to drive to Oregon to kill his wife.) Punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
2. Aiding and abetting use of explosive material to commit a federal felony (for a pipe bomb Fairfax strapped to Edgar Steele's car at Steele's direction so authorities would think his wife's killer also targeted him.) Punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
3. Aiding and abetting possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence (for the pipe bomb on Cyndi Steele's SUV.) Punishable by a minimum 30 years in prison.
4. Tampering with a victim (for a phone call he made to Cyndi Steele after his arrest). Punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
  

Cell ‘pocket dials’ 911, leading to arrest

CLAY, N.Y. (AP) — An ill-timed, inadvertent 911 call led police to three larceny suspects overheard planning break-ins in upstate New York.

Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh says police already looking for a suspicious person got the unlikely assist when one of the men “pocket dialed” his cellphone's emergency number while driving near the scene of an earlier heist.

As a dispatcher relayed the conversation to deputies, the men discussed their plans, described their surroundings and even commented, “there go the cops now.”

Walsh says that was enough for a deputy to turn around and stop the Kia Sportage full of tools stolen from a business in the Syracuse suburb of Clay.

The dispatcher then heard the driver being asked for his license and registration. The men arrested April 26 face grand larceny and stolen property charges.

DUI suspect stops for food before arrest

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio (AP) — Police in Ohio say a woman insisted on picking up some fast food before she allowed an officer to charge her with drunken driving.

The Plain Dealer newspaper of Cleveland reports police in suburban North Royalton got a call about a car weaving and going off a road at a little after 1 a.m. earlier this month.

A patrolman tracked the vehicle to the drive-thru of a Taco Bell restaurant and pulled up alongside. The police report says the driver had sunglasses on and her speech was slurred. She was ordered to get out of the line, but first she proceeded to the second window to grab her order.

Police say the woman's blood-alcohol level tested at nearly twice the legal limit.

Meghann's note: This reminds me of an article I wrote back in 2008 about DUI arrests at drive throughs. Check it out here.

Suspect gives K-9 props after capture

A police dog caught an armed robbery suspect in north Spokane on Wednesday.

Steven A. Shoffner, 22, of Medical Lake, told police that K-9 Stryder did a great job and that officers would not have found him were it not for the dog, according to a news release.

Stryder was called to the scene with his handler, Officer Shawn Kendall, after a clerk at G & B Grocery, 2104 E. Francis Ave., said two men fled with cash and cigarettes after stating they had a gun.

Officer Ben Yinger spotted two suspects at North Napa Street and East Decatur Avenue and arrested one, Jenson T. Richards, 23, before Stryder caught up with Shoffner in a garage in the 1700 block of East Decatur. He was hiding under a mattress; police recovered the stolen cash and cigarettes but did not find a gun.

Both suspects are due in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon on a first-degree robbery charge. Shoffner also faces a charge of second-degree burglary for entering the garage.

Tips sought on prowling suspect’s cohort

Post Falls police are trying to identify a passenger who fled a traffic stop with a burglary suspect.

Charles Allen Gutzman ran from his car after police tried to stop him from driving with no headlights in the area of Howell Road and Radiant Star Road Monday at 3:10 a.m.

Police identified Gutzman as the car's owner and contacted him on Tuesday. They arrested him after finding evidence from three recent car prowling.

“Gutzman admitted to detectives that he lied during his initial interview where he claimed that his vehicle broke down and was stolen,” according to a news release. 

Anyone with information on the identity of Gutzman's passenger is asked to call the Post Falls Police Department at (208) 773-3517 or leave an anonymous tip at (208) 777-COPS.

Tips can also be submitted online.

Arrest made in ‘92 Spokane Valley murder

After nearly two decades, Spokane County sheriff’s detectives solved a case that had long gone cold: the shooting death of a Spokane Valley business owner that shocked the community.

 Patrick Kevin Gibson, 58, was arrested for first-degree murder about 6:50 a.m. Wednesday in Stanwood, Wash. in connection with the slaying of Brian Cole, then 48, who owned Cole’s Traditions in Oak, a furniture store on East Sprague Avenue.

DNA linked Gibson to the Nov. 7, 1992, shooting; he will be transported to Spokane sometime in the next week, according to the sheriff’s office.

“Detectives worked the case extensively,” Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan said of the slaying, which was featured on “America’s Most Wanted” in January 1993. “Still, no suspect was developed.”

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Jury in Steele case asks to deliberate late

Eleven women and one man will continue deliberating Thursday in the murder-for-hire trial of Edgar J. Steele in U.S. District Court in Boise.

Deliberations began about 2:45 p.m. Wednesday and ended about 7 p.m. The jury asked to hear the recordings and tapes played at trial, and told Judge B. Lynn Winmill they wanted to deliberate late.
 
Steele, 65, faces at least 30 years in prison if convicted of his most serious charge - possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence.
 
Steele also is charged with use of interstate commerce to commission murder for hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony and tampering with a victim.
 
Steele's supporters say he has been framed by the government to silence him for his views and legal work. Steele calls himself “the attorney for the damned” and defended the Aryan Nations against the lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group in 2000. Steele also wrote a book called Defensive Racism.
 
His wife and alleged victim, Cyndi Steele, believes he is innocent.

Steele’s defense points to Fairfax set up

There's no doubt that the federal government has evidence in its case against Edgar Steele, his lawyer says, but all that evidence points back to Larry Fairfax, who claims to have been hired by Steele to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

The pipe bomb strapped to Cyndi Steele's SUV was Fairfax's “act of defiance,” Robert McAllister said, referring to a book Fairfax has said he wants to write. 
 
He reminded jurors that Cyndi Steele said there were problems with the recordings in which her husband discussed the plot to kill her with Fairfax, such as unexplained breaks and syntax issues. 
 
“There is one conclusion about those recordings: they are nothing but tar,” McAllister said. “…It's fantasy talk; it's fiction; it's Larry Fairfax talking and trying to set up Edgar Steele.”
 
“Unfortunately in real life, this is more than just trying to write a book, it's putting people's lives in danger,” McAllister said
 
He emphasized that Fairfax admits to attaching a pipe bomb to Cyndi Steele's SUV but didn't tell the FBI about it when he told them he could set up Edgar Steele.
 
“No one knows that until June 15, when it's found,” he said. 
 
McAllister said Steele had no reason to want his wife dead. Claims by the prosecution that Steele was in love with a woman he met on the Internet are wrong  - the communication was part of Steele's examination of the Russian bride scam.
 
“The whole Russian bride scam was a case, something to work on. It was something his family laughed about, because it was so fake,” McAllister said. “It's fantasy… it's not a motive to commit murder. it's not a reason to commit murder.”
 
He said the Steeles talked regularly on the phone, including a 43-minute conversation the day before prosecutors say Cyndi was to be killed. McAllister also reminded jurors that Edgar Steele recently paid $2,779 to save his mother-in-law's home.
 
“If there's really a plot or a plan, do you go take that kind of money and give it to someone else, who you're supposedly going to kill?” McAllister said.
 
“The evidence in this case is that he loves Cyndi Steele, that he spent 25 years - now 26 - married to her with three children,” McAllister said.
 
He said the couple did have problems 10 years ago, but “the evidence in the next 10 years is that they raised their family” lived in North Idaho and were happy.
 
“Never did Edgar Steele show anything besides love for his family,” McAllister said. He pointed to the longtime friends who told jurors how shocked they were by the allegations.
 
He said the phone call Steele made to his wife from the jail doesn't qualify as victim tampering. Cyndi Steele has said she wasn't influenced by the call, and Edgar Steele didn't know of the specifics of the recordings when he called Cyndi Steele.
 
“Yes she doesn't believe that her husband is trying harm her, but she doesn't know about what Mr. Fairfax or what (his cousin) Mr. (James) Maher might want to do to her,” McAllister said. “All she knows is a bomb was found under her car.”
 
“I'm sure the government will say 'she's in denial, she's wrong,' but the fact is this is the victim…coming before a jury and saying 'I don't believe it.'”

Prosecutor lays out case against Steele

Though Edgar Steele's fingerprints are not on the pipe bomb that was strapped under his wife's car, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws told jurors in his closing argument that the 65-year-old North Idaho lawyer's “legal fingerprints” are all over it.

Haws played portions of the recordings in which Steele discusses the plot to kill Cyndi Steele with his handyman, Larry Fairfax, whom he'd promised money to murder his wife and mother-in-law.
 
He said jurors are to be more skeptical of Fairfax's testimony because of his involvement in the case, but that everything Fairfax has said is supported by other evidence.
 
In one of the recorded meetings with Steele, Fairfax is given $400 to pay for his travels to Portland. The FBI seized that money after the meeting and knows Fairfax didn't have anything on him before he met with him.
 
“This is corroboration,” Haws said. “This says Mr. Fairfax was telling you the truth.”
 
Haws read several quotes from the recording in which Steele urges Fairfax to “get this job done” and mentions the possible car insurance payment as a “powerful incentive.”
 
Haws also played a portion of the phone call Steele made to his wife after his arrest. He reminded jurors of Steele's reaction when police falsely told him his wife was dead. Police described Steele's reaction as flat and forced until they told him he was under arrest for murder for hire and a fecal odor filled the air.
 
“I would submit that his body reacted and told more truth than his mouth did,” Haws said.
 
Defense lawyers have suggested the recordings of Steele and Fairfax were altered or manufactured, but Haws said there's no proof of that.
 
Steele would like jurors to think that a “Mission Impossible plot” has been created by the government, Haws said, but “the recordings themselves tell you they are accurate” from the flow and syntax to the presence of outside noises that carry through statements.
 
Haws said the thought that Fairfax could have “the sophistication and the tools” to put together a recording in the 30 minutes he was to visit with Steele is wrong.
 
“That can't happen,” he said.
 
Haws said the defense never gave a motive for why Fairfax would have really been the one to want to kill Cyndi Steele.
 
Haws said Edgar Steele wanted to start a relationship with a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman. 
 
Defense has said the communication was research into what Steele believed was a scam involving Russian mail order bridges, but Haws said they've never mentioned a case number or book that Steele is pursuing.
 
“The evidence here is overwhelming, it's way beyond a reasonable doubt as to what this man intended,” Haws said.

Defense rests; Ed Steele doesn’t testify

Defense lawyers in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial rested their case this morning without calling Steele to the stand.

Lawyers are working on jury instructions now. Closing arguments are expected today. 
 
Prosecutors predicted their argument will take an hour. Steele's defense said they will take about 45 minutes.

Fairfax to call book ‘An Act of Defiance’

Larry Fairfax, the main witness in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial, plans to write a book based on the case called “An Act of Defiance: Built on Lies and Deceit by the FBI.”

Daryl Hollingsworth, who met Fairfax and Steele in the Bonner County Jail, testified this morning that he was asked by Fairfax to design the cover and include a “picture of Larry Fairfax's logging truck running over an Aryan Nations member.” Steele was a lawyer for the Aryan Nations in a 2000 lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group.
 
Holllingsworth said he also was asked to include a picture of an FBI agent stabbing Fairfax in the back.
 
Fairfax told defense lawyer Robert McAllister the “defiant act” referred to in the title as him “going against Edgar Steele and turning him in.”
 
In his notes, Fairfax said he plans to call the book fiction.
 
Fairfax writes about how he became a victim in the case and that the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office “screwed me over” by charging him with two federal firearms felonies related to the device.
 
 McAllister asked Fairfax if he designed the book so that he would be the hero, but Fairfax said that wasn't the case.
 
“You actually describe yourself as the victim,” McAllister said. “You make statements about how you should not be in jail, and you make statements about how you're gong to save the life of Cyndi Steele.” 
 
Fairfax agreed. 
 
McAllister pointed out that Fairfax told the FBI of the device only after it was discovered, and that he “never made any effort to take it off” Cyndi Steele's car. 
 
Fairfax also described in the notes how the explosive device “never would have worked.”
 
He also writes that him being in jail is a “waste of an innocent life.”
 
Court is on a break. It's not yet known if Edgar Steele will testify. Cyndi Steele met with him and was extremely emotional afterward. Steele's supporters held a prayer circle before returning to the courtroom.

Edgar, Cyndi Steele allowed to meet today

 

Edgar Steele will be allowed to visit with his wife and alleged victim today before deciding if he will testify today in his murder—for-hire trial in U.S. District Court in Boise.
 
Steele's lawyer, Robert McAllister, said his client requested the meeting. 
 
“At this time i think it's appropriate that he get a chance to consult with his wife about decisions in this case,” McAllister said.
 
Edgar and Cyndi Steele have have been allowed to meet in jail once a week since last fall, but they have been prohibited from discussing the case.
 
Prosecutors objected to the request because they may recall Cyndi Steele as a reputable witness if Edgar testifies, and they fear he may try to influence her.
 
But Judge B. Lynn Winmill said he saw no reason not to allow the couple to meet for 10-15 minutes with defense lawyers present. 
 
Winmill said his decision was based on the unusual circumstance of Cyndi Steele not believing the government's case and supporting her husband.
 
“It's a very unique situation for that reason,” Winmill said. “I guess I just see no purpose in maintaining no contact order.”
 
Physical contact is prohibited.

Video shows driver flee arrest at 90 mph

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Above is a video showing a 24-minute police chase last weekend that ended with the arrest of Sergey A. Alekseyev, 19.

A sheriff's Air-1 tracked Alekseyev's 1996 Honda Accord from northbound Freya Street to the 5800 block of Yale Road.
 
The pursuit began just after midnight Saturday when Alekseyev allegedly sped up behind Cpl. Dave Ellis in the 1800 block of Greene Sreet, then refused to stop and sped away on Illinois Avenue at about 60 mph. Read more here.

Cops: Man left crack cocaine in patrol car

A Spokane gang member accused of helping a murder suspect now faces federal drug charges for 38 grams of crack cocaine found in a patrol car after his arrest.

A confidential informant arranged a drug buy with Christopher “Baby Boy” Route, 24, at a convenience store near East Illinois Avenue and North Perry Street on March 22 that led to his arrest, according to an affidavit by FBI Task Force Officer Jeff Barrington that was filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Investigators followed Route to an address in the 2500 block of North Hogan, then arrested him after he left in a car and drove northbound on Perry Street.
 
Police found $1,500 and two cellphones on him. They also found a large baggie containing 14 smaller baggies of crack under the front passenger seat of the patrol car after Route was booked into jail.
 
Route had felony warrants in Spokane County Superior Court, including one for criminal assistance for allegedly lying to detectives about what he knew regarding the murder of John S. Williams in January 2010.

According to court documents, Route and other reputed gang members attended a birthday party at Casey's Restaurant and Lounge before taking a limousine to an after party at 5405 N. Crestline St.

Route, who was charged with assault in connection with a gang murder in 2005, told police he stayed at the party for only about 30 minutes and left when a fight broke out. 

 Route said he didn't know anything about the shooting, but detectives say he was present when Williams punched out a car window, then was shot to death, allegedly by Edward “TD” Thomas.

Shellye Stark to be tried again for murder

A Spokane woman serving 51 years in prison for murdering her husband in 2007 will get a new trial. The Washington Supreme Court last week rejected a petition by prosecutors to review an appellate court decision calling for a new trial for Shellye L. Stark.

A new trial has not been scheduled but is not expected to occur until at least after Stark's boyfriend, Brian L. Moore, stands trial on murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges, which is set to begin Oct. 11.
 
Stark (pictured above at trial and at left in a prison mug shot from January 2010) claimed self defense during her two-week trial in Spokane County Superior Court. She told jurors she shot Dale R. Stark (right) in their home at 1620 S. Maple St., on Dec. 9, 2007, after years of abuse, including forced prostitution.
 
A jury convicted her in March 2009 after a two-week trial before Judge Tari Eitzen.
 
The appellate court's 3rd division overturned her convictions last December after finding fault with jury instructions and other legal technicalities, including the fact that Stark's co-conspirators were not named in the instructions.
 
The guarantee of a new trial is the latest twist for a case that attracted national attention from true crime television shows as Stark described years of abuse and bizarre sexual abuse that began with forced prostitution in Hollywood early in their marriage.
 
The couple were separated in 2007 when Shellye Stark moved to California and continued advertising online as a prostitute named Nikita Jennifer.
 
Stark said she'd been threatened by her husband and returned to Spokane to obtain a retraining order. Her sister drove from Priest River to Spokane to help serve the order and provide firearms but was hospitalized after striking a bull moose. Stark's nephew retrieved guns from the wreckage to give to Shellye Stark, who told jurors she need them for protection.
 
Click here for past coverage. (I covered every day of the trial.)

Murder victim remembered in obituary

A 22-year-old man found shot in the head in the trunk of his burning Thunderbird was remembered in an obituary Sunday as a caring, fun-loving man who loved country western music, movies and “wearing his trademark bling.”

Nicholas J. “Nick” Thoreson enjoyed spending time with his girlfriend, Ivory Hendry , and their 1-year-old son, Thomas.

His greatest joy was caring for the boy, the obituary said. Thoreson “lived life to the fullest,” and enjoyed, “above all else, spending time with his family.”

“Nick left this earth too early for us to understand, but God always has a purpose and therefore we all must believe that Nick is still among us fulfilling his,” the obituary reads.
 
Thoreson attended Greenacres elementary and junior high as well as Central Valley High School. He spent two years in  job corps, where he met Hendry. Friends say Thoreson also met one of his accused killers, Taylor J. Wolf, in job corps.
 
Thoreson's memorial is next Saturday. 
 
“Thank you for being part of our lives Nick - you will continue to live in our hearts and never be forgotten,” his family wrote.
 
Wolf, 20, who has ties to the Hells Angels, and sibling murder suspects Breeanna Sims, 19, and Justice Sims, 18, are charged in Spokane County District Court. 
 
Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll said today that he expects to file charges in Superior Court this week.
 
Asked if the suspects could be charged with aggravated murder, which carries the death penalty or life in prison with no parole, Driscoll said “perhaps.”
 
“We'll formally file charges in the next day or so, and you'll know then,” he said.
 
Court documents say Thoreson was assaulted for hours and stabbed several times before he was fatally shot in the head. His body was found in the Thunderbird near Forker and Bigelow Gulch roads April 13.
 
A motive is unclear. Breeanna Sims told a friend that her brother believed Thoreson had held her against her will, but Justice Sims told another person that Thoreson had told on his sister, which led to the murder.
 
Past coverage:
 
April 21: New details released on Forker Road homicide
 

Expert may not testify; Steele still could

A defense expert who says he found anomalies in FBI recordings of murder-for-hire suspect Edgar Steele will not be able to testify remotely from his tropical vacation, a judge ruled this morning.

Defense lawyers did not subpoena George Papcun, who is vacationing in Bora Bora with his wife and unable to testify in person.  
 
They requested a two-day extension to give them time to get Papcun to Boise, but U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill declined.
 
“This is a problem that the defense is making, not the courts,” Winmill said. He cited the phrase “procrastination on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”
 
 The jury was sent home until 8:30 a.m. tomorrow; Winmill said there's a chance Papcun could fly to Boise overnight and testify then.
 
The case could go to the jury Thursday morning, Winmill said. “Certainly we'll have it presented to you before the end of the week,” Winmill told jurors.
 
Papcun could be the last defense witness; defense lawyer Robert McAllister said Edgar Steele has not yet decided if he will testify.
 
“If he does make that decision, I would like him to be the last witness in our case,” McAllister said.

Judge reviewing Fairfax’s jail writings

A federal judge is reviewing Larry Fairfax's handwritten notes to determine if defense lawyers in Edgar Steele's murder-for-hire case are entitled to the material.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill said this morning that he erred when he ordered prosecutors to obtain the 238 pages of notes last week.

Prosecutors had objected to Winmill's request, saying they are not evidence under federal case law. Winmill now says he made a mistake.

But because Winmill forced prosecutors to obtain the notes, Steele's lawyer, Robert McAllister, argued they needed to be provided to the defense.

Winmill said today that he'll review the notes and give the defense relevant material. He said “relevant” will be defined broadly. Court is on an extended break while Winmill looks at the notes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan agreed that because the material was now with the prosecution because of Winmill's order, the notes were subject to review.

“It's not something I want to see, but it's not something we can undo,” she said.

Whelan said the notes contain Fairfax's thoughts on the case, his lawyer, his love for his wife and children, his concerns about how they'll survive financially and other personal matters.

Fairfax's lawyer, John Miller, emphasized that no one has been subpoenaed for the material. He said the defense mentioning the book in court without having even seen it as part of a tactic.

Miller said the notes are “really almost a diary.”

“It's his daily rantings and ravings from the time he was arrested,” Miller said.

He said the notes contain private thoughts, including prayers and opinions on Miller, Whelan and other court officials. “It should not have been reviewed by anyone,” Miller said.

McAllister said he didn't subpoena the notes before trial because he didn't know they existed until Fairfax referenced them in cross examination last week.

“It's ironic that the government is using the writings of my client while in jail while attempting to convict him, then refusing to provide to me the writings of the main witness,” McAllister said.

McAllister said Fairfax's notes about the case could be crucial to Steele's defense.

“I can't think of better material for impeachment than that,” he said.

Carjacking suspects tracked by ‘copter

Two men suspected of carjacking a 2001 Volkswagen Bug were arrested late Saturday after being pursued by a sheriff's helicopter.

Less than 24 hours after helping nab a suspect in a police chase, Air-1 helped arrest Joseph Andrew Johnson, 20, and Lee Jackson Crider, 30, Saturday night on accusations they'd stolen a car in the 9310 block of East 1st Ave. on April 28.
 
Later, a man told police he confronted three men who were driving a Bug on April 29 and that all men had a “tweaker” look to them, court documents say.
 
One man man pointed a gun at him and tried to steal his car, but the man escaped to a gas station and called 911. Police responded to a report of a robbery late Saturday near 1st and Willow, then to a smilar report later in the area of Cataldo Avenue  and Bowman Road.  Police contacted Johnson, who said he'd paid $100 for the car but admitted to being involved in a fight at 2st and Willow. 
 
Johnson said a gun was involved but said he didn't carry it. Johnson was arrested on suspicion of robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle, as well as a bag of meth found in  the battery compartment of Johnson's cell phone, according to a probable cause affidavit.
 
Witnesses identified Johnson and Crider as walking away from the Bog. The sheriff's helicopter spotted them in a grassy area near Park on the south side of Interstate 90.  
 
Inside the Bug, police found a machete, which one victim said was used to threaten him.

Sheriff’s ‘copter helps catch fleeing driver

A motorist who tailed a Spokane County sheriff's patrol car at speeds up to 90 mph was arrested after being tracked by the Air-1 helicopter, officials said Monday.  

Sergey A. Alekseyev, 19, was arrested after sheriff's Air-1 tracked 1996 Honda Accord he was driving from northbound Freya Street to the 5800 block of Yale Road, the sheriff's office said.

The 24-minute pursuit began just after midnight Saturday when Alekseyev allegedly sped up behind Cp.l Dave Ellis in the 1800 block of Greene Sreet, then refused to stop and sped away on Illinois Avenue at about 60 mph.
 
Ellis and another driver had to brake and swerve to avoid a crash, and the helicopter joined the pursuit around Freya Street. The Honda turned its headlights off while northbound on Florida, and Ellis terminated the pursuit while the helicopter continued the pursuit.
 
Ellis caught up the Honda after it drove south near Spokane Community College and popped its passenger-side tires on spike strops.
 
The car continued to drive on its rims before Deputy Daryl Smith used  a PIT maneuver to stop it on Yale Road, and Alexkeyev was arrested.

Defense expert to refute Steele recording

In what defense lawyer Robert McAllister said was “great news,” a man hired by the defense to refute the authenticity of the FBI recordings in the Edgar Steele case will be allowed to testify.

McAllister requested Monday that George Papcun be allowed to testify. Judge B. Lynn Winmill agreed, and defense lawyers are working to arrange a time. Papcun could testify via video, similar to the taped deposition by Steele's alleged love interest, 25-year-old Tatyana Loginova of Ukraine. 
 
Papcun said he wouldn’t use the term “suspicious” to describe anomalies in the recording because a variety of factors could have caused the glitches he observed.
 
Winmill ruled today that testimony provided by Cyndi Steele and her daughter, Kelsey Steele, opened the door for testimony from Papcun about whether the recordings have been altered by the federal government.
 
Prosecutors are expected to present witnesses to rebut Papcuns testimony. The case could be with the jury as early as late tomorrow or early Wednesday.

Steele’s daughter testifies in his defense

Edgar Steele's 20-year-old daughter told jurors today that she doesn't believe the recording of her father discussing a plot to kill her mother is authentic.

Kesley Steele, a student at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, said she recognizes her father's voice on parts of the recording but not others.
 
“The main thing that I noticed throughout it is it's just not the way that he talks,” she said.
 
She said she listened to the recordings several times and knows her mother “wanted to come up with her own conclusion…same with my brother and sister and myself.”
 
Steele said she “grew up” in the barn where Steele and Larry Fairfax reportedly had the conversation on the recording and said she'd never before heard a train whistle. Prosecutors provided phone records that show a train passes within a few miles of the area once per evening.
 
Steele said she knew of her father's work on the Russian bride scam but didn't talk about the details with him.
 
“Getting into more details, it was not a huge common interest at the time,” she said. 
 
She said the work was also a joke around the house.
 
Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan asked Kelsey Steele if it was true she didn't want to believe that her father wanted her mother killed.
 
“Of cousre I don't want to, and I don't,” Steele replied.
 
 Kesley Steele sent her father books in jail, at first using her money or her mother's but soon using “donations from people who believed in my dad, Steele said under cross examination.
 
Whelan said Kelsey sometimes sent books and magazines to her father that he didn't want, and he was sure to let her know she'd screwed up.
 
“He would let me know if I messed up,” Kelsey Steele said.
 
Also testifying today was a Sandpoint man who arrived at Edgar Steele's home for a trip to Spokane the day of Steele's arrest. Allen Banks told jurors he was familiar with the defendant's research into the Russian mail order bride scandal.
 
Banks said he was visiting the Steele home once when “Ed called me over to the computer to see his Russian girlfriends.”
 
Banks said Cyndi Steele was present, and they looked at photos of about five or six Ukrainian women “who had been contacted as part of a legal case.”
 
The three laughed together as they discussed the case, Banks said.
Banks said Steele was weak and disoriented after medical treatment for an aneurysm. He saw Steele led out of his Talache Road home in handcuffs June 11.
 
“He was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, and his face looked puffy,” Banks said.
 
He said he was surprised by the arrest
 
“Definitely, because it's completely out of character,” Banks said.
 
But prosecutors pointed out that Banks said Steele's health had improved by the day of his arrest. They also noted that Steele called Banks to set up the appointment June 9, which matches what he told Fairfax about setting up an alibi.
 
Also testifying for the defense today was Sandpoint veterinarian Robert Stoll, who said the allegations against Steele are “completely out of character.”
 
“Edgar is a sweet, kind man,” Stoll said. He has known the Steeles for years and testified briefly about the couple's peaceful relationship. 
 
Cyndi Steele's best friend, Billie Elizabeth Cochran, also told jurors that she never witnessed or heard of spousal abuse in the 10 years she's known the couple. Cyndi Steele stayed at her home after her husband's arrest because she was afraid to stay at their home.

Old friend of Steele’s describes shock

A longtime friend of Edgar Steele told jurors that he was “shocked” when he learned of Steele's arrest and never saw Steele threaten or harm anyone in the more than 40 years he's known him.

Jeff Miller, a partner with George's Cyclotron Inc., who also works with Hendry Ranch Wines in Napa Valley, Calif., said he met Steele through a mutual friend in the late 1960s or early 1970s in the San Francisco area.

Their families socialized, and Steele's children still refer to Miller as “Uncle Jeff,” he told jurors. Miller said he met Cyndi Steele a year or two before she married Edgar, and that he's never known Steele to threaten or harm his wife or children.

“Ed is a very strict parent, as am I. So sometimes you come down on the kids. But that's our job,” Miller said.

He said he learned of Steele's arrest when Steele's son, Rex, called him.

“It was quite a shock,” Miller said. Miller said he didn't know of the Steeles' divorce petition in 2000 until Sunday night.

Under cross examination by prosecutors, Miller acknowledged that he didn't know of the Steeles' marriage problems and that Edgar Steele never confided to him that he was looking for women on Match.com.

Miller said Steele once tried to enlist his help with research into the Russian bride scam. He said Steele called and asked him to go to a website and find a particular person, and that it would cost him “a couple hundred dollars.”

But Miller's wife told him it wasn't a good idea. “I called him back that same day and told him my wife wouldn't let me do it,” Miller said.

Also testifying this morning was a Sagle, Idaho, man who traveled with Fairfax to check on a pipe bomb attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV.

James Maher, Fairfax's cousin, told jurors today that he spent about 10 seconds trying to see if the device was still there.

Maher said he couldn't get under the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor because neighbors near the Oregon City, Ore., home of Steele's mother-in-law were watching.

Maher said he wanted to see if the pipe bomb was gone “because I thought Cyndi Steele was a really nice lady.”

Maher admitted that Fairfax once said something about appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show. “That was like an over-the-top thing,” Maher said. “But yeah, I thought it might work out for him; I don't know.”

But, Maher added, “there was no braggery involved.”

He said Fairfax said he couldn't check himself because Cyndi Steele might see him. “Then the jig would be up,” Maher said.

Steele jurors hear from Ukrainian woman

Edgar Steele told a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman after his arrest on murder-for-hire charges that the Anti-Defamation League had manufactured a recording of him plotting to kill his wife using a collection of secret recordings by Larry Fairfax and thousands of hours of online audio files. 

Steele wrote in a letter to Tatyana Loginova that the case against him began when Fairfax stole $45,000 in silver, though prosecutors have shown jurors that Steele cashed in about that same amount of silver a couple months before his arrest.

“This has been a huge shock to me but not really a surprise; they have been after me for a long time because of my outspoken criticism” of the federal government and U.S. power brokers, Steele wrote Loginova.

FBI Special Agent Brent Smith, who is based in the Ukraine, read from the letter this morning in U.S. District Court in Boise, the fourth day of testimony in Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

Smith helped with Loginova's deposition in the Ukraine. Loginova declined to travel to the United States to testify, and because she is not a U.S. citizen, she could not be forced to appear.

In a deposition taped in early March, Loginova, through a  translator, said she met Steele through an online dating website, exchanged emails and learned about his personal life.

“Did he ever tell you if he had kids?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan asked.

“Yes, he did. They told me that they don't live with him though. He told me that he lives alone,” Loginova said through a  translator.

Steele wrote that Loginova could find work, “take care of our babies, make love to me, whatever would make you happy.”

He said he was trying to get his children to mail her a package with a teddy bear, map of the area and other gifts.

“I begin to suspect that my ex may be behind all of this,” Steele writes. “She knows that you are very special to me and I know that's why she has not sent your box as she promised me she would do.”

Loginova said Steele planned to visit Ukraine in August 2010. 

She said the two began talking over Skype in May or early June.

Under cross examination, defense lawyer Gary Amendola emphasized that Loginova doesn't actually know if  Steele is the one who wrote the letter.

Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, testified last week that her husband was corresponding with Loginova and other women as part of his research into the Russian mail order bride scam.

The prosecution has rested. Judge Winmill has denied a defense motion to dismiss the charges against Steele.

The defense will begin presenting its case shortly. Steele's wife and daughter have attended each day of the trial. Hayden resident Deon Masker, wife of white supremacist Richard Masker, is at the trial for the first time today.

Child molester sentenced to 15+ years

A Post Falls sex offender will spend 15 year to life in prison after being convicted of his third sex crimes case since 1990.

Daniel Eugene Nichols, 51, (pictured) was convicted by a jury last month of two counts of lewd conduct related to “inappropriate touching” with an 11-year-old girl whom he knew through her family and lured to a his garage, according to the Kootenai County Prosecutors Office.

Judge Lansing Haynes sentenced Nichols to 25 years in prison with 15 fixed and 10 indeterminate, prosecutors said Friday.

Nicholas has previous convictions for child molestation in Washington in 1990, malicious mischief in 1992, communication with a minor for immortal purposes in 1994, domestic violence in 2004, drunken driving in 2006 and domestic violence in 2008.
 
In a prepared statement, Kootenia County Prosecutor Barry McHugh praised the work of the Post Falls Police Department and noted that “the fixed term guarantees that Nichols will not be able to victimize other children for an extended period of years.”

Last suspect in Uno stabbing acquitted

A teenager involved in a shooting at Hoopfest last summer was acquitted of charges conencte dto an unrelated stabbing outside a Spokane nightclub in 2009.

A jury found Adam Doe, 19, not guilty of two counts of first-degree assault last week after a trial before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza.
 
The case began in October 2009 when two men were stabbed outside Club Uno .

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

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

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

 

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

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