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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for June 2012

Man blows .224 after head-on crash

The Spokane Police Department provided this photo of the crash on the SPD Facebook page.

A 21-year-old Spokane man was arrested for vehicular assault after crashing his truck head-on into a semi truck on Thursday and injuring his passenger.

Joseph A. Hussey's blood-alcohol level registered at .224 before he was jailed on a vehicular assault charge for the crash in the 3900 block of East Broadway Avenue, according to the Spokane Police Department.

The legal limit for driving is .08.

Police say he smelled of intoxicants and told them he was going to home to Spokane Valley from the Satellite bar downtown.

Hussey also slurred his speech and failed field sobriety tests, police say.

He was booked into the Spokane County Jail on the felony charge.

Two arrested after high-speed chase

Two young people in a stolen car led a sheriff's deputy on a high-speed chase in Spokane Valley on Thursday.

Jordy Scott DeBoer, 20, and Nicole Dawn Singer, 23, were in a green Honda Accord when Deputy Brian Hirzel tried to stop it near North Pines Road and East Valleyway Avenue.

The driver, identified by police as DeBoer, fled at speeds of about 70 mph in the 35 mph zone, driving through residential area, blowing through stop signs and red lights, straddling lanes and cutting through grocery store parking lots.

Deputies Damon Simmons, Scott Bonney and Jason Karntiz helped Hirzel in the pursuit.

DeBoer nearly struck several vehicles, deputies say. Hirzel ended the search because of public safety concerns; a Washington State Patrol trooper later located the suspects and they admitted to fleeing Hirzel.

“Singer admitted to Deputy Hirzel she told DeBoer to 'go, baby, go' when he attempted to stop them,” according to court documents.

The Honda was stolen early that morning or late the night before from a home in the 1300 bock of North McDonald Road.
  

Man arrested w/ 5,000+ bombs in Valley

A man was arrested with about 5,400 small explosive devices in his van during an undercover investigation at Hooters in Spokane Valley Thursday.

Peter Ward Westhaver, 53, is in the Spokane County Jail on a no-bail federal hold.

He met two men who turned out to be undercover investigators at the restaurant about 2:15 p.m. and “talked extensively about his explosives manufacturing operation,” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

He was leaving the restaurant with the investigators about 3 p.m. when he told them he had explosives in his vehicle. The investigators, who work for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office, broke their cover and arrested him for officer safety purposes and say he allowed them to search his blue Ford Windstar van.

Investigators seized 18 Home Depot buckets, each filled with about 300 “ping pong ball bombs,” according to court documents. The devices are described as red plastic balls filled with an explosive powder with a fuse inserted.

The devices matched two devices found in the possession of a cooperating source who was working with law enforcement to mitigate potential charges or sentencing related to his possession of the devices.

The investigation into Westhaver began about May 25; explosives experts first examined the two devices from the cooperating source on May 23.

Westhaver, whose last known address was in Elk, Wash., was convicted in Spokane County of third-degree child molestation and two counts of communication with a minor for immoral purpose in 2005. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail and four years probation.

He made his first appearance today at 1:30 p.m. in U.S. District Court on explosives charges.

Alleged mail thieves jailed without bail

A federal prosecutor said she's “appalled” by the number of people who had their mail stolen in in a suspected regional theft ring and may seek aggravating circumstances against four suspects.

“This is an ongoing, every day thing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Pam Byerly said. “This is their job.”

Dominque M. Ryan, 18; her sister, Candice J. Thompson, 22; and Thompson's boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29,  are in federal custody without bail after their arrests Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno denied requests by Ryan and Thompson's lawyers, Bevan Maxey and Jeffry Finer, to be released. Finer has appealed the decision and cites, among other reasons, the fact that the U.S. Probation Office recommended she be released to live with her father in Tacoma.

Ryan's boyfriend, Kyle K. Croson, 21, is at large. Peltier's lawyer, Jaime Hawk, had his bail hearing postponed until Tuesday. Peltier has a misdemeanor warrant in Pierce County.

The suspects face months to a couple of years in prison if convicted of stealing mail, which is a federal offense.

Ryan, who had methamphetamine and marijuana with her when she was arrested, has no criminal history and works at a call center. Thompson has convictions for driving while license suspended and failure to transfer car title.

The women have been deeply affected by the drug overdose death of their mother, according to court testimony. Lawyer Jeffry Finer said he's worried Thompson is “chasing her mom's history.”

Thompson's three-year-old daughter was in their apartment in 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue when law enforcement arrived Monday. The child is now in the custody of Child Protective Services. Finer said it's difficult to discuss that with Thompson. “Whenever we touch on that issue, she breaks down,” Finer told Imbrogno.

Investigators recovered about 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho in the apartment and in two cars Monday.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their daughter to live with Ryan and Croson.

He, Thompson and Ryan cried in court on Thursday.

“I love you, too” Peltier said to Thompson as she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

He then turned to two friends in the audience and, through sobs, denied the allegations.

“It wasn't us,” Peltier said. “It wasn't us.”

Alleged robber is 4-foot-8, 85 pounds

A suspect has been arrested in a June 6 armed home-invasion robbery in northeast Spokane.

Brettly E. Sanderson, who turned 16 last week, was charged as an adult with seven counts of first-degree robbery, but the charges were refiled in juvenile court when prosecutors realized he was 15 at the time of the crime.

The victims at the home in the 2900 block of North Hogan Street say they recognized Sanderson when he and two other men, one of whom had a sawed-off shotgun, forced their way into the apartment demanding drugs and money, according to court documents.

One of the victims was struck in the head with the butt of the shotgun, police say. Seven people were in the apartment at the time; stolen items included a 1997 Honda Civic, $50, two laptops, a PlayStation 3 and stereo speakers. Police found the Civic stripped of its tires and wheels near West Gordon Avenue and West Glass Avenue later that night.

Sanderson is 4-foot-8 and weighs 85 pounds, according to court documents.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla filed charges against Sanderson on Monday. Spokane police searched his home in the 2600 block of East Sinto Avenue about 3 a.m. Thursday. The SWAT team was presence, but the occupants responded to a knock and no force was used to enter the home.

3 arrested after downtown beating

Three men were arrested after another man was beaten unconscious in downtown Spokane Wednesday night.

Witnesses reported three men, one armed with a baseball bat, assaulting the man near West 2nd Avenue and South Jefferson Street about 8 p.m.

One of the men kicked the unconscious man in his head, a witness told police. Witnesses flagged down Officer Christopher Brasch near West 4th Avenue and South Madison Street and identified three suspects.

Clayton M. Cotter, 21; Schuyler R. Cotter, 19; and Michael W. Baesman, 34; were arrested and jailed on a second-degree assault charge. Police never found the baseball bat.

Clayton Cotter was convicted of misdemeanor assault in January 2010 and credited for 12 days served in jail. He also was given two years of probation.

Judge considers dropping murder charge

A judge said she has concerns about the validity of a murder charge against one of two defendants charged in the shooting death of a man last year in the West Central neighborhood.

Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen said she could decide either today or Monday on a motion to dismiss the second-degree murder charge against David C. McLaughlin, 22, who is charged along with 32-year-old Melinda R. Barrera of the Dec. 7 shooting death of Robert A. Nelson.

Intermodal shooter gets 82 years

A man convicted of trying to kill two Spokane police officers a decade ago was resentenced last week to 82 years in prison after his case was returned on appeal.

Jason A. Graham, 31, will be given credit for the nine years he has already served after he was convicted in 2003 of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of first-degree assault, second-degree assault and other property crimes.

Chief Criminal Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Jack Driscoll said the case was returned to Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno after the Washington Supreme Court ruled that firearm enhancements were improperly applied to Graham’s original sentence

Graham was wounded by police during a Jan. 7, 2002, during a shootout where he fired two dozen rounds from a semi-automatic assault rifle at officers following a vehicle chase in downtown Spokane. Bullets from the gun battle missed all officers and people aboard an Amtrak train and two Greyhound buses at the Intermodal Center.

Read previous coverage here

Slingshot used to fire at speed camera

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) — Police in Maryland say a man has been charged with assault for using a slingshot to fire glass marbles at a speed camera van.

Authorities say Bruce Lawrence May of Ellicott City was arrested Tuesday. The 50-year-old Lawrence was also charged with destruction of property and reckless endangerment. He was released on $3,000 bond.

Howard County police say that at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, the van was near Manor Woods Elementary School when the operator heard something hit the side of the vehicle. The operator saw a minivan pass and saw the driver with a slingshot fire another projectile at the speed camera van.

Police say that May had received two speed camera violations recently.

9.5 tons of garlic stolen in Austria

VIENNA (AP) — Austrian police did not need sniffing dogs to locate this suspected heist — 9.5 tons of garlic.

The Austria Press Agency says police stopped three overloaded and sagging vans about to cross into Hungary from Austria on Wednesday and found them packed to the roof with the pungent cargo. After questioning the five men in the vehicles they charged them on suspicion of receiving stolen goods.

Police say the garlic apparently came from Spain and estimate its value at €30,000 ($37,500). The men — all Romanian nationals — were not named, in line with Austrian privacy laws.

APA cites one officer as saying it was clear what the vans were carrying even before their doors were opened.

“All three vehicles really stunk like garlic,” he says.

Sex offender released on $250k bond

A Spokane sex offender facing a potential life sentence for allegedly molesting a girl at the NorthTown Mall is out of jail.

Richard Michael Payne, 55, posted $250,000 bond through a bonding company and was released from Spokane County Jail about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Payne is under court orders not to contact children or visit places where children gather. He's also wearing an ankle monitor that tracks his movements, said his lawyer, David Hearrean.

“I just don't want people to go out and try to take the law into their own hands,” Hearrean said. “What happened to innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?”

Payne posted the bond through Smith Family Bail Bonds. Owner Chris Smith said he requires customers to pay 10 percent of the bond in cash and rarely allows extended payment plans. He declined to discuss the details of Payne's payment but said Payne is being mointored by a GPS tracker.

“We can actually see where he is within two meters at all times,” Smith said.

Hearrean said Payne is entitled to a reasonable bond.

“I just assure you he's under close monitoring. Not only by the bond company but by the court and others, including me,” Hearrean said. “He's not gong to violate any release conditions.”

Smith said he also is worried citizens may seek “vigilante justice.”

“As a professional bondsman, I understand when people in the community are considered when people in cases like this post a bond,” Smith said. “It is our job to keep that community risk as low as absolutely possible.”

Payne is to be back in court on July 5 for an arraignment.

Superior Court Judge Annette Plese cited Payne's danger to the community when she approved the $250,000 bond requested by the Spokane County Prosecutor's Office Wednesday afternoon.

One court official said it's the highest bond he's ever seen for a non-murder case.

Payne is a level 3 sex offender, which is the classification considered most likely to reoffend. He served 3 1/2 years in prison for grabbing a 9-year-old girl's crotch and buttocks while at a North Division Street store in 2001. He also has two convictions for fourth-degree assault that stem from child molestation claims, as well as a public indecency in Oregon in 1985 for fondling himself at a Sears store.

He has no further criminal history in Washington state.

Payne was arrested Tuesday after a Spokane police detective identified him as the man who touched a 5-year-old girl's  back, buttocks and upper thighs while exposing himself at Bumpers Family Fun Center in the mall on June 21. The girl's 11-year-old sister saw the incident, and the girls ran to tell their mother, who was shopping in another part of the mall.

Police obtained surveillance video of the incident and identified Payne through the sex offender registry.

He faces a charge of first-degree child molestation. He could stay in prison for the rest of his life if convicted. State law requires that sex offenders undergo risk assessments before being considered for release from prison.

Hearrean declined to discuss how Payne was able to come up with the bond money.

He said he fears his client won't be able to get a fair trial.

“Everybody deserves a fair trial,” Hearrean said.

60+ felonies sought in burglary ring

Spokane County sheriff's detectivs are recommending about 60 felony charges against four suspects in a burglary ring that victimized more than 20 people.

Denis Buljubasic, 27; Bojan Derzic, 31; Susan Burke, 50; and Dwayne Gunderson, 28, are accused of a burglary spree that was discovered after three of them were stopped for stealing fuel in Spokane Valley in April.

The three were in a stolen van and had checks with them that were traced back to a garage burglary on the South Hill. Police believe they were forging checks and depositing them at local banks. They used the cash to buy methamphetamine and gamble at Northern Quest Casino, detectives say.

Detectives linked them to garage burglaries in the South Hill, Airway Heights and Otis Orchards area by checking pawn shop histories.

Sheriff's property crimes Detective Mark Renz forwarded his charging recommendation to prosecutors today, said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Derzic faces charges of second-degree burglary, unlawful production/possession of a financial instrument, first-degree theft, forgery, second-degree theft, second-degree vehicle prowling, first-degree trafficking in stolen property, third-degree theft, possession of a stolen vehicle, money laundering, residential burglary and identity theft.

Burke faces charges of second-degree theft, forgery identity theft, money laundering unlawful production/possession of a financial instrument and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Gunderson faces charges of possession of a stolen firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

All are out of jail. Burke failed to appear in Kootenai County District Court in April on property crime charges. Derzic left jail on $50,000 bond on May 24 on a car theft charge in Spokane County Superior Court.

Prosecutors will review the case, file charges, and the suspects either will be arrested on warrants or they'll be summoned to appear in court for an arraignment.

Burke alerted detectives to a large burglary ring that detectives connected to Dean Blackford.

Cops: Sex offender molested girl at mall

UPDATE: Payne bonded out of jail last night. Look for a follow up later.

A child molester with a history of sex crimes in public places could be jailed for life after he was arrested for exposing himself to a girl at the NorthTown Mall in Spokane.

Richard Michael Payne, 55, is accused of molesting a 5-year-old girl June 21 as she and her 11-year-old sister were playing in Bumpers Family Fun Center while their mother shopped.

Read the rest of my story here.

Other Josh, Brittnei had meth in SUV

Spokane police arrest Josh Berg at 7th and Maple on June 19. (SRphoto/Colin Mulvany)

Two young people briefly mistaken for accomplices of cop shooter Charles Robert Wallace last week had methamphetamine and Hydrocodone in their car, police say.

  Brittnei J. Fawver, 21, and Joshua A. Berg, 24, were arrested June 19 after refusing to stop for police, then crashing their SUV at West Second Avenue and Walnut Street and running from officers.

The two were lucky they weren't shot.

Witnesses said members of the massive police force investigating the shooting converged on the area and held Berg at gunpoint.

They were looking for Brittany McCullough and Joshua Fowler, who were in the Chevrolet Tahoe when Wallace got out and shot Spokane County sheriff's Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway. McCullough and Fowler left Wallace behind then ditched the Tahoe, so police all over Spokane were looking for a couple named Brittany and Josh.

“This was not the right day to run from police,” Cpl. Dave Adams said at the time.

Fawver ran right out of her flip fop, which is pictured in front of the smashed SUV.

Police say Fawver identified herself only as Brittnei and named her accomplice as only Josh.

So, when Fawver asked what she was being charged with, an officer told her she might be charged with attempted murder and told her about the shooting.

“Fawver yelled that she wasn't involved in that incident and that she was driving a truck when she ran because she had a warrant,” according to a search warrant filed Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Fawver was arrested for hit and run and a Department of Corrections warrant; Berg was arrested on a DOC warrant. Both suspects have lengthy criminal histories.

McCullough and Fowler were located later that night.

Police on Tuesday searched the smashed-up 2001 Ford Explorer that Fawver and Berg ditched. They located two baggies of methamphetamine, 12 Hydrocodone pills, a methamphetamine pipe and a marijuana pipe, according to the search warrant.

The investigation is ongoing.

Car prowling surge reported in Spokane

Spokane police are combating a surge in vehicle prowling with a new public awareness campaign aimed at preventing it.

The “Remove it or Lose it” campaign, which officially begins July 9, aims to help citizens remember to keep valuables out of plain sight in their cars, park in well lit or high-traffic areas, keep their doors locked and to call 911 if they see someone prowling cars.

Police report a 38 percent increase in vehicle prowling in the past year.

A prowling suspect was arrested Tuesday morning near North Monroe Street and East Augusta Avenue.

Spokane police Officer Chris Johnson arrested Shabrawn M. Rautio, 20, after a witness reported seeing Rautio smash a car window and steal a red backpack.

Johnson spotted Rautio walking south on Monroe carrying a red backpack. He lied to Johnson about his name but eventually told him the truth. Police returned the backpack to its owner “who was extremely grateful for the return of her things,” according to a news release by Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

In another news release, Officer Brian Eckersley outlined the dire stakes of property crime and the steps that must be taken to prevent it.

“There is always somebody looking to take something from you. There are several out right now, looking in car windows and checking for unlocked doors,” Eckersley wrote. “Where is your purse, phone, lap top, jewelry or hand gun?  Are you sure?”
  

Convicted killer arrested in CdA stabbing

Police on Wednesday arrested a convicted killer accused of trying to kill another man in a stabbing Monday night north of Coeur d’Alene.

 James H. Kountz, 56, was arrested about 5:40 p.m. in the same wooded area near U.S. Highway 95 and Wilbur Avenue where he stabbed another transient, James R. Hoglen, 42, on Monday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Uptick in crime downtown a concern

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart is offering $10,000 from a City Council reserve fund for police overtime to help squash an uptick in crime downtown.

“After meeting with the business owners about their employees’ cars being broken into and a chef getting attacked, how can you not take action?” Stuckart said.

Read the rest of Jody Lawrence-Turner's story here.

Police refute ricochet claims at trial

The state may finish the its portion of the case Thursday against a man and woman charged with second-degree murder of a man who was shot and killed last December just a few blocks from the Spokane County Courthouse.

Defense attorneys Tom Krzyminski and Derek Reid queried Spokane Police detectives Chet Gilmore and Jeff Barrington about how the crime scene was processed and statements given by 32-year-old Melinda R. Barrera and 22-year-old David C. McLaughlin.

Barrera acknowledged firing the gun on Dec. 7 that killed 46-year-old Robert A. Nelson, but she claims that she fired a single shot into a closet, not the bedroom door that police describe as having a hole from the bullet that killed Nelson.

Krzyminski and Reid both said last week that the bullet may have ricocheted from the closet and somehow struck Nelson.

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Sharon Hedlund asked Gilmore if he found any evidence that a bullet ricocheted off one of the apartment walls at 1328 W. Dean Ave. Gilmore answered: “No.”

Wanted: Woman w/ 254 police contacts

A 25-year-old Spokane woman who police say they've contacted 254 times is again wanted for violating her probation.

Desarae M. Dawson, a former Crime Stoppers fugitive, was sentenced in February to 17 days in Spokane County Jail after pleading guilty to riot and escape from community custody. She was released right after her sentencing because she'd already served the time.

Dawson apparently didn't stick with her probation requirements for very long. Spokane police Major Frank Scalise, who supervises the patrol division, said she has a Department of Corrections warrant for her arrest.

Dawson has 12 felony convictions and has been arrested 21 times. But police also track contacts, which could include police seeking the person out for interviews or traffic stops in which the person is a passenger, and say Dawson's 254 contacts adds to her status as a repeat offender. (Read about her role in a false report about a stolen car back in May 2011 here.)

Dawson is mentioned in Spokesman-Review writer Shawn Vestal's column on repeat offenders - or ropes, as the police call them.

“That’s their career,” Scalise told Vestal. “Just like you are a journalist and I am a police officer, they are thieves.”

Read Vestal's column here.

Anyone with information on Dawson's location should call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Shelter-seeking prowling suspect busted

A man arrested for prowling a car in Spokane Valley had a radio control car with him, and police are trying to find the owner.

Justin Wayne Croson, 27, told the maintenance manager at an apartment complex in the 2400 block of North Cherry Road that he was just sitting in his car when confronted Tuesday, but the manager knew he didn't own the vehicle.

Croson then told sheriff's deputies he was homeless, had fought with his girlfriend and was sitting in the car to get out the rain. He said he didn't know the owner of the car but denied looking through the glove box.

Deputies say the glove box and center console were open, and that the gas-powered radio control car was sitting on the a passenger seat. The vehicle owner said she'd left her car unlocked but that the glove box and console had been closed. She also said the radio control car wasn't hers.

Croson said “his ex-babysitter gave him the radio control car but could not remember his babysitter's name, address or what type of radio control car he was given,” according to a news release by Deputy Craig Chamberlin, Spokane County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

Croson was booked into jail on a second-degree vehicle prowling charge. The radio control car is a red, silver and blue Red Cat Volcano S30 valued at $229.  If you can prove you own it, call (509) 477-6612.
  

Heaps of stolen mail found in Spokane

About 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho were recovered in Spokane on Monday.

Police had been investigating the thefts since a woman reported seeing a white car with two men and two women stealing from mailboxes on May 24.

Spokane police Officer Glenn Bartlett reported contacting a suspicious vehicle that was circling a neighborhood on May 26. The occupants he contacted later emerged as suspects in the mail thefts when their names were attached to bank accounts where altered checks had been deposited.

Detectives with the Spokane Financial Crimes Task Force identified the suspect vehicle as a 1997 Dodge Intrepid belonging to Kyle Croson, 21. Police searched Croson's apartment in the 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue on Monday. Candice J. Thompson, 22, and her boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29, were arrested.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their three-year-old daughter to live with Thompson's sister, Dominque Ryan. Ryan is Croson's girlfriend.

Peltier said they started “mailboxing” about two weeks after arriving in Spokane. He said Croson and Ryan frequently “mailbox” but that he and Thompson hadn't done so recently because they were out of money for fuel. Investigators searched the apartment as well as the Dodge Intrepid and a Chevy Malibu, where they recovered the stolen mail.

Thomspon said they stole mail “hoping to find cash inside of graduation cards,” according to court documents.

Croson, Thompson, Peltier and Ryan are charged in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Jury clears deputy of excessive force

A North Idaho jury has cleared a Bonner County Sheriff’s deputy against allegations that he used excessive force during a DUI arrest following a crash with injuries on the road to Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

 The jury on Friday determined that Deputy Clint Mattingley did not use excessive force during the DUI arrest of Joel W. Petty on March 8, 2008. Mattingley was successfully defended by attorney Peter Erbland of Spokane. Petty was represented by attorney Greg Devlin, also of Spokane.

 At issue was Mattingley’s handcuffing of Petty after the deputy responded to an injury accident. According to court records, Petty had an ordor of alcohol and failed a field sobriety test. Petty alleged Mattingley used excessive force and caused a rotator cuff injury when the deputy handcuffed him. But the jury did not agree.

Rape suspect wanted after skipping plea

UPDATE: Green is no longer wanted. He appeared in court and pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. The rape charge was dismissed.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of an accused rapist who missed his scheduled plea hearing.

J. Bailey Green, 24, was to plead guilty and be sentenced in Spokane County Superior Court June 19 for a second-degree rape and unlawful imprisonment case, but he never showed up. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Green was charged after a woman told police he raped her while at a home on West Sharp Avenue Dec. 3. The victim told police she bit Green. When police asked him about the bite mark on his cheek, Green said it occurred “maybe when I was trying to hold her down,” according to court documents.

Anyone with information on the location of Green, who is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

$10k diamond earrings stolen in Valley

Two sets of diamond earrings valued at $10,000 were stolen from a Spokane Valley home on Saturday, and Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that solve the case.

One set contains 14-karat, white gold, with two solitaire diamonds suspended by a thin gold wire. The second set consists of three diamonds suspended by a small gold wire.

Homeowners in the 2800 block of South Skipworth Road left about noon and returned at 8 p.m. to find their master bedroom ransacked and the earrings gone.

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

Home burglar caught on tape - who is it?

Detectives are looking for help in identifying a man who burglarized a home in north Spokane County earlier this month.

A photo released today from the homeowner's game camera shows a man wearing gloves leaving the backdoor of the home in the 3100 block of East Deer Park-Milan Road. The homeowners returned from an eight-day vacation June 8 and discovered the break-in, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The man's accomplice, identified by police as Christopher John Steinbaugh, 32, was arrested last week on a residential burglary charge.

Detectives are asking for anyone with information on the man's identity to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 and reference case #12-176653.

Steinbaugh already is charged with property crimes for arrests in March and May, including one that occurred when a sheriff's detective recognized him at a pawn shop.

Cops: Gun malfunction stopped murder

A Spokane man who police say would have killed a man had his gun not malfunctioned has been charged with attempted murder.

Carlos Himminez “Atlanta” Hodges, 38, was armed with a handgun when he confronted Kenneth Watkins at Watkins' home in the 1000 block of East 14th Avenue on Dec. 23, charges allege.

Hodges, who allegedly kicked in the front door about 4:38 a.m., demanded Watkins take him to his medical marijuana grow and hit Watkins with the gun when Watkins tried to disarm him, according to court documents.

Hodges stole marijuana, police say, but Watkins said he refused to take him to the basement because he feared Hodges would kill him there.

“Hodges then pointed the gun at Watkins and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not discharge,” according to court documents. “Hodges then ran away.”

Police completed their investigation in April. Hodges was charged this month with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, second-degree assault and attempted first-degree robbery. He remains in jail on $150,000 bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court last week.

Sex offender wanted for skipping therapy

A child molester who stopped participating in treatment and has failed to register as a sex offender is being sought by Crime Stoppers.

Jeffrey M. Ines, 36, was convicted of three counts of first-degree child molestation in 2007.

He could have gone to prison for at least 10 years, but his sentence was suspended under a program aimed at helping first-time sex offenders. Ines was to participate in intensive therapy, but court documents show he had problems from the beginning.

He stopped participating in treatment completely on March 29, then stopped checking in with his probation officer on June 6, according to court documents. He failed to register on June 5.

A no-bail warrant was issued for his arrest on June 21.

Crime Stoppers on Monday offered a reward for tips that lead to his capture. Anyone with information on Ines' current location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Cop finds robber asleep across street

A man who robbed a convenience store of a drink and beef jerky at knife point didn't get very far early Sunday, police say.

In fact, Officer Scott Haney believes he found him passed out across the street with the stolen goods surrounding him.

Haney found a man matching the description of the robber asleep across the street while responding to a report of a robbery just before 4 a.m. Sunday at the nearby Tesoro gas station, 901 E. Sharp Avenue.

The suspect, later identified as James Joseph Tolman, 45, was booked into jail on first-degree robbery and resisting arrest charges.

A bystander had contacted Haney while he was interviewing the Tesoro clerk and told him there was a “man down” on the sidewalk in front of the Star Bar.

Haney saw a large pair of scissors and a large canned beverage sticking out of the man's front sweatshirt pocket. He also saw an empty package of jerky with its contents scattered around the sleeping man. The man also wore  a Washington State University sweatshirt, which is what the clerk said the robber was wearing, and he matched the height and weight of the robber.

The officer said Tolman resisted arrest, so Gonzaga University security officers Bary Loe and John Johnston helped him.

Police say Tolman had confronted the Tesoro employee with a small knife as he tried to leave the store with the items. A corporal photographed the items as well as Tolman's face, which police say “was injured during the arrest process.”

Tolman is in the Spokane County Jail on the new charges as well as a U.S. Marshals' hold. He was convicted of gun charges in U.S. District Court in 2004.

Deputies recovering as probe continues

Two sheriff’s deputies shot by a fugitive heroin trafficking suspect last week continue to recover as detectives continue to investigate the crime spree that ended in the shooter’s suicide.

  Deputy Matt Spink (left), who was shot once in his leg, was released on Friday. Deputy Mike Northway (right), who was shot four times in his arms and legs, remains in the hospital but has been released from the intensive care unit and has walked around a couple times.

“There’s even been some talk about a hospital discharge date,” said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 21: Sheriff: Deputies Spink, Northway, the kind 'you can count on'

SWAT helps arrest biker assault suspect

The Spokane police SWAT team helped arrested a domestic violence suspect on Sunday after officers learned he might be armed and have ties to a local biker gang.

Jerry W. Clark, 40, was jailed on a second-degree assault charge.

Police were investigating a report that Clark had badly assaulted his girlfriend tried to conduct a traffic stop on Clark's car early Sunday, but he sped away before ditching his car and running, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Officers lost him, so the Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team watched several locations throughout the day to try to find him. They spotted him returning to his home in the 1100 block of West Providence Avenue and was arrested.

He appeared in court today on charges of second-degree assault and eluding police.

Clark's criminal history includes an arrest when he was 25 for stealing children's toys. He also was kidnapped and assaulted when he was 22.

Wallace had been to drug rehab before

Charles Robert Wallace, who shot two sheriff's deputies last Tuesday before leading police on a chase that ended with his suicide, had been to drug rehab long before a judge allowed him to leave jail to give it another chance last month.

He completed “intensive outpatient” treatment in 2000 and a continuing care program through Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in 2001, according to court documents.

He also took courses on victim awareness, stress and anger management, as well as a “Breaking Barriers” course that aims to teach offenders better living skills. He also completed “moral reconation therapy,” which aims to improve the moral thinking of criminals.

The therapy apparently didn't have much of an effect on the man who would go on to commit one of the most high-profile crime sprees in recent Spokane County history.

One month after he was dropped from probation, Wallace was arrested with heroin during a traffic stop in Spokane.

That resulted in Wallace returning to prison in February 2003 and being released in April 2006. He was arrested in Adams County just two weeks after his release and ordered back to prison. He left again in October 2009. His probation period with the Washington Department of Corrections ended on Nov. 10, 2010.

As first reported in this story, a review of Wallace's criminal history in Spokane County shows a pattern of disobeying court orders, using drugs and fighting with law enforcement.

A document prepared by a court officials in 1985 for a car prowling charge says, “Charlie has made no effort to comply with his court-ordered conditions.”

Wallace, then 13, was ordered to spend five days in juvenile detention. He also was convicted of attempted assault in 1984. He wrote in court documents that “I pulled out my knife when I was fighting with my sister.” He stole a bottle of wine from a grocery store and stole a bike from a home in 1985. He also was convicted of indecent liberties for having a sexual relationship with a girl under the age of 14 in 1984.

Wallace first went to prison in July 1998 for after leading a Washington State Patrol trooper on a high-speed chase in Spokane Valley on Nov. 15, 1997.

Wallace ditched the stolen truck he was driving and ran from the trooper but was arrested after a struggle.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, then a deputy, was off duty but witnessed the arrest and helped the trooper by picking up a syringe and pouch filled with drug syringes, spoons and methamphetamine located near Wallace, according to court documents.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Knezovich said, though he said he didn't realize who the man was until a reporter contacted him Wednesday evening.

Knezovich said he was recovering from shoulder surgery at his apartment home with his three young children when a neighbor knocked on his door and told him a trooper needed help.

“Wallace led the trooper on quite a chase through the apartment complex,” Knezovich said. “He was fighting with the trooper really hard.”

Police found a loaded shotgun in the truck that had been reported stolen a year earlier. Knezovich said the gun Wallace used to shoot Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway on Tueday also was stolen.

The truck in 1997 belonged to Wallace's mother, Melissa A. Wallace. She told police her son stole her truck and identified him as the driver.Wallace became irate when she did - police say he kicked the right rear window of a police cruiser and had to be controlled with leg restraints.

It wasn't the only time Wallace victimized his mother. He was charged with forgery in 1996 for forging a check from her and cashing it at a Liberty Lake bank for $275. Wallace's mother told a sheriff's deputy Wallace had been living in a travel trailer on her property on Campbell Road in southeast Spokane County for several years, according to court documents.

Wallace was sentenced to five years in prison but served less than three. He began probation in March 2001, but his freedom didn't last long. He was arrested in May 2002 on drug charges after the traffic stop in Spokane. A Spokane police officer said Wallace began to exit his car during a traffic stop but obeyed the officer's commands to remain inside and close the door. Wallace was arrested after the officer found heroin in the car.  Police also found heroin, cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia at his home in the 1200 block of West Alice Avenue.

He was ordered to report to Geiger Corrections Center for drug monitoring on June 25, 2002. It wasn't until September that he arrived at Geiger, and when he did, he tested positive for methamphetamine, cocaine and morphine. He escaped from Geiger in December 2002 and was convicted of second-degree escape.

He returned to prison in February 2003 and was released in April 2006. He was arrested in Adams County on a heroin charge just two weeks after his release and ordered back to prison. He was sentenced to just 12 months, but the arrested violated his previous “Drug Offender Alternative Sentence,” so he was ordered to serve the remainder of that prison sentence.

He left again in October 2009. His probation period with the Washington Department of Corrections ended on Nov. 10, 2010.

View a PDF version of the 1997 report involving Knezovich and Wallace here.

A summary of Wallace's criminal history can be viewed here. It does not include convictions for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver cocaine, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver heroin, second-degree escape from 2003 and the Adams County drug conviction in 2006.

Look for more coverage soon from The Spokesman-Review regarding the decision to release Wallace.

Past coverage:

June 22: Man accused of helping cop shooter to stay in jail

June 21: Task force directed deputies to stop SUV

Man shot by police jailed on $10k bond

Jesse Johnson scratches his head as he lies with a bandaged thigh in a hospital bed on Monday at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. (SRphoto/Tyler Tjomsland)

A man who was shot by a Spokane police officer as he confronted another man with what turned out to be a BB gun will remain jailed on $10,000 bond.

 Jesse Hugh Johnson, 24, appeared before a judge on Friday on charges related to an incident early Sunday near North Napa Street and East Mission Avenue in which he was shot in the right leg by Spokane police Officer Ron Van Tassel.

Van Tassel (pictured) was responding to a report of a man armed with a shotgun when he saw Johnson pointing a weapon at Corey Hall-Cottrell, who is Johnson's former roommate.

Van Tassel, 31, shot Johnson “with the belief that if he did not act immediately Hall-Cottrell would be shot,” according to court documents.

Hall-Cottrell later showed police scars on his head and hand from where Johnson had shot him with a BB gun in the past, documents say.

Police noticed Johnson trying to hide something in his mouth while in the emergency room and discovered it was a bag of methamphetamine.

Johnson said in an interview Monday from his hospital bed that he intended to shoot the man with the BB gun because he believes the man stole two bicycles. But he said police overreacted when they shot him and should have known his weapon was only a BB gun.

He also said he never intended to report the thefts to police. He also said the meth was not his. He was released from the hospital to jail on Thursday.

In addition to a meth possession charge, police are asking prosecutors to charge Johnson with fourth-degree assault, reckless endangerment, intimidation with a weapon and aiming or discharging a dangerous weapon.

Heroin bust today nets Wallace’s friend

A heroin bust today at a Spokane home involves associates of cop shooter Charles Robert Wallace.

Julie Ann Lewis-Rice, 38, was arrested during a SWAT team search at a home in the 900 block of East Bismark Avenue this morning.

She was one of eight suspects named in a federal investigation into a heroin distribution ring involving Wallace, who killed himself Tuesday after shooting two sheriff's deputies, but prosecutors moved to dismiss her charges on May 15.

She was booked into jail on heroin delivery charges about 1:30 p.m. today. The raid came after a confidential informant bought heroin from a woman who obtained it from the home June 14.

Spokane police drug detectives seized police scanners, $777 in cash, heroin, loaded syringes and other drug paraphernalia from the home during a search that began at 10:31 a.m.

Sex offender arrested after car chase

A sex offender sought by Crime Stoppers was arrested Thursday after leading troopers on a chase in the West Plains area.

Phillip John Motyka, 45, pulled into a parking lot but just circled through and exited back on state Route 2 after Washington State Patrol Trooper Chad Kindler tried to stop him for driving without a front license plate.

Trooper Tom Shirey joined in the pursuit and followed Motyka to another parking lot and attempted to stop the car with a PIT maneuver after Motyka struck his patrol car, according to WSP.

Motyka exited the car with his hands up, then drove to the ground and was arrested without further incident.

Motyka had methamphetamine, heroin and morphine on him, according to WSP. He was arrested on drug charges, as well as attempt to elude, hit and run, and driving while suspended.

He had warrants out for his arrest, including for failing to register as a sex offender. Motyka was convicted of third-degree rape in 1990. He's a level 1 sex offender, which is the classification considered least likely to reoffend.

Wallace’s co-defendant skips rehab, too

A co-defendant in the heroin trafficking case involving cop shooter Charles Wallace also left a drug rehab center after being released from jail.

Gary Erwin Douglass, 57, had second thoughts after leaving the center on Wednesday, so he contacted his lawyer and turned himself in at the federal courthouse within a few hours, said Bob Doty, supervisory agent with the U.S Marshals.

Douglass is now in the Spokane County Jail without bond. U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno allowed him to leave jail to go to rehab, just as she did with Wallace.

Douglass has a felony conviction for forgery from the late 1990s - hardly the extensive criminal history of Wallace, who shot himself to death Tuesday after shooting two sheriff's deputies.

Man arrested for helping cop shooter

A Spokane man shot in the leg during a home-invasion robbery last month was with a fugitive just before he opened fire on two sheriff’s deputies Tuesday.

Robert Lee “Bo” Ruth, 42, is in jail, accused of helping suspected heroin trafficker Charles Robert Wallace hide from law enforcement after Wallace walked away from court-ordered drug treatment in Spokane Valley.

Read the rest of my story here.

Woman, 87, describes fight w/ Wallace

Mary Rock waves her cane Wednesday as she stands in her backyard in front of a door, center, where she says Charles Wallace entered her home in north Spokane. (SRphoto/Tyler Tjomsland)

Mary Rock, 87, moved from Los Angeles to Spokane 10 years ago to escape the high rate of crime there.

But on Tuesday, she found herself in the middle of one of the biggest crime stories of the year, as a man suspected of shooting two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies broke down her back door, ripped her phone off the wall and demanded her car keys.

The petite woman put up a fight, wielding a heavy wooden cane and shouting for Charles Wallace to get out of her north Spokane house.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Spink, Northway seasoned deputies

Spokane County sheriff’s deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway have backed each other up on patrol in north Spokane County for six years, so it’s not too surprising the men were together when fugitive Charles Wallace opened fire on them Tuesday, wounding both.

The deputies, who are good friends outside of work, remain hospitalized but in stable condition. Spink, 45, (pictured left) suffered a single gunshot wound to his leg, police officials said. Northway, 42, (pictured right) took four bullets, including one that shattered a femur and another that blew away three inches of an artery in his arm.

Read the rest of Jody Lawrence-Turner's story here.

 

 


  

Wallace’s release baffles Knezovich

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The county’s top law enforcement officer expressed outrage Wednesday that a suspected heroin dealer facing his fourth stay in prison was released from jail just weeks before shooting two deputies in a gunbattle north of Spokane.

 Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich waved a thick packet detailing the extensive criminal history of 41-year-old Charles Robert Wallace (pictured) at a news conference, criticizing U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno’s order to release Wallace into a voluntary drug rehabilitation center.

“Mr. Wallace put this entire community at extreme risk,” Knezovich said. “I question why this individual was allowed to be on the streets of Spokane instead of being in jail where he should have been.”

Read the rest of the story here.\

View a photo gallery from Tuesday here.

Original story: Suspct kills self after two deputies shot

No stranger to controversial rulings

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno is no stranger to controversial rulings.

Imbrogno is the judge who released suspected cop shooter Charles R. Wallace from jail to attend drug treatment while awaiting trial on his latest heroin trafficking charges. Wallace almost immediately left the treatment program without returning to court, setting in motion the chain of events that led to Tuesday’s shootings.

It isn’t the first time Imbrogno’s pre-trial release decisions have drawn scrutiny.

Back in 2009, Imbrogno approved a temporary release for suspected drug dealer Terrence A. “T-Baby” Kinard so he could enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with his family — despite a long history of skipping out on promised court obligations. Among other things, Kinard had failed to appear for scheduled court hearings on 75 separate occasions.

And in 2010, she allowed Scott Nicholas Cassell, an accused marijuana peddler linked to a major distribution ring, to take a five-day family vacation to Disneyland in Southern California before returning to accept a plea bargain in the case.

Lawyers at the time defended Imbrogno as a tough but fair-minded judge: “She’s been on the bench long enough to know there’s reasons and people you have to take a chance on,” Spokane defense lawyer Mark Vovos said of Imbrogno back in 2010. “It depends on your background, your criminal history, your family support and things like that.”

Now, with two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies still hospitalized with gunshot wounds from a suspected heroin trafficker she let out of jail without bail, more questions are surfacing about Imbrogno’s pre-trial release rulings.

Imbrogno has not returned calls seeking comment, nor have prosecutors or the public defender assigned to Wallace’s federal case.

A 1979 cum laude graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law, Imbrogno was a 1970 honors graudate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she studied biology and chemistry. She was first appointed to the federal bench in 1991.

Unlike federal district judges who enjoy lifetime appointments, magistrates are appointed to eight-year terms. They are chosen by the district judges of the courts they serve. In Spokane, Imbrogno’s responsibilities include presiding over all initial court appearances of crime suspects, as well as bail and detention hearings.

3 Oregon men admit to Idaho pot grow

   Three Oregon men have pleaded guilty to growing large amounts of marijuana in Boundary County, Idaho.

Robert Wayne Baucum, 56, of Scio (left), Ronald Clifford Underwood (right), 55, and Raymond Earl Hogle, 50 (bottom left), both of Albany, grew marijuana in barns on property owned by Baucum in Naples, Idaho, from 2004 to 2011.

Hogle pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge in April. Baucum and Underwood pleaded guilty this week in Coeur d'Alene.

The men are to be sentenced July 17.

Co-defendants Justin Egner of Springfield, Ore., and Charles Goodenough of Willow, Alaska, are set for trial on July 17.

The case was investigated by the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office, the Idaho State Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Linn County Sheriff’s Office (Oregon), and the Alaska State Troopers.

Plea agreements and all other documents that might give details on the investigation have been sealed.

Kevin Ellison to stay in jail without bail

A pro football player who claims God told him to start a fire at his apartment complex in Liberty Lake will remain in jail amid concerns about his mental health.

Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, who was dismissed from the Spokane Shock arena football team after his arrest June 14, repeatedly claimed to be Jesus Christ, including to an elderly woman who was at the hospital when Ellison was treated for smoke inhalation, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed.

“He may have some mental issues,” Ahmed said.

Ellison also told Shock general manager Ryan Rigmaiden “that he was Jesus Christ, and that he was part of the rapture, and that God told him to start the fire,” Ahmed said. “He did not believe it (the fire) was going to harm him because God told him he'd protect him.”

Ellison told Rigmaiden he started the fire with a marijuana blunt.

Ellison, a former standout defense back for the University of Southern California Trojans, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a grand jury indictment charging him with malicious use of fire to damage commercial property. He faces five to 20 years in prison if convicted.

His public defender, Kim Deater, asked for Ellison to be allowed to leave jail and live with his mother and brother in Los Angeles, though she said they wants him to undergo mental health treatment.

“They think that might be an issue,” Deater said.

Deater described Ellison as “a good friend, a good teammate, a good son, a good player.”

She said his success in football shows he can work toward a goal with a large group of people.

“That takes cooperation, that takes a bond, and that takes character,” Deater said.

She also said Ellison did not tell the elderly woman at the hospital that he was Jesus - he simply grasped her hand and prayed with her.

But Imbrogno ordered Ellison to stay in the Spokane County Jail after Ahmed described a series of bizarre behavior that included statements from a Shock dancer who said she fears Ellison.

“She became afraid of Mr. Ellison after he texted her specifically that he was Jesus Christ,” Ahmed said.

The woman, who was not identified, also said Ellison asked her to marry him just moments after meeting her.

He said Ellison's roommate, Chris Tucker, told investigators that Ellison told him he'd been Baptized just a few days before the fire. Tucker also said Ellison had offered him Vicodin to ease his pain while at an away game in Chicago recently.

It was Tucker who first realized there was a fire in the apartment he shared with Ellison.

The defensive lineman for the Shock told investigators he first thought the smoke was from burning food. He even took the batteries out of the smoke detector in his bedroom before he realized the fire was coming from Ellison's room, Ahmed said. He alerted Ellison to the fire, but Ellison told him “I'm good.” and didn't leave.

Ellison escaped the fire by jumping from a window of the third-floor apartment. The fire caused about $100,000 in damage. Ahmed emphasized that children live next door to Ellison's apartment.

Ellison was drafted in the sixth round by the San Diego Chargers in 2009. He was released by the team following a May 2010 arrest in San Diego on a controlled-substance charge after police reportedly found 100 Vicodin tablets in his car without a prescription. The charges was dropped.

Ellison joined the Seattle Seahawks but was released shortly before the 2010 season opener.

Cop shooter robbed woman, 87, of car

A suspected heroin trafficker believed to have shot two sheriff's deputies stole an 87-year-old woman's car before he fatally shot himself during a police pursuit Tuesday.

Police said late Tuesday that the woman chased Charles Robert Wallace, 41, out of her house and hit him with a cane before Wallace, who was armed with a gun, stole her Honda Accord.

Wallace was driving that Honda Accord when he ran over spike strips, crashed into a Spokane police cruiser, then fatally shot himself.

Federal agents had been looking for Wallace since hearing he'd left a Spokane Valley drug rehabilitation center last week.

Two sheriff's deputies had stopped Wallace in an SUV when he shot them and fled west to the 9800 block of North Andrews, where he forced his way into the woman's home and demanded her keys.

He then drove north on Highway 395, where another wild chase ensued.

“This event was extremely dynamic and rapidly unfolding. Information was constantly being given to responding officers who continued to search for the primary suspect. Other individuals may have been involved, creating other locations within the City and the County to receive police attention,” according to a news release by Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

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

Coverage:

Police mistake hit-and-run suspects for shooting accomplices

Two sheriff's deputies shot; suspect kills self

Suspect recently left drug rehab center

Sex offender gets 8 years for child porn

A registered sex offender was sentenced to eight years in prison today for distributing child pornography.

John Patrick McClaren, 46, of Hayden Lake, is to be on probation for 15 years after his release.

The Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force began investigating McClaren in December 2009 after a Shoshone County sheriff's deputy learned his Internet Protocol address was involved in the distribution of child pornography online.

Investigators seized a laptop computer and two hard drives from his home in the 3100 block of East Cambridge Drive on Jan. 27, 2010, that contained at least 160 sexually explicit images of minors. One child was identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as being a sex abuse victim from New Hampshire, officials said.

McClaren was convicted of possessing child pornography in Kootenai County in 2001, according to the Idaho Sex Offender Registry.

He pleaded guilty in February to distributing child pornography that is an adapted or modified depiction of an identifiable minor and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Coeur d'Alene.
McClaren forfeited the computer and hard drives used in the crime.

“It is a priority of this office, and our law enforcement partners to target and prosecute anyone who collects or distributes child pornography,” Wendy Olson, U.S. attorney for Idaho, said in a prepared statement.  “We are firmly committed to protecting children.  This commitment includes advocating for lengthy prison sentences that reflect these horrendous criminal acts.” 

4th suspect arrested in ‘09 home robbery

A fourth suspect has been arrested in a gunpoint home-invasion robbery that occurred nearly three years ago.

Travis J. Kulhavy, 28, is accused of robbing four people at a home in the 500 block of East Garland Avenue on Oct. 8, 2009.

Co-defendant Brian L. Gilliam, 28, was sentenced to five years in prison last week.

He and Maurice D. Lofton, 31, (pictured) who pleaded guilty in May 2010 to felony riot, helped police identify Kulhavy and Nicole A. Thompson, 21, as the final suspects in the robbery during interviews in late December and in January.

Thompson pleaded not guilty to the charges in May and is out of jail awaiting an August trial. Kulhavy had been wanted on a $150,000 warrant since May 3. He was booked into the Spokane County Jail Friday afternoon.

The incident began when a woman believed to be Thompson knocked on the front door and asked to use a telephone. Two men then appeared and one used a handgun to strike a man who exited the home and force him back inside. That man was forced to kneel down on the floor in an “execution-style position” as his wrists and ankles were bound with duct tape, according to court documents.

Three other people in the home also were restrained with duct tape and two were beaten with handguns. The robbers asked about drugs and money as they stole a duffel bag of marijuana, as well as cell phones, DVDs, a PlayStation and jewelry.

Police tracked one of the phones to the area of 200 E. Wedgewood Ave. the night of the robbery, where they arrested Gilliam and Lofton.

Gilliam described one of his accomplices as a woman named NIkki who had a tattoo that said “GD” and included a pitchfork.

Thompson showed detective Jeff Barrington that tattoo during an interview in March. “GD” is short for Gangster Disciple. Thompson told Barrington she was present during the robbery but “I did no harm. I didn't hurt no one. Travis did everything. All I did was get the door open,” according to court documents.

Kulhavy and Thompson are charged with four counts of first-degree robbery, four counts of first-degree kidnapping, three counts of second-degree assault and single counts of first-degree burglary and conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary.

Lofton was given the plea deal after the victim failed to identify him in a police lineup. He told Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno at his sentencing that  “I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was messing around with the wrong friends.” Read more here.

DOC fugitive now accused of assault

A Spokane man arrested for violating his probation on a robbery conviction also is accused of a new assault. 

Christopher M. Prusch, 35, faces a second-degree assault charge for allegedly choking a woman and striking her during an argument at a home in the 5300 block of North Martin Street June 6.

The woman said she'd asked Prusch to leave her home when he attacked her. Police photographed “fingerprint size bruises on her throat,” according to court documents.

Prusch told police he hit the woman after he was pushed but denied choking her.

Prusch was arrested last Wednesday on a Department of Corrections warrant for escape from community custody.

He appeared in Spokane County Superior Court on the new assault charge Monday. His bond was set at $25,000, but even if he pays it he won't be release because of a DOC probation hold.

Prusch's criminal history includes convictions for second-degree robbery, intimidation of a public servant and hit and run.

A national sex offender registry website lists Prusch has having a conviction for third-degree rape in 1994, but he's no longer listed in the Spokane County sex offender registry.

The picture at the top right is from the national registry. The picture at left is Prusch's most recent DOC mug shot.

Man shot by Spokane police speaks out

Jesse Johnson scratches his head as he lies with a bandaged thigh in a hospital bed on Monday at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. (SRphoto/Tyler Tjomsland)

Jesse Hugh Johnson says he thought no one else was around when, armed with a BB gun, he confronted a suspected thief early Sunday.

The 24-year-old Spokane man realized a neighbor must’ve called police when a bullet struck the back of his upper right leg and police officers swarmed the area.

“I go to pull the trigger, they go and shoot me,” Johnson said Monday evening in an interview with The Spokesman-Review from his hospital bed at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. “They just kind of came out of nowhere.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Home-invasion suspect bragged to others

A Spokane man arrested for a May 31 home-invasion robbery had reportedly been bragging about his crimes, including to a woman who herself was a home-invasion victim.

David F. Smith, 40, remains jailed on $150,000 bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court Monday on charges of first-degree robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

Police arrested him Friday at an apartment in the 800 block of West Cora Avenue after a tipster told police Smith had been bragging about robbing people, including the home in the 1600 block of West Spofford Avenue on May 31.

The tipster told police she helped Smith get heroin and that he regularly carries a black handgun and “waves it around stating if people won't give him stuff, he will take what he wants,” according to court documents.

The apartment where Smith was arrested had been targeted in an invasion robbery on June 10 or June 11, police say.

The woman said Smith took her 1989 black Chevy Cavalier prior to the May 31 robbery. Victims in that robbery identified Smith as one of the gunmen.

A second suspect has not yet been arrested.

Investigators believe Smith may be involved in other home invasions, but they don’t believe he was involved in takeover-style robberies at a McDonald’s at 4647 S. Regal St. on May 25 and a Zip Trip at 1523 W. 10th Ave. on June 8.

Those robberies involved four men in ski masks with guns.

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

Reward for tips on 3 sex offenders

Three sex offenders classified as the least likely to reoffend are wanted by Crime Stoppers for failing to register.

 Jamie Bryantlee Sarazin, 25, (pictured left) was convicted in April 2010 of failing to register as a sex offender and was sentenced to 22 months in prison. A $25,000 warrant was issued May 22 for the new charge.

Sarazin's last known address was in the 0 block of South Adams Street in Spokane.

John Thomas Griffith, 30, (pictured right) was convicted of an out-of-state sex offense in May 2002.  He last gave an address in the 10000 block of East 4th Avenue in Spokane Valley.

 Phillip John Motyka, 45, (pictured left) was convicted of third-degree rape in 1990.

Motyka's criminal history also includes convictions for riot and drug possession. He last gave an address in the 8000 block of West Jensen Road in Cheney.

Sarazin, Griffith and Motyka are level 1 sex offenders.

Anyone with information the locations of either of the three is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Crime Stoppers also is offering a reward for tips on the location of two sex offender with lengthy criminal stories. Read more here.
  

Man faces 123 years in prison for guns

A convicted felon from Stevens County now faces a minimum of 123 years in prison after a jury found him guilty today of 21 felonies that were tied to the slaying last year of a Colville man.

Investigators believe was a botched burglary.The jury deliberated about three hours before finding Christopher G. Nichols, who turned 27 Thursday, guilty of nine counts of a felon in a possession of a firearm and nine counts of theft, burglary, auto theft and trafficking in stolen property in the first degree.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 8, 2012: 2 men get 25+ years in Colville murder

Sept. 26: Two more charged in Stevens County homcide

Aug. 2: Murder suspect may claim insanity

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

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

Assault suspect jailed on $1 mil. bond

An assault suspect charged in connection with a murder at a Spokane motel in November has been jailed on $1 million bond after police caught him returning from an out-of-state flight.

Stafone N. “Stix” Fuentes, 27, (pictured) is prohibited from traveling out of state under conditions imposed by a judge who approved a $250,000 bail after his arrest Feb. 1. Fuentes posted that bond Feb. 29.

The Spokane gang team arrested him Thursday at the Spokane International Airport as he returned from Las Vegas on a late-night flight.

Fuentes could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of second-degree assault for a wild fight Nov. 27 fight at the Quality Inn, 110 E. Third Ave., which led to the shooting death of aspiring rapper Jose J. “Junior” Solis, 21, of Moses Lake.

Another aspiring rapper, John A. “Lil Danger” Castro, 27, (pictured) was arrested just after the homicide and remains in jail on a second-degree murder charge. Castro faces life in prison if convicted under the state's three-strikes law because of his criminal history.

Fuentes' lengthy criminal history includes two convictions for strikes: second-degree assault and first-degree robbery. He also has been convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm.

He was jailed briefly last summer after news of his uncle’s murder outside a rap concert in Montana revealed to his probation officer that he’d left the state without permission.

Police still awaiting DNA in McGill murder

Police continue to investigate the stabbing death of a woman who was walking her dog near the Spokane River May 3 and say they have leads coming in frequently.

 “They are all being followed up on by a detective,” according to an email from Major Craig Meidl of the Spokane Police Department on Friday. “We are as engaged in this investigation as we have been since day one.”

Meidl said they still are awaiting results from DNA tests at the Washington State Crime Lab. He said he doesn't know why that DNA is taking longer than John Walsh's DNA sample took to process for the Patrick Gibson murder trial, but wrote that “one would also likely have to take into account current staffing levels at the DNA testing facility, backlog of current cases, types of tests to be completed, number of tests to be completed on same DNA, number of samples total to be tested.  This would just be an educated guess, as WSP has ultimate control over their schedule and how they prioritize.”

Meidl said police are intentionally not detailing all aspects of the investigation.

“We are mindful that suspects frequently watch and read the news. It would be imprudent to reveal aspects of this investigation that could potentially jeopardize the successful capture of the person involved in this,” Meidl wrote.

Sharlotte McGill, 55, died of stab wounds after she was attacked in the 1800 block of East South Riverton Avenue.

She was able to describe her attacker before she died: a black man in his 30s with a bad eye. No other details were given.

Past coverage:

May 9: Police seek public's help, but fear racial profiling

May 5: Homicide victim's daughter speaks out

May 4: Attacker fatally stabs woman

Suspect arrested in May 31 home robbery

Spokane police on Friday arrested a suspect in a May 31 gunpoint home-invasion  robbery.

David F. Smith, 40, is believed to have robbed a home in the 1600 block of West Spofford Avenue. Police say a resident was hit with a handgun, but no shots were fired.

Read the rest of my story here.

Racist beat up by own victim sentenced

A skinhead beat up by a black man he was harassing in North Idaho last year has been sentenced to three to five years in prison.

Judge Benjamin Simpson retained jurisdiction over Daren Christopher Abbey, which means he'll go through counseling with the Idaho Department of Correction and be back before Simpson within a year. Simpson will then decide if he should go to prison.

Abbey, 29, pleaded guilty to malicious harassment, Idaho's hate-crime law, said Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh.

Abbey was arrested July 3 after he followed Marion L. Baker from J.D.'s Resort in Bayview at Lake Pend Oreille and told him he didn't belong there because he was black.

Baker left, but Abbey followed and yelled racist taunts as witnesses watched. Baker, clad in a “Spokane Boxing Club champion” shirt punched Abbey unconscious after Abbey poked him in the chest.

The plea deal approved last December dropped a malicious harassment and assault charge that stemmed from Abbey engaging in similar conduct with a corrections officer at the Kootenai County Jail who is Latino.

Retired Spokesman-Review reporter Bill Morlin covered Abbey's sentencing for the Southern Poverty Law Center. He reports that Abbey told Simpson, “I probably did make the wrong decision, and the result of that is I got beat up pretty bad.” Check out Morlin's full report here.

Chief OKs probe into alleged misconduct

Spokane County Jail inmate Justin Anest is pictured in 2006. He filed a federal civil rights lawsuit for a 2004 beating in the county jail. He claims to have been beaten again over the weekend in September 2006. The lawsuit was dismissed. Anest filed the complant that led to the dispute between the ombdusman and interim police chief. (SRarchives)

A disagreement between the interim Spokane police chief and the ombudsman about how a police misconduct allegation should be investigated has been resolved after witnesses came forward with new information.

A meeting scheduled last Friday between Interim Chief Scott Stephens, Ombudsman Tim Burns and Mayor David Condon never happened because Stephens informed Condon of his intention to investigate the accusation that police bruised a woman’s arms while handcuffing her at her home in early April.

Read the rest of my story here, which includes comment from the complanient, Justin Anest, and information on his background.

Spokane gang team arrests 2 fugitives

The gang team arrested two men this week in Spokane for violating their probation on violent crimes.

Christopher M. Prusch, 35, (pictured left) was booked into jail Wednesday on a Department of Corrections warrant for escape from community custody, Spokane police Officer Matt Rose said today.

His lengthy criminal history includes convictions for second-degree robbery, intimidation of a public servant and hit and run.

 A national sex offender registry website lists Prusch has having a conviction for third-degree rape in 1994, but he's no longer listed in the Spokane County sex offender registry.

Later on Wednesday, the Spokane Violent Crime Gang Enforcement Team also assisted Department of Corrections officers in arresting Ismael M. Tarango, 35, of Walla Walla, for a DOC escape warrant.

Tarango (pictured right) is a convicted killer with convictions for first-degree burglary and second-degree murder from the 1990s. He also was booked into jail.

Killer in hotel trashing left prison in ‘11

A convicted killer accused of trashing a Spokane Valley motel while celebrating he and his wife's anniversary was released from prison just 15 months ago.

Danial Caleb Peters, 38, murdered Melissa Mae Wageman, 40, on  Dec. 22, 1995, after smoking crack cocaine. He told police he didn't member beating the woman to death with 4-foot pipe but awoke to find her bloody body nearby.

The circumstances are similar to what Peters' public defender, Mike Elston, said apparently happened Tuesday night at the Pheasant Hill Inn, 12415 E. Mission Ave., in Spokane Valley.

Peters “claims a drug-educed paranoid episode” led to him destroying the room he and his wife, Danielle Lea Wozniak, 27, returned to celebrate their one-year anniversary, Elston said Thursday at Peters' appearance in Spokane County Superior Court.

Wozniak told police Peters destroyed the room after they used methamphetamine.

“I want everybody to know that I'm very sorry for the drug use that I did,” Wozniak said in court Thursday.

Peters told police “that he felt people were after him” and broke a water sprinkler in an attempt to get help, according to court documents.

He said Wozniak destroyed other items like a mirrors, lamps, air conditioner and phone, but Wozniak said it was Peters. Police responded about 6 a.m. and say the duo caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the hotel, which had recently been renovated.

Water damage from the sprinklers means only 28 of the hotel’s 104 rooms usable. Peters and Wozniak were booked into jail on a felony charge of first-degree malicious mischief. They married in March, Wozniak said.

Wozniak's criminal history includes a single misdemeanor conviction two years ago. Judge Annette Plese ordered her to stay in jail unless she posts $2,500 bond.

Plese set Peters' bond at $5,000 and told him she had “really serious concerns about your criminal history.”

Peters said he has a “very good job” at a construction company that was set up through a church.
The couple was staying with Peters' mother, according to court testimony, but she told court officials they are no longer allowed there.

Peters was sentenced to 17 years in prison in February 1996, but his conviction and scores of others were overturned in 2004 because the Washington Supreme Court ruled the second-degree murder law was defective. He was re-sentenced in 2005.

Wageman met up with Peters while celebrating her 40th birthday at the Happy Time Tavern, 3506 N. Division St. She was killed at a nearby home where Peters had been staying with his his older gay lover after smoking marijuana and crack cocaine. Peters then used his lover's truck to take Wageman’s body to a friend’s house in Stevens County. Upon arrival, the friend handed Peters a phone so he could turn himself in.

Peters didn't deny killing Wageman but said he didn't remember doing so. Wageman was a single mother who was raising a son who, at the time, was an honor student and musician at Shadle Park High School.

Peters finished his sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla in January 2011 and still is completing his two-year probation term, according to the Washington Department of Corrections.
  

Shock player: God told me to start fire

A pro football player who leapt from his burning third-floor apartment in Liberty Lake Thursday said he started the blaze with a marijuana blunt because God told him to, authorities say.

 Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, a starting linebacker/defensive back for the Spokane Shock arena football team, initially told firefighters that he’d been smoking in bed, but evidence collected at the scene didn’t match that explanation, said Spokane Valley Fire Marshal Kevin Miller.

Read the rest of the story here.

Final kidnapping suspect sentenced

The final of five suspects pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping in connection with a case where a woman was tied up in a Spokane hotel and had her head shaved before being dumped in a rock pit by her assailants.

Desiree N. Walling, 31, pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping as part of an Alford plea, which acknowledges prosecutors could likely prove the charge. She also agreed to plead guilty to first-degree and second-degree trafficking in stolen property as part of a separate sentence that will run at the same time as the kidnapping incarceration: 51 months.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

May 13, 2011: Five accused of kidnapping, torture

2 accused of flashing at Ill. golf course

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Two Missouri women are accused of showing off more than their putting skills at a southwestern Illinois golf course.

Madison County Sheriff's Capt. T. Mike Dixon says investigators responded to complaints of lewd behavior Monday at the Woodlands Golf Course in Foster Township and saw the women displaying their breasts.

Now, authorities in Madison County have charged 45-year-old Shelly Lewis and 43-year-old Alicia Binford of O'Fallon, Mo., with public indecency.

Binford and Lewis couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. Binford's home telephone number has been disconnected. Lewis hasn't returned a message left at her home. Court records don't show if they have an attorney.

Both women are free on bond.

Tourism tweets tout Sandusky trial

SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio tourism board tweet meant to promote a Father's Day deal in the Lake Erie town of Sandusky instead directed followers to news about the sex abuse trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

 The tweet was sent out this week by the Lake Erie Shores & Islands tourism office. It included the hash tag “Sandusky”.

Hash tags are created by Twitter users to help others find tweets on specific topics.

Anyone who clicked on the “Sandusky” hash tag got the latest updates from the Pennsylvania trial, not the town known for its waterfront location and the Cedar Point amusement park.

Tourism office director Joan Van Offeren says they won't be using the Sandusky hash tag again until well after the trial ends.

Nationwide manhunt for NY surgeon

Law enforcement officers search the at home of Dr. Timothy Jorden in Hamburg, N.Y., Thursday. Jorden is sought in connection with the hospital shooting death of his ex-girlfriend at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, N.Y. on Wednesday.

Update from the AP: A body found in thick brush Friday morning is believed to be that of a special forces soldier-turned-trauma surgeon who was the subject of a nationwide manhunt after the killing of his ex-girlfriend at a hospital, police said.

CAROLYN THOMPSON,Associated Press
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Surgeon Timothy Jorden saved the lives of patients with gunshot wounds, lived in a big home by Lake Erie and owned four vehicles. He was a product of a working-class neighborhood who became an Army officer before coming home to earn his medical degree.

Now the healer is linked to a killing.

Police across the country were on the lookout Thursday for the 49-year-old trauma surgeon in connection with the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend in a building at the Buffalo hospital complex where they both worked. Police say the former Army weapons expert may be armed and should be considered dangerous.

“He was an excellent surgeon. He saved so many lives. For him to take one is unreal,” said a stunned June DuPree, a neighbor of Jorden's in an exclusive cluster of homes on a lakefront bluff.

But she and others also said the affable and accomplished doctor seemed different lately — thinner, not quite as friendly and less meticulous about appearances. Friends of the victim, meanwhile, offered glimpses of a much darker side.

“I saw him at the beginning of the season and noticed how much weight he had lost,” DuPree said. “He said, 'Yeah, I lost a little bit.' But it was more than a little bit. It was a lot. He wasn't too friendly that time I saw him. He just didn't want to talk.”

The search for Jorden began Wednesday morning when 33-year-old Jacqueline Wisniewski was found shot to death in a stairwell on the campus of the Erie County Medical Center. Police say she was shot four times.

Heather Shipley, a friend of Wisniewski, told WIVB-TV that Wisniewski feared Jorden and that he wouldn't let go after she left him because she believed he was having affairs with other women.

She said Wisniewski told her the doctor had put a GPS tracking device in her car and once held her captive in her home for a day and a half, wielding a knife.

“She told me if anything happened to her, that it was him,” Shipley told the station.

Jorden had been involved in two domestic incidents in neighboring Cheektowaga in 2003, police Capt. James Speyer said. He said he couldn't release details but that the incidents did not involve Wisniewski.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda on Thursday called Jorden “a person of interest” in the administrative assistant's death and said a nationwide alert had been issued advising police agencies that he was wanted for questioning. Officers combed through the grounds outside his home and for a second day, an Erie County Sheriff's helicopter circled overhead.

At one point, police dogs were seen near a ravine and neighbor Tom Wrzosek told The Associated Press he'd reported hearing a single shot around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, which he initially dismissed.

“Then my girlfriend mentioned if he committed suicide, someone would have heard it,” he said. “That kind of rang a bell.”

Derenda said all of Jorden's vehicles were accounted for and investigators were certain he had not crossed the nearby border into Canada.

“He's out there somewhere,” he said.

The search comes after a lifetime of achievement for the divorced father of a grown son.

Jorden had been profiled in The Buffalo News as a homegrown success story in 1996 and was among those honored with Buffalo's Black Achievers in Industry award in 2002. As a surgeon at the city's main trauma hospital, he worked long hours and was always ready to respond to a hospital emergency when his cellphone rang.

In his Lakeview neighborhood south of Buffalo, Jorden was described as a friendly neighbor with a busy schedule. Neighbors said he clearly spent a lot of money to keep the grounds of his white, gabled home by the lake manicured and lush.

Things changed dramatically this spring.

Jorden's bushes became overgrown, his grass grew knee-high and a kitchen remodeling job was halted. Jorden, a big man, had lost dozens of pounds. Neighbors thought he was sick.

“He had a lot of money invested in his house and the landscaping. And when I came back from Florida in May, it was really neglected. I was just shocked,” said Wrzosek, the neighbor.

“We presumed he was sick, that maybe he had some sort of major ailment,” Wrzosek said.

“He was sick,” he said. “But not in the way we thought he was sick.”

Jorden joined the National Guard in high school, went into the Army after graduation and served with the Army's Special Forces, first as a weapons expert, then as a medic, according to the News.

“Everybody's been made aware of his training and background,” Derenda said, “so when individual officers approach him, they'll take proper precautions.”

Jorden later attended the University at Buffalo's medical school and did residencies at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., and the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Derenda declined to speculate on whether he may have returned to those areas.

___

Associated Press Writer Michael Hill in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.

Fugitive’s wig, dyed hair don’t deter cops

A fugitive wanted on heroin charges was arrested this week after a U.S. Marshal spotted him at a home in Spokane disguised in a blond wig.

Frisco San Juan Ayala, 32, was wearing the wig when federal agents observed him placing backpacks inside two vehicles between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday, according to court documents filed today.

About 9:45 a.m., Ayala got into a gray Dodge truck but crashed into another vehicle at the intersection of East Empire Avenue and North Napa Street, then fled on foot, leaving behind a black pistol, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

He was arrested near Napa and East Gordon Avenue with more than 10 grams of methamphetamine, as well as heroin and “numerous suspected precious gems,” documents say.

Ayala was not wearing the wig at the time, but his hair was dyed and investigators found the wig in the cab of the truck, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Bob Doty.

Ayala is described by federal agents as a “mid- to upper-level drug trafficker in the Spokane area,” according to court documents.

Agents searched the home in the 2100 block of E. Heroy Ave., where Ayala had been spotted that morning, and seized a meth pipe, ammunition and hair dye from the home. The homeowner has a felony crack cocaine distribution conviction from the late 1990s.

Ayala had been wanted since April 18 for a federal case involving the alleged distribution of at least 100 grams of heroin.

Gary Erwin Douglass, 57; Charles R. Wallace, 41; Samuel William Wright, 36; Brian L. Sellers, 35; and James Clayton Lindsay, 57, also are charged.

Charges against Julie A. Rice-Lewis, 38, and Chad Jason Benefield have been dismissed.

Cash targets unregistered sex offenders

Two Spokane sex offenders with lengthy criminal histories are wanted by Crime Stoppers for failing to register.

Jeremiah Kevin Johnson, 33, was convicted of first-degree child molestation in 1990 and 2006.

He's already failed to register as a sex offender at least once - he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation in 2009.

Johnson (pictured left) also has convictions for assault and unlawfully possessing guns. He last gave an address in the 0 block of East Courtland Avenue in Spokane.

Joining Johnson on the Crime Stoppers fugitive list is Lamonte William Lindsay, 46, (pictured right) who has more than 40 criminal convictions as an adult, including at least eight for assault.

Lindsay was convicted of third-degree rape in 1989. He has previously failed to register as a sex offender. He last gave an address in the 300 block of W. 2nd Ave., but the online sex offender registry says he currently is a transient who's required to check in with authorities every week.

He's been wanted since May 22 on a $15,000 warrant.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to their arrests. Anyone with information either man's location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Spokane County lists all non-compliant sex offenders. Check out the website here.

Car could hold clues in home invasion

Police are hoping fingerprints or DNA on a car stolen in a home-invasion robbery will help them identify suspects.

Officers found the 1997 Honda Civic stripped of its tires and wheels near West Gordon Avenue and West Glass Avenue in Spokane after it was stolen during a robbery at 2918 N. Hogan St., on June. 6.

The victim said a man he knew only as “Nike” arrived at his home with two men, including one who was holding a sawed-off shotgun. The gunman yelled “Where's the money? Where's the drugs?” and trashed the apartment as Nike and the other man also brandished guns, according to a search warrant filed this week. Police used the warrant to swab the Honda for possible fingerprints or DNA.

Another occupant of the apartment was pistol whipped. His roommate said he was robbed of $50, two laptops, a PlayStation 3 and stereo speakers.

It's unclear if the robbery is connected to other recent robberies, but the method of operation and suspects' descriptions is somewhat similar to that of a take-over style robbery that occurred at McDonald's, 4647 S. Regal St., May 25.

In that case, four men with ski masks targeted customers and employes with black semiautomatic handguns and a sawed-off, single-barrel shotgun. Detectives suspect that robbery may be connected to a take-over home-invasion robbery that occurred May 30 in the 4400 block of East 46th Avenue.

Another robbery involving four men in ski masks occurred early Friday, June 8, at the Zip Trip at 1523 W. 10th Ave., on the South Hill. Employees said the store was robbed at gunpoint by two white men and two Hispanic men wearing dark clothes and ski masks. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Duo arrested for mall-related crimes

A woman and man arrested at the Spokane Valley Mall with stolen credit cards led to an investigation into a series of property crimes.

Tabitha Dawn Creel, 30, and John Andrew Howard, 29, are accused of buying gift cards with stolen credit cards, then trying to return the gift cards for cash.

Howard and Creel was arrested at the mall May 30 after allegedly trying to use a stolen credit card. Creel told deputies she's a heroin addict, and police found heroin in her purse as well as a digital scale.

She said she often pawned stolen items for Howard that included guitars, laptops and an air compressor.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office burglary task force completed an investigation into the duo Tuesday that calls for them to be charged with 26 felonies, including vehicle prowling, possession of stolen property, money laundering, trafficking in stolen property, possession of a deadly weapon, possession of heroin, identity theft and forgery.
  

Suspect arrested in fitness center thefts

Detectives have identified a suspect in a series of thefts at fitness centers in Spokane and Kootenai counties.

James D. Tilley, 28, was arrested Tuesday on 16 felony charges related to gym locker break-ins and car prowlings at gyms across the region, including at Spokane Community College and Whitworth University. Other agencies, including police in Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene, are investigating similar incidents.

Detective Mark Stewart believes Tilley would steal items from lockers, including car keys that he'd use to prowl vehicles in the parking lot. Stolen items included jewelry and a gun that has been recovered.

Cour documents say the formal charges relate to break-ins at the Valley Fitness Center, 14210 E. Sprague Ave., on March 10, April 5, April 13 and May 8 and Global Fitness, 9233 E. Montgomery Ave., on April 19 and May 17, as well as thefts at the Whitworth University men's aquatic center on April 25.He's also accused of breaking into a car at Whitworth on May 11, then pawning a laptop he'd stolen.

Police identified Tilley as a suspect after an employee at Global Fitness obtained the license plate of the thief's car on May 17, and police traced it to the mother of Tilley's girlfriend.

A sheriff's deputy realized TiIley matched the description of the thief, and witnesses identified Tilley through a photo montage.

Stewart connected Tilley to the use or attempted use of stolen credit cards and also viewed surveillance video from the Zip Trip at West 10th Avenue and South Maple Street that showed Tilley arriving at the location with a backpack just before a citizen found backpack there with stolen wallets and other items taken in the gym thefts.

Police are recommending Tilley's girlfriend, Lindsay K. Nickerson, 27, who they believe drove Tilley to and from many of the break ins, also be charged. She has not yet been arrested.

Mobster’s girlfriend may appeal sentence

By DENISE LAVOIE,AP Legal Affairs Writer
BOSTON (AP) — The day after the longtime girlfriend of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping him while he was on the run, her lawyer filed a notice in court saying she may appeal.

The one-paragraph document filed in federal court Wednesday says Catherine Greig (pictured) claims her right to appeal to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Though the notice mentions an appeal of the conviction, attorney Kevin Reddington said she is not planning to. The notice can be withdrawn if she decides not to appeal her sentence.

Greig, 61, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud and conspiracy. She admitted she helped Bulger while he was a fugitive, using false identities, accompanying him to medical appointments and picking up his prescriptions.

Reddington said that Greig was in love with Bulger when she fled Boston with him in 1995 and that she did not believe he was capable of the murders he is accused of committing.

Greig's twin sister wrote in a pre-sentencing letter to the judge that Greig deserved leniency because she “never possessed an evil bone in her body” and wasn't involved in any crimes attributed to Bulger.

Margaret McCusker's letter to U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock said Bulger was charismatic and had “a certain power over people” but added, “I cannot speak to exactly why she left with him.”

McCusker wrote that her sister grew up in a family affected by their father's alcoholism and always “had a sense of duty to care for people.

“She has touched many with her kind acts, and her love for animals is unsurpassed,” McCusker wrote in the letter, unsealed Wednesday.

She said she did not know whether her sister was alive during the time she was gone with Bulger, who's in his 80s.

Bulger and Greig were apprehended in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif. They posed as married retirees from Chicago and had a stash of more than $800,000 in cash and 30 weapons in their apartment when they were captured.

On Tuesday, the judge sentenced Greig to eight years in prison, below the 10-year sentence recommended by prosecutors but well above the 27-month sentence recommended by her attorney.

Bulger, the former leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang and an FBI informant, has pleaded not guilty to charges of participating in 19 murders. He awaits trial.

Under federal rules of appellate procedure, a defendant must file a notice of appeal within 14 days after sentencing. If Greig didn't file the notice, she would be barred from ever considering an appeal, so the notice is a safeguard.

Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, said it is Greig's right to appeal.

Past coverage:

June 29: Case continues against 'Whitey' Bulger

June 24: Boston mob boss hid in plain sight

Ego-driven sex abuse suspect arrested

A man who wanted to prove to his ex-girlfriend that he wasn't a child molester instead was arrested on a child sex abuse warrant after contacting a Spokane County sheriff's deputy Tuesday in Deer Park.

Jesse A. Smith, 20, apparently did not know of a felony warrant out of Jerome, Idaho, for three counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16 years old when he contacted sheriff's Deputy Dan Dutton Tuesday about 7:45 p.m.

Dutton was responding to an unrelated domestic situation at a home when Smith knocked on the door and asked to speak to him.

Smith asked Dutton to check his criminal history because his ex-girlfriend sent him a text message accusing him of being a child molester, and he wanted to prove her wrong, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Smith said he would wait by Dutton's patrol car until Dutton was finished at the home. Dutton checked Smith's criminal history and confirmed Smith in fact did have a $75,000-bond warrant that essentially accuses him of being a child molester.

He was booked into the Spokane County Jail on the warrant. He remained there this afternoon awaiting transport to southern Idaho.

Cops remark on meth suspect’s honesty

Police in Spokane Valley remarked on the honesty of a man after he admitted he had a glass pipe and bag of methamphetamine in his pocket.

Christopher Joseph Nordby, 47, was standing next to a car holding a screw driver near East Valleyway Avenue and North Mullan Road Tuesday about 7:45 p.m. when sheriff's Deputy Juan Rodriguez stopped and told him he looked suspicious.

Nordby told him it was his car and he was working on the carburetor, but he didn't have anything to verify the car was his. Rodriguez asked him if he had a suspended license and Nordby, who was described as very nervous, aid he thought he did and also thought he had a warrant for drunken driving.

Rodriguez verified his license was suspended and handcuffed Nordby. Nordby then told him about the glass pipe and methamphetamine. He was booked into jail for felony meth possession.

Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office, wrote a news release about the arrest and headlined it “Honest Valley Man Arrested For Meth.”

Homeowner spots suspected prowlers

A Spokane Valley homeowner spotted two suspected prowlers looking at his car early today, leading police to arrest a suspect.

The man opened the front door to his home in the 2800 block of South Davis Road after seeing two men - one with a flashlight - looking into his Subaru Legacy about 2:30 a.m.

The men ran west from the home. The homeowner said he saw them start looking into other vehicles because they through he'd stayed at his home. The man's wife called 911, and Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Dale Wells searched the area of 13500 East Redlin Road, where the man said he'd last seen the prowlers.

Wells found Jacob S. Mager, 24, hiding between two gardens inside a fenced yard. Others deputies arrived and Mager was arrested without incident.

The homeowner identified Mager as one of the men he'd seen at his Subaru. Mager told Wells “he was walking with his friend “Mike” and had no idea “Mike” was prowling vehicles, according to the sheriff's office.

A woman who owns the yard where Mager was hiding told Wells she wants to pursue trespassing charges against him, so Mager was booked into jail on a count of second-degree trespass. He already posted bond and is out of jail.

Man accused of robbing local pharmacy

A 30-year-old man has been arrested for robbing a north Spokane pharmacy of Oxycodone.

Paul Raymond Hunt, Jr., was arrested Monday for the June 5 robbery at Rite Aid, 12420 N. Highway 395.

Pharmacy employees identified him as the man who showed up at the store in a black baseball cap and sunglasses and slid one of them a note demanding Oxycodone. A pharmacist handed him a bottle of the drug, but he told him he knew there was more and waited for another bottle, according to court documents.

The pharmacist said he asked the man “are you sure you want to do this? There are cameras everywhere,” and the man replied “Just do it or something really bad will happen,” according to court documents.

Sheriff's deputies obtained surveillance video of the robbery. It's unclear how they identified Hunt as a suspect. He already was in jail on a residential burglary, drug and theft of a firearm charges after an arrest on Saturday. He appeared in Superior Court Tuesday on a charge of second-degree robbery.

2 cars crash on tracks in wild chase

A wild car chase on Sunday ended in a father and son's vehicles crashing off railroad tracks into trees and a suspected thief getting away, police said Tuesday.

Authorities are asking for tips on the car thief, who they say stole a car from a Spokane Valley home then ditched it near East 16th Avenue and South Dishman-Mica Road after being pursued by the owner and his father.

The father had moved his son's car about 4:30 a.m. because it was partially blocking his vehicle. He left the keys in the ignition, then went inside to wait for his car to start because of a problem with its alarm system, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

He looked out the window to see his son's vehicle being driven north on South Dishman Road. He and his son got in his car and gave chase north on Dishman to East 8th Avenue, where the car thief began driving south on railroad tracks and they followed.

The car thief and the father-son team lost control of the cars and drove into a group of trees just south of 16th, where the suspect ran north on Dishman and the victims lost sight of him.

He's described as a white man, about 6-feet-tall and wearing a blue shirt and black pants. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

911 call in homeowner shooting released

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911

In this file photo, Doug Snarski, 55, stands at the top of the stairs where he shot an intruder in his home last month. (SR/Jesse Tinsley)

A Newman Lake homeowner did nothing wrong when he shot his girlfriend’s ex to death after being threatened by him with guns last month, prosecutors say.

Spokane County prosecutors said Tuesday that no criminal charges will be filed against Doug Snarski, 55, for the homicide of Sean Parsons on May 13.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

May 15: Man shoots, kills armed intruder

WARNING: THE 911 CALL POSTED ABOVE CONTAINS CRUDE LANGUAGE AND GUN VIOLENCE.

Stoned-while driving case hangs, again

A second jury in nine months failed to agree Tuesday whether a Deer Park man’s marijuana use caused a fatal crash, highlighting the lack of accepted standards to determine when motorists should be considered too stoned to drive.

A Spokane County jury deliberated only about seven hours before announcing the impasse Tuesday in the vehicular homicide trial of Jonathon P. Bales, 22, who caused the fatal crash on July 26, 2010, that severed the leg and killed 54-year-old Rene Blaume.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 6: Driving while stoned is focus of trial

Sept. 21: Jury deadlocked in fatal scooter crash
  

Spokane man guilty of tire-iron attack

A jury of seven men and five women found a Spokane man guilty Tuesday of attacking a refugee from Iraq with a tire iron during a gruesome attack that left the victim with severe head injuries.

Sentencing has not yet been set, but 25-year-old Grant T. McAdams faces somewhere between 17 and 22 years in prison after he was convicted of first-degree assault and first-degree robbery for the May 9, 2011, attack that nearly killed an Iraqi man who had come to the United States as a refugee after helping the U.S. military.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 6: Tire iron assault trial begins

May 24, 2011: Tire iron assault, car theft leads to assault

Insurance agent gets 2 years for fraud

A former insurance agent and executive director of the Spokane Food Bank has been sentenced to two years in prison for fraud.

James K. Sokolis, 56, is to be on probation for three years after his release and pay about $356,000 restitution, which is the amount he admitted to stealing from a Coeur d'Alene insurance company.

Sokolis previously owned and operated Rockwood Insurance in Coeur d'Alene.
He sold his share of the business in August 2010 and was hired to work for the new company. He was fired after admitting to misusing client money.

Sokolis “had been juggling his clients’ funds for months, hoping to come up with enough money at the right time to bring all policies current,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer, Chris Bugbee.

He pleaded guilty in March to three counts of insurance fraud and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Coeur d'Alene.

Wendy Olson, U.S. attorney for Idaho, commended the sentence in a prepared statement.

“Today’s sentence sends a strong message that those who are entrusted with other people’s money have an obligation to act honestly and for the benefit of their clients,” she said.

Bugbee described Sokolis as a “very well-respected” professional who has devoted much of his life to community service.

In addition to leading the food bank, Sokolis coached and served on the board for Spokane Youth Sports for about 20 years. He also served two years on the board for the Seattle YMCA and spent six years as the youth director of his church, according to the sentencing memorandum.
  

DNA identifies suspect in 2011 robbery

DNA on a hat and gloves dropped by a man who robbed a Spokane Valley tavern owner last year has led authorities to identify a suspect.

 Isaiah P. Wandler, 32, is charged with first-degree robbery for a Feb. 13, 2011, attack outside Poppy's Tavern, 415 S. Dishman-Mica Road.

He's accused of robbing owner Donna O'Donnell of her purse and punching her in the face and knocking her to the pavement. The robber also stole her shopping bags, but police found them ditched outside a nearby trailer with the purse. Officers also found his red and gray jacket, black baseball hat and black gloves, which they believe he discarded when he saw them converge on the area.

While the move may have prevented the robber's arrest that day, police submitted the hat and gloves to the state crime lab for DNA testing.

The crime lab notified Spokane County Sheriff's Detective Mike Ricketts of a match to Wandler earlier this year.

He was already in jail in Kootenai County, Idaho, for violating his probation on a burglary case. Records show he failed to show up for a hearing about a month before he's accused of robbing O'Donnell. He was arrested in Idaho last June for the probation violation.

Now Wandler's in the Spokane County Jail on $100,000 after appearing in court Monday on the new robbery charge and a no-bond Department of Corrections warrant for a probation violation.

Report details Gibson’s criminal history

When a man now charged in the 1992 shooting death of a Spokane Valley businessman left prison in the last few years, his brother attended a community meeting defending him. 

Patrick Kevin Gibson's neighbors had been notified of his status as a level 3 sex offender, and Michael Gibson was trying to explain his past crimes and justify his presence in the community.

Michael Gibson told sheriff's detectives he specifically asked his brother if he'd ever killed someone “and Patrick said he had not,” according to a police report.

“Patrick did tell Michael that he was the mastermind of everything he had done and had always acted alone,” the report says. Michael told detectives that his brother liked to flash his money around and may have been attracted to the excitement of robberies.

Patrick Gibson, 60, (pictured) has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. His trial was temporarily halted Monday because of the last-minute discovery by prosecutors that “America's Most Wanted” host John Walsh and an actor had handled the killer's hat after it was left at the scene.

Detectives say Michael was emotional in May 2011 when he learned his brother had been arrested for the nearly 20-year-old homicide.

“His first response was that he would never see Patrick again and that he had placed his own reputation on the line to help Patrick,” according to the report.

Michael said he went to bat for Patrick with concerned neighbors and said he told him if he messed up again, he'd be the first to turn him in, police wrote. Gibson has spent most of adult life in prison.

In August 1978, he fired shots at a Utah highway patrolmen who tried to  stop him for a traffic violation as he drove with his wife and her two children.

In November, he and another inmate escaped from jail, stole a car and traveled to Nevada, where he and an accomplice robbed and raped two convenience store clerks. Gibson was arrested three days later near Vancouver B.C.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in May 1979 but paroled in March 1992, about seven months before Cole was murdered.

Police say Gibson worked at a phone company in Stanwood, Wash., as a voice and data man but traveled frequently without his probation officer's permission. He's believed to have committed robberies in Oregon that same year.

The robberies are similar to gunpoint attacks at a clothing store in Coeur d'Alene and Cole's murder, both which occurred on Nov. 7, 1992.

While prosecutors believe Gibson himself got away with murder for nearly 20 years, Gibson  says he's partly responsible for helping convict a major drug lord who nearly got away with the murder of five people in Iowa in 1993, including two girls, ages 6 and 10.

The situation led Gibson to become a member of the federal government's witness protection program and resulted in death sentences for Dustin Lee Honken, 44, (pictured in 2005 by the Associated Press) and Honken's girlfriend, Angela Johnson, 48, though Johnson's sentence was overturned on appeal because of ineffective counsel.

Gibson told Spokane County sheriff's Detective Michael Drapaeu he shared a prison cell with Honken when Honken bragged about killing government witnesses and executing a family that included children.

“I decided to do the right thing,” Gibson told Drapaeu, according to court records. “I just tried to make amends for my past wrongs.”

It's unclear how exactly Gibson assisted in the case, but media reports say authorities placed an experienced jailhouse informant, Robert McNees, in a cell with Johnson who was able to obtain a map of of the grave sites.

A jury recommended Honken be sentenced to death after a lengthy trial in Sioux City, Iowa, in 2004. News reports at the time say the bodies of his five victims, which included two girls, ages 6 and 10, were found in late 2000 after Johnson drew a map and gave it a jailhouse informant.

Honken, who Iowa news reports say introduced methamphetamine to the state in the early 1990s, already was serving a 27-year sentence for drug trafficking when the bodies were discovered. Gibson was serving a 12-year sentence for bank robbery.

Gibson told Drapeau he would need to be isolated at the jail because he is a protected witness. Drapeau said he informed the jail of that, according to court documents.

Judge won’t reverse medical pot rulng

A judge has refused to reverse a decision about a marijuana search that local law enforcement says could hinder their ability to investigate pot cases.

U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen said Monday that his decision to prohibit prosecutors from using marijuana plants and other evidence seized during a sheriff's search of a northeast Spokane County home last November stands.

Spokane lawyer Richard Wall, who represents one of five men indicted by a federal grand jury on marijuana charges, had written a motion asking Nielsen to suppress the evidence because police did not consider the Washington Legislature's overhaul of medical marijuana laws when they obtained a search warrant for the home.

“In this case they simply just did what they'd always done,” Wall said.

The Legislature had rewritten the law to state that using, growing or distributing marijuana in compliance with medical marijuana laws was not crime. Before July, it had been an affirmative defense - law enforcement could arrest users and make them prove their case in court.

The request from the U.S. Attorney's Office to reconsider the decision reiterated their previous argument that legislators did not intend to change the law when they rewrote it.

“The Court concurs with the Government that “it is axiomatic that plain language is to be given plain meaning and enforced accordingly,”” Nielsen wrote.  “Reading “use” to exclude possession, delivery, or manufacture would be in contravention to the entirety of the statute. It is impossible to imagine a scenario where a person could use without possessing. 

Further, the statute clearly indicates exactly how much a person can manufacture under the statute, so clearly the drafters anticipated that manufacture, under specific circumstances described by the statute, also is not a crime. Additionally, the statute permits a person to manufacture the medical marijuana for another, thus the statute addresses delivery of medical marijuana.”

A drug detective said the case could prohibit them from investigating suspected marijuana grows because it's difficult to establish whether someone's obeying medical marijuana laws.

Past coverage:

Feb. 14: Grand jury indicts men in marijuana grow

Nov. 21: 'Judge Judy' to feature Spokane pot defendant

Manslaughter charge in mother’s death

A Spokane man has been charged with manslaughter after investigators say he neglected his elderly mother while in a drunken stupor last year.

Glen Douglas Rosier, 67, left jail on $10,000 bond this weekend after his arrest on two felony charges for the death of his mother, Verna Rosier, 89.

Verna Rosier, 89, died at a hospital in February 2011 after family friend found her badly neglected inside his home at 1300 W. Woodside Place, where he’d cared for his ailing mother for 11 years, according to court documents.

The friend said Glen looked sick and made comments about wanting to hurt himself.

 She found his mother, who had heart disease, lying on her bedroom floor in urine-soaked clothes with dried blood on her body and bruises on her head.

“It’s just really sad,” Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Johnson said Monday. “He just went off the deep end, and his mom died.”

A sheriff’s deputy tried to interview Verna Rosier at the hospital but said she was unable to answer questions coherently. She died four days later.

Another sheriff’s deputy contacted Glen Rosier at the home, which he described as extremely cluttered, and said he was drunk and wearing only underwear and a tank top. Rosier told the deputy his mother often fell to the floor and that he sometimes tried to get her back in bed but often just covered her with a blanket and tried to make her as comfortable as possible, court documents allege.

He was taken into protective custody to undergo a mental evaluation.

Glen Rosier’s sister told investigators she and other family members tried to check on her mother several times but were denied access to the home by Glen.

Rosier is charged with second-degree manslaughter, with second-degree criminal mistreatment filed as an alternative charge. Johnson said the case went through several reviews by prosecutors before a charging decision was made.

Several members of Rosier’s family attended his court appearance and requested he be ordered not to contact them, which Superior Court Judge Annette Plese granted.

Rosier declined to speak with reporters.

Verna Rosier was born in Canada and moved to the U.S. in 1938, according to her obituary. Her obituary said she “entered the Irish universe” after her death and was “greeted by the entire clan waving four-leaf clovers and toasting a little Irish whiskey.”

Chronic DUI suspect Crabtree sentenced

A chronic drunken driving suspect who badly injured a sheriff's deputy in a crash about 10 years ago has been sentenced to two years in prison on drug charges.

James Lee Crabtree, 51, is in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison after being sentenced to 24 months for possession of a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance.

He was sentenced last month to a year in jail and two years probation for a felony DUI charge.

Crabtree was a Spokane County sheriff's deputy in the 1980s. He went to prison for vehicular assault in 2003 and was arrested in November 2011 on suspicion of drunken driving after motorists noticed him passing out at the wheel of his car.

Police found an open can of Four Loko in the car, but his blood-alcohol level was under the legal limit for driving, and he was never charged. His current convictons stems from drunken driving and meth arrests in April and July.

In January, Crabtree was assaulted in a home-invasion robbery in which two assailants demanded “dope and money,” according to court documents.

Judge in DNA case: ‘I got it wrong’

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen said today that her misunderstanding of how DNA evidence was handled led her to initially make the wrong decision about whether it can be used in a murder suspect's trial.

  Eitzen originally was going to prohibit prosecutors from mentioning the presence of DNA from “America's Most Wanted” host John Walsh (pictured right) and actor Trevor St. John unless defense lawyers opened the door for the testimony by questioning the DNA profile of the hat.

But she made that decision under the erroneous belief that the DNA sample from the hat that was tested in 2004 was taken before Walsh and St. John handled the hat. That wasn't the case.

She reversed her decision Thursday, prompting John Whaley, defense lawyer for suspect Patrick Kevin Gibson (pictured left), to file a motion asking her to reconsider, which she denied to do today.

Gibson is charged with first-degree murder for the Nov. 7,1992, shooting death of Valley furniture store owner Brian Cole.

Eitzen today delayed the rest of the trial until July 10 to allow for lawyers to prepare for the newly discovered DNA evidence from Walsh, St. John, and the detective who handled the case. Read much more here.

Eitzen spoke candidly today about her original lack of understanding.

“I just got it wrong,” she said.

“This isn't about retesting the hat,” she said. “It's about for the first time getting the DNA profiles of others who touched it. I did not understand that sequence the first time I rule on this issue.”

“Those profiles are in evidence and I'm going to be really curious what the experts say,” she continued.

She said Whaley's motion implied that she did understand and simply changed her mind.

“I appreciate Mr. Whaley's kindness in thinking I did understand what was going on that day. Because I did not,” she said.

“And that happens,” Eitzen continued. “And courts have to be able to say 'we mad mistake' and reverse themselves. Because it happens everyday. We reverse ourselves on evidentiary rulings every day.”

She said the issue does not warrant a mistrial.

“There has been no prosecutorial misconduct,” she said. “No ineffective assistance of counsel…I don't want to over speak, but these counsels are on the top end of prepared and diligent for criminal cases that I've tried.”

Feds: Pilot lands in Spokane while drunk

A commercial pilot was drunk when he landed a plane at the Spokane International Airport in April, federal prosecutors allege.

Paul Robbin Roessler, of Federal Way, is to appear in U.S. District Court in Spokane June 29 for a charge operating a common carrier under the influence of alcohol, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

The charge alleges Roessler flew a twin engine PA-34 aircraft for Airpac Airlines, Inc., from Boeing Field in Seattle to the Spokane airport while drunk on April 26.

A federal grand jury indicted him last week. Airport spokesman Todd Woodward directed questions to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which has not immediately returned a phone call.

Federal aviation records say Roessler was a certified commercial pilot and flight instructor but that his certificates are no longer active.

A man who answered the phone for Airpac Airlines identified himself as Roger and declined comment. The company is described on its website as a a contract cargo operator based out of Boeing Field since 1976.
  

Ruling puts marijuana searches in limbo

A recent court ruling that deemed a drug raid illegal has raised questions about how law enforcement in Spokane County investigate marijuana growers.

Sheriff’s detectives had reason to believe marijuana was being grown at a northeast Spokane County home when they raided it Nov. 2, but they didn’t have reason to believe the growers were violating the state’s medical marijuana law – or at least they didn’t say they did when they got authorization from a local judge to search the home.

A federal judge ruled the search violated Washington’s recently expanded law governing medicinal marijuana and last week prohibited prosecutors from using marijuana plants and other items seized at the large grow house.

Now a federal grand jury indictment against five young men, two of whom have previous drug convictions, is in limbo, and drug detectives in Spokane are wondering how they’ll continue investigating marijuana growers.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 14: Grand jury indictments men in marijuana grow

Nov. 21: 'Judge Judy' to feature Spokane pot defendant

Thief hits Homeland Security officer’s car

A Spokane woman is accused of stealing a federal Homeland Security officer's passport and and using it to pawn two stolen rifles.

 Investigators identified Amanda Wayne Macklin, 23, as a suspect after finding her number in Double Eagle Pawn's phone records. They say she called the pawn shop on Nov. 21 asking if a passport could be used to sell items there, then went to the East Sprague Avenue store and sold the stolen guns for $475 using a passport belonging to Shannon L. Hart.

Hart was at Oz Fitness at 603 E. Holland in Spokane on Nov. 20 when someone prowled her vehicle and stole her Homeland Security identification card, her passport and a Sig Sauer .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, according to court documents.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms obtained surveillance video of a woman pawning the rifles, which were stolen in a burglary Nov. 21 at a home in the 12000 block of North Denver Street. Macklin's family members identified her as that woman, according to court documents. Macklin told them she dumped Hart's passport and pistol into a dumpster, investigators say.

Federal agents also obtained a recording of Macklin telling her mother in a phone call from the Spokane County Jail that she pawned the guns and burglarized other homes to support her and her sister's drug habit. Macklin and her sister, Jordan Newkirk, already are charged with several felonies for an alleged burglary ring.

In the Dec. 26 break-in, the thieves used a spring-loaded punch to break holes through a lower window at a home in the 100 block of West Falcon Avenue and stole thousands of dollars in jewelry, including a ring that contained the ashes of the homeowner's mother.

Police in Kent, Wash, had noted the unusual burglary tool in Macklin's Kia Spectra when they arrested her there four days before the burglary.

Spokane County sheriff's Detective Mark Newton noted in his report that he and his partner have been detectives for 45 years total and have never found anyone in possesses of such a device, which he said would shatter normal glass but didn't at the Falcon Avenue home because the glass was tempered.

“If one were to use such a punch on a normal piece of glass, the punch would shatter the glass leaving no indication a punch was used,” Newton wrote in court documents.

Macklin was charged in that case in March. Prosecutors filed six new gun and property crime charges May 25 for theft of Hart's passport. Then a federal grand jury indicted her last week on a charge of unlawful possession and barter and disposal of a stolen firearm and misuse o a passport for allegedly dumping Hart's gun and passport.

1 pound of heroin seized in Spokane

About a pound of heroin was found in a home near the Northtown Mall in Spokane today during a SWAT team raid that also seized assault rifles, motorcycles and $10,000.

 Daniel Edward Inwood, 53, was arrested at his home at 559 E. Crown Ave. after drug detectives and the Spokane police SWAT team arrived about 8:20 a.m.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for the home after a confidential informant bought heroin from the home on Tuesday.

Detectives were alerted to the home by an anonymous tipster who called Crime Check May 1 to complain about drug activity at the home.

A police sergeant told KHQ -TV that the heroin seized in the home was the most he'd seen in one place during his 28 years in law enforcement.

Police also found two assault rifles, a revolver, a shotgun, a pistol, gun sights and ammunition. Four of the motorcycles seized were Harley Davidsons from 1960, 1985, 1998 and 2007. Police also seized a 2004 Chopper, according to the search warrant.

Inwood has 12 felony convictions, including six for drug crimes. He walked away while on work release from Geiger Corrections Center at the Interstate Fairgrounds in 2003, which earned him a Budnick Award from Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark.

Split justices uphold murder convictions

In a split decision, the Washington Supreme Court has upheld the murder convictions against two Spokane men who were convicted in connection with the kidnapping, torture and execution-style killing of another man in 2005 over $800 worth of methamphetamine.

The court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the aggravated first-degree murder conviction of Theodore M. Kosewicz, 44, and felony murder conviction of Robert A. Brown, 47, who were both convicted of killing 25-year-old Sebastian Esquibel.

His badly decomposed remains were discovered on Jan. 16, 2006, under a wood pile. He was bound by jumper cables and shot in the head. Testimony indicated that he had been kidnapped and tortured for two days before he was killed.

While upholding the Kosewicz conviction, four justices dissented on the murder conviction against Brown after the Division III Court of Appeals earlier had dismissed the first-degree kidnapping convictions against both men.

Since Brown did not take part in the killing, four justices questioned the legal basis for his conviction and instead would have sent the case back to Spokane County for a new trial.
  

Tipster claims reward in Cowell murder

WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) — A man who wrote a letter pointing to Christopher Scott Wilson as the suspect in a Wenatchee slaying is claiming a reward of up to $38,000.

Theo A. Keyes wrote a letter to police telling them that Wilson (pictured) had once begun choking another girl. That led officers to take a DNA sample that linked him to the death of Mackenzie Cowell, a beauty school classmate.

The body of the 17-year-old was found along the Columbia River in February 2010 near Crescent Bar. She had been struck in the head, strangled and stabbed to death.

Wilson pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a plea deal and was sentenced May 23 to 14 years in prison.

The Wenatchee World reports (http://is.gd/xgnVFc ) the 32-year-old Keyes has already received a $2,000 reward from Cowell's mother.

232 arrested in ‘Operation Scattergun’

U.S Marshals arrested more than 200 people on felony charges throughout Eastern Washington this week.

Members of the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force worked with local agencies to target felony warrants with a focus on the Spokane, Tri-Cities and Yakima regions.

Among the 232 felony arrests, 34 were for warrants for not complying, 53 were warrants through the Washington Department of Corrections. Thirty-six people were arrested Thursday, 85 were arrested Wednesday and 111 were arrested Tuesday.

Notable fugitives include Eugene Elkins, 56, who is accused of killing his wife in Grays Harbor County, Chad Jackson, 25, for two counts of third-degree rape of a child, and Rogelio Rivera, 28, who's been wanted since September for unlawfully possessing a sawed-off shotgun.

Federal agents called the arrest sweep “Operation Scattergun II.” The first operation last June netted 177 arrests.

Cops: Teen decks school resource officer

An 18-year-old man punched a school resource officer who confronted him for trespassing at North Central High School on Wednesday, police say.

Officer Paul Corrick said he recognized Henry Ivory Jones as a former student when he saw him inside the school at 1600 N. Howard St., about 2:25 p.m.

He said he was walking him out of the school when Jones swore at him, so Corrick told him he was under arrest for disorderly conduct. That's when Jones punched Corrick in the face and ran from the school.

A witness said Jones swore at Corrick and said that he was having a good day and not to ruin it before he decked him. Corrick found Jones outside the YMCA on Monroe Street and arrested him for third-degree assault, first-degree criminal trespass and resiting arrest.

Chicago bank robber cut from air duct

OAK LAWN, Ill. (AP) — A wig-wearing man broke into a suburban Chicago bank vault and nearly made off with $100,000 but got stuck in an air duct and had to be cut out hours later, authorities said Sunday.

Charles Estell, 38, was found early Sunday hiding in an air duct in an office next to the bank, according to Oak Lawn police spokesman Michael Kaufmann.

The Chicago man had allegedly robbed the suburban bank Saturday afternoon, and pointed a gun at bank employees who confronted him in the vault, according to the FBI.

“I don't want to kill or hurt you,” Estell said, according to the criminal complaint. “I just want the money.”

He allegedly stuffed $100,000 in a backpack and fled. Employees told authorities it appeared he escaped through the ceiling.

Authorities spent hours searching for him and located him around 1 a.m. Sunday. But before they could cut him loose from the air duct, they had to remove a wig of long, beaded dreadlocks he was wearing.

According to the criminal complaint, Estell told investigators that he got into the vault through the ceiling.

Estell was charged Sunday with one felony count of bank robbery and could face up to 20 years in prison. He has not entered a plea, and is due back in court Tuesday. It wasn't immediately clear if he had a lawyer. A phone message left Sunday at a number listed as his wasn't immediately returned.

Thief steals flag from man in chicken suit

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) — Manchester, Conn., police are investigating the theft of an American flag from a man in a chicken suit.

The Hartford Courant reports (http://cour.at/ML9gUJ ) that Eric Didio was waving the flag and dancing outside a newly renovated Boston Market restaurant Wednesday as part of his job, when a man jumped from a car, grabbed the flag and took off.

A customer who witnessed the theft called police.

The newspaper reports that the dispatcher had a hard time relaying the call to officers, breaking into laughter while trying to say “chicken suit.”

Nathan Atwood, the restaurant's general manager, says he stood beside the 23-year-old Didio for the rest of his shift to provide security.

No arrests have been made.

Student teacher investigated for sex crime

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether a sex crime was committed when a student teacher reportedly had a relationship with a 17-year-old high school girl.

Read the rest of Jody Lawrence-Turner's story here.

Repeat offender sentenced to 4+ years

A repeat offender has been sentenced to about four years in prison for drug and property crimes.

Christopher Bruce Gooch, 35, was given an exceptionally high sentence of 50 months in prison. He's in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison.

A jury convicted Gooch of two counts of eluding police last month. He then pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen motor vehicle, eluding police, unlawful possession of a payment instrument and possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced May 31.

Gooch was arrested in February after a police chase while driving a stolen vehicle.

Police issued a news release today about his prison sentence that included information on a serial burglar sentenced last month to 108 months in prison. Read more about Donald Myhren here.

“These arrests and convictions are part of an extensive effort by Spokane Police to investigate property crimes and arrest the ROPs responsible for the majority of these crimes,” wrote Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

Myhren was actually arrested by Spokane police last summer, well before the department announced they would only be investigating about 5 percent of property crimes. He was out of jail awaiting trial - and committing more crimes - when the Spokane County Sheriff's Office connected him and his brother to a series of burglaries.

Spokane police helped with that arrest, DeRuwe said today, which occured one day after the City of Spokane and Spokane Police Department announced a renewed focus on property crimes.

Disgruntled bar customer returns w/ gun

A man who scuffled with employees at a Spokane Valley bar fired a gun in the bar's parking lot late Wednesday, police said today.

Bret A. Nemitz, 29, finished a drink at Boomers Classic Rock Bar, 18209 E. Appleway Ave., just as the bar was closing. The owner told Spokane County sheriff's deputies that they asked him to leave after he began harassing two customers who were playing pool, and Nemitz grabbed the owner by the shirt and neck.

The owner's father helped control Nemitz, but the owner said he had an uneasy feeling as Nemitz walked away.

Ashort time later, the owner saw Nemitz drive a vehicle into the parking lot and noticed a shiny object in his hand. The owner told his father to crouch down just before a gunshot ran out, according to a news release.

Deputies responded about 11:30 p.m. saw the bullet hit a window on the west side of the bar. They located his car at a home near the bar and found Nemtiz standing in the backyard. He was booked into jail on two counts of drive-by shooting.

Troopers in Chism case not punished

The two Washington State Patrol troopers whose botched child pornography investigation cost taxpayers $2.4 million have been transferred off a sex crimes unit but have not faced any discipline for providing false information to a judge.

WSP Sgt. John Sager and Trooper Rachel Gardner are back on patrol and will not be placed on what’s known as a “Brady” list for officers known to have lied on the job, WSP spokesman Bob Calkins said.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Geiger inmate attacked while on toilet

An inmate at Geiger Corrections Center is accused of trying to strangle another inmate as she used a toilet late Wednesday.

A witness told corrections deputies the victim looked like “a deer in headlights” when Maria C. Schlienger, 23, attacked her with a pink, torn-up rag as the victim sat on a toilet in a bathroom stall at Geiger, 3507 S. Spotted Road, according to court documents.

Geiger, which is slated to close, is a minimum-security facility that houses overflow inmates from the Spokane County Jail.

The witness said Schlienger wrapped the rag around the woman's neck until she intervened. The 26-year-old victim, who is serving time for a drunken driving conviction, briefly lost consciousness, officials say.

A sheriff's deputy responded to the jail and noticed a faint red mark on the victim's neck. The rag was recovered from the bathroom floor.

Schlienger was transported to the jail on a second-degree assault charge.

CdA robbery linked to Spokane cold case

Investigators believe a sex offender on trial for the 1992 murder of a Spokane Valley furniture store owner robbed a children's apparel store at gunpoint three hours before the fatal shooting.

A judge has heard testimony from Steve and Teresa Benner, who owned the Kid's Fair clothing store in the Sunset Mall in Coeur d'Alene.

The store was robbed at gunpoint Nov. 7, 1992, about 5 p.m. The couple's two children, ages five and two, were present. The robber ordered employee Kathy Ward to handcuff Steve Benner, then handcuff herself to Benner. He stole their money and credit cards and left.

The Benners told police at the time that he was wearing a fake beard and a black baseball hat that said “Solid Gold.” That hat and a piece of the beard was found at the scene of the murder and robbery at Cole's Furniture Store in Spokane Valley, which occurred about 8 p.m. on Nov. 7, 1992.

Store owner Brian Cole was fatally shot when he tried to overpower the robber after the robber said he might harm Cole's wife, who uses a scooter.

Spokane County detectives submitted that beard for DNA testing in late 2010, and it matched a DNA sample from Patrick K. Gibson, who was arrested in May 2011. The Benners identified him from a photo montage as the man who robbed their store.

Gibson's bench trial resumes today before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

Gibson's extensive criminal history includes convictions for rape and robbery in Multnomah County, Ore., in 1979, as well as kidnapping in Nevada in 1978. He was convicted of bank robbery in federal court in California in 1996 and served 12 years in prison.

Alleged ring thieves can’t stay away

Two Western Washington residents in Coeur d'Alene for just three days were arrested for theft after returning to the victim store the next day, according to police.

  Jeffrey M. Platt, 43, and Alyson M. O'Hara, 37, are accused of stealing three rings from the Wiggett Antique Market Place at 115 S. 4th St., on Monday.

The store owner checked surveillance tapes and noted a man taking the rings from the cabinet. She'd seen him and a woman in the store the previous day.

The duo apparently couldn't stay away. The owner called police Wednesday and said they just walked in. Police arrested them there and determined they'd sold the rings to Moneytree in Coeur d'Alene on Monday.

They were booked into jail on a burglary charge.

When are you too stoned to drive?

The vehicular homicide trial of Jonathon Bales raised an interesting legal question that a defense attorney made his focus during opening arguments: At what point does a driver become impaired after smoking marijuana?

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady argued to the jury Monday that marijuana contributed to Bales’ turning some 47 feet prior to his intended intersection on Wandermere Road, causing the collision that killed 54-year-old Rene Blaume on July 16, 2010.

The lead investigator determined “the cause of the collision was because (Bales) had active THC in his blood at the time of the collision,” Brady said.

Blaume was driving 45 mph in the northbound lane and investigators estimated that Bales, 22, was driving a 1985 Pontiac Firebird 9 to 10 mph in the southbound lane when he crossed the centerline, causing the crash that severed Baume’s leg and killing her.

But defense attorney Sean Downs pointed out that none of the investigating deputies – who were trained to look for DUIs — reported that Bales appeared to be impaired when they spoke to him after the crash. A blood was negative for alcohol but showed 3.9 nano-grams of active THC per milliliter. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

“That doesn’t mean anything unless there are signs of impairment,” Downs told the jury.  Bales “may have misjudged how far away Ms. Blaume’s scooter was … but that is a simple infraction.

“This was an incredibly tragic case to be sure. But the evidence will show it was nothing more than a terribly tragic accident.”

Brady called Rebecca Flaherty, a forensic toxicologist, who said the American Medical Association has yet to come to agreement – as they have with alcohol – which level drivers become impaired after smoking marijuana.

Downs asked Flaherty whether a blood test or the officers at the scene would be the best judge at determining impairment. She replied: “The officers are the scene.”

On re-direct, Brady asked Flaherty whether marijuana could have caused Bales to drive in the wrong lane and attempt to make a turn 47 feet before the intended intersection. “It could be an explanation for why he made those errors,” Flaherty responded.

The same issues caused a jury to become deadlocked last September.

Guild using cameras as bargaining chip

If city leaders want body cameras to become a standard part of the Spokane Police Department uniform, they’ll have to first work through what the city’s top cop says could be the key hindrance: Spokane police officers.

The Spokane Police Guild is using the city’s proposal as a key bargaining chip in their latest contract negotiations, which recently began, Interim Chief Scott Stephens told the city’s Public Safety Committee this week.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

March 21: Law agencies see benefit of cameras

Geiger inmates clean Rockford park

Inmates at Geiger Corrections Center helped clean up thousands of dollars worth of damage to the city park in Rockford recently.

Three young teens have been charged as juveniles with the vandalism, which was reported May 21. Another boy is facing a trespassing charge.

The vandals damaged the Lyon's Club picnic shelter, fair building and “nearly every other structure and fixture within the park,” according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Seven inmates from Geiger spent about 6 1/2 hours cleaning the park last Thursday.

“The Geiger Inmate Work Crew Program performs manual and skilled labor such as clean up, litter pick up, graffiti removal, forestry work, limited maintenance and other projects for non-profit and government agencies related to public health, safety and welfare,” according to a news release.
  

Cops: Driver says he forgot about heroin

An open side door on a Ford Aerostar van that was leaving a motel near West Sunset Boulevard led a sheriff's deputy to arrest the driver on a heroin charge Monday.

Steven Keith Willard, 48, replied “ya” when Deputy Mark Smoldt asked him if he'd forgotten about the heroin Smoldt found in his van, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today.

Smoldt said Willard allowed him to search his van after he stopped him as he left Motel 6 in the area of 4300 West Burch Road about 7:30 a.m. Willard said he forgot to close the van door. He also said he didn't have a driver's license, according to the sheriff's office.

Smoldt confirmed Willard's license was suspended and that he had a warrant for driving on a suspended license.Smoldt found the heroin in a box of Camel cigarettes inside a book bag. He also found a glass pipe.

Willard was booked into jail on the driving warrant and a new felony charge of possession of heroin.
  

Neighbor’s call leads to meth, 2 arrests

A report of a burglary at a vacant home in near Holy Cross Cemetery in north Spokane Tuesday led deputies to arrest two people and seize a methamphetamine and a backpack stolen in a vehicle prowling last March.

Christine Lorrain Blumenshein, 40, and Robert K. Schulte, 30, were arrested at a home in the 7000 block of North Normandie Street after a neighbor reported a suspicious vehicle parked near the home, which had recently been purchased, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today.

The neighbor said he saw a man and woman exit the car and walk toward the home, then saw a short while later that the back gate was open.

Blumeshein had a small metal cap with methamphetamine in her hand when she was handcuffed, deputies say.

Deputies also found a tool bag and backpack on the floor of the home that contained snips, tools and 17 key chains with keys to Ford vehicles. A name written on the backpack in black marker linked it to the victim of a vehicle prowling on March 17.

The two were booked into jail for first-degree criminal trespass. Blumenshein also faces a meth possession charge.
  

Tripped-up cop gets lucky in traffic stop

A sheriff's deputy who fell while chasing a fleeing suspect last month got lucky in a traffic stop early Tuesday and located the man's roommate.

The driver alerted Deputy Ryan Truman that suspect Brandon J. Hoffman, 22, was living at his home in the 12500 block of North Freya Street. Truman and another deputy went to the home and arrested Hoffman.

Truman had been looking to arrest Hoffman since the man threw his bicycle at him and ran away after being stopped for riding without a front light and rear reflectors about 4 a.m. May 18.

Truman said Hoffman gave him a false name, but he was able to identify him through booking photos and other police records.

Truman yelled at Hoffman to stop several times as he an away, but he “fell during the foot pursuit and sustained minor injuries,” and the man got away.

Hoffman was booked into jail on charges of making a false statement, resisting arrest and third-degree assault.
  

2nd trial begins in fatal scooter crash

Testimony began Tuesday in the second vehicular homicide trial against a Spokane man who killed a woman riding a scooter north of Spokane in 2010.

 Jonathan P. Bales, 22, is facing a second trial after a jury deadlocked and could not come to a unanimous decision following his first trial last September.

Bales was driving his 1985 Pontiac Firebird southbound on Wandermere Road on July 16, 2010, when he crossed the center line and struck 54-year-old Rene Blaume, who was riding her Racer iScooter.

Blaume (pictured) suffered a severed leg and died both from blood loss from the amputation and from trauma from the crash, according to testimony.

A blood test on Bales was negative for alcohol but showed traces of marijuana.

Trial begins in brutal tire-iron assault

A Spokane County jury on Tuesday saw graphic photographs and heard descriptions of the tire-iron attack last year against a man who came to the United States as a refugee from Iraq after helping the U.S. military

 Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz told the jury how the gruesome beating took place. But, Steinmetz did not say why Grant T. McAdams, 25, is alleged to have committed attempted first-degree murder and first-degree robbery on May 9, 2011.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

AG’s office warns of magazine scam

Here's a news release from Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office:

On Monday, June 4th, 2012, the Liberty Lake Police Department Contacted a magazine company called Strickly Business 1.  The company was attempting to sell magazine subscriptions door to door without a license and was issued criminal citations for Soliciting Without a License.  Salesman told Liberty Lake Officers they recently came from the Seattle area.
 
These types of magazine sales companies have surfaced in Spokane County several times in the past couple months.  Investigators from the Better Business Bureau have warned consumers that these types of companies are required to be registered with the Secretary of The State's Office and required to obtain a business license for such types of sales.
 
These types of companies have gained the attention of Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, whose office sent out the following release:
 
Guess who is back in town?  It’s the door-to-door magazine sellers from out of state who appear on doorsteps claiming outrageously priced subscriptions will help fund “second chance” opportunities for inner city youth.  The Washington Attorney General’s Office has issued warnings about such visitors before, and is again alerting consumers to beware of these solicitors and think twice before buying their magazines.
 
The Attorney General’s Office has received numerous complaints from victimized consumers who paid $50 to $784 for magazine subscriptions purchased from door-to-door sellers.  Consumers say they were touched by the solicitors’ stories and believed their purchases would be for a good cause. Solicitors claim to be earning money for college, working toward a better job, receiving points for a free trip, or contributing proceeds to help homeless youth.
 
“Unfortunately, another common theme is that time and again, consumers throughout the country never receive the magazines they purchased, or hear from the sellers again, and have no idea what happened to their money.” said Attorney General Rob McKenna.
 
Many of these solicitors claim to work for “business or job training” companies that send young adults door to door to give them a “fresh start” on life.  In a recent complaint to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, one seller claimed to represent a company called “Strictly Business.” The consumer did his own checking and found the company was based in Texas. It had a Better Business Bureau rating of “F” for failing to respond to complaints and failing to deliver magazines.
 
“Besides the potential of falling victim to fraud, there are many other risks involved, such as threats to personal safety or the possibility of being a victim of identity theft. It all makes buying items from strangers who knock on your door a bad idea,” added McKenna.
 
Consumers should always check out a charity with the Secretary of State prior to making a donation. A state search engine listing registered charities is available at www.secstate.wa.gov/charities.

    Many of these sales people claim they are raising money for school fundraisers, which is usually not true.  If you are contacted by these types of sales people you are urged to contact the Better Business Bureau at 509-232-0579 to verify the validity of the company

  

SPD ombudsman dispute going to mayor

A disagreement between the interim Spokane police chief and the police ombudsman about the handling of a recent complaint is getting the mayor’s attention.

 Ombudsman Tim Burns is asking Mayor David Condon to force the Spokane Police Department to investigate a complaint that arose when officers responded to a report of possible domestic violence at a home in the city.

Read the rest of my story here.

Store fights booze thieves w/ mace

Employees at a Spokane grocery store pepper sprayed the front doors to try to stop two suspected booze thieves from attacking them on Friday, police say.

Police say Kerry Alan Zaugg, 24, appeared to be preparing to assault an employee at Grocery Boys, 3430 N. Crestline St., with a stolen $60 bottle of Grey Goose vodka until another employee emerged from the store with a baseball bat.

Zaugg had been chased in the parking lot after running from the store with the booze.

Co-defendant Norman L. Caoile, 25, was standing nearby and told employees to let Zaugg go after he gave them back the bottle. When an employee instead called 911, Caoile tried to knock the phone from his hand, then chased the employees back to the store with a tire iron, police say.

Police arrested the men in the parking lot. Caoile told officers he was trying to defend Zaugg with the tire iron because employees were continuing to attack him even after he'd given the booze bottle back.

Friday was the first day grocery stores could sell liquor in Washington. Zaugg and Caoile appeared in Superior Court Monday on charges of first-degree robbery.

McD’s robbery may be linked to others

Spokane police released this and other surveillence photos of the armed robbery at McDonald's May 25. View more here.

A takeover-style robbery that targeted customers and employees at a McDonald’s in south Spokane may be connected to a similar gunpoint attack at a nearby home five days later.

Victims in both robberies described the masked men’s weapons as black, semi automatic handguns and a sawed-off, single barrel shotgun, according to information released Monday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Media spar w/ Idaho over executions

BOISE - As Idaho’s news media spar with the state in federal court over limits on access to executions, the case has turned a spotlight onto Idaho’s long and consistent history of media witnesses attending its state executions to serve as the eyes and ears of the public. In fact, media witnesses have been present for all but one Idaho execution since 1901, and published detailed accounts of them.

“The body swung not to the right and left, the rope made not a single twist, but facing the sun in the eastern sky, like one standing erect, all that was mortal of Ed Rice was there before his fellows, while the tide of life fast ebbed away,” the Idaho Daily Statesman reported in 1901, recounting the first state execution held at Idaho’s state prison.

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

Busted motorcyclist doubts own IQ

A motorcyclist who sped past a sheriff's deputy with the bike's lights off and without a helmet may also have low self esteem, the sheriff's office said today.

Damian M. Plumley, 22, reportedly told Deputy Juan Rodriguez, “I'm stupid, Rodriguez. I should never have tried that,” according to a news release by Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Plumley was arrested Thursday just before midnight after Rodriguez saw him cross Pines Road while eastbound on Valleyway Road on a dirt bike-style motorcycle.

Rodriguez turned his patrol car around and tried to stop the motorcycle as it drove south on Pines Road on the east-side sidewalk, but the motorcycle turned eastbound on Main Avenue and accelerated.

Rodriguez followed the motorcycle to a dead end at Main and Clinton Roads, where the driver turned around and drove past him west on Main.

But the bike malfunctioned, and Rodriguez was able to detain Plumley, who is described as having an extensive criminal history. His passenger was not named in today's news release.

Plumley was booked into jail on charges of reckless driving, reckless endangerment, failure to stop and provide information and driving while suspended. also was issued infractions for no motorcycle endorsement, operating a motorcycle without a helmet and off-road vehicle driven on roadway.

Plumley was arrested in April on property crime warrants. His alternative sentence of drug treatment was suspended in May, online court records show. Further details were not immediately available.
  

Homeowner’s info links car theft, burglary

Sheriff's deputies linked a car theft Memorial Day weekend to a residential burglary in Spokane Valley because the victim homeowner wrote down the license plate of the thief's getaway car, officials said today.

A man who owns a home in the area of 4600 E. 2nd Ave. said he arrived home about 9 a.m. Friday and saw a man run from his fenced backyard and drive away in a Honda. The license plate the homeowner wrote down matched the plate of a 1988 Honda stolen from a driveway in the area of 4300 E. 2nd Ave. on May 27, according to the Spokane County Sherifff's Office.

Sheriff's deputy Ryan Smith was patrolling the area of Broadway Avenue near Progress Elementary School Saturday when he spotted the Honda in an undeveloped alleyway near the school. He watched the vehicle until Courtney Lee Baldwin, 38, got in the driver's seat, the sheriff's office said.

Smith detained Baldwin, and the Honda's owner arrived and confirmed he had no idea who Baldwin was. The burglary victim also arrived and said Baldwin was the man he'd seen run from his yard.

Baldwin, who did not speak to deputies, was booked into jail on charges of second-degree burglary, reckless driving (for the burglary getaway) and third-degree driving while suspected. He also faces additional charges of driving while suspended and obsession of a stolen motor vehicle.
  

Motorcycle sounds help break burglary

The sounds of motorcycles led sheriff's deputies in Pend Oreille County to identify two burglary suspects this week.

Sean T. Ponder, 26, and Reesa M. Yancy, 23, were arrested last week after a residential burglary on Deer Valley Road near Newport.

They're accused of stealing motorcycles, tools and guns from the home on Tuesday. Deputies were canvassing the neighborhood for leads when they heard motorcycles in the distance, according to the Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office. They drove closer to the noise and contacted homeowners who directed them to the home where the motorcycles came from.

Ponder and Yancy were arrested at the home. Deputies recovered the stolen items, as well as other suspected stolen property.

While driving the suspects to jail, deputies heard a report of another burglary nearby. They listened to a description of the stolen items and realized they matched goods found with Ponder and Yancy, the sheriff's office said.

WSP settles Chism lawsuit for $2.4mil

A botched search for child pornography at the home of a Spokane firefighter will cost Washington taxpayers $2.4 million.

 The Washington State Patrol and the attorney for Spokane Fire Department Lt. Todd Chism have settled a lawsuit stemming from the January 2008 search of Chism’s home that found nothing.

Chism and his attorney, Bob Dunn, had filed a $10 million suit against the WSP, which arrested Chism on the charge of child pornography possession. However, the investigation soon revealed that purchase was traced to Chism’s wife’s stolen bank card and the Chisms had done nothing wrong.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 18: Jury clears Chism of all charges

April 23, 2010: Chism threatened to kill troopers, WSP said

Officer saves bicyclist’s life after crash

 A police officer saved the life of a bicyclist who was hit by an SUV on Monday, officials say.

Officer Paul Carpenter responded to the crash at Park Place and Columbia Circle and found a witness trying to administer CPR to the 50-year-old man.

The witness was “relieved” at Carpenter's arrival and allowed him to continue the chest compressions.

Medics credited Carpenter “with stabilizing the man and saving his life,” according to a news release by Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

The bicyclist was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. He also wore clip-in shoes that secured his feet to the pedals, which are used by experienced cyclists but make quick dismounts difficult.

The bicyclist remains in an intensive care unit but is expected to survive, DeRuwe said Thursday.

Police do not expect the driver of the SUV to be charged. They say speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash.

Court bailiff arrested for child sex abuse

A bailiff at the Kootenai County courthouse lost his job recently after he was arrested on child sex abuse charges.

Jack David McPike, 31, of Athol, is accused of sexually abusing a girl from 2006 until this month, when the girl told a school counselor about the abuse and the counselor contacted the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.

Detectives arrested McPike in the parking lot of the Kootenai County courthouse as he was leaving work May 17. McPike had been a bailiff there since August 2011.

A Kootenai County human resources employee confirmed today McPike was no longer employed as of May 18. She said she couldn't say whether he was fired or quit.

McPike has pleaded not guilty to charges of infamous crime against nature, lewd conduct with a minor and sexual abuse of a child. He remains in the Kootenai County Jail on $50,000 bond.

Deer Park man guilty of vehicular assault

Spokane police released this photo of the March 29 crash.

A Deer Park man pleaded guilty today to a hit-and-run crash earlier this year that injured three people in Spokane.

Christopher L. Smith, 52, told Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno that he blacked out when he approached the intersection of Mission Avenue and Greene Street on March 29. The crash took out a light pole and damaged three other cars. One of those drivers suffered a broken leg.

“I remember turning the wheel and I blacked out,” Smith said. “I don't know why I walked away. I think about that every day.”

But Smith came to his senses long enough to ask his ex-wife to tell police that he wasn't driving her car. He was arrested later that day at his Deer Park home.

Spokane County Prosecutors initially charged Smith with vehicular assault and three counts of failure to remain at the scene of an injury accident. As part of the plea bargain, two of the latter charges were dropped.

Moreno sentenced Smith, who had no prior felony convictions, to eight months in jail. She noted that if his story were true — that a blown front tire caused the crash — he likely would have faced a citation.

Suspect in prosecutor’s burglary jailed

A man accused of burglarizing a Spokane County deputy prosecutor's garage was arrested for another burglary just eight days after he left jail.

Chance Karl Occhipinti, 42, was free on $3,500 bond when he and a friend broke into a garage in the 1000 block West Maxwell Avenue Saturday afternoon with 34-yera-old Paul Kabrick, who lives in an apartment attached to the garage.

Now he's back in jail on an exceptionally high bond of $75,000 after Superior Court Judge Annette Plese noted his blatant disregard for the conditions she imposed on him should he leave jail, which include committing no further criminal law violations.

A man who owns a home that also shares the garage said Occhipinti and Kabrick urinated and defecated in the building.

Police say Occhipinti admitted to trying to stealing bicycles, a tool box and a speaker from the garage before he was confronted by a resident. He was arrested for second-degree burglary. 

Occhipinti pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four felony charges related to an alleged burglary at Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz's garage on April 30. Steinmetz attended the arraignment.

The case is being handled by a prosecutor for the city of Spokane, Mary Chavez-Muramatsu, because the victim is county prosecutor. Occhipinti is charged with second-degree burglary, possession of methamphetamine, possession of burglary tools and resiting arrest for allegedly fleeing when Steinmetz tried to apprehend him.

Chavez-Muramatsu added an aggravating factor to the burglary charge because Steinmetz was present when it occurred.

“Both situations could have been far more dangerous,” she said of Steinmetz's case and the most recent one.

She said Occhipinti told police he'd committed 12 other burglaries in the eight days since he left jail.

Boise fugitive arrested near Spirit Lake

A man suspected in a Boise home-invasion robbery was arrested recently near Spirit Lake.

The Kootenai County sheriff's SWAT team took Bryson G. Smith, 27, into custody Wednesday at 28128 N. Highway 41.

A confidential source told detectives Smith was hiding at the address and was wanted in Ada County on a no-bond warrant for a home-invasion robbery April 8. 

Members of the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force confirmed he was there and obtained a search warrant. Smith was booked into the Kootenai County Jail to await extradition to Boise.

Sheriff's officials were kind enough to send out before and after mug shots of Smith.

Md. man says he ate heart of victim

By KASEY JONES,Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) — A 21-year-old college student accused of killing a housemate told police he ate the victim's heart and part of his brain after he died.

 Alexander Kinyua hid the head and hands of the dead man in his family's basement laundry room in a suburb of Baltimore, according to the Harford County Sheriff's Office. Kinyua, a student at Morgan State University, was charged earlier in May in another attack in which the victim was brutally beaten but survived.

Kinyua, a Kenya native, is charged with first-degree murder and other charges in the death of 37-year-old Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie. He was ordered held on no bail.

His public defender did not return a call seeking comment, and a voicemail left at Kinyua's home was not returned.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Monica Worrell said the chief medical examiner had not yet officially identified the body parts, but that authorities believe they are those of Kodie, who was reported missing May 25. His cellphone and wallet were left in the home and police were initially told he had gone for a run.

On Tuesday, Kinyua's father, Antony Kinyua, called detectives and reported that another son, Jarrod, found what he thought were human remains in the house where they all lived in Joppatowne.

Jarrod found two metal tins, which held a human head and two human hands. Police say Jarrod confronted his brother, who said the remains were animals.

According to charging documents, Jarrod and his father went to the basement, where Jarrod “observed that the items he observed were gone and Alex Kinyua was cleaning the container he observed them in.”

Detectives obtained a search warrant and found the head and hands in the house. Police say Alexander Kinyua admitted to killing Kodie by cutting him up with a knife and eating his heart and part of his brain.

Authorities say Kinyua told detectives the rest of the body could be found in a trash container at the Town Baptist Church in Harford County where they discovered remains.

The attack comes in the same week as a man in Miami chewed away another man's face along a busy highway and wouldn't stop until an officer shot him to death. Witnesses say 31-year-old Rudy Eugene growled at the officer and continued to chew away. The victim, identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, a homeless man who lived under the causeway, was in critical condition and will be permanently disfigured.

On May 19, Kinyua beat a man with a baseball bat on Morgan's campus, fracturing his skull and making him lose sight in one eye, according to Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Kinyua was arrested May 20 and released on $220,000 bail.

Morgan officials say Kinyua studied electrical engineering and was also in the ROTC.

According to court records, the victim, Kodie, a native of Ghana, was convicted in November 2008 in Baltimore County of sex offense and assault in September 2007 and harassment, stalking and telephone misuse for making repeated calls in 2007 and 2008 to a woman. He was sentenced to at least a year and a half in jail.

Scarf-wearing pig pursued by Pa. police

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Motorists have reported a sharp-dressed pig running loose on a highway just outside of Pittsburgh. State troopers also spotted the animal but failed to catch it before it scurried off into the woods.

The pig is wearing a scarf. The sightings were reported between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Wednesday just west of the city on Interstate 376, known locally as the Parkway West.

State troopers from the nearby barracks in Findlay Township spotted the pig, but couldn't catch up to it.

Police say the pig appeared to be a baby and confirmed it was wearing a scarf. Police don't know why that is or who may own the animal.

Still, someone has created a Twitter account to chronicle the swine's “exploits.” It's at www.twitter.com/sharpdressedpig.

Drug dealer mistakenly texts police

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — Police say a drug dealer mistakenly sent messages to a California central coast police officer in an attempt to sell methamphetamine.

The Santa Maria officer notified Santa Barbara County sheriff's detectives about the errant text messages early Tuesday. The officer and detectives then set up a meeting with the alleged drug dealer.

Sheriff's spokesman Drew Sugars says they arrested 39-year-old Reymundo Carlos Escobedo and seized about 2 grams of methamphetamine.

A news release says 37-year-old John Martin Silvera, who is Escobedo's suspected methamphetamine supplier, also arrived and was arrested with about 7 grams of methamphetamine.

Escobedo and Silvera remain held on drug charges, including criminal conspiracy. Bail is set at $30,000 each.

Ohio woman broke into house to clean

ELYRIA, Ohio (AP) — Police in suburban Cleveland say a woman who owns a cleaning service broke into a house and washed the dishes, took out the trash, and vacuumed before leaving a handwritten bill with her name on it.

And police say it might not be the first time.

The woman, Sue Warren of Elyria, is in jail on a burglary charge.

Police in Westlake say Warren broke into a home last week and began tidying up, but she didn't take anything. They say she then wrote out a bill for $75 on a napkin and included her name and address.

One officer says Warren told him she does it all the time.

A call to Warren's cleaning business was not answered Thursday. It's not immediately known if she has an attorney.

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