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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for January 2012

Man guilty in road rage murder re-trial

A jury today convicted a North Idaho man of second-degree murder for fatally running over a woman during a 2006 road rage incident with her husband and two daughters.

Jonathan Wade Ellington, 51, has already served six years in prison for the Jan. 1, 2006, incident but was released last year after the Idaho Supreme Court overturned his convictions because of problems with his first trial.

Judge John Luster today allowed him to stay out of jail until his new sentencing, which is scheduled for March 26.

Read the rest of my story here.

Deputy Prosecutor Luke Malek, who is running for the Idaho state Legislature, congratulated his office in a Facebook post: “8 months after a scathing, dicta-filled opinion, professionalism and justice prevail. Congratulations to Art Verharen and Barry McHugh for courage in the face of populist ridicule.”

Past coverage:

May 27: Idaho Supreme Court overturns Ellington murder conviction

Jury still out in road rage murder case

Jurors today continue to deliberate the fate of of a North Idaho man charged with murder for running over a woman during a road rage encounter with her husband and daughters six years ago.

 The jury of 12 Kootenai County residents asked 1st District Judge John Luster the difference between 'deliberate' and 'intentional' in a question submitted just before noon today.

 Luster provided them with an additional instruction defining intentional as 'if done on purpose' and 'deliberate' as 'done on reflection.'

“It's understandable that the jury is struggling with that distinction between those two terms,” Luster said.

The language could be crucial to the verdict as jurors decide whether to convict or acquire Jonathan Wade Ellington, 51, (pictured) of second-degree murder for the Jan. 1, 2006, death of Vonnette Larsen.

Jurors also have alternative charges of manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter.

Prosecutors Barry McHugh and Art Verharen told the judge they believe today's additional instruction places an unfair burden on them to prove premeditation, which is only required for first-degree murder.

Luster disagreed.

“I don't believe this instruction places any greater burden on the state,” he said.

Court officials ordered lunch for the jury, which is in it's third day of deliberations. They began Friday afternoon after closing arguments.

Prosecutors say Ellington chose to turn his Bronco into the wrong lane and accelerate toward Larsen instead of staying in his lane and driving away from the scene at Scarcello Road, north of Coeur d’Alene.

But Ellington’s lawyers say he was fleeing gunfire from Vonnette Larsen’s husband, Joel Larsen, when the Bronco ran her over.

It's Ellington's second trial. He was serving a 25-year sentence for seocnd-dgree murdre when the Idaho Supreme Court reversed his convction and ruled an Idaho State Police corporal lied on the witness stand.

Read more from closing arguments here.

Robbery suspect got rehab instead of jail

A Spokane man accused of robbing a convenience store at gunpoint last weekend was given drug treatment instead of prison for a felony theft case last year.

Anthony D. Fuerte, 19, can't leave jail if he does post the $5,000 bond imposed Monday for the now first-degree robbery charge - he's serving a 30-day jail sentence for violating a drug offender sentence imposed in September for a felony theft and burglary case involving nearly $200,000 in stolen goods.

Fuerte was already considered to be in violation of his sentence requirements in that case when a clerk at Zip Trip, 2020 W. Francis, identified him as the gunman who robbed him about 9:43 p.m. on Friday.

Police found Fuerte hiding in a carport just west of the store. They say he had an Airsoft gun with him, along with money stolen in the robbery. One officer said Zip Trip surveillance video “without a doubt” shows Fuerte rob the store at gunpoint.

Fuerte was arrested in December 2010 on suspicion of theft and harassment after a deputy followed his shoe prints through snowy woods.

Ex-deputy gets 30 days in federal prison

A former Spokane County sheriff’s deputy has been sentenced to serve a month in prison after he previously pleaded guilty to defrauding a federal program that allows law enforcement officers and other public employees to buy homes at a discount.  

Brett J. Peterson, 41, had faced a sentencing range of six months to a year in federal prison. But U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle instead sentenced Peterson last Thursday to  one month.

Peterson ended his 14-year career with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office in September after he agreed to plead guilty to three felony counts of lying to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

He had purchased a home on West College Avenue in 2004 as part of the Good Neighbors Next Door Program, which pays half the cost of a home for law enforcement officers, firefighters and teachers who agree to buy homes in troubled neighborhoods and to live in them for three years. Peterson didn’t fulfill that residency requirement but signed documents saying he did.

Peterson was also ordered to repay $32,500, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Rice said. The case began from an anonymous tip in 2008, and federal agents working for HUD turned their findings over to federal prosecutors.

Peterson had been making a base salary of $65,000, but that amount did not include overtime and other possible pay increases, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said in an earlier interview. The sheriff previously called the case “heartbreaking” because Peterson was very talented.

Peterson’s defense attorney, Rob Cossey, could not be reached Monday for comment.
  

7 assault charges reduced in plea deal

A man who fired several gunshots into a house, narrowly missing two toddlers, after a 2009 dispute over a dog accepted a plea bargain Monday that called for 60 days in jail, which he’s already served.

Lucas J. Merrill, 28, had faced seven counts of first-degree assault in a case that previously had been negotiated down to two misdemeanors by Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker. However, a District Court judge in November refused to approve the deal after Tucker declined a request to appear in court and explain the reduction in the severity of the charges against Merrill.

Instead, Merrill pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of third-degree assault, said his defense attorney, Tom Krzyminski. Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza sentenced Merrill to 60 days in jail and gave him credit for 60 days. Third-degree assault is the lowest felony level of that offense.

“I think it’s disappointing that he was not placed in Veterans Court. But it seemed there were too many roadblocks for that,” Krzyminski said.

In November, District Court Judge Debra Hayes questioned whether the plea agreement would put a federal grant that helps pay for Veterans Court in danger if she agreed to reduce the seven felonies to two misdemeanors. “This is about as close to a murder case as I’ve seen as a felony reduction,” Hayes said during a hearing on Nov. 14.

The charges stemmed from an incident in the fall of 2009 when Merrill and his roommate, Brock Woodson, believed that the neighboring Gertlar family had either poisoned or injured their dog. Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Garvin said in court that Merrill got very drunk and shot at the Gertlars’ home, which had seven people inside.

According to court records, bullets just missed two toddlers who were sleeping in the front room. The Gertlars, who indicated they weren’t happy with the previous plea bargain, did not attend the Monday sentencing, Krzyminski said.

Originally from Colville, Merrill served eight years in the military including two tours in Iraq. He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder and has suffered traumatic brain injury, Krzyminski said at an earlier hearing.

The case file included a letter submitted by Karen Gertlar who said the shooting “has affected our lifestyle and ability to live a safe and normal life. By someone’s careless act, we are constantly in fear and all of us have re-occurring nightmares,” Gertlar wrote.

Emphasis patrol follows weekend crashes

Crashes that hurt one man and killed another in Spokane last weekend occurred as local authorities are working to emphasize pedestrian safety to motorists.

Emphasis patrols Tuesday and next month in Cheney are part of an ongoing effort in Spokane County to reduce the number of pedestrians injured or killed by motorists each year.

But police say two motorists arrested on felony charges this weekend did more than just fail to yield the right of way.

Read the rest of my story here.

Neighbor helps busts burglary suspects

A citizen’s report of suspicious activity in north Spokane County led to the arrest of two suspected burglars this afternoon, the sheriff's office.

A neighbor in the 7000 block of North Stevens Street observed the men looking into windows at a home before one climbed over the fence. Spokane County sheriff’s deputies responded and found a door and basement window open.

Deputy John Cook and his K-9, Ekko, and the other deputies located the suspects hiding in the home after they used a patrol car's loudspeaker to try to get them to surrender.

The suspects, whose names have not yet been released, received medical treatment for minor injuries at the scene. They face felony burglary charges.

Wire theft knocks out power; tips sought

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that led to the arrest of those responsible for a wire theft at an Avista substation that left thousands without power.

The thief or thieves cut cooper ground wires and stole portions, resulting in about $10,000 in damage.

The theft occurred about 2 a.m. Jan. 9 at the substation at 7182 N. Huetter Road. A ground wire burnt through because of short circuiting, which crews said likely scared the thief or thieves away.

The culprits “could easily have been electrocuted,” Avista crews told sheriff's deputies, according to a report.
Metal thefts cost local businesses thousands of dollars and are common because drug addicts can sell the stolen material for considerable amounts of money.

A band of alleged thieves in Spokane County even obtained legal business licenses to aid in their criminal enterprise. Read more here.

Anyone with information on the wire theft in Kootenai County is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Cops: Paintball gun-toting robber ID’d

A 26-year-old convicted felon has been identified as a suspect in a robbery with a paintball gun at a Spokane clinic last month.

Brian Lee “Rowdy” Riley, 26, is in jail on a  first-degree robbery charge for the Dec. 29 drug heist at the Spokane Falls Family Clinic, 120 W. Mission Ave.

Sheriff's deputies seized the black Volvo used in he robbery from a parking lot at 921 S. Pines Road in Spokane Valley later that night. The owner said a man named Corey had borrowed the car and returned with a bag full of Hydrocodone pills. A week later, a jail inmate identified Riley as being responsible for the robbery.

One woman also told police a friend of her son's - who she later identified as Riley - had bragged about robbing the pharmacy and had talked about planning more robberies, including attacks on pharmacy delivery vehicles, according to court documents. Police say the man's cell phone was registered to Riley, which led them to search his home the 2300 block of North Hutchinson on Jan. 19, according to a search warrant.

Detectives say the Volvo's owner told them in another interview on Jan. 25 that she'd driven Riley to the clinic in exchange for 45 Hydrocodone pills. Riley told her he shot the pharmacist with his paintball gun and someone threw a bottle of Hydrocodone at him, according to court documents. She has not yet been charged.

Riley was arrested after a pursuit with sheriff's deputies on Jan. 27 near 9526 E. Broadway Ave. He remains in jail on $100,000 for second-degree robbery.

RIley also has a $150,000 bond for first-degree burglary and robbery charges for an alleged gunpoint home-invasion robbery last August. He was charged in that case in December but showed up for an arraignment and was out of jail awaiting trial when he allegedly robbed the pharmacy.

Cop’s ‘ruse’ w/ felon leads to suspension

A Spokane police officer who spent 10 months on paid leave while investigators probed the extent of his working relationship with an unlicensed bounty hunter is back on patrol.

 Senior Officer Alan D. Edwards, 47, was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing but was found to have violated departmental policy by engineering an improper “ruse” to gain otherwise illegal entry to a Spokane home in 2009 while searching for stolen property. The city ordered him suspended without pay for two weeks and to undergo additional training in criminal procedure and report writing. He also was removed from the SWAT team until the training is completed.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 31: Detectives probe cop's ties to bounty hunter

3 indicted in bank fraud conspiracy

Brothers from Spokane and Post Falls and a third man have been indicted on a federal charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in a scheme that investigators say bilked $6 million from KeyBank.

Local and federal law enforcement agencies arrested this week 49-year-old Roger Spangenberg, of Post Falls, and 52-year-old David Spangenberg of Spokane, who were the owners of the now closed D&R automobile dealerships that had been located in Hermiston and Enterprise, Ore. Steven Johnson, 63, of Aberdeen, Wash., managed the dealerships. He was also indicted as part of the case.

Between 2007 and 2008, the Spangenberg brothers obtained loans from KeyBank to purchase cars. They then sold the cars without paying back the loans, according to a news release.

“These defendants left a multi-million dollar trail of destruction in eastern Oregon,” Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall wrote.

The defendants all face up to 30 years in federal prison and a maximum $1 million fine.

Sketch shows pharmacy robbery suspect

Detectives today released a sketch of a possible suspect in two gunpoint robberies at a Deer Park pharmacy.

 The first robbery at the Medicine Shoppe pharmacy, 11 E. H St., occurred Dec. 5 about 4:40 p.m. when a man demanded OxyContin and displayed a silver pistol that was in his waistband.

The pharmacy was robbed again Dec. 30 about 4 p.m. by a man who claimed he was armed with a gun but never displayed one.

The robber in both cases is described as a white man in his early 20s, 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-6 and thin, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Anyone with information on the robberies or the robber's identity is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

‘Flint Fire the Frequent Flyer’ arrested

The arrest of a woman wanted for theft since September led police to identify suspects in a residential burglary just a day earlier.

Tami Jo Hearn, 50, alias Raider, had jewelry and checkbooks belonging to a homeowner in the 3300 block of West Woodside Avenue when police arrested her during a vehicle stop at East 29th Avenue and South Fiske Street Jan. 10.

Passenger Flint Fire Herrmann, 34, was arrested on a warrant for felony drug possession. He had a cloth bag with in the car that contained more stolen jewelry, police said. Members of the Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team went to a home in the 2800 block of East 32nd Avenue where the two had been and found more stolen property, including a suitcase.

Homeowner Penni L. Cornwell, 47, faces charges of trafficking in stolen property. Hearn told police on Jan. 18 that Herrmann brought the suitcase full of jewelry to the home early Jan. 10 and planned to sell the items to get money to get his girlfriend out of jail. His girlfriend is Cornwell's daughter.

Hearn and Herrmann appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Thursday on charges of first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Hearn, a repeat offender, also faces several felony charges for an extensive forgery ring. Crime Stoppers had been offering a reward since September for tips that led to her arrest.

Herrmann also has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for felon in possession of a firearm, car theft, attempting to elude police, drug possession and possession of stolen property.

A court official on Thursday called him “Flint Fire the Frequent Flyer.”

Cops: woman stole soda for can deposit

LYNN, Mass. (AP) — Authorities say a Massachusetts woman bought $64 worth of soda using a stolen welfare benefits card, then immediately fed the full cans into the supermarket's automated redemption machine for the nickel deposit.

Tina Cafarelli, of Lynn, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges including larceny, property destruction and receiving stolen property. She was ordered held on $250 bail.

Police tell The Daily Item that the electronic benefits card Cafarelli used to buy the 18 12-packs of soda had another person's name on it. The supermarket manager says the full cans caused extensive damage to the redemption machine.

The 36-year-old Cafarelli couldn't be reached for comment.

  

Tenn. officer fired for smoking in precinct

Tenn. police officer fired for smoking in precinct

NEWBERN, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee police department says it has fired an officer after 17 years on the force because he repeatedly smoked cigarettes inside the precinct in violation of the city's no smoking policy.

Newbern police Sgt. James Bishop was terminated last week. A 2007 city policy prohibits smoking inside all municipal offices and buildings.

According to the termination letter obtained by the State Gazette, Police Chief Harold Dunivant said he had complaints that his employees were smoking inside their offices and issued a warning that disciplinary action could be taken (http://bit.ly/yAUKOE).

Dunivant said he continued to get complaints about Bishop smoking indoors and was forced to fire him.

A phone number that the city of Newbern had on record Bishop him was disconnected, and messages left by The Associated Press at other listings for James Bishop weren't immediately returned.

Potty-room pilfering reported in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A restroom rip-off in central Ohio has automatic flushers disappearing from the bathrooms at restaurants and other businesses.

Police say it's been happening in at least a couple Columbus suburbs. Investigators don't know if the thefts are related.

Handyman John Hahn tells WBNS-TV the flushers are likely being stolen for scrap because they contain a metal called red brass that can bring $2.50 per pound.

He says safeguards are needed because the flushers can be costly to repair.

Judge Leveque to retire at end of year

In this 2003 photo, Jerome Leveque shares a laugh during an announcement by hen-Gov. Gary Locke, right, that Leveque and private defense attorney Maryann Moreno, center, were the new Superior Court judges Friday. (SRfilephoto)

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque will retire when his terms ends at the end of this year.

The judge announced his retirement to his colleagues Thursday.

Leveque, 70, of Butte, Mont., has been serving as judge since he was appointed by former Gov. Gary Locke in 2003.

Because Leveque intends to serve out the remaining time of his term, Gov. Chris Gregoire will not have to conduct a search and appoint a replacement.

“It will be an open election,” Judge Ellen Kalama Clark said, meaning that voters will choose a new judge without an incumbent on the ballot.

Spokane man guilty in Plummer murder

A Spokane man has been convicted of second-degree murder for a fatal stabbing in Plummer, Idaho, last year.

Jody Allen Miller, 40, (left) entered an Alford plea this morning in Benewah County District Court for the April 17 murder of Antowyn D. “Tony” Swiney, 37, (right) the St. Maries Gazette Record reports.

He faces 25 years in prison when he's sentenced April 13. The plea means he does not admit guilty but acknowledges there was enough evidence to convict him.

Miller stabbed Swiney to death at Swiney's girlfiend's home in Plummer after Swiney left a Spokane bar to avoid a confrontation.

Irael Kennedy (right) pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in October and is to be sentenced next month.  

Stephen Milton and Kennedy's mother, Kelly A. Miller, pleaded guilty to felony criminal accessory charges in August.

Past coverage:

May 25: Boy says he witnessed Plummer murder

April 23: Romantic tie figures in murder case

Sex offender arrested for child porn

Spokane police Officer Tyler Cordis escorts sex offender Christopher Ebner to a patrol car after his arrest on child pornography charges today. (SPDphoto)

A sex offender was arrested today for allegedly possessing child pornography. 

Christopher Michael Ebner, 37, lives in the 1400 block of North Hodges Road in Spokane Valley, which is near the Central Valley Kindergarten Center and the Central Valley bus garage.

Detectives discovered Ebner had a large amount of child pornography on his computer and that he was sharing the material online.

The videos depicted children who appeared to be as young as 8 years old, police said. Ebner was booked into jail about 9:15 a.m.

Ebner is a level 2 sex offender with convictions in 2005 for third-degree rape of a child and possession of child pornography.

He was arrested in 2004 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl he met through an Internet chat room. Police found child pornography on his computer then, according to a previous report.

He was sentenced to 26 months in prison and four years probation, according to court records.

Today's search warrant was one of four related to child pornography in recent weeks, police said.

Police call river rescue a ‘media circus’

Crews rescue a man from the Spokane River in Riverfront Park on Jan. 13. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff)

Spokane police didn't mince words when describing a recent water rescue in Riverfront Park - they called it a “media circus.”

News crews were at the park Jan. 13 after hearing reports of a man in the river. Spokane firefighters pulled him to safety.

In a weekly report summarizing Spokane Police Department activity, police said the man was hooked mid-river on a rope and was “significantly hypothermic and non-responsive.”

“In the ensuing media circus, the male was rescued by boat, warmed up at the hospital, and booked for his outstanding Assault/DV warrant,” the report reads. Police believe the man was attempting suicide, according to KXLY.

The report details other police incidents that week, including man hit in the head with a hammer while he slept and a patrol officer who tracked burglary suspects using text messages.

The report is available here. An archive of monthly reports is available here.

Cops search home in drug robbery probe

Detectives searched a home recently to look for evidence in an armed robbery at a clinic last month

No arrests have been made, and the investigation into the Dec. 29 drug heist at the Spokane Falls Family Clinic, 120 W. Mission Ave., continues.

A pharmacy employee said a masked man armed with a paintball game stole 100 to 150 Hydrocodone pills.

Sheriff's deputies seized the black Volvo used in he robbery from a parking lot at 921 S. Pine in Spokane Valley later that night.

The owner said a man named Corey had borrowed the car and returned with a bag full of Hydrocodone pills. A week later, a jail inmate identified a 26-year-old convicted felon as being responsible for the robbery.

Detectives with the Spokane police major crimes unit searched that man's home in he 2300 block of North Hutchinson Road on Jan. 19, according to a search warrant filed Wednesday in Spokane County District Court.

Stuck driver survives on M&Ms, water

BURLEY, Idaho (AP) — Officials in south-central Idaho say a Texas woman may have spent up to a week in a rental car stuck in a dairy wastewater pond after taking a wrong turn as she searched for a hotel in Burley.

Cassia County officials say 61-year-old Lynn S. Keesler of Houston was evaluated by emergency medical technicians, but refused to go to the hospital.

The sheriff's report says Keesler thought she had been stranded for three to five days, but a deputy gave her directions to the hotels in Burley on Jan. 15. She walked to a nearby house for help on Jan. 22.

The Times-News reports the woman told officers she lived on M&Ms and water and stayed in the car because she'd been told not to leave her vehicle if she became stranded.

Conn. mayor blasted for ‘taco’ quip

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN,Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The mayor of a working-class city roiled by allegations of police discrimination against Hispanics faced scathing criticism Wednesday from officials including the governor for saying he “might have tacos” as a way to do something for the community.

The comments by East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo brought unwanted attention to the leadership of the New Haven suburb, where four police officers were arrested Tuesday by the FBI on charges including deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice. The mayor was also criticized for his recent reappointment of police Chief Leonard Gallo, who was apparently referred to in the indictment as a co-conspirator.

The four officers are accused of waging a campaign of harassment against Latino residents and businesses, including assaulting people while they were handcuffed and intimidating people who tried to investigate or report misconduct allegations. All four have pleaded not guilty.

The taco comment came as Maturo, a Republican, was being interviewed late Tuesday by a reporter from New York's WPIX-TV, Mario Diaz, who asked, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?”

Maturo's response: “I might have tacos when I go home; I'm not quite sure yet.”

He initially defended his response and said it was being unfairly twisted. But he later apologized, saying he'd had a long day of interviews.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the comments are “repugnant.”

“They represent either a horrible lack of judgment or worse, an underlying insensitivity to our Latino community that is unacceptable. Being tired is no excuse. He owes an apology to the community, and more importantly, he needs to show what he's going to do to repair the damage he's done. And he needs to do it today,” Malloy said.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, a native of Puerto Rico, said he was “disgusted” by Maturo's comment. East Haven Democratic Town Committee Chairman Gene Ruocco called for Maturo's resignation.

The comment “goes to the root of the racial profiling allegations here in East Haven,” Ruocco said in a statement. “Everyone knows the seriousness of this matter and for him, as the leader of our community, to say something so utterly insensitive is a complete disgrace.”

East Haven resident Marcia Chacon said she and other Latinos in her community were offended by Maturo's comment.

“This is an insult against us,” she said. “I thought 'Wow, here we are in East Haven, and this is the person who is supposed to help us.'”

Racial profiling complaints surged in recent years in East Haven, a predominantly white suburb on Long Island Sound where the Hispanic population more than doubled in size over a decade to 10.3 percent of its 28,000 people. Last month, a lengthy civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded there was a pattern of biased policing in East Haven, where only one of the roughly 50 police officers speaks Spanish.

Neighboring New Haven, in contrast, has drawn national attention for its sympathetic approach to immigrants, including becoming the first city in the nation to issue municipal identification cards for all residents — including illegal immigrants — to provide services such as banking and using the library.

The indictment of the East Haven police officers says a leader in the police department, described only as co-conspirator 1, blocked efforts by the police commission to investigate misconduct allegations. That refers to Chief Leonard Gallo, according to his attorney, Jon Einhorn, who denied that Gallo blocked the investigation and said it was unfair for him to be mentioned when he is not charged.

The allegations show federal authorities are concerned not just with the actions of the four police officers but also with the wider culture, said Jeffrey Meyer, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a former federal prosecutor.

“The significance of the allegations against co-conspirator 1 go to the overall tolerance and permissiveness of this police department with respect to the abuses committed by the indicted officers,” Meyer said.

The investigation was continuing, but experts said federal authorities sometimes don't charge a person named as a co-conspirator.

“He's probably losing some sleep,” Stan Twardy, a defense attorney and former U.S. attorney for Connecticut, said of Gallo. “The uncertainty of it is going to be uncomfortable for him.”

Maturo is a lifelong East Haven resident and Republican who was mayor from 1997 to 2007 and re-elected again in the fall.

After taking office Nov. 19, he reinstated Gallo as police chief. Gallo had been on paid administrative leave since federal authorities began investigating in 2010.

“I stand behind the police department,” Maturo said Tuesday. “We have a great police department.”

The Rev. James Manship, a priest at St. Rose of Lima Church in New Haven who has advocated for East Haven's Latinos, said he was incredulous that Gallo was welcomed back.

“I remain absolutely dumbfounded on how the mayor would reinstate Chief Gallo, who was at the helm of the police department when the culture and these things were happening,” said Manship, who was arrested in 2009 while videotaping East Haven police officers to document harassment complaints as officers removed license plates from the wall of a Hispanic couple's store.

Maturo released a statement Wednesday to express his “sincerest apologies” to East Haven and its Latino residents and business owners for the taco comment, asking residents to “have faith in me and our community as we address the challenges arising out of the past days' events.”

“Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already a serious and unfortunate situation,” he said. “I regret my insensitive comment and realize that it is my job to lead by example.”

Warrants already required in Wash. for GPS

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring law enforcement obtain search warrants before attaching GPS devices to vehicles will have little effect in Washington state.

State and local agencies in Washington have for several years been required to get a judge's approval before using GPS devices in investigations.

“The decision doesn't affect us on our state cases,” said Washington State Patrol Lt. Mark Brogan. The requirement stems from case law.

Members of local agencies assigned to federal task forces may have used GPS devices without obtaining warrants because they were operating under federal law.

But that must change after the nation's high court ruled 9-0 Monday that it was unconstitutional for the police to attach a small GPS device to a drug-dealing suspect's bumper and track his car for a month

Frank Harrill, agent in in charge of the Spokane office of the FBI, said the agency is “immediately adapting.”

“But in terms of particular steps, I'm not able to make a detailed comment,” he said.

Man arrested after knife threat in Valley

A man who threatened his former roommate with a knife before ignoring police commands was arrested without incident Tuesday night in Spokane Valley, police said today.

Police say Daniel W. De Long, 43, clinched his fists and “aggressively walked” toward officers after they ordered him to show them his hands.

Officers Lamont Petersen and David Lawhorn physically restrained  De Long, 6-feet tall and 290 pounds, when he appeared to be reaching for his waist area, according to a news release.

Police heard De Long was armed when they were dispatched to a home in the 18700 block of East Valleyway Court for a report of a knife threat. They arrived about 8:30 p.m. to find the front door open and could see De Long arguing with the victim. Police found the knife in the kitchen, where they believe De Long dropped it when he heard them arriving.

The victim told police he was drinking with De Long earlier that night, and De Long pushed his way into his home when he answered the door and yelled at him about clothing, then threatened to stab him with the knife.

De Long was booked into jail for felony second-degree assault and misdemeanor obstructing law enforcement and resisting arrest.

Patrol team arrests repeat offender, wife

A fugitive targeted by Spokane police since Jan. 11 was arrested by patrol officers Tuesday night.

Shaun P. Davis, 39, was booked into jail about 11 p.m. after members of the Patrol Anti-Crime Team located him at 5015 N. Haven St., police said today.

Davis was wanted on a Washington Department of Corrections warrant for violating his probation.

Davis' wife, Rosanna M. Jordan, 28, was arrested for rending criminal assistance for allegedly hiding Davis from police. She is now out of jail on bond.

Davis is described by police as a repeat offender

He has previous convictions from 2010 for drugs and stolen property, as well as convictions in 2007 for theft and unlawful possession of payment instruments, according to court records.

Couple accused of aiding Geiger escape

A Spokane couple has been arrested for helping two women escape Geiger Corrections Center Tuesday, the sheriff's office said today.

 Troy Arvid Scheiber, 43 and Judith A. Scheiber, 46, were booked into jail for second-degree rendering criminal assistance late Tuesday after deputies determined they planned to give Kathleen D. Stockton, 49, and Rachel A. Banks, 25, a ride out of the area.

Stockton (left) and Banks (right) were arrested after one of the women, whose hand and face were bloodied and who was wearing only one shoe, asked for a ride at the Airway Express on Geiger Boulevard, according to the Sheriff’s Office. She reportedly told employees that she had “jumped the fence” at the corrections center. The women escaped through a broken window.

The women were severely injured by razor wire from the facility's fence - sheriff's office spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory described some of their cuts as initially life threatening. Banks also broke her ankle, Gregory said.

The suspects were moved to the Spokane County Jail to await their appearances in Superior Court today for first-degree escape.

Stockton was serving time for felony drug possession. She was arrested in 2005 for stealing purses from churches and day cares. Banks was arrested earlier this month on charges of residential burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle. She also was arrested in April after crashing a stolen car into a house.

Geiger, located at 3507 South Spotted Road, is a branch o the jail that houses “low level inmates that don't pose a threat to the community,” Gregory said, but the incident illustrates the problems that arise when inmates are housed at a facility that isn't designed for such a purpose.

“Temporary security measures were put in place immediately following the incident,” Gregory said in a news release.”The facility administrators will be considering options for more permanent measures, knowing that the only real fix is to build a replacement facility.”
  

Porn suspect wanted after skipping court

A 23-year-old man scheduled for trial this month on child pornography charges is wanted by Crime stoppers after skipping a court hearing.

Richard B. Griffith is charged with possessing and distributing the illicit material via the Internet.

Spokane police searched his apartment in the 5200 block of South Ferrall Court on May 18 after tracking child pornography that had been posted on a file-sharing website.

The website's administrator alerted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of a photo uploaded by Griffith, according to court documents, and the center notified Spokane police.

Griffith told police he posted pictures on he website and “may have had some cloudy judgement,” according to court documents. He said he was “probably high at the time,” police said.

A no-bail warrant was issued for Griffith's arrest Jan. 20 after he missed a pre-trial conference on Jan. 13.

Griffith, 5-foot-7 and 190 pounds , last gave a home address in the 1000 block of Slide Creek Road in Colville, according to Crime Stoppers.

Anyone with information on his current location is asked to cal at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit tips online.

‘Barefoot Bandit’ email ridicule police

By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — “Barefoot Bandit” Colton Harris-Moore ridiculed police and prosecutors in emails and phone calls from prison recently, undercutting his claims that he's sorry for his two-year crime spree, the U.S. attorney's office said in court documents filed Tuesday.

 The 20-year-old, who awaits federal sentencing, referred to Island County Sheriff Mark Brown as the “king swine,” called prosecutors who handled his case “fools,” and referred to news reporters as “vermin.” The self-taught pilot bragged about his two-year crime spree, during which he hopscotched the U.S. in stolen cars, boats and small planes before being captured in the Bahamas in July 2010 a hail of bullets.

“The things I have done as far as flying and airplanes goes, is amazing,” he wrote in one email last August. “Nobody on this planet have done what I have, except for the Wright brothers.”

Federal prosecutors included excerpts from the emails and phone transcripts in a sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Harris-Moore was sentenced last month to more than seven years in prison for a long string of state crimes, mostly on his hometown of Camano Island and in the San Juan Islands, but he is still scheduled to be sentenced on Friday for federal crimes, including stealing a plane that belonged to a Bonners Ferry cattle rancher.

Prosecutors are seeking a six-and-a-half year sentence, the most they can ask for under the terms of Harris-Moore's federal plea deal. His lawyers asked for a sentence of just under six years in their own memorandum filed Tuesday. The plea deal calls for proceeds from a movie deal to be used to pay more than $1.2 million in restitution to his victims, and the judge can issue a sentence outside the plea deal's suggested range.

Emma Scanlan, one of Harris-Moore's lawyers, said the excerpts were cherry-picked from more than 700 pages of emails and phone transcripts. None of the excerpts suggests that Harris-Moore doesn't feel sorry for the people he victimized, she noted.

“Maybe he doesn't the like the sheriff's office, maybe he doesn't like the prosecutors,” Scanlan said. “But he's recognizing the most important group of people.”

Prosecutors said the excerpts offered a striking difference in tone to the apology letter Harris-Moore wrote to the state and federal judges handling his case. In the letter, he said he did not want to glamorize anything he had done, and he apologized profusely to his victims, saying he learned only too late of the fear he was instilling in them. He said his childhood — with an abusive, alcoholic mother and a series of her ex-con boyfriends — was one he would not wish on his “darkest enemies.”

He also wrote in the letter that he wanted to apologize to the Island County and San Juan County sheriffs' offices, “who I know were only doing their jobs.” In a monitored telephone call Dec. 9, a week before his sentencing, he said he wanted his supporters in the courtroom because “the more people I have from my camp the better, because that's just one less seat that will be filled by the media vermin or the swine, the king swine himself, Mark Brown.”

The judge who sentenced Harris-Moore in state court emphasized his difficult childhood, called his case “a triumph of the human spirit” and suggested it's remarkable that he didn't commit worse crimes, given his background.

In an email a few days after the sentence, Harris-Moore recounted the sentencing.

“When all the acting and spreading of high propaganda on the part of the state was over and my lawyers argued the true facts, the judge gave me a much-appreciated recognition and validation, calling my story a 'triumph of the human spirit,'” he wrote. “She wasn't having none of the weak argument the prosecution tried to peddle, and ended up handing down a sentence that was the lowest possible within the range. … Once again, I made it through a situation I shouldn't have.

Ex-justice to serve on Zehm committee

Gerry Alexander, who retired last year as the chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, will serve on the city's Use of Force Commission.

The commission was created last year by former Mayor Mary Verner to review the city's handling of the police confrontation that resulted in the death of Otto Zehm in 2006.

Read more at the Spin Control blog. 

Thompson seeks sentence reduction

A federal prosecutor is objecting to a request by convicted former Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. to reduce his potential prison sentence because he claims to have taken responsibility for using excessive force on Otto Zehm and lying to cover it up.

 Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin has responded to an earlier request filed by defense attorney Carl Oreskovich to reduce Thompson’s sentencing guidelines, which currently call for him to serve between 27 and 33 months in federal prison. Oreskovich has argued that the decorated former officer has accepted responsibility for the crimes.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Alleged ‘10 murder accomplice charged

William F. Hanel's burned body was found inside this home on Oct. 12, 2010, after firefighers responded to a blaze there. (SRPhoto/Jonathan Brunt)

A man accused of helping a killer torch his victim's home in 2010 is wanted by police.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that lead to the arrest of Eric Andersen, 46, whose last known home address was in Grant County.

Detectives believe Andersen helped Ryan D. Corkery, 28, burn William Frazier Hanel's home at 12036 S. Player Drive on Oct. 12, 2010.

Corkery strangled Hanel, 56, to death with an electrical cord a couple days earlier and enlisted the help of Andersen and Mark A. Hoffman, 24, to cover the crime, prosecutors say.

Andersen was arrested a week after Hanel's body was found in the burning home, but prosecutors moved to dismiss the charges about two months later.

Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy said today that he filed charges again on Jan. 18 after a new witness became available. He declined to comment further.

Corkery, who claimed Hanel molested a relative, was sentenced in December to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. Hoffman was sentenced in January 2011 to six months in jail for first-degree rendering criminal assistance and residential burglary.

Andersen is wanted on a $40,000 warrant charging him with first-degree arson, residential burglary and first-degree rendering criminal assistance. His last known address is in the 100 block of N.W. Quincy Place in Soap Lake.

Anyone with information on Andersen's current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit tips online.

Drug unit shortens dealer’s report time

 A methamphetamine dealer ordered to report to jail by last Sunday arrived early thanks to the Spokane Police Department's drug unit.

 Gerald A. Oglesbee, 42, had been ordered Jan. 3 to report to jail by last weekend to begin a 45-month prison sentence for four drug convictions.

Drug detectives arrested him on new drug charges Jan. 11 while searching his home in the 2200 block of East Pacific Avenue.

Oglesbee was arrested in December 2010 and last May after detectives on both occasions found meth at a home in the 1700 block of East 1st Avenue.

Police allege he was selling heroin while out of jail awaiing resolution of those cases - a confidential informant bought the drug from him using an “unwitting individual” twice in November, according to court documents.

Detectives also followed Oglesbee in December from the Pacific Avenue address to a home in he 2200 block of East Boone Avenue, where they had arrested a woman on heroin charges three weeks earlier. Police say he stayed at the Boone Avenue home a short while - consistent with a drug deal.

Oglesbee was to be arraigned on the new heroin charge today, but prosecutors have not yet filed charges.

He remains in the Spokane County Jail waiting transport to prison. He has 10 previous felony convictions and four as a juvenile, as well as at least 17 misdemeanor convictions.

Feds find dead body while snowmobiling

Federal agents found a dead body while training with snowmobiles last week in Pend Oreille County.

U.S. Border Patrol agents were in the mountains northeast of Sullivan Lake when they found the body of a adult male, the Pend Oreille Sheriff's Office announced Monday.

Deputies say the man is a 61-year-old from Los Angeles. His identity is being withheld until his family is notified of his death.

Investigators believe the man left his vehicle on foot and died and hypothermia, the sheriff's office said.

Cash for tips on sex offender’s location

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of a sex offender who hasn't checked in with authorities.

Robert Tom Boren, 32, was convicted of first-degree child molestation in Washington state in 1994.

He last registered as a transient in Spokane County, which means he's required to check in with authorities once a week. But he hasn't done that, and a $15,000 arrest warrant was issued Jan. 18.

Crime Stoppers offered a reward for tips on Monday.

Boren, 6-feet tall and 170 pounds, is a level 2 sex offender. Level 3 is considered the most likely to reoffend; level 1 is the least.

Anyone with information on Boren's location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit tips online.

Herbal Essence owner ID’d in hit-and-run

A chef and restaurant owner turned himself in to jail for a hit-and-run crash that led to a manhunt involving a sheriff’s helicopter early Sunday.

Ryan Michael Morales, owner of Herbal Essence Cafe, was jailed on felony charges of hit-and-run and three counts of vehicular assault.

His bond was set at $5,000 during his first appearance Monday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Read the rest of my story here

Police: Girl Scouts peeper wore g-string

A man arrested for voyeurism outside a Girl Scouts gathering in Spokane was wearing a red g-string and no pants when a woman spotted him early Sunday, officials say.

 Martin J. Green, 29, had a “pocketful of condoms” in his untied sweat pants when police arrested him after a brief foot chase near the Girl Scouts office at 1404 N. Ash St., said Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson.

Green's g-string, pocketful of condoms and lack of pants “gives me a great cause for concern for our community,” Johnson said today at Green's first court appearance.

Assistant Public Defender Mike Elston disagreed.

“I fail to see the significance of the allegation of the g-string or the condoms,” Elston said. “The allegation is he looked through a window.”

Green is pictured in court courtesy KHQ.

Officers responded to the office about 12:45 a.m., where the group was holding a slumber party. Police lost sight of Green but caught up with him in the 1700 block of West Mission Street.

A Girl Scouts employee identified him as the shoeless man she saw looking into the building's windows while holding his pants in front of his legs, police said.

Green told police he left his home in the 1500 block of West Sharp Avenue after an argument with his girlfriend and happened to walk by the building. Green said he didn't know the building belonged to the Girl Scouts but he ran because he knew he was trespassing, according to court documents.

Green served eight years in prison in Georgia for a violent crime conviction in 1999, according to court testimony.

Superior Court Judge Annette Plese today set his bond at $10,000. He's to be arraigned Feb. 7.

Police: Man tried to kill ex in front of kids

A Spokane man accused of trying to kill his wife in front of their two children was ordered today to stay in jail on $500,000 bond.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Gayle Ervin acknowledged the bond set for Corey A. Holten, 42, was unusually high because he has no criminal history, but she emphasized that he repeatedly harassed his ex-wife before accosting her at gunpoint Saturday.

Holten told the woman he would kill her that night and commit suicide, or he would leave the home in handcuffs and kill her when he got out of jail, Ervin said.

A victim's advocate said Holten's ex-wife fears for her life. Holten's children, ages 9 and 11, “are very traumatized,” the advocate told Superior Court Judge Annette Plese.

“They keep crying, waking up stating 'Dad tried to kill Mom,'” she said.

Police say 10 hours after he was served with a no-contact order Saturday, Holten showed up at his wife's home with a gun. He pulled up in a car with its headlights off as she walked home with their daughter and son and ordered her in the home at gunpoint, Ervin told Plese.

Officer Rob Boothe, a weapons expert, heard a round being chambered when he arrived at the home in the 800 block of West York Avenue after a 911 call about 10:10 p.m.. Holten and the woman have been divorced for a couple of years, and she recently started a new relationship, Ervin said.

Holten's public defender said the allegations didn't support an attempted murder charge, only second-degree assault and harassment, but Plese disagreed.

The judge called Holten “a severe danger to the community” as well as his wife and children and imposed the prosecution's bond request of $500,000.

Fight at restaurant leads to shooting

A fight at a downtown Spokane restaurant led to a shooting early Sunday.

Two men were shot in their lower legs by someone inside a white van after an altercation at Tacos Tumbras at West Second Avenue and South Cedar Street about 1:40 a.m., police said.
 
Police located the van at North Division Street and East Buckeye Street. The occupants denied shooting anyone but said they'd argued with others at the restaurant, police said.
 
Witnesses could not identify anyone in the van, so police released them after taking down their information.
 
The van was seized for evidence, and the investigation is ongoing.

Nail salon crack cocaine suspect indicted

A man accused of selling crack cocaine out of a Spokane nail salon has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Paul Lamar Rios, 30, was one of several people arrested Thursday during a widespread drug and gun investigation by the Spokane Violent Crimes Gang Task Force.

Rios and his girlfriend,  Krista L. Isaacs, 34, were arrested during a SWAT team raid at 8210 N. Lucia Ct. on Oct. 21.

Police seized about four ounces of crack cocaine from a safe in the home. They searched Isaac's nail salon, Luscious Nails and Beyond, 1721 Northwest Boulevard, the same day.

Police were authorized to search the nail shop and the home after a confidential informant used a “unwitting individual” to buy crack cocaine from Paul Rios thrice in September and once from Isaacs at the nail shop on Oct. 14.

“The unwitting source told the informant that Rios was cautious and only deals with five other people,” according to court documents.

Detectives seized the couple's cellphones to review for evidence of drug sales. No charges have been filed against Isaacs.

Rios in the Spokane County Jail on a federal hold after pleading not guilty Thursday to three counts of distribution of cocaine and one count of possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine.

A grand jury indicted Rios on Dec. 20, but authorities waited nearly a month to arrest him as part of a coordinated day of arrests called “Operation Old School.

Murder victim named in 2 scuba lawsuits

Detectives have expanded the criminal investigation into the fatal shooting of a north Spokane mother to include two civil lawsuits naming the victim.

 Each lawsuit involves separate scuba diving accidents; one left a man dead and another allegedly left a woman with brain damage.

Although no arrests have been made in the homicide case, Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Mike Drapeau said he is waiting on evidence to come back from the state crime lab and that investigators have focused on an individual who had been romantically involved with 34-year-old Kimberly R. Schmidt.

Read the rest of the story here.

Snowblower dispute leads to gunfire

A man fired two shots at his neighbor during a dispute over a snowblower in Colbert on Thursday, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Arnim Roland Olsen, 50, was arrested on a second-degree assault charge after his neighbor in the 19300 block of North Austin Road, William E. Rice, reported the shooting to 911.

Rice said he contacted Olsen at his home regarding the use of his snowblower. They argued about that and about a dog Rice gave Olsen's wife, according to court documents.

Armin pointed a revolver at Rice and fired twice, barely missing his right ear, documents allege.

Deputies say they found a revolver in Olsen's home with four live .22 caliber rounds and two shell casings, which was consistent with Rice's account.

6 lbs. of meth, $60k seized from trailer

Police seized more than six pounds of methamphetamine and $60,000 from a trailer near the Fairchild Airforce Base on Thursday.

Gerardo S. Miramontes, 35, and Rigoberto Ayala, 32, face drug and gun charges after a search warrant was served at 15610 W. Highway 2.

A confidential informant bought methamphetamine through Miramontes on Jan. 5 and Jan. 11 from the Spokane Police Department, according to court documents prepared by drug Detective Kevin Langford.
The informant exchanged money for meth with a man who identified himself as “Creeps,” who police say is Ayala.

Along with the drugs and cash, police found scales and sandwich baggies in the trailer, as well as three firearms.

Miramontes, who police say also lives in San Diego, has a previous felony conviction for second-degree assault. Ayala has a felony conviction in Nevada for possession of a stolen vehicle.

The men are in the Spokane County Jail after appearing in Superior Court today on drug and gun charges.

Gun suspects wanted to scare druggies

Two men accused of threatening people with guns at Underhill Park told police they did so in an effort to rid the park of drugs.

 Police say Joel D. Nelson, 26, said he and Joshua L. Schmidt, 29, (right) went to the park to make the drug dealers and drug users leave.  They brought guns “in case something got serious,” Nelson told Spokane police, according to court documents. Nelson told officers a bunch of guys were talking trash, and he pointed his gun “at at least six people,” police say.

At least eight people told police the men were threatening them with guns while in a silver Chevrolet Impala. Police caught up with the Impala in the area of 2900 E. Hartson Ave., but the car sped away before it stopped and Nelson and Schmidt ran away. Police caught Nelson, who was driving, and Schmidt was caught with the help of a K-9.

Police say Nelson had a blood-alcohol level between .229 and .219 - nearly three times the legal limit for driving. Police found a .40 cal. Beretta handgun in the car.

Each man faces eight counts of first-degree assault. Nelson also faces one count of attempt to elude and one count of DUI. Schmidt faces one  count of unlawful possession of a firearm because he has previous convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms.

Nelson is jailed on $10,000 bond after appearing in court Thursday. Schmidt's bail is at $150,000; he also has a probation hold from the Washington Department of Corrections for a felony riot conviction.

2nd trial begins in ‘06 road rage death

Jonathan Wade Ellington and his girlfriend leave Kootenai County District Court during a break in the opening day of his trial Thursday. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff) Ellington is pictured below in 2006.

Prosecutors say he used his vehicle as a weapon against two sisters and their mother in an angry road encounter fueled by his own rage.

But Jonathan Wade Ellington’s lawyers told jurors at the opening day of his murder trial Thursday that the North Idaho man was simply trying to get away from gunfire when he ran over and killed Vonnette Larsen on Jan. 1, 2006.

“It’s a tragedy, but it’s not a crime,” said John Adams, head of the Kootenai County Public Defender’s Office.

Read the rest of my story here.

Gang probe includes 2 murder suspects

Two of 24 suspects named Thursday in a long-term gun and drug investigation by the Spokane Violent Crimes Gang Task Force already are in jail on murder charges.

Edward L. “TD” Thomas, 26, (left) already faces life in prison under Washington's three-strikes law if convicted of second-degree murder.

He's been in custody since September 2010 for the Jan. 17, 2010 shooting death of John S. Williams, 38, outside a birthday party for a reputed gang member at 5405 N. Crestline St.

He’s also accused of trying to kill Williams’ son during the shooting, which  police believe resulted from lingering tensions between Thomas and a rival gang member who has a child with the mother of Thomas’ child.

Thomas' murder trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27 in Spokane County Superior Court.

It's unclear what charges he faces in the federal investigation - no indictment naming him has been unsealed.

 David C. McLaughlin, 21, (right) is charged with second-degree murder along with his girlfriend, Melinda R. Barrera, 31, for the Dec. 7 shooting death of Robert A. Nelson, 46

McLaughlin said he hit Nelson with a bat because Nelson had thrown a phone at Barrera and hit her in the head, detectives say.  Barrera reportedly told detectives that she loaded the gun and “somehow my finger pulled the trigger.” Nelson reported his own shooting to 911 and was found dead with a phone in his hand.

Prosecutors said McLaughlin and Barrera were under separate federal investigation when arguing against their bail being reduced last month in Superior Court.

Judge Michael Price said the alleged crime - murder - did not fit the lack of criminal history for either suspect and reduced Barrera’s bond to $350,000 and McLaughlin’s to $300,000, from $500,000.

It's unclear what charges McLaughlin faces in the federal investigation - no indictment naming him has been unsealed.

Also named as a suspect in the federal probe is Tyrone J. Carell, 23, (left) who is in jail on assault charges related to the Nov. 27 shooting death of Jose J. “Junior” Solis, 21, at the Quality Inn. John A. “Lil Danger” Castro, 27, is charged with Solis's murder.

Again, it's unclear what federal charges Carell faces - no indictment naming him has been unsealed.

See a complete list of suspects and read more about the federal investigation here. 

Police: Abusive man threw oil on wife

A man threw a pot of hot oil on his wife as she cooked in their home Tuesday, police said today.

Ronald M. Pritchet, 45, was arrested Wednesday night after Pritchet's wife called 911.

She said she was making a pan of chicken and bacon when Pritchet became angry and threw the pan at her. He refused to let her seek help, so she waited until he left the next day to call 911, police said.

The woman was transported to a hospital with burns on her face, back and right side of her body. She also had two black eyes and bruises all over her body.

Pritchet was booked into jail for second-degree assault.

Calif. OxyContin sales traced to E. Wash.

A suspected large-scale OxyContin dealer in Southern California was arrested after the DEA tracked drug sales into Eastern Washington.

Robert Beron is accused of selling large amount of OxyContin to Mitchell Hargan, Marisol Hernandez, Jaime McGahuey and Kim Chavez of Wenatchee.

The DEA began investigating Beron in May 2010 through a confidential informant.

Beron, who traveled to Washington regularly, told the informant he was still able to get the old OxyContin pills distributed before Purdue Pharma changed the formula to make them harder to abuse, which gave him huge profits, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane. Beron arranged to sell the informant 400 80-mg pills for $6,000 in February, documents allege. The sale was monitored by the DEA.

Beron said he sometimes traveled to Las Vegas to visit his girlfriend and stay in luxury hotels, according to the DEA.

Hargan entered the investigation in September when Chelan County sheriff's deputies responded to a domestic violence report involving a man who said his wife had started seeing Hargan again. The man told deputies Hargan was a large-scale pill dealer who bought the drugs from a man named Robert in California, and that a woman named Mary picked up the pills from the post office.

Another DEA informant bought OxyContin from McGahuey and his girlfriend, Chavez, who also live in Wenatchee.

Beron was arrested at his home in Salinas, Calif., on Jan. 12.  Poilice found a 9 mm handgun and 530 methadone pills.

Later that day, investigators in Wenatchee watched Hernandez pick up a a package form Beron at the post office, then travel to Hargan's home, which police then searched. McGahuey and Chavez also were arrested Jan. 12 after a search warrant was served at their home.

The suspects face federal drug charges.

$50k bond for elderly home armed robbery

A former assisted living center employee accused of robbing the place at gunpoint early Wednesday was ordered jailed on $50,000 bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court.

Timothy J. Martinez, 28, locked a 20-year-old female employee and a 77-year-old male resident in a room at Guardian Angel Homes in Liberty Lake after stealing a bag of narcotics about 2 a.m., according to Liberty Lake Police Department.

The center is across the street from the police department.

An officer and two sheriff's deputies responded within one minute.  They saw a man later identified as Martinez throw something under a parked car near the center. An officer forced him to the ground and put him in the back of his patrol car before retrieving the bag of drugs and an Airsoft rifle that had a laser sight attached, accoridng to court documents prepared by police.

Police followed Martinez's footprints in the snow back to the center. The employee said the robber knocked on the door and said he had a medication delivery, then displayed the rifle when she opened the door. The man was wearing a ski mask, but the employee said his voice sounded very familiar and that he kept apologizing to her and calling her by name. Martinez worked at the center last summer, according to police.

Martinez told police he was sorry but was “having money issues and had no choice,” according to court documents.

“This is what I get for having an idea about trying to make a quick buck,” he said.

Martinez remains in jail on charges of first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree kidnapping and three counts of possession of a controlled substance: Lorazepam, Tramadol and Hydrocodone.

CdA man accused of raping teenage boy

A 41-year-old Coeur d'Alene man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly raping a 16-year-old boy.

Sonny Novero Coley was booked into the Kootenai County Jail on charges of rape, sexual battery and sexual exploitation of a child.

Detectives received a report Tuesday that detailing Coley's alleged contact with the boy, police said Wednesday. They interviewed Coley at the police station and arrested him about 8:30 p.m.

The alleged victim knew Coley “and spent a lot of time with him,” according to a Coeur d'Alene Police Department news release.

Police did not release further details.

Ruling clears way for 2nd road rage trial

A judge this morning refused to dismiss murder charges against a North Idaho man because of a last-minute evidence issue in his 2006 road-rage case, clearing the way for a second trial.

Jonathan Wade Ellington (pictured) was imprisoned for four years  on a murder conviction that was overturned because the Idaho Supreme Court ruled a state trooper lied at the first trial in 2006.

Opening statements in his second trial are expected Thursday morning. A jury is being selected today in Judge John Luster's courtroom at the Kootenai County Courthouse in Coeur d'Alene.

Ellington has been free since early November on a $50,000 property-backed bond after returning to Kootenai County from a prison near Boise.

Ellington is accused of running over Vonnette Lee Larsen, 41, in 2006 during a fit of road rage north of Coeur d’Alene. Larsen and her husband were pursuing Ellington after their daughters told them he’d punched their windshield, and at one point before the fatal crash Joel Larsen fired a rifle at Ellington.

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

The case is being prosecuted by Barry McHugh and Art Verharen. Ellington is represented by John Adams and Ann Taylor.

I'll be covering the trial. Look for updates here and on my Twitter page throughout the opening day.

More past coverage:

Sept. 8, 2006: Ellington found guilty

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

Thief drops metal for witness’ cellphone

A would-be scrap metal thief ditched the material in favor of a witness' cellphone recently in Spokane Valley, police say.

Shane Wendon Israel, 33, was arrested Friday after a sheriff's deputy who investigated the robbery stopped his red Dodge truck.

Suspect Scott Hayden Elliott, 39, alias Wood, also was arrested for driving Israel away from the theft, which occurred Jan. 5 about 8:45a.m. at Ecolite, 2622 N. Woodruff Road.

Ecolite employee Pat Myers told police he saw Israel walking from the building with scrap metal, so he followed him and tried to take a picture of his truck but was assaulted and his cellphone was stolen, according to court documents. Israel grabbed Myers' cellphone and threatened him with the metal before dropping it and fleeing with the phone.

Another employee, Don Banks, snapped a photograph of the truck that included the license plate. Police say it's registered to Elliott.

Deputy R. Smith recovered Myers' cellphone from the Spokane Dog Training Club, where Israel said he'd thrown it, documents say.

Elliott and Israel faces charges of first-degree robbery and third-degree theft. Elliott also faces a charge of driving while license suspended.

Stolen car yields ‘plethora’ of lifted goods

A Spokane police officer investigating a stolen vehicle early Sunday found what he called a “plethora” of property believed to have been stolen in burglaries and car prowlings.

Officer Sean Wheeler located the stolen Kia Rio at 118 E. Sanson about 1:45 a.m. and arrested suspect Amariah J. Carter, 22, for car theft.

Wheeler and backup officers found a checkbook, toolbox and GPS system that had been stolen from a car at 4707 E. Upriver Drive on Friday.

Officers also found sheers and restaurant-style knives that had been stolen from a vehicle on Saturday. They also found an identification card belonging to a residential burglary victim who also is missing $3,000 in silverware, a $2,500 diamond ring and antique China dishes described as “priceless.” Officers recovered only the dishes. The burglary occurred in the 4000 block of East Frederick next door to Carter's home, according to court documents.

Carter told police she was not the only person who had driven the car and declined to comment further, documents say.

Carter was released from jail on her own recognizance Tuesday after appearing before Judge Annette Plese on charges of theft of a motor vehicle, residential burglary, first-degree theft, possession of stolen property, unlawful possession of a payment instrument and two counts of second-degree possession of stolen property.

Police chase w/ stolen car ends in crash

This crash in north Spokane began when a sheriff's deputy tried to pull over the Honda. (KHQ-TV photo)

A man in a stolen car swerved into a police cruiser during a chase in north Spokane this afternoon.

The suspect, Aaron D. Lyons, 33, was arrested after he crashed the 1992 Honda Civic into shrubbery while trying to turn into the Rite Aid parking lot on North Division Street. Deputy Jeff Thurman blocked the Civic with his patrol vehicle and arrested Lyons, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The chase began about 12:39 p.m. when Thurman tried to stop the Civic in the 8500 block of North Country Homes Road for failing to display license plates.

Before Lyons crashed near Rite Aid, Thurman tried to stop car with a “pursuit intervention technique” that involves nudging the back bumper of a fleeing vehicle, which forces it into a spin and brings it to a stop, but Lyons swerved into Thurman's car to avoid the move, the sheriff's office said.

The Civic was reported stolen on Sunday. Lyons also had a stolen credit card with him, according to the sheriff's office.

Lyons was booked into jail on felony charges of second-degree assault, attempting to elude police, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, second-degree malicious mischief and possession of stolen property, and misdeamenor charges of driving under the influence and driving while license suspended.

Man arrested after gunfire just misses girl

A young girl narrowly avoided gunfire late Saturday after an 18-year-old man fired a gun into her apartment, police say.

The girl's mother, Elizabeth Harper, told police she and her friend, Bryan Chavez, were at the home on East Pine Ridge Court in north Spokane when she heard a gunshot about 9:29 p.m. and a stranger opened her unlocked door and stepped inside, according to the Spokane Police Department.

She repeatedly yelled for the man, identified by police as Alexander B. Pardue, to exit as he demanded to be let in “with a panicked look on his face,” police said in court documents.

Pardue left when Chavez emerged from a backroom, police say. Harper told officers she heard one of her daughter's crying and found a bullet hole just above her bed from a gunshot that traveled through the apartment.

A witness said he heard a gunshot just before he saw Pardue running through the parking lot holding a black handgun, police say.

Pardue's girlfriend, Stephanie Diluzio, told police an unknown man with a knife hit Pardue in the face with a baseball bat, and Pardue chased him and fired a shot. Pardue told police he'd fired his 9 mm handgun at the assailant “after yelling at him to stop,” documents say.

Pardue was booked into jail on  a first-degree burglary charge. He could face more charges.

Fla. murder suspect arrested in Spokane

A man wanted for murder in Florida was arrested in Spokane today.

Federal agents found Demarcus R. Ledent, 31, in the 8000 block of North Hill N Dale Street, just north of East Magnesium Road off North Division Street.

A warrant for Ledent's arrest was issued Jan. 4 in Pensacola, Fla., for the July 2007 homicide of Barry Shipp, 48.

The Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force learned Ledent had fled Florida and was living in Spokane, according to a news release.

According to a 2007 video from WKRG TV in Pensacola, which is posted above, Shipp, who was married with children, was shot to death at a family-owned barber shop.

Police: Man jailed for forging jail check

A former inmate due $15 for money not used at the Spokane County Jail earned himself another stay behind bars by forging the check for more than 200 times the amount, sheriff's officials say.

John P. Oak, 44, was arrested Jan. 12 for forgery and second-degree theft after he tried to withdraw money from Banner Bank in Rockford, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Jail staff on Jan. 11 noticed Oak had cashed a check from the jail for $3,042.21, though jail records showed the check was originally written for $15.

Oak received $1,000 in cash and deposited the rest in his account, according to the Sheriff's Office. Bank employees notified police Jan. 12 that Oak had tried to withdraw more funds but was denied. Deputy Jeremy Jeske stopped a vehicle as it traveled north on Highway 21 from the bank and arrested Oak, who was a passenger.

Two other passengers, John M. Hamilton, 49, and Amanda M. Powers, 28, were arrested and booked on outstanding warrants.  The driver of the vehicle was released shortly after the traffic stop and is not facing charges, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Oak has been released from jail and is to be arraigned on Jan. 24, according to online court records.

U.S. attorney helped ID burglary suspect

An assistant U.S. attorney and appointee for a federal judgeship helped identify a suspect in a string of South Hill burglaries by tracking his wife’s stolen coffee shop card.

Tom Rice, who is awaiting congressional confirmation to replace former U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley, was in bed when Nathan Daniel Moore, 30, (pictured) allegedly burglarized his home Nov. 23.

His wife, Heather Rice, that morning noticed her purse and wallet missing, which contained a Starbucks debit card.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 7: Suspect arrested in South Hill burglaries

Cops: Man steals pellet gun, robs store

Police say a man made quick use of a pellet gun he stole from Wal-Mart: He robbed a video game store across the parking lot.

 Suspect Merle A. Andrew, Jr., 36, was arrested early today for a robbery Tuesday at GameStop in Airway Heights.

Surveillance video shows a man police believe is Andrew steal the Airsoft pistol from the Wal-Mart at 1221 South Hayford Road about 4 p.m., then return to a 1997 Honda Accord that was parked in the fire lane, according to court documents.

The car traveled through the parking lot to GameStop, where Andrew exited and returned after robbing the store of $976, police say. Police identified the driver as Nicole N. Stearns, 29, (pictured) and arrested her for first-degree robbery the same time as Andrew.

A sheriff's deputy located the Accord at Highway 2 and Spotted Road about 1:30 a.m today and detained Andrew and Stearns.

Stearns allegedly told officers she drove when Andrew committed five other robberies in Spokane County, police say.

Stearns and Andrew appeared in Superior Court today on a first-degree robbery charge. Judge Annette Plese set Andrew's bond at $10,000. Stearns is in jail on an additional municipal court warrant.

Andrew has no felony convictions and 12 misdemeanor convictions. He's unemployed, is supported by his father and food stamps and has six children who live with their mother, according to court testimony.

Police ‘had no idea’ fugitive was in court

 Spokane police were surprised to learn that a fugitive captured by a police dog on Wednesday had been in court the day before.

“We had no idea he was in court,” Sgt. Tracie Meidl said of Mark W. Bush, 36.

Meidl says Bush, who has at least four felony and 23 misdemeanor convictions, had been eluding police for weeks and knew about his wanted status before he was arrested Wednesday on a Washington Department of Corrections warrant for failing to check in with his probation officer. He also was arrested on Nov. 21 but posted $2,500 bond. Another warrant was issued Dec. 30, according to the DOC.

On Tuesday, Bush attended an arraignment on an unrelated felony marijuana charge at 1:30 p.m. before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke.

Court officials apparently did not know of Bush's fugitive status - he was allowed to stay out of custody and ordered to be back in court Jan. 24 for an arraignment under the early-case resolution program, which allows suspects charged with low-level felonies to resolve their cases quickly.

Now he's back in jail on a no-bail DOC hold.

Cops hope colonial ties reheat cold case

Forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick poses with her laptop showing two composite sketches of a suspect in the 1991 killing of a Washington teenager, in Huntington Beach, Calif., Wednesday. The analysis on a DNA profile from the suspect shows that he is distantly related to three passengers who arrived in what is now Plymouth, Mass., on the Mayflower in 1620.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

By GENE JOHNSON,Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — William S. Fuller followed the news with interest this week when detectives announced a strange new lead in the search for a man who killed his friend's daughter two decades ago.

 Relying on a new DNA analysis, the detectives said the unknown suspect is a distant relative of Edward and Samuel Fuller, who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620 — and that he might even share their last name.

It was an awkward coincidence, the present-day Fuller told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The 68-year-old worked for many years with the father and grandfather of Sarah Yarborough, a 16-year-old girl who was raped and strangled in the Seattle suburb of Federal Way in 1991. His daughter was one of Yarborough's best friends, and he spearheaded the effort to build a memorial for her. Fuller said he doesn't know if he's related to the Pilgrims, but he is certain that no one in his family could be the culprit.

“Is it something we're worried about? No, not at all,” Fuller said. “Because they know how close we were to the Yarboroughs, some people have asked about it jokingly, but they know it's not a good question.”

The King County Sheriff's Office, long stymied by the case, announced this week that it had sent the suspect's DNA profile to forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, who runs Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Identifinders International. Fitzpatrick noticed that the killer's DNA strongly correlated with DNA profiles published as part of a genealogical study of the Fuller family.

Specifically, she said, the killer is a descendant of Robert Fuller, who arrived in Salem, Mass., in 1630. Fuller was not himself on the Mayflower, but he was related to three passengers: Edward Fuller, as well as Edward Fuller's brother, Samuel, and 12-year-old son.

Fitzpatrick's analysis followed the Y chromosome — the male line of the family — and therefore, there's a good chance the killer's last name is or was Fuller, she said.

Detectives searched through their tip database following Fitzpatrick's finding, but no one named Fuller has ever been fingered as a potential suspect in Yarborough's death, King County sheriff's detective Jim Allen said.

Today, there are tens of millions of people descended from the 102 passengers and about 25 crewmembers who arrived on the Mayflower, according to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Nine presidents have been related to those original Pilgrims.

Yarborough was last seen alive on a Saturday morning in December 1991, when she left home to take part in a dance team competition. Her body was found later that morning.

There were plenty of people at the high school that day. In addition to those arriving for the dance competition, there were some school-related activities and people out running or walking their dogs, Allen said. About six people saw the suspect — including two kids, a jogger, a man who helped create a sketch of the suspect, and a girl on the drill team.

They described him as being in his 20s, white, 6 feet tall or just under, with shoulder-length blond hair, a trench coat and dark pants. One saw the suspect interacting with her, and some saw him leaving the brushy area where her body was found.

In the months after the slaying, more than 3,000 tips poured in, students began packing pepper spray, and parents marshaled in the hallways outside of classes to reassure their children they were safe.

Allen said he is interested in speaking with William Fuller, who still lives in Federal Way, a south Seattle suburb, and who was 48 at the time of the killing.

Fuller, a longtime coworker and friend of Yarborough's father and grandfather at Weyerhaeuser Corp., told the AP he has five daughters and no sons, and he himself was an only child, so he has no nephews that could have matched the description. His family has been able to trace their lineage no farther than a great-grandfather in Idaho, he said.

Fuller said that when Yarborough was killed, he was only about one-third of a mile away, running on the track at the junior high school.

“I remember that back then I was running — I ran 20 to 25 miles per week,” Fuller said. “Periodically I'd run at the high school track, but during the time she was killed I was running at the junior high. What if I had decided to go run at the high school? Knowing I was so close when it happened really bothered me for a long time. But you can't beat yourself up like that.”

If he had been at the high school track, he said, “certainly if she had screamed or yelled I would have heard it. But the Lord works — well, that wasn't where I was supposed to be.”

After the killing, Fuller said he joined other parents in roaming the hallways of the school during and between classes, as a way to reassure their children that they were safe. Weyerhaeuser gave him time off to raise money to build a memorial on the school's campus, and he commissioned an artist to sculpt a bench accompanied by a pile of books, a pair of ballet slippers and a necktie — the last because the week before she died, Yarborough won an ugly necktie contest.

The idea for the memorial came about “simply from talking to the parents and saying we ought to do something,” Fuller said.

When the news about the apparent Mayflower link came out, Fuller spoke with his daughter Elizabeth, who was one of Yarborough's best friends and who now lives in Kentucky.

“It's encouraging, but she has mixed emotions,” Fuller said. “It's emotional when you bring it up. We've been hoping and praying for a break in the case.”

Suspect threatens to eat police, dogs

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Police say a man in Indiana accused of stealing a car threatened to hunt down and eat his arresting officers, their families and police dogs.

The Journal & Courier reports that 39-year-old Paul M. Brock of Frankfort was charged Wednesday with auto theft, resisting law enforcement, intimidation and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Police in Lafayette, 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis, used dogs to subdue Brock during his arrest on Friday.

Police say Brock later told officers that he would hunt them down and eat them, their families and their dogs. He had a blood-alcohol content more than three times Indiana's legal limit.

He was jailed on a $25,000 bond at the Tippecanoe County Jail.

Jury clears grandma of pot grow charge

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A southwestern Pennsylvania grandmother says she's no marijuana grower, just a woman who wanted something that would look pretty next to her tomatoes.

A Fayette County jury cleared 67-year-old Alberta Kelley of drug possession and manufacture charges on Jan. 6 after she told them she simply tossed a handful of seeds into her garden after a bearded stranger gave them to her.

Connellsville police charged Kelley a year ago after receiving a tip about Kelley's garden. Investigators say they found seven well-cultivated, four-foot marijuana plants behind her home.

But Kelley claimed she didn't know what she was growing. She said she'd been given the seeds by a stranger in a pointy hat who told her they were flower seeds.

Kelley tells WTAE-TV that to her, “weeds are weeds.”

Police ticket boy after toy bike hits SUV

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — Police in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez ticketed a 6-year-old boy for reckless driving, driving without a license and not having his toy motorcycle registered after he crashed it into an SUV.

The boy's mother, Karla Noriega, says police also impounded the child-sized motorbike that her son got for Christmas after he ran into an SUV at a park on Dec. 27.

Noriega says she decided to go to the media and make the case public after finding out she would have to pay what she calls a “ridiculous” $183 in fines before she could recover the toy motorbike.

She says authorities dropped the fines and released the motorcycle to her son Gael on Wednesday after local newspapers published her story.

Fugitive was in court day before arrest

A man who Spokane police say has 167 criminal charges in 15 years appeared for a court hearing Tuesday and was allowed to stay out of jail despite a felony warrant for his arrest.

 Mark W. Bush, 36, was captured Wednesday night by a police dog after the Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team received a tip that he was near the 400 block of North University Road.

Sgt. Tracie Meidl said in a news release that Bush knew about his wanted status and had been eluding them “for several weeks” before he was arrested on a Department of Corrections warrant for failing to check in with his probation officer. He was arrested on Nov. 21 but posted $2,500 bond. Another warrant was issued Dec. 30, according to the DOC.

On Tuesday, Bush attended an arraignment on an unrelated felony marijuana charge at 1:30 p.m. before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke, a clerk confirmed.

Court officials apparently did not know of Bush's fugitive status - he was allowed to stay out of custody and ordered to be back in court Jan. 24 for an arraignment.

Police say Bush has been booked on 17 charges in the last 11 months. He has three times been captured by a police dog - each time a different dog.

Bush has at least four felony convictions, including third-degree assault in 2008, and 23 misdemeanors, including three counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer and one count of resisting arrest.

His most recent felony charge stems from a traffic stop in September initiated by an officer who knew Bush had a DOC arrest warrant. Bush's probation officer found jar with 61 grams of marijuana in the car, according to court documents.

Bush was out on $2,500 bond when he showed up for his arraignment on Tuesday. Now he's back in jail on a no-bail DOC warrant after his arrest Wednesday.

Charge dropped in Stevens Co. murder

Murder charges have been dropped against a Spokane man arrested for the homicide of a 62-year-old Stevens County woman.

Robert Cody Wirtz, 30, was released from jail on Tuesday, about a month after statements by his 4-year-old son led detectives to identify him as a suspect in the death of Narleen B. Campton, who was beaten to death in her home in Northport, Wash., near the Canadian border, in late November.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 14: Son's nightmare's about 'dead lady' led to man's murder arrest

Chronic escapee sought after walk away

A woman who escaped police in 2008 by leaping from a bridge into the Wenatchee River escaped custody again this week while at a doctor appointment on Spokane's South Hill.

U.S. Marshals are offering a reward for tips that help arrest Sandra Irene Duffy, 47, who walked away from her appointment on Tuesday about 4:25 p.m.

Duffy was charged in July with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. She was furloughed from jail to allow her to go the appointment with her attorney; an arrest warrant was issued today.

Duffy was last seen wearing a light blue and dark blue jacket, a yellow or white hooded sweatshirt, torn blue jeans and white shoes, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. She is 5-foot-8 and about 150 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call the U.S. Marshals at (509) 368-3600.

Duffy was missing for two days in July 2008 after she leaped about 20 feet from the bridge into the river to avoid Wenatchee police. Police arrested her at her home about 23 miles from the bridge two days later on methamphetamine charges. She was sentenced to two years in federal prison and a year of probation.

Duffy was one of more than 20 people indicted by a grand jury last summer in a federal investigation into widespread cocaine and meth distribution in Eastern Washington.

Citizen recognized fugitive from news

An alert citizen helped police arrest prolific theft suspect Wednesday after recognizing him from news reports.

Officers found Sean Alexander Blair, 31, outside Safeway, 3900 N. Market St., after a citizen called in about 6:30 p.m.

“Thank you Spokane for helping YOUR police department keep you safe!” Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said in a news release.

Blair already was facing felony theft and drug charges when police identified him as a suspect in Nov. 17 thefts at the Davenport Hotel, which occurred as the Tri-State Grain Growers convened at the upscale hotel in downtown Spokane. Read more here.

DeRuwe identified Blair Wednesday as one of four repeat offenders whose arrests “would have a positive impact on our crime trends.”

The others are Christopher C. McCracken, who was sentenced last month to 12 months in jail for violating a protection order and is wanted by the Department of Corrections; Christopher J. Searight, 29, who is wanted for not paying his fines on felony convictions from 2004, and Shaun P. Davis, 39, who is wanted by the DOC.

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

Gunfire near park leads to police chase

This car flipped over during a chase with Spokane police early Thursday. See more photos from KHQ-TV here.

Reports of gunfire near Corbin Park early today led to a police chase that ended with the suspect's car flipping on its roof.

Salvadore Lazalde, 29, was arrested for attempting to elude police and a warrant for car theft after he crawled out of his overturned four-door compact car as officers approached near West Garland Avenue and North Oak Street.

Sgt. Dave Overhoff was responding to at least nine reports of multiple gunshots in the area of the park about 2:20 a.m. when he saw a car matching the description of a vehicle a witness reported speeding away from the area just after the gunshots.

The car fled, and police stopped the vehicle with a “pursuit intervention technique,” which involves nudging the fleeing vehicle's back bumper with a patrol car, which forces it into a spin that brings it to a stop.

Police said they chose to stop the vehicle because of the “dangerousness of a vehicle pursuit and the seriousness of the crime being investigated.”

Lazalde's car hit a curb before it flipped over, police said. He was taken to Deaconess Medical Center as a precaution before being booked into jail, police said.

The shooting remains under investigation, as does the status of the vehicle Lazalde was driving.
  

Man sentenced for ‘07 murder in Hillyard

A man who pleaded guilty to murder before his conviction was overturned because of a procedural error repeatedly denied involvement in the crime Wednesday as he was sentenced to 39 years in prison.

 “I admit I am a criminal, but a murderer I am not,” said Michael Duke Coombes, 34.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese cited his lack of remorse when agreeing to the maximum sentence recommended by deputy prosecutors Steve Garvin and Kyle Treece. The 476-month sentence includes a 60-month firearm enhancement.

“How can you have remorse for something you didn't do?” asked Coombes, who had previously been sentenced to 27 years. “I can't show remorse because I wasn't there.”

Plese also cited Coombes' criminal history, and the fact that he illegally possessed a firearm when he was arrested for the Aug. 31, 2007, shooting death of William “Red” Nichols, 53, in Hillyard.

Coombes, who tattooed an image of the gun that he used to kill Nichols on his leg, previously pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, but his sentencing documents erroneously did not indicate he would be eligible for time off for good behavior during his first 20 years.

Appellate judges allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea and Coombes decided to take the case to trial. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder Dec. 19. He also was convicted of witness tampering for asking another inmate at the Spokane County Jail to contact a witness.

Garvin said at trial that Coombes said he shot Nichols in the head because he threatened his nephew.

Coombes' mother told Plese Wednesday that she believes her son is innocent. Nichols' niece read a statement on behalf of her mother that condemned Coombes and said the family does not forgive him.

Coombes was represented by public defender Jeff Compton.

Man wanted for stealing from Davenport

UPDATE: Blair was booked into jail about 8 p.m. Jan. 11.

Police say a longtime felon dressed in casual business clothes to blend in while stealing laptops from a convention at the Davenport Hotel. 

Sean Alexander Blair, 31, already was facing felony theft and drug charges when police identified him as a suspect in the Nov. 17 thefts, which occurred as the Tri-State Grain Growers convened at the upscale hotel in downtown Spokane.

Surveillance video shows Blair enter the hotel without a backpack about 8 p.m. without a backpack, according to court documents. It then shows him leave a half hour later carrying a backpack that was reported stolen from the convention. The backpack contained a Dell laptop. Another laptop also was reported stolen from a backpack at the convention.

Colfax farmer Randy Seuss, chairman of the U.S. Wheat Associates, said he saw a man matching Blair's description about 8:20 p.m. in the convention, according to court documents. He noticed the man did not have an event identification badge and was picking up handouts from display booths.

Detective Crystal Jolly was familiar with Blair from thefts of laptops at local hospitals and the Gonzaga University library. Blair always carries the stolen computers in backpacks, she said.

Blair was out of jail waiting trial on seven felony charges for those thefts and an unrelated methamphetamine charge when the heists at the Davenport occurred.

Now he faces a $20,000 warrant for two new counts of second-degree theft, and no-bond warrants for the previous cases because he violated his conditions of release by allegedly committing new crimes.

Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe identified Blair today as one of four repeat offenders whose arrests “would have a positive impact on our crime trends.”

The others are Christopher C. McCracken, who was sentenced last month to 12 months in jail for violating a protection order and is wanted by the Department of Corrections; Christopher J. Searight, 29, who is wanted for not paying his fines on felony convictions from 2004, and Shaun P. Davis, 39, who is wanted by the DOC.

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

Murder victim’s family grateful for support

The parents of a woman found dead of a gunshot wound in her home on New Year's Day are thanking the community for the outpouring show of support.

 “There was so much evil when I walked into that house. The outpouring from her friends has really helped ease that,” said Toni Schmidt, mother of homicide victim Kimberly Rae Schmidt, 34 (pictured).

More than 500 people attended Schmidt's memorial service on Sunday, with many standing in the hallways because they were not able to get in the room. Attendees included seven women who met Schmidt at a camp on Orcas Island when she was 19. They hadn't seen her in years, but made the drove from the Western Washington to pay their respects.

Toni Schmidt and Randall Schmidt were not able to greet everyone at the service, and they said Tuesday night that they want to make sure everyone knows how much they appreciate the support.

The Schmidts declined to discuss the details of the investigation into their daughter's death but said they feel the case will be solved.

They hinted at possible domestic violence issues with Schmidt, which they said were surprising at first because “she was an extremely strong and intelligent person,” Toni Schmidt said.

Schmidt was born in Spokane and graduated from Shadle Park High School and Eastern Washington University. She loved the ocean and was planning to scuba dive in Manila, Philippines when she went there for a two-week business trip for next month. She leaves behind a 12-year-old daughter.

Toni Schmidt called police after finding her daughter on Jan. 1 in her home on East Regina Avenue.

Sheriff's investigators arrived to find Schmidt dead in her bed with a gunshot wound to the right side of her head, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. A lamp had been knocked over, and detectives noted blood smeared on the wall at the head of the bed that indicated Schmidt's body had been moved.

They also found a small cloth, drawstring bag to Schmidt's left that had the front portion of the barrel of a gun visible, according to court documents. They seized the .25 semi-automatic handgun,, as well as .25 shell casing located on her bed, along with a fleece blanket with a bullet hole in it.

Detectives also seized three guns from a gun safe downstairs, and three from a laundry room cabinet, as well as ammunition. They also found a cell phone with its battery removed in a black purse on the kitchen table, according to the search warrant.

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

Tips sought on Chevron beer robbers

Spokane police are asking for helping identifying two men who assaulted a store clerk and stole a 20-pack of beer early Monday.

The men assaulted the clerk at Chevron Food Mart, 1703 E. Francis Ave., after he confronted them for stealing the beer about 12:25 a.m., police said today.

The robbers ran west on Francis. The men are described as possibly Hispanic, in their late teens with slight builds. One wore a red jacket, black baseball hat and jeans; the other wore a gray hooded-sweatshirt, dark jacket and jeans.

Police released surveillance images and video of the heist today.

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

3rd-degree assault charge in cop shooting

A man has been charged with third-degree assault for allegedly trying to shoot a Spokane police officer.

Chase J. Earl West, 22, is accused of pulling the trigger of a black semi-automatic pistol, which malfunctioned instead of firing.

Cpl. Nick Lundgren said he saw the gun's magazine slide down about a quarter-inch inside the magazine well of the firearm as Earl-West tried to fire it.

A confidential informant told police Earl West admitted to shooting a “real gun” at police during the Dec. 12 incident at the Randolph Arms Apartments near Spokane Falls Community College, according to court documents.

Lundgren said he feared Officer Micah Prim was going to be shot. Prim drew his weapon then retreated to a position of cover while ordering Earl-West to come out of the stairwell area. No officers fired their weapons.

Earl-West escaped from the apartment complex before an hours-long SWAT standoff began and was arrested in Addy, Wash., on Jan. 4.

He's to be arraigned next week on the assault charge. He's being held on $35,000 bail for that charge and no bail for violating drug court conditions imposed for a car theft charge.

Police increase security for MLK march

Spokane police have a message for anyone considering participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March on Monday: “The bad guys aren’t going to win, and they need to come down and show them that,” said Lt. Joe Walker.

Walker, who will be overseeing police presence at the march, explained the police preparations for the march during a meeting with media Tuesday. Police declined to say how many officers will be on hand but said people can expect to see one on nearly every corner. The department expects to bring in 12 to 15 extra officers on overtime.

Read the rest of my story here.

Man missing w/ Pomeranian dog

The Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office asking for help locating a 54-year-old man and his Pomeranian dog.

 William J. “Bill” Bailey, 54, had been staying in his car on a friend's property in Cusick when he was reported missing Jan. 3. Bailey is 5-foot-11, 230 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with possible information is asked to call (509) 447-3151 ext. 2.

Baby’s parents said she might be anemic

The parents of a baby girl who police suspect may have been abused offered no explanation for the girl's bruises and broken bones, according to court documents filed today.

Ashley B. Huston, 21, and Joshua E Gillis, 22, brought Gracie Rae Gillis to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center Friday night. Medical staff called police and reported possible child abuse after discovering multiple skull fractures, a fractured right shoulder and a spiral fracture to her right thigh, police say.

The baby, who will be four months old on Thursday, also had bruises on her forehead, chest and legs and rib fractures that appeared to be older, according to search warrants filed today in Superior Court. Her injuries aren't considered life threatening, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

Officers say Gillis left the hospital as they arrived. Huston told officers that Gracie “bruised easily and was possibly anemic” but detectives say that doesn't explain the obvious bruising to her forehead and chest.

Huston told police she arrived home from work and found Gracie in her crib with a a limp right arm, so she took her to the hospital. Gillis was caring for the baby that day, she told police.

Detectives used the warrants to search the couple's home at 123 E. Baldwin Ave. early Saturday and, early this morning, the 1994 Ford Aerostar van in which they transported their daughter to the hospital.

Police seized nine marijuana plants from the couple's bedroom and living room.

No arrests have been made; police say the first-degree assault investigation is ongoing and Child Protective Services has been contacted.

Fired sheriff’s deputy gets job back

A Spokane County sheriff’s deputy who was fired after he damaged a suspect’s car and mishandled drugs from a crime scene has been rehired following a state arbitrator’s ruling.

Deputy Travis Smith was terminated last January for what Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich called a “pattern” of poor work performance, but he was rehired after the arbitrator found that while there was just cause for disciplining him, he should keep his job.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 10: Sheriff's deputy fired for bad behavior

Robbery suspect sought ‘loony bin’ spot

A man accused of robbing a downtown Spokane bank told police he didn't have a place to stay and wanted to return to a mental hospital, according to court documents.

Donnie Wayne Snow, Jr., 45, was arrested Friday after a robbery at Banner Bank, 508 W. 3rd Ave., about 5:23 p.m.

Employees said he entered the bank and said “Hey ladies, I'm here to rob your bank. Give me all your money,” Spokane police allege. He left with $1,684 - police noted in court documents the presence of two $2 bills - and was arrested a short while later near 3rd and Lincoln.

Police say Snow told them “I did it because I need a place to stay and want to go back to the loony bin.”

Snow is in jail on $20,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court Monday on a first-degree robbery charge.
  

Woman pleads not guilty to 4 hate crimes

A woman arrested after a black man said she dressed in a white sheet and yelled racial epithets at him and his two children on Halloween night has been charged with four hate crimes.

Sharyl Ann Curtis, 42, pleaded not guilty Monday to four counts of malicious harassment - Washington's hate-crime statute - for the alleged incident in the 5000 block of North Lacey Street.

She was arrested early Nov. 1 after Tyree Brown told Spokane police he opened his front door to her yelling racial epithets while wearing a white sheet with “KKK” written on it. She also allegedly did the same thing to Brown's neighbor, Teravia McDonald.

Curtis is pictured courtesy KHQ-TV. Check out their interview with her here.

Curtis also sprayed a liquid at Brown's children that she said was bleach that would make everyone white, according to a probable cause affidavit written by police. Police said they found Curtis sitting in a nearby “yelling unintelligibly.”

While being treated at a hospital for a broken nose apparently sustained during a fight with pursuing neighbors, Curtis told officers “I will raise my son white power” and used a racial slur while raising her right arm in the air, according to the affidavit. She also allegedly said her son would shoot police and she would provide the ammunition.

Curtis posted $2,500 bond after her arrest and remains out of jail. Her trial is scheduled to begin April 2.

Local police to attend ranger’s memorial

(from left) Spokane police Officers Shaney Redmon, Ron Tilley and Mylissa Coleman prepare to travel to Tacoma for a slain park ranger's memorial service. (SPDphoto/Jennifer DeRuwe)

Members of the Spokane Police Department Honor Guard will attend slain Mount Rainier National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson's memorial service.

Cpl. Mike McCasland and Officers Ron Tilley, Mylissa Coleman and Shaney Redmon traveled to Tacoma for Anderson's memorial, which is today is at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Pacific Lutheran University.

Other SPD employees are attending the service on their own time, including Officer Teresa Fuller, who says the Spokane County Firefighters Pipes and Drums also will be there.

Anderson (pictured) was shot to death on New Year's Day while working at the park. The gunman was found dead the next day. Anderson was married to another Rainier ranger, and the couple has two young children.

Family and friends held a candlelight service Sunday evening in Eatonville in her memory.

The park reopened to the public Saturday for the first time since the shooting.

High court hears Priest Lake EPA fight

Chantell and Mike Sackett talk about their battle with the Environmental Protection Agency over their right to build a home on a lot near Priest Lake on Oct. 19.(SRPhoto/Kathy Plonka) Read Becky Kramer's story here.

By Sean Cockerham,scockerham@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appeared sympathetic Monday to an Idaho couple’s fight to build their dream home over the objections of the Environmental Protection Agency, in a case that could have far broader implications and limit the EPA’s ability to regulate developers, energy companies and others.

Justice Samuel Alito said homeowners could relate to the situation of Idahoans Michael and Chantell Sackett.

“Don’t you think most ordinary homeowners would say this kind of thing can’t happen in the United States?” Alito asked the lawyer arguing for the government during oral arguments in the case Monday.

Alito called the EPA’s conduct “outrageous.” Justice Antonin Scalia spoke of the agency’s “high-handedness.”

The broad issue is whether landowners hit by EPA compliance orders should be allowed to immediately sue to overturn those orders, rather than waiting for the EPA to go to court to force compliance.

The case could have far-reaching implications, with environmental groups saying a Sackett victory could allow big corporate polluters to tie up the EPA in court instead of dealing with the problem.

The Sackett case has become a conservative rallying cry, with anti-EPA talk from radio hosts, lawmakers and business groups touting it as an example of an agency run amok. Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo said, “This is what happens when an overzealous federal agency would rather force compliance than give any consideration to private property rights, individual rights, basic decency or common sense.”

The legal storm began after the Sacketts filled in dirt and rock on their property for a home they were building on about a half-acre near scenic Priest Lake in North Idaho.

Officials from the EPA appeared and asked the Sacketts whether they had a permit to fill in wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The EPA subsequently told the Sacketts to “remove all unauthorized fill material” and plant trees and bushes, saying the couple faced potential fines of up to $37,500 a day if they didn’t fully comply with the directive.

The Sacketts dispute the assertion that the land, which is in a subdivision, is really wetlands, and they challenged the EPA’s authority. The conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, which signed on to represent the Sacketts for free, argues landowners should get to challenge EPA compliance orders in court because otherwise they’re just at the mercy of the threat of big fines.

GE, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Home Builders and 10 states filed court briefs in support of the Sacketts, underscoring the potential broad implications of the Idaho couple’s case.

The EPA says directives such as the one the Sacketts received are essentially just warnings with the goal of negotiating a solution. The government says a court challenge shouldn’t be allowed until the EPA actually goes to a judge in an attempt to seek enforcement of the order.

“It is phrased as an order. But the only thing that EPA is authorized to do … is to order people to do what they were already legally required to do. That is, order them to comply with their legal obligations,” Justice Department attorney Malcolm Stewart argued Monday.

A Boise-based trial judge, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the EPA’s position in the case. So have the nation’s other four appellate circuits in similar cases.

It’s unusual for the Supreme Court to take up an issue when there has been such unanimous agreement among all the lower courts, leading to speculation that the high court’s conservative majority decided to hear the Idaho couple’s case because it is intent on striking a blow to the powers of the EPA.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case might not come until June, but it was clear at Monday’s hearing that justices were skeptical of the EPA’s position. Justice Stephen Breyer said he read the order and that it didn’t seem to him like a warning, but a government demand.

The EPA says the Sacketts should have sought a permit and that the couple did not consult with the agency or the Army Corps of Engineers before filling the land.

The Sacketts say they had no reason to suspect their land would be considered wetlands. An environmental group produced documents under the Freedom of Information Act, though, showing the couple disregarded the opinion of a wetlands expert.

Michael Sackett said Monday after the arguments that the man took just a cursory look at the property, spending less than half an hour and never shoveling down into the ground.

Sackett, who called it a “David versus Goliath” case, said he can’t see how his property, 500 feet from Priest Lake in an existing subdivision with a sewer hookup, can be considered wetlands that demand protection.

Tips sought on Safeway robber’s ID

Spokane police are asking for help identifying a man accused of holding a knife to a Safeway employee's throat.

The employee approached the man about stealing items from the store at 2507 W. Wellesley Ave. when he was attacked Jan. 4 about 4:30 p.m., police said today.

The thief threatened to slit the employee's throat and fled on a bicycle with a pocket knife in his hand, police say

The victim described the man as in his late 30s and wearing a dark beanie, button-up flannel shirt and grayish tan Carhartt jacket.

Police released a surveillance photo of the man today.

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

Sketch shows Cheney armed robber

Cheney police are asking for help identifying a man responsible for a New Year's Eve home-invasion robbery.

The man used a knife to steal items from an occupied home in the 200 block of West Second Street in Cheney about 7:20 p.m. on Dec. 31.

He's described as white, 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds. He wore a black Carhartt jacket, a dark gray hooded sweatshirt, black jean-like pants, black boots and a white bandanna with black print over the lower portion of his face.

The robber had a light-brown mustache, “spoke with a gravelly voice and smelled like cigarettes,” according to the Cheney Police Department.

Police released a sketch of the robber today.

Anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Kelly Hembach at (509) 498-9269.

Cops: Fight over TV erupts in gunfire

Talk about too much TV violence: Police say a man fired shots at his former roommates during a fight over a television set.

Michael L. Backemeyer, 35, was arrested Sunday after police identified him as a suspect in the Dec. 26 shooting at 807 E. Augusta Ave.

Backemeyer was kicked out of the apartment by other tenants for stealing, police say. He showed up at the building to retrieve his television, but the tenants wouldn't let him take it because they said he owed them money.

“Backemeyer became angry and pointed a handgun at one of the tenants,” police said in a news release. “Officers found two bullet holes inside the ceiling and wall in the apartment.”

Police identified Backemeyer in part through witness descriptions of his distinct tattoos, including one of Benjamin Franklin on the back of his hand, according to court documents.

Officers arrested Backemeyer near North Nevada Street and East Joseph Avenue. He's due in court today on charges of first-degree assault and second-degree assault.

Guilty plea halts ‘life is a bitch’ jury trial

A last-minute plea deal has halted a trial for a Spokane man accused of intimidating a public servant for a courthouse outburst at a deputy prosecutor.

Roland W. Finney, 36, (pictured) pleaded guilty to riot today in Spokane County Superior Court and was sentenced to six months in jail. He'll be credited for 59 days already served.

Sixty prospective jurors and a visiting judge were at the courthouse today for what was to be the start of Finney's trial.

Finney was accused of intimidating Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla on Aug. 30, 2010, after Cipolla refiled drug-related charges against him that had earlier been dismissed.

Cipolla said Finney 'threatened to take me outside and ‘kick my ass,’ ” according to court documents. “The threats continued to escalate including killing my wife, ‘Life is a bitch, you marry one and then she dies’ and that I had better watch out,” Cipolla wrote.

In response, Finney's lawyer, Kari Reardon, wrote: “The truth of the matter is that for some, life is a bitch. Further, everybody dies.” She said her client's statements didn't constitute threats against Cipolla.

Retired Ferry County Judge Rebecca Baker and Lincoln County Prosecutor Jeff Barkdull were called in to handle the case.

Finney pleaded guilty today before jury selection proceedings began, thus ending any possibility of Reardon cross examining Cipolla.

Man w/ tongue-twisting name arrested

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Authorities in southern Wisconsin are facing a tongue twister thanks to the arrest of Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop.

The unusually named 30-year-old man was in jail Sunday in Madison. Police say he violated his bail conditions from a previous run-in with the law.

Court records show that his name used to be Jeffrey Drew Wilschke. He legally changed it in October.

The Capital Times reports that Zopittybop-Bop-Bop was arrested last week after residents complained of excessive drinking and drug use near Reynolds Park in Madison. Authorities say he was arrested in another local park last April after police found a loaded handgun in his backpack.

He's tentatively charged with carrying a concealed knife, and possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana.

Jail records don't list his bail amount or an attorney.

Judge: Steve Tucker recall won’t proceed

A recall petition against Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Tucker was dismissed this afternoon by a visiting Superior Court judge.

 Judge Craig Matheson of Benton and Franklin counties said that four recall charges drafted by Shannon Sullivan were insufficient and that one of the four lacked a basis of knowledge.

“I’m very relieved,” Tucker said after the hearing.

Read the rest of the story here.

Spokane police to be on COPS Saturday

The Spokane Police Department will be featured on Saturday's episode of COPS.

The episode features Officers Elina Bishop and John Arredondo responding to a report of two people having sex on a stranger's front lawn in northeast Spokane in August.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office also is featured, along with the Des Moines, Iowa, police department. A preview is posted above.

Film crews traveled with patrol officers five days a week for six weeks last summer. The episode airs at 8 p.m. on the FOX channel.

This is the fourth time COPS has filmed in Spokane.

An episode in 2007 featured a high-speed chase that included a police cruiser catching fire.

Homicide victim’s memorial is Sunday

A memorial service for a 34-year-old Spokane woman is scheduled for Sunday - one week after she was found dead of a gunshot wound.

Kimberly Rae Schmidt will be remembered at the Heritage Funeral Home, 508 N. Government Way, at 1 p.m.

Her coworkers at Pitney Bowes business-services company, where Schmidt worked as the leasing manager, are expected to attended.

Kathryn Epler worked for Schmidt and said she was a great boss and “very caring to everybody.”

Schmidt's murder has devastated her coworkers, Epler said.

“It's very hard to work,” she said. “We're all stunned that this could happen to someone who is so likable.”

Schmidt was planning a business trip overseas early next month, Epler said. She planned to spend her days off scuba diving, which Epler said was one of her passions.

“There's no way this was a suicide or anything like that,” Epler said.

Schmidt's mother found her dead in her home at 37 E. Regina Ave. Jan. 1.

The Medical Examiner's Office has not determined whether Schmidt's death was a homicide, but detectives are investigating it as one.

Schmidt was located in bed on her back with a gunshot wound to the right side of her head, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. A lamp had been knocked over, and detectives noted blood smeared on the wall at the head of the bed that indicated Schmidt's body had been moved.

They also found a small cloth, drawstring bag to Schmidt's left that had the front portion of the barrel of a gun visible, according to court documents. They seized the .25 semi-automatic handgun, as well as .25 shell casing located on her bed, along with a fleece blanket with a bullet hole in it.

Detectives also seized three guns from a gun safe downstairs, and three from a laundry room cabinet, as well as ammunition.

They also found a cell phone with its battery removed in a black purse on the kitchen table, according to the search warrant.

Schmidt was born in Spokane, graduated from Shadle Park High School and Eastern Washington University.

“Kim's pride and joy was her daughter and her hard work in dance and school,” according to her obituary. “Her favorite title was “Dance Mom” and enjoyed watching, with a little sadness how her —lil' monkey was growing into a young lady.” Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Bomb maker in fatal explosion sentenced

A man who brought a bomb to a party that led to the death of a 28-year-old man was sentenced today to about three years in prison.

Christapher A. Harris, 21, (left) is to serve 39 months for second-degree manslaughter and possession of an explosive device, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza said.

A jury in September voted 9-3 to acquit Harris of first-degree manslaughter for the Nov. 6, 2010, explosion that killed Cody R. Hathaway, 28, (right) outside a family costume party.

Another jury convicted him of the lesser charge last month. 

Hathaway died after a bomb exploded and sent a piece of shrapnel into his neck.

The bomb was one of several Harris brought to the party at the invite of co-defendant James J. Crouchman, who lit one of the devices.

Crouchman, 36, was sentenced to 10 months in jail last month for unlawful possession of explosives and reckless endangerment.

Man gets 9+ years for New Year’s rape

A Spokane man who raped a girl in a park on New Year's Day 2010 will spend at least nine years in prison under a sentence imposed recently in Superior Court.

Louis Victor Kuster, 23, was sentenced to at least 114 months for second-degree rape. Because he's a sex offender, Kuster must undergo evaluations before he's allowed to be released. That means he could stay behind bars indefinitely.

Kuster was arrested in January 2011 after DNA he submitted for a property crime conviction linked him to the rape at Patrick Byrne Park, 125 E. Walton Ave. His victim was a 16-year-girl. Kuster told jurors at his three-day trial in November that the oral sex was consensual, but they convicted him.

Kuster underwent sex offender treatment as a teenager after he was accused of sexually harassing and inappropriately touching four girls while a middle school student in Stevens County.

Judge Kathleen O'Connor sentenced Kuster on Tuesday. He's at the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison.

Officials: Skeleton is that of missing man

The skeletal remains found near Henry Road in Liberty Lake Saturday have been identified as a man missing since April.

 Investigators say Christopher R. Milam, 51, died of a single gunshot wound to his chest. Police found a gun near his body. They have not ruled Milam's death a suicide and say they will be interviewing Milam's family.

Read more from Nina Culver here.

Utah officer killed, 5 wounded in shooting

Relatives of Jared Francom from second left, brother Travis Francom, Travis' wife Jessica Francom, and brothers Ben Francom and Gunner Francom attend a candle light vigil Thursday for law enforcement officers shot the night before in Ogden, Utah. Jared Francom died from his wounds.(AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Kim Raff)

By PAUL FOY,Associated Press
OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Search warrant in hand, a team of bulletproof vest-wearing officers rapped on the door of a small, red-brick Utah house, identifying themselves as police. When no one responded, authorities say, the officers burst inside.

 That's when the gunfire erupted.

 When it was over Wednesday night, a 7-year veteran officer was dead and five of his colleagues were wounded, some critically. The suspect, an Army veteran whose estranged father said suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have been self-medicating with marijuana, was injured.

Now, as the city tries to grapple with the outburst of violence and the loss of one of its officers, investigators are trying to determine how the raid as part of a drug investigation could have gone so terribly wrong.

“It's a very, very sad day,” an emotional Ogden Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said Thursday.

About 400 people, including officers in uniform from across Utah, attended a candlelight vigil to honor slain Ogden officer Jared Francom (pictured right) at an outdoor amphitheater Thursday evening. A moment of silence was observed, and a slide show of Francom and his fellow officers wounded in the shooting was shown.

 Francom's wife of seven years, Erin, (pictured left) stood on stage and fought back tears during the short program. The couple has two daughters, ages 5 and 3. Police declined to reveal details of the shooting besides a general timeline, citing the ongoing investigation.

They would not say, for instance, whether the shootout took place entirely inside the home or spilled out into the yard, how many shots were fired and how many guns were recovered.

There will be several investigations, including one by Ogden police and another outside probe by prosecutors.

Among the questions that authorities will try to answer was whether the officers, in the chaotic moments upon entering the house, may have inadvertently fired on each other.

Police said the warrant was based on information about possible drug activity, but would not say what officers were specifically looking for inside Matthew David Stewart's home, which sits across the street from a Mormon church meeting house.

Stewart, 37, was in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, authorities said. He does not have an attorney yet.

Utah court records show Stewart's criminal history includes only a 2005 conviction for a class B misdemeanor traffic violation — operating a vehicle without insurance. A judge found him guilty after a bench trial and ordered him to pay a $350 fine.

State officials also placed a pair of tax liens on Stewart last August.

Stewart served in the Army from July 1994 to December 1998, spending a year based in Fort Bragg, N.C., and nearly three years stationed in Germany, Army records show.

He held a post as a communications equipment specialist, earning an Army Achievement Medal and a National Defense Service Medal. Both are given for completing active service, although they don't indicate exceptional acts of valor.

Stewart's father, Michael Stewart, said his son works a night shift at a local Walmart and may have been sleeping when police arrived.

“When they kicked in the door, he probably felt threatened,” said Michael Stewart, who has been estranged from his son for more than a year, but keeps track of him through his two other sons.

The elder Stewart said his son suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression and may have been treating it with small amounts of pot. He said he believes his son may have been growing the weed himself.

He said he didn't believe his son owned any automatic weapons and that the family is upset by what happened. “This is my son's problem and we're grieving for him and all of the officers,” Michael Stewart said. “I'm dead sick about it.”

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said it wasn't yet clear what charges Stewart might face once the shooting investigation concludes.

“But it appears right now, with the information we have, that we have an aggravated murder as well as a number of other attempted aggravated murders,” Smith said, choking back tears.

Aggravated murder is a capital crime and, if convicted, Stewart could face the death penalty.

By midday Thursday, more than 1,000 friends and strangers had expressed their support and gratitude for Francom and his family on a memorial Facebook page with prayers, poems and other message. Some posters swapped out their profile pictures for a black logo with a blue stripe representing fallen officers.

Francom's three brothers held a short news conference just before Thursday's vigil, lauding him as an “awesome man,” who loved adventure and was an example of service and dedication.

He died doing what he loved,” said Travis Francom, 25. “He worried at times for his safety … not so much for himself but for his family, his wife and little girls. I don't think he was ever afraid.”

Travis Francom (pictured) thanked the community for the outpouring of support shown for the family and asked for continued prayers for the other officers.

“I would also encourage you to remember the family of the suspect as they have a long road ahead of them as well,” he said. “I'm sure this must be a difficult time for them.”

Authorities said the conditions of the other officers ranged from serious to critical. They are Ogden officers Shawn Grogan, Kasey Burrell and Michael Rounkles, Weber County sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson and Roy officer Jason VanderWarf.

Kevin Burrell, Kasey Burrell's father, said his son was shot in the head. A seven-year veteran of the police force, the younger Burrell was sedated but appears to be improving, his father said.

On Wednesday, witnesses said they heard three quick pops followed by a two- to three-minute pause, then lots of gunfire and officers yelling at someone to “put your hands up,” in the backyard.

 Outside Stewart's house on Thursday armed SWAT officers clothed in camouflage remained on guard as police continued their search of the property. The yard was taped off and dotted with numbered evidence markers.

Residents said they were shocked to hear there was any drug activity in the area or a shootout on their street.

“This has always been a quiet neighborhood. We've been here for 11 years,” said Andrew Mair, who said his wife hid in the couple's basement in fear when the gunfire rang out. “I've never heard anything crazy going on.”

Officer kills self after being arrested

SEATTLE (AP) — A longtime police officer arrested in a cocaine sting shot himself to death in the Cascade Mountain foothills hours after he was released from jail, the department said Thursday.

Richard F. Nelson, a patrolman in South Seattle for the past 21 years, became the focus of an internal investigation last summer after his colleagues and a member of the public complained about his handling of evidence in drug cases, Chief John Diaz told a news conference.

The investigation culminated Wednesday in a rare sting operation known as an “integrity test.” An undercover officer from another jurisdiction, posing as someone who had just found a purse that contained cocaine, turned it in to Nelson as other investigators monitored him.

The investigators followed him as he neglected to turn the cocaine in, instead taking it with him in his personal car as he drove just past the city limits.

“This is a tremendous tragedy for this department,” said Deputy Chief Nick Metz, who added that he knew Nelson and liked him. “We have a lot of officers grieving. Despite the actions this officer took, he was a friend to many. … His family is grieving very much.”

Nelson, a 50-year-old father of two teenagers, was observed by the department's command staff after his arrest. He was given an opportunity to speak, as well as to call his family or a lawyer. He declined, Diaz said.

He was released without bail from the King County Jail shortly before 5 a.m. Thursday. Members of the command staff drove him home.

About five hours later, he was found on John Wayne Trail, a popular hiking and biking route near North Bend, east of Seattle. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he died.

The incident was the latest setback for the department, which is in the midst of implementing reforms outlined in a Department of Justice report last month that was highly critical of the use of force by Seattle police.

Inadequate supervision and training had led officers to grab weapons such as batons and flashlights too quickly and to escalate confrontations even when arresting people for minor offenses, federal officials said.

The Department of Justice launched an investigation last spring following the fatal shooting of a homeless Native American woodcarver and other reported uses of force against minority suspects. The probe was aimed at determining whether Seattle police have a pattern or practice of violating civil rights or discriminatory policing.

Drowned boy’s friend didn’t call 911

A 17-year-old Spokane boy who prosecutors believe is the first county resident charged with failing to summon assistance was arraigned Wednesday in Juvenile Court.

Police say the boy was drunkenly horsing around with 18-year-old Alexander Allen (pictured) on the Post Street Bridge July 18 when Allen fell into the river.

The boy didn't call for help, and he lied to Allen's family and to investigators about what happened, prosecutors allege.

Kayakers found Allen's body about a mile downstream from the bridge.

The boy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to failure to three misdemeanors: failure to summon assistance, reckless endangerment and lying to investigators. The arraignment originally was scheduled for Tuesday but was postponed a day.

The Spokesman-Review is not naming the suspect because he is charged as a juvenile.

The case was detailed in a story Tuesday. Check it out here.

Spokane man gets 13 years for child porn

A sex offender assaulted in his cell by a self-proclaimed skinhead will spend nearly 15 years in prison for child pornography charges.

Darrel W. Monzingo, 45, was sentenced today to 161 months after he pleaded guilty this summer to possessing and distributing child pornography. The case began when a Colorado Internet Crimes Against Child Task Force discovered him sharing the material over the Internet.

The investigation led to Spokane,  where the Spokane Police Department executed a search warrant on Dec. 16, 2010.

Officers seized about three dozen items of digital equipment containing thousands of images of child pornography – including some images Monzingo took himself, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Rice said.

Monzingo has been in federal custody since Jan. 20. He was originally charged with producing child pornography. In March, he was assaulted by a self-proclaimed skinhead who was later convicted after a bench trial.
  

Man accused of killing wife’s cat

A Spokane man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to killing his wife's cat.

Nicholas A. Romanelli, 28, was arraigned in Spokane County Superior Court on a charge of first-degree animal cruelty.

He's accused of smashing a cat against a wall repeatedly while drunk and angry he couldn't find the keys to his car to get more beer, according to court documents.

Police arrived at his home in the 4600 block of North Sullivan Road after his wife called 911. She awoke to the cat screeching loudly, she told police.

Romanelli is out of custody awaiting trial, which is scheduled for March 26. He has previous felony convictions for domestic violence tampering with a witness and harassment.

Man crashes into police car during chase

A man in a stolen vehicle crashed into a police car during a chase in Spokane Valley earlier today, police said.

 The suspect, Joshua G. Garvin, 27, (pictured) was arrested after the short pursuit in the area of East Sprague Avenue and North Willow Road about 4:30 a.m. Officer Nathan Bohanek tried to stop Garvin after a license plate check on the 1990 Honda Accord he was driving said the car was stolen.

Garvin turned northbound on McDonald from Sprague, then drove westbound on Mission and southound on Argonne at speeds of 50 to 80 mile per hour, according to police.

Police continued the pursuit because vehicle and pedestrian traffic was light. Garvin turned east on Sprague and drove the wrong way on the five-lane road, so officers tried to execute a pursuit intervention technique, but

Garvin swerved to avoid the move and hit the patrol car, “causing damage to both vehicles,” according to a news release.

Garvin was arrested after a short struggle. Police found meth, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, shaved car keys and suspected stolen property.

Garvin was treated for a minor injury and booked into jail for several felonies, including possession of stolen property, attempting to elude law enforcement, and possession of a controlled substance, in addition to the warrants and misdemeanor charges.  More charges could be added if the property found in his possession is determined to be stolen.

Court records show Garvin was arrested in November on charges of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, posession of a controlled substance, residential burglary and posession of marijuana.

A no-bail warrant was issued Dec. 23 for violating the conditions of a felony sentence imposed in 2007.

7 guns found in homicide victim’s home

Detectives investigating the shooting death of a north Spokane woman found a handgun in a bag next to her body, according to documents filed Wednesday.

The gun was one of seven recovered from the home at 37 E. Regina Sunday night by Spokane County sheriff's detectives investigating the death of Kimberly Rae Schmidt, 34.

They were called to the home about 2:30 p.m. after Schmidt's mother, Toni Schmidt, found Schmidt dead in her bed after coming to the home to check on her.

Kim Schmidt was located in bed on her back with a gunshot wound to the right side of her head. A lamp had been knocked over, and detectives noted blood smeared on the wall at the head of the bed that indicated Schmidt's body had been moved. They also found a small cloth, drawstring bag to Schmidt's left that had the front portion of the barrel of a gun visible, according to court documents.

Detectives obtained a search warrant and seized the gun, which was identified as a .25 semi-automatic handgun with a magazine containing five bullets. A .25 shell casing was located on the bed next to Schmidt, as well as a fleece blanket with a bullet hole in it.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office has not concluded whether Schmidt's death was a homicide and say they are awaiting the police investigation. Police say the consider the case a homicide and say detectives found no suicide note. They seized a pillows, clothes and other items from the room. They also seized three guns from a gun safe downstairs, and three from a laundry room cabinet, as well as ammunition.

Schmidt is the mother a young girl. She is listed as a 1995 graduate of Shadle Park High School and 2004 graduate of Eastern Washington University, where she studied accounting. She later worked for Pitney Bowes.

Toni Schmidt said a funeral service is set for Sunday. She expects to have more details later today. Donations can be made to the “Kim Schmidt Memorial Fund” at any Spokane Teachers Credit Union branch. 
  

Man gets 3 years for $2.2 mil Ponzi scam

Dale Edward Lowell just needed a bit more money. A few dollars here and there - anything to help him make another investment in a stock market he was sure he could figure out. It never worked, but, in his mind, success was just another investment away.

That’s what the former North Idaho real estate agent told a federal judge Wednesday when he was sentenced to three years in prison for a Ponzi scheme that collected more than $2 million from duped investors in the Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene area. Lowell met many of the investors while a pianist for a Sandpoint church.

Read the rest of my story here.

Fugitive cop shooting suspect arrested

A man who officials say escaped capture last month after trying to fire a gun at a Spokane police officer has been arrested in Addy, Wash. .

Chase J. Earl-West, 22, who was wanted on a warrant for violating drug court conditions imposed for a car theft charge when he allegedly tried to shot at the officer Dec. 12, was taken into custody about 3 p.m. by the Spokane Police Patrol Anti-Crime Team, with the help of the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force, a Border Patrol helicopter and the Stevens County Sheriff's Office.

A no-bail warrant was issued Dec. 8 after Earl-West didn’t show up for a court hearing, according to court records.

Officers were looking for him at the Randolph Arms Apartments near Spokane Falls Community College late Dec. 12 when he allegedly pointed a gun at an officer and pulled the trigger, but it malfunctioned and did not fire, police say. A SWAT team standoff ensued and 30 surrounding apartments units were evacuated.

Police believe Earl-West escaped before a perimeter was set up and the nine-hour standoff began.

Crime Stoppers was offering a reward for tips that led to his capture.

Man caught w/ 1 lb of meth pleads guilty

A Royal City, Wash., man arrested in North Idaho with nearly a pound of methamphetamine in the trunk of his car pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Severiano V. Valle, 49, faces five to 40 years in prison and four years probation after pleading guilty to  possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

He's to be sentenced March 26 by Judge Edward Lodge in Coeur d'Alene.

Valle was arrested on Feb. 8 after a traffic stop in Kootenai County.

A drug dog alerted police to the trunk of his car, where officers found 449 grams of meth. Valle told police he was taking the drugs to another person, according to the plea agreement.

Athol man admits child porn charge

An Athol, Idaho, man pleaded guilty Tuesday to a child pornography charge related to illicit material found during a search of his home in September 2010.

Samuel Ted Ussery, 50, faces up to five years in prison and three years of probation after pleading guilty to transportation of an obscene matter. He's scheduled to be sentenced March 26 by Judge Edward Lodge in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

An investigator with the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force began investigating Ussery in July 2010 after discovering that a computer with an IP address belonging to him used file sharing software to access child pornography.

A federal search warrant executed at Ussery's home at 6203 E. Highway 54 revealed computer equipment with images of child pornography that had been deleted but were able to be recovered, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Police: Thief points gun at Costco worker

A Spokane man caught shoplifting from Costco on New Year's Eve upped the judicial ante by pointing a gun at a store employee, according to police.

Todd E. Miller, 39, is jailed on $30,000 bond after he was arrested Saturday at the store at 7619 N. Division St. Store employee Troy Humphrey said he contacted Miller about 6 p.m. after he spotted him stealing merchandise, according to court documents.

Humphrey tried to escort Miller to the back of the store, but Miller pointed a gun at him and fled, police say.

Police contacted Miller in a parking lot near the store. Officer Shawn Pegram says Miller showed him where he'd discarded the stolen merchandise. Pegram found a gun on the front passenger seat of the car in which he was sitting, according to court documents.

Miller appeared before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese Tuesday on a first-degree robbery charge.

$40k bond for shotgun carjack suspect

An 18-year-old man accused of carjacking a woman who was with her infant remains jailed on $40,000 bond.

Dustin M. Lange is accused of pointing a shotgun at Rachelle Bergman and “racking it” as she was trying to load her newborn baby into her 1998 Ford Escort about 8:40 p.m. Friday in the employee parking lot at Northern Lights Brewery, 1003 E. Trent Ave., police say.

Bergman told police Lange said he would “blast her” if the keys were not in the car, according to court documents prepared by police. Lange also pointed the gun at Bergman's friend Hannah Fretheim, police say. Bergman said she was able to get her 10-day-old son out of the car before Lange stole it.

Police found the Escort in the parking lot of a FedEx warehouse, 4220 E. Broadway Ave., where they say Lange ran through the building still staffed by employees and hid in a trailer at a loading dock.

Fretheim and Bergman identified Lange as the gunman, and police booked him into jail. Officers say they found seven small bags of marijuana and one larger bag, as well as a scale, with Lange after his arrest. They found the shotgun in the wheel well of a truck trailer.

Lange appeared before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese Tuesday on charges of theft of a motor vehicle, second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, theft of a motor vehicle, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and second-degree burglary (for the FedEx entry.)

Lange was convicted as a juvenile of taking a motor vehicle without permission on Nov. 10 - a day before his 18th birthday, police say.
  

New details on chase that led to suicide

A North Idaho man who killed himself during a police chase was allegedly trying to persuade his wife to drop charges against him.

Daniel Joe Zehm, 52, contacted his wife Sondra Zehm on Saturday at their Dalton Gardens home, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

Police were alerted at 10:15 p.m. that Zehm had called a relative and reported that he was taking his wife to Kellogg, Idaho.

Zehm sprayed his wife with pepper spray and forced her into his vehicle., officials say. He had been driving with her since about 9 p.m, telling Sondra to drop the charges against him, officials say.

Zehm saw the deputies trying to stop him on Fernan Lake Road about 11:15 p.m. He fled toward Coeur d’Alene, running over a spike strip as he reached Fernan Village. He attempted to continue but came to a stop on Sherman Avenue, where he shot himself, police say.

Zehm was arrested in November after pouring gasoline on his wife and trying to light her on fire. He had been released from jail on $200,000 bond for felony charges of burglary and aggravated battery and was prohibited from contacting his wife.

Stephens named interim police chief

(Top) Scott Stephens takes questions after Mayor David Condon names him the interim police chief at a press conference Tuesday. (Bottom right) Former Spokane police Chief Roger Bragdon, right, and Lt. Joe Walker, center, listen during a press conference where Condon, far left, appointed Stephens. (SRphotos/Christopher Anderson)

A 26-year veteran of the Spokane Police Department will lead the troubled agency, at least for the next few months.

On his first business day as Spokane’s mayor, David Condon appointed Major Scott Stephens interim police chief, and announced plans to review the department’s use-of-force policies and training.

Stephens replaces Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who retired effective Monday, at a time of low morale and deep division within the department.

Read the rest of Jon Brunt's story here.

Extra security at rap murder arraignment

Top to bottom, left to right, are Jermaine S. Bedford, 22; Kalen J. Bedford, 21; Rashad F. Toussiant, 25; Roderick D. Shanks, 21; Stafone N. “Stix” Fuentes, 27; and Tyrone J. Carell, 23. All are wanted on assault charges related to the murder.

UPDATE: All suspects except Stafone Fuentes and Rashad Toussiant have been arrested.

Law enforcement officers were in Spokane County Superior Court today to provide extra security at the arraignment of murder suspect John “Lil Danger” Castro, who is accused of shooting another rapper at a Spokane hotel.

Castro (pictured left) pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, riot, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and two counts of second-degree assault for a Nov. 27 fight that ended with the shooting death of Jose A. “Junior” Solis, 21, of Moses Lake, at a Spokane hotel.  His trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27, but that likely will be postponed.

Castro, 27, remains in jail on $1 million bond. Public defender Anna Nordtvedt said a request to reduce his bond is to be heard on Thursday. Castro faces life in prison if convicted because of two previous violent felony convictions that qualify him for the state's three-strikes law.

Eight other men are charged with assault in connection with the case. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of the six pictured above.

Sheriff's deputies and Spokane police provided extra security at Castro's arraignment before Judge Annette Plese, which was attended by Solis's friends and family. No incidents were reported.

Police believe Castro shot Solis after Solis and other men tried to help their friend who was being assaulted.

Castro and the other suspects went to the Quality Inn on East Third Avenue after a rap concert and were kicked out of a party hosted by the Moses Lake men, police say.

One of the men argued with a woman in the hallway, and he and others began assaulting her boyfriend. The woman and a friend ducked into a room and called for help as the men continued to assault her boyfriend and kick the door to the room, according to police. Solis and others arrived from another floor to help, and Solis was shot int he chest, police say.

Surveillance video captured the suspects running to and from the melee.

Detectives are reviewing Castro's work as the rapper “Lil Danger” as they continue to investigate the case.

Man pleads not guilty to murdering friend

A Spokane man accused of killing his friend in Riverfront Park after a night of drinking was arraigned today on a second-degree murder charge.

Yukio M. Rideb, 21, (pictured right) pleaded not guilty to killing Romero J. Vivit, III, 21, in a fight early Dec. 17.

Vivit's body was pulled from the Spokane River on Dec. 20.

Rideb and Vivit (pictured left) had been friends since attending North Central High School together.

 Rideb entered his plea before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese. He remains in jail on $500,000 bond. His public defender is Anna Nordtvedt.

According to police, Rideb told detectives that Vivit needed to be hospitalized but was still breathing when he left him in the park after the drunken assault. He said he was so intoxicated that he didn’t realize who he was assaulting until he saw Vivit's shoes. Read more here.

Rideb’s trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27, but that likely will be postponed.

Police: Child molester living as transient

A sex offender considered likely to reoffend is living as a transient in Spokane County, the sheriff's office announced today.

Kevin Duane Musgrove, 33, was convicted of first-degree child molestation in Spokane County in 1993. His victim was a 3-year-old boy. Musgrove was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Musgrove also has juvenile convictions for two counts of fourth-degree assault with a sexual motivation.

He is a level 3 sex offender, which is the classification considered likely to reoffend.

Musgrove is not wanted by authorities, but the sheriff's office wants the public to be aware of his presence.

Musgrove is required to check in with authorities every week because he has no permanent address.

Spokane County's sex offender registry is available here.

Superior Court assignments change

Today, Judge Maryann Moreno steps down from the role of presiding judge in Spokane County Superior Court after overseeing dramatic changes – and improved results – in how local officials administer justice.

 Presiding judges are elected by their peers and essentially handle the administration of the Superior Court judiciary, including budgeting and assigning other judges’ duties. Typically, it’s a two-year job, but Moreno has served as presiding judge for double the normal tenure because the last rotation came just as officials were implementing changes suggested by consultant David Bennett.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Kirkpatrick speaks about 5 years as chief

Anne Kirkpatrick’s last official day as chief of the Spokane Police Department is today, but she’d already left the city by the end of last week.

She spoke candidly with The Spokesman-Review before she did. Check out my interview with her here.

Mayor David Condon will name a new interim chief today at 1 p.m. Stay tuned.

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