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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for March 2012

Child abuse suspect arrested in Texas

A 22-year-old Spokane man accused of assaulting his infant daughter was arrested this week in Texas.

Joshua E. Gillis is awaiting extradition to Spokane on a $250,000 warrant for first-degree child abuse.

Federal agents in Houston located him there at the request of Spokane police, U.S. Marshal Bob Doty said today.

Gillis is accused of assaulting his daughter in January. He and the girl's mother, Ashley B. Huston, brought the girl to a hospital with multiple skull fractures, a fractured right shoulder and a spiral fracture to her right thigh, police say. They told doctors the girl was anemic.

Police searched the couple's home at 123 E. Baldwin Ave., and seized evidence of the alleged assault, as well as nine marijuana plants.

Prosecutors charged GIllis Feb. 22.

Reward targets truck fire arson suspect

A man suspected of setting fire to a truck in exchange for methamphetamine as part of a love triangle has a reward being offered for tips that lead to his capture.

Jesse James Icard, 43, is wanted on an arson charge for burning a 1975 Ford truck outside the Maple Tree Motel, 4824 E. Sprague Ave., on Feb. 6.

Police believe Odean B. Chappel, 44, gave Icard methamphetamine in exchange for burning the truck with a Molotov cocktail. Chappel was upset with the truck's owner, Donald S. Goergette, for staying with his ex-girlfriend.

Chappel remains jailed on $50,000 bond for arson and harassment charges. Icard, 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds, is wanted on a $30,000 warrant.

Crime Stoppers on Thursday offered a reward for tips that lead to his arrest.

Icard has a 24-year criminal history that includes convictions for vehicular assault. He last gave an address on Highway 231 in Springdale.

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

Woman arrested on 109 felonies released

A Spokane County health care employee accused of stealing money from a 79-year-old woman was released from jail today after appearing in court on 109 felony charges.

Deanna M. Purser, 50, was arrested Wednesday after a sheriff's investigation alleged she'd been making unauthorized purchases and taking unauthorized cash back while grocery shopping for the woman.

Detectives believe Purser, employed by ResCare, also used the woman's money to purchase personal groceries, cigarettes, Christmas presents for her children and a subscription to Sports Illustrated for her husband. She'd been caring for the woman part time after the woman suffered a stroke.

Spokane County sheriff's Detective Tamie Spitzer determined Purser took $31,762 in cash back at Albertsons from 2009 to 2011. She also determined $33,141 in groceries had been purchased, but the victim's average grocery bill should have been just $300 per month.

Prosecutors have not yet formally charged Purser.

She does not appear to have a criminal record, so even if she's convicted of 109 felonies, she'll face only about 22 to 29 months in prison. One or two theft convictions carries only a couple months in jail.

Man who helped assault victim sought

Detectives are looking for a young man who helped a woman who was assaulted near East South Riverton Avenue and North Magnolia Street earlier this month.

The man, described as in his late 20s to early 30s, helped the woman after she was knocked over by an unknown assailant March 1 about 6:30 a.m.

The Good Samaritan left before police arrived, and detectives are looking for him to help in their investigation, Spokane police said Thursday.

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

‘American Pie’ inspired teens’ naked run

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Four Utah teens armed with a BB gun told deputies they were inspired by a scene from an “American Pie” movie when they went running naked through an Ogden-area neighborhood.

Authorities said Wednesday the teens were spotted streaking in the residential community about 45 minutes north of Salt Lake City at about 2 a.m. Sunday.

When a deputy responded, a 17-year-old girl ducked behind a tree, while the three teenage boys kept running and were found shortly after.

The teens said they brought the BB gun because they feared they would be attacked by deer during the jog.

Deputies notified the teens' parents and let them off with a warning.

The 2006 film “American Pie: The Naked Mile” features a high school student who wants to join a college campus' tradition of running a mile naked.

Torture dungeon trucker pleads guilty

By MICHAEL GRACZYK,Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas trucker who kept a torture dungeon in the cab of his long-haul rig has avoided the death penalty by accepting life prison sentences for murdering a hitchhiking couple two decades ago.

 Robert Ben Rhoades, who already is serving a life sentence for killing a 14-year-old girl in Illinois, pleaded guilty to two counts of capital murder when he appeared before a West Texas judge this week. He has no chance of parole.

Described by authorities as a sadistic killer, Rhoades was charged with the 1990 abductions and slayings of newlyweds Douglas Scott Zyskowski, 28, and Patricia Walsh, 24. Authorities said the couple left Seattle in November 1989, and were hitchhiking to Georgia to preach the Christian gospel when they accepted a ride from Rhoades near El Paso.

Zyskowski's body was found in January 1990 along Interstate 10 east of Ozona, about 320 miles east of El Paso. He'd been shot, and his body wasn't identified until 1992. The remains of his wife were found in October 1990 by deer hunters in central Utah, but they weren't identified until 13 years later by dental records.

Police believe Rhoades held the woman captive for about a week, systematically torturing and assaulting her before shooting her several times.

Rhoades was initially charged in Utah with her death, but he was later extradited to Texas where authorities said the kidnappings took place. Prosecutors in Ozona said they would seek the death penalty, but his trial was repeatedly delayed since 2009.

Under the plea agreement accepted Monday, the life prison sentences in Texas would keep him behind bars if he somehow gets out of prison in Illinois. The 66-year-old also agreed to waive any rights to appeals and parole. It's unclear whether he'll stay in a Texas prison or be returned to Illinois.

FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap in Houston said agents couldn't comment on the case because investigations involving Rhoades are continuing. District Attorney Laurie English was not available Thursday, and messages left with Rhoades' lawyers were not immediately returned.

Rhoades' Illinois conviction stems from the abduction and slaying of Regina Walters, a 14-year-old runaway from Pasadena, Texas. She disappeared in February 1990 with an 18-year-old boyfriend who told friends they planned to hitchhike to Mexico.

Her body was found months later at an abandoned farm near Greenville, Ill. Her companion has never been located.

By the time Walters' remains were found, Rhoades was in custody — after authorities discovered what was inside his truck.

A state trooper near Casa Grande, Ariz., stopped on I-10 to check on a tractor-trailer with blinking lights in April 1990. He discovered Rhoades inside the cab with a hysterical naked woman who had been chained and shackled to a wall.

She later told investigators that she'd been tortured and whipped, that Rhoades told her he was known as “Whips and Chains” and had been involved in such activity for years.

Houston police found another woman who'd managed to escape from Rhoades and told a similar story of torture. FBI agents called into the case searched his Houston apartment and found torture devices and photos of a teenage girl handcuffed and shackled and in various poses at a barn. The girl subsequently was identified as Walters, who had been strangled with bailing wire attached to a piece of lumber.

Rhoades was convicted and sentenced in Arizona on aggravated assault, sexual assault and unlawful imprisonment charges stemming from the woman being held in his truck, then was charged with the Illinois slaying. He pleaded guilty.

Louisville-UK rivalry sparks fight at clinic

By BRUCE SCHREINER,Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Authorities say the Kentucky-Louisville basketball rivalry boiled over at a Kentucky dialysis clinic when one patient punched another during an argument about the teams.

Georgetown police Lt. Robert Swanigan says the altercation began Monday with a verbal exchange between the 68-year-old Kentucky fan and 71-year-old Louisville fan. The men were arguing over who will win when the teams meet in the Final Four on Saturday.

Swanigan says the Kentucky fan, who was receiving treatment, flipped off the Louisville fan, and that the Cardinals fan punched him in the face.

Swanigan says police were called to the Georgetown clinic, but the Kentucky fan has declined to file charges.

He says police thought tensions would rise as Saturday's game approaches, but the fight at the clinic was stranger than they expected.

Georgetown is about 13 miles north of Lexington, where the University of Kentucky is loca

Stolen property in Idaho - recognize it?

Theft and burglary victims in the Kootenai County area should check out photos of suspected stolen property seized by police recently.

 Post Falls police released photos of the items Thursday in hopes the owners will come forward. View all the photos here.

Police seized the items while serving a search warrant recently with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.

Anyone who believes the property may be theirs is asked to call Detective John Mason at (208) 773-3517.

Girl Scouts peeper now a sex offender

A man arrested after a woman saw him wearing a red g-string and no pants outside a Girl Scouts gathering will be released from jail but must register as a sex offender for 10 years.

Martin J. Green, 29, pleaded guilty today to felony second-degree burglary and a gross misdemeanor sex offense of communication with a minor for immoral purposes.

Green was credited for time spent in the Spokane County Jail, where he's been since his arrest Jan. 22. A woman called police after spotting Green without pants outside the building at 1404 N. Ash St., where the Girls Scouts were hosting a slumber party.

Police say Green was wearing sweat pants when they caught up with him after a brief foot chase, but they were untied and he had a “pocketful of condoms.”

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

Past coverage:

Jan. 23: Girl Scouts peeper wore g-string

Juvenile jail officer charged w/ assault

Spokane County juvenile detention corrections officer was jailed recently on suspicion of assaulting his wife.

Darryl A. Robinson, 52, said Wednesday that he has a meeting scheduled with his supervisors to discuss his arrest. Robinson was released from the Spokane County Jail on $1,500 bond after being arrested on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge Friday about 7:30 p.m.

Read the rest of my story here.

Fleeing driver caught on S-R video

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A man suspected of slamming a pickup truck into another car in downtown Spokane this morning fled the scene and drove down a narrow sidewalk before abandoning the vehicle and walking away, security camera footage shows.

The fleeing driver was caught on cameras operated by Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review. The man drove down a sidewalk along Sprague Avenue within inches of the Chronicle Building, which is owned by Cowles.

Police are investigating the incident, which happened around 10:30 a.m., and have towed the truck, said Spokane Police Officer Teresa Fuller. Police also contacted the registered owner of the vehicle, Fuller said. She was not aware of any arrests yet.

A woman in the car that was hit at the intersection of Sprague Avenue and Lincoln Street was injured, said Fuller, who did not have further details.

Cab driver accused of felony hit-and-run

A cab driver is accused of hitting a pedestrian and driving away in downtown Spokane late Tuesday.

Lucas M. Blum, 31, alias McElroy, was driving a white minivan when he struck a  woman who was trying to cross Stevens Street while westbound on Sprague Avenue about 10:15 p.m.

The woman said she tried to obtain the driver's information, but he refused, then drove away. She noted his license plate number and identified him after speaking with a representative of Spokane Cab, police say.

Blum was booked into the Spokane County Jail on a felony charge of hit-and-run.

He obtained a business license for a taxi service on March 6, according to City of Spokane records.
  

Duncan still getting competency hearing

Condemned serial killer Joseph E. Duncan is getting another day in court.

Duncan, on death row for the torture slaying of a North Idaho boy he abducted in 2005 after slaughtering most of the youngster’s family, will undergo a hearing to determine whether he was mentally competent when he decided to represent himself and waive his appeal rights.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

July 11: 9th Circuit orders Duncan back into court in Idaho

Full coverage of the Duncan case is available here.

Charges filed in boy’s shooting death

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A mother who authorities say left her 3-year-old son unrestrained in a car after she placed a pistol under the driver's seat has been charged with manslaughter in the death of the boy, who shot himself in the head while the woman went to get food.

The woman's boyfriend, who is the gun's owner, was also charged.

“Nothing is sadder than the death of a child, and when the death is the result of criminal negligence, there needs to be accountability,” Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Wednesday. “Guns are inherently dangerous, and the law, as well as common sense, requires that guns be handled responsibly, especially around children.”

The mother, Jahnisha McIntosh, 23, and her boyfriend, Eric Vita, 22, made their initial appearance on the second-degree manslaughter charges Wednesday afternoon in Pierce County Superior Court. They both pleaded not guilty.

Julio Segura-McIntosh's death on March 14 was the third child shooting in Western Washington within three weeks. On Feb. 22, an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded by a gun that went off in a classmate's backpack in a Bremerton school. On March 10, the 7-year-old daughter of a Marysville police officer was killed when her brother found a gun in the family car.

In Julio's case, Vita and McIntosh had stopped for gas in Tacoma. Vita, who has a concealed weapons permit, removed his gun from his waistband to avoid alarming the clerk and placed it under the passenger seat, the prosecutor said.

Julio had unbuckled himself and climbed into the front seat to ask his mother for candy. McIntosh moved the gun from under the passenger seat to under the driver's seat so Julio could not reach it. Then, she went inside the convenience store for food, leaving Julio unrestrained, the prosecutor said.

Julio found the gun and shot himself in the head. McIntosh's 8-month old daughter was in the car at the time and was not hurt.

Friends and family told detectives that Vita routinely showed off the gun with a laser sight and on one occasion offered to let Julio hold the gun before another adult intervened.

Vita's attorney, David Gehrke, told KOMO that that shooting was a tragedy that has left everyone involved in shock. Vita acted reasonably, he said.

“I think he was being very careful. He did not just leave the gun there, without another adult present. And I think if the mother had stayed in there, this probably would not have happened,” Gehrke said.

“My understanding is that the child went from the back seat to the front seat, got the gun, the mom took it away and said, 'No, leave that alone,' and then put it under her seat. And then inexplicably she got out and went into the convenience store to buy something,” he said.

Gehrke said he's not blaming the mother.

“She lost her child, and that should be punishment for any parent in a circumstance like this,” he said.

The child shootings have raised questions about Washington's gun laws. The state is one of 23 that doesn't have a specific law to prevent child access to firearms, such as mandatory trigger locks or criminal penalties for adults who allow children to access guns, according to the San Francisco-based group Legal Community Against Violence.

Washington state law is specific about carrying loaded pistols in vehicles, however. A person with a concealed weapons permit must lock the gun and conceal it from view if it is left in the car.

In the Bremerton classroom shooting that nearly killed Amina Kocer-Bowman, the Kitsap County prosecutor charged the mother of a boy who brought the gun in his backpack and the mother's boyfriend with felony assault for allowing the boy access to the .45-caliber handgun. Jamie Lee Chaffin, and her boyfriend, Douglas L. Bauer, have pleaded not guilty.

In the Stanwood shooting, the Snohomish County prosecutor's office said Wednesday the shooting is still under investigation by the sheriff's office. When the case is sent to the prosecutor's office, it will decide whether charges should be filed against Officer Derek Carlile, who left a loaded gun in the car.

Snohomish sheriff's spokesman Kevin Prentiss said Wednesday that investigators are wrapping up loose ends and finishing interview transcripts, and the case should go to the prosecutor's office within two weeks. Detectives used child interview specialists to question children.

Past coverage:

March 15: Boy's death 3rd gun accident in 3 weeks

Health care worker arrested for theft

A Spokane County home health care employee is accused of stealing money from a 79-year-old woman she'd cared for since 2003.

Deanna M. Purser, 50, was arrested today after a lengthy investigation by Spokane County sheriff's Detective Tamie Spitzer alleged she'd been making unauthorized purchases and taking unauthorized cash back while grocery shopping for the woman.

The victim's daughter contacted the sheriff's office after she noticed an abnormally large amount of money spent at the Albertsons grocery store in Liberty Lake. She'd become suspicious when she noticed her mother's bank statements were lower than usual while preparing her taxes, according to the sheriff's office.

Spitzer determined Purser took $31,762 in cash back from 2009 to 2011. She also determined $33,141 in groceries had been purchased, but the victim's average grocery bill should have been just $300 per month.

Purser was booked into the Spokane County Jail today on seven counts of first-degree theft, 51 counts of unlawful possession of a payment instrument and 51 counts of second-degree theft.

Drunk man on chair arrested for burglary

A man arrested on suspicion of prowling a home early today was intoxicated and told deputies “he had no idea what was going on or where he was at,” authorities say.

A homeowner found Brandon L. Woodward, 22, as he was sitting on a chair on the deck of the home in the area of East Sprague Avenue and North Barker Road in Spokane Valley about 2:20 a.m. and detained him until deputies arrived, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The man's wife called 911. He told police he saw a second man run from the backyard before he got outside.

Deputies say Woodward was drunk and possibly on drugs. He was booked into jail on a second-degree burglary charge.

Woodward was ordered to complete drug treatment after being convicted of residential burglary and second-degree burglary last November. He didn't do so, and he was arrested on a warrant in February.

He appeared in court Friday and was ordered to report to his probation officer Monday morning and to stay with his father while awaiting a new spot at a drug treatment center.

Cops warn of South Hill magazine fraud

Authorities are warning of a a young man on the South Hill who's scamming residents out of money by selling fraudulent magazine subscriptions.

A resident reported to Crime Check Monday that a 17- to 18-year-old boy came to her home on Friday and said he was selling magazines to benefit the Ferris High School soccer team, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.

She gave the man a $55 check “happy to support her local high school” and was told the company selling the subscriptions was Blue Diamond Subscriptions, which is based in Arizona, according to the sheriff's office.

She learned on Monday that Ferris High is not involved in the fundraiser. Sheriff's officials contacted the Better Business Bureau and learned of a complaint to the Phoenix office about the company. They have yet to be able to contact the company.

The business is not registered in Washington.

Anyone who contacts someone who claims to be from the company is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 and the BBB at (509) 455-4200.

Driver in crash that hurt boy arraigned

This post has been updated.

A man who police say tried to ditch his drug stash after striking a 12-year-old boy with his car was to plead not guilty to four felony charges Tuesday, but a judge found no probable cause and prosecutors haven't refiled charges.

Brandon Lee Maganas, 30, remains jailed after his would-be arraignment in Spokane County Superior Court. The case remains under investigation and he has a Department of Corrections probation hold.

Maganas was driving a 1995 Ford pickup when he struck the boy March 12 in a crosswalk at East Mission Avenue at North Magnolia Street as the boy headed to Stevens Elementary School for his job as a morning crossing guard, according to Spokane police. The boy was taken to a hospital with broken bones.

Witnesses told police Maganas dropped a bag nearby that contained marijuana, glass pipes, methamphetamine, heroin and prescription pills.

Maganas also had a stolen handgun and a shotgun in the truck. He's prohibited from possessing firearms because of felony convictions, including a drug conviction in May 2011.

Feds: Dad gave marijuana to young kids

A medical marijuana patient arrested in Yakima Monday told authorities he provided marijuana to his three young children.

Troy Mallard Craig, 32, said two of his children also have medical marijuana cards, according to a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court.

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a search warrant at Craig's home in the 3300 block of Barge Street about 4:15 p.m. and seized 67 marijuana plants, bags of processed marijuana, a digital scale and several medical marijuana cards.

Craig said he'd been growing marijuana for about two years and giving it to five or six friends in exchange for “donations.”

“Craig admitted to providing marijuana in one form or another to all three of his children, ages 2, 5, and 7,” according to the complaint.

Craig remains jailed in Yakima after appearing before U.S. Magistrate James Hutton Tuesday.
  

Man pleads guilty in bank fraud case

An Arizona man who helped a North Idaho woman commit bank fraud has pleaded guilty.

Charles Earl Baker, 32, faces up to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of probation when he's sentenced June 19 in U.S. District Court in Coeru d'Alene.

Baker pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud for a scheme involving Michelle Ann Mason, who pleaded guilty earlier this month.

Baker met Mason in late 2010 and opened a bank account that he used to deposit counterfeit, altered or forged checks that had been stolen from mail.

Baker then withdrew the cash using ATMs. Mason admitted to organizing Baker and at least five others to steal mail in the Oldtown, Idaho, area. Mason is to be sentenced June 18.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office, Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, Bonner County Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Secret Service.

Reward for tips on $15k jewelry heist

A man's home was burglarized of about $15,000 jewelry after he left for about five hours Monday, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that solve the burglary, which occurred near the 7500 block of West 51st Street. A woman's ring worth about $5,000 and about $10,000 in other jewelry were stolen.

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.

Cops: Man pointed gun at 3 children

A 31-year-old man was arrested for allegedly pointing a gun at a father and his three children recently.

Anthony L. Volavka is out of jail on bond after appearing in court Monday.

He was arrested Friday at 24821 E. Roxanne Ave., after Michael A. Walkinshaw, 44, said Volavka pointed a gun at him as he went to the home to get his children, two of whom are 10 and 9 years old, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Volavka was in the garage when Walkinshaw approached. He told deputies he had his pistol ready for Walkinshaw because he was expecting a fight, according to court documents.

Volavka faces charges of first-degree assault and three counts of reckless endangerment.

Teen arraigned in veteran’s murder

An 18-year-old man accused of killing a retired principal who was trying to break up an underage party pleaded not guilty today to second-degree murder.

In a hearing before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese, Treven Lewis was given a pre-trial conference date of May 11 and a trial date of May 21, although the case is expected to take many more months to resolve.

Lewis was ordered to remain in jail on $500,000 bond. He's been in custody since March 12, two days after he's accused of punching Frank J. Motta as Motta tried to clear out an underage drinking party at his out-of-town neighbor's request.

Motta, a patients advocate at the Spokane veterans hospital, died later that week.

Read more about Lewis' background here.

Past coverage:

March 16: VA hospital grieving after beaten employee dies

2 men accused of robbing teen w/ knife

Two men were arrested for allegedly robbing a teenage woman at at knife-point outside an East Sprague Avenue convenience store last weekend.

Richard Jeffery Lee, 52, is accused of robbing the 19-year-old woman as she exited the Quick E Mart at 4123 E. Sprague Ave. about 8:50 p.m. Friday.

The woman said Lee put a four-inch knife to her throat and demanded money as Rikki Lynn Morrison, 53, stood by.

The woman she she removed all the change and cash from her pockets before Lee and Morrison ran away, according to court documents.  She called 911 from her home in Spokane Valley, and sheriff's deputies located the suspects near the scene of the crime. The victim identified Lee and Morrison as her assailants.

Lee is jailed on $75,000 bond for first-degree robbery. Morrison, who said in court Monday that he didn't do anything, is jailed on $15,000 bond for the same charge.
  

City’s risk management plan under fire

The City of Spokane may sever its contract with its risk management firm following allegations that the firm pressured police and a city employee to hide potentially incriminating details surrounding a 2010 collision that paralyzed a pedestrian.

According to documents obtained by lawyers representing the paralyzed woman, the city’s contracted insurance adjusters were able to influence the removal of certain details from the official press release about the crash, and reportedly sought to influence the police investigation.

The adjusters, in fact, were able to interview crash witnesses before the investigating officer, who was later advised that “if you guys want a raise” he should work with the risk managers to save the city some money, the documents show.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Drunken crash into house leads to arrest

A woman suspected of drunkenly crashing her car into a house will remain jailed on $7,500 bond, despite her lawyer's claim that she is not a danger to the community.

“Crashing into someone's house doesn't count as a danger to the community?” Judge Annette Plese asked public defender Steve Heintz.

Plese told suspect Angelique P. Sam, 39, that she disagreed with Heintz - someone driving drunk, suicidal and ramming a house is indeed a danger to the community, Plese said.

Heintz had asked for Sam to be released on her own recognizance, saying there was no indication she would put the public at risk.

Sam was arrested Sunday after police responded to a crash near East Foothills and North Standard Street about 4:20 a.m. An officer contacted Sam as she tried to run and noted she had slurred speech and appeared drunk

Police say Sam “had urinated herself, completely covering her groin and leg area,” according to court documents. She admitted to driving drunk, police said.

“I drank a lot and tried to hit the house,” Sam said, according to court documents. “I usually don't drink but I couldn't help myself.”

Sam's passenger, who was injured, told police Sam intentionally crashed into the home.

Sam was involved in a murder trial in 2007 involving her husband, Avery E. Sam, who's now serving 24 1/2 years in prison for murdering the couple's great nephew, who was placed in their home under an agreement between state welfare workers and the Yakama Nation Tribal Court.
  

Man gets 8-18 years for road rage death

A North Idaho man who fatally ran over a woman during a 2006 road rage incident was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison.

 Jonathan Wade Ellington, 51, had been serving a 25-year sentence when the Idaho Supreme Court overturned his convictions last May because of problems with his first trial.

Under the sentence imposed Monday by Kootenai County Judge John Luster, Ellington will be eligible for parole after eight years and credited for time already spent in custody, according to the Associated Press.

A jury convicted Ellington Jan. 31 of second-degree murder for the death of Vonnette Larsen and two counts of aggravated battery for ramming her daughters’ vehicle.

The fatal encounter began when Ellington punched Larsen’s daughters’ car window and the women, and eventually their parents, gave chase at about 90 mph.

Vonnette Larsen's husband fired a .44 Magnum pistol at Ellington seconds before she was run over.

According to the Coeur d'Alene Press, Luster said “poor decisions” were made “across the board” by all the parties involved in the incident.

“I’ll never be able to make sense of the behaviors of that day,” Luster said.

He said the Larsens “clearly” share in the responsibility Vonnette Larsen’s death, even though they have denied so.

1 lb. of meth gets man 7 years in prison

A Royal City, Wash., man arrested in North Idaho with nearly a pound of methamphetamine was sentenced today to about seven years in federal prison.

 Severiano V. Valle, 49, was arrested Feb. 8, 2011, after a traffic stop in Kootenai County.

A drug dog alerted police to the trunk of his car, where officers found 449 grams of meth. Valle pleaded guilty Jan. 3 to possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

In addition to 87 months in prison, Valle was ordered by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge today in Coeur d'Alene to be on probation for four years and pay a $5,000 fine.

Valle's public defender said in court documents that he needs treatment for his drug addiction.

“There is no dispute that Mr. Valle has a significant problem with methamphetamine,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “His addiction is the driving force behind his criminal convictions.”

Fire fueled by Molotov cocktail, meth offer

A truck fire outside an East Sprague Avenue motel was spurred by a lover's triangle and fueled by not just a Molotov cocktail but the promise of methamphetamine in return.

Donald S. Georgette was staying at the Maple Tree Motel, 4824 E. Sprague Ave., with a woman who was trying to end her relationship with Odean B. Chappel, 44, when Georgette received threatening text messages from Chappel around Feb. 5, according to court records filed last week.

Georgette's 1975 Ford truck was set on fire Feb. 6 between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

A woman who was staying in a shed at 1828 E. Riverside Ave., told fire investigators two men prepared a Molotov cocktail there using a beer bottle, rag and gasoline while they discussed doing a job for Chappel, documents say.

One of those men told investigatorshe later saw Chappel give the other man, Jesse James Icard, 43, methamphetamine as a payment for burning the truck.

Chappel has been arrested and is due in court today on arson, harassment and manufacture of an incendiary device charges.

Icard still is at large.

Woman arrested for vehicular assault

A Spokane woman sentenced to prison on drug charges who went directly to probation was arrested early Saturday for a one-vehicle crash in the Otish Orchards area that injured her passenger.

Deputies believe Jenelle L. Cuculich, 26, was drunk and speeding when she crashed in the area of 24000 East River Road about 12:50 a.m. She and her passenger were taken to a local hospital with serious injuries, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. Cuculich faces a felony charge of vehicular assault.

Cuculich was sentenced to prison last August after pleading guilty to two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, but she went immediately to probation, according to the DOC. She also was charged in a leading organized crime case last year and arrested with meth in February 2011. She also won $3,000 in the lottery in 2007, according to news archives.

The crash was the second investigated over the weekend. A motorcyclist and a bicyclist died in a crash near the intersection of East Buckeye Avenue and North Dick Road Saturday. Read more here.
  

Police subdue armed man w/ bean bags

Spokane police saved the life of a suicidal man on Sunday who was armed with a knife.

The 32-year-old man's family had left the location near 1500 E. Pacific Ave. because they were concerned for their safety, police said.

Officers arrived about 7:50 p.m. and the man exited the home with a knife to his throat and told police he wanted to die. He refused their commands and advanced on officers with the knife before they shot him with several bean bag rounds and he dropped the weapon, police say.

The man was taken to a local hospital for a mental health evaluation. He commended officers at the hospital, saying “You were trying to save my life without taking my life,” according to a news release.

“This is an example of a potentially lethal encounter which police face,” according to a news release. “Officers were able to use several of their “less-lethal” tools in this situation to take control of the scene without anyone being seriously injured.”

The National Suicide Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). More information on suicide prevention is available through the Spokane Regional Health District.

Suspicious vehicle leads to meth arrest

A suspicious vehicle report in north Spokane led deputies to arrest a wanted man on new drug charges early today.

Deputies were watching a Suzuki that was parked on he wrong side of the road in the area of 630 West Ivanhone Road when they contacted the driver, Bryan E. Aden, 42, and asked what he and his passenger,

Jason William Gilmore, also 42, were dong out at 2 a.m., according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Gilmore said they were gong to his mother's house near Chattaroy to help her, deputies say.

Deputies say Gilmore gave them permission to look inside a backpack, which contained a ski mask, tire iron, taped-up wrench and a flashlight with a blue lens cover.

Gilmore also had a felony warrant for his arrest through the Washington Department of Corrections. He was arrested for that as well as a new charge of possession of burglary tools. He also faces a drug charge after deputies found meth in a small vial where he had been standing.

Aden was cited and released for third-degree driving while license suspended.

Moses, McIntyre face charges for Zehm

Federal obstruction charges are expected to be filed soon against two more Spokane police officers in connection with the city’s handling of the Otto Zehm investigation, which U.S. Department of Justice officials have called an “extensive cover-up.”

  Attorneys representing Officers Sandra McIntyre and Tim Moses both confirmed Thursday that they have entered discussions with federal prosecutors about the potential charges relating to their clients’ testimony during the investigation into Zehm’s death.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 17: Tim Moses resigns as police spokesman

Nov. 2: Bugbee: Tim Moses didn't cover anything up

Oct. 21: Tim Moses: Thought I could trust the FBI

Oct. 21: McIntyre described 'intimidation' by feds

Spokane man admits stealing $350k

A Spokane man who embezzled more than $350,000 from a Coeur d'Alene insurance company has pleaded guilty to three federal felonies.

James K. Sokolis, 56, faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of probation when he's sentenced June 12 by Judge B. Lynn Winmill in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

Sokolis pleaded guilty Wednesday to three counts of insurance fraud. Sokolis was an insurance agent who 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 misappropriated $356,629.46, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

CdA sex crime fugitive arrested in LA

A child molestation suspect who has been missing since escaping a manhunt in North Idaho in December was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles.

Nathaniel Robert Howell, 32, was booked into jail in Los Angeles County about 3:52 p.m. Thursday, according to online records.

Howell had been wanted on a felony warrant in Kootenai County charging him with four counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and five counts of sexual exploitation.

Coeur d'Alene police notified the public about his fugitive status after he ran from police through the woods in the 1500 block of South Sagle Road last December.

Howell had seen police while visiting relatives nearby. He's now awaiting extradition to North Idaho from California.

Cops seek prolific property crime suspect

Spokane police are asking for help finding a prolific property crime suspect wanted on six felony cases.

Taylor Aleck Contos, 29, left the Pioneer Center East drug treatment center on Feb. 20 and has not been located since, according to court documents. A no-bail warrant seeks his immediate arrest.

Contos was to begin trial this month on charges related to alleged thefts at stores last summer, as well as methamphetamine, heroin and unlawful issuance of bank checks charges.

A co-defendant, Kristofer J. Stairs, 29, pleaded guilty in December and was sentenced to six months in jail with credit for 131 days served. He was arrested on a new felony drug charge Monday.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest Contos, who is 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds and last gave an address in the 1500 block of South Lincoln Street in Spokane.

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

School ties help ID suspects in robbery

Two suspects in a knifepoint robbery at Shopko in January were identified after a store employee realized she knew one from high school.

Blaine Allen Cornwell, 23, is charged with first-degree robbery and three counts of second-degree assault for allegedly threatening three employees at Shopko, 9520 N. Newport Highway, with a knife while stealing merchandise on Jan. 30.

Jaime K. Neel, 24, is charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance for allegedly driving Cornwell from he scene.

A store security officer watched Cornwell steal items with Neel after putting new shoes on layaway and providing employee a name of “Blaine,” according to court documents.

Another employee recognized Neel as a former high school classmate and helped police identify the two.

Neel was arrested Tuesday and released from jail on her own recognizance after appearing in court Wednesday.

Cornwell is wanted on a $50,000 warrant.

Godly chance leads to sex offense arrest

A Moody Bible Institute student who hoped to teach a man she met in Mission Park about God was instead groped and asked to smoke marijuana, according to Spokane police.

Officers say 40-year-old John L. Sanders continued acting inappropriately after his arrest by repeatedly asking two female Spokane police officers to have sex with him.

Sanders told the officers he hoped they would strip search him and repeatedly made kissing sounds at them, according to court documents.

The officers had arrested Sanders on a warrant March 16 after the bible school student told them she'd walked to the park to relieve stress and saw someone trying to get her attention. She was not wearing glasses and “assumed it was someone from her acting class or her church,” according to court documents.

When she realized she didn't know the man, the woman said “she felt she might have an opportunity to minister” to him, according to documents.

The man then touched her breast and asked her to smoke marijuana with him, she told police. The woman tried to leave, but the man kissed her on the lips, grabbed her and made inappropriate comments and noises.

Officers responded to the park and arrested Sanders on the unrelated warrant.

A detective assigned to follow up realized Sanders was arrested for a similar incident in downtown Spokane on Aug. 22. Sanders pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault and was credited for 51 days served in jail.

The victim identified Sanders from a photo montage on Wednesday, and he was booked into jail on a felony charge of indecent liberties.

1 officer cleared, 1 charged in shooting

(AP and staff reports) — A Nez Perce Tribal Police officer has been cleared in the fatal shooting of a Lewiston man, but one of his colleagues could be in trouble.

U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson announced Thursday that the officer who shot 46-year-old Jeffery Allen Flinn would not be prosecuted.

But another officer, Trevor Michael Garrett, had been charged with making false statements to FBI agents investigating Flinn's death.

Flinn died following a 50-mile car chase that ended in gunfire Nov. 12.

Police say earlier that day, Flinn had been released from jail following a drunken driving arrest and then got involved in a one-vehicle crash outside Lewiston. Police say he then stole a truck from another motorist and fled before officers arrived.

Tribal police say they tried to pull Flinn over, but he refused.

The indictment, returned Wednesday by a grand jury in Coeur d'Alene, alleges Garrett lied to FBI agents when he told them he didn't remember the details of what happened between the time he fired at Flinn and the time another officer secured Flinn's rifle.

The indictment alleges those statement were false “because Garrett knew that he remembered that Flinn exited a truck, and that Flinn stood facing law enforcement officers with his hands in the air for three to five seconds before he was shot and killed,” according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. “The indictment further alleges that Garrett's statements were false because he did know the name and identity of the police officer who shot Flinn.”

The incident was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Idaho State Police. 

In a prepared statement Thursday, Olson called the investigation “detailed and thorough.”  “We pursued and obtained all the information necessary to make a prosecutive decision,” she said.  

To prove a violation of the federal criminal civil rights statute prohibiting law enforcement officer misconduct, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer intentionally used more force than he or she could reasonably have thought necessary under the circumstances, according to a news release. 

“That issue was the focus of the investigation,” said Olson.

A decision not to prosecute may be made for a variety of reasons, Olson said, including insufficiency of evidence to prove the police officer intentionally used more force than was necessary.  

“The statute sets out a tough standard in cases involving allegations of unreasonable force by a police officer,” she said.  “It requires that we be cautious, thorough and deliberative, and that's what we've been in this case.  We determined that under the circumstances, including the weather conditions, lighting and officer's knowledge and state of mind leading up to the shooting, we could not prove all of the elements of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  In such situations, we are obligated to decline prosecution.  We do so here.”

Honolulu judge puts man in chokehold

HONOLULU (AP) — It got personal for a judge in Honolulu when he put a man in a chokehold for jumping onto his bench and breaking a flagpole bearing the state flag, authorities said.

District Judge Lono Lee knocked down Steven Michael Hauge and restrained him Monday after the man caused a ruckus in Lee's courtroom, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/GFfNuA).

Hauge had been going from courtroom to courtroom in the Honolulu District Court building screaming, State Sheriff Shawn Tsuha said. “He was quite upset about something,” Tsuha said.

It was not clear why Hauge was in the building. Court records show a criminal record dating to 1977 with more than 50 convictions on charges including, burglary, fraud and assault.

Hauge was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction of government operations and fourth-degree criminal property damage. Tsuha said Hauge allegedly broke the flag's staff while swinging it.

Hauge couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday at Oahu Community Correctional Center, where he was being held on $1,500 bail.

Spokane burglary suspect turns self in

A man suspected of burglarizing a north Spokane County home of a shotgun and a video game system turned himself in after being confronted by a detective Wednesday.

Kory M. Roberts, 23, is suspected of stealing the gun and X-Box 360 from a home in the 31300 block of North Staghorn Road on Tuesday, then selling them at a Spokane pawn shop.

The victim located the items at the pawn shop and contacted police. Roberts provided the shop his contact information when he sold the goods, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Spokane County sheriff's Detective Tamie Spitzer called Roberts on Wednesday and gave him two options: turn himself for the burglary or have a warrant issued for his arrest.

Roberts turned himself in at the Public Safety Building “within a couple hours,” according to a news release by sheriff's spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin.

Roberts told Spitzer “he had a prescription medication addiction and his criminal activity fed his addiction,” Chamberlin wrote.

Roberts was booked into jail about 1:20 p.m. Wednesday on two counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Feds: Woman stole from CdA tribal group

A Spokane woman is accused of stealing nearly $30,000 from the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Housing Authority.

Debora J. Zimmerman, 46, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury for embezzlement from an Indian tribal organization, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

An arraignment date has not been set.

The indictment alleges Zimmerman stole more $28,000 from the housing authority between September 2008 and September 2010.

If convicted, Zimmerman faces up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and not more than three years of probation. The case was investigated by the FBI.

Home loses $20k in items to burglary

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help solve a south Spokane County residential burglary in which about $20,000 in items was stolen.

A homeowner reported electronics, firearms, bank cards and jewelry among items stolen from the home in the area of the 8000 block of Highway 195 between noon and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

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

Man’s keen eye nabs burglary suspect

A homeowner interrupted a burglary Wednesday afternoon and provided such a thorough description of the man that police were able to arrest a suspect about an hour later

The victim was at his home in the 1700 block of East Illinois Avenue about 2 p.m. when he heard someone trying to get in the front door. He chased the would-be burglary away and provided not only a through description of him to officers but also the license plate number of the car in which he fled, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Officer Ken Applewhaite spotted the car about an hour alter and contacted the driver, Robert Monreal Hoguin, 40, who matched the description of the culprit. The homeowner identified Hoguin as the man who tried to break into his home.

Police say they found heroin in Hoguin's coat. He was booked into jail on charges of attempted residential burglary and possession of a controlled substance.

Hoguin was arrested for car theft Feb. 3, but he was released when prosecutors did not file charges within 72 hours, according to court records.

Richard Mack to speak in Spokane, CdA

A former Arizona sheriff revered by the militia movement for his outspoken criticism of gun control and government tyranny is returning to the Inland Northwest for meetings with local GOP groups, triggering a rift among some Republicans.

Richard Mack, who now lives in Texas and is running for U.S. Congress, is a self-described conservative constitutionalist with ties to various political parties and movements. He served as sheriff of rural Graham County, Arizona as a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for governor of Utah as a Libertarian and now is trying to unseat a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the GOP’s upcoming Texas primary.

Read he rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 6, 2009: A passion rising

$14k in video game items stolen in Valley

More than $14,000 in merchandise was stolen from a Spokane Valley video game store late Monday or early Tuesday.

The owner of Game On in the 11800 block of East 1st Avenue told police the store was burglarized overnight and eight X-box gaming systems were stolen, along with eight X-Box wireless controllers, eight X-Box wired controllers, 150 X-Box games, two external hard drives, a wireless computer router, a Toshiba laptop computer, 100 Blu-ray movies and $200 in cash, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to an arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their names.

20-year sentence for road rage murder

A man who shot a retired teacher to death in a 2002 road-rage case has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after an appellate court overturned his earlier conviction.

Christopher W. Conklin, 31, was sentenced last week to 240 months in prison with credit for nearly 10 years served in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and second-degree assault before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor.

The Washington Court of Appeals overturned his first-degree murder conviction last year because Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins failed to tell Conklin that he could withdraw his plea after an error in his plea bargain was discovered.

Conklin was 21 when a Suburban he was driving struck a minivan that turned onto Division Street from Empire Avenue. Police said it wasn’t clear which driver was at fault, but Conklin then deliberately sideswiped the minivan and forced it to stop.

The minivan driver, Richard Laws, and three independent witnesses said Conklin pistol-whipped Laws and killed his passenger, 64-year-old Melvin J. Hendrickson, with a gunshot intended for Laws.

Past coverage:

March 11, 2011: Murder conviction in road rage case overturned

13-time felon accused of gun burglary

A burglary suspect accused of stealing a truck and gun from a northwest Spokane home is a repeat offender with a 19-year history of property crimes, police say.

 Grant Douglas Brough, 35, was one of two men who ran from a traffic stop near East Sanson Avenue and North Mayfair Street late Tuesday, according to Spokane police. Police dog Leonidas tracked Brough to a garage in the 100 block of East Everett Avenue.

Read the rest of my story here.

CdA police cleared in man’s July death

COEUR D’ALENE (AP) — A North Idaho prosecutor says an investigation shows Coeur d’Alene police acted appropriately when they arrested a man who lost consciousness and later died.

 The Coeur d’Alene Press reports that a forensic pathologist found Nicholas Andrew Clason stopped breathing because of methamphetamine toxicity, and that after he was resuscitated he died of a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh investigated the death and said those findings showed that the Spokane man didn’t die because of the way police restrained him.

Police arrested Clason last July after they got a report of a suicidal man who was trying to stab himself on Interstate 90. During the arrest, officers realized Clason had stopped breathing and began CPR. He died four days later.

Past coverage:

July 14: Man dies in police custody in Coeur d'Alene

Photos show suspects in alley assault

Spokane police today released surveillance photos of two possible suspects in a late-night assault in an alley last month that left two men unconscious.

The assailants were described as a man and a woman. The assault occurred Feb. 25 just after midnight in an alley behind Safeway near 4100 N. Regal St. One of the victims was hospitalized with cuts to his face, and both had numerous bruises, police said.

Witnesses told police the attackers may be near the Special K Tavern at 3817 N. Market St. Officers found two more victims at the bar who didn't notify authorities about their attack but were able to provide additional information on suspects.

The male attacker is described as white, 6-feet tall, 160 pounds, bald with short hair and an eyebrow piercing. He wore jeans and a gray t-shirt.

The female assailant was described as Native American, 21 to 30 years old, 5-foot-5 and 160 pounds with black should-length hair and facial tattoos.

They were last seen walking toward the Safeway at 3919 N. Market St. The photos released today are from surveillance video at the store before the assault.

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

Lewis to remain in jail on $500k bond

An 18-year-old man accused of killing a retired principal who was trying to break up an underage party will remain jailed on $500,000 bond.

If Treven Lewis does post bond, he is required to check in with his attorney regularly, refrain from using alcohol and must have no contact with what Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell described as “a lengthy list of people.”
 
Lewis' public defender, Kari Reardon, agreed to the conditions and did not ask Superior Court Judge Annette Plese to reduce the $500,000 bond at Lewis' court appearance this afternoon.
 
Lewis' family members attended his court appearance but declined to speak with reporters. Lewis' next court appearance is March 27 at 9 a.m.
 
Haskell noted that Lewis was supposed to stay away from alcohol as part of his conditions for leaving jail on a separate assault charge last summer.
 
Lewis was awaiting trial on that case when he was arrested for the beating of Frank J. Motta, 65, who died last Thursday after being attacked while trying to clear out his neighbor's teen son's drinking party the previous weekend.
 
Witnesses said Lewis pushed Motta to the ground and punched him once in the head after Motta nudged Lewis' girlfriend while telling her and others they needed to leave.
 
Motta, a Vietnam veteran and patient advocate at the Spokane veterans hospital, will be remembered Sunday in a memorial service open only to friends and family.

Lewis' criminal history began at a young age and includes an adult felony conviction and six juvenile misdemeanors.

Last July, he was arrested after a woman rding her bicycle near 1500 E. Upriver Drive told police she saw Lewis slap his girlfriend, then yell at her to get up when she fell to the ground. Lewis posted $1,000 bond, and prosecutors dismissed the misdemeanor assault charge because his girlfriend would not cooperate, accoridng to court documents.

Read more about Lewis' background here.

Past coverage:

March 16: VA hospital grieving after beaten employee dies

Spokane police bust suspect chop shop

A stolen Honda Civic located outside a north Spokane garage Tuesday led police to raid a suspected chop shop and arrest two men. 

Dennis A. Martynenko, 23, and Brandon C. Hill, 18, were booked into jail on two counts of possession of a stolen motor vehicle after Spokane police Cpl. Shane Oien spotted the stolen Civic parked outside a detached garage near 4000 N. Pittsburg St.

Martyenko and Hill were removing wheels, tires and other parts from the Civic and putting them another car, police say.

Officers with the Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team saw two other Hondas inside the garage that were stripped down and had parts swapped out .

Officers also observed other cars parts such as seats, hoods, fenders, bumpers and molding throughout the garage, as well as a stolen Honda scooter. Police contacted the owners of the white Honda and the scooter, who “gratefully responded to identify and take possession of their stolen property,” police said today.

The Spokane police Targeted Crimes Unit served a search warrant at the garage and recovered the stolen vehicles, as well as stolen tools. They say the garage appears to be used as a chop shop where stolen cars are disassembled and their parts redistributed.

Police say Martyenko is a repeat offender with seven felony conviction for property crimes. Hill also has a criminal history, police said.

“This arrest is part of the Spokane Police Department’s effort to identify and apprehend repeat offenders in order to minimize theft and property crimes within the City of Spokane,” according to a news release.

Police offered the following tips to protect yourself from theft: Watch for individuals who are out of place in your neighborhood. Don’t leave valuables in plain view, even if your car is locked. Always park in high-traffic, well-lighted areas when possible. Invest in the purchase of anti-theft security devices. If your vehicle is stolen, report it to the police immediately.

Hondas are the most stolen car in Washington state.

Felon had 12 guns, 12k ammo rounds

A convicted felon accused of illegally possessing guns had 12 firearms and more than 12,000 rounds of ammunition when federal agents searched her home last week, a new grand jury indictment alleges.

Donna R. Perry, alias Douglas Perry, 60, pleaded not guiltyTuesday to a federal charge of felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. She's been in jail since she was arrested March 14 at her home near North Crestline Street and East Empire Avenue.

A judge on Tuesday recommended Perry undergo a mental health evaluation.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began investigating Perry after a retired detective contacted them March 12 and said he'd observed Perry buying ammo and a pistol magazine at the White Elephant store, 12614 E. Sprague Ave., in Spokane Valley, according to court documents. The detective knew Perry is a felon prohibited from possessing firearms.

Agents identified Perry in part through a photo the detective took of her blue 1992 Geo Metro.

They learned from the Washington Department of Licensing that the owner had changed his name from Douglas Perry to Donna Perry in 2000 and had changed his gender from male to female. Police compared a driver's license photo of Perry to the photo provided by the detective.

Federal agents say Perry had 12,499 rounds of ammunition in her home, as well as various pistols, rifles and shotguns.

Perry has felony convictions for possession of an unregistered firearm (pipebombs) in 1988 and felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in 1995.

She pleaded not guilty to the new federal indictment Tuesday in U.S. District Court and remains at the Spokane County Jail without bail.

Lewis due in court today for murder

An 18-year-old man accused of killing a retired principal who was trying to break up an underage drinking party is to appear in court this afternoon on a murder charge. 

Treven Lewis is scheduled to appear before Judge Annette Plese today at 1:30 p.m.

Lewis will formally hear the new charge against him, will be assigned a court date and will have an opportunity to ask for his bail to be reduced.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla filed the charge on Monday after an autopsy by the Medical Examiner's Office concluded Frank J. Motta, 65, (pictured) died of contusions to the brain because of blunt head injuries. His manner of death was ruled homicide.

Lewis had been jailed on a first-degree assault charge since March 13. Lewis is accused of beating Motta and Motta tried to clear out a party thrown March 10 by a neighbor’s son in the 11800 block of North Bedivere Drive in north Spokane County.

Court records show his criminal activities began at a young age. Read much more here.

Past coverage:

March 16: VA hospital grieving after beaten employee dies

$400k to settle open records lawsuit

Spokane County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $400,000 settlement in a six-year-old case stemming from an open records request.

The Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County won on appeal before the state Supreme Court last September, setting the stage for Tuesday’s action.

The alliance in 2005 sought public records to learn whether Steve Harris, the son of former Commissioner Phil Harris, was given a job prior to a formal hiring process. The alliance was seeking evidence of nepotism.

Copies of a seating chart had the names of “Ron and Steve” on one cubicle, and the alliance sought corroborating records to identify the two.

The trial court dismissed a subsequent lawsuit in 2008, but the alliance appealed.

The justices ruled the county did an inadequate search and that the county improperly rejected an alliance request to identify “Ron & and Steve.”

The case was sent back to Lincoln County where it was initially filed to determine penalties under the state’s open records act.

County officials later said the seating chart was a reference to another employee named Steve. However, a plaintiff’s attorney said there were two people named Steve on the chart.

The county’s risk manager estimated that penalties and legal costs under the law could have reached $650,000.

An agenda summary said the Supreme Court essentially gave the alliance a “blank check.” The penalties and lawyer fees have accrued over time.

Tim Connor, communications director for the Center for Justice, which represented the alliance, said in a prepared statement that the settlement is reportedly the third-largest involving public records in the U.S. He cited a state assistant attorney general as the source of that information.

Past coverage:

Sept. 30: Records ruling costly for county

Teen gets 33+ years for torture slaying

A 19-year-old Spokane man was sentenced to more than 33 years in prison recently for his role in the murder and kidnapping of a 22-year-old man whose burned body was found in the back of a car last year.

Justice E. D. Sims, 19, (left) pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping Friday in connection to the slaying of Nicholas J. Thoreson, who was found dead in the trunk of his Thunderbird on Forker Road April 13.

  Detectives believe Sims, his sister Breeanna C. Sims, 20, and Taylor J. Wolf, 21, brutally beat Thoreson (right) in a garage at the Knotty Pines apartment complex, 13615 E. Trent Ave., in Spokane Valley. Sims then fatally shot Thoreson.

In addition to 400 months in prison, Sims was ordered to pay $5,268 restitution.

Wolf is scheduled to begin trial Aug. 20. Breeanna Sims is scheduled to begin trial April 2.

Detectives say Wolf (left) made incriminating statements to Britney Bjork, girlfriend of jailed Hells Angel Ricky Jenks, just after his arrest in April, leading them to charge her with conspiracy to commit perjury, rendering criminal assistance and arson. Bjork is scheduled to begin trial April 16 and is represented by Chris Bugbee.

Detectives say Wolf told Bjork he was going to shoot Thoreson but “I couldn’t do it, so me and Justice did it together,” according to court documents, which cite recorded phone conversations. “But we had gloves on and stuff.”

Sims originally was charged with aggravated first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty, and the charge was amended to first-degree murder as part of a plea deal.

Also charged in the case is the Simses' half-brother, who pleaded guilty in juvenile court to threatening a witness in the case. The teen is not being named because he was charged as a juvenile.

Emily K. Karlinsey, 19, who is accused of making threatening phone calls to a witness, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault in January and was credited for a day already spent in jail and given two years probation.

Past coverage:

Dec. 6: Murder suspect's love letters seized

May 20: Sibling murder suspects plead not guilty

May 3: Homicide victim remembered in obituary

April 21: New details released in Forker Road homicide

Cell tower info may aid murder probe

Detectives are seeking cellphone tower location information for phones belonging to a Spokane murder victim and two men with romantic ties to her.

 Kimberly Rae Schmidt, 34, was found dead of a gunshot wound to her head Jan. 1 in what the medical examiner's office has ruled a homicide.

According to court documents filed today, a man with whom Schmidt had past romantic ties with told detectives they recently began rekindling their relationship and that he was to spend New Year's Eve with her, but she cancelled about 10:40 p.m.

The man told detectives he knew Schmidt was seeing another man that night, documents say. That man told detectives he last saw Schmidt about 4 a.m. when she was sleeping in her bedroom.  Schmidt's daughter saw the two together earlier that night when they dropped her off at a friend's home for a party.

Both men allowed detectives to review their cellphones. Detectives say the men had “numerous text correspondents” with Schmidt on Dec. 31.

Spokane County sheriff's Detective Mike Drapeau filed search warrants with phone companies last week seeking cell tower information for the three phones that could help him determine where the three were about the time of the murder, according to documents filed today. Results have not been released.

Drapeau said in January that he believes one of the men is a likely suspect.

Schmidt’s mother found Schmidt dead in her home at 37 E. Regina Ave. on Jan. 1. Detectives seized a cloth drawstring bag with a gun barrel sticking out. Drapeau said he believes a .25-caliber semi-automatic handgun was the homicide weapon, but he has to wait for the lab to confirm it.

Detectives also are looking into two civil lawsuits that name Schmidt and scuba diving instructor Daniel R. Arteaga, who both worked part time for the Scuba Center of Spokane. The suits involve two scuba diving accidents; on that left a man dead another that allegedly left a woman with brain damage.

Arteaga and Schmidt were notified about the pending suit two and a half weeks before Schmidt was murdered. Schmidt was expected to be a key witness in the case.

Schmidt, a Spokane native and graduate of Shadle Park High School, worked at Pitney Bowes with Tracy Ader, Tracy Ader, who was killed with her two sons in February by 22-year-old Dustin Gilman, who killed himself.

Past coverage:

Jan. 11: Murder victim's family grateful for support

Robot, tear gas help end 9-hour standoff

A nine-hour SWAT team standoff in Spokane Valley early Saturday ended with the arrest of a 31-year-old domestic violence suspect.

Justin D. Chance surrendered after SWAT members pumped tear gas into the 3500 block of North Ely Road, where officers were called to late Friday on a domestic violence report, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The SWAT team arrived after Chance barricaded himself inside the home and threatened to shoot officers if they tried to enter. A robot was used to establish radio contact with him inside the home.

“The Sheriff's Office specialty units train together on a regular basis for events such as this one.,” according to a news release from sheriff's spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin. “These situations require a combined effort with these units to ensure the safety of the officers, citizens of Spokane County and people directly involved with the incident.”

Chance remains jailed on charges of second-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment.

Crime Stoppers targets 2 sex offenders

Crime Stoppers is offering rewards for tips that help arrest two sex offenders who haven't check in with authorities as required.

Kevin Raymond Belieu, 53, (left) is a transient with a 35 year criminal history that includes convictions for robbery, theft, forgery and lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor.

Belieu, 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, is living as a transient, which means he's required to check in with authorities once a week. A $15,000 warrant was issued March 12 after he failed to check in.

Also wanted is Billy Ray Roberts, Jr., 32 (right).

Roberts, 6-feet-tall and 215 pounds, last gave an address in the 8000 block of North Mayfair Street in Spokane.

His nine-year criminal history includes conviction for theft and burglary, as well as a conviction for third-degree rape of a child in 2003. A $15,000 warrant was issued March 12 after Roberts failed to check in with authorities.

Belieu and Roberts are level 1 sex offenders, which is the classification considered least likely to reoffend.

Anyone with information on their current locations 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.

Reward targets suspect in girl’s shooting

Crime Stoppers is now offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of a man accused of shooting a 6-year-old girl earlier this month.

Abubakar “Abu” Samura, 21, is wanted on two first-degree assault charges for the shooting at a home March 4 in the 1800 block of East Fourth Avenue.

Spokane police say victim Matthew Woods was at the home with a friend about 8 p.m. when he heard someone from a home nearby in the 300 block of South Pittsburg Street yell what he understood to be a derogatory statement about their gang.

The men responded and one shot Woods in the leg, then fired several more times as he ran to a nearby home.

Three witnesses granted anonymity by police identified Samura as the gunman.

Samura, 5-foot-5 and 160 pounds, last gave an address in the 1400 block of East Hartson Avenue in Spokane.

Anyone with information on his current location 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.

Man arrested, released, arrested again

A 45-year-old Spokane man was arrested last week after deputies responded to a suspicious vehicle at a north Spokane construction company.

Theodore Francis Gilman was booked into jail Thursday on second-degree burglary and theft of a motor vehicle charges after deputies found him driving a white truck with no headlights on a fenced commercial property belonging to Lance Pounder Excavation, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. The truck also belonged to the company.

Deputies first responded to the neighboring IBEX Construction at 8015 N. Regal St. and spotted a hole cut in a fence and several gas cans gathered next to it. A woman sleeping in a vehicle nearby was detained and later released.

Gilman was released from jail when charges weren't filed with 72 hours, but he returned to jail Sunday on new charges of resisting arrest and taking a motor vehicle without permission. A woman he was on a date with in Airway Heights accused him of steaing her car and almost running over her foot.

Guns seized from mental health patient

A Cheney man with suspected mental health issues remains in protective custody after police found an arsenal of weapons at his home Wednesday  following weeks of threats against public officials.

Douglas J. Dibiasi, 53, was already in protective custody when law enforcement searched his home at 9018 S. Medifor Road about 9:30 a.m.

Spokane County sheriff's officials seized 26 pistols, rifles and shotguns as well as 4,000 to 5,000 rounds of ammunition throughout the home, according to a search warrant.

The search came after officials with the State Bar Association said Dibiasi had filed a grievance against an attorney that had been dismissed, and he continued to leave voicemails threatening to kill federal officials. He threatened to blow up the post office in Cheney and has repeatedly alleged that the sheriff's office is out to get him.

A store owner in Cheney told detectives that he had to tell Dibiasi to stop entering the business with his pistol after an incident with an employee last fall.

Dibiasi was taken into protective custody March 7, and a doctor on March 12 forbid him from possessing weapons.

Man beaten while breaking up party dies

The Spokane veteran’s hospital community is grieving for a beloved employee who died after being assaulted while trying to break up an underage party.

 Frank James Motta, a retired high school principal, teacher and football coach, began volunteering at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2009 and was hired as a patient’s advocate four months ago. His wife, Virginia, and daughter, Jami, also volunteer there.

Motta was attacked by a partygoer while trying to break up a large gathering at his neighbor’s house. The neighor was out of town and had asked Motta to clear out the party, thrown by her teenage son. Motta died Thursday night at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, friends confirmed.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

March 14: Man badly beaten while trying to break up party

NJ man to pay millions in lottery lawsuit

Top: Americo Lopes exits the courtroom on Wednesday in Elizabeth, N.J.  A jury found that Lopes had cheated five co-workers out of their share of a $38.5 million lottery jackpot. Below: Plantiffs Carlos Fernandes, right, Candido Silva Jr. shake hands. (AP Photos/The Star-Ledger, Frances Micklow, Pool)

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — Five construction workers in New Jersey, vindicated by a jury, must wait before learning exactly how much they'll share of a $38.5 million Mega Millions jackpot that a co-worker who was part of their lottery pool claimed as his own in 2009.

 A jury in state Superior Court in Elizabeth reached a unanimous verdict on Wednesday that Americo Lopes had cheated the men out of their share of the prize.

The panel rejected the 52-year-old's claims that he had won the jackpot on a personal ticket and not with the ticket that he had bought as part of the lottery pool.

Attorney Rubin Sinins, who represented the five men, said each was awarded $4 million because the jackpot was worth $24 million after Lopes chose the cash option.

However attorney Eric Kahn, who also represented the former colleagues, told The New York Times that details on how much each man would receive and how much each might owe in taxes needed to be worked out.

The men started playing the lottery together in 2007 while they worked for Berto Construction Inc. in Elizabeth.

When Lopes hit the Mega Millions jackpot in November 2009, he told his boss he wouldn't be returning because he needed foot surgery, which he never received. He also filed for unemployment benefits after claiming the $17,433,966 prize after taxes.

His wife, Margarida, testified that her husband finally called one of the men in the group in March 2010 and told him about winning.

“Our clients all feel vindicated” by the verdict, Sinins said. “This has been their position all along; they've been challenged in their position and the jury saw it their way. They are very gratified.”

Lopes left court with his wife shortly after the verdict. Speaking in Portuguese, Lopes said he had been robbed, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported.

His attorney, Michael Mezzacca, was disappointed.

“The fact is Mr. Lopes won the lottery by himself with his own money and numbers that he picked,” Mezzacca told the newspaper.

When the verdict was announced, the five plaintiffs embraced. They told The Star-Ledger they'll continue to play the lottery as a group, but would copy the ticket.

“I have a lot to do,” plaintiff Carlos Fernandez said. “My granddaughter was born yesterday. I have to buy her a present she'll remember.”

Thief grabs fancy meat, skips cheap cuts

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Police in Salt Lake City are trying to find a thief with a discriminating palate who broke into a deli and stole its finest meats and cheeses.

Caputo's owner Troy Petersen says five or six legs of prosciutto, artisan salami and the fanciest imported cheeses were gone when the burglary was discovered Monday morning. The less expensive cuts of meat were untouched.

Petersen says the lock to a walk-in cooler that's accessible from outdoors was broken, and about $2,400 worth of food was gone. He tells the Deseret News (http://bit.ly/AApiCA ) that replacing the gourmet products will take weeks because many come from distributors in southern Europe.

Petersen says the thief will have a tough time selling some of the products, because special cutting tools are required to process them.

Clerk notices stolen card is her mom’s

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — Police say a teen fraudster's cunning credit card plot was foiled by a Pennsylvania convenience store clerk who noticed her own mother's name on the card.

Manor Township police say the clerk also recognized the teen as a former classmate when he tried to use the card to buy gas early Tuesday morning.

Authorities say 19-year-old Joshua Devonshire fled but was spotted later apparently trying to put the stolen card back in the clerk's mother's car. He was eventually taken into custody after being spotted sleeping in a car in the same development.

Investigators say they recovered several items from the car that were suspected to be stolen.

Devonshire is being held on $3,000 bail. It wasn't immediately clear whether he had an attorney.

Cat refuses to go for jog; man ticketed

LAFAYETTE, Colo. (AP) — Police in Lafayette, Colo., have ticketed a man who is accused of tying his cat to a rock after the feline refused to go jogging.

Sgt. Fred Palmer says 19-year-old Seth Franco brought his cat on a leash to the path around Waneka Lake Park on Wednesday, but the cat was unable to keep up.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, witnesses told police that Franco secured the cat's leash to a rock while he finished his run. A passer-by called police.

Franco was ticketed on suspicion of “domestic animal cruel treatment,” a municipal offense.

Palmer says an ordinance in the city, about 20 miles north of Denver, “prohibits that kind of tethering.”

The cat wasn't injured, so it was released to its owner.

Franco could not immediately be reached for comment.

Felon busted after cop sees ammo buy

A federal raid at a northeast Spokane home Wednesday occurred after a retired police detective observed a known felon buying ammunition.

Donna R. Perry, alias Douglas Perry, 60, is in jail on a federal charge of felon in possession of a firearm after she was arrested at her home near North Crestline Street and East Empire Avenue.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began investigating Perry after the detective contacted them March 12 and said he'd observed Perry buying ammo and a pistol magazine at the White Elephant store, 12614 E. Sprague Ave., in Spokane Valley, according to court documents.

The retired detective showed agents a photo of the receipt and a cell phone photo and video of Perry buying the items. Agents showed Matt Conley, manager of the store at 1730 N. Division St., a photo of Perry, and Conley said Perry had been buying black powder and black powder firearm components on a monthly basis for the past few years.

Store owner Pat Conley confirmed he was presented at the Valley store when Perry bought several rounds of .22 caliber and 9 mm ammunition. Pat Conley also said Perry had been a regular customer for years. A store employee said he frequently sees Perry at gun shows carrying a large bag.

Agents identified Perry in part through a photo the retired detective took of her blue 1992 Geo Metro.

They learned from the Washington Department of Licensing that the owner had changed his name from Douglas Perry to Donna Perry in 2000 and had changed his gender from male to female. Police compared a driver's license photo of Perry to the photo provided by the detective.

Perry has felony convictions for possession of an unregistered firearm (pipebombs) in 1988 and felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in 1995.

Perry is to appear in U.S. District Court tomorrow. She remains in the Spokane County Jail.
  

‘Grandparents scam’ costs man $20k

Authorities are again warning of the “grandparents scam” after a north Spokane County man wired nearly $20,000 to Peru.

The man said he received a call about 10 a.m. Tuesday from a man he thought was his grandson. The caller said he needed $2,400 to get out of jail and that if he wired the money to Lima, Peru, they would avoid a two-day waiting period, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

He did so, and the man called again saying the judge increased bail and he needed $6,250. She transferred that money, then transferred another $6,250 upon request.

The man called again Wednesday about 9:30 a.m. and asked for $4,800 to pay lawyer fees. The victim transferred the money, but he refused another request for money that afternoon and called the sheriff's office.

It turns out the man was not his grandson.

The sheriff's office released the phone numbers the man called from today as part of a warning to the public:  438-998-6142, 514-458-3080, 438-993-6948, 438-998-6142

Similar scams were reported in spring 2010, December 2010 and in fall 2009. Anyone with an elderly relative should warn them of the scam.

Police save Spokane Valley man’s life

Three Spokane Valley police officer saved the life of a suicidal man Wednesday.

Officers Griffin Criswell, Wally Loucks and Richard Johnson found the man attempting to hang himself at his Spokane Valley home after the man called 911 and said he wanted to kill himself.

The officers got the victim down and began CPR. They located a pulse and the man was transported to a hospital, where his family said today that he's alert and conscious “with a positive demeanor,” according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

They extended their deepest gratitude and thanks to officers Criswell, Loucks and Johnson for their quick response and heroism during this traumatic event,” according to a news release.

The National Suicide Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). More information on suicide prevention is available through the Spokane Regional Health District.

Shot fugitive had wig, weapons, paint

A fugitive shot to death by police in North Idaho had material for changing his identity in his vehicle, as well as weapons, drug paraphernalia and an active police scanner.

 The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department announced the discovery Wednesday as part of its ongoing investigation into the death of Justin Earl Nicholas Todd, 33.

Todd died early Monday after he was shot by multiple Post Falls police officers following a 20-minute chase that ended in a residential area in west Hayden, Idaho.

Todd was shot after he struck an Idaho State Police trooper with his car and knocked him to the ground. The trooper suffered minor injuries.

Todd, a longtime felon, was wanted on a warrant for eluding police when his car triggered an alert system on Interstate 90 that detects stolen vehicles and fugitives.

Investigators said Wednesday that Todd's car had recently been painted from blue to white. They found six cans of black spray paint in the car that indicated Todd may have planned to paint it again. They also found a brass knuckles/stun gun combination weapons, a knife, three cell phones along with the paraphernalia and scanner.

Investigators interviewed all officers involved in the incident Wednesday. The Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office will decide on charges once a report is submitted.

Man near death after breaking up party

A man severely beaten at an underage drinking party last weekend was a 65-year-old neighbor who was trying to break up the gathering as sheriff’s deputies stood outside.

Doctors do not expect Frank James Motta to survive the attack.

Witnesses said Treven Lewis, 18, attacked Motta about 10 p.m. Saturday after Motta nudged Lewis’s girlfriend while telling her and other young people to leave the house, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Lewis is accused of pushing Motta to the ground, then punching him in the head once after he stood up.

Read the rest of my story here.

Boy’s death 3rd gun accident in 3 weeks

The vehicle where a 3-year-old boy fatally shot himself with a gun is seen behind police tape and parked at a gas station early Wednesday in Tacoma. (AP photo/komonews.com)

By DONNA BLANKINSHIP and DOUG ESSER,Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — A 3-year-old scrambled out of his child seat after his parents stopped for gas early Wednesday, found a gun police say was left in the car by his father and fatally shot himself in the head.

The accidental shooting in Tacoma marks the third in three weeks in Washington involving young children, and the second death. The spate of gun violence is raising questions about the effectiveness of the state's gun laws and community awareness of firearm safety.

Tacoma police Officer Naveed Benjamin said the 3-year-old boy's death highlights the need for people to secure guns.

“It is incredible in light of the other ones,” Benjamin said. “You would think people would take more care, not less.”

Tacoma police said the boy's death came after his father put his pistol under a seat and got out to pump gas while the mother went inside the convenience store. The boy's infant sister, who also was in the car when the gun went off, was not injured.

The Pierce County medical examiner has identified the boy as Julio Segura-McIntosh of Tacoma.

Detectives questioned the parents and have called the shooting a tragic accident, Benjamin said. The father has a concealed weapons permit, and no charges have been filed, he said. Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said that he is reviewing the case for possible manslaughter charges.

Washington does not have a law specifically concerning child access to firearms, but state law is very specific about carrying loaded pistols in vehicles.

A person with a concealed weapons permit may carry a gun in a car in Washington state, but is required to have it on his person. If they have to leave it in the car, the law says it must be locked and concealed from view.

The Wednesday shooting follows the death of the 7-year-old daughter of a Marysville police officer in Stanwood on Saturday when a sibling found a gun and fired while the parents were out of their car. And on Feb. 22, an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded in a Bremerton classroom when a gun fired inside the backpack of a 9-year-old boy as he put it on a desk.

The two deaths represent an uptick in the number of these tragic accidents, according to Washington state health officials.

About one accidental firearm death of a child each year is typical in the state, according to state health statistics gathered between 2007 and 2010, said Health Department spokesman Tim Church. During that same time, an average of nine kids 17 and younger ended up in the hospital because of an accidental shooting, Church added.

“You can't predict what children are going to do,” Benjamin said. “You need to unload and lock it up if you're not carrying it. … It's really not that hard to practice firearm safety.”

A spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation said existing laws are enough to encourage gun safety, as long as the gun owners obey them.

“Responsible people will maintain gun safety whether there is a law or not; irresponsible people will ignore the law,” said Dave Workman, senior editor of the group's publication, thegunmag.com. He said existing statutes, including child endangerment laws, were designed to prevent such tragedies.

Workman said what he can't figure out is why the two men left their guns in their vehicles when they were licensed to carry them.

“Most responsible gun owners, especially if they're licensed to carry, will keep their firearm with them,” Workman said.

Twenty-seven states have some form of law to prevent child access to firearms, but Washington is not one of them. Such laws can include criminal penalties for adults who allow children to get their hands on guns, according to the San Francisco-based group Legal Community Against Violence.

State Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, expressed doubt that the Legislature could succeed at overcoming opposition from gun rights advocates to strengthen state gun laws.

He said a former state representative tried and failed for years to strengthen restrictions on firearms sales at gun shows.

“The forces that be wouldn't even support doing that. It's pretty strong from the gun lobby that they don't want to see any change under any circumstance,” Hunt said.

Washington Cease Fire Executive Director Gregory Roberts responded to the latest shooting, saying, “We think guns are dangerous, but they are not treated as dangerous by our society or by laws or by our regulations,” he said. “We regard guns as some sort of sacred object that should not be subject to regulation.”

The Seattle organization is currently running a campaign of ads on buses urging people to think twice about owning guns. People with guns in their home or car are more likely to injure or kill a family member or loved one than to use it against an intruder, he said.

In Saturday's shooting, off-duty Marysville police Officer Derek Carlile had parked the family van near Stanwood City Hall, and he and his wife were out of the vehicle when one of their children found the loaded gun and fired. The shot hit 7-year-old Jenna Carlile, and the girl, the oldest of their four children, died Sunday at a Seattle hospital.

The 8-year-old Bremerton girl, Amina Kocer-Bowman, remained in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after nearly dying in the accidental shooting at Armin Jahr Elementary, where a classmate brought a handgun to class.

Authorities believe the boy took the .45-caliber gun from the glove compartment of a car while visiting his mother and her boyfriend at their home. He lives with an uncle.

___

AP newsmen Jonathan Kaminsky and Chris Grygiel contributed to this story.

King Co. sheriff will lead state training

SEATTLE (AP) — The King County sheriff says she has accepted a new job as director of the Washington state Criminal Justice Training Commission.

Sue Rahr said Wednesday she'll retire as sheriff March 31 and begin her new job April 1.

She has designated Chief Deputy Steve Strachan as interim sheriff. He'll hold that position until the King County Council either decides to confirm him as interim sheriff or names someone else to the job.

Rahr was more than halfway through her second term, which expires in 2013.

She called the commission job “a rare and unexpected opportunity” and says she has complete confidence in Strachan.

The Criminal Justice Training Commission oversees the state's police training center in the Seattle suburb of Burien, where all police officers except state troopers undergo basic training. It also sets statewide training standards for peace officers.

Public comments invited on police chief

Anyone with opinions on the qualities they would like to see in the new Spokane police chief is invited to attend a committee meeting on Thursday.

Spokane's Police Advisory Committee will hear comments Thursday at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St.

The Spokane Police Department and the Officer of Neighborhood Services hopes to provide a second public comment opportunity in April. Citizens can also email comments to the City of Spokane at  policechiefsearch@spokanecity.org.

The City plans to advertise for the police chief position again by the end of this month.

Applications were collected between November and mid-February, but Mayor David Condon said Wednesday that he would like “a larger and more diverse pool” from which to select.

Condon encourages citizens to express their views.

“Restoring public confidence in the Spokane Police Department is my highest priority, and I want to ensure that citizens have an opportunity to tell us what they think is important as we continue with the hiring process,” Condon said in a prepared statement.

State wanted case halted for mental issue

A woman who lives as a man, including wearing a full beard she previously described as a public display of her activism, was ruled competent Tuesday to stand trial on the charge of assaulting a police officer in 2009.

 Prosecutors are disappointed.

Yes, you read that right.

In a reversal of the norm, it wasn’t a defense attorney or even the defendant, Joseph Ali Bin Muhammad – formerly Paula K. Reynolds-Eblacas, 45who asked to avoid prosecution by a ruling of mental incompetence.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 14: Fugitive since February jailed on $50k bond

Aug. 11, 2009: Bearded woman back in court

3 Idaho residents busted w/ pot in Ore.

This photo from Oregon State Police shows ten pounds of marijuana seized during a traffic stop involving three North Idaho residents near Bend, Ore., March 7.

Three North Idaho residents were stopped near Oregon last week with 10 pounds of marijuana, police said today.

Marcus George Heidenreich, 30, of Coeur d'Alene, (pictured) was arrested on drug charges after an Oregon State Police trooper found two pounds of marijuana in his suitcase and another eight pounds of pot in a box.

The search occurred March 7 about 3:40 p.m. near Bend after the trooper stopped a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee with Idaho plates for “a hazardous traffic violation” as it drove north on Highway 97 near milepost 145, police said.

Driver Shawn Lee Miller, 41, of Coeur d'Alene, was cited for unlawful possession and distribution of marijuana and ordered to appear in Deschutes County Circuit Court.

Passenger Shainsy Loree Miller, 34, of Athol, also was cited.

Ex-Spokane man faces life for murder

A 27-year-old Pasco murder suspect facing life in prison under the three-strikes law got his first strike in Spokane County.

Joseph William Hart pleaded not guilty Tuesday n Franklin County Superior Court for second-degree murder.

Hart is accused of killing Rodger A. Lincoln, 53, outside their east Pasco mobile home last Tuesday.

Hart was 20 years old when he was convicted in Spokane County of first-degree robbery and sentenced to 46.5 month in prison. Hart stabbed a man after the man picked Hart up in a car near Coeur d'Alene Park in Browne's Addition in May 2004.

Hart got his second strike in prison for beating up a cellmate, according to the Tri-City Herald.

Though Hart's defense attorney, Scott Johnson, told Judge Craig Matheson that he's not requesting an evaluation of his client's competency, Johnson did note that “there are clearly mental health issues in this case,” according to the Associated Press.

Hart and Lincoln shared a home in the Sundance Mobile Home Park, 925 N. Elm Ave. space 72. The mobile home is one of several owned by Lourdes Health Network and is used as supported housing for people with mental illnesses.

Lincoln died of multiple stab wounds to his head and torso, autopsy results showed.

Hart is being held in the Franklin County jail on $750,000 bail.

Tips sought on another ‘Nook’ theft

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Police are again looking for tips on the theft of Nook tablets from the Spokane Valley Barnes and Noble, this time for a break-in early March 5.

Officers responded to an alarm at the store, 15310 E. Indiana Ave., at 5:52 a.m. and found a tire iron on the ground next to the shattered window. They believe the burglary targeted the Nook kiosk because cash registers and other merchandise appeared to be untouched, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Surveillance video released Tuesday shows the thief wearing possibly a heavy fleece jacket with a white North Face logo on he left front chest and on the back right shoulder.

He also wore what appears to be dark blue jeans and dark shoes with a bright red logo on the heel, as well as a tan baseball hat with a light green bill and a blue and black backpack.

Police also are looking for tips on possible suspects in the theft of Nook tablets from the same store March 4.

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

Army officer charged with harassment

By MANUEL VALDES and  SHANNON DININNY,Associated Press
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A 20-year Army officer in Washington state threatened to blow up the state Capitol and kill his superior officer, his estranged wife and his girlfriend, authorities said Tuesday, adding scrutiny to the troubled base of a soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting spree.

Lt. Col. Robert E. Underwood, who was arrested Monday night and pleaded not guilty to felony harassment charges, told his girlfriend he'd paid a hit man $150,000 to kill both his wife and superior officer, according to court documents.

Underwood threatened to kill the girlfriend after she confronted him about a naked photograph of his daughter on his laptop computer, the documents said. And he reportedly threatened to blow up the state capitol in Olympia, Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said, although no charges have been filed on those accusations.

“We charged him with three counts of felony harassment. That's what the evidence supports, that's what we can prove,” he said. “But it's an ongoing investigation.”

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a sprawling base south of Seattle, is already under scrutiny this week because a soldier based there has been held in Afghanistan following the massacre that left 16 Afghan civilians dead in two villages.

The name of the 38-year-old soldier in custody at a base in Kandahar has not been released pending charges. The soldier was deployed to Afghanistan on Dec. 3 with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, according to a congressional source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Underwood, 46, is assigned to the 191st infantry brigade, a training support brigade, Lewis-McChord spokesman Joe Piek said.

He was being held in the Pierce County jail on $250,000 bail after entering a not guilty plea during his Superior Court arraignment on Tuesday.

Underwood had just arrived at Lewis-McChord in January, after serving a year in Afghanistan from his then-base in Naples, Italy. He also served a stint in Iraq, from March 2004 to February 2005, and spent four months in Bosnia in 1998.

Lindquist said the military has concluded that Underwood does not suffer PTSD, though there may be other mental health issues to be considered.

According to court documents, Underwood witnessed his mother kill his two siblings when he was a young child, and she shot Underwood multiple times and left him for dead.

It's not clear whether Underwood actually went through the plan to hire a hit man, Lindquist said.

Underwood and his wife have been going through a divorce, and recent court hearings regarding money and custody of their children had not gone in his favor.

“The victims obviously had a concern that he meant it, but we don't know what steps, if any, were actually taken,” Lindquist said.

Underwood was commissioned into the Army as a lieutenant in 1992, and was the ROTC instructor at Eastern Washington University from February 2005 to December 2007.

He faces up to five years in prison, but standard sentencing range would be between four and twelve months, Lindquist said.

___

Dininny reported from Yakima, Wash. Gene Johnson contributed from Seattle.

Did ‘Whitey’ Bulger write his memoirs?

By DENISE LAVOIE,AP Legal Affairs Writer

BOSTON (AP) — Mobster James “Whitey” Bulger may have written two autobiographies, according to prosecutors, who have notified his lawyers that they may use the memoirs against him at his upcoming trial.

Bulger, the former leader of the Winter Hill Gang and a longtime FBI informant, was captured last year in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the run. He is charged with participating in 19 murders and is awaiting trial.

In a status report filed in court Tuesday, federal prosecutors said they found one document, entitled “My Life in the Irish Mafia Wars,” at a South Boston home in 1995 and a second document at the apartment in Santa Monica where Bulger was captured last year with his girlfriend.

Prosecutors say it's unclear whether Bulger wrote the document found in South Boston. They say the document found in California “appears to be autobiographical.”

The government included descriptions of the documents in a list of evidence prosecutors have turned over to Bulger's lawyers but didn't reveal specifically what was written in them. Prosecutors informed Bulger's lawyers that they may use the document found in 1995 “as evidence in (the) case-in-chief and/or to impeach the defendant” at his trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 5.

Bulger's lawyer J.W. Carney Jr. did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz declined to comment.

In the new court documents, prosecutors list hundreds of pieces of evidence they say they have turned over to the defense, including: surveillance photos and video of various locations frequented by Bulger and other members of his gang; crime scene and medical examiner photos of people Bulger and his gang are accused of killing; and statements made by Bulger, including those included in his FBI informant file. The list of evidence was filed in court ahead of a March 19 status conference in the case.

Bulger, who gave the FBI information on the rival New England Mob, fled Boston in late 1994 after being tipped by his former FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., that he was about to be indicted. Connolly later was convicted of racketeering for warning Bulger about the impending indictment.

Bulger, now 82, has pleaded not guilty. His girlfriend, Catherine Greig, 60, (pictured right) is expected to plead guilty Wednesday to charges she helped Bulger evade capture during their 16 years on the run together.

June 29: Case continues against 'Whitey' Bulger

June 24: Boston mob boss hid in plain sight

Teen arrested after assault at party

An assault that left a man in critical condition at a large party in north Spokane County led to the arrest of an 18-year-old suspect today.

Treven Lewis is accused of beating a man at a home in the 11800 block of North Bedivere Road Saturday night. Deputies arrived to find the victim badly beaten and more than 100 people still at the property.

The victim was taken to a local hospital and is listed in critical condition, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The Spokane Violent Crime Gang Enforcement Team located Lewis today. He was interviewed by major crimes detectives and booked into jail on an assault charge. The investigation is ongoing.

Rapist registers as Spokane transient

A sex offender considered likely to reoffend has registered as a transient in Spokane County.

 Harold David Werstein, 48, spent nearly 18 years in prison for raping a 13-year-old girl. He was convicted of first-degree rape in Lewis County in 1990. His victim was a stranger.

Werstein is no longer under supervision by the Washington Department of Corrections, but he's required to check in with authorities once a week so long as he doesn't have a permanent address.

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

He is not wanted by authorities, but the Spokane County Sheriff's Office wants people to be aware of his presence.

Spokane County's sex offender registry is available here.

Listen to the call that led to cop’s firing

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Woman’s call about Officer Edwards

A woman who said a Spokane police officer she'd met at a bar showed up uninvited at her home told a dispatcher she didn't know how he got her address “and it's kind of creeping me out because he now knows where I live.”

The incident led to Officer Alan Edwards being fired from the Spokane Police Department after officials determined he'd lied to another officer to get the woman's address.

Edwards, who was off duty and drinking at the Sullivan Scoreboard in Spokane Valley when he met the woman, told the officer he was investigating the woman for stealing his friend's debit card.

Spokane County's 911 center released a recording of the woman's phone call Monday after a request by The Spokesman-Review under the state public records act. The call is cut short to protect the woman's identifying information and home address, officials said.

Officials initially described the call as a 911 call, but the recording shows the woman called Crime Check and said she'd met a man the night before at a bar “and he was saying he was a cop.”

“What ended up happening is I came home and probably about 45 minutes later somebody was banging on my door, and this was like at 3:30 in the morning, and it was him,” the woman said “….I'm quite certain he didn't follow me because it was sometime after I got home. It was at least 45 minutes after I got home.”

“He was banging on my door to the point where he woke up my neighbors,” the woman continued. “I have no idea how he found my house, and it's kind of creeping me out because he now knows where I live.”

The incident occurred early Dec. 16. Edwards was fired March 1.

Edwards returned to work last fall after 10 months of paid administrative leave amidst allegations of criminal conduct involving an unlicensed bounty hunter.  He was suspended without pay for two weeks for arranging a ruse with a felon that allowed him to access a home without a search warrant.

Bail bondsmen and the unlicensed bounty hunter are are facing criminal charges related to the probe.

Past coverage:

Feb. 9: Fugitive bounty hunter arrested in Florida

Jan. 29: Officer's 'ruse' w/ felon led to suspension

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

Tips sought on suspects in ‘Nook’ theft

   Property crime detectives are asking for help identifying two men who may have information about electronic “Nook” reading tablets stolen from the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Spokane Valley last week.

The theft occurred March 4 just before 6 p.m.

The Spokane Valley Police Department today released surveillance photos of the men in hopes someone will recognize them.

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

Idaho burglary suspect arrested in Valley

A suspect in a string of burglaries in North Idaho was arrested Friday after a shoplifting incident turned violent at the Spokane Valley Wal-Mart.

 Susan Burke, 50, was out of custody on $5,000 bond awaiting trial in Kootenai County when a store security officer spotted her leaving the store with concealed merchandise Friday about 1:40 p.m.

Employees tried to stop Burke, but she struggled with them and threw her purse toward the door. Employees grabbed it e and found Burke's driver's license inside. They checked Burke's name in store records and discovered she'd been banned in 2010 from all stores for life after getting caught shoplifting twice.

Burke, who is scheduled for trial in Kootenai County in May for property crimes, was booked into jail on theft, burglary and robbery charges after police contacted her at her home at 303 E. Indiana Ave.

Police also contacted a 17-year-old boy who lives with Burke at the home and is identified as her boyfriend.

The boy is charged in juvenile court for an incident last July in which he allegedly failed to call for help after his friend fell in the Spokane River and drowned.

Police drug informant assaulted, robbed

An informant tasked by the Spokane police drug unit with buying methamphetamine was instead robbed by the suspected dealer.

Drug detectives listening on electric monitoring attached to the informant heard a scuffle after the man went inside a home in the 1200 block of West Chlean Avenue to try to buy meth from Daniel J. McKenzie, 24, (pictured) last Thursday.

A detective contacted the informant outside the home nearby and was told McKenzie had robbed him of the $60 police gave him to buy drugs.

The informant said McKenzie agreed to sell him meth, then punched him in the head and pushed him down the stairs.

Police obtained a search warrant for the residence, and the informant identified McKenzie as the assailant.

McKenzie remains jailed on a Washington Department of Corrections probation hold and a new charge of first-degree robbery.

Fugitive shot, killed by Post Falls police

A North Idaho man with an extensive criminal history was shot and killed by a Post Falls police officer early Monday after striking a state trooper with his car, police say.

Justin Earl Nicholas Todd, 33, died at Kootenai Medical Center after a nearly 20-minue police chase ended with shots fired in a residential area near St. Estephe Court and Bordeaux Drive, just west of Ramsey Road and south of Honeysuckle Drive in Hayden.

Read the rest of my story here.

Man arrested for school district tool theft

A tip to Crime Check helped police identify a suspect in a burglary at the East Valley School District maintenance office recently.

Christopher David Evans, 29, was arrested today by East Valley School Resource Officer Scott Streltzoff for the Jan. 27 burglary, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Police released a surveillance photo of the thief Feb. 8 in hopes someone would recognize him. Acting on the tip, Streltzoff spoke with a friend of Evans' last Friday about the location of the stolen tools, valued at $300.

Later that Friday, someone concealing their identity with a hooded sweatshirt returned the tools to the front porch of the maintenance building.

Evans was booked into jail about 2:30 p.m. on charges of second-degree burglary and first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

The East Valley School District thanks everyone for their help.

2 arrested for meth after police chase

A Spokane man suspected of domestic violence was arrested on drug charges after a police chase late Sunday.

Shane Patrick Wilson, 34, drove away from the 500 block of East Everett Avenue in a white Acura after officers were called to the area by a man who identified Wilson as his estranged wife's boyfriend, according to the Spokane Police Department. The man told officers Wilson was harassing him and damaging his property.

Officers Ben Yinger and Aaron Ames stopped Wilson in the Acura, but he sped way.

Police say Wilson jumped out of the car in the 500 block of East Nebraska and ran into a home, where officers arrested him for attempting to elude police and possession of methamphetamine. He was booked into jail about 2:21 a.m.

Christopher John Steinbaugh, 31, also was contacted at the home and arrested for possession of meth.

Wilson already faces two felony drug charges for an arrest in January. He was scheduled to be in court Tuesday for those charges; now he'll be in court today on the new charges, too.

Wilson has previous convictions for possession of meth and second-degree robbery.

No death penalty for racist double killer

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — A man pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of his father and stepmother after a prosecutor decided not to seek the death penalty.

David”Joey” Pedersen, 31, is set to be sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole, the only other possible sentence, The Daily Herald reported (http://is.gd/oCxIAI ).

Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe has not yet announced a decision on whether to seek the death penalty for Pedersen's girlfriend, Holly Grigsby, 28, who also was charged with aggravated murder in the September killings of 56-year-old David “Red” Pedersen and 69-year-old Leslie “DeeDee” Pedersen.

The prosecutor said he declined to pursue the death sentence for Joey Pederson after police turned up significant and credible evidence that his father had sexually abused his children and others decades ago. Joey Pedersen said the abuse was the reason he chose to kill his father.

Joey Pedersen and Grigsby, who have white supremacist ties, also are accused of killing 19-year-old Cody Myers in western Oregon because his name sounded Jewish, and Reginald Clark near Eureka, Calif., because he was black. Those crimes potentially could result in federal prosecution because of civil rights issues.

Red Pedersen was shot once in the back of the head while he drove the suspects to a bus station in Everett after a visit. His son was accused of firing the fatal shot. Investigators believe the suspects then returned to the couple's home to kill DeeDee Pedersen.

Investigators found her bound with duct tape with her throat slashed. The evidence suggests Grigsby wielded the knives, court papers said.

DeeDee Pedersen was not married to Red Pederson (pictured right) at the time of the alleged child abuse and was in no position to prevent or even know about it, Roe said.

Family members of the victims did not agree with the prosecutor's decision against seeking the death penalty, even though Roe said it would have been appropriate.

“They were disappointed, but I believe understand my decision and my reasons for it,” Roe said in a statement.

Joey Pedersen was an aspiring mixed martial arts fighter. He grew up in Salem, Ore, and spent more than half of his life in prison, including an 11-year stint for threatening to murder a federal judge in Idaho. He was released in May.

After the homicides, investigators said he and Grigsby drove to Oregon in Red Pedersen's Jeep and ditched the vehicle with the slain man still inside off a logging road. Authorities believe they crossed paths with Cody Myers, who had left home to attend a jazz festival near the Oregon coast. Myers, a devout Christian, turned up dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

Investigators believe the couple continued to Eureka, where Clark, a disabled black man, was killed.

The suspects were arrested Oct. 5 north of Sacramento.

ast coverage:

Feb. 12: Murder spree suspeect wants Coco Puffs

Oct. 10: 4th victim identified in alleged murder spree

Oct. 6: Racist in murder spree threatened to kill Idaho judge

Oct. 5: Couple in NW. manhunt arrested in Calif.

Oct. 5: Body found in manhunt may be that of teen

Tips sought on knife-wielding begger

Spokane Valley police are trying to identify an “aggressive panhandler” who threatened a store manager with a knife on Sunday.

Officer Clay Hilton responded to Harbor Freight near Sprague Avenue and Sullivan Road, where the manager said a panhandler had opened a customer's vehicle door and asked for money about 8 p.m.

She brandished a knife and walked toward the manager when he confronted her, then made an incoherent statement and ran north, police said. She got into a white Ford F-150 truck and drove away.

She was described as white, 5-foo-5 with a thin build. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Panhandling is illegal in Spokane Valley.

Sheriff’s ‘copter helps bust drunken party

A sheriff's helicopter helped police track drunken partygoers in Spokane Valley early Sunday.

Officers called in back up from other law enforcement agencies to help them control people at the part in the 16100 block of East Broadway Avenue, which they responded to about 1 a.m. after reports of a party and disturbance.

Sheriff's helicopter Air 1 was patrolling and alerted police to several people in the road and surrounding yards.

Police said several drunken people refused to obey their commands. The majority eventually went back inside as requested, but Rion Holmes, 24, was arrested after refusing commands to stop walking in he middle of Broadway and disrupting traffic, police say.

Police say Holmes also continued to yell at others around the home and encouraged them not to cooperate with police. He was arrested for riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.

Nicholas Loverro, 22, also allegedly refused commands and was arrested for riot, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Homeowner Justin Doggett, 25, was booked into jail on suspicion of providing alcohol to minors. An underage female was cited and released for possession of alcohol. Officers arrested a total of nine people, police said.

DNA evidence tangles ‘07 murder case

Jerry Allen and his family are facing the rekindled pain of losing their uncle, John G. “Jack” Allen Jr., who was killed in 2007 at the age of 74. Jerry Allen did odd jobs for his uncle, who helped raise him. (SR/Colin Mulvany)

Water cascades from the roof in heavy droplets inside the abandoned brick-and-glass building on Sprague Avenue where an adult bookstore owner was bludgeoned to death nearly five years ago.

 Just as the building crumbles, cracks also have begun forming in the case against the admitted thief who was sent to prison for the brutal murder of 74-year-old John G. “Jack” Allen Jr.

DNA evidence on the murder weapon has implicated a new suspect in the 2007 slaying, which prosecutors successfully argued in 2008 was the work of just one man: Jeramie R. Davis, 41 (pictured).

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 5: New suspect charged in porn shop owner's murder

July 28: Convicted killer hopes for freedom

July 26: DNA reveals new suspect in 2007 slaying

Man guilty in Bayview hammer murder

In this Sept. 30 photo, Bayview hammer attack vicitm Yvonne Wallis says she wants Larry Cragun to receive the death penalty for the attack. (SR/Kathy Plonka)

A North Idaho man who bludgeoned four people with a hammer in a brutal murder in Bayview last year has pleaded guilty.

 Larry Ward Cragun, 32, faces a mandatory life sentence with possible eligibility for parole after 10 years when he’s sentenced in May, Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Friday.

McHugh said he’ll recommend Cragun serve 40 years before he’s eligible for parole.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 23, 2011: Bayview victim: 'I'm just an invalid'

Dec. 20, 2010: 1 dead, 3 injured in Bayview hammer attack

Deer Park house ‘rental’ actually a scam

Brooke Bear was surprised when several people stopped by her home interested in renting it.

They referenced the ad she posted on Craigslist, but she isn’t renting out the house; she’s selling it, and she never posted an ad on Craigslist.

Bear knew something was fishy, so she hopped online and found the ad, which included a picture and description of her four-bedroom house, located in a rural area south of Deer Park, as well as an email address using her name.

“I was kind of scared,” she said. “I pulled it up and thought, ‘Who is doing this?’ You just kind of go, ‘Ew, creepy.’ ”

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Thief posts Facebook pic of judge’s loot

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities in South Florida say a man is facing charges after he was seen in a photo on Facebook holding a judge's stolen nameplate.

Twenty-one-year-old Steven Mulhall was arrested Thursday on violation of probation charges.

Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Mulhall pried the $40 nameplate from the courtroom door of Broward Circuit Judge Michael Orlando. He says Mulhall has multiple petty theft convictions and now faces felony charges.

Arrest reports show the nameplate was stolen last month. Authorities received a tip that Mulhall took the nameplate and that the picture could be found on his girlfriend's Facebook page.

The nameplate will be returned to the judge.

A phone number wasn't available for Mulhall.

K-9, ‘copter catch car theft suspect

A sheriff's dog tracked a car theft suspect who fled a crash in Spokane Valley early today.

The K-9, Brax, located Justin C. Luce, 32, hiding near a tree about two blocks from the crash near 600 N. Walnut Road, which occurred after Luce fled a traffic stop near Walnut and Broadway Avenue about 3 a.m., according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Officer Juan Rodriguez located the crashed car unoccupied with a shaved key inside the ignition. A sheriff's helicopter and Brax tracked Luce to the tree.

Police found a backpack in the stolen vehicle that contained marijuana. Officers say it and several burglary tools found in the car belonged to Luce.

Luce is to be sentenced March 26 for a burglary in Kootenai County that's connected to the theft of a high-end triathlon bicycle recovered by Coeur d'Alene police just in time for Ironman.

Luce also has a conviction in Spokane County for car theft that stemmed from a similar police chase in the Valley last April.

TV show to feature Post Falls murders

In this 2008 photo, Kootenai County sheriff’s Sgt. Brad Maskell stands in the area where newspaper carrier Gary Loesch was murdered in November 1995. (SRarchives)

 A cable TV show on Saturday will feature the case of two fugitive North Idaho women who committed suicide in Arizona after America's Most Wanted detailed their ties to two murders.

 Tina R. Loesch (left) and Skye M. Hanson (right) were wanted for the 1998 murder of Loesch's mother, Barbara, and suspects in the 1995 murder of her father, Gary, when America's Most Wanted spotlighted them in November 2008.

Gary Loesch, who was killed while delivering copies of The Spokesman-Review, had written his daughter out of his will after she told him she was in a lesbian relationship with Hanson, according to previously published reports.

Detectives believe the women hired Bradley Steckman to kill Barbara Loesch, who was found dead in her hot tub with the TV inside. Steckman is serving life in prison for Loesch's murder and for the 1996 murder of an 89-year-old Pullman woman.

Police have long suspected the father-daughter rift and a $500,000 life insurance policy Tina Loesch took out on her mother were motives in the killings.

Post Falls police had been trying to find the women for years - they were last seen with Loesch's son, Kristopher, in Spokane in 2000. The night the program aired, Loesch and Hanson were found dead of suicide in their SUV northwest of Tucson. Police had no idea the women were in Arizona.

Lt. Greg McLean said Thursday that detectives still are trying to find Kristopher Loesch, who would be 21. Cadaver dogs have searched for his body in Arizona amidst rumors the couple had killed him, but his location still is unknown.

“We're not sure if he was dropped off somewhere before they decided to end their lives,” McLean said. “if he was, we haven't been able to find him yet.”

“It's just been a long-term investigation that in my opinion still hasn't been closed because we're still missing Kristopher,” McLean said.

The show airs at 9 p.m. as part of Investigation Discovery's new series, Deadly Sins. It features interviews with Loesch's brother, Charles Loesch, Paul Farina of the Post Falls Police Department and Brad Maskell of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department. A channel finder is available here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 18, 2008: Murder suspects found dead in Arizona

Jan. 6, 2008: Missing women remain key in 2 murders

Driver gets 3 speeding tickets in hour

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Traffic officers along Interstate 84 in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge say a lead-footed driver was in such a hurry to make a court date on a meth possession charge that he racked up $2,000 worth of speeding tickets in an hour.

Police say 34-year-old Jose Romero-Valenzuela of Las Vegas, Nev., was zooming west Wednesday morning and got pulled over three times — first at 105 mph, then at 98 mph and finally at 92 mph.

Police say the last ticket appeared to have an effect. Down the road a bit, a trooper set up watch and clocked him at the limit, 65 mph.

Besides fines and penalties, police say his license could be suspended for up to 90 days if he's found guilty on the citation alleging driving in excess of 100 mph.

Police confirm he was indeed scheduled for a court appearance later Wednesday in Oregon City, south of Portland.

Man used transmitter to track wife’s sex

ALIQUIPPA, Pa. (AP) — Police have charged a Pennsylvania man with hiding a remote listening device under his estranged wife's bed that he said he used to avoid overhearing her sex life in the house they still shared.

Raccoon Township police say 66-year-old Wayne Comet Cripe's wife contacted them after finding the transmitter under her bed last month. The Cripes are separated, but still share a home with separate bedrooms.

The Beaver County Times reports Thursday that Cripe acknowledged using the device, telling officers he put it there so he'd know when his wife and her boyfriend were having sex.

Police say Cripe was tired of overhearing the lovemaking and tried to use the device, which he said didn't work, to determine whether “the coast was clear” before returning home.

No attorney is listed for Cripe in court records.

Owner finds Craigslist ad for own home

An occupied home in north Spokane was recently listed for rent on Craigslist by someone in Africa.

The owner earned about the ad when a couple arrived at her home asking about it. The woman is trying to sell he home - not rent it - and said she never posted an ad on Craigslist. Several other people have also stopped by the home asking about the rental.

The woman emailed the poster and was told the owner was in Africa, had keys to the home and required a minimum of $1,700 be sent to him through Western Union for rent and security deposit.

Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Brandon Armstrong says the ad was posted through an Internet service provider in Nigeria. The ad has been been removed.

A sheriff's office news release called the case  “a reminder to the public that if a Craigslist offer seems too good to be true, it may very well be,” though it's unknown who would consider sending $1,700 to a homeowner you've never meet for a Craigslist rental ad “too good to be true.”

Spokane tinfoil robber jailed for theft

A man allowed to remain free pending the appeal of his sentence for robbing a store of a piece of tin foil is back in jail.

David Lee Hickam, 26, was found to have violated the terms of his release when he was identified recently as a suspect in a Dec. 26 theft.

Hickam also was cited or diving with a suspended license Feb. 17. Prosecutors cited that incident as well as the alleged theft of a laptop computer from Huppins, 419 W. Main Ave., as a reason to jail him on $150,000 bond.

Judge Annette Plese agreed, and police arrested Hickam Tuesday. He appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday.

Hickam is appealing a 47-month prison sentence for robbery that began when he stole a piece of tinfoil from Rite Aid, 5520 N. Division St., then pepper sprayed an employee.

 A jury convicted him last July, but he was allowed to stay out of prison after he posted a $35,000 appeal bond.
  

Suspect still sought in girl’s shooting

A man accused of shooting a young girl Sunday night confronted a group with a gun after hearing gang-related insults, Spokane police allege.

Abubakar “Abu” Samura, 21, is wanted on two counts of first-degree assault. A $500,000 warrant was issued Tuesday.

Police say several bullets from Samura's gun struck a home in the 1800 block of East 4th Avenue, including one that lodged inside the foot of a 6-year-old girl inside the home.

Read the rest of my story here.

2 men get 25+ years in Colville murder

Two men will spend at least 25 years in prison for killing a 63-year-old homeowner last July near Colville.

  Jesse J. Fellman-Shimmin, 27, (left) pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and Eric L. Booth, 26, (right) pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Wednesday in connection to the killing of Gordon Feist during a botched robbery attempt, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

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

Gregoire signs online impersonation law

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Governor Chris Gregoire has signed into a law a bill to help victims of online impersonation pursue lawsuits in civil court.

The bill, signed by the governor Wednesday, passed through both the Washington state House and the Senate unanimously.

Under the law, humiliating, defrauding or threatening others by maliciously impersonating them on social networks or online bulletin boards will be grounds to file a lawsuit.

The measure will not apply to police officers impersonating others online as part of a criminal investigation.

The law will go into effect in June.

Probe continues into triple homicide

“It was weird. We were in the middle of the game and he got up and said ‘Oh, I gotta go,’ ” Preston Kahanu said of triple-murder suspect Dustin Gilman. (SRphoto/Colin Mulvany)

Preston Kahanu was asleep when Dustin Gilman called him that Friday morning, looking to hang out and play video games.

Gilman (pictured) stopped by Kahanu’s home in north Spokane about 10:45 a.m. but left abruptly after a couple of hours.

Kahanu, 25, now realizes he and his girlfriend, Saundra Warrington, 20, might have been the last to see the suspected triple killer alive. It was Feb. 10 and police believe Gilman, a 22-year-old Spokane native, had strangled Tracy A. Ader, 32, and her two sons earlier that day. They say he shot himself to death that evening in a wooded area in north Spokane County.

“There’s a lot of unknowns here,” Jeff Barrington, the lead detective on the case for the Spokane Police Department, said Tuesday. “We’re still investigating the whole thing.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 15: Gilman used victim's phone to contact her family

Feb. 14: Gilman called father before bodies were found

Feb. 13: Body of triple murder suspect found north of Spokane

Feb. 13: Killing suspect remains at large

Feb. 11: Killer sought in Spokane triple homicide

Driver arrested after 20-minute chase

A 20-minute police chase through northeast Spokane led to arrest of a 40-year-old Spokane woman Monday.

Henrietta Allice Wynne is accused of fleeing a traffic stop by a Washington State Patrol trooper who spotted her driving erratically about 5:13 a.m. as she left the Royal Scot Motel parking lot at 6507 N. Division St.

Trooper Jeff Thoet pursued Wynne's red Ford Taurus from Division to a residential area, where she ran stop signs and reached a speed of 70 mph, according to police.

A sheriff's deputy deployed stop sticks at Lacey and Regal streets that deflated the Taurus' right front tire, but Wynne continued to drive on he tire rim and was able to avoid several attempts by Thoet to perform a pursuit immobilization technique, police say.

Two other tires deflated before Thoet successfully stopped the vehicle.

Police found a drug pipe in the car and arrested Wynne on charges of eluding police, driving while license suspended and misdemeanor warrants.

Spokane thieves target Bogart, Newman

Six stolen portraits of old movie stars led to a Spokane woman's arrest on drug and burglary charges Monday.

A resident in the 3600 block of East 21st Avenue arrived home about 8:40 a.m. to find a silver Toyota parked in his driveway, according to Spokane police. A man walked out of his garage and got into the Toyota, which was driven by a woman.

Missing from the garage were framed portraits of Clint Eastwood, Humphrey Bogart, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford and Errol Flynn valued at $500.

Police located the Toyota about 30 minutes later at 2502 E. Hartson Ave.

Suspect Loyalee A. Elton, 41, got in the car and started to drive, but she was stopped and arrested on suspicion of burglary near East 6th Avenue and South Cook Street. Police say she had $900 in her bra and a baggie with methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin inside, as well as prescription pills. The burglary victim identified her as the driver of the Toyota.

Police searched the Hartson Avenue home but didn't find the pictures. Elton told police she didn't know what happened to them.

Man arrested for hate crime at Irv’s bar

A man was arrested for a hate crime Monday for allegedly throwing a glass at a downtown Spokane bartender and yelling slurs against homosexuals.

Two customers at Irv’s bar held Sean D. Slechta, 38, on the ground until officers arrived to arrest him, Spokane police say.

Slechta remains jailed on $1,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court on a malicious harassment charge.  Irv's bartender told police Slechta stumbled into the bar about 7 p.m. and tired to take customers’ drinks, so he asked him to leave.

The bartender told police Slechta yelled profanities and homophobic slurs at him and customers, then picked up an empty pint glass and threw it at him. The bartender was not injured.

Police said Slechta continued to yell homophobic slurs as he was led from the bar in handcuffs.

The hate crime charge alleges Slechta attacked the bartender and the patrons because of their sexual orientation.

Woman stalked by aggressive turkey

Godzilla, a wild turkey, walks around the front yard of the home belonging to Edna Geisler, 69 of Commerce Township, Mich. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Eric Seals)

COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — An Oakland County woman says she's become a prisoner on her own property, stalked and harassed by a 25-pound turkey.

Edna Geisler calls the foul bird “Godzilla.” The 69-year-old told the Detroit Free Press that the turkey wanders near her Commerce Township property each day from nearby woods. She recently couldn't get to her front door after a trip to the grocery store.

“I have to go to the post office at 6 o'clock in the morning to avoid him,” said Geisler, who has been bumped and clawed.

She has tried changing her schedule but this turkey is no dummy. A friend, Rick Reid, said the turkey went after him, too, when he opened the door on his minivan.

“He tried to come right in the door,” Reid said. “He bit me on the elbow.”

Indeed, a video posted online by the Free Press shows Godzilla roaming the grounds like they're his own. State wildlife expert Tim Payne said adult turkeys are known to aggressively defend their territory, although most fear people.

“This bird has probably attacked, and the person retreats,” said Payne of the Department of Natural Resources. “What it tells the bird is, 'What I'm doing is good.' It reinforces the aggressive behavior.”

Payne suggested Geisler open a large umbrella to drive the turkey back to the woods.

“Make some runs at the bird and become the aggressor,” he said. “The bird needs to learn who's the boss.”

Geisler wants the turkey gone by summer so she can work in her garden. The hunting season opens in April.

“Every time I eat turkey I smile,” she said. “I'd like to do that to him.”

Suspect named in shooting of young girl

A suspect has been identified in a shooting that injured a 6-year-old girl and a 23-year-old man in east central Spokane.

Abubakar “Abu” Samura, 21, is wanted on two first-degree assault charges for the shooting at a home Sunday in the 1800 block of East Fourth Avenue.

Samura's home address is not known, but he's believed to frequent the area of East 9th Avenue and South Perry Street, Spokane police said today.

Officers responded to reports of a man shooting another man in a front yard near Liberty Park about 9 p.m. Sunday.

The man who was shot ran to a neighbor's house for help before collapsing, police said. Police believed the girl was an unintended victim of the shooting. Both victims are expected to survive.

Police say the shooting is gang related. Anyone with information on Samura's location is asked to call the gang enforcement team at (509) 625-GANG (4264). He's described as 5-foot-4 and 160 pounds.

Kohl’s theft report leads to meth arrest

A report of attempted shoplifting at a Spokane Valley department store led to a felony drug arrest after police searched the suspect's car.

Employees at Kohl's, 16301 East Broadway Ave., called 911 Monday and said a woman was inside placing items by the door as a red Nissan Alitmia circled the parking lot. The woman went outside to talk to the female driver, and employees provided the Altima's license plate number to dispatchers, police said today.

Spokane Valley police Officer Jerad Kiehn passed the Niissan while responding to the store. He stopped the vehicle, and the driver, Whitney J. Longmeier, 26, denied being at Kohl's and allowed Kiehn to search her car, police say.

Kiehn found  a small metal container in Longmeier's purse that contained a plastic baggie with methamphetamine inside, according to police.

Longmeier was arrested on a felony drug charge as well as a charge of third-degree driving while license suspended.

Her passenger, 22-year-old Laurel E. Broxton, 22, was booked into jail on a warrant for a felony drug charge from last year.

Burglar requests just a bottle of wine

Police say a bottle of wine was the only thing missing from a burglarized home Friday night - and the burglar asked permission to take it.

Suspect Gary A. Patterson, 34, told police he entered the home at 828 E. Joseph Ave., because the front door was open, but he told Spokane police didn't take anything because he believed the resident was in the military, according to court documents.

A 26-year-old resident arrived home about 10:50 p.m. to find Patterson in his home with a knife in hand that was closed and not used in a threatening manner, police said.

The resident told police that Patterson asked if he could leave with a small bottle of wine he was holding, and he stated that he could.

Officers contacted Patterson near the home, and the victim identified him as the man who was in his home.

Police recovered the knife and bottle of wine. Patterson was booked into jail on a first-degree burglary charge. He remains there on $5,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court Monday.

Spokane fugitive dead in Lynnwood lake

A Spokane fugitive found dead in a Western Washington lake has been identified as Seth Brian Brandley, 28.

Brandley was wanted on a Washington Department of Corrections warrant when he fled police in the Everett area Feb. 26.

Authorities responded Feb. 29 to North Lake Stickney Drive in Lynnwood for a report of a body floating in the water near a dock.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office identified the man Monday as Brandley, a Spokane resident with an extensive criminal history that includes three drug convictions in Spokane.

He also has convictions in Stevens County for residential burglary and second-degree theft.

He was sentenced in April 2011 in Spokane County for taking a motor vehicle without permission.

Brandley's cause and manner of death are pending investigation, the Medical Examiner's Office said.

Brandley leaves behind a wife, Tracey S. O'Blenness, 46, whom he married in 2010.

Tip leads to arrest in July bank robbery

A tip from a concerned citizen led to the arrest Friday of a suspect in a July bank robbery.

Christopher A. Horn, 25, is accused of robbing the Washington State Employees Credit Union, 2523 Northwest Blvd., on July 18 about 12:20 p.m. He appeared in Superior Court today on a first-degree robbery charge and remains in jail.

Spokane police say Horn, wearing a baseball cap and Aviator sunglasses, demanded cash from a bank teller but never displayed a weapon. He told employees not to touch the alarm.

The sunglasses were left at the scene and submitted by detectives for DNA evidence, but the results are not yet back. Police did note in court documents that fingerprints on the glasses did not match Horn's.

Detectives began investigating Horn Feb. 28 based on the tip from the concerned citizen. Employees at the bank looked at photo montages; one positively identified Horn as the robber.

Horn is a convicted felon who most recently was credited for a day served in jail after pleading guilty last month to solicitation to commit possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance.

I-90 traffic stop leads to meth bust

A traffic stop on Interstate 90 Saturday led to the arrest o a 54-year-old woman on drug charges, police said today.

Deputies credited “training and experience” with helping them identify a bag of a white substance as methamphetamine when it fell from a purse belonging to Feryl D. Woodworth, 54, according to a news release by Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Woodworth was retrieving her driver's license after being stopped in her red Honda by two sheriff's deputies in a patrol vehicle.

Woodworth told police she didn't know what the baggie was and that she was taking it to her friend “to find out what it was,” Chamberlin wrote.

Woodworth was booked into jail on a felony meth possession charge, according to jail records. She was released today on her own recognizance after appearing in Superior Court.

Tips sought on Valley school break-in

Police are looking for information on a vandalism and attempted theft at a Spokane Valley elementary school early Saturday.

Officers responded to an alarm at Greenacres Elementary School in the 17915 E. Fourth St. about 2:57 a.m.

They arrived to find a window pried out o the wall on the east side of the school. A projector mounted on a classroom ceiling was hanging by wires.

Officer set up a perimeter and called in a police dog, but officer did not locate a suspect.

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

5 arrested in Adams Co. home invasion

Five people have been arrested for a home-invasion robbery in Adams County Friday that targeted a couple living with their 3-year-old son.

Roger Martinez, 20, of Othello; Julia JiJon, 18, of Warden; Diego Mendez, 19, of Othello; and Rocky Mendoza, 18, of Othello; and a 17-year-old boy are accused of entering the home in the 2000 block of Bench Road, about one mile south of Othello.

Adams County sheriff's deputies responded to the home about 9:40 p.m., where they located a 23-year-old man who had been hit in the face with the butt of a shotgun, according to a news release. He was taken by ambulance to Othello Community Hospital, where he was treated and released.

The man was home with his 34-year-old wife and their 3-year-old son when the men knocked on he door, then forced their way inside once it opened. Two men had a a bandanna covering their faces, a a third held a shotgun, according to a news release.

The men forced the victim into a bedroom and ransacked the home, stealing electronics, alcohol, the couple’s wedding rings, and their car. Three men remained outside the home.

Othello police found the stole car about 3 a.m. Saturday. They recovered the shotgun and arrested the car's two occupants. Three other suspects were arrested later; one remains at large.

All suspects face charges of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, second-degree theft, and theft of a motor vehicle. The juvenile is being held at Martin Hall Detention Center in Medical Lake. The others are booked at the Adams County Jail.

Photo shows Browne’s Addition gunman

Spokane police today released a surveillance photo of a robbery last week at a Browne's Addition convenience store in hopes someone will recognize the gunman.

The robbery was reported about 11:49 p.m. Feb. 29 at the Sunset Grocery, 1908 W. Sunset Blvd.

The gunman is described as 20 to 22 years old, 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-7 and 150 to 160 pounds. He wore a black knit ski mask, dark hooded sweatshirt, black coat, dark loose pants and black and white athletic shoes. The gun is described as a black semi-automatic pistol.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to an arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Woman guilty in Oldtown mail theft ring

A woman who led a mail theft ring in the Oldtown, Idaho, area pleaded guilty last week in Coeur d'Alene.

Michelle Ann Mason, 27, faces up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and five years of probation when she's sentenced June 18 in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene. She also is to pay $37,790.39 restitution.

Co-defendant Charles Earl Baker is scheduled to begin trial March 27.

Mason admitted to organizing at least six people to steal mail in he Oldtown area. Her co-conspirators opened bank accounts, and Mason deposited counterfeit or forged checks that had been stolen from the mail, then withdraw cash from the accounts through ATMs.

Mason used the money to buy items and pay bills. Her victims included banks, merchants and the intended mail recipients.

Mason pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft Wednesday.

Wishing Star burglar gets prison, rehab

A homeless methamphetamine addict who burglarized a charity and stole Christmas presents for sick children is to spend about three years in prison.

Jermaine Marcell Garland, 29, also will be on probation for 37 months that will include drug treatment, said Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza, who sentenced him Wednesday.

Garland pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree burglary and one count of second-degree malicious mischief for a burglary spree that ended when police tracked his shoe prints in fresh snow.

Garland burglarized the Wishing Star Foundation, a charity for sick children at 139 S. Sherman St., on Dec. 7, as well as other businesses in the area.

The organization was overwhelmed with donations once citizens learned of the stolen Christmas presents.

Garland cooperated with detectives, and Cozza said police supported the sentence.

Cozza said in an email that Garland did not know what the Wishing Star program was when he broke in, and when detectives explained its mission to him, “he was remorseful about hurting kids in that program.”
  

Teen arrested hours after leaving jail

An 18-year-old man allowed to leave the Spokane County Jail after an arrest for burglary this week made good on his promise to return to court - but not in the right way.

Reshawn S. Zinnerman was arrested in connection with another burglary that occurred just hours after he left the Spokane County Jail.

Superior Court Judge Annette Plese allowed the teen, who has no substantial criminal history, to leave jail without posting a bond, which is common for suspects who have shown no reason to believe they won’t appear for future court hearings.

But Zinnerman allegedly didn’t take Plese’s standard order to commit no crimes to heart, which she imposed Wednesday afternoon during his first court appearance. About 6:40 a.m. Thursday, A woman living in the 2000 block of East South Crescent Avenue spotted a man she later identified as Zinnerman peering into her bedroom. He ran, but his shoe prints led to the backdoor of a home in the 2000 block of East Nora. Police arrested Zinnerman there and say he told them he’d just been released from jail for a burglary arrest.

Plese wasn’t so nice when she saw Zinnerman in her courtroom the next day - 24 hours after she first met him. The judge imposed A $50,000 for the charge – attempted residential burglary - and a $35,000 bond for the first burglary charge.

That means he’ll have to come with about $8,500 cash to get out - most bail bond companies require a 10 percent payment.

Zinnerman said in an interview at the Spokane County Jail Friday evening that his first arrest was the result of a “stupid mistake.”

 In that case, Zinnerman was arrested for a break-in at 803 E. Wabash Ave. after a woman also spotted him looking through windows at the residence. Police say he stole a bottle of Hydrocodone from the apartment.

Zinnerman said he walked to his aunt’s home after being released from jail. He was to get a ride to his parents’ home in Nine Mile Falls but was arrested before that happened. He said he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and denies trying to burglarize the home.

A graduate of Wellpinit High School, Zinnerman said he’s to begin classes at Spokane Falls Community College this year. He said he hopes to study “anything, really, as long as I’m on the right track.”

“I’m taking this as a learning experience,” he said.

Man sought on gun, robbery charges

A man accused of a gunpoint robbery last May is wanted by Crime Stoppers after failing to show up for court.

John Gibson Dean, 30, was to begin trial this week on robbery and gun charges, but he never showed up for a pre-trial haring last week and a $200,000 warrant was issued for his arrest.

Dean is accused with Jeremy L. Standon of robbing three people of money, jewelry and electronics after being allowed inside the home at 1415 N. Post St. May 9.

Spokane police paid a confidential informant $100 for information that helped identify the men as suspects. Standon, who is in jail, is to begin trial March 19.

Dean had a Glock 22, .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol that was stolen in Wilbur, Wash., when he was arrested, which led to a felony gun charge.

Dean's criminal history includes convictions for riot, making false statements, refusing to cooperate, forgery, theft, harassment, obstructing an investigation

Dean, 6-feet tall and 185 pounds, last gave an address in the 5000 block of East Sharp Avenue in Spokane Valley.

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

Spokane man wanted for gun assault

A Spokane man accused of robbing a woman at gunpoint the day after Christmas is wanted by Crime Stoppers after failing to show up for court. 

Nicholas M. Cornelius, 23, is charged with second-degree assault, unlawful imprisonment and residential burglary for the gunpoint attack at 2514 N. Wall St. Dec. 26.

Cornelius knew the woman through a friend, police say. He's accused of stealing marijuana from the home.

Cornelius was charged Feb. 14 and summonsed to court for an arraignment Wednesday, but he never showed up.

He's now wanted on a $25,000 warrant. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to his capture.

Cornelius, 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds, last gave an address in the 7200 block of North Nevada Street.

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

Man injured in crash during police chase

A Cheney man was arrested for drunken driving and eluding police early today in Stevens County.

Todd Earl Toreson, 38, lost control of his 2004 Ford F150 about 12:46 a.m. near on state Route 231 about 12 miles south of Springdale, according to Washington State Patrol.

His passenger, Beau Earl Lyons, 33, of Sedro Woolley, was injured and transported to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Toreson was not injured.

Wellpinit Tribal police were pursuing Toreson when he crashed the truck and rolled into a ditch, WSP said.

Witness sought in three-strikes case

Police are looking for a witness in an assault case that could put the defendant in prison for life. 

Morgan S. Snider, 23, (right) is expected to testify in the first-degree assault trial of Bobby S. Galloway, but police said this week that she still has not been located.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen declared a mistrial Monday in Galloway's case after a juror reported inappropriate, racially toned comments being made in the jury room, court officials say.

Galloway (left) faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of felony assault because he already has two previous convictions for violent felonies.

Galloway, 24, is accused of stabbing Mickey Davis during a fight May 5 outside the Top Hat Tavern, 6412 N. Division St.

His new trial is set to begin April 2. Snider is wanted on misdemeanor driving warrants.

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

Felon ineligible for Kootenai Co. sheriff

A candidate for Kootenai County sheriff who shot a man in downtown Coeur d'Alene in 2009 and later pleaded guilty to a felony heroin charge is not eligible for the position, officials say.

 Adam Mathis Johnson, 27, cannot hold office because he's on probation for two years after pleading guilty to a felony controlled substance charge, Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Thursday.

Johnson will get his rights restored once he completed a two-year probation term. Until then, he's also restricted from carrying firearms.

Johnson was arrested on drug charges in Post Falls in April.  He was arrested on an attempted murder charge in December 2009 after  a shooting in downtown Coeur d’Alene that a grand jury ruled was self defense. Johnson's victim is suing his own civil lawyer for malpractice.

Johnson was featured in The Spokesman-Review a weekend before the shooting in a story about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.. He was also featured in 2007 in a story about his business, Convertec.

Testimony continues in Mich. militia trial

This combo of eight photos provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows from top left, David Brian Stone Sr., 44, of Clayton, Mich,; David Brian Stone Jr. of Adrian, Mich,; Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio; Tina Mae Stone and bottom row from left, Michael David Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich,; Kristopher T. Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio; Joshua John Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Mich.; and Thomas William Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind., suspects tied to Hutaree, a Christian militia. (Associated Press)

By ED WHITE,Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — An FBI informant who was embedded with a southern Michigan militia ended his testimony Thursday after more than a week, answering questions that were intended to portray the group's leader as a man with unusual beliefs but who wasn't a warrior against the government.

Dan Murray said Hutaree leader David Stone was greatly concerned about the arrival of the Antichrist and wanted Christians to be ready to defend themselves.

At one point, Murray said Stone believed the federal government was the Antichrist, but the judge struck the remark because it wasn't directly related to a question asked by defense attorney William Swor.

Stone, his wife, two sons and three other men are charged with conspiring to commit rebellion against the government, first by killing a police officer and then attacking the funeral. They also face weapon charges in the trial, which began Feb. 13 and has weeks to go.

Murray, 57, was paid about $31,000 in cash for months of work for the FBI. He secretly recorded conversations while attending meetings and military-style drills in Lenawee and Washtenaw counties in 2008 and 2009. By the end of 2009, three months before Hutaree members were arrested, he wanted to get out.

“I was getting burned out by the whole thing. … I didn't think there was any more I could get,” Murray testified, adding that he never felt threatened by the Hutaree.

Murray, who works for Ford Motor Co., acknowledged that he once tried to bait Stone during a late-night recorded call by saying, “God, I hate the government.”

Swor asked if Stone replied: “Me, too.”

“I don't believe so,” Murray said.

He said Stone on another occasion talked about Christianity and salvation — not fighting the government — during a meeting with a pastor in southwestern Michigan. They had driven across the state to attend a church service but were late.

Murray said Stone feared that the government was planting chips in people through flu shots. He said Stone in August 2009 urged him to go to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in southeastern Michigan to see if German troops had arrived and raised their flag. Murray declined.

Defense lawyers claim prosecutors have turned senseless conversations between Hutaree members into a plot to overthrow the government. They say the talk was offensive at times, but not illegal. Jurors last week heard Stone saying he would kill police officers and their families, although there was no mention of a specific plan.

Elderly women face gambling charges

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus police have summoned a 98-year-old and about 40 other elderly women to court to face gambling charges after raiding their weekly poker party.

The women, mostly in their 70s, were stunned to receive a court summons this week, more than two years since the raid, said Yioula Diakantoni, the daughter of the 98-year-old.

The women had gathered at a home in November 2009 for a four-hour simplified poker-and-bridge afternoon over sandwiches and pastries when police arrived, she said Thursday.

“They were playing with only very small sums of money, just to make it interesting,” Diakantoni said. “It's silly for police to concern themselves with such trivial games when there are more serious things they should pursue.”

She said some women were frightened at the police raid in the coastal town of Limassol and attempted to flee. Others didn't realize what was going on — including one woman who asked police to wait until she had finished playing her hand.

Diakantoni said two of the women have since died and another two are in a nursing home. Her mother, Eftychia Yiasemidou, was reluctant to go to court but will if her doctor approves it. Most of the women are simply amused by the affair, she added.

“My mother has never done anyone harm and we hope she continues playing because it keeps her mind sharp,” she said.

Gambling in Cyprus punishable by up to six months in jail or a €750 ($1,000) fine.

Prosecutor Michalis Themistocleous said the summons was procedural but added the attorney general was looking at whether to proceed.

2 charged in four-pizza armed robbery

Two suspects have been identified in a knife-point robbery that netted four pizzas and nothing else.

Manuel Torres, 21, has been charged with first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery for the Jan. 29 heist in the area of 1800 W. Gardner Ave.

A 16-year-old girl is charged as a juvenile.

The two are accused of stealing four pizzas from a Domino's Pizza delivery driver after the girl ordered five pizzas. Spokane police believe Torres threatened the man with a knife and grabbed the top pizza bag containing four pizzas.

The girl had placed the order from her mother's cellphone. Her mother identified her to police as having her phone that night. The victim and other witnesses identified the girl and Torres from photo montages.

Child rapist registers as local transient

A sex offender considered likely to reoffend has registered as a transient in Spokane County.

Christopher Michael Foster, 27, was convicted by a jury of four counts of third-degree child rape in 2005 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl who he met after she ran away from home.

He was sentenced to five years in prison and never admitted the crimes.

Foster also was convicted of first-degree child molestation in Pend Oreille County in 1998. His victim was a 6-year-old girl.

Foster, a level 3 sex offender, is no longer being supervised by the Washington Department of Corrections, but he's required to check in with authorities once a week because he doesn't have a permanent address.

Spokane County's sex offender registry is available here.

SWAT raid nets meth, heroin, 5 arrests

Members of the Spokane Police Department prepare for a drug raid at a home in the 2800 block of East Fourth Avenue on Wednesday. (SPDphotos)

Drug detectives and the Spokane police SWAT team raided a home in southeast Spokane Wednesday night after citizen complaints led to an investigation.

 Police arrested one man and four women and seized heroin and methamphetamine from the home at 2804 E. 4th Ave.

Beverly Lynn Flanagan, 50 (pictured in 2005); Kathleen A. Copeland, 38; Chelsea R. Haine, 23; Marcella R. Walther, 34; and David Andrew Hoitink, 45, are in jail on drug possession charges.

East Central Neighborhood Resource Officer Dan Strassenberg learned of the home from citizens who complained to the neighborhood COPS shop of short-term visitors, increased burglaries and vehicle prowlings and conversations about drugs.

Detectives conducted undercover drug purchases and obtained a search warrant.

Flanagan told police she is a heroin user who had used the day before and had a residue amount in her upstairs bedroom, according to court documents. (Flanagan was sought in 2005 in connection with the drug overdose death of a 22-year-old man. She later pleaded guilty to delivery of a controlled substance – methadone and was sentenced to eight months in jail.)

Flanagan also told police her co-defendants were in an upstaris bedroom injecting heroin. Police arrested Copeland, Haine, Walther and Hoitink there and found loaded syringes and other drug paraphernalia in the room.

Police called the case a great example of police and citizens working together. There are 12 COPS chops and 11 neighborhood resource officers in Spokane.

“The job of the NRO is to follow up on quality of life issues in nuisance properties in their neighborhoods,” according to a news release by Officer Dan Waters, spokesman for the Spokane Police Department. “One part of the NROs' job is to follow up on complaints brought into the shops from Spokane residents.  Any time a resident brings a problem into a COPS Shop, a communications form is filled out and an NRO WILL read the complaint.  As with anything SPD does, the complaints are prioritized and looked into.  This has been an integral part of how SPD is able to work with folks to improve quality of life issues in our neighborhoods.”

Man arrested w/ burglary tools, again

 A man arrested during a vehicle prowling patrol in the Morgan Acres area of north Spokane County in January was arrested again early today by the same deputy during another patrol in the same area.

Yuriy V. Siriy, 22, had a large bulge sticking out from under his coat when Deputy Daryl Smith contacted him about 12:34 a.m. as he walked north on North Regal Street. It turned out to be a metal pry bar and a large screwdriver that he'd secured through the belt loops of his pants.

Siriy's pants were sagging from the weight of items in his pockets, which turned out to be two smaller screwdrivers, a key ring with several keys, a folding knife, a small flash light, another full key ring and a pair of black gloves. Smith said Siriy allowed him to remove the items from his pocket.

Siriy said he was walking to a friend's home to work on cars, but when Smith called a number for the friend, a man who answered  “sounded like he just woke up and hung up the phone,” according to a news release by Deputy Mark Gregory, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Smith said the pry bar had been modified, and the screw driver had gouge marks on the top consistent with being used on ignitions or key locks. Several of the keys were modified and shaved. Siriy was booked into jail for possession of burglary tools, which is a gross misdemeanor.

Smith arrested Siriy Jan. 30 on misdemeanor charges after investigating suspicious activity at the Morgan Acres Community Church, 7319 N. Regal St.

Con man admits swindling elderly aunt

Convicted bank swindler John Earl Petersen is pictured in 1997. (S-R archives)

A convicted con man already due to serve more than two years in federal prison has resolved a three-year-old identity theft case in Spokane County.

John Earl Petersen, 61, was sentenced Wednesday to 13 months in prison for swindling his elderly aunt out of her life savings.

Petersen, the key figure in the collapse of a Montana bank more than a decade ago, will serve the time concurrently with a 27-month federal sentence imposed last month for stealing nearly $170,000 from a brother and sister in 2006 after telling them they would receive $100 million in return.

Federal prosecutors said in 2008 that Petersen used more than $400,000 belonging to his 95-year-old aunt, Gunly Petersen, for personal use, including a lavish remodel at her home in the 1300 block of South Greene Street. He had moved her into a nursing facility and was to be overseeing her health and finances.

It's the latest for an admitted con man and frequent Las Vegas gambler who had a business office in Spokane when he was arrested in 1998, accused of masterminding the $10.5 million collapse of Montana Bank of Whitefish, Mont.

Petersen shocked federal authorities in December 2007 when he walked out of U.S. District Court in Spokane after reviewing paperwork indicating he would be taken into custody at the hearing.

He sped away in his Cadillac and was arrested five months later in Boulder, Colo., with a blond wig and books about changing identity.

Past coverage:

Feb. 1, 1998: Agent paints Petersen as loan-sharking mobster
  

Use of force panel holds 1st meeting

The interim Spokane police chief and a Gonzaga University Law School professor were among the presenters Wednesday at the first meeting of Spokane's commission on police use of force.

Jason Gillmer, civil liberties expert, described the need for officers to be held to an “objective standard” regarding conduct instead of relying only on what the individual officer perceived at the time.

“This objective standard does not mean that an officer cannot make a mistake, but the mistake must be one that a reasonable officer could have made,” Gillmer said.

Interim Police Chief Scott Stephens described the department's mission and goals and answered questions about training

The meeting began with a  moment of silence for Otto Zehm, who died in 2006 after an encounter with Spokane police officers. It ended with comments from citizens, including the family of James Rogers, who was shot to death by police last September amid reports that he was armed and suicidal.

The commission, which was formed by Mayor David Condon, plans to finish reviewing Spokane Police Department policies by June.

Past coverage:

Jan. 25: Ex-chief justice joins use of force panel

Edwards fired after woman’s 911 call

A senior Spokane police officer has been fired for misusing city equipment to obtain the home address of a woman he met at a bar.

 Alan D. Edwards, 47, had recently returned to the police force from an unrelated suspension when the new complaint was lodged, this time after a woman called 911 in the pre-dawn hours of Dec. 16 reporting someone at her door.

It turned out to be Edwards, whom she’d met several hours earlier while at the Sullivan Scoreboard tavern in Spokane Valley.

Edwards, who was off duty, contacted an on-duty officer and said he was investigating a theft and needed the woman’s address. He told the officer, whose name has not been released, he was at a bar when the woman stole his friend’s credit card. But police say Edwards was not investigating a crime - he simply wanted information about the woman for personal purposes.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 24: Woman's 911 call prompts investigation of officer

Feb. 9: Fugitive bounty hunter arrested in Florida

Jan. 29: Officer's 'ruse' w/ felon led to suspension

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

Thoma sues city after settlement rejected

The fired police sergeant who was caught driving drunk and leaving the scene of a collision filed a lawsuit against the city on Tuesday for wrongfully firing him.

 Bob Dunn, the attorney representing fired Spokane police Sgt. Brad Thoma (pictured), said the suit is a response to the Spokane City Council’s unanimous vote on Monday rejecting a negotiated settlement.

The deal the council rejected would have given Thoma a demoted position as a detective, $275,000 in back pay and $15,000 for his attorney’s fees.

Read the rest of Jon Brunt's story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 27: City Council rejects Thoma settlement

Jan. 8, 2011: Change in DUI law means Thoma can be rehired

Nov. 14, 2009: Thoma avoids prosecution for hit and run

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