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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for September 2011

Hate crime alleged at Spokane 7-Eleven

A Spokane man was arrested on a hate-crime charge late Thursday for allegedly threatening two 7-Eleven clerks with a weapon while yelling racial slurs.

Anthony C. Brockie, 37, had a 12-inch strait razor blade in his pants pocket when a police officer approached him at the store at 323 W. Indiana Ave. about 11:22 p.m. after hearing reports of an assault, according to a probable cause affidavit supporting second-degree assault and malicious harassment charges against Brockie.

A store clerk told police she refused to sell a 40-ounce bottle of Olde English to Brockie because he was intoxicated but Brockie loitered in the parking lot and became combative with two clerks.

Another clerk told police that Brockie pulled the blade out, cursed and referenced his Middle Eastern heritage. Another third clerk said Brockie referenced his race and asked if he wanted to die while waving the blade.

Spokane police say they heard Brockie say “those bastard Arabians beat me up,” according to the affidavit.

Brockie was booked into the Spokane County Jail.

Deputy pleads guilty to fraud, resigns

Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Brett J. Peterson pleaded guilty Thursday to defrauding a federal program that provides discounted mortgages to law enforcement officers.

Peterson, 41, who’s a 14-year veteran of the department, declined comment other than to say he resigned from the Sheriff’s Office this week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Smoot also declined comment after the hearing, which did not appear on any court docket and remained sealed from public notice until Peterson appeared in court.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Man gets 20 years for wife’s murder

A Colville tribal member was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday for an assault that left one dead and another permanently disabled.

Kevin Isaac Pakootas, 25, of Inchelium, Wash., pleaded guilty in November 2010 to second-degree murder and assault with a dangerous weapon. In addition to prison, he'll be on five years supervised probation upon release, and pay $152,678 restitution, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Rice.

Authorities say Pakootas was drinking at a tavern before attending a house party on Moccasin Run near his home on Sept. 5, 2009. When he returned home about 4:30 a.m., he apparently found his wife, Colette Pakootas, 23, having “intimate relations” with Mark Edgette, 39, and beat the two until they were unconscious, Rice said in a news release.

The two were airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where they were listed in critical condition.

Colette Pakootas died Sept. 11, 2009 from blunt-force trauma to her head. Edgette suffered traumatic brain injury and other injuries that left him permanently disabled.

Past coverage:

Sept. 24, 2009: Suspect pleads not guilty in wife's slaying

Sex offender probed in Moore homicide

A sex offender arrested on suspicion of rape last week has been identified as a suspect in the homicide of a woman whose body was found near an east Spokane warehouse in August.

Derrick Ross Vargas, 24, has not been charged in the death of Evon M. Moore, 48, but detectives have searched his apartment and vehicle, Spokane Police Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said Thursday

 Vargas was released from federal prison on Aug. 2 after serving about four years for a sex crime.

Moore’s body was found near Riverside Avenue and Ralph Street on Aug. 13.

Vargas was driving a red early ‘90s Chevrolet pickup when he was arrested last week.

The truck matches the description of a vehicle caught on surveillance camera in the area where Moore’s body was found.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 23: Recently released sex offender arrested for rape

Aug. 15: Slain woman was dedicated student, family says

Officer in fatal shooting is 16-year vet

A 16-year Spokane police veteran and member of the SWAT team has been identified as the officer who shot and killed an armed and suicidal man Monday.

 Authorities said Thursday that Officer Dan Lesser (left) was the only officer who fired shots during the nearly two-hour standoff with James Edward Rogers, 45, (right) who died of gunshot wounds after he refused a negotiator’s commands to exit his overturned van at East Seventh Avenue and South Hatch Street on the lower South Hill.

Officers could see him “hanging from the driver’s seat, still manipulating the shotgun” after the van overturned, according to a news release by Spokane County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 29: Man killed by police fired shot before chase began

Sept. 28: Family questions fatal police shooting

Sept. 27: Standoff ends with man dead from police gunfire

Police chief’s wife ticketed at his order

LODI, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey police chief says no one is above the law — not even his wife.

Lodi Police Chief Vincent Caruso ordered an officer to ticket his wife after she double parked while dropping off their 5-year-old son at school.

Caruso told The Record newspaper he didn't want her to get any special treatment because of who she is.

The chief paid the $54 ticket.

It's not the first time for Paula Caruso. The chief ordered another officer to ticket her two years ago after she forgot to move their vehicle for street cleaning.

The chief told the newspaper he loves his wife and she's very busy driving their four sons around.

His wife couldn't be reached for comment Thursday. The Carusos' phone number is unlisted.

Copper theft for wedding nets $18

ELLWOOD CITY, Pa. (AP) — Police say a western Pennsylvania couple desperate for money to pay for their wedding netted just $18 for the stolen copper wire they cut from more than a dozen utility poles.

North Sewickley police say 23-year-old Joseph Russell and 24-year-old April Cater cut down the wires on August 9, four days before their wedding.

Russell says he was desperate for money because he'd just lost his job and lost a $1,000 deposit after his reception hall abruptly closed down.

Sgt. Jeff Bezce says the couple clearly expected to get more money than they got from the scrap where they sold the copper.

Russell tells WPXI-TV he will pay for the damages. Utility officials say it will cost about $400 to repair the 18 poles that were damaged.

Pit bull owners face cruelty charges

A dog owner is facing animal cruelty charges after bringing his emaciated, starving pit bull to the vet.

The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service filed a charging request against Randy Jensen for first-degree animal cruelty and second-degree animal cruelty. Charging requests were also filed for his sister, Talina Jensen, also faces of first-degree animal cruelty and confinement in an unsafe manner.

Randy Jensen took the dog, Jackson, in for veterinary care Sept. 9 after he lost about 20 pounds and stopped eating, according to a SCRAPS news release. However, Jensen did not have the money for the recommended exam but did not want to euthanize the dog. He brought Jackson to his sister Talina Jensen for care, but Jackson continued to suffer “substantial and unjustifiable pain,” the news release said.

On Sept. 26, SCRAPS animal protection officers rushed Jackson in for veterinary care after they began an investigation. Tests showed Jackson’s intestines had burst and he was septic, the news release said.

Jackson was euthanized.

“Jackson suffered for several weeks and the charges reflect the serious nature of the crimes committed against him,” said Nicole Montano, lead animal protection officer. “SCRAPS takes the issue of animal cruelty and neglect very seriously and this was an extreme case of cruelty and neglect.”

SCRAPs urges anyone who sees an animal being mistreated to call (509) 477-2532

Woman charged for pawned eagle parts

A Spokane woman who police say pawned a staff containing bald eagle feathers and talons has been charged with a crime.

Kristina D. Booth faces up to a year in prison, five years probation and a $5,000 fine if convicted of knowingly selling any bald eagle part.

Booth is accused of selling the staff for $40 at the Double Eagle Pawn Shop in October 2009.

Agents with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife were notified of a staff containing five bald eagle feathers and one eagle claw with four talons in February. They identifed Booth as the seller through store records.

Booth was in the Spokane County Jail on drug charges when agents approached her; she said the feathers were from a goose before admitting they were eagle feathers, according to court documents.

Booth has bee summoned to an arraignment U.S. District Court.

Suicidal man fired shot before chase

A suicidal man who was shot to death by police during a nearly two-hour standoff apparently fired a shotgun outside his workplace before officers arrived, according to information released today by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

A sheriff’s K-9 team recovered a portion of a shotgun shell known as a wad in the area where a witness said James Edward Rogers fired a shot before fleeing in a van. No one was injured by that shot in the parking lot.

But about two hours later, Rogers, 45, was killed by Spokane police after refusing commands to put down the shotgun and exit the overturned van, which he had crashed at East Seventh Avenue and South Hatch Street while fleeing officers.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 28: Family questions fatal police shooting

Sept. 27: Standoff ends with man dead from police gunfire


Tips sought on prosecutor’s ‘01 slaying

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder walks into the Thomas C. Wales Conference Room at the U.S. Federal Courthouse on Wednesday in Seattle. (AP Photo/, Joshua Trujillo)

SEATTLE (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder sought help from the public on Wednesday in renewed efforts by federal authorities to find the killer of an assistant U.S. attorney who was fatally shot through a window in his Seattle home.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales is believed to be the only federal prosecutor to die in the line of duty, although authorities have not established a motive in the 2001 slaying.

“We will never give up our search for the truth,” said Holder, who came to Seattle to reassure friends and family of his former colleague that the investigation remained active, even after 10 years.

He emphasized that new information was coming in on a regular basis. But law enforcement officials believe witnesses who hold the key to solving the crime possibly are too afraid to come forward.

Wales was 49 when he was killed on the night of Oct. 11, 2001, as he sat at his computer in the home in the Queen Anne neighborhood. The shots went through a window from his backyard.

The longtime federal prosecutor mostly handled white-collar crimes and had been active in a gun-control group.

His son, Tom Wales, told The Associated Press that anniversaries, like this 10th one, are for the public. They remember their dad every day, especially at happy times such as his sister's wedding earlier this month, he said.

“We're patient,” he said, a reference to the time that has passed since his father's death. “We know this kind of complicated investigation can take a very long time indeed.”

“Things have been progressing every year,” added Amy Wales, his sister.

In a video created for the case and in their comments to the media, both children said Wales was respected in his community and at his job, but he was primarily a great father.

Amy Wales urged witnesses to be brave and make an effort for justice, just as her father did during his career.

Tom Wales compared his father to the character Jimmy Stewart played in “It's a Wonderful Life,” and talked about the ways he affected other people's lives, from planting trees on the top of Queen Anne hill to climbing mountains with his children.

For a time, police and FBI focused on an airline pilot who was bitter over being prosecuted by Wales in a case involving the sale of helicopter parts. His home in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue was searched three times, but he was not charged.

A Bellevue gun dealer also was arrested as a material witness in the case because he had purchased parts for a handgun like the one used to kill Wales. A unique gun barrel had been used in the shooting.

The gun dealer was convicted in 2007, but the conviction was overturned in 2009.

Wales' killing remained a top priority of the FBI, said Gregory Fowler, the head of the bureau's office in Portland. The Justice Department has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to a conviction of the shooter.

“We know there are people out there who haven't come forward,” Fowler said. “Even the smallest clue may help.”

Canadian cocaine smuggler gets 4 years

A Canadian man caught with 71 pounds of cocaine near the international border in February has been sentenced to about four years in prison.

Jonathan Darren “Grundy” Smith, 40, is to serve 51 months for possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.

Smith faced 10 years in prison, but his lawyer asked for a reduced sentence because Smith was not to be involved in the distribution of the cocaine once he smuggled it into Canada.

Smith had traveled into the United States to obtain the cocaine when a border patrol agent saw him on the east side of Highway 395 on Feb. 16 “frantically trying to climb the snowy berm at the edge of the roadway” near the Laurier border crossing, according to court documents.

Police found 30 packages of cocaine in two backpacks.

Investigators believes Smith, who played on the Canadian Rugby Junior National team in 1990 and 1994, is the same Grundy described as a major drug smuggler during a briefing with an informant in 2009.

Smith's father was convicted of flying a plane full of marijuana into Redding, Calif., and Smith has traveled around the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Mexico. He was living at his brother's condominium in Whistler, B.C., before his arrest.

Prosecutors had objected to a reduced sentencing for a mitigating role, saying that Smith's conduct was neither minimum nor minor.

“The cocaine could not be distributed in Canada without first being exported from the United States into Canada. In keeping with the critical nature of this role, it was not left to chance but was assigned to the an experienced and well compensated smuggler,” according to court documents prepared by prosecutors. “As a result, the Defendant’s conduct would not have been substantially less culpable than that of the average co-participant in the presumed, uncharged conspiracy.”

U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush sentenced Smith to 51 months in prison on Friday. He remains in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to federal prison.

Past coverage:

March 24: Cocaine suspect already on DEA's radar

2 at large after fatal shooting in Quincy

Police have identified three persons of interested in the shooting death of a man in Quincy, Wash., on Friday.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Gerardo Miguel Valenzuela Navarro, 18, (right) or Erwin Vazquez, 20, (left) is asked to call their local law enforcement agency or the Quincy Police Department at (509) 787-2222. 

Also identified as a person of interest is Eddie Alvarez Hernandez, 21, (right) who is in custody on a Washington Department of Corrections hold.

Police believe the three may be connected to the shooting death Ramiro Muñoz, Jr.

Elderly man indicted in drug conspiracy

A 77-year-old man who lived near the Canadian border in Ferry County is accused of being a major drug trafficker.

Alvin O. Shields was allowed to leave the Spokane County Jail on Tuesday, where he was booked Sunday on federal cocaine and marijuana charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences of 5 to 10 years.

Shields will be on electronic home monitoring in Oregon, where he recently relocated, as he awaits trial.

The elderly man and his wife, Beverly Ann Shields, previously lived in Danville, Ferry County, where he is accused of participating in a drug-dealing conspiracy beginning in October 2003.

Shields also lived in Canada for 30 years, federal prosecutors said Tuesday at his bail hearing in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Prosecutors didn't object to Shields being allowed to leave jail pending trial. In addition to home monitoring, he's to submit to random drugs tests and is prohibited from leaving the country or possessing guns and ammunition.

Shields used a hearing aid in court Tuesday; U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno turned up her microphone and spoke quite loudly.

The suspect is accused with unnamed co-conspirators of conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

He's charged with importation of 100 kilos or more of marijuana, two counts of conspiracy to import and export 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and five counts of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified illegal activity for withdrawing large amounts of cash on several occasions.

Forfeiture charges also call for Shields to give up property at Fourth of July Creek Estates in Ferry County.

Another Danville resident, Harold Oscar Strandberg, was indicted last year after two Canadian pot smugglers, William Richard Paterson and Jahrum David Oakes, were arrested with large amounts of marijuana at Strandberg's Fourth of July Creek Road property.

Strandberg pleaded guilty in March and is on probation for three years.

Family questions fatal police shooting

Spokane police and members of the SWAT unit investigate after a stand-off with the shooting death of James E. Rogers on Monday near Seventh and Hatch on the lower South Hill. (Jesse Tinsley/SR)

James Edward Rogers spent Monday driving around the Spokane area, calling his family.

Depressed and distraught, the 45-year-old father of seven said it was over – that he had his father’s shotgun and planned to use it on himself. His family frantically searched for him, eventually learning of a police standoff on the lower South Hill with a man in a van.

It had to be him, said Rogers’ father, Alonzo Rogers, who owns the van his son took from their Deer Park home Monday.

Family rushed to the area of Hatch Street and Seventh Avenue to help officers persuade Rogers to surrender, but gunfire interrupted Rogers’ sister’s phone call with police.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 27: Standoff ends with man dead from police gunfire

Tips sought on man missing since 2010

Authorities are looking for information on a 44-year-old Spokane Valley man who was reported missing in May 2010.

 A Kellogg, Idaho, police officer found Terry L. Mattingly's red Ford Tempo in August 2010 when he stopped its female driver, who said she'd bought the car from Mattingly a week earlier in the Rose Lake area.

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Department is following leads on Mattingly's disappearance and would like to speak with anyone who may have knowledge of his whereabouts since spring 2010.

Authorities said last year that Mattingly was reported missing by his daughter on May 17, 2010. Mattingly's daughter said her father “was becoming increasingly paranoid about other family members” and left his home in the 2100 block of North Lily a week earlier, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Detectives entered his information in the national police intelligence network, which led Kellogg police to identify the Tempo.

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

Young Ecstasy dealer gets 5 1/2 years

A Spokane man arrested on Ecstasy and firearm charges after telling a federal informant that he would “shoot it out with the cops” is headed to prison.

Patrick Hayes Wellman, 20, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court to to 5 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to distribution of Ecstasy and use or carry of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. He'll be on probation for three years after his release.

The DEA began investigating Wellman in March after a confidential informant told them Wellman sold large quantities of Ecstasy and repeatedly said he could obtain as many pills as he wished.

The informant was to buy 100 pills from Wellman for $450. During a recorded conversation, Wellman boasted to the informant of stealing firearms; when the informant asked what he would do if stopped by police, Wellman responded “Well, I'm not going to go down easy. I'm going to shoot it out with the cops,” according to court testimony.

Police arrested block Wellman's car during a traffic stop and found a loaded .44 revolver in the car after his arrest.

Wellman's friends, Jeramy Michael Allen, then 18, and Vonne A. Renkert-Schafer, then 20, were arrested for retaliating against the informant in Wellman's case. Allen has pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and Renkert-Schafer has pleaded guilty to retaliating against an informant. Both are out of custody awaiting sentencing.

Wellman's lawyer, Bevan Maxey, said in court documents that Wellman has no previous criminal history and is not associated with gangs or organized crime. Wellman hopes to complete drug treatment program and has the skills to earn an honest living after prison, Maxey wrote.

Now that his federal case is resolved, Wellman is due in Superior Court today on gun and theft charges for a burglary ring in Spokane County.

1 arrested for stabbing near fire station

A firefighter standing outside a station at West 1st Avenue and South Walnut Street Friday witnessed a stabbing and treated the victim's head injury, authorities say.

Dean Carr was on the south side of the fire station when he saw a man approach two people who were sitting in the grassy area just south of the station about 6:15 p.m., according to court documents.

Carr called 911 when a fight broke out and saw the assailant pick up two sleeping bags and walk away. He treated the man for a stab wound to the head and identified Richard A. Sala, 21, as the attacker. Spokane police had found a knife with blood on it in Sala's right front pocket, documents say.

Sala, who has previous convictions for assault, said he fought with the couple because he believes the sleeping bags belong to him, police say. He was arrested for first-degree robbery. The sleeping bags were recovered.

Two hours later, another stabbing was reported at 2305 W. Dean Ave. Suspect Kenneth W. Middleton, 32, was arrested for first-degree assault for allegedly attacking a man who was arguing with the man's own wife.

Both men appeared in Superior Court on Monday.

2 men suspected in Ford fiend thefts

Spokane Valley police recently arrested a man for a series of vehicle prowls targeting Ford trucks after using Department of Licensing records to identify the suspect's SUV.

Surveillance video showed two men breaking into several Ford trucks at different locations and leaving in a green Chevrolet Suburban with a temporary license plate in the rear window.

Detectives looked through the DOL database for recently purchased Suburbans and found a 1998 green one purchased by Peter N. Harras, 29. Harras (left) was listed in the pawn shop database as having pawned several items between Aug. 1 and Sept. 18, which was the same period as the prowlings. The items matched items stolen in the prowlings.

Harras was arrested Friday at his apartment, 940 S. Lincoln St., where detectives found other items stolen in the prowlings.

Harras, who has several felony convictions for theft and stolen property, remains in jail on $7,500 bond after appearing in Superior Court Monday.

Police still are looking for Johnnie Lee Bonner, 33, (right) whom they say acted as an accomplice. He is white, 6 feet tall, about 250 pounds and has a shaved head and a white pride tattoo on his arm.

Anyone with information on Bonner's location is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Past coverage:

Sept. 14: Cop's truck is latest Ford fiend target

Crash kills off-duty Rathdrum policeman

CUSICK, Wash. (AP) — A police officer from Rathdrum, Idaho, was killed in a motorcycle crash near Cusick on Highway 20.

The Washington State Patrol says 27-year-old Jonathan Franco was riding his motorcycle Saturday when it rear-ended a car that has slowed for an injured deer in the roadway.

Franco has been a Rathdrum officer for nearly five years. He is survived by his parents and two sisters.

Nev. casino shooting kills Hells Angel

In this Friday, Sept. 23, photo, officers keep an eye on handcuffed men at the east entrance to John Ascuaga's Nugget after a shooting in Sparks, Nev. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal)

By KEN RITTER,Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — With a Hells Angel dead in a northern Nevada casino shooting, two members of the rival Vagos motorcycle club wounded and a third hurt in a drive-by attack hours later, investigators were using video and witnesses Monday to identify who's responsible for the weekend violence.

One Hells Angels member was in jail, but no arrests have been made in Friday night's slaying of Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew at John Ascuaga's Nugget, Deputy Sparks Police Chief Brian Allen said. Pettigrew, 51, was the president of the Hells Angels chapter in San Jose, Calif., where he worked as a city heavy equipment operator.

Allen said Monday that casino surveillance video won't be made public until investigators complete the painstaking work of identifying about 60 Vagos and 12 Hells Angels amid a crowd of several hundred people gambling and partying. Members of the crowd suddenly dove for cover when gunfire disrupted the regional Street Vibrations motorcycle rally.

“We don't want to sensationalize it. We don't want to influence the groups. We don't want to have something happen somewhere else,” Allen said in an interview. “A lot of the players are from out of the state and out of the region. If you look at it historically, there've been tensions between these two groups. But we're still looking at what exactly set off this specific incident.”

In Arizona, more than two dozen members of the rival groups were arrested in August 2010 after a shootout left five people wounded in Chino Valley, north of Prescott.

In California, an annual organized crime report from the state attorney general calls longstanding tensions between the Hells Angels and the Vagos “particularly poignant.” It cited instances in which the Hells Angels have forced Vagos out of chapters in Hells Angels hotspots.

San Jose police Sgt. Jason Dwyer downplayed the possibility of retaliatory acts in the largest city of the San Francisco Bay area.

“We are not aware of any specific threat at this time,” Dwyer said Monday. “We are not expecting any action here.”

Allen said it appeared from the videos that the Sparks shooting was spontaneous and not the result of two groups entering the 1,600-room hotel and casino girded for battle.

One witness told the Reno Gazette-Journal that a man wearing Hells Angels insignia pulled a handgun and fired after being bloodied and knocked to the floor in a fistfight.

The shooting drew a heavy response from local, state and federal law enforcers, prompting the cancellation of the weekend rally in Sparks. The mayor declared a state of emergency.

Two men identified by police as Vagos motorcycle club members from California were wounded.

Leonard Ramirez, 45, was hospitalized with an abdominal wound, and Diego Garcia, 28, was wounded in the leg, Allen said. Both men were reported to be in stable condition over the weekend at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. A hospital spokesman said he could release no information about them Monday.

The only man arrested immediately after the shooting — Cesar Villagrana, 36, a Hells Angel member from California — was being held Monday on $500,000 bail at the Washoe County jail in Reno. He faces a court appearance on felony assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a stolen firearm charges.

It was not immediately clear if Villagrana had a lawyer.

Allen said Villagrana was seen on the videotape shooting into the crowd, but police found no immediate evidence that he wounded anyone.

“We were very fortunate that nobody else got hurt,” Allen said.

Sparks Mayor Geno Martini later linked a drive-by shooting Saturday morning that left a motorcyclist wounded to the deadly casino shooting less than 12 hours earlier.

Police said Shane Smith, 40, a Vagos member from California, was hospitalized in stable condition.

Allen said police weren't immediately able to connect the two shootings. He said investigators were looking for witnesses and a black BMW four-door sedan with tinted windows that pulled alongside Smith before he was shot.


Associated Press writer Terry Collins in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Hoopfest convict wanted in North Idaho

A man involved in a gang-related shooting at Hoopfest is wanted in North Idaho for felony injury to a child.

Marquis D. Johnson, 23, has a $50,000 warrant for his arrest in Kootenia County for allegedly assaulting a 6-year-old girl in Coeur d'Alene on June 25.

Johnson is accused of throwing a salt-and-pepper shaker at the girl, according to court documents. Further details are pending a week-old records request for a report from the Coeur d'Alene Police Department.

Johnson was given an exceptionally low sentence of six months in jail last fall after pleading guilty to second-degree assault in relation to the shooting at Hoopfest.

Johnson was originally charged with about a dozen counts of attempted murder after gunshots injured two girls and grazed a bystander at the annual basketball tournament in downtown Spokane on June 26.

The triggerman, Miguel C. Garcia, is serving a nine-year prison sentence. Johnson had been released from prison just three weeks earlier after serving three years for a shooting in Spokane that didn't injure anyone.

The warrant in Kootenai County was issued Aug. 5.

Anyone with information on Johnson's location is asked to call the sheriff's department at (208) 446-1300.

Cable TV show to feature Spokane case

The case of a retired Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who killed himself in Spokane after being accused of a 14-year-old murder will be featured on a cable TV show next weekend.

 A TV news crew found the body Ted Eugene Kirby, 54, in a pasture near his home at East 16th Avenue and South Carnahan Road in Spokane in July 1999. He was last seen alive on June 30, 1999, shortly after Los Angeles detectives investigating a 14-year-old murder came to Spokane to collect a saliva sample from him.

California investigators believe Kirby shot a sergeant, George Arthur, 37, to death in June 1985. Kirby was working as a deputy at the time.

The two men were reportedly romantically involved with the same woman at the time of the shooting, which occurred as Arthur was pulling his van onto southbound Interstate 5 in Los Angeles. Investigators believe Kirby was in the van with Arthur.

Arthur lost control of the car after he was shot, and it slammed into a freeway divider. Witnesses reported seeing someone crawl out of the wreckage and run away.

The crime remained a mystery until investigators were able to match DNA evidence discovered near Arthur's wrecked van to Kirby and obtained a new sample in 1999.

Kirby worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department until 1996, when he retired to south Spokane with his wife.

He had been working part-time as a baggage handler at Spokane International Airport when Los Angeles detectives approached him.

Los Angeles issued a warrant days before his body was found charging Kirby with captial murder.

Sunday at 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery will air “Blood on the Badge,” an hour-long episode of “Unusual Suspects” that explores the Kirby case and includes interviews with the victim’s coworkers and fellow officers with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.Find the channel here.

Past coverage:

July 15, 1999: TV crew finds suspected cop killer's body

July 14, 1999: Local man flees Los Angeles murder probe

2 more charged in Stevens Co. homicide

Two additional suspects have been charged with murder in the shooting death of a Stevens County man in July.

Jesse J. Fellman-Shimmin, 27, (pictured) and Collette Marie Pierce, 25, appeared Thursday in Stevens County Superior Court on first-degree murder charges for the death of Gordon Feist, 63, during what investigators believe was a botched robbery attempt. They also are charged with second-degree murder as an alternate.

They are to be arraigned Tuesday, said Deputy Prosecutor Lech Radzimski.

The accused triggerman, Eric Lee Booth, 26, has been in jail on a murder charge since July 20.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 2: Murder suspect may claim insanity

July 21: Police think botched theft led to murder near Colville

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

Hanford kickbacks lead to $1.5M deal

A subsidiary of the engineering firm CH2M Hill has agreed to pay federal authorities $1.5 million to resolve allegations that its employees knowingly submitted false claims and paid kickbacks as part of its contract to operate and manage mixed radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Site.

 Between 2003 and 2005, two employees made more than 200 purchases from companies owned and operated by their spouses and either charged inflated prices or didn’t provide the items to the U.S. Department of Energy. Both were working for CH2M Hill as part of the cleanup of 170 underground tanks that story radioactive and hazardous waste, according to a news release.

 Three of four persons involved in the scheme have already pleaded guilty on fraud charges. One other has a criminal trial pending.

 “Government contractor fraud at Hanford simply will not be tolerated,” Michael Ormsby, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said in the news release. “This resolution demonstrates that corporations will be held accountable when they turn a blind eye to fraud and self-dealing.”

Sex offender arrested for rape

A sex offender released from federal prison last month is accused of raping a Spokane prostitute in an attack that was discovered by an observant state trooper patrolling traffic.

Derrick Ross Vargas, 24, was arrested early Friday after a Washington State Patrol trooper said he stopped him for driving with a broken taillight and a woman jumped out of the truck and yelled “He raped me!”

Read the rest of my story here.

Ex-postal worker sentenced in mail theft

An ex-postal supervisor and Air Force veteran will be on probation for five years for stealing prescription medication from mail.

Mark Charles Raley, 46, of Spokane also will pay $5,045 in restitution under a sentence imposed this week in U.S. District Court in Spokane. He pleaded guilty in May to two counts of theft of mail by a postal service employee.

Raley was a supervisor at the U.S. Postal Service Spokane Processing and Distribution Center when he became addicted to hydrocodone after undergone gastric bypass surgery. He was being treated at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center but grew heavily addicted and began sorting mail looking for VA package containing hydrocodone. He wouldn't steal any other prescription drugs, according to court documents.

“Mr. Raley does not have a checkered past and was not looking to profit from his conduct by selling to others; rather, he simply sought to support his hydrocodone addiction,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer, John McEntire.

In a prepared statement, Michael Seitler, an Office of Inspector General special agent in charge of the VA’s northwest field office, said Raley “prevented numerous veterans from receiving the medication they desperately needed.”

Raley entered a drug treatment program offered by the VA in December shortly after being confronted about the thefts. He continues to attend drug rehab and is living in a clean-and-sober house that requires him to take random drug tests.

Raley wants to attend school to be a substance abuse counselor, McEntire said.

Woman accused of huge Ponzi scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission accuses the owner of a bankrupt Spokane-based payday loan business with conducting a massive Ponzi scheme.

 The civil complaint alleges that Doris “Dee” Nelson stole investor money to pay for an upscale lifestyle that included expensive cars and gambling jaunts to Las Vegas.

Nelson lives with her family in Colbert. The SEC alleges she defrauded investors in her company, Little Loan Shoppe, by misrepresenting the profitability and safety of their investments and giving them the false impression that their money was being used to grow her business.

Read the rest of John Stucke's story here.

Past coverage:

May 20, 2010: LLC in Ponzi probe in the black, report says

April 7, 2010: Feds search Spokane payday loan firm

Feb 24, 2010: State outlines Ponzi charges

July 23, 2009: Loan shop files for bankruptcy

Texas ends special meals in executions

By MICHAEL GRACZYK,Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — Texas inmates who are set to be executed will no longer get their choice of last meals, a change prison officials made Thursday after a prominent state senator became miffed over an expansive request from a man condemned for a notorious dragging death.

Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr. more than a decade ago, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts.

Prison officials said Brewer (pictured) didn't eat any of it.

“It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege,” Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, wrote in a letter Thursday to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Within hours, Livingston said the senator's concerns were valid and the practice of allowing death row offenders to choose their final meal was history.

“Effective immediately, no such accommodations will be made,” Livingston said. “They will receive the same meal served to other offenders on the unit.”

That had been the suggestion from Whitmire, who called the traditional request “ridiculous.”

“It's long overdue,” the Houston Democrat told The Associated Press. “This old boy last night, enough is enough. We're fixing to execute the guy and maybe it makes the system feel good about what they're fixing to do. Kind of hypocritical, you reckon?

“Mr. Byrd didn't get to choose his last meal. The whole deal is so illogical.”

Brewer, a white supremacist gang member, was convicted of chaining Byrd, 49, to the back of a pickup truck and dragging him to his death along a bumpy road in a case shocked the nation for its brutality.

Whitmire warned in his letter that if the “last meal of choice” practice wasn't stopped immediately, he'd seek a state statute to end it when lawmakers convene in the next legislative session.

It was not immediately clear whether other states have made similar moves. Some limit the final meal cost — Florida's ceiling is $40, according to the Department of Corrections website, with food to be purchased locally. Others, like Texas, which never had a designated dollar limit, mandate meals be prison-made. Some states don't acknowledge final meals, and others will disclose the information only if the inmate agrees, said K. William Hayes, a Florida-based death penalty historian.

Some states require the meal within a specific time period, allow multiple “final” meals, restrict it to one or impose “a vast number of conditions,” he said.

Historical references to a condemned person's last meal go as far back as ancient Greece, China and Rome, Hayes said. Some of it is apparently rooted in superstition about meals warding off possible haunting by condemned people once they are put to death.

The Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based anti-capital punishment organization that collects execution statistics, said it had no data on final meals.

Since Texas resumed carrying out executions in 1982, the state correction agency's practice has been to fill a condemned inmate's request as long as the items, or food similar to what was requested, were readily available from the prison kitchen supplies.

While extensive, Brewer's request was far from the largest or most bizarre among the 475 Texas inmates put to death.

On Tuesday, prisoner Cleve Foster's request included two fried chickens, French fries and a five-gallon bucket of peaches. He received a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court but none of his requested meal. He was on his way back to death row, at a prison about 45 miles east of Huntsville, at the time when his feast would have been served.

Last week, inmate Steven Woods' request included two pounds of bacon, a large four-meat pizza, four fried chicken breasts, two drinks each of Mountain Dew, Pepsi, root beer and sweet tea, two pints of ice cream, five chicken fried steaks, two hamburgers with bacon, fries and a dozen garlic bread sticks with marinara on the side. Two hours later, he was executed.

Years ago, a Texas inmate even requested dirt for his final meal.

Until 2003, the Texas prison system listed final meals of each prisoner as part of its death row website. That stopped at 313 final meals after officials said they received complaints from people who found it offensive.

A former inmate cook who made the last meals for prisoners at the Huntsville Unit, where Texas executions are carried out, wrote a cookbook several years ago after he was released. Among his recipes were Gallows Gravy, Rice Rigor Mortis and Old Sparky's Genuine Convict Chili, a nod to the electric chair that once served as the execution method. The book was called “Meals to Die For.”

Detectives offer sex offender information

Here's a report from Sgt. Dave Reagan:

Recent angst regarding a suspected sex offender watching children at a Spokane Valley school has prompted the sheriff’s Sex Crimes unit to offer information that might clarify how sex offenders are monitored in Spokane County and eliminate some common misconceptions.

There are about 1,400 registered sex offenders (RSO’s) in Spokane County, a number that changes slightly day-to-day.  Tracking these offenders is a joint effort by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the Spokane Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service.  Each agency has personnel assigned to register, track and monitor each of these 1,400 RSO’s.

The sheriff’s office has three detectives, one deputy and a secretary dedicated full-time to this effort.  SPD has two full-time detectives and the marshal’s office has one full-time agent and several who work it part-time in addition to other duties.

When a suspect is convicted of a sex or kidnapping offense that mandates registration, and then is released from custody, he is required to go to the sheriff’s office and register.  The Department of Corrections (DOC) will have designated a “Level,” I, II or III – one being considered the least likely to re-offend and three being the most likely.  This “leveling” is based on a statewide standard.  If an offender comes from another state or was not confined, sheriff’s detectives assign him a level based on the same DOC standards.

All RSO’s receive regular visits at their homes by a detective or deputy to verify they are living at the address they registered.  Level I offenders are visited at least once a year, Level II at least twice and Level III at least four times.  They are visited each and every time they change their address as well.  If an offender has no home, he is registered as a transient and must report in-person weekly to the sheriff’s office.

    When an offender is sentenced, he can be released to be supervised by DOC until his sentence time as expired.  While on DOC supervision, there may be restrictions set by the Community Corrections Officer restricting his or her freedom to live or work in certain places – schools or daycares, for instance.  If an offender has completed his sentence and is no longer on supervision, he is free to live and work anywhere he wants – there are no legal restrictions.

In some rare instances, the court may note that an offender is a “Sexually Violent Predator” and will restrict where he can live – not within 880 feet of a school, for instance.  Without this court designation, offenders are free to live anywhere they choose.

If an offender fails to comply with his registration requirements, a detective will write a warrant request for him.  Regardless of where the offender is found in the United States, he will be brought back to Spokane County for prosecution.

Members of the sex offender units go online daily to search for predators and users/makers of child pornography.  These cases are aggressively investigated, and when possible, search warrants are written and executed for the perpetrators.

The sheriff’s office will notify schools when offenders tell us they will be attending or working there.  Schools have the responsibility to notify certain members of their staff.  However, this only applies when the offender attends or works in the school.  Schools are not required to notify students, parents or neighbors if the offender merely lives nearby.

When a sex offender registers, his or her name is entered into a statewide law enforcement database with the Washington State Patrol.  The name is also entered into a sex offender database called Offender Watch which is accessible to anyone with a computer.  A person can look up his own address and the database will show all Level II and III offenders in the neighborhood.  By state law, level one offenders are exempted.

The following limited public information about an RSO may be released by law enforcement –

For Level II and III offenders, a flyer is printed and distributed to SCOPE and COPS offices where volunteers distribute them in a two block radius of the neighborhood where the offender is living.  Level III information is released to media as well.

For Level I offenders, information may only be released to the offender’s victims, witnesses and individual community members who live near the offender and who request it.

When people see known RSO’s in schools, daycares, libraries, parks and other places children might frequent, we ask that they remember that offenders have the same rights to be there as everyone else, and to be free from harassment.  However, we also welcome calls if the RSO is in any way acting suspiciously.

Nigeria dismisses ‘killer’ phone number

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's government is assuring people in Africa's most populous nation: a phone call can't kill you.

A text message has spread across the oil-rich country in recent days, warning that people will die if they answer mobile phone calls from 09141. The widespread fear forced the Nigerian Communications Commission to issue a statement Wednesday saying it is “unimaginable that somebody will die while receiving a call.”

Commission spokesman Reuben Muoka says: “It is only very gullible people that will believe such a rumor.”

Text message panics in Nigeria have included rumors of bombings and rumors that acid rain from seasonal dust storms can burn people alive. The campaigns are aided by poor education and lack of faith in the government.

A call to the number Thursday resulted in no fatalities.

Charges dropped against ex-detective

The case against former Spokane police Detective Jeff Harvey has essentially been dropped after a jury deadlocked Wednesday on an obstruction charge and the prosecutor said he won’t pursue a second trial.

 Verdicts require unanimous decisions and the jury split 5-to-1 in favor of acquittal. Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Brian O’Brien said the case is over.

“I won’t be pursuing it,” O’Brien said. Harvey “had to go through the full trial. We had our day in court on this charge.”

Read the reset of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 20: Obstruction trial for ex-police detective begins

July 16: Fired detective files $10 million claim

July 15: SPD detective fired for 'troubled history'

Feb. 10: SPD detective accused of obstruction

Pot for homework-induced arthritis?

A medical marijuana patient contacted when a fire broke out at his Greenacres home told police he had been prescribed pot because of arthritis in his hand caused by “too much homework,” authorities say.

 The 19-year-old man and his 22-year-old roommate had 27 marijuana plants at his father's home in the 2500 block of South Timberlane Drive, which they are legally able to have under the state's medical marijuana law.

The plants were not seized after the fire last Friday, and neither man was arrested, but Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan sent out a news release today that said Detective Travis Hansen asked the men what their special ailments were because “they were so young and appeared to be fit and in good health.”

In addition to the 19-year-old's reported homework-induced arthritis, the 22-year-old said he had severe pain in one of his feet. Reagan said suspicions were aroused when one of the tenants told a fire inspector had had “smoked a bowl” and left to get something to eat. 

But the fire does not appear to be caused by smoked marijuana, rather the 19-year-old may have discarded a cigarette in bark outside the home, said Bill Clifford, spokesman for the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

“He smokes a lot, both cigarettes and marijuana,” Clifford said. “He reminded me of Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Damage is estimated at $300,000, Clifford said. The home is insured.

The man's 53-year-old father suffered burns to right arm, neck and face while escaping the blaze, which began while he was downstairs watching TV. A smoke alarm alerted him to the blaze.

A neighbor also was treated for smoke inhalation he suffered while stopping the fire from spreading to his home.

2nd officer in Zehm probe identified

With the excessive force trial of a Spokane police officer less than a month away, the identity of a second officer under active federal investigation in connection with the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm has been confirmed.

 Senior Spokane Police Officer Sandra McIntyre (pictured) already has testified before a federal grand jury that indicted fellow officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. She now faces a potential obstruction of justice charge based on her testimony, according to her attorney and others familiar with the ongoing probe.

“She is telling them what she knows,” McIntyre’s attorney, Rob Cossey, said. “But they think she has more information.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

2 accused in Subway gunpoint robbery

Two men were arrested for an armed robbery at a Subway sandwich shop Wednesday night.

Spokane police spotted William Frederick Ellis, 30, and Eric Lyle Davidow, 32, walking on northbound on Cedar from Knox and noticed the matched the description of two men seen running to a home in the 1900 block of North Jefferson just after a gunman robbed Subway at 1103 Northwest Blvd.

Officers Jay Kernkamp, Michele Madsen and Aaron Ames “made a tactical and safe approach” and arrested the men.

Police located cash and clothing consistent with the robbery, as well as a gun that matched the description of the gun used int eh robbery.

Ellis and Davidow are to appear in Spokane County Superior Court today on a first-degree robbery charge. They're in custody at the Spokane County Jail.

The robbery was reported about 9 p.m.

Suspect in cash ring faces heroin count

A woman already facing federal charges for a counterfeit money ring has been indicted by a grand jury on a heroin charge.

Tawny Michelle Rhodes, 39, faces not less than five years and no more than 40 years if convicted of possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, but she could get at least 10 years if she has a previous drug convictions.

Rhodes was sentenced to 18 months in prison on state drug charges last month but is in the Spokane County Jail awaiting trial in U.S. District Court for allegedly manufacturing fake money between May and August.

Also charged in the counterfeit cash scheme are Cole T. Monson, Melissa A. Smith, Ronald Dale Mueller, 44; Brandy Mueller, Jessica Crabtree and Robin Knuttgen.

Repeat offender accused of escape plot

A 15-time felon considered by law enforcement to be one of the area’s most active criminals is accused of planning an escape at Geiger Corrections Center, and jail staff are investigating why he was placed at the minimum-security facility.

 Jeffery Edward Krell, 44, was caught with marijuana at the Spokane County Jail last month, but he had recently been reclassified as a lower security inmate when Geiger staff discovered 15 screws missing from a broken window in his unit at Geiger in Airway Heights, which serves as an extension of the jail for minimum security inmates, said Sgt. Dave Reagan, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

“I don’t know why” Krell was reclassified, Reagan said, adding that staff at Geiger “are kind of scratching their heads, too.”

Read the rest of my story here.

‘Extra duty’ police program too costly?

A government program that arranges “extra duty” security jobs for Spokane police officers and Spokane County sheriff’s deputies isn’t paying its way, according to a county cost-recovery specialist.

Other public officials disagree, saying private employers shouldn’t be forced to pay fixed costs the government would have to pay anyway.

The program essentially sells government service, including the use of patrol cars and other equipment, to private organizations.

It’s an alternative to allowing officers to arrange their own off-duty work without supervision, or to prohibiting them from doing freelance work.

The problem, according to Guy Cavender, manager of the county’s “cost recovery project,” is that the sheriff’s extra-duty program – presumably the city’s, too, he said – isn’t covering expenses.

Read the rest of John Craig's story here.

DNA on shorts link man to store burglary

A Spokane man linked to a burglary by a pair of shorts left near the scene has pleaded guilty to theft.

 Samuel Sidney Allman IV, 23, will be sentenced Jan. 10 in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene after pleading guilty Tuesday to theft from an Indian tribal organization.

Allman broke into the Benewah Market on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation in Plummer, Idaho, on Aug. 22 and stole $1,740 from registers.

Store alarms alerted Coeur d'Alene Tribal police officers, who found a pair of shorts in an alley next to the market. DNA on the shorts was determined to belong to Allman through FBI forensic analysis. Store surveillance video showed Allman wearing the shorts as he broke into the store and stole cash, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office

The Benewah Market is owned by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.

Allman faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of probation. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence within the guideline, which is likely much less than five years.

The plea deal also calls for a felony burglary and car theft case in Spokane County filed in July to be dismissed after Allman pleads guilty and pays $3,950 in restitution.

Higgins’ friends, family pray for answers

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John Repsold remembers Heather Higgins for her personality and for her love of God.

She wasn’t shy about her faith. When the Deer Park native and Spokane resident arrived at his church, the Mosaic Fellowship, she didn’t stick to the back.

She sat in the front row, the pastor recalled, and when she sang, she stood up and did so with all her heart.

But Higgins hasn’t been seen at the downtown Spokane church in more than a year. Spokane police continue to investigate her disappearance as a missing person case and urge anyone with information to come forward.

Higgins’ case almost leaves Repsold at a loss for words, the pastor told a crowd of about 100 who gathered Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of her disappearance.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 7: Woman seeks clues in daughter's disappearance

Panel ranks lawyers for judgeship

A bar association committee says five lawyers who want to replace Spokane District Court Judge Richard White are exceptionally qualified.

Four of 18 applicants seeking the appointment by county commissioners are well qualified, eight are qualified and one isn’t, according to the 11-member Judicial Evaluation Panel of the Spokane County Bar Association.

After interviewing the applicants, the committee said former District Court Judge Harvey Dunham is not qualified for the job.

Read the rest of John Craig's story here.

Jury deadlocked in fatal scooter crash

A jury deadlocked Tuesday on the vehicular homicide trial of a Deer Park man involved in a collision that killed a woman on a scooter.

Jonathon P. Bales waswas driving his 1985 Pontiac Firebird southbound on Wandermere Road on July 16 when he apparently crossed the center line and struck 54-year-old Rene Blaume, who was riding a Racer iScooter in the northbound lane near the intersection with Glenrose Drive.

Bales, who was 20 at the time, had marijuana in his system at the time of the crash, according to court records.

Bales also said he had been drinking earlier in the evening while helping a friend work on a car, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady said she intends to re-try the case before Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins.

Ruling delays 2nd Strine trial indefinitely

A appellate court will review a double-jeopardy claim by a Spokane stockbroker accused of killing a woman in a crash two years ago, leading to an indefinite delay in what was to be a November jury trial.

 A jury in February declared Jon Strine (pictured) not guilty of vehicular homicide, but jury polling revealed that jurors weren't unanimous and were instead split 6-6, which led to a mistrial.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen denied a subsequent motion by Strine's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, regarding double jeopardy for a second trial that argues Strine cannot be retried because he's already been declared not guilty.

Oreskovich filed a motion for discretionary review, and an appellate court commissioner ruled this week that “the issue presented involves an important constitutional right and thus appellate review must be immediate to avoid the trial Mr. Strine maintains is barred by the Fifth Amendment's guarantee,” according to the ruling.

Oreskovich said in an email Tuesday that Strine's Nov. 14 trial will not proceed.

“In fact, there will not be another trial until the Court of Appeals decides this issue and only in the event that it is decided against Mr. Strine,” Oreskovich wrote.

The appeal likely won't be heard until April.

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

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

Past coverage:

Feb. 10: Mistrial declared in vehicular homicide case

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

Jan. 21: Husband recounts fatal crash

Mother probed for baby’s skull fracture

Spokane police are investigating a mother for possible assault charges after her baby suffered a skull fracture when she dropped him while boarding an STA bus.

A bus passenger saw the woman drop the 7-month-old boy as she tried to board in the 1300 block of East Sprague Avenue outside the Union Gospel Mission women's shelter on Aug. 9.

The witness said the boy cried a little bit and appeared lethargic as his mother picked up him and got on the bus and was “swaying and staggering,” according to a search warrant filed recently to obtain the woman's medical records.

The witness thought the woman was on drugs and said the boy was filthy, according to the warrant.

Police contacted the woman as she sat on a bench at the STA Plaza, where she said she was on Xanax and another drug she couldn't identify. The officer was “extremely concerned about her ability to care for the baby,” whom he said didn't appear to have been washed for some time.

“The baby appeared to be in good health other than the poor hygiene,” according to the search warrant.

The woman was arrested on a warrant for driving while suspended while the child was taken by Child Protective Services.

The baby's foster mother alerted police two days later to a lump on the boy's head, which an emergency room doctor said was a skull fracture. Police investigating possible assault charges have seized the mother's medical records to try to determine her level of impairment when she dropped the boy.

Shoes sought for murder victim vigil

Shoes are being sought as part of a vigil to remember homicide victims Thursday in Spokane County.

The shoes are to be placed on the lawn Friday next to the Law Enforcement Memorial to reflect the number of people impacted by homicide.

“I am in dire need of shoes,” Spokane County victim/witness coordinator Annette Ingham said today.

Gently used pairs of shoes from boots to flip-flops can be dropped off at the Spokane County Prosecutor's Office in the Public Safety Building, the Broadway Center Building at 721 N. Jefferson St., Lutheran Community Services at 210 W. Sprague Ave., and the YWCA at 930 N. Monroe St.

Donated shoes can also be brought to the vigil, which is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday in the Spokane County Public Works Building next to the courthouse.

The shoes will be donated to Volunteers of America after the display on Friday, Ingham said.

The annual event is part of the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims and is sponsored by the victim/witness unit of the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office.

Since 1951, the unit has documented 616 murders, vehicular homicides, manslaughters and “unsolved violent crimes” in Spokane County, according to a news release.

Sex offender registers as transient

A convicted rapist who went back to prison because he continued to communicate with young girls is now living as a transient in Spokane County.

 Joseph M. Hamilton, 33, was released from prison in January 2008 after serving time for violating his parole on a first-degree rape conviction from 1997.

His victim was a 5-year-old girl. Hamilton is a level 3 sex offender, which is the classification considered most likely to reoffend.

He is not under supervision by the Department of Corrections nor is he wanted by authorities, but the Spokane County Sheriff's Office wants people to be aware of his presence.

A registry of Spokane County sex offenders is available here.

Fired detective’s criminal trial begins

The obstruction of justice trial began Monday against embattled former Spokane police detective Jeff Harvey.

Harvey was fired this year after being charged with a gross misdemeanor following a confrontation with a state Department of Fish and Wildlife police officer who responded on Jan. 22 to a report of boys shooting after hunting hours on private land north of Spokane. Harvey, who was off-duty at the time, is accused of hindering the investigation, which involved his sons.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

July 16: Fired detective files $10 million claim

July 15: SPD detective fired for 'troubled history'

Feb. 10: SPD detective accused of obstruction

Home-invasion assault in Pullman

A man ransacked a Pullman home at knife point Monday after attempting to strangle a resident, police said.

Police responded to a home on Northeast Whitman Street about 3:20 p.m., where the victim said he was assaulted by a man but was able to free himself and call police from a neighbor's house.

The attacker ransacked the home while a woman resident was inside, but the woman was not hurt and man apparently didn't take anything. The male victim received minor neck injuries but did not require medical attention.

The suspect was described as a black man, 5-foot-8 to 6-feet tall, in his early 20s with short black hair. He wore a white hooded sweatshirt, light blue basketball-style shorts and athletic shoes. He left with the knife.

Anyone with information is asked to call Pullman police at (509) 334-0802.

Gunfire ‘just because’ leads to arrest

A young father arrested on a drug charge last month was arrested again Friday after allegedly firing a gun in Spokane Valley.

No one was injured by the gunshot, which Benjamin Marcus Crocker-Beck, 21, told deputies he'd fired “just because,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Deputies were called to the 100 block of South Tschirley Road about 7:45 p.m. Friday after a man heard a gunshot and saw Crocker-Beck walking in the area.

Deputies found Crocker-Beck with a loaded 9mm Ruger handgun in his front waistband. The gun's serial number was filed off.

Crocker-Beck has previous felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms.

Crocker-Beck's arrest on gun charges came just one day after prosecutors filed a drug charge against him related to a search in August in which people were found smoking Oxycodone in the presence of Crocker-Beck’s 1-month-old child, accoridng to police.

City to hire lawyer to defend police suit

The Spokane City Council on Monday agreed to hire a local attorney to help the city defend itself in a lawsuit filed by a Spokane police detective.

The city will pay Milt Rowland, a former assistant city attorney for Spokane, up to $75,000 to assist the city in the case brought by Detective Jay Mehring. Rowland is part of the firm Foster Pepper.

Jon Brunt has more at the Spin Control blog.

City to begin search for new chief in ‘12

The City of Spokane expects to begin a regional or national search for a new police chief by next spring, officials said today.

Spokane Police Department employees are interested in the position but “we also have a desire to look outside the department,” City Administrator Ted Danek told the Public Safety Committee at its monthly meeting. 

Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks recently announced plans to retire when Chief Anne Kirkpatrick leaves early next year.

Kirkpatrick has said she'll stay until a new chief is appointed, which officials say won't happen until after the mayoral election.

“People are not going to apply until they know who the boss is,” Kirkpatrick said.

Danek said the search, which could take three to six months, could begin in March or April.

Kirkpatrick has always said she planned to stay in Spokane about five years. She said she's looking at other opportunities.

“It's not a retirement, I'm just moving to a different stage in my life,” said Kirkpatrick, adding that neither she nor Nicks will be “lame ducks” in the meantime.

Spokane police majors Scott Stephens and Craig Meidl said after the meeting that they are not interested in applying to be the next police chief.

Past coverage:

Sept. 15: Nicks to retire as Kirkpatrick steps down

April 20: Chief says time in Spokane nearing end


Hayden Lake man ordered to file taxes

Here's a news release from the Idaho State Tax Commission:

BOISE — First District Court Judge Benjamin R. Simpson has ordered a Hayden Lake man to file Idaho tax returns for three years in which his reported income totaled more than $335,000, according to the Idaho State Tax Commission.

Judge Simpson issued an order to compel Scott A. Grunsted to file tax returns for 2006 through 2008. Grunsted has until Sept. 30 to comply with the judge’s order.

“Court action is our last resort to get someone to file their tax returns,” said Bob Geddes, chairman of the Tax Commission.  “At this stage, taxpayers have been given every opportunity to comply with the law, and we need to take this extra step to ensure that the system treats everyone fairly.”

Court files show that Grunsted had income of $103,860 for 2006; $111,877 for 2007; and $119,332 for 2008.  

Anyone who is behind in filing Idaho tax returns can learn how to catch up by visiting the Tax Commission’s website at and clicking on “Forgot to File?” in the “Quick Picks” section.

Those who want more information can call Taxpayer Services at (208) 334-7660 in the Boise area or (800) 972-7660 toll free.

Dead man’s family wants jury inquest

Granville Dodd was home in bed when he got the call.

His younger brother, Quentin Dodd, (right) one of 11 siblings, had been shot in Spokane Valley by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy. It was bad, his family said, but no one knew exactly what happened.

 Dodd soon learned his 50-year-old brother was dead. Nearly one year later, he says he’s still searching for answers to questions he has had since day one.

 Granville Dodd questions the deputy’s account of the shooting, compared to the forensic evidence, and he’s troubled that police portrayed his brother as being high on drugs when an autopsy showed only prescription medication was in Quentin Dodd’s system.

Spokane County prosecutors recently ruled the Oct. 24, 2010, shooting by Deputy Rustin Olson (left) was justified. Olson and another deputy who confronted Dodd that evening told investigators that Dodd wielded a sharp obsidian rock, refused orders to drop it, threatened to stab one of them, then ran toward Olson, prompting the deputy to shoot.

But the Dodd family, through their attorneys, Breean Beggs and Mark Harris, are calling for a closer examination of the case in the form of a jury inquest.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 19: Coroners says inquests offer transparency

Oct. 27: Man killed by deputy had been suicidal

Oct. 26: Family questions fatality

Metal thefts reported in Spokane Valley

Here's a dispatch from Sgt. Dave Reagan:

Copper tubing valued at $700 was stolen this week from a railroad engine parked in the 11000 block of East Sprague, the owner reported to Crime Check.

The victim said he is modifying the engine to be a railroad education center and that the tubing supplied water to restrooms located inside the railroad engine.  He said he knew of no potential suspects.

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

And on a Related Note…

A representative of AT&T Mobile reported the theft of copper ground cable from a cellular tower site in the 2600 block of North Robie Thursday.

The thief cut a hole through security fencing and stole the roll containing 200 feet of cable which was valued at $2,000 to $3,000.

Anyone with information….

No jail furlough for new Hells Angel dad

A federal judge today refused to allow Hells Angels sergeant-at-arms Ricky W. Jenks out of jail so he can help with his girlfriend’s pregnancy.

U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush ripped Jenks during the hearing, saying Jenks hadn’t “earned” much consideration from him.

“His record is not one that generates a great deal of sympathy,” Quackenbush said of Jenks. “But here he is escaping another major, major multiyear sentence.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 3: Judge skeptical of Hells Angels plea deal

March 7: Jenks' arrest pleases '01 victim's mother

March 31: Grand jury indicts Hells Angels leader

Police recover $10k+ in stolen tools

More than $10,000 in stolen tools was recovered from a Spokane Valley storage unit today.

Detective Mark Renz believes the tools were stolen by Todd E. Hickman, 45, of Spokane, who was arrested Aug. 28 after police found him inside a vacant home looking for copper wire to steal, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Hickman was released after charges weren't filed within 72 hours, but a felony burglary charge was filed in connection with the case Thursday.

Detectives also have probable cause to arrest Hickman for second-degree burglary after a search today at the Spokane Mini-Warehouse in the 4500 block of East Trent Avenue revealed $10,000 to $15,000 worth of tools, including rolling tool cabinets, stolen from Acme Machine Works, 60121 E. Sharp Ave., on Aug. 1, police said.


Suspected metal thief arrested w/ meth

A 47-year-old man was arrested with methamphetamine early today after a citizen told police he'd tried to take metal from business in Spokane Valley.

John F. Couch was spotted picking up metal from a property in the 500 block of North Ella Road, where several businesses are located. A witness told deputies that thief was scouring metal left outside the businesses just after midnight today and had ridden away on a bike while dragging something metal.

Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Michael Wall said Couch refused commands to show his hands, so Officer Juan Rodriguez arrived and the two got Couch to lie on his stomach. Rodriguez noticed him place something under his bike tire and determined it was a small baggie of methamphetamine.

Couch has a 26-year criminal history. He was booked into Spokane County Jail on count of possession of methamphetamine.

Sgt. Dave Reagen headlined a news release about the incident, “Thief Makes a Meth of Things.”

Murder suspect’s jail death a mystery

Friends and family say they are baffled by the death of a former Marine and accused killer found dead at the Spokane County Jail last weekend.

 Tristen Nebrae Jordan, 25, showed no signs of trauma when jail employees found him unconscious in his cell about 6:30 a.m. Sunday. Experts hope toxicology reports will help determine the cause and manner of his death, according to the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Jordan’s lawyer, Chris Phelps, said he met with his client at the jail last week and didn’t suspect anything was wrong. He said he doesn’t want to speculate as to why Jordan died but emphasized the inmate didn’t appear suicidal.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Jan. 7: Murder suspect returns to Spokane

Dec. 15: Murder suspect a former Marine

Dec. 13: Police: Murder suspect shot self on Gonzaga campus

Reward for tips on check fraud suspect

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of a repeat offender suspected in an extensive check forgery ring.

Tami Jo Raider, alias Tami Hearn, 49, was identified as a suspect after purchasing two couches at Runge Furniture in Coeur d'Alene with a check stolen from a Pend Oreille County home. Several other checks had been stolen and cashed at business in Spokane County and other areas of Washington and in Idaho, according to court documents.

The salesman at the furniture store wrote down the license plate to her 1986 Ford truck, which deputies searched last week after a deputy stopped a man who was driving it on Sept. 9.

Deputies believe Raider cashed at least 17 stolen checks in April and May. Employees at various stores identified Raider as the woman who passed the check, according to court documents.

Charges have not been filed, but Spokane County sheriff's Sgt. Dave Reagan said Deputy Brian Hirzel has probable cause to arrest Raider for 17 counts of identity theft and 17 counts of forgery.

She's also wanted for misdemeanor third-degree theft in an unrelated case. Anyone with tips on her location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online

2 men arraigned in trailer park assault

Two men pleaded not guilty Thursday to several felony charges for a fight at a trailer park that involved a gun.

Josephus McDonald III, 31, (left) is charged with first-degree burglary, attempt to elude a police vehicle and four counts of second-degree assault for a Sept. 1 incident at the Wishing Well trailer park, 4911 N. Florida St.

Julian D. Morrison, 24, (right) is charged with first-degree burglary, second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and three counts of second-degree assault. One of the victims said she knew McDonald as “Too Much” and met him through Morrison, who is her ex-boyfriend, according to court documents.

She told police the men came to her home without her permission and started a fight with four people who were at the home, and Morrison had a rifle.

  The men left in a Dodge Stratus, which was involved in a chase with Spokane police that night.

A police dog helped locate the driver, McDonald after he fled the car. Morrison turned himself into police later that day. Both suspects remain in jail.

Lawyer wants Thompson trial moved

The attorney representing Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. filed a motion today asking a federal judge to move the upcoming Oct. 11 trial because of “intense” media coverage and because it has become a political issue in the upcoming mayoral election.

Carl Oreskovich acknowledged in his filing that the deadline for such motions ended on July 21. He wrote in his court filing that he had been withholding his request for change of venue to see if attorneys had difficulty finding a jury to hear evidence about the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm.

“Since that (July) date, there has been a marked upsurge of publicity and political attention surrounding this case, including dramatic public reaction to the 22 page declaration of Assistant Chief Nicks filed on Aug. 5, 2011,” Oreskovich wrote.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Man sentenced for robbing Hillyard store

A man who robbed a Hillyard convenience store at knife point in June has been sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison.

Gary Lee George, 42, will be credited for time served at the Spokane County Jail, where he's been since his arrest on June 13, two days after he robbed the M & K Market at 4619 N. Market St.

A Spokane police K-9 was unable to locate a suspect the night of the robbery but indicated he may have been around an abandoned garage in the 3000 block of East Heroy Avenue.

Officer Adam Valdez was patrolling the same area on June 13 when he saw George digging through the trash and realized he matched the same physical description of the robber.

George said he'd been inside the garage earlier, and police discovered clothing worn by the robber inside, as well as George's wallet and a bag of methamphetamine. Valdez also found a black nylon bag under a tree behind the garage that contained a mask, gloves and knife used in the robbery.

George has felony convictions for second-degree theft, domestic violence assault, second-degree attempted burglary in Spokane County as well as convictions for first-degree burglary and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell in Los Angeles County.

In addition to 77 months in prison, George is required to pay $200 restitution.

Vigil will mark woman’s disappearance

A candlelight vigil Tuesday will mark the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Heather Higgins, who was last seen in Spokane on Sept. 20, 2010.

Higgins, who turned 40 in April, was last seen near an apartment complex at West 10th Avenue and South Cherry Street, where she had lived for 10 years. Her apartment was undisturbed, and her cellphone and bank account haven’t been accessed since that day, said her mother, Jackie Forney.

Forney said Thursday that she's heard no news about her daughter's case, and police have not returned her phone calls.

Fornay and others will gather Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Trinity Baptist Church, 6528 N. Monroe St., to honor Higgins. A Facebook page in Higgins' honor has gained followers from around the world.

“A lady in Sweden said she'll be burning a candle for her and praying,” Forney said. “It would be nice for the police department to know that people do care about her, and she's not forgotten by any means.”

Past coverage:

June 7: Woman seeks clues in daughter's disappearance

High court asked to halt Texas execution

By MICHAEL GRACZYK,Associated Press
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Attorneys for a black man set to die Thursday evening for a double slaying in Houston 16 years ago appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to block the execution because a question about race was asked during the punishment phase of his capital murder trial.

 Duane Buck, 48, (pictured right) faces lethal injection for fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment. In an appeal to the Supreme Court on Thursday and a letter to Perry, Buck's lawyers said a psychologist testified that black people were more likely to commit violence.

 “The State of Texas should not condone any form of racial discrimination in the courtroom,” attorney Katherine Black wrote Perry, urging the governor to use his authority to issue a one-time 30-day reprieve for Buck. “The use of race in sentencing poisons the legal process, undermines the reliability and fairness of the sentence, and breeds cynicism in the community toward the very institution entrusted with protecting the rights of all persons equally.”

Buck's case is one of six convictions that then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn — a political ally of Perry who is now a Republican U.S. senator — reviewed in 2000 and said needed to be reopened because of the racial reference.

In the other five cases, new punishment hearings were held and each convict again was sentenced to die. State attorneys contend Buck's case was different from the others and that the racial reference was a small part of larger testimony about prison populations.

Perry (pictured left) is a capital punishment supporter and as frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination his actions now are coming under closer scrutiny. During his 11 years in office, 235 convicted killers in Texas have been put to death. His office said he has chosen to halt just four executions, including one for a woman who later was executed.

Buck, 48, was convicted of gunning down ex-girlfriend Debra Gardner, 32, and Kenneth Butler, 33, outside Houston on July, 30, 1995, a week after Buck and Gardner broke up. Buck's guilt is not being questioned, but his lawyers say the jury was unfairly influenced and that he should receive a new sentencing hearing.

A third person, Buck's stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, also was wounded, though she has since forgiven Buck and sought for his death sentence to be commuted to life in prison.

Gardner's 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son were among those who witnessed the shootings. Officers testified that Buck was laughing during and after his arrest, saying Gardner deserved what she got.

The psychologist, Walter Quijano, was a defense witness and the testimony at issue came in response to a question from a prosecutor. Jurors in Texas must decide on the future danger of an offender when they are considering a death sentence.

Buck's attorneys went to the Supreme Court after losing appeals in lower courts. A clemency request to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, all of whom are Perry appointees, also failed.

Assistant Attorney General Edward Marshall told the Supreme Court Buck's appeals were attempts to relitigate claims that every court, including the Supreme Court, already rejected.

“The record in Buck's case reveals that no constitutional violation occurred during his sentencing trial,” he told the justices.

If courts continue to reject Buck's appeals, only Perry could delay the lethal injection by invoking his authority to issue a one-time 30-day reprieve for further review.

Perry was not in the state Thursday, meaning any final order to delay would technically come from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. However, Perry's office frequently points out that he remains the governor and in contact with Austin while traveling.

Mike Walz, communications director for Dewhurst, said Thursday he would not comment “while any legal actions are still pending.” Perry generally has adhered to the same policy.

The lead prosecutor who tried the case, Joan Huffman, now a Republican state senator, said this week she had no concern about asking Quijano the question about race. She noted her question came in reference to a report he prepared for the defense and the issue was raised just once.

The execution would be the second this week and the 11th this year in Texas. Two more Texas prisoners are set to die next week.

$200k bond for man jailed after standoff

A 24-year-old man prohibited from possessing firearms because of a felony conviction remains in jail on $200,000 bond after he was arrested during a SWAT team standoff early Wednesday.

 Jeffrey C. Salvage appeared in Spokane County Superior Court on a charge of first-degree robbery after two women were confronted at 3006 N. Hamilton Street  at 10:40 p.m. Tuesday by two men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, accoridng to the Spokane Police Department.

The gunman demanded their purses, and the women dropped them and ran, police said. The second man told the gunman “don't touch them” and was detained for questioning but not arrested, according to court documents.

The man told police he'd been drinking with Salvage and other friends when Salvage went outside with a gun, gunshots sounded, and he came back inside and said he was out of bullets. The alleged robbery occurred about an hour or two later, according to court documents.

Police recovered a Bryco Arms. 380 semi-automatic pistol while executing a search warrant at 2924 N. Hamilton, where a several-hour SWAT team standoff led to Salvage's arrest. They also recovered a debit card stolen in the robbery; other items were found in the street.

Salvage has previous felony convictions for second-degree burglary and second-degree robbery, as well as money laundering and riot.

K-9 nabs ‘jingling’ burglary suspect

A burglar described only as a man who jingled as he ran away was captured by a Spokane County sheriff’s K-9 team and patrol deputies early today.

Sheriff's K-9 Jet found Brian James Blankenship, 44, hiding in a bush at a home on East Salmon after a homeowner said he'd surprised a burglary in his garage in the 100 block of West Falcon about 5:15 a.m., according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The only description offered by the homeowner was that the thief made a “jingling” noise as he ran, but deputies Mark Melville and Bob Bond were able to track him with the help of Jet.

Blankenship surrendered to police and was booked into jail on a felony residential burglary charge. He had a pocketful of coins that jingled as he moved, Reagan said.

Nicks to retire as Kirkpatrick steps down

The Spokane Police Department’s top two officers are on their way out, leaving city officials to find new leadership as they struggle with the continuing legal fallout surrounding the death of Otto Zehm.

 Assistant Chief Jim Nicks announced Tuesday his upcoming retirement will coincide with the previously announced departure of Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

 Nicks, who is 53 and has spent 30 years on the force, played a pivotal role in the city’s handling of the fatal 2006 confrontation involving the unarmed Zehm.

At that time, Nicks was acting police chief and publicly backed the actions of Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., telling the community that the 36-year-old mentally ill Zehm “attacked” and “lunged” at Thompson.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

April 20: Chief says time in Spokane nearing end

Convicted rapist indicted for child porn

A 70-year-old Stevens County man who recently pleaded guilty to child rape has been indicted by a federal grand jury for producing child pornography.

James Ernest Guinn, Jr., is in jail awaiting sentencing in Stevens County Superior Court and arraignment in U.S. District Court, where he was indicted last week on charges of production of child pornography, transportation of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

Guinn is accused of producing child pornography with a young girl between August and November 2010, and of transporting child pornography from California to Washington in 2006.

Investigators found child pornography dating back to the 1960s and on several kinds of media, ranging from digital images in computer files, to video footage and 8 mm movie film, according to the Stevens County Prosecutor's Office.

Guinn faces up to 30 years in federal prison if convicted. He's to be arraigned in Spokane on Oct. 6. He already faces 93 to 123 months in state prison after pleading guilty to first-degree rape of a child Tuesday in Stevens County.

Trial begins in fatal car-scooter crash

A 21-year-old man Deer Park is on trial this week for a July 2010 collision that killed a woman riding a motor scooter north of Spokane.

Jonathon P. Bales was driving his 1985 Pontiac Firebird southbound on Wandermere Road on July 16 when he apparently crossed the center line and struck 54-year-old Rene Blaume, (pictured) who was riding a Racer iScooter in the northbound lane near the intersection with Glenrose Drive.

Blaume, who was traveling to her job as an in-home care provider, was declared dead at the scene. Toxicology reports showed that Bales had marijuana in his system at the time of the crash, according to court records.

Bales also said he had been drinking earlier in the evening while helping a friend work on a car, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. He turned himself in and is out of jail on $2,500 bond for a vehicular homicide charge.

Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady and public defender Anna Nordtvedt are handling the case. Judge Linda Tompkins is presiding. Opening statements were scheduled today.

Cop’s truck is latest Ford fiend target

A state-owned Ford pickup assigned to a Spokane police detective is the latest victim in a rash of prowlings targeting the popular line of pickups in Spokane Valley.

The detective was on duty when someone “damaged the door lock to gain entry” to his F-350 pickup in the Albertsons grocery parking lot at Trent Avenue and Argonne Road and stole his briefcase containing a laptop computer. A witness told  him two men in a green Chevy had broken into the truck, according to a news release by Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The truck was assigned to the detective by the Washington State Training Commission.

Police are urging Ford pickup owners to park in highly visible area of Spokane Valley parking lots as they investigate the series of prowlings targeting the popular line of pickups.

Four break-ins were reported Monday, then another Monday break-in was reported today by a Colfax resident who said a $300 Garmin GPS unit was stolen from her F-350 pickup in the Lowe's parking lot after the thief pried the door handle and broke the lock. A Lowe's employee said security video showed the thief driving a green Chevrolet Suburban with no visible license plates.

Also on Monday, two victims reported having their Ford trucks prowled while parked at the Quality Inn in the 8900 block of East Mission.  

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

2-time jail escapee back in custody

A burglar who escaped from the Benewah County Jail in July escaped again early Tuesday, authorities say, but was back in custody by Tuesday night.

Jesse John Wilkenson, 20, also known as Jesse Brebner, was in custody on charges related to the July 15 escape when he left the jail about 12:15 a.m. A Benewah County sheriff's deputy, acting on a tip, arrested Wilkenson after establishing a roadblock west of St. Maries, according to the St. Maries Gazette Record.

Wilkenson had been sentenced to a 365-day prison treatment program for a burglary conviction but hadn't been transferred to a state facility because he was awaiting the resolution of his escape charge, which carries up to five years in prison, said Teresa Jones, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Correction.

Benewah County authorities did not notify state prison officials of Wilkenson's escape in July for several days, but Jones said the department knew of Tuesday's escape early that day.

Past coverage:

July 21: Cross deputization helped nab jail escapee

July 19: Benewah County kept jail escape quiet

Thieves target Avista power lines

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

Overhead lines that return unused power to Avista have been targeted by metal thieves since late August, a company employee reported Monday.

Since Aug. 22, a suspect has stolen more than one and a half miles of #6 copper for a loss exceeding $18,000.  The company has been replacing the stolen copper lines with aluminum wire which is less expensive.

The employee said the return cable is the lower of the two lines on the power poles and that the suspect pulls the line down and then cuts it closest to the pole.   

The thefts are risky business. Although the line is usually not powered, it can be at any time and the thief would have no way of knowing if it is charged or not.

The most recent theft occurred Monday in the 20600 block of North Hazard Road.  Crews had just replaced the line at midnight and it was discovered missing again at 6 a.m.

Anyone with information regarding these thefts is encouraged to call Crime Check at 456-2233.

Teens help recover Drew Bledsoe’s bike

Coeur d’Alene police have recovered the stolen $5,000 Santa Cruz mountain bike belonging to former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Coeur d'Alene Police Department photo.

A teenage brother and sister from Coeur d’Alene recovered former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe’s stolen mountain bike.

 The football star’s $5,000 Santa Cruz bike was stolen off his car rack while he was visiting friends with his family in Coeur d’Alene over Labor Day weekend. Now Brandon C. Edgemon, 18, of Coeur d’Alene, (pictured) is in jail on a grand theft charge in the case.

The mystery began unraveling last week.

On Sept. 5, Edgemon rode by a home on the 800 block of North 22nd Street and saw Kelsea Justus, a girl he knew from high school, said her father, Rick Justus. He said Edgemon told the girl that the police were looking for him and he needed a place to store his bike. He asked if he could leave it at her house. She said no, but then she watched him hide the bike behind the house across the street, Rick Justus said, relaying the story told to him by his children.

Read the rest of Alison Bogg's story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 8: Football star's $5,000 bike stolen in CdA

Woman sentenced in road rage murder

A young mother sobbed and promised the family of the man she stabbed to death during a chaotic road rage confrontation two years ago that she would take it all back if she could. Instead, a judge sentenced her today to nearly 16 years in prison.

 Maggie M. Tyler, 28, stood before Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor and read a letter she had prepared for her sentencing after being convicted by a jury in April of second-degree murder in connection with the July 6, 2009, slaying of Vitaly Shevchuk in Spokane. Tyler had argued at her trial that she was defending herself, but jurors rejected it.

“If I could turn back time, I would do that in a heart beat,” Tyler said as she cried. “None of this should have happened and I am so very sorry that it did.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

June 3: Man in fatal street fights gets 21 years

April 29: Man, woman guilty in fatal 2009 stabbing

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

Strandberg gets 36+ years for murder

A sentencing Monday brought together two troubled families, one grieving the loss of a beautiful girl who wanted to become a crime scene investigator and the other a family who tried unsuccessfully for years to find help for a mentally troubled son.

Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen consoled both families as she sentenced crossbow killer Cole K. Strandberg to what attorneys expect will be a life sentence for the brutal 2008 slaying of 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron.

“This is a horrible situation,” said Eitzen, who described the case as one of the worst she’s seen in 18 years on the bench. “I can’t help but feel the pain on both sides. My heart breaks for all of you.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

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

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

Jan. 12, 2008: Deputy remembers his slain niece

Photos show gunpoint Subway robbery

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Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that identify a gunman who robbed a South Hill Subway sandwich shop in July.

Surveillance photos show a man in a gray long-sleeved shirt, white shorts and white shoes at the Subway at 3014 E. 29th Ave. on July 6.

The man entered the store at 8:40 p.m. and demanded money from the store clerk. He displayed what appeared to be a handgun and left with an undisclosed amount of cash. The employee was not injured.

Anyone with information on the robbery is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Prowler targets Fords in Spokane Valley

A prowler appears to be targeting Ford trucks in the area of Sprague Avenue and Fancher Road in Spokane Valley.

According to Spokane County sheriff's Sgt. Dave Reagan, a Valleyford man reported his Ford F-350 pickup was entered about 2:45 p.m. Monday while it was parked in the Lowe’s lot.  His GPS navigation unit, a Verizon cellular phone and other items were stolen.

About 4:50 p.m. Monday, a Cheney resident reported her Ford F-250 broken into while it was parked in the Lowe’s lot.  Cash and a cell phone charger were stolen.

Another Cheney resident told Crime Check that her Ford F-250 pickup was entered about 4:30 p.m. Monday and an old purse containing credit cards was  stolen.  The truck was parked in the Aslin-Finch parking lot and the victim said she was inside the store less than five minutes.

A fourth prowling incident was reported at 4:30 p.m. of a 1999 Ford Explorer parked in a lot at Main and Fancher.  The break-in occurred sometime between 6 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and an Apple IPod and $250 Sidekick cellular phone were stolen.

Method of entry was not listed in every report, but in two instances the door lock was punched in and in one instance the vehicle was left unlocked.

Reagan titled a news release about the thefts “Ford Fiend Fancher-Focused.”

 Anyone with information about these crimes is encouraged to call Crime Check at 456-2233.

Woman wanted in drug-binge robbery

Crime Stoppers if offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of a woman accused of robbing a disabled man at knife point with her boyfriend last year.

Jeanette E. Menghini, 44, is wanted on a first-degree robbery charge after failing to show up for a court hearing this month. Her trial was to start today, according to court documents.

Menghini was arrested in September with her boyfriend, Ronald J. Schneider, who told police he was on a seven-month drug binge when he broke into a man's room at the Airway Express Motel, 3809 S. Geiger Blvd. and robbed him of cash, prescription drugs and his car at knife point, according to court documents.

Schneider was under investigation for a stolen car ring in Spokane and in Great Falls, Mont., where he resided. He's now serving 29 months in a Washington prison after pleading guilty to second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission in April.

Menghini, 5-foot-7 and 135 pounds, last gave a home address in the 11900 block of East Broadway Avenue in Spokane Valley, according to Crime Stoppers.

Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Suspect in fatal hit-and-run charged

An 18-year-old woman accused of leaving the scene of a crash that killed a bicyclist is to be arraigned on a felony charge next week.

Megan C. Skillingstad is to appear before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price on Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. on one count failure to remain at the scene of an accident resulting in death.

Skillingstad is accused of striking Dennis Widener, 66, as he rode his bike June 23 on Empire Avenue at North Division Street, just blocks from his home.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed to support the charge against Skillingstad, the suspect's friend's mother helped persuade her to tell her parents about the crash on July 30. Skillingstad's mother was upset and called her “awful names,” the friend's mother told police.

Skillingstad went to the woman's home on July 31 and said she'd come over to say goodbye because “she was going to see a judge on Monday, and would probably go to jail after that,” according to the affidavit. “She also said that she hoped she'd be able to talk to the widow before going to jail.”

But that didn't happen, and police seized Skillingstad's 1996 Nissan Sentra Aug. 5, one day after a friend called police and said she'd been trying to persuade Skillingstad to turn herself in to no avail.

Skillingstad had reportedly told another friend that “she was terrified and didn't know what to do” when she struck Widener, according to the affidavit. “She thought about staying at the scene, but got scared and left.”

Past coverage:

Aug. 30: Hit-and-run questions linger

Aug. 6: Suspect in hit-and-run identified

July 6: 'People have got to stop doing these things'

Home-invasion robbery probed in Idaho

A 65-year-old man was assaulted in his home by two masked intruders Monday, the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department said today.

A sheriff's dog searched the home and surrounding area of Horsehaven Avenue and Greensferry Road but did not find the assailants.

The victim suffered “significant injuries to his head and face” from an unknown cause and was transported to Kootenai Medical Center for treatment.

Sheriff's deputies, Post Falls police and Kootenai County Fire/Rescue personnel responded to the area about 9:15 p.m. The victim was inside his home when he discovered the intruders. He escaped to his parents' home across the street and called 911.

“Due to the victim’s injuries and subsequent treatment at the hospital, deputies were unable to immediately determine what, if anything was stolen,” according to a news release.

The investigation is ongoing.

Felon indicted in stolen firearms probe

A Spokane man arrested in an undercover police probe into illegal firearm sales has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Jeffery S. Finney, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of unlawful possession and sale of a stolen firearm, unlawful possession and disposition of a stolen firearm and felon in possession of firearm and ammunition.

Finney was arrested in March after selling two guns to a confidential informant who was working with the Spokane Police Department's drug unit. Police followed Finney and the informant to a location in north Spokane County, where Finney picked up three other firearms for sale.

Police executed a search warrant at Finney's apartment, 13110 N. Addison St., and seized methamphetamine, scales and packaging materials, according to an affidavit.

Finney is a convicted felon, which prohibits him from possessing weapons. His felony convictions include delivery of methamphetamine, third-degree assault and second-degree burglary.

In 2001, he fled the Public Safety Building just as a judge was to sentence him to jail for domestic violence. He was caught hiding behind a garbage bin behind Russell Van Camp's now-former law office west of the courthouse on West Broadway Avenue, according to news archives.

Finney is to be arraigned on the federal charges Friday and remains in the Spokane County Jail.

Medical pot suspect released from jail

A medical marijuana advocate jailed for violating the conditions of his release on federal drug charges has been allowed to leave jail under strict conditions.

Jerry Wayne Laberdee, 57, was ordered to be released from jail on Monday but U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno, who imposed bond and called for frequent status conferences to ensure Laberdee complies with his conditions of release, which include drug tests and refraining from excessive use of alcohol.

Laberdee was required to post a $25,000 signature bond, meaning a friend or family member is responsible for the bond, and a $15,000 surety bond through a bonds company, said his lawyer, Doug Phelps.

Family members said Laberdee was on a hunger strike at the Spokane County Jail, where he'd been since he turned himself in last month.

Laberdee had been allowed to stay out of jail pending trial on federal charges related to his work with the Spokane medical marijuana dispensary Medical Herb Providers when Lincoln County sheriff's officials found marijuana plants at his home on Aug. 12.

Federal probation officer Richard Law contacted Laberdee on Aug. 16, and Laberdee  “made it very clear to this officer that he would not permit me inside his residence,” according to court documents prepared by Law.

Laberdee also refused to submit to a drug test as his release conditions require, documents allege.

Phelps described Laberdee as “kind of an old hippie.” Supporters say he views the case as a civil rights issue, and Laberdee has called on Willie Nelson for support.

A status hearing in his case is set for Oct. 4.

Woman gets 30 days for fatal DUI crash

A motorist who accidentally hit and killed a close friend on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation after dropping him off following a night of drinking avoided prison when she was sentenced in U.S. District Court recently.

 Andrea M. George, 19, will spend 30 days in jail, six months in a halfway house and be on home confinement under a sentence imposed in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene, where she pleaded guilty in July to involuntary manslaughter.

George is to  complete 80 hours of community service and pay $3,000 in restitution. Her license will be suspended for a year.

George had a blood-alcohol level of .151 after the April 19, 2010, crash on Desmet Road at Ajot Road that killed Patrick A. Gourneau, 22, of Tensed, Idaho.

George had let Gourneau out of the car after an argument and was returning to him when she struck him while cresting a hill in a 2002 Honda Civic on Desmet Road just before 6 a.m.

George was airlifted to a Spokane hospital and has undergone several surgeries, according to court documents.
“Andrea often comments that she wishes it was her that had been killed in the accident,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by her lawyer, Jim Siebe. “…Andrea cannot remember anything about the accident, which has caused significant nightmares and distress, as her mind naturally tries to fill in the blanks for an event for which she has no memory.”

George is enrolled at North Idaho College and wants to open a bakery, according to the memorandum.
Prosecutors called for George to be sentenced to 30 months in prison, but Siebe said that wasn't necessary.

“Without question, Andrea can do more outside of prison to foster/engender public awareness of the perils of drinking and driving,” according to the memo. “She can show by example that someone can pull herself up by the bootstraps, so to speak, and change a life of unemployment/alcohol abuse to gainful employment, education and productivity.”

George was sentenced Sept. 7.

Pro fighter wanted on child rape charge

A competitive mixed-martial arts fighter set to begin trial today on charges that he raped and molested a young girl has a reward being offered for tips that lead to his capture after he didn't show up for court. 

Michael L. Mininger, 30, is wanted on a $25,000 warrant after missing a pre-trail conference Sept. 2 in Spokane County Superior Court, where he was to stand trial this week on two counts of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree child molestation.

Crime Stoppers today announced a reward for tips that lead to his arrest. Mininger is accused of raping a 9-year-old girl over a period of three years.

He was arrested June 11, 2010, but has been out of jail on $10,000 bond since June 17, 2010. Mininger has no criminal convictions.

He's 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds and last gave a home address in the 11900 block of East Mansfield Avenue in Spokane Valley, according to Crime Stoppers.

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

Car-battery drug trade leads to arrest

Three people were arrested Sunday for the theft of a car battery that police believe was traded for drugs.

Brittnie Amber Seidler, 24, is accused of stealing the $184 battery from the AutoZone parts store at 5005 E. Sprague Ave. as Charssie Blaire Williams, 24, and David Anthony Berg, 37, allegedly distracted employees.

“Williams signaled Seidler when it was safe to exit with the battery. Seidler placed it in the back of Berg’s vehicle and then walked down the street,” according to a news release by Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan. “Berg and Williams later picked her up at a nearby Costco.”

Officer Ryan Smith tracked the suspects by Berg’s recently-purchased Isuzu Trooper, which was used in the theft, according to the news release. Williams and Seidler were arrested for third-degree theft. Berg was arrested for first-degree trafficking stolen property.    

Police seek suspect w/ ‘too much time’

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

A pair of Spokane Valley businesses suffered damaged offices over the weekend when someone with a pocketful of rocks and too much time on his hands broke numerous windows. 

Employees of Schindler Elevator and Tuff Sheds, both located in the 400 block of North Thierman, found windows damaged Sunday morning.

The elevator firm suffered a shattered front window and shattered glass in the entry door. 

Tuff Shed suffered shattered glass in the office door, as well as numerous broken windows in sheds on display at the location.

In neither instance did the suspect make entry into the buildings.  Anyone with information regarding these acts of vandalism is encouraged to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Meth dealer in Ward case gets 5 years

A methamphetamine dealer and former associate of a Spokane real estate company founder was sentenced recently to five years in federal prison.

 Shad A. Johnson, 39, of Rathdrum, is to perform 200 hours of community service and will be on probation for five years after he serves his 60-month prison sentence, which was imposed last week by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Coeur d'Alene.

Johnson admitted to traveling with other drug dealers to pick up methamphetamine and bring it back to the Coeur d'Alene area, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He was one of about 20 suspects charged in the case.

Co-defendant Larry McMillan’s lawyer said in court documents that McMillan traveled with Amber Larsen and Shad Johnson to Seattle with the intent of selling his dump truck, but Johnson instead used the truck to settle a drug debt. McMillian was sentenced last November to 77 months in prison.

Johnson was arrested with a stolen Jeep and a handgun on Jan. 7, 2009, as detectives staked out Pinnacle Realty founder Joseph G. Ward’s home on Long Lake.

Ward was arrested that day, too, in a massive Washington State Patrol investigation into a methamphetamine- and sex-fueled criminal enterprise allegedly operated out of his home.

At the time of his arrest, Johnson told detectives the stolen Jeep he was driving had been loaned to him by Ward, according to court documents.

Ward is scheduled for trial Oct. 24 on stolen property charges.

Burglary suspect Tasered, arrested

 A burglary suspect was shocked with a Taser after refusing to exit a garage in Spokane Valley early Sunday, police said today.

Joshua Steven Coates, 31, “continued to resist and was forcibly taken to the ground and handcuffed” after the Taser was deployed in the 400 block of South McKee Street, according to a news release by Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan.

Officers were called to the home about 3 a.m. by a resident who awoke to the sound of a burglary prowling his back deck, then kicking in a door to the garage, Reagan said.

Officers Mark Brownell and Seth Berrow found Coates inside the garage and said he appeared intoxicated and refused to obey commands.

“The suspect later told Officer Lamont Petersen that he thought he was at his ex-wife’s home and hadn’t kicked any doors,” Reagan said. “The homeowner told police he didn’t know Coates and that he had feared for his life and the life of his sleeping five-year-old daughter.”

Coates was booked into jail on charges of residential burglary and resisting arrest.

Spokane K-9 nabs carjacking suspect

A carjacking suspect led police on a chase early Sunday morning, but his attempt to escape on foot was foiled by a Spokane Police Department search dog.

A man reported that he was parked outside the Holiday Gas Station at 9620 N. Division Street just before 3:30 a.m. while a friend was inside. He was approached by someone who pulled a gun on him and told him to get out of his silver Toyota Camry, according to a Police Department press release. Police responded and spotted the car 25 minutes later driving north on Division past the same gas station where the car was stolen.

There was a short chase until the man  jumped from the still moving car and ran, the press release said. Police officers, assisted by the Washington State Patrol, searched the area and found a handgun holster in an apartment complex courtyard just east of Ritter's Nursery.

The dog, Leo, and his handler, Officer Craig Hamilton, found the suspect inside the fenced nursery. Justin S. Brown, 29, was booked into jail on charges of first-degree robbery, second-degree burglary and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

The gun believed to be used in the carjacking was later recovered in the same area the holster was found.

Warning: Light posting ahead

I will be out of the newsroom until Monday, Sept. 12.

Boise couple sentenced in boy’s death

By JESSIE L. BONNER,Associated Press (Idaho Statesman ph
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A man was sentenced Friday to life in prison for torturing his girlfriend's 8-year-old son, then killing him and trying to cover up the murder by stuffing rocks in the boy's pockets and dumping the body in a canal. 

As 4th District Judge Darla Williamson handed down Daniel Ehrlick's sentence on a first-degree murder conviction, she said she could not force him to endure the same pain he inflicted on Robert Manwill because it would be cruel.

But the 38-year-old had committed cruel acts on Robert, such as dropping his knees on the boy's chest if the child misbehaved, in the privacy of his home, she said.

“Robert died all alone in substantial pain with no one there to care for him and love him,” Williamson said.

Robert, who read Harry Potter books and was saving his money for violin lessons, was forced to sleep in a baby crib while visiting his mother and her boyfriend the summer he died, according to authorities. The boy lost weight because Ehrlick forced him to eat the meal he hated most — oatmeal and raisins — causing him to vomit, prosecutors said.

Robert was hidden in a closet when social workers visited the home weekly to check on his mother's other son, an infant who had been previously removed from the home.

Ehrlick was convicted in June and will not have the possibility of parole. The boy's mother, Melissa Jenkins, also was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison for her role in the 2009 slaying. She pleaded guilty in January to aiding and abetting second-degree murder as part of agreement with prosecutors.

Jenkins, 32, sobbed as she faced the boy's father, Charles Manwill, and told him that she would repent for Robert's death for the rest of her life.

“It's my fault that Robert's not with us anymore,” Jenkins said. Manwill mostly did not look at her, staring straightforward and shaking his head as she apologized.

The boy, who lived primarily with his father in New Plymouth, Idaho, was visiting Jenkins and Ehrlick in Boise when he disappeared. Prosecutors claim Ehrlick, who is more than 6-feet tall and weighed 277 pounds at the time, tortured the 50-pound boy in a pattern of escalating violence that ended with fatal injuries to his head and chest.

Authorities say Ehrlick killed Robert, then stuffed rocks in the boy's pants pockets and dumped his body in an irrigation canal. The body was found about a week after Robert's disappearance set off a massive, high-profile search across Boise.

Jenkins' tears prompted a sharp rebuke from the judge, who said the remorseful remarks were not consistent with how Jenkins allowed Robert to be beaten, failed to go to authorities and then worked with Ehrlick to cover up the death.

“I'm just not buying it that you have all that remorse,” Williamson said. “Parents who love their children would give their lives for their child.”

Manwill told the court during Ehrlick's sentencing that he would always feel guilty about what happened to his son. “I feel like I could have done more,” he said.

The judge urged him not to shoulder the responsibility for his son's death. “Please don't blame yourself, this is not your fault,” Williamson said.

Prosecutors claim Ehrlick panicked the day he killed Robert because the boy was covered in bruises and about to go home to his father. Ehrlick feared Robert would tell about the abuse and he would lose his girlfriend's other son, an infant who had been removed from the home, prosecutors said.

Jurors heard recorded interviews in which Ehrlick told police he would hide Robert in a closet when social workers visited the apartment to check on Jenkin's infant son.

“Part of the tragedy is three times a week, social workers were coming into the home to teach Danny Ehrlick how to be a better parent, and Robert was hidden in the closet,” said Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jill Longhurst.

“He beat him and he tortured him, and Robert endured it, unable to talk to anyone, unable to tell anyone,” Longhurst said in a statement to the court before Ehrlick was sentenced.

Ehrlick did not speak at his sentencing.

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

Ehrlick's defense attorney, Gus Cahill, stressed that his client had maintained his innocence in Robert's death and was convicted by jurors who deliberated for less than two hours.

Cahill asked the court to sentence him to at least 10 years in prison.

“He definitely loved Robert,” Cahill said. “He said he did not do these things.”

Past coverage:

July 1: Jury convicts Boise man in boy's death

Feb. 1: Boise woman pleads guilty in son's death

Claim: Man hoarded urine to make meth

A man arrested after Spokane police found a suspected methamphetamine lab was said to be collecting his urine to use in the manufacturing of the drug.

 Washington Department of Corrections probation officer Scott Wright tipped police to the suspected lab Wednesday at a home Michael Ward Baker, 54, shares with his elderly mother in the 4500 block of North Hawthorne Street, according to a search warrant.

Wright said neighbors complained about drug activity in the home and another witness said Baker collects his urine “to be recycled for use in manufacturing methamphetamine,” according to the warrant.

Spokane police drug detectives joined DOC officers at the home Wednesday and found Baker staying in the garage, where meth pipes and materials to make meth were present, police said.

Baker has seven previous felony convictions, including two for drugs.

Police returned with a search warrant and seized suspected meth-making materials, as well as receipts for cold medicine, the barrel of a shotgun, a drug scale and suspected methamphetamine during the search, which occurred about 5:20 p.m. Chemicals - including sulfuric acid and hydrogen - were destroyed by the Spokane clandestine lab team.

TSA: Man hid snakes, tortoises in pants

MIAMI (AP) — The Transportation Security Administration says a man tried to board a flight from Miami to Brazil with nylon bags filled with exotic snakes and tortoises hidden in his pants.

TSA spokesman Jonathon Allen says the man was stopped after passing through a body scanner at Miami International Airport last Thursday. Security officials spotted the nylon bags filled with seven snakes and three tortoises stuffed inside the man's pants.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports the animals were taken by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. The unidentified passenger was arrested.

Pajama-clad Minn. girls walk stolen goat

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Everything went according to plan for two pajama-clad stepsisters who took a goat they'd freed from a Minnesota zoo for a late-night walk.

Until they told the Mankato police officer who stopped them about 11:30 p.m. Saturday that the animal lived in their bedroom closet.

The stepsisters, ages 6 and 7, said they regularly took the goat out for late-night walks because Dad didn't know their mother had bought it two weeks earlier.

The unconvinced officer walked the girls home, where their parents explained they'd attended a birthday party at the Sibley Park Zoo earlier that day. That's when they hatched a plan to take one of the goats home.

The Free Press says police don't know how the girls freed the goat, which was returned to the zoo.

Guns seized in Valley SWAT team raid

A theft investigation led to a SWAT team raid at a Spokane Valley home Wednesday, where detectives seized several suspected stolen firearms.

Donald Jay Patterson, Jr., 42, was arrested as a search warrant was executed at a home in the 3300 block of East 35th Avenue, where police found five guns believed to have been stolen from a home in the 2800 block of North University Road. 

Patterson was stopped in a white Ford Mustang as he drove away from the home after being notified of the search warrant, according to court documents.

Police believe Kevin Robert Boler, 43, brought the stolen guns to the home. He was arrested in the 12000 block of East Valleyway Avenue.

The case began as a burglary, vehicle prowling and identity theft investigation. Police obtained surveillance footage showing suspects t later identified as Jermaine J. “Solo” Hockaday, 31, Justin E. Mueller, 30, and Marcella R. Walther, 34.

Mueller and Walther told police last week that they were “tired of their life style” and said they were angry at a man named Kevin “who kept a hold over them with an ever rising drug debt they owed him,” according to court documents.

Mueller is in jail on theft and vehicle prowling charges. Hockaday is in Geiger Corrections Center on identity theft and stolen property charges. Walther was released after no charges were filed.

Patterson is in jail on charges of possession of a stolen firearm and felon in possession of a firearm. Boler is jailed on five counts of possession of a stolen firearm.

Man killed in Moses Lake shooting

MOSES LAKE, Wash. (AP) — The Grant County sheriff's office says deputies who responded to a report of a disturbance Wednesday night found a man on the ground in the Larson Housing area near Moses Lake with a gunshot wound to the chest.

He died on the way to a hospital.

Detectives are interviewing a person involved in this shooting, but they aren't calling the person a suspect.

Suspect at large in trailer park fight

Spokane police are looking for a 24-year-old man after a fight at a trailer park that involved a gun early today.

Julian D. Morrison (right) is wanted for first-degree burglary and is considered armed after an incident at the Wishing Well trailer park, 4911 N. Florida St.

Officers arrived about 1:37 a.m. and were told by a woman that an acquaintance had entered her home, assaulted someone and brandished a gun before leaving in a Dodge Stratus driven by another man, according to a news release.

 Officer Mike McCasland spotted the Stratus at North Freya Street and East Empire Avenue as officers were responding to the scene. The driver refused to stop and jumped out of the car with his passenger at East Buckeye Avenue and North Stone Street, police say.The vehicle stopped after hitting a curb.

Officer Craig Hamilton and his K-9, Leo, located the driver, 31-year-old Josephus McDonald, in the 2600 block of North Lee Street. He was booked into jail on charges of first-degree burglary and attempt to elude police.

McDonald (pictured left in 2007) has been described by police as a founder of one of Spokane's larger homegrown Crips gangs, according to this 2007 article.

Anyone with information on Morrison's location is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Elderly-abuse suspect arrested again

The man charged with mistreating and stealing retirement funds from a 106-year-old Kettle Falls woman was arrested Wednesday and charged with witness tampering. John H. “Herb” Friedlund, 78, was arrested early this morning at a residence in Deer Park.

Stevens County prosecutors said that Friedlund contacted a witness in the theft case, Steven Smith of Anna, Texas, and told Smith to say that 106-year-old Frances T. Swan authorized previous money transfers from Friedlund to Smith that totaled about $225,000.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 4: Caretaker's alleged spending outlined

Aug. 2: Elder neglect suspect arrested for felony theft

Aug. 2: Theft charges likely in 106-year-old's case

June 21: Man held after police find famished woman

New truck probed in murder case

Police are asking for help identifying another pickup truck that may be connected to the homicide of a woman found dead behind an east Spokane warehouse.

Investigators released two photos of a red late 90s to early 200s Chevrolet pickup with an extra cab today in hopes that people will come forward with information.

Police say the driver may frequent the area of Ralph Street and West Riverside Avenue and was photographed there in the early morning hours of Aug. 13. Evon M. Moore, 48, was found dead in the area later that day.

Moore’s cause of death has not been determined pending the police investigation, but an autopsy confirmed her death was a homicide, according to the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Detectives have identified another truck caught on camera in the area and don’t believe it was involved in the homicide.

Anyone with information about the new truck or Moore’s death is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

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