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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for May 2012

Girlfriend of alleged serial burglar jailed

The girlfriend of a suspected serial burglar was arrested today for her alleged role in the spree.

Tawnya Ann Werre, 43, joins her boyfriend, Dean Michael Blackford, in the Spokane County Jail, where Blackford (pictured) has been since his arrest April 24.

Investigators believe Werre is involved in an April 4 burglary at a home in Valleyford in which three young girls hid in a bedroom as a man broke in the front door and ransacked the home. Police believe that man was Blackford.

The case prompted Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, flanked by victim homeowner and mother Melissa Bambock, to announce a new initiative with prosecutors and Spokane police to try to combat property crime, despite dwindling resources.

Blackford, 50, told detectives he burglarized at least 20 homes to fund his methamphetamine addiction.

Detectives believe Werre sold stolen goods at pawn shops. They also believe she helped Blackford burglarize at least some of the homes.

Werre has 10 felony convictions including forgery, theft and drug charges. She was booked into jail today on charges eight counts of residential burglary, five counts of first-degree theft, three counts of second-degree theft, and single counts of second-degree burglary, theft of a firearm, second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, first-degree trafficking in stolen property and possession of methamphetamine.

Blackford has pleaded not guilty to his charges and remains in jail awaiting trial.

Investigators arrested seven others while searching three locations connected to Blackford just after his arrest. Read more here.

DNA evidence may delay murder trial

Spokane County prosecutors are proceeding with the first-degree murder trial of Patrick K. Gibson, who is charged with the 1992 slaying of a Spokane Valley business man, even as they wait for more evidence.

 Testimony entered its third day Thursday in the state's case against Gibson. Prosecutors allege that Gibson robbed Brian Cole at gunpoint on Nov. 7, 1992, and indicated that he would hurt Cole's wife.

Cole reportedly jumped the robber, who then shot him twice in the head. One of those same bullets also pierced his lung. He died 90 minutes later on an operating table.

The crime remained unsolved for 19 years until Spokane County Sheriff's Detective Lyle Johnston tested a fake beard used in the robbery for DNA evidence and a match came back to Gibson, 60, who has convictions for similar crimes in other states.

But the case may have to be put on hold as prosecutors wait for the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory to finish testing another piece of evidence that recently was submitted. Jack Driscoll, the chief criminal deputy prosecutor, would not identify what was sent for testing.

Defense attorneys Victoria Blumhorst and John Whaley complained to Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen that they have a DNA expert waiting in California but don't yet know the nature of the evidence that the expert will be asked to challenge.

“I've never done a case where we are waiting for evidence as we are taking testimony,” Eitzen told the attorneys. “I advise the state to rush the crime lab along with that evidence.”

 

Man gets 6 months in horrific dog cruelty

A Post Falls man who beat his dog with a hammer as his neighbor watched in horror has been sentenced to six months in jail.

 Calvin Franklin Palmer, 53, who served 33 years in prison in Arizona for murder, apologized at his sentencing Friday and said the death of his Akita-pit bull even “traumatized him,” according to court records.

“I was the only one who treated her nicely,” Palmer said.

He told police he killed the dog after she attacked a cat and he feared she would attack him.

“I'm sorry that someone saw me do that,” he said in court Friday, according to a transcript. Palmer was booked into the Kootenai County Jail that day to begin his sentence.

Palmer's neighbors in the 300 block of North Columbia Street in Post Falls called police Dec. 10 and reported the horrific attack.

Tammi Nichols, 40, said her 18-year-old daughter, Carmen Murphy, told her she'd seen Palmer beating the dog with the hammer.

Nichols said she told Palmer “You just traumatized my child,” but Palmer “looked at her with a blank look on his face, then swung the hammer at the dog four more times, striking it in the head,” according to court documents.

Post Falls police arrived to find the dog dead in a trash can, badly beaten with its throat slit.

Palmer initially lied to police and said he didn't own a dog, according to court documents. When they asked him about dog food at the home, he said he fed it to his cats because he can't afford cat food.

Palmer has been out of prison for about three years after being convicted of robbery and murder in Arizona, according to court records. He works at the Sweetgrass Cafe in Worley, Idaho, according to testimony at his sentencing.

His public defender, Megan Marshall, called for him to serve no jail time for the animal cruelty conviction, saying he'll lose his trailer if he can't work. She said his murder conviction “is following him for the rest of his life,” according to court records.

Judge Penny Friedlander instead sentenced him to 180 days in jail but allowed for work release. Friedlander said it was “stunning to the court how anyone could do an act like that to an animal.”

3 linked to 24 Spokane Co. burglaries

Sheriff's investigators believe they've solved 24 residential burglaries in the Spokane County area. 

Members of the Burglary Task Force are recommending 64 felony charges be filed against suspects Jessica L. Davis, 25; Randle “Kyle Phelps, 29; and Jay M. Shippy, 23.

Davis, the alleged ring leader, faces a charge of leading organized crime.

Shippy (pictured) already faces a residential burglary charge for an arrest in April. He was allowed to leave jail on his own recognizance earlier this month, but detectives arrested him again Wednesday on the new burglary charge.

Phelps and Davis are jailed in Bonner County after being arrested there Friday. Davis reportedly told a detective they had moved north and were afraid to burglarize homes in Spokane County because of the recent surge in property crime arrests here.

The charges recommended to the prosecutor's office include residential burglary, theft of a firearm and trafficking in stolen property.

Suspect’s friend deplores ‘stupid’ crime

A 17-year-old boy was arrested for a knife-point robbery early Tuesday that even his friend said was stupid.

Edward D. Sjoquist is accused of threatening three people with a knife and stealing a wallet near North Monroe Street and West Cleveland Avenue about 12:35 a.m.

One of the victims told police another man approached her attacker and yelled at him and the two ran into a nearby home.

Police contacted that man, who said he and Sjoquist were walking to McDonald's when Sjoquist said he was going to rob someone. The man said he ran up to Sjoquist after the attack and told him “he was stupid and smacked the wallet” out of his hand.

Police found marijuana in Sjoquist's pants pocket when he was booked into juvenile detention center. He's to be charged as an adult with three counts of first-degree robbery.

Closing Geiger: Wise or worrisome?

On its face, moving inmates from the Spokane County jail system to a jail in Kennewick solves big problems.

In the short term, local governments would save hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time when they’re continuing to deal with difficult budget decisions.

In the long term, it could take pressure off the county to build a new jail to replace the aging Geiger Corrections Center, which county leaders have fought to replace for years with little political success.

But county officials are fighting the potential move, which was sparked by city of Spokane officials who have long battled the county over the daily rates the county charges to hold inmates.

Read the rest of the story here.

Past coverage:

April 21: Officials say Geiger to close

Bevy of drugs found in felon’s truck

A longtime Spokane felon who fought with police in a Browne's Addition grocery store parking lot last week had about three ounces of heroin in his vehicle, police said today.

Stephen Patrick Link, 46, pleaded not guilty today in Spokane County Superior Court to possession of methamphetamine, attempt to elude a police vehicle and two counts of third-degree assault for the May 21 incident with Sgt. Kurt Vigesaa and Officer Ron Van Tassel at Rosauers, 1800 W. 2nd Ave.

Police are requesting prosecutors charge Link with six additional drug felonies after a search of his Ford Ranger on Friday revealed the heroin, valued at $2,400, marijuana packaged for sale and four prescription drugs packaged for sale, as well as a scale and baggies.

Police also found two syringes loaded with suspected heroin.  Those drugs were found in addition to methamphetamine, more than $7,000 and 35 suspected stolen gift cards that were found on the ground next to Link the night of his arrest.

Police began pursuing Link after a homeowner in the 4800 block of North Oak Street reported a man sitting in a truck in front of his home smoking drugs. Vigesaa attempted to stop Link near North Ash Street and West Grace Avenue, but he fled and crossed the Maple Street Bridge into downtown.

Police used a PIT maneuver to stop the truck, and Link exited the vehicle and fought with Vigesaa, who said he nearly lost consciousness and didn't know what hit him after he was attacked by Link, according to court documents. Vigesaa was treated at a hospital for cut eye and a broken blood vessel. (Police released a photo of the injury today)

Link also kicked and punched Van Tassel and broke his watch, police say Backup officers arrived and Link was shocked with a Taser and taken to the ground before being handcuffed. (View a photo from the scene here.) He was taken to a hospital before being booked into jail.

Link is well known to drug detectives “who have worked previous cases involving him,” according to a news release by police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

Vigesaa and Van Tassel have returned to work, DeRuwe said.

“This situation illustrates not only the dangers of police work, but how officers work together to effectively apprehend and remove a criminal suspect from the streets of Spokane.”

Link remains in the Spokane County Jail.

Murder suspect’s mental state questioned

A man who told detectives he murdered another methamphetamine addict in a fight over cigarettes will undergo a mental health examination. 

Acquaintances of suspect Shane Caleb Smith, 38, told investigators he is known as “Psycho Shane” and sometimes speaks of imaginary people and vivid hallucinations.

He also often accused people at gunpoint of things they did not do, witnesses told police.

Smith, who is pictured just after his arrest courtesy KHQ-TV, is accused of shooting Warren Scott Flinn on May 12.

Flinn, 44, died at a hospital May 16. 

Smith told detectives he and Flinn (right) had been out “scrapping” for metal near the railroad tracks on Lake Road when they began to argue over cigarettes.

Smith was arraigned on a second-degree murder charge Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court. He was not given a trial date; rather, he was ordered to appear in court July 27 for an update on whether he's competent to stand trial.

Robbers take over South Hill McDonald’s

Four masked robbers took over a McDonald's on the South Hill at gunpoint Friday night, and police are asking for help identifying them. 

Police today released three surveillance photos of the robbers, who accosted six people inside the restaurant at 4647 S. Regal St., just after 10 p.m.

The victims complied with demands and none was injured. The robbers, who wore black clothing, fled on foot before police arrived. 

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

New to Spokane, man robbed during jog

A man who arrived in Spokane about a week ago from Ethiopia was robbed while jogging on the South Hill early Sunday, police say.

The 38-year-old victim does not speak English but said he recognized the word “money” when a man approached him about 5:20 a.m. near West 8th Avenue and South Adams Street, according to court documents.

The victim said he tried to communicate with the man, but the man grabbed his necklace and acted as though he was reaching for a weapon.

The man said he feared for his life and backed up as the robber broke the necklace and stole two charms from it. The victim's friend translated his Tigrigna language to English for police.

Police spotted William C. Calamanco, 25, in the area, and the victim identified him as the robbery by his tattoos. Police say Calamanco is suspected in similar attacks. Calamanco told police the man offered his necklace in exchange for meth, but officers didn't believe him and booked him into jail for second-degree robbery.

Calamanco was out of jail awaiting trial for two felony cases. One is a vehicular assault charge for a crash Feb. 5 in which he allegedly bragged to a nurse that he was “driving really, really, really fast.” The other is a burglary case that occurred in November but wasn't solved until February.
  

Police: We saved repeat offender’s life

Spokane police say they saved the life of a career criminal and sex offender when he went into cardiac arrest after he was taken into custody Sunday.

Officer Nick Geren administered first aid on Joshua Clint Epperson, 32, while he was being transported to the jail after he was picked up the Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team.

Epperson was taken to a hospital, then booked into jail on a slew of felony charges related to a home-invasion robbery and a burglary spree.

Epperson is level 3 sex offender, which is the classification considered most likely to reoffend. A woman who identified herself as his sister said in an email to The Spokesman-Review that he has “at least 10 kids that we know about.”

“He is a menace,” Melissa Epperson said in the email. “Please fight to keep him locked up for your community and his children.”

Epperson was arrested just three weeks ago for a burglary in the Country Homes area in north Spokane County.

Investigators believe he burglarized homes of guns, electronics and jewelry to help pay a $1,000 debt to his heroin dealer. Epperson's girlfriend, Chelsey M. Loe, also is suspected in the case. Investigators searched the couple's home at 51 E. Crown on May 6 and recovered meth and suspected stolen property.

Epperson told sheriff's detectives he burglarized homes with Anthony L. Haines, who was arrested May 2 with a gun stolen in one of the burglaries, according to court documents.

Epperson was out of jail awaiting arraignment in that case when police say he helped rob residents at a home in the Indian Trail area May 22. Suspects Nathan W. Day, 21, and Nathan T. McDaniels, 28, were arrested Wednesday and remain in jail.

Geren was awarded the Spokane Police Department's life-saving award in 2008 after he and Officer Brian Eckersley administered CPR on a woman who'd fallen unconscious in downtown Spokane.

Trial begins in ‘92 cold case murder

Trial began Tuesday for a career criminal sex offender linked to a 1992 Spokane homicide by DNA on a fake beard.

 Patrick K. Gibson, 60, is charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Brian Cole, 48, of Nov. 7, 1992, during a robbery at Cole’s Traditions in Oak, a furniture store on East Sprague in Spokane Valley.

The case was featured on “America's Most Wanted” in 1993, but the investigation went cold until detectives in the last few years re-tested evidence and Gibson's DNA was found on the beard, which was left at the murder scene.

Gibson, a level 3 sex offender living in Stanwood, Wash., was arrested in May 2011.

Records show he was convicted of rape and robbery in Multnomah County, Ore., in 1979 after robbing a Portland restaurant, forcing a waitress into his car and raping her at a rest stop. He also was convicted in federal court in Nevada of kidnapping, aiding and abetting and conspiracy to kidnap. He also was convicted in Douglas County, Nev., of robbery after holding up a gas station in 1978, kidnapping a 17-year-old boy and a 19-year-old woman, then sexually assaulting the woman and leaving both tied up.

He served prison time, then was convicted in 1996 of bank robbery and aiding and abetting in federal court in the Eastern District of California. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

According to previously published reports, on the night of Cole's homicide in 1992, police allege Gibson entered the store about 8 p.m. and demanded money, then became angry when he was told they didn't have any cash.

Cole asked the armed assailant if he would harm a handicapped woman, referring to his wife, who used a scooter due to multiple sclerosis. The man replied he “just might,” the sheriff’s office said.
In an apparent attempt to protect his wife, Cole tried to overpower Gibson, authorities said, who fired three shots, hitting Cole in head and chest.

Gibson chose a bench trial instead of a jury trial, meaning Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen will hear the case against him and decide whether there's enough to convict. Testimony began Tuesday.
  

Alleged sex slave traders released

Four people arrested in what investigators believe is Spokane County’s first human trafficking case were released this weekend because no charges have been filed.

Spokane County sheriff’s investigators still are working on the case against Lawrence Dean Johnson, 43, his wife, Dina K. Tellez, 43; Christopher G. Foster, 33; and Foster’s girlfriend, Shanell L. Haddon, 28.

The suspects were released from the Spokane County Jail because prosecutors did not file charges within three days of their arrest as required by law. They can still be charged, and investigators still are working on charging recommendations for prosecutors.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

May 24: Sex slave claim leads to 4 arrests

Gory face-mauling attack shocks police

In this image taken from video, Miami police officers stand watch near a naked man, second from right, who was shot dead by a police officer when he refused to stop chewing on the face of the naked man next to him, partially obscured by a railing, in Miami, Saturday.  (AP Photo/The Miami Herald)

By JENNIFER KAY,Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) — It is being called one of this city's goriest crimes: A naked man was on top of another nude man along a busy highway, biting into the man's face, tearing it to pieces. A police officer arrived to help, but the mauler growled at him and continued to chew away, stopping only when he was shot to death.

 Miami police said little Tuesday about the attack, which took place Saturday afternoon in the shadow of The Miami Herald headquarters. Surveillance video from the newspaper's security camera showed cars, motorcycles, pedestrians and bicyclists passing by.

The victim, identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo (left), was in critical condition, with only his goatee intact on his face, the newspaper reported.

Sgt. Javier Ortiz, vice president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, said it was one of the bloodiest “and goriest scenes I've ever been to.”

“It was not only grotesque, it was just very sad, the amount of blood. It was very sad to see what happened to this gentleman that had his face eaten,” Ortiz said.

It's not clear what led Rudy Eugene (right), 31, to attack Poppo. Eugene's ex-wife, Jenny Ductant, told WPLG-TV, said he was somewhat paranoid.

“I wouldn't say he had mental problem but he always felt like people was against him … No one was for him, everyone was against him,” she told the station. She and Eugene's mother declined comment when reached by The Associated Press.

Larry Vega was riding his bicycle off the causeway, which connects downtown Miami with Miami Beach, when he saw the attack.

“The guy was, like, tearing him to pieces with his mouth, so I told him, 'Get off!'” Vega told Miami television station WSVN (http://bit.ly/L6kwWt). “The guy just kept eating the other guy away, like, ripping his skin.”

Vega flagged down the Miami police officer, who can be seen exiting his car on the Herald video. Vega said the officer repeatedly ordered the attacker to get off. Eugene just picked his head up and growled at the officer before continuing to maul his victim, Vega said.

The officer shot Eugene, but he just kept chewing, Vega said. The officer fired again, killing Eugene.

Vega refused to comment when reached by The Associated Press, saying he wanted to put what he witnessed behind him.

Detective William Moreno would not release details about the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation. The Miami-Dade County medical examiner declined to provide any information until after the autopsy, which was scheduled for Tuesday.

Ortiz said the officer, who is part of a crisis intervention team and trained to deal with the mentally ill, had no choice but to fire.

“He's clearly shaken up,” Ortiz said, adding that the officer had been administratively reassigned pending an investigation, as is standard after an officer-involved shooting.

After the shooting, the Herald's video zooms in on the scene. Most of it is blocked by an overpass, but two sets of uncovered legs can be seen. One set never moves, while the other twists and turns as if the person is in pain.

“It was just a blob of blood,” Vega said. “You couldn't really see, it was just blood all over the place.”

Court records show that Poppo has several arrests for public intoxication.

According to Miami-Dade court records, Eugene had been arrested for multiple misdemeanors, mostly marijuana-related charges. The most recent arrest was in 2009. The Herald reported that he played football at a Miami area high school in the late 1990s.

Ives Eugene, who identified himself as Rudy Eugene's uncle, described his nephew as a “nice and hard-working” man who washed cars at a local dealership.

He said his nephew had asked his girlfriend to borrow her car, but she said no. “So he rode the bicycle, and he never came back home,” he said.

Associated Press reporter Suzette Laboy contributed to this report.

Suspect in knife attack jailed in Idaho

A suspect has been identified in a May 1 attack that left a man with stab wounds to his chest and head in the West Garland District.

Fingerprints on a Coors Light can at the scene of the stabbing matched those of Joshua David Fleming, 31, who has been in jail in Kootenai County since May 18.

Fleming is accused of stabbing Eric Stensgar, 29, several times in the upper chest and head. Stensgar was found in alley in the 600 block of West Garland Avenue and treated at a local hospital. He told Spokane police he was drinking Coors Light and Goldschlager schnapps hard liquor when a man asked if he could drink with him.

They shared the alcohol, and Stensgar said his next memory was awaking in the alley with stab wounds. Stensgar underwent surgery at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center for life threatening injuries, including a stab wound that entered his brain, according to court documents.

Prosecutors issued a $125,000 warrant for Fleming's arrest on May 21. By that time, Fleming already had been arrested on a probation violation for a grand theft conviction in Kootenai County. He waived extradition from Spokane May 18 and remains in the Kootenai County Jail.

Spokane police didn't know this when they issued a news release Tuesday calling for tips on his location.

Fleming has at least nine felony convictions in Spokane County beginning in 1996, inlcuding first-degree robbery, attempted second-degree assault, first-degree possession of stolen property, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance.

Kidnapped man escapes from car trunk

A kidnapped man forced into the trunk of a car in Montana freed himself on a Pend Oreille County highway early Sunday, leading to two arrests.

A motorist said he was driving on Highway 2 near Pend Oreille Park about 7:10 a.m. when the trunk of the vehicle in front of him opened and a man started waving his arms and yelling for help, the Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office said today.

The vehicle stopped and the man jumped from the trunk and ran toward the witness's vehicle. He said he'd been beaten, bound and forced into the trunk while in Montana.

Sheriff's deputies stopped the suspect vehicle a short time later near Newport, Wash. The driver initially refused to stop, and someone threw a firearm from the vehicle that was later recovered.

Kenny J. Morrison, 29, and John M. Davis, 39, of Columbia Falls, Mont., were arrested on charges of kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, fourth-degree assault, possession of methadone without a prescription and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Pend Oreille County sheriff's investigators are working with detectives in Flathead County, Mont.

Burglary suspects ‘afraid’ of task force

One of two suspected serial burglars arrested in Oldtown, Idaho, recently told investigators they were afraid to burglarize homes in Spokane County because of the recent surge in property crime arrests here, officials say.

Jessica L. Davis, 25, and Randle “Kyle” Phelps, 29, were followed Friday by members of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Burglary Task Force to a secluded neighborhood near Bead Lake in Pend Oreille County, which has been the target of recnet burglaries.

Task Force members observed two home burglaries and contacted the Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office. Patrol deputies helped task force members arrest the two in the parking lot of an Oldtown gas station.

A drug dog with the Bonner County Sheriff's Office detected  something in the vehicle, which led deputies to recover heroin and methadone.

Davis and Phelps were booked into jail on drug charges. Their 2002 Nissan Sentra contained suspected evidence from the burglaries.

Task Force members are working with Pend Oreille investigators to prepare charging recommendations for the burglary sprees.

“Davis made a comment to a BTF investigator that they had gone to the rural area of Pend Oreille County because of the recent and numerous Burglary Task Force arrests and was afraid to commit burglaries in Spokane County,” according to a news release.

Sex offender arrested in home invasion

A sex offender suspected in a violent gunpoint home-invasion robbery was arrested today.

 Joshua Clint Epperson, 32, was booked into jail on felony charges related to an early-morning attack last Tuesday in the 9600 block of North Alpine Court in the Indian Trail area.

The Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team located Epperson in the 4200 block of North Atlantic Street, Officer Brian Eckersley said in a news release.

Epperson was arrested just three weeks ago for a burglary in the Country Homes area in north Spokane County and is to be arraigned Wednesday on residential burglary, first-degree trafficking in stolen property and resisting arrest charges.

He was out of jail awaiting that arraignment when police allege he partook in the robbery, which involved the victims being bound with zip ties and one being pistol whipped.

Suspects Nathan W. Day, 21, and Nathan T. McDaniels, 28, were arrested Wednesday and remain in jail.

Epperson faces charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnapping, possession of a stolen firearm, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of unlawful imprisonment and two counts of possession of a controlled substance, Eckersley said. Prosecutors filed charges on Friday.

Epperson is a level 3 sex offender, which is the classification considered most likely to reoffend. He was convicted of third-degree rape of a child in 2003. He also has a conviction for indecent liberties.

Edwards admitted ‘bad mistake’

A Spokane police officer fired for lying to a co-worker to obtain the address of a woman he met at a bar told investigators he was going through personal problems and was concerned for the woman’s safety because he’d seen her interacting with a known felon.

  Alan Edwards, who was fired in March, said he thought the woman showed interest in him as he left the Sullivan Scoreboard on Dec. 15 to give a friend a ride home. He returned to the bar about midnight and saw the woman talking to another man, whom he described “as a felon kind of bad guy.”

The release of the internal investigation into Edwards (right) comes at the same time officials say Edwards still is under a criminal investigation for his use of unlicensed bounty hunter Dennis Kariores (left) to illegally enter homes.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

April 2: Bounty hunter in Edwards case jailed

March 13: Listen to the call that led to Edwards' firing

Feb. 29: Spokane police officer fired after woman's complaint

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

Drugs, guns seized near Valley school

Sheriff's investigators arrested a suspected methamphetamine dealer this week after a month's long investigation that yielded not only drugs but three guns.

His Spokane Valley home's backyard is connected to the playground of Trentwood Elementary School.

Gang and drug detectives obtained search warrants for the Eric D. Rangel's home, vehicle and person after a confidential informant bought methamphetamine from Rangel several times.

Police arrested Rangel, 26, Wednesday at East Eighth Avenue and South Carnahan Road in Spokane Valley and seized his car. He had methamphetamine and $3,400 on him, as well as two .9 mm pistols and additional meth in the car.

Detectives searched his home Thursday in the 4900 block of North Calvin Road and seized more meth, as well as heroin, hydrocodone, marijuana, a.12 gauge shotgun and .9 mm ammunition.

Rangel told detectives he sells meth in the Valley, according to a news release by Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office.

He also admitted to leaving a stolen firearm in a motel room where he'd briefly stayed. Deputies had recently recovered the firearm, which Rangel said he'd obtained in exchange for meth.

Rangel has felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing weapons.

Man gets 10+ years for home robbery

A Spokane man has been sentenced to about 10 years in prison for a gunpoint robbery last year.

Jeremy L. Standon, 30, has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for first-degree robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm, money laundering, drug possession, second-degree identity theft, first-degree burglary, theft of a firearm.

He recorded his second first-degree robbery conviction - and second strike under the state's three-strikes-and-you're-out law - when he pleaded guilty in late April. Now he's headed to prison on a 129-month sentence that will include credit for 364 days already served in jail after being sentenced this week in Spokane County Superior Court.

Co-defendant John Gibson Dean, 30, is awaiting trial. He was arrested earlier this month after a couple months as a fugitive.

Police say Dean and Standon robbed three people of money, jewelry and electronics after being allowed inside the home at 1415 N. Post St. May 9, 2011. Police paid a confidential informant $100 for information that helped identify the men.

Suspected serial burglar gets 9 years

One of two brothers suspected in a series of Spokane County burglaries has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

Donald G. Myhren, 30, pleaded guilty to residential burglary for a break-in last year and was sentenced this week to 108 months. He still faces additional robbery and burglary charges for break-ins at home this spring, along with his brother, Dustin J. Myhren, 26.

The men were out of jail awaiting trial for last year's case when detectives arrested them for the new burglaries in April. Investigators reviewing burglary reports noticed that the description of suspects in a series of Spokane County burglaries matched the brothers, and that a suspect vehicle was registered at their address.

They've both been jailed on $250,000 bond ever since and are scheduled to begin trial July 16 for the latest burglaries, some of which included the theft of sports cards.

Donald Myhren resolved last year's case Monday in Spokane County Superior Court; Dustin's still is pending.

Jodie Sinclair, whose home was burglarized by the brothers last year said she walked into her home to find one of the brothers running through her living room. The home was ransacked. Her husband chased after the man and his brother “and they in turned pulled a gun to get him to back off,” Sinclair said in an email.

The brothers are accused of again confronting a homeowner at a gunpoint just months ago.

Sinclair said she was disappointed in the sentence and said she hopes the pending robbery and burglary charges will put Myhren away for much longer.

“The material items he took that day can be replaced for the most part,” she said. “But what he stole from us is our sense of security and ability to feel comfortable in our own home.”

Sex slave claims lead to four arrests

A frightened young woman’s descriptions of being held captive and sold for sex at drug houses and motels over the past year has led to several arrests in what’s believed to be Spokane County’s first human trafficking case.

Lawrence Dean Johnson, 43, his wife, Dina K. Tellez, 43; Christopher G. Foster, 33; and Shanell L. Haddon, 28, who is Foster’s girlfriend, are in the Spokane County Jail as prosecutors consider formal charges against them.

Dave Skogen, a detective with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday that more victims could be identified.

Foster denied the allegations in an interview with The Spokesman-Review from jail Thursday evening.

“They should get a psychiatric evaluation done on this chick,” Foster said. “Then the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office will realize what a big mistake they’ve made.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Roving cows drink Mass. backyard brew

BOXFORD, Mass. (AP) — Police say a roving group of cows crashed a small gathering in a Massachusetts town and bullied the guests for their beer.

Boxford police Lt. James Riter says he was responding to a call for loose cows on Sunday and spotted them in a front yard.

Riter says the herd high-tailed it for the backyard and then he heard screaming. He says when he ran back there he saw the cows had chased off some young adults and were drinking their beers.

Riter says the cows had knocked the beer cans over on a table and were lapping up what spilled. He says they even started rooting around the recycled cans for some extra drops.

Riter says the cows' owner and some friends herded the cows back home.

Theft victim uploads video of suspect

By DINESH RAMDE,Associated Press
MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Wisconsin man whose camcorder was briefly stolen has found a way to get back at the suspected thief: He uploaded to YouTube a video that the suspect took with the camera, a clip in which the man reveals his name, shows his face and admits he stole the camera.

Chris Rochester, 25, of La Crosse, said his camera was stolen a few weeks ago from the car of his boss, Republican state Senate candidate Bill Feehan. Police eventually arrested the suspect and returned the camera to Rochester, who set it aside.

Then, when Gov. Scott Walker made a recent visit to La Crosse, Rochester used the camera to film the event. When he went back to retrieve the video, he found 20 other segments the suspect apparently recorded.

Most were uneventful, generally 15- to 20-second clips of television screens. But one video caught Rochester's eye.

“This is my house, yes, and a stolen camera that I stole. But it's OK, the cop won't figure it out,” the suspect says in the 79-second video, as he pans around a home and points out the kitchen and bathroom. Later he adds, “Oh yeah, to introduce you, my name is Houaka Yang. So yeah, how do you do.”

Finally, he turns the camera to reveal his face and says with a smile, “And this is me. Hi.”

The 20-year-old Yang was scheduled to make an initial appearance in court Wednesday, but the judge recused himself because he knew one of the victims. A new court date wasn't immediately scheduled.

Yang was charged with two counts of being party to misdemeanor theft and one misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon. The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years and three months in jail and a $30,000 fine.

A message left with Yang's public defender Wednesday was not immediately returned.

Rochester said he almost disregarded the videos on his camera, thinking maybe he'd accidentally hit the 'record' button.

“Then it hit me pretty quickly as to what it was,” he said. “I was astounded. I was like, 'Wow, I can't believe this.'”

Yang was already in custody, but Rochester decided to have fun with the video by sharing it with friends. So he uploaded it to YouTube under the title “Confessions of a stupid criminal: Thief is sure he won't get caught.”

As reporters began asking him about the video he began to realize it was more entertaining than he first thought, he said.

Police recovered the videocamera after investigating a number of other thefts in the area. Rochester said he didn't think Feehan had been targeted as a Republican political candidate.

Security videos at Feehan's home showed two suspects rifling through the car in his driveway. Investigators showed the footage to officials at a local high school, who identified one suspect, La Crosse police Sgt. Randy Rank said. The 14-year-old in turn identified Yang, he said.

Rank said police weren't concerned that Rochester uploaded the video even though Yang's case is still pending.

“It's his recorder, those are his images on there,” Rank said. “I don't see an issue with it.”

2 arrested in Indian Trail home invasion

Two men have been arrested for a north Spokane home-invasion robbery in which the victims were bound with zip ties and one was pistol whipped.

Nathan W. Day, 21, and Nathan T. McDaniels, 28, are accused of entering a home in the 9600 block of North Alpine Court in the Indian Trail area about 2:45 a.m Tuesday, awaking a resident and asking him about a safe before stealing other items.

The victim said Day was armed with a handgun, and McDaniels told him to “be quiet and do what we say or you are going to get shot,” according to court documents prepared by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Day struck the victim with in the eye with the butt of the gun, but the man said he was able to break free from his zip ties and jump out a window. He said his Wii gaming console and games were stolen during the robbery.

Another resident told police four men knocked on the door and he let McDaniels in to use the bathroom. One of the men asked him if he wanted to smoke meth, and the man said he walked the men downstairs to wake up his girlfriend. That's when Day displayed the gun and the man was bound with zip ties as others stole items from the home, court documents say.

But that man was able to break free, too, and he grabbed a sword and struck McDaniels in the arm with it. The robbers then fled. The man's girlfriend said the robbers also threatened her with a gun and stole her iPhone.

Detectives conducting surveillance on the suspects Wednesday spotted McDaniels in the 4700 block of North Standard and arrested him. He had with him credit cards and a driver's license belonging to one of the victims, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Day was arrested Wednesday in the 900 block of East Wabash Avenue with a stolen handgun. Police recovered the stolen Wii console from a home there, as well as baggies of methamphetamine.

The men were jailed on robbery, burglary and kidnapping charges. A third suspect, Joshua C. Epperson, is not yet in custody,

Child killer’s prison sentence upheld

Appellate judges have upheld the enhanced sentence of convicted child killer Robert Doney, Jr., who pleaded guilty in 2005 to bludgeoning a 2-year-old girl to death as her mother pleaded for her life on the day after Christmas 2003.

The case has bounced repeatedly back between the Division III Court of Appeals and Washington Supreme Court based on legal arguments surrounding the exceptional sentence levied against Doney.

While Doney, 36, admitted killing 2-year-old Victoria Ramon, he disputed the determinations – known as aggravating factors — that he showed a lack of remorse, acted with deliberate cruelty and that Ramon was particularly vulnerable.

A jury found two of three of those factors and Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque sentenced Doney in 2005 to 35 years in prison, which was more than seven years longer than the standard sentence for first-degree murder.

Doney and his attorney appealed and the courts eventually overturned the enhanced sentence until the Washington Legislature amended the law that allows judges to empanel juries to decide aggravated sentences.

Then in 2010, another jury found aggravating factors and Leveque imposed the same 35-year sentence against Doney. He appealed on the grounds that Leveque did not have the authority to apply the law retroactively, but the appellate judges today unanimously ruled against Doney and upheld Leveque’s sentencing.

“All defendants who received an exceptional sentence based on aggravating factors are eligible for a jury trial on remand to determine whether the aggravating factors exist,” Judge Teresa Kulik wrote for the majority. “The application of the statute does not violate the due process clause.”

VA hospital locked down over gun threat

The Spokane veterans hospital was locked down Tuesday after a man with a history of gun threats said he was going to return with a gun when his narcotics prescription refill was denied.

John Alvin Barr II, 26, apparently was upset he couldn't immediately the prescription when he went to the Spokane Veteran Affairs Medical Center at 4815 N. Assembly St., Tuesday about 5:45 p.m.

Employees told Barr that his physician had left for the day and was unavailable to authorize the refill. A hospital administrator refused to authorize the refill because he noticed it wasn't the first time Barr had requested unscheduled refills.

When told that, Barr reportedly said “I guess I'm just gonna have to go home and get my .45 then,” according to court documents.

It was the third time since September 2010 Barr had made threats involving a firearm, hospital staff say. The facility was locked down because employees were concerned Barr might carry out the threat.

Barr brought firearms to the hospital in October 2005 and was put on probation for three years beginning in March 2006.

Barr, of Wallace, Idaho, appeared in U.S. District Court on gun charges Wednesday and was ordered to remain in jail. A hearing to determine if he can be granted bail is scheduled for today at 2:30 p.m.

Beauty school killer gets 14+ years

WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) — A Wenatchee man accused of killing a beauty school classmate pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in a plea deal Wednesday and was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison.

Jury selection had been under way for the trial of Christopher Scott Wilson, 31, who was charged with first-degree murder in the February 2010 death of 17-year-old Mackenzie Cowell.

Wilson also pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, as well as second-degree assault on another woman, under the plea deal.

Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges sentenced Wilson to 171 months.

Bridges noted the toll the case took on the entire community in Wenatchee, an agricultural city that boasts itself as the “Apple Capital of the World.” Police investigated the killing for seven months, interviewing more than 800 people, before arresting Wilson for Cowell's murder.

It's almost impossible to find the words for the family of the victim, the family of the defendant or the community, Bridges said.

“It's just too bad for all of us, but I wanted you to know we're all kind of in this together,” he said. “So, Mr. Wilson is going to prison.”

Wilson showed no emotion during the hearing. Before the trial began, he had rejected a 10-year plea offer.

Reid Cowell, the victim's father, recalled a young, vibrant girl who trusted Wilson and allowed him to lure her to her death.

Cowell was a high school senior and dance team member who also studied at the Academy of Hair Design on weekday afternoons. On the afternoon of Feb. 9, 2010, she told classmates she would only be gone 15 minutes, and surveillance video later showed her walking to her car and driving away.

Police found her abandoned vehicle 5 miles away on a rural road. Four days later, Cowell's body was found on the edge of the Columbia River, some 20 miles south of Wenatchee.

She had been struck in the head, strangled and stabbed to death.

During the investigation, three people reported seeing a person closely matching Wilson's description walking down the road near where Cowell's car had been abandoned. DNA found on duct tape near Cowell's body was linked to Wilson and her DNA was linked to blood found in his apartment.

According to court documents, several people also contacted police with concerns about Wilson after Cowell disappeared. One person wrote a letter to police claiming Wilson was obsessed with dead bodies and serial killers. Another said Wilson told her he liked to “cut people up” when he was working at area funeral homes.

However, a judge barred prosecutors from introducing that work history — or mentioning his tattoo of fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter — at trial, and ruled that the defense may introduce evidence of other suspects.

Prosecutor Gary Riesen said the loss of a 17-year-old girl isn't something one can put a value on in the criminal justice system.

“It's a case where the result of today's hearing probably won't be satisfactory to anyone,” he said in court, “but I think it does bring some closure.”

Murder suspect known as ‘Psycho Shane’

Acquaintances of a man arrested for the shooting death of another suspected methamphetamine user told detectives he was dangerously unstable and often accused people at gunpoint of things they did not do.

A witness in the investigation of Warren Scott Flinn’s homicide said suspect Shane Caleb Smith, 38, is known as “Psycho Shane” and sometimes speaks of imaginary people and vivid hallucinations, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Smith is pictued in 2004. He now has long, scraggly hair that extends past his shoulders.

Murder suspect chooses trial over deal

A woman charged in connection with the 2011 killing of Nicholas J. Thoreson appeared in court but chose not to accept a plea agreement.

 Breeanna C. Sims, 20, faces the charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, rendering criminal assistance, arson and the taking of a motor vehicle.

Sims appeared Wednesday before Superior Court Sam Cozza but the hearing did not proceed.

“It appears we don't have a meeting of the minds,” Deputy Prosecutor Kyle Treece said. “If we have a plea agreement at some point, we will notify the court.”

Reached after the hearing, defense attorney Tim Trageser said “we're going to trial,” which is currently set for June 18.

Sims was charged with her younger brother, Justice E.D. Sims, 19, who previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Also charged are Taylor J. Wolf and Britney Bjork. Their cases also are pending.

Detectives believe the Simses and Wolf beat Thoreson in a garage at the Knotty Pines apartment complex, 13615 E. Trent Ave., in Spokane Valley before shooting him to death. 

Thoreson's charred remains were found in the back of his 1987 Ford Thunderbird near Forker and Bigelow Gulch roads April 13, 2011. Detectives arrested the Simses two days later.P

ast 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


  

Man nets 2nd police chase in 3 weeks

A Spokane man arrested at gunpoint after a police chase three weeks ago was picked up again Tuesday morning after another chase with law enforcement.

 A profusely sweaty Michael S. Wheeler, 38, was taken to a hospital after he told a sheriff's deputy he had eaten an unknown amount of cocaine when he was arrested near Argonne and Bruce roads, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Ryan Truman tried to stop Wheeler after spotting he and his passenger “frantically” moving and reaching under the front seats when he approached their parked Jeep Cherokee just north of Hastings Road about 4:30 a.m.

Truman noted a damaged steering column and a punched ignition with a screwdriver sitting on the vehicle's center console. Dispatch reported the car was stolen, and Truman ordered an already “very agitated” Wheeler and passenger Jamie Burdeau, 22, out of the vehicle, the sheriff's office said.

Wheeler instead put the Jeep in reverse and struck a shed, fence and a “junk car” as he fled, officials say. Truman and other deputies found the Jeep abandoned in the area of 3rd Avenue and Railroad Street in Mead. Burdeau was spotted walking near the vehicle and told deputies Wheeler had run east. She later said she and Wheeler had been waiting for a meth dealer when Truman approached them, the sheriff's office said.

A Spokane police K-9 found Wheeler's gray hooded sweatshirt near the Jeep.  Patrol officers found Wheeler at Argonne and Bruce roads, where he was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle and felony eluding. Burdeau was arrested on a charge of possession of a stolen vehicle.

Wheeler also faces a third-degree assault charge for allegedly striking a security guard at Holy Family Hospital while running from sheriff's deputies. Deputies said Wheeler ran from them after saying “Have you ever been to jail? It sucks,” according to court records. Wheeler was shocked with a Taser as he struggled to get away from the deputies.

Wheeler was arrested May 3 after a high-speed chase with a state wildlife officer in a stolen car while high on methamphetamine, according to court documents. He was released from jail when prosecutors didn't file charges within three days.

Wheeler also was wanted by Crime Stoppers when he rammed a sheriff’s patrol car in December 2010 while successfully eluding a deputy. Read more here.

Police bust burglary suspect in 4 hours

A burglary suspect was arrested within four hours thanks to an alert neighbor and quick-responding Spokane police property crimes detectives.

A resident called 911 about 11 a.m. Tuesday to report a burglary in progress in the 700 block of North Elgin Street. The neighbor described the burglary as well as a suspicious red Toyota 4Runner.

The descriptions were broadcast to officers, and property crime Detective Crystal Jolley recognized the 4Runner as matching a vehicle used by Tyler B. Morlan in a previous burglary. Jolley responded to Morlan's apartment and spotted the 4Runner.

Patrol officers stopped the vehicle as it left the apartment complex, and Morlan, whose 20th birthday is Friday, was booked into jail for residential burglary and possession of heroin about 3:15 p.m.

Police say he's been arrested at least six times since 2007. He has one felony and six gross misdemeanor convictions.

Police expect more charges to come from this invention, which is ongoing. They also predict a decrease in property crime with Morlan behind bars.
  

Serial theft suspect charged, again

The suspected leader of a burglary ring that victimized homes in the Spokane area has been charged by prosecutors.

 Randall T. Smeltzer, 33, is to be arraigned May 30 on burglary, theft and meth charges. He's accused of burglarizing a home in the 3500 block of South Fancher in October, but police believe he's responsible for many more break ins. Detectives have been investigating him since last fall and served a search warrant at his home on East Thurston Avenue in November, where they recovered stolen property.

Samuel J. Aldrich, 29, also is accused of burglarizing the home. Jessica M. Staggs, 27, told police she was in the car when the men broke into the home, according to court documents.She pawned stolen jewelry at four stores after the burglary, police say.

Police say Aldrich admitted to kicking in he home's back door and helping Smeltzer carry a TV and jewelry box from the home. Staggs also is charged in a car and fuel theft case from April 11, along with Robert M. Shore and Artem G. Kuznetsov.

Even after police began investigating him, Smeltzer's alleged crime spree continued. He's charged with third-degree retail theft for an incident at the North Colton WalMart on March 28. He also faces stolen property and possession of a stolen motor vehicle charges for a case from November.

Police say Donnelle C Velasquez, 41, also is connected to the thefts. She's charged with Aldrich in a case from January involving an alleged counterfeit check and identity theft ring with 14 defendants.

Suspect arrested in Valley homicide

Detective Michael Drapeau and investigators with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office remove evidence from a house at 6704 E. Third Ave. in Spokane Valley Tuesday. (SRphoto/Colin Mulvany)

A suspect was arrested today in Spokane Valley for the May 12 shooting death of a 44-year-old man.

Shane Caleb Smith, 38, is accused of murdering Warren Scott Flinn, who was found badly injured May 13.

Flinn (pictured) died May 16 at a local hospital of what the medical examiner’s office ruled were gunshots to his head.

Read the rest of my story here.

Update: Detectives believe Smith shot Flinn in a fight over cigarettes. Read more here.

Rapist’s civil commitment overturned

Appellate judges ordered a new trial today for Spokane man convicted in 2009 of being a sexually violent predator because the note he wrote, detailing his desire to rape, kidnap and dismember a woman, was never communicated to anyone and thus did not meet the required legal definition of a threat.

 As part of the elements to qualify him as a sexually violent predator, the state must show that convicted rapist Shawn D. Botner committed an “overt act” toward committing another sex crime. Because of the decision Tuesday, Botner is expected to face another trial to determine whether he will remain in state custody indefinitely.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 25, 2009: Sex offender's fate rests with jury

‘Secret Shopper’ loses $1,000 in fraud

Authorities are reminding people to be cautious when responding to purported “Secret Shopper” and other offers through email or phone after a Spokane Valley woman lost nearly $1,000.

The woman told a sheriff's deputy on Monday that she responded to an email asking if she would like to participate in the Secret Shopper program. She received a FedEx envelope on May 11 with a money order for $980, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

She also received an email explaining that she was to deposit the money order into her bank account, withdraw $805 and send it via Western Union to Tony Adams at 40 Arsene Rd., Quezon City, Manila.  She was told to keep $175.

The woman's bank notified her on May 19 that the money order was no good and that she was responsible for the $980. She received additional money orders in her mailbox that day with instructions to send money to Johnnie Swift in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Mike Michon in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Joe Cole from Novi, Michigan.

Police seek help IDing mystery woman

A woman found lost and confused in Oregon last week took a bus there from Spokane, and authorities are asking for help identifying her.

The woman told police her name is Katie Walker and that she hitchhiked from Maine when she was found walking near Albany, Ore., near NE Knox Butte Road and Harber Drive on May 15, according to the Linn County Sheriff's Office.

The woman had no identification and could not provide her date of birth. Police say she is not cooperative “and is not able to assist us in finding out who she is or who her family might be,” according to a news release.

The woman is described as 50 to 70 years old, with blue eyes and shoulder-length white hair. She is 5-foot-2 and 153 pounds. She has a surgery scar on the bottom of her foot and a scar on the base of her neck approximately 10 centimeters long.

Authorities say the woman boarded a bus in Spokane on May 13 at 11:35 a.m. and arrived in Portland that day at 6:10 p.m. She was wearing a purple knee-length rain jacket, a black skirt with floral print and brown shoes. She is believed to also have been carrying a black market tote/bag. More photos are available here.

Anyone with information on the woman's identity is asked to call the Linn County Sheriff's Office detective division at (541) 967-3950.

$40k in copper stripped from building

About $40,000 worth of copper was stolen from a business in Spokane Valley last weekend.

A manager of a building in the 4600 block of East Sprague Avenue that's used as a trailer storage told a sheriff's deputy on Monday that he noticed insulation on the floor on Saturday but assumed it was because of the age of the building.

But when he returned on Monday, he saw electrical wire missing from the ceiling and realized all copper wiring inside the walls and ceiling of the building had been stolen. All copper piping in the building was missing as well.

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

Car theft suspect ‘kind of figured that’

A Spokane man told of his car's stolen status after a police chase Saturday replied that he “kind of figured that,” officers say.

Tyson G. Blimka 31, is accused of fleeing police in the area of Euclid Avenue and Lee Street in a black Ford Escort with Idaho plates Saturday about 3:20 p.m. Police tried to pull him over after learning the car had been reported stolen on Friday from the 800 block of West Cleveland and likely had switched license plates.

Police pursued Blimka until the engine of the car appeared to quit and the vehicle stopped in the middle of Carlisle.

Blimka told officers he got the vehicle from a man named Brian, police say. He said he knew police were trying to stop him but that the accelerator on the car stuck, according to court documents.

Blimka was booked into jail on charges of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and attempting to elude police.
  

11 of 12 jurors wanted to convict Moore

Shellye Stark testifies in Spokane County Superior Court on March 12, 2009. (SRarchives)

One juror.

 That's what stood between Brian Leigh Moore and felony convictions for first-degree murder and conspiracy to first-degree murder.

Eleven jurors wanted to convict Moore (pictured left) on both charges, but one juror refused.

A mistrial was declared Monday.

Prosecutors plan to retry Moore, possibly in August or September, for the Dec. 9, 2007, shooting death of Dale Robert Stark (pictured right), who was killed in his home at 1620 S. Maple St., by his estranged wife, Shellye Stark.

 Shellye Stark claimed self-defense and years of domestic abuse but was convicted by a jury, though that conviction was thrown out because of technical errors and she now faces a new trial.

Moore, who turned 46 on May 8, already is a convicted felon. He pleaded guilty to weapons charges in federal court in California related to unregistered guns and homemade silencers found at his warehouse in Anaheim when Spokane police arrested him there in April 2009. Jurors at this trial did not know about those convictions, nor did they know the outcome of Stark's 2009 trial.

Moore traveled to Spokane just before Shellye Stark's trial and met with this reporter at Neato Burrito. He discussed what he said was a history of abuse by Dale Stark against Shellye Stark and said he continued to face questions about the homicide. He alleged misconduct by the police department and said they were grasping at straws. “They've got nothing,” he said in March 2009.

But 12 jurors had little trouble convicting Stark (pictured above and left) of first-degree murder.  She was sentenced to 51 years in prison but is back in the Spokane County Jail awaiting her new trial.

Eleven jurors wanted to convict Moore of the same thing. That's after hearing from Moore himself, who admitted to spending some of Dale Stark's money after his death but said he was just trying to help the woman he loved pay her legal bills.

Moore is married, though separated, with one son. In a letter to the federal judge who sentenced him on the weapons charges, Moore said the effects of his arrest and imprisonment have been “to say the least, dramatic.”

“I have lost everything, from my good name, to the respect of my son,” Moore wrote. “I can not begin to express my shame.”

A key witness for the prosecution was Ted Pulver, a private investigator hired by Stark and Moore. He told jurors Moore essentially admitted to helping orchestrate the serving of the restraining order so that Dale Stark would grow angry and Shellye could say she shot him in self defense. (The defense had a witness tell jurors that Pulver does not have a good reputation for telling the truth.)

In his closing argument, Moore's lawyer, Jeff Compton, pointed to what he said was a discrepancy in Pulver's testimony. Pulver told jurors Moore claimed to have had Shellye's son and nephew briefed on the plan, but Compton said the two entered the picture at the last minute after Shellye's sister was badly injured in a car crash with a bull moose while driving to Spokane from Priest River.

“Unless the moose was in on this, unless Brian Moore can control wildlife, what he has claimed to have said by Ted Pulver makes no sense,” Compton said. If Moore did plan where “the boys” were to be positioned, shouldn't the son and nephew be charged, too? “How about the moose? Should this be the state of Washington versus Bullwinkle J. Moose?” Compton said.

The moose is a timeless aspect of this case that really does just appear out of nowhere.

In Shellye's 2009 trial, the jury foreman said the moose was viewed as divine intervention that failed. After Moore was arrested, it was revealed in court documents that he'd told his wife he was traveling to the Spokane area because he was working on a case involving a woman who had crashed into a moose. (Moore's wife did not learn of the homicide until June 2008.)

Police say Moore tried to escort women he was having sex with for money to pay for Shellye's defense. A woman he had sex with just after learning of Dale Stark's homicide told police Moore mailed her husband a graphic letter and provocative photos of her after she refused to take money out of her equity line of credit on her home in order to help Shellye.

A yellow Pontiac Solstice convertible bought with Dale Stark's life insurance money remains in Spokane police custody. It was seized in California when Moore was arrested.

Past coverage:

Aug. 6, 2010: Theft charged dropped against Stark's father

New details in Kala Williams homicide

A 20-year-old woman found dead of what police say was significant trauma told a confidant days before she disappeared that she was worried and concerned for her safety.

 Kala Williams got to know Erin Newberry through the Catalyst Project, an organization that helps homeless youth.

Newberry, the group's creative director, said she last saw Williams March 18 as she prepared to try to reconcile with her boyfriend.

The couple were living together in the West Central Neighborhood, but Williams had left after an argument and had been living on the street for the last three days before Newberry saw her in March, Newberry said today. Williams said she was headed back to her boyfriend's house “to make amends, because she didn't want to be out on the street.”

“She was a little bit scared,” Newberry said. “She was worried about her future.”

Williams was reported missing April 2, and her family told police she was using drugs and they were worried about her. Her body was found May 13 in an undeveloped forested area near West 14th Avenue and South Lindeke Street in Spokane.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office has not yet released her cause of death, but a search warrant filed today said her body had “obvious significant trauma.”

That search warrant was used to examine a Kyocera-brand, Cricket-service cellphone that Williams' 35-year-old boyfriend told police she used. The man said he didn't know where she'd gotten the phone and that he believed it ran out of pre-paid minutes “shortly before she disappeared,” police wrote.

Spokane police Detective Chet Gilmore obtained the phone from the man the day after Williams' body was discovered. Family members also identified it as her phone.

Gilmore hopes the phone's internal memory will reveal phone numbers, call logs and possibly text messages that could assist him in finding Williams' killer. Williams' ex-boyfriend has not been named a suspect. Court records show he has a criminal record, but only for drugs and driving convictions, not violent crimes.

Meanwhile, Newberry is grateful for the positive interactions she shared with Williams. She met Williams last October at a retreat for homeless girls. Kala underwent a makeover and posed for glamour shots that Newberry plans to give to her family.

Newberry said she feels as though she “got to know the real Kala, the Kala not clouded by darkness.”

“Often times behavior and habits are not true reflections of where the person's at in their spirit, and I really think that was the case for Kala,” Newberry said.

In an interview Friday with KHQ, Williams' father cried as he recalled happier times such as playing softball and running Bloomsday together.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Crime Check (509) 455-2233.

Bonner Co. killer faces new gun charge

A Bonner County man who served 10 years in prison for the shooting death of his girlfriend in 1999 could be headed to federal prison under a recent indictment.

George John Bondurant is accused of possessing a a Remington 20-gauge shotgun on May 8, according to a grand jury indictment returned this week in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

He faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years' probation if convicted.

Bondurant is prohibited from possessing firearms because of a felony conviction for involuntary manslaughter in 1999.

Bondurant was 21 when he was accused of shooting to death his girlfriend, Kathryn Oliver, at their home on Shingle Mill Road, northeast of Sandpoint, in February 1999.

Boundurant told investigators Oliver committed suicide. A 911 call played at his sentencing included him begging the emergency workers to hurry to the house as he held the dying Oliver in his arms. But Oliver's family described domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. Read the story from his sentencing in October 1999 here.

Bondurant served 10 years in prison, including credit for time served in jail. He was released from the Twin Falls Community Work Center on Feb. 27, 2009, according to the Idaho Department of Corrections.

A grand jury indicted him on the new charge Tuesday.

Man arrested for DUI, drugs after crash

A man described by sheriff's deputies as “extremely intoxicated” crashed his Jeep Cherokee into trees near Handy and Hatch roads in Colbert early Saturday.

Warren Anderson, 22, said he couldn't remember how much he had to drink but “it was a lot,” the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today. Anderson had a pill in a piece of burned foil that he said he was a “Roxi” but also said “that he did not really know what he was smoking,” the sheriff's office said.

Deputy Chad Ruff determined the pill was the narcotic Roxicodone. He and Deputy Scott Kenoyer contacted Anderson after responding to the one-car crash about 4:30 a.m.

A witness told dispatcher he'd seen the Jeep at the intersection of Handy and Hatch about a half an hour earlier, and the driver was sitting in the driver's seat not moving. He saw the Jeep crashed when he drove back through the intersection.

Deputies said they smelled a strong odor of intoxicants as they approached the Jeep. They said Anderson refused to exit the vehicle but “was placed under arrest” for drunken driving and began to cooperate, according to the sheriff's office.

Anderson was booked into jail on charges of driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance.

Women arrested in Oxycodone fraud

Two women are accused of trying to obtain the powerful prescription painkiller Oxycodone through fraudulent prescriptions Sunday night at a Spokane Valley pharmacy.

Police were called about 6 p.m. after a pharmacist at a store in the 13400 block of East Sprague Avenue realizing a prescription attempting to be filled by Justine A. Diaz, 22, was written on a pad that had been reported stolen through the Spokane Pharmacy Association, and that a woman matching Diaz' description had tried to fill the stolen prescriptions Saturday night at several Albertsons pharmacies, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said tdoay.

Diaz and Crystal A. Russell, 24, were detained after deputies arrived at the pharmacy and saw Russell, who was “visibly nervous” try to walk away with Diaz.

The pharmacist told deputies Diaz tried to fill a prescription in another name that she said belonged to a friend who had been in a collision. Diaz reportedly said she would pay cash because her friend did not have health insurance, according to the sheriff's office.

Deputies say Diaz refused to speak to deputies and Russell said she had no idea the prescriptions were stolen and forged, the sheriff's office said.

Russell was booked into jail on a charge of controlled substance conspiracy and Diaz was booked on charges of prescription fraud and second-degree possession of stolen property.

A man and woman were arrested in a similar case in Spokane Valley last week.

Okla. fugitive in Spokane prompts probe

Spokane police are investigating why an Oklahoma fugitive ended up here with a large amount of marijuana and cash.

Police on Friday obtained a search warrant for Mitchell R. Green, Jr.'s cellphone in hopes it will lead to what they suspect is a marijuana trafficking ring.

Green, 28, told U.S. Marshals he was a Crips gang member when they arrested him near East 11th Avenue and South Perry Street on April 17, according to police.

Agents here were tracking Green after he escaped from a halfway house in Oklahoma and investigators developed information he was in Spokane.

Spokane police were called to the scene to collect a large bag of marijuana that was found in Green's pants. Agents later found another bag of marijuana in his pants pocket while they were processing him at the office, then found $900 hidden in his sock. Spokane police responded to the federal office to collect the cash and additional marijuana.

Spokane police Detective Devin Presta noted numerous gang-related tattoos on Green and noted the marijuana bag found in his pants was wrapped in a blue bandanna. He said Green refused to identity what sect of Crips he's a member of, but Presta suspects the bandanna may be related to his affiliation.

Presta said Green had never been contacted here prior to April 17 and “had no apparent reason for being in Spokane,” according to the search warrant.

Robbery case resolved in 3 weeks

That was fast.

A 35-year-old man arrested for a robbery nearly three weeks ago has pleaded guilty.

Shawn James Combs was sentenced to about 3 1/2 years in prison for first-degree robbery last week in Spokane County Superior Court.

He'd made his first court appearance May 2 after being arrested on a warrant for the Feb. 2 hold-up at the Select Inn Motel, 1420 W. 2nd Ave.

Combs got $150 in the robbery. He's required to pay back the money as part of his sentencing.

He remains in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison.
  

Metal theft nets $250k restitution

A man who stole metal as part of a licensed business has been ordered to pay about $250,000 in restitution.

 Tristan M. Goiri-Christensen, 26, a former Crime Stoppers fugitive, pleaded guilty last week to first-degree theft and eight counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property and was credited for a day already spent in jail.

He's to be on probation for a year. Goiri-Christensen is part of a band of suspected metal thieves who created a Spokane-based business, complete with licenses from the Washington Department of Revenue, to get around state laws designed to discourage theft by making it tougher for individuals to sell stolen metal to scrap yards.

The state exempts licensed businesses from the mandatory 10-day waiting period for payments of over $30 on scrap metal sold to recyclers. The thefts cost Avista Utilties thousands of dollars. Read more here.

Man gets 17 years for 1986 murder

A life of crime likely ended Friday as a Spokane judge sentenced a man to 17 years in prison for the beating, rape and slaying of a 62-year-old woman on Christmas Eve 1986 that was solved only through advances in technology.

Gary L. Trimble, 63, gave the family of Dorothy E. Burdette nothing to explain why he attacked the 62-year-old woman, rolled her in a blanket and left her to the December elements under the Interstate 90 overpass near High Bridge Park.

“The DNA caught me,” Trimble said in a soft, almost inaudible voice. “I don’t remember the crime. I’ve seen the results.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Public records portray Trimble as a longtime felon and alcoholic who spent several years in Washington prisons and has a misdemeanor warrant in Spokane County for allegedly stealing his daughter’s car in 2005. Trimble has misdemeanor warrants in at least two other counties for drunken driving and trespassing. Read much mroe about him here.

Past coverage:

Jan. 4, 2011: Suspect in '86 murder headed back to Spokane

Oct. 25, 2010: Montana man arrested in 1986 death of Spokane woman

Duncan wants to appeal death penalty

BOISE - Notorious multiple murderer Joseph Duncan was back in a Boise courtroom on Friday morning, as lawyers and a federal judge wrangled over setting a date for a new hearing into whether Duncan was mentally competent when he waived appeals of his triple death sentence for torturing and murdering a 9-year-old North Idaho boy.

Duncan, brought to Boise from federal Death Row in Terre Haute, Ind., his hair close-cropped and graying and wearing a baggy white T-shirt, left all the talking to his attorneys on Friday morning. But in December of 2010, he submitted a hand-written, two-page letter to the court saying he now wants to appeal after all.

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

Facebook photos ID robbery suspects

A woman identified her cousin as her robber's accomplice after seeing photos of the two together on Facebook, according to Spokane police.

The woman was sitting in her living room at 1624 E. Cataldo Ave. with her cousin, Shakayla F. Delcambre, 20, Thursday about 12:45 a.m. when a man holding a red bandanna that covered what she believed to be a handgun entered and demanded money from her, according to court documents.

The man took her wallet from her purse and put her in a choke hold before she broke free and he ran out the front door, police say.

The woman realized Delcambre knew her attacker when he saw photos of her with him on Facebook, police say. The woman noted to police that Delcambre had borrowed her cellphone to make a call prior to the robbery.

Police identified the robber as James J. Williams, 28. Another woman, who said she was assaulted by Delcambre, told police she picked him up after the robbery and he removed a pullover jacket and black body armor while in her van. She allowed police to search her van and her house for evidence.

Police viewed the Facebook photos of Delcambre and Williams, according to court documents.

Williams is in jail on $150,000 bond for first-degree robbery. Delcambre is jailed on $25,000 bond for first-degree robbery and first-degree assault.
  

Man w/ 700 lbs of pot pleads guilty

A 78-year-old man who allowed drug traffickers to use his property just south of the Canadian border in Ferry County has pleaded guilty.

Alvin Oliver Shields had 700 pounds of marijuana on his property when federal agents searched it in 2009. Now he faces 30 to 42 months in prison under a plea agreement approved this week in U.S. District Court in Spokane. He's to be sentenced on Aug. 9.

Federal agents began investigating Shields in 2003 after a Border Patrol agent found four duffel bags with 140 pounds of marijuana after four people ran from Fourth of July Creek Road, west of Danville, into Canada.
The agent then saw Shields “driving slowly in a van with the rear cargo doors propped open,” according to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court.

Then in 2008, a multi-agency investigation determined Shields was letting marijuana traffickers in Canada transport the pot to his property, where it was then taken to Spokane and stored for distribution by U.S. drug traffickers, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Along with 700 pounds of pot, agents found evidence of hidden cash transactions and money laundering when they searched Shields' property in May 2009. They also learned Shields hadn't filed federal income tax returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Shields, who prosecutors said lived in Canada for 30 years, has since moved to Lebanon, Ore.

He pleaded guilty Tuesday in Spokane to money laundering, structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana (dating back to 2003) and three counts of failure to file income tax returns. He's out jail awaiting sentencing.

“Investigations involving the integrity of the United States borders and federal income tax violators are vigorously pursued in this District,” according to a prepared statement by Michael Ormsby, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “Alvin Oliver Shields’ guilty pleas are the result of effective Federal, state, local and Canadian law enforcement partnerships.”

Another Danville resident, Harold Oscar Strandberg, was indicted in 2010 after two Canadian pot smugglers, William Richard Paterson and Jahrum David Oakes, were arrested with large amounts of marijuana at Strandberg's Fourth of July Creek Road property.

Strandberg pleaded guilty in March 2011 and is on probation for three years.

Happy 3rd birthday, Sirens & Gavels!

Grab the party hats and get your game face on - Saturday is Sirens & Gavels' 3rd birthday.

Some of you may already be planning epic celebrations, but for those of you I caught off guard, I apologize.

The idea behind this blog was simple - a devil-worshipping sex offender called me upset that a commenter said he was not a true member of the Church of Satan. I'd already written an adequate article about the man, and his phone call certanly didn't warant a follow up. But it was too remarkable to ignore.

Since then, this blog has become a hub for crime and court news in the Inland Northwest and anything else that might pique my interest. Regular readers should expect to see original content each weekday, links to nearly all crime and courts stories on spokesman.com, and weird news from around the world on Friday mornings.

Your praise and criticism is needed and appreciated. I am best reached at meghannc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5534.

Here's to a great future for Sirens.  Be sure to 'like' the blog on Facebook to show you're a true fan.

Also, follow me on Twitter. #hipster

Related coverage:

March 7: Woman stalked by aggressive turkey

Cheney child rapist could serve life

A Cheney man has been sentenced to 17 years to life in prison for raping and molesting children.

William D. Hargrove, 48, was convicted of first- and second-degree child rape and first- and second-degree child molestation after a bench trial last week before Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt.

Hargrove was accused of raping two girls for most of their childhoods. One reported knife-point attacks, according to court documents.

Cheney police were alerted to the abuse in August 2008.

Hargrove was sentenced Monday to 210 months in prison. He must undergo a sexual deviance assessment before he's released, which could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.
  

Jeff Harvey rehired by Spokane police

The Spokane Police Department has re-hired embattled Detective Jeff Harvey even though his lawsuit against the city remains unresolved.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Harvey’s first day back was Monday after he was fired for cause last July by then-Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

“We have new leadership in the city and police department,” Feist said, “who may look at it differently than previous leadership. We are also looking at what our legal exposure is.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 22: Charge against detective dropped

July 16: Fired detective files $10 million claim

July 15: SPD detective fired for 'troubled history'

Feb. 10: SPD detective accused of obstruction

Swallowed jewel: This, too, shall pass

WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) — Police in Canada say they are waiting for a man accused of stealing a $20,000 diamond and swallowing it to produce the evidence.

It has been nearly a week since Richard Mackenzie Matthews, 52, is alleged to have switched a diamond at Precision Jewellers in Ontario and swallowed the real one.

Matthews is being held at police headquarters while investigators wait for the 1.7-carat stone to pass through his system. Sgt. Brett Corey said Thursday that Matthews has gone to the washroom numerous times, but the diamond hasn't passed.

Corey says a recent X-ray showed a pair of fake diamonds, or cubic zirconiums, stuck in the man's intestines but because a diamond is translucent, it isn't visible. He says the suspect is eager to get the ordeal over with and is co-operating.

In the early stages, Corey says Matthews was being given laxative type foods, but is now being fed whatever he wants, in an effort to get things moving.

Matthews is charged with theft and breach of court conditions, and is also wanted on warrants in Toronto

NY man shoots friend at his request

STOCKHOLM, N.Y. (AP) — Authorities say a northern New York man had his friend shoot him in the leg with a rifle because he wanted to know what it feels like to be shot.

State police in St. Lawrence County say the shooting occurred around 5 p.m. Sunday in the rural town of Stockholm when 25-year-old Shawn Mossow of neighboring Norfolk relented to his friend's repeated requests and shot him once in the right leg with a .22-caliber rifle.

The 24-year-old man from Norfolk is expected to make a full recovery. Police haven't released his name.

Mossow was charged with reckless endangerment. He's being held in the county jail on $10,000 bail. It could not be immediately determined if he had a lawyer.

Man on bond must write book reports

RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) — A man charged in an undercover sting operation in Northern California that ended in gunfire has been ordered released on bond on the condition that he read and write book reports.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers allowed 23-year-old Otis Mobley to be freed Monday, although she delayed an order to allow prosecutors to appeal her decision.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that under the bond order, Mobley would be required to spend an hour reading and a half hour writing each day as he awaits trial on robbery and assault charges.

Mobley and two others are accused of arranging to sell a grenade launcher for $1,000 to an undercover federal agent in Richmond, Calif. Hutcherson was shot and wounded by agents during the alleged meeting.

Duncan due in court in Boise tomorrow

Condemned child killer Joseph Duncan will be in court in Boise today - two days after the seven-year anniversary of his murderous rampage just east of Coeur d'Alene at Wolf Lodge Bay.

Duncan (pictured in April 2011) was to be transported from federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind., to Boise this week. He's to appear before U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge at the courthouse in Boise Friday morning.

The hearing is to consider a motion to appoint San Francisco attorney Michael N. Burt to represent Duncan during his competency hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. Burt specializes in mental health and competency issues, according to the motion.

Duncan represented himself during his death penalty trial in Boise in 2008, though a team of top anti-death penalty attorneys, including high-profile attorney Judy Clarke, stood by to assist. They filed this motion on his behalf.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last July that Duncan should have been given another competency test before being allowed to to act as his own attorney and waive his right to appeal. This move means he'll undergo another one. If he passes, his death penalty stands. If he doesn't, prosecutors may have to retry him. But he's passed competency tests before.

A jury sentenced Duncan to death for the kidnapping, torture and murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene.

Duncan was sentenced to life in prison for the May 16, 2005, hammer murders of the boy's mother, Brenda Groene, her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, and 13-year-old Slade Groene. Dylan's sister, Shasta, then 8-years-old, also was kidnapped by Duncan, but was rescued at a Coeur d'Alene Denny's on July 2, 2005, where Duncan was arrested.

By that time, Dylan already was dead. Duncan, a fugitive convicted sex offender, shot and killed him in front of Shasta at a remote Montana campground after filming himself torturing the boy.

The case shook the Inland Northwest and prompted bumper stickers that read “Kill Duncan.”

Read a blog from Duncan's death penalty trial here.

Past coverage:

July 15, 2005: Duncan a charmer, exploiter
  

Teen arrested after Valley police chase

A juvenile was arrested for felony eluding police after a chase in Spokane Valley this morning.

The boy, whose age was not released, was speeding through a parking lot in the area of East Sprague Avenue and North Pines Road about 2 a.m. when sheriff's deputy Jason Karnitz followed him and observed several other traffic violations, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Karnitz tried to stop the car near Pines and Valleyway Road, but the driver fled on Valleyway. Karntiz terminated the pursuit near Valleyway and Adams Road, but the boy continued speeding and crashed into a fence at the intersection.

The boy ran east, but a sheriff's K-9, Gordy, found him hiding under brush nearby. He told Karntiz he was “walking home from work, heard all the sirens and decided to hide because he was scared, the sheriff's office said.
  

Gunman arrested for road rage encounter

A man threatened three people with a gun during a road rage incident on Wednesday, police said today.

Jarred Woods, 30, was contacted by a Spokane County sheriff's deputy after his alleged victims provided 911 dispatch with his license plate number.

The victims, a man and two juvenile females, said they were driving south on Argonne Road near Wellesley Avenue when they passed Woods' vehicle and he swerved to the left, causing them to nearly swerve into oncoming traffic, according to the sheriff's office.

Woods then displayed a handgun and yelled at the victims as they called 911, the sheriff's office said.

Woods has a concealed weapons permit.

A deputy called his phone after running his license plate number and located him in the area of Argonne and Trent Avenue. He was contacted there and first said he only kept the gun in his trunk, but then admitted it to pointing it at the occupants of another vehicle because he feared the driver, according to the sheriffs office.

A .40 caliber Baretta handgun was seized from the trunk of Woods' vehicle. He was arrested on three counts of intimidation with a firearm.
  

Steele witness sentenced for car theft

A key defense witness for imprisoned murder-for-hire plotter Edgar Steele has been sentenced to prison in Washington for stealing cars.

Daryl J. Hollingsworth, 41, pleaded guilty this week to two counts of second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission and was sentenced to 22 months in prison.

The charges stem from Hollingsworth stealing cars July 5, 2010 and June 22, 2009. Hollingsworth has at least 13 previous felony convictions, including for theft, forgery, second-degree kidnapping and second-degree robbery.

He was in the Bonner County Jail when he met Steele, who was awaiting trial on federal charges alleging he'd hired Sagle-area handyman Larry Fairfax to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele.

Hollingsworth testified at Steele's trial in Boise last year that he was asked by Fairfax to design the cover of his book to include a “picture of Larry Fairfax's logging truck running over an Aryan Nations member.”

Steele was a lawyer for the Aryan Nations in a 2000 lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group. Holllingsworth said he also was asked to include a picture of an FBI agent stabbing Fairfax in the back.

The testimony was aimed at discrediting Fairfax, but a jury convicted Steele on all charges in May 2011. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in November and is being housed at a maximum-security prison in Victorville, Calif.

Fairfax is scheduled to be released from prison at the end of this month on weapons charges related to a pipe bomb he planted on Cyndi Steele's car.

Hollingsworth is in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to a state prison.

Related:

June 30: Oldtown chop shop has Spokane ties

J. Bieber arrested in Spokane

A Spokane woman is accused of stealing from a man who let her use his bathroom while helping her jump her car.

Jennifer Mae Bieber, alias Christensen, was arrested Tuesday after a Spokane Valley police detective revisited the theft report from January and developed probable cause to charge her with fist-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Bieber, 30, is accused of selling a battery charger she stole from a Good Samaritan in January.  The victim saw that Bieber was unable to start her Pontiac Grand Am after a traffic stop near 811 S. Union Road and offered to assist her with jumper cables, a battery charger and a his Cadillac.

The man said Bieber used the bathroom then was instructed to quickly leave by her male companion. The victim discovered his house keys and car keys missing, then discovered his garage entered and a snow blower missing a couple days later.

He identified Bieber from a photo montage last month. Detectives discovered Bieber pawned the battery charger at Axel's Pawn the day it was sotlen, which led to the felony charge.

2 arrested for burglary in Valley

Sheriff's deputies arrested two men on suspicion of burglary Wednesday after a neighbor called to report two suspicious men in the backyard of a home.

Jimmie Matthew Allen, 34, and Mark Alan Short, 41, were arrested in the 5200 block of North Kenney Road after deputies arrived at the home and saw two back doors open and heard noise inside the home, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Allen exited the home and was arrested. Short initially refused to exit but did so after sheriff's K-9 Ekko arrived.
Members of the Spokane County Sheriff's Office Burglary Task Force interviewed the suspects and concluded they were burglarizing the home when deputies arrived.

Task force members found evidence from the burglary at Allen's home, which is near the victim's home.
The victim homeowner responded to Allen's home and identified property stolen from her home, according to the sheriff's office.

The investigation is ongoing; more suspects are expected to be charged.

Allen and Short were booked into jail for residential burglary and Allen also faces a charge of possession of methamphetamine.
  

2 arrested on drug fraud charges in Valley

Two suspected prescription drug forgers were arrested Monday night after a chase with police in Spokane Valley.

Employees at a pharmacy in the 15700 block of East Broadway Avenue told police about 8:45 p.m. Monday that a woman attempted to fill an Oxycodone prescription written on a pad that had been reported stolen from a doctor's office, but left when she was told they would need to verify the prescription with the doctor, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies spotted a woman and man running through the parking lot and detained them for questioning. Nicole Wright, 27, said she was filling a prescription for a friend, but deputies cold find no record of the friend's name.

The other suspect, Coby Adams, 33, stepped on a scrap of paper that fell out of his pocket and slid it under a patrol car, but deputies retrieved it and discovered it was “the same stolen prescriptions Wright presented at the pharmacy, all for Oxycodone, all prescribed to Wright,” according to a news release.

Wright and Adams were booked into jail on charges of prescription fraud and second-degree possession of stolen property.

Moore defense gives closing argument

Brian Moore's lawyer Jeff Compton thanked jurors for their service and said when the trial ends, they'll go on with their lives.

But, Compton said, “what happens here with Brian Moore stays with him for the rest of his life.”

Compton disputed testimony from private investigator Ted Pulver, who told jurors Tuesday that Moore said he had planned where “the boys (Shellye's son and nephew) would be positioned when Dale Stark arrived home.

Compton reminded jurors that they were only there because Shellye's sister had hit a bull moose when driving from Priest River to Spokane to give Shellye a gun. The nephew and son were enlisted to get the gun and help Shellye serve the restraining order instead of her sister. It was a last-minute move that Moore had nothing to do with, Compton said.

“Bottom line is Ted Pulver messed up,” Compton said. “Unless the moose was in on this, unless Brian Moore can control wildlife, what he has claimed to have said by Ted Pulver makes no sense.”

(The jury foreman in Shellye's first trial said the jurors viewed the moose as divine intervention that failed.)

Compton reminded jurors of Shellye's claim of self defense.

“Before you even look at Brian Moore, you have to look at the claim of self defense,” Compton said. “There is no burden for us to prove to you that self defense was necessary.”

He reminded jurors of Christopher Stark's testimony that his father had a bad temper and would get very angry and throw things. He emphasized the seriousness of a teen boy being so afraid of his own father.

“No matter how you feel about Shellye Stark's actions,” Compton said. This isn't about her. It's about Moore.
Compton said testimony from probate attorney Mel Champagne showed the life insurance wouldn't pay out if Dale was killed.

“Without that, there really is no major motive,” Compton said. “This really is a ridiculous sort of plan, because they've set up a plan where the person who need to inherit does the killing. It's absolutely ludicrous, because Shellye Stark couldn't get it (the payout.)”

He said prosecutors seem to think Moore and Shellye were smart enough to plot a ruder but dumb enough to forget to secure the payout.

“It's simply ludicrous to suggest you would miss something so important,” Compton said.

Compton also said the idea that Chris Stark's trust fund is a “sham fund” is ridiculous. It was just an 18-year-old kid blowing money.

He said the idea that they plotted the murder to get Dale's assets if ridiculous because Shellye had equal ownership of their assets.

He pointed to the 911 recording of Shellye absolutely hysterical after the shooting as proof it wasn't planned.

“If that's acting, Ms. Stark missed her calling in life,” Compton said. “That's beyond Meryl Streep good.”
He reminded jurors that there's no proof Moore gained any money through this. No proof of big transactions to his bank accounts, etc.

“There's some big cash withdrawals, that's a fact, but there's no evidence it went to Brian Moore,” Compton said.

“The state has twisted this into some plot that never existed,” he said. Compton said that, under the state's reasoning, Shellye's entire family should be charged with murder. If Moore said he planned where “the boys” were to be positioned, shouldn't the son and nephew be charged, too?

“How about the moose? Should this be the state of Washington versus Bullwinkle J. Moose?” Compton said.

Compton said jurors can find a conspiracy if they try, but “you can read evil into anything you want.”

“In the end, Brian Moore was simply anxious to help the woman he loved,” Compton said. “We ask you to send this man home. We ask you to find him not guilty of both counts.”

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla is giving a brief rebuttal now. He pointed to Compton's statement that the plan couldn't have exisited because it was so poorly thought out.

“People do riciulous things all the time,” Cipolla said. “If they didn't I wouldn't have a job.” He said Chris Stark never reported physical abuse by his father, and that Shellye even said in divorce filings that she wasn't afraid, she just wanted to be left alone.

“When did the idea of a restraining order come up? Right there,” Cipolla said, pointing to Moore.

“Mr. Moore was not in love with Ms. Stark,” Cipolla said. “He was a greedy man.”

Cipolla pointed to evidence that Shellye had contacted lawyers like Julie Twyford prior to the shooting. Compton said she was looking for family law attorneys. Cipolla said she already was looking for defense attorneys because she planned to kill her husband as instructed by Brian Moore.

Cipolla reminded jurors that Pulver said Moore - Shellye's pimp - needed money so he could retire.

The jury of nine women and three men will begin deliberating today but is expected to continue Thursday at 9 a.m.

CdA cops seek tips on storage unit thefts

Coeur d'Alene police are asking for help identifying thieves who broke into storage units on North Atlas Road last month.

Employees at Coeur d'Alene Place Self Storage, 5850 N. Atlas Road., reported April 28 that several locks had been cut from storage units throughout the complex, police said today.

Survellance video shows three men in hooded sweatshirts and dark clothing walk through the proprety just before midnight. The men walked around until 4:30 a.m. and appear to cut locks with a bolt cutter on several occassions, according to police.

Employees beleive the thieves cut a chain link fence to acess the building. They discovered several RVs that had been damaged and burglarized.

A surveillence image of two of the thieves was released today.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Coeur d’Alene Police Department at (208) 769-2320.

Moore prosecutor gives closing argument

Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell told jurors they've heard evidence of pre-meditated murder of Dale Stark as they hared testimony in the trial of Brian Moore.

“You've also heard evidence of twisted love and manipulation,” Haskell said.

He said the actions of Moore and Shellye Stark “took this man right there” as jurors saw a photo of a smiling Dale Stark “and turned him into that man right there” as a photo of Stark's bullet riddled body appeared on a TV screen in front of the jury.

“The reason we're here is because Dale Stark was shot to death. The question before you is 'What is Mr. Moore's liability for that?”

Haskell detailed instructions about the charges - first-degree murder and conspiracy to first-degree murder.

He said jurors don't need proof of an actual written agreement to find evidence of conspiracy.

“You can look at conduct of individuals involved in determine whether or not” it appears they acted in accordance with an agreement,” Haskell said.

He pointed to defense lawyer Jeff Compton's statement that this case is an example of law enforcement's imagination running wild, and about Moore's testimony that he was just trying to help Shellye. He also reminded jurors that Shellye traveled to Spokane to obtain a restraining order on her own.

“This is a woman that is so utterly terrified of Dale Stark, according to Brian Moore, that she comes up here on her own to do this herself,” Haskell said.

Haskell reminded jurors that Moore told Shellye to get a gun with hollow point bullets. He also questioned Moore's testimony that he never took Shellye to a shooting range in California.

Haskell said Shellye serving the restraining order was key to Moore's plan.

“It gets her in the house. It gets a reason to be there and it gets a reason to kick Dale Stark out of his house,” Haskell said. He pointed to testimony from private investigator Ted Pulver, who described to jurors Tuesday Moore's admission of the murder plot.

“This plan as designed to put Dale Stark in the most disadvantageous position he could be in,” Haskell said.

Haskell questioned why Shellye asked her 300 pound, 6-foot-2 nephew Dale Johnson to leave before she served the order if she was so deathly afraid of Dale Stark.

Haskell said Dale Stark never had a chance to attack Shellye.

“He came home and he was executed, just per the plan,” Haskell said.

Haskell reminded jurors that Moore said he learned of Dale's life insurance policy on the news after the murder, even though Moore wrote a document that mentioned the life insurance well before that. He questioned Moore's honesty on the stand today, reminding jurors that though Moore told them exact dates of threatening phone calls from Dale, he couldn't remember those dates in earlier interviews with police.

Haskell read an email from Dale to Moore in which Dale apologizes, makes no threats and says he'll leave them alone to live their lives.

Haskell also reminded jurors of testimony from probate attorney Mel Champagne that didn't refute the motive for the case as defense lawyers said. Champagne said the trust fund created for Chris Stark was one of the most unique he'd seen.

“In six months, that money was gone,” Haskell said. But not before Moore got a new car.

“The state would submit that that trust had everything to do with Brian Moore and Shellye Stark's interest, and very little to do with Christopher Stark's interest,” Haskell said.

Haskell reminded them of checks forged from Dale Stark by Christopher Stark, which were cashed by Shellye's father, Curtis Johnson.

He pointed to a letter Moore wrote to Shellye's sister, Donna Haggerty, form jail. Haggerty told jurors she couldn't read it aloud because it would make her sick. Jurors will have that letter during deliberations. He also reminded them that Moore had a credit card belonging to Dale Stark when police arrested him in California.

In conclusion, Haskell reminded jurors tha Moore claimed to be upset by the homicide but then had sex with a secretary on his office couch - the same couch detectives sat on to interview him.

“And when informed of this by Detective Hollenbeck, he laughed and said 'yeah, you're probably sitting in my DNA right now,” Haskell told jurors.

Court is on a brief break before Jeff Compton gives his closing argument.

Crash kills man before porn sentencing

A man scheduled to be sentenced to federal prison today for child pornography died in a one-car crash in Pend Oreille County this morning.

Bruce R. Thompson was killed when his 2003 GMC pickup went off state Route 211 about 10 miles west of Newport and struck a boulder, according to Washington State Patrol.

Thompson, 61, was pronounced dead at the scene. Drugs and alcohol are not believed to be a factor.

The crash was reported about 8:30 a.m. Thompson was due in U.S. District Court in Spokane at 9 a.m. to be sentenced for receipt of child pornography. He'd been out of jail awaiting sentencing since a grand jury indicted him in April 2011. Federal agents searched his apartment in the 500 block of West 7th Avenue in April 2010.

Thompson pleaded guilty in February to downloading child pornography on the Internet from February 2006 to December 2009.

A plea agreement called for him to serve five years in federal prison.

Ore. man accused of robbing CdA bank

An Oregon man already serving 22 years in prison for bank robbery is accused of robbing a North Idaho bank at gunpoint in August 2010.

 A grand jury on Tuesday indicted Bradley W. Monical, of Bend, for the Aug. 27, 2010, hold up of Wells Fargo, 114 E. Appleway in Coeur d'Alene.

Monical, 41, was sentenced in July 2011 to 22 years in prison for robbing a bank in Coos Bay, Ore., in April 2011.

Surveillance photos released by Coeur d'Alenepolice in August 2010 show a masked gunman wearing a bicycle helmet and denim shorts climbing on furniture at the bank. He had a cloth bag that said “Freedom is not free.”

Employees said he told them to hurry while waving a large handgun. He left on a gray, three-speed bicycle.

It's unclear how authorities identified Monical as a suspect, but previous news reports say the FBI suspected him of being a serial robber.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, as well as three years of probation, if convicted.

Monical was convicted of armed robbery in Oregon in 1989 and at one point tried to be his own lawyer in the case in Coos Bay, according to the Coos Bay World.

Moore testimony ends; defense rests

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla didn't hold out when he began cross examination of Brian Moore.

His first question touched on what authorities say is a pattern of deceitfulness and sordid behavior by Moore.
Cipolla pointed to Moore's statement that he was very upset when he learned of Shellye's involvement in the homicide.

“Isn't it true on the date of this homicide you were sleeping with another woman?” Cipolla asked.

Moore said that was true.

“So at that time, your love for Ms. Stark wasn't as great as it was today?” Cipolla asked.

Moore said he wouldn't characterize it that way.

Moore also admitted to lying about his education in a sworn document. He said he took the document very seriously “Obviously by your signature and misstatement,” Cipolla replied sarcastically.

Cipolla went through emails from Dale Stark and had Moore admit they didn't contain threats to kill.

Cipolla asked Moore why he was accessing Dale's accounts. Moore said Shellye gave him power of attorney.
Cipolla disputed Moore's responses several times as being dishonest, then stopped, saying it would “be fruitless.”

On re-cross, Cipolla asked if it would be prudent to provide emails with death threats in the retaining order, and Moore said that it would.

The defense rested. The prosecution recalled Detective Kip Hollenbeck as a rebuttal witness. Cipolla asked Hollenbeck if his reports were accurate, and Hollenbeck said that they were. He said Moore said he never heard direct death threats.

Court is on a break until 1:30 p.m. Jurors will then hear instructions and closing arguments.

Moore denies involvement in Stark killing

Brian Moore told jurors today that he never plotted with Shellye Stark to kill her husband and never planned to stage the shooting to look like self defense.

He said he had no idea Shellye serving her husband with a restraining order would end in a shooting.

“If I had I never would have let her come up here,” Moore said.

He said he was shocked to learn of the shooting from Shellye's nephew, Dale Johnson.

“I was hysterical,” Moore said. Moore said he learned on the Internet that Stark had been arrested for first-degree murder. “Honestly I was so hysterical I was a little vague on all of this.”

Moore said he took the initiative to find a lawyer for Shellye and help her with her legal case. He said he was concerned about getting Shellye out of jail and used his money to help post bail.

Moore said they were looking at at least $80,000 right off the bat. He spent $15,000 initially, then probably that amount again. He said he didn't get extra money from Shellye's son's trust fund, and said the Pontiac Solstice bought with the money was a present from Shellye's son.

Moore said he still plans to marry Shellye Stark.

“My name was put on the car simply because we were going to get married,” he said.

Moore, 46, of Orange, Calif., is separated with a 19-year-old son.

 Moore's testimony comes on what could be the last day of his first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy to commit murder charges for the 2009 shooting death of Shellye Stark's husband, Dale Robert Stark.

Court is on a brief break right now. Then prosecutors will cross examine Moore.

Prior to Moore taking the stand, defense lawyer Jeff Compton called Ted Ponticelli of Post Falls to refute incriminating testimony given Tuesday by private investigator Ted Pulver, who had been hired by Stark and Moore but went to police and said he had concerns about Moore.

Ponticelli said Pulver had a “bad” reputation for truthfulness. Judge Greg Sypolt had limited Pontieclli's testimony to exclude statements about private investigators in Kootenai County not trusting Pulver and the Idaho Department of Corrections not being willing to work with him.

Compton also played the recording of Stark's phone call to 911 the night she shot Dale Stark on Dec. 7, 2009.

Stark is hysterical and difficult to understand as she screams and wails as a dispatcher assures her police are on their way to 1620 S. Maple St.. (Read a past story on the tape here.)

Moore, who described himself as a paralegal and small business owner, told jurors he met Shellye through a website designed to help prostitutes and clients meet each other “and do it in a safe manner.”

Moore met Shellye in person when they both arrived to help a mutual friend.

“I was impressed,” Moore said. “I mean, she's not a beauty queen. She's not a model…she's a human. When she smiled the room would light up. She had a great personality and she was a great human. I fell in love with her.”

Moore said they began to spend time together socially. He denied ever seeing her “professionally” and said he learned she was an escort in September 2007. He also learned she was married.

“I basically told her she needed to file for divorce,” Moore said. Why? “She told me she didn't want to be married any longer to this man,” Moore said.

So Shellye went to Alaska to meet with Dale and try to settle things. Moore said the agreement they came up with was very unfair to Shellye.

“I was shocked. I was absolutely stunned by the paperwork,” Moore said. “…It was something that clearly came about form what I presumed to be duress or stress or some sort of coercion.”

Moore said Shellye was expected to pay spousal support, but she had quit working as a prostitute and had no money while Dale was working regularly and making good money.

Moore told jurors he encouraged Shellye to tell her family about her work as a prostitute so Dale couldn't hold it over her anymore. “She had been so abused for so long,” Moore told jurors of Stark.

Moore said he's never traveled to Spokane prior to the shooting of Dale Stark, nor had he been to the Maple Street home. He said he never took Shellye to a shoot range or anything of that nature. He told jurors Dale called and threatened to kill them, “so I sent Shellye up here to get a restraining order.”

“He was trying to be subtle but he wasn't being subtle,” Moore said. “…It's a very subtle form of manipulation.”

Moore said he suggested Shellye use the Sheriff's Office to serve the restraining order, but Shellye said she didn't know when Dale was going to be home. Moore said she didn't take her advice because she thought her sister would suffice as protection.

Compton asked Moore if he communicated with Stark via a “throwaway phone” after the murder because a private investigator told him police were monitoring his phone calls. He said he didn't use it prior to the shooting. He said he didn't provide her with a gun and only learned of the shooting afterward from her nephew.

4 teens arrested in North Side shooting

An early-morning shooting at a home in northeast Spokane led to the arrest of four teenagers Tuesday.

Spokane police responded to reports of gunfire at a home in the 500 block of East Columbia Avenue about 2:20 a.m.

The door to the home had been forced open and contained a bullet hole from a gunshot apparently fired from outside the home, according to court documents. No one was injured.

The renter, Derek Willis, told police he heard people arguing down the street and was told by armed men were outside who wanted to fight him. Witnesses reported other gunshots as well.

Spokane police officers stopped the suspect vehicle near North Lidgerwood Street and East Rowan Avenue.
Arrested were Alex C. Delgado, 18; Deshone M. Porter, 18; Rien M. Lieseke, 19; and Terrion J. Long, 19.

The men were booked into jail on felony riot charges. At least one was reported to have a handgun during the fight, and Lieseke had a rifle in the back of the car, which is owned by his mother, according to police.

Body is that of missing Spokane woman

A body found Sunday is that of a 20-year-old Spokane woman reported missing April 2.

 Police are investigating Kala Williams’ death as a homicide but declined to release further details Tuesday, citing the ongoing investigation.

Williams’ family told police she had recently been using drugs.

“They were concerned for her safety because of her lifestyle,” said Spokane police Capt. Dave Richards.

Read the rest of my story here.

Zehm lawsuit settled for $1.67 million

A $1.67 million out-of-court settlement has been reached in the civil suit against Spokane police filed by relatives of Otto Zehm, the mentally ill janitor who died following a violent confrontation with officers after being mistakenly implicated in a possible theft.

The deal also includes a formal apology by city officials, a recommendation to the Spokane Park Board to name a pavilion after Zehm, crisis intervention training for all police officers and $50,000 for a consultant to advise the city about updates to its use-of-force policy.

Read the rest of the story here.

Level 3 sex offender moves to Valley

A sex offender recently released from prison for the unlawful imprisonment and robbery of a 16-year-old is now living in Spokane Valley.

Joseph R. Wheeler, 34, is a level 3 sex offender, which is the classification considered most likely to reoffend.

He served about eight years in prison after being convicted of first-degree robbery, second-degree assault, unlawful imprisonment, harassment in April 2004, according to court records. He was credited for about 1 1/2 years spent in the county jail before he was convicted. Wheeler's victim was a stranger.

Wheeler is being supervised by the Washington Department of Corrections but is not wanted by authorities. However, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office wants people to be aware of his presence.

Wheeler is living in the 1300 block of South Robie Road, which is a few blocks from Opportunity Elementary School.

The Spokane County Sex Offender Registry is available here. Anyone with questions about the sex offender community awareness program is asked to call (509) 477-6609 or email RSOUnit@spokanesheriff.org.

Man badly assaulted; tips sought

Deputies responding to a report of a possible trespasser found the victim of a violent assault, and they're asking for help to figure out what happened.

 Warren Flinn was found in the 300 block of North Lake Road on Sunday, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said today.

Medics and major crimes detectives were called to the scene. Detectives believe Flinn is a transient, and they are looking for information about his previous whereabouts, associates and this assault.

Anyone who's had contact with Flinn in the last couple of months is asked to call Detective Kirk Keyser at (509) 477-6611.

Anonymous tips can be submitted online.

Suspect arraigned in girl’s shooting

A man accused of a shooting in which a 6-year-old girl was injured pleaded not guilty today in Spokane County Superior Court.

 Abubakar Samura, 21, remains in jail on $500,000 bond and an immigration hold after his arraignment today before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese.

Samura turned himself in on two counts of first-degree assault April 6 for the March 4 shooting near a home in the 1800 block of East Fourth Avenue.

Matthew W. Woods, 23, was shot in the legs and back, and the girl was shot in a foot while she was inside the home. Spokane police say Woods was at the home with a friend 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.

A confrontation ensued, and Samura shot Woods in the leg, then fired several more times as Woods ran to a nearby home, police say. Three witnesses granted anonymity by police identified Samura as the gunman.

The case originally was charged in Spokane County District Court, then transferred to Superior Court April 30. Samura is represented by Chris Phelps.

Homeowner shoots, kills intruder

Doug Snarski knew someone was going to die when he realized his girlfriend’s ex was inside their home early Sunday.

The intruder, Sean Parsons, was armed with a shotgun, a handgun, a belt stocked with ammunition and yelling about how no one would be getting out of the house alive. Parsons had arrived at the Newman Lake home about 12:30 a.m. - just hours after he’d been served with a restraining order that prohibited him from going within two miles of the house.

“He didn’t come here to get on my Christmas list,” Snarski said Monday at his home, where he’s lived for 27 years. “He was on a mission to kill.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Satanist found with stolen tombstones

More than 70 tombstones and statuettes stolen from Eastern Washington cemeteries have been recovered from the home of a self-described Satanist.

Now, with Memorial Day coming up, Stevens County authorities are asking families to consider checking in on loved ones’ graves in cemeteries located in Chewelah and Valley, Wash., to avoid the possibility of discovering empty holes where gravestones once rested.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Tire store employee walks up on theft

A tire store employee wary of recent thefts and a suspicious truck parked near the business led sheriff's deputies to a theft and drug suspect and a stolen vehicle from Lincoln County.

The employee saw two tires being placed into the bed of the truck from a trailer parked next to it, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

He told a man and woman walking from the trailer that he'd called police; neither said anything as they walked in separate directions.

Deputy R. Truman responded and saw the man walking on Stevens Street. The man provided a false name, but Truman identified him as Mark Alan Gregory, 51. Gregory told Truman he had a warrant out for his arrest, and he was right. Gregory was arrested on the warrant for possession of a controlled substance and said he'd been at the tire business with his a friend to steal tires, the sheriff's office said.

Gregory also told Truman “there is some meth in my pocket.  I found it on the ground.  It's not mine,” according to the sheriff's office. Truman found a small bag in Gregory's front pocket containing meth.

He was booked into jail on the warrant, a new meth charge and new charges of possession of a stolen vehicle and third-degree theft.

Jailer catches vehicle prowling suspect

A corrections deputy caught a man prowling a county-owned vehicle early Saturday outside the jail, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Suspect David Allen Mackin, 21, was arrested after Deputy Mark Sprecher saw him getting out of a county vehicle parked about 4:10 a.m. in a lot on the east side of the jail, where Sprecher had just finished his shift.

Mackin ran east toward Monroe Street, but Sprecher followed him in his vehicle and caught up with him in the YMCA parking lot on the east side of Monroe Street near the Public Safety Building.

Sprecher told the Mackin he was a sheriff's employee, called 911 and stayed with the suspect until police arrived.

Mackin was booked into jail on a charge of second-degree vehicle prowling. He was released alter that morning on his own recognizance per a judge's order.
  

City worker helps nab theft suspect

A city water department employee led police to two burglary suspects recently when he took a cellphone photo of the license plate of a suspicious vehicle.

Lawrence Tieken saw the 1995 Ford flat-bed truck parked at a City of Spokane pump house at North Havana Street and East Wellesley Avenue last Monday, then observed a younger man and woman exit the roof access of the pump house.

Thousands of dollars in copper wire was missing from the pump house.

Tieken took photos of the culprits, but they covered their faces just in time. But he was able to photograph the truck's rear license plate.

Police identified the truck's owner, and the Patrol Anti-Crime Team identified Cody A. Cabo, 19, as an associate.

Cabo was contacted Wednesday in the 3900 block of North Market Street after citizens reported a man on drugs. He admitted to the burglary, according to court documents, and said “Hillyard girl” named Nicky told him the pump house was filled with metal and copper, which can be sold at recycling centers.

Cabo faces charges of second-degree burglary and malicious mischief.

Girls suspected in GU robbery charged

Two 16-year-old girls accused of robbing and assaulting three Gonzaga University students will be charged as adults.

Kayla Marie Hoffman and Spring Darlos Simone Sanders faces two counts of first-degree robbery and two counts of second-degree assault for the attack early Thursday at North Standard Street at East Sinto Avenue.
They appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Friday.

Also facing charges are Tayone D. Akers, 20, Anthony J. Walker, 20, and Ronald R. Scott, 18.

An iPhone stolen from one of the victims led police to the suspects, according to police. Read more here.
  

Deputy prosecutor finds felon in garage

A man arrested for burglary Tuesday night is accused of breaking into the garage of a Spokane County deputy prosecutor.

 Larry Steinmetz, who prosecutes felonies, arrive at his home April 30 about 4:30 p.m. to find a man inside his garage. The man identified himself as Chance before fleeing the scene, according to Spokane Police.

Steinmetz identified Chance K. Occhipinti, 42, (pictured) in a photo montage Monday, and the Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team arrested the suspect Tuesday near East Jackson Avenue and North Hamilton Street for second-degree burglary.

He briefly struggled with officers before he was arrested, police say. Officers found bolt cutters and other burglary-related items in his backpack. He also had a methamphetamine pipe with him, police say.

Occhipinti then wrote a letter of apology to Stenimetz that included details from the burglary, according to court documents.

Occhipinti has eight felony convictions including for drugs, burglary and theft-related crimes.

Supremacist in terror plot sentenced

A man with ties to white supremacists who bragged about wanting to kill President Barack Obama received a 13-year sentence Thursday for a weapons charge, the latest conviction in what his lawyer called “a running battle with the government.”

 Wayde L. Kurt, 54, also told associates he was saving money for a “final solution” that would include a bombing to dwarf the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and put him in jeopardy of the death penalty, according to court testimony.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 17: Feds: Indicted racist had terrorism plans

Gonzaga students attacked, robbed

A Gonzaga University graduate student was beaten unconscious when he tried to stop two women from stealing his friend’s purse early Thursday.

Spokane police tracked the suspects using a GPS program in an iPhone stolen from the victims.

Arrested were Tayone D. Akers, 20, (pictured) Anthony J. Walker, 20, and Ronald R. Scott, 18, and two 16-year-old girls.

Read the rest of my story here.

Judge jails man for taking call in court

DUBLIN (AP) — Letting your telephone ring in a courtroom is rarely a good idea. Taking the call is worse.

A Northern Ireland man received a brief jail sentence Wednesday after his phone rang, the judge told him to turn it off, but instead he took the call and had a brief chat.

The judge ordered 36-year-old Paddy Sweeney behind bars for two hours, then fined him 200 pounds ($322) for willfully interrupting the court in Londonderry, Northern Ireland's second-largest city. Sweeney had been watching a civil trial at the time.

Sweeney could have faced a maximum penalty of one month in jail and a 2,500 pound ($4,025) fine.

Naked unicyclist arrested in Texas

KEMAH, Texas (AP) — Police say a man arrested in a Southeast Texas city for riding his unicycle in the nude was distracting drivers and creating a hazard.

Kemah police Chief Greg Rikard says 45-year-old Joseph Glynn Farley was not intoxicated or impaired when he was arrested Wednesday on a bridge in the city 20 miles southeast of Houston.

Rikard says Farley had been falling off the unicycle and into traffic.

Farley told officers that he liked the feeling of riding without his clothes, which were found at the base of the bridge.

Police charged Farley, of Clear Lake, with misdemeanor indecent exposure. Bond is set at $1,500.

Online jail records did not list an attorney for Farley.

Murder investigation ‘ongoing, dynamic’

Spokane police Officer Jennifer DeRuwe briefed reporters today on the search for Sharlotte McGill's killer.

“It's really very, very fluid and so there's not an hour-by-hour update that I can provide,” said DeRuwe, police spokeswoman. “I just have to trust that the community will trust me when saying we're doing our very best. It's the top priority for us.”

DeRuwe reminded people to be aware of their surroundings and trust their instincts.

“I hate to think that people aren't comfortable to go walk on the trails, but I understand why they are,” DeRuwe said.

Police continue to compile names of people who could possibly be suspects based on the McGill's description of her killer.

“This is really an ongoing, dynamic investigation,” DeRuwe said. “So while names come in, names go out. people are excluded. people are included. You have patrol officers contacting people; detectives talking to people.”

“As soon as I have information, I will push it out,” she said.

McGill was fatally stabbed to death one week ago today as she walked her dog along the Spokane River in the 1800 block of East South Riverton.

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

Police said Wednesday that they believe a tip from the community will help them find the killer, but they're urging against racial profiling.

Past coverage:

May 5: Homicide victim's daughter speaks out

May 4: Attacker fatally stabs woman

2 arrested in Garland District SWAT raid

Investigators seized stolen property and drugs and arrested two men today while serving a search warrant at a home in the West Garland District.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office Burglary Task Force and Investigative Task Force developed information that stolen property and drugs were being trafficked out of a home in the 400 block of West Kiernan Avenue after a “lengthy investigation,” according to a news release.

A SWAT team helped secure the home.

Nathan Carter, 29 was arrested for second-degree possession of stolen property, first-degree trafficking in stolen property and possession of heroin.

Jeffrey Jennings, 32, was arrested for possession of meth and heroin and second-degree possession of stolen property, as well as a warrant for drunken driving.

Seized stolen property includes electrical musical instruments, multiple laptop computers, overhead projectors and other electronic components. Some of the items were matched to theft reports through serial numbers, but many will need additional follow up by investigators to identify.
  

Hitchhiker steps in front of wrong vehicle

A Spokane Valley hitchhiker looking for a ride downtown got what he wished for when he stepped in front of what turned out to be a patrol car belonging to a sheriff's deputy.

 David Carson Cooke, 51, was standing in the middle of East Sprague Avenue near Vista Road looking for a ride when Deputy Tyler Kullman was driving westbound on Sprague and encountered him about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Cooke told Kullman “he was looking for a ride downtown and did not realize he had stepped out in front of a police officer,” sheriff's spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said in a news release.

Cooke is considered by law enforcement to be an armed career criminal. Kullman said Cooke allowed him to search his belongings and said he didn't have anything illegal on him, but Kullman found a white plastic baggie in his backpack that contained methamphetamine. Cooke said he had no idea where it came from.

Kullman provided Cooke a free ride “downtown” and booked into the Spokane County Jail on a felony drug charge.

Man arrested for grocery store robberies

A man suspected of robbing four grocery stores in Spokane County was arrested Wednesday. 

Daniel W. Drake, 38, reportedly admitted to robbing three Safeway stores and one Rosauers store in Spokane and Spokane Valley recently, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Drake is allegedly pictured fleeing the Safeway store on Wellesley Avenue after a robbery Monday.

Detectives received tips that helped them identify Drake within hours of the Sheriff's Office releasing that surveillance photo and others Tuesday.

Court documents show Drake's sister, father and mother told police they were positive the man pictured was Drake.

The Spokane police Patrol Anti-Crime Team assisted detectives from both agencies in locating Drake. They found him at a motel after nine hours of surveillance, then arrested him in the area of Argonne Road and Montgomery Avenue without incident.

Drake is accused of robbing Safeway at 14020 E. Sprague Ave., in Spokane Valley May 2, as well as the Shadle Park Safeway, 2507 W. Wellesley Ave., May 7.

The other robberies occurred April 29 at Safeway at 933 E. Mission Ave. in Spokane and the Rosaurers at 2610 E. 29th Ave. on May 7 about 2:30 p.m., just two hours before the Shadle Park robbery. No money was actually stolen in the Rosaurers case.

Drake is to appear in Spokane County Superior Court via video from the jail, where he's booked on four counts of second-degree robbery.

“The Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit has recently assigned a detective to investigate all robbery reports that are taken,” sheriff's spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said in a news release. “The ability to assign a lead detective to these crimes has been, and will continue to be, imperative in solving these types of crimes and ensuring the safety of the citizens of Spokane County.”

Reward for tips on stolen for-sale cars

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead them to five vehicles stolen from Kootenai County car dealerships in the past two months.

A reward also is available for tips on the people who stole them.

According to Coeur d'Alene police Sgt. Christie Wood:

A 1999 white Jeep Wrangler sport 2-door with a black roof has been missing since March 16.

A 2001 blue Dodge Durango was stolen between April 14 and April 17.

A 1996 blue Chevrolet 1500 extended cab truck was stolen between April 28 and April 30.

A 2004 GMC Sierra 2500 crew cab, duramax, 4-door truck was stolen between April 28 and May 2.

Finally, a 1995 white Dodge Ram 3500, 2-door, flatbed truck was stolen between May 1 and May 2.

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

Police continue homicide investigation

Police believe a tip from a community member will help them find the man who killed a woman along the Spokane River last week, but they’re urging people to use common sense and avoid racial profiling.

“Based on the description we do have from the victim herself … clearly this was a black male,” said Spokane police Major Craig Meidl. “We do have to look at the specific demographics given to us by the victim, but that does not by any means indicate everyone within those demographics is a criminal.”

Meidl briefed reporters on the status of the murder investigation Wednesday, nearly one week after Sharlotte McGill, 55, was fatally stabbed while walking her dog along the Spokane River in the 1800 block of East South Riverton. Police believe the attack was random.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

May 5: Homicide victim's daughter speaks out

May 4: Attacker fatally stabs woman

2 burglary suspects arrested in Valley

Two suspected burglars were arrested at a Spokane Valley home Monday after a neighbor called 911 because she didn't recognize them.

Steven Edward Cunningham, 56, and Jasmine Owens, 37, were contacted inside a home in the area of 7100 E. 3rd Ave. Deputies saw a circuit break box torn apart and copper wire lying on the floor.

Cunningham said the homeowner told him he could take the box and use it in his home, but he gave four names for the homeowner when asked, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. Deputy Matt Gould called the homeowner and confirmed the pair did not have permission to be in the home.

A neighbor had already called the homeowner to report the suspicious people. The homeowner instructed the neighbor to call 911.

Cunningham and Owens were arrested for residential burglary.

Report of burglars in Jetta leads to arrests

Reports of two burglars escaping in a 2004 Volkswagen Jetta led sheriff's deputies to arrest three people recently, including a convicted sex offender. 

Deputies located the Jetta parked outside a North Division Street pawn shop shortly after the burglary was reported Sunday in the 7800 block of North Hughes Drive in unincorporated Spokane County, according to the Sheriff's Office.

They stopped the car and identified the driver as Pete Huckaby, 40, who was with Chelsey Loe, 39. Both suspects are accused of trying to sell items stolen in the burglary at the pawn shop.

The duo led deputies to the area of 50 E. Crown Ave., where Joshua Clint Epperson, 32, (pictured) a level was arrested for his alleged role in the burglary.

Sheriff's officials describe Epperson as a “well-known local criminal suspect listed as a repeat offender.”

Court records show he was convicted of third-degree rape of a child in 2003. He also has conviction for indecent liberties.

Detectives served a search warrant at the Crown Avenue home and recovered thousands of dollars in property stolen in the burglary that was returned to the owner. Property suspected to have been stolen in other burglaries also was recovered, according to the sheriff's office.

Huckaby faces charges of residential burglary and first-degree trafficking in stolen property. Epperson faces charges of residential burglary and second-degree escape and Loe faces a charge of second-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Testimony begins in Brian Moore case

Prosecutors say the case against Brian Moore will include evidence of not just premeditated murder, greed and financial gain.

“You're gong to hear about twisted love and manipulation.”,” Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell told jurors during his opening statement this morning.

Haskell told the jury of 10 women and 4 men -  two are alternates - that they'll hear how Moore planned the December 2007 murder of Dale Robert Stark with Stark's estranged wife, Shellye L. Stark in order to access his assets, which included a $400,000 life insurance policy.

“You're going to see evidence and hear evidence that Brian Moore conspired with others to eliminate Dale Stark,” Haskell said.

Haskell described the restraining order Stark obtained and the gun she arranged to get from her sister.

“You're going to hear evidence that this gun was in her hands at the request and demand of Brian Moore,” Haskell said.

Haskell said Moore planned a way for the restraining order to be served that was “designed to anger Dale Stark and put Shellye in a manufactured self defense position, and this type of defense was researched by Brian Moore.”

Dale had a firearm in the kitchen, but it was removed at the request of Moore, Haskell said.

Haskell described Moore researching Dale's bank accounts and assets.

Haskell said Moore set up a “sham trust fund” for Christopher Stark and used the money to by things like a new Pontiac Solstice, which was seized in California when police arrested Moore.

But defense lawyer Jeff Compton said prosecutors are letting their imaginations run wild.

“People are blessed with imaginations, and that's a good thing. But when your imagination runs away from you, if it's not constrained by the facts, it can be kind of a destructive thing,” Compton told jurors. “Authorities have not looked at the facts and compared them to their imaginations. They put a worst possible spin on everything that Brian Moore has said and done.”

Compton said Moore loves Shellye Stark.

“Everything he did for her was to help her because of the situation she was in with her marriage…what took place on Dec. 8, 2007, was not preplanned but was something that came about because of Shellye Stark's fear of her estranged husband.”

Compton told jurors Moore first communicated with Shellye in an online chat room involving prostitution and escorts.

He met her in person in 2007 through another woman he knew in California.

“Brian was immediately impressed with Shellye Stark,” Compton said. “She was intelligent. She was funny. She was personable.”

Moore was helping Shellye draft a more equitable divorce plan. He was shocked when he learned of the murder and devoted himself to helping Shellye, Compton said. That involved looking at any available financial assets that might help pay for her legal defense, Compton said.

Compton told jurors to pay close attention to the testimony of Mel Champagne, an attorney involved in the probate of Dale Stark's will. Champagne told The Spokesman-Review in 2008 that case “has just mushroomed..It's really fun from a practitioner's point of view, because it's very unusual.”

Compton said Champagne's testimony at trial will refute “the existence of the motive.”

“You have simple actions by Brian Moore that have been twisted to try to fit a conspiracy theory,” Compton said. “There was never any plot on behalf of Brian Moore and Shellye Stark to kill Dale Stark, and Brian Moore certainly didn't assist her in that.”

Testifying today were Spokane police officers Mario Juarez and Gene Baldwin, as well as Sgt. Brent Austin, who responded to 1620 S. Maple St. the night Dale Stark was shot to death. The Starks' son, Christopher, also testified.

Christopher Stark said he wanted to stay with his father until his father developed a romantic relationship with a cleaning woman and told Chris she would be moving in.

“There was nothing really I wanted to say to him other than I didn't agree with it,” Chris said.

Chris said his father had been trying to get Shellye back. He said his father never hit him and said he never saw him strike Shellye.

“I don't remember ever seeing it,” Chris said.

But Chris did say he feared his father.

“He was a rather angry man,” Chris said. “When my father got angry, it seemed like the whole world was crashing down.” Chris said Dale would yell, flail his arms and throw things. He said he and Shellye would spent hours cleaning up the home after Dale left in a fit of rage.

Chris also described the night of the shooting and the events leading up to it, including his father's reaction to the restraining order. His testimony mirrors testimony given during his mother's trial in 2009. But it includes new information on the trust fund that was established for him after his father's death. Prosecutors are trying to show jurors that Chris got very little of that money, and that Moore used most of it for himself.

Chris told jurors that he went in on a business plan with Moore involving medical marijuana.

Read coverage of that here.

Aug. 6, 2010: Theft charged ddropped against Stark's father

March 22, 2009: Stark jury foreman speaks out

March 4, 2009: Stark jailed for violating release conditions

Chronic eluder arrested for eluding police

A Spokane man with a history of fleeing police led a state wildlife officer on a chase in a stolen car while high on methamphetamine recently.

Michael S. Wheeler, 38, remains jailed on stolen car and eluding police chases after he was arrested at gunpoint Thursday after a high-speed chase that began in the area of 36900 Valley Road.

Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Daniel Rahn was in the area when he noticed a 1986 Doge pickup parked in his neighbor's driveway.

Rahn didn't recognize the truck and watched as the driver approached a parked trailer. The driver told Rahn he was looking for copper wire when stopped, but he soon sped way and a chase ensued.

Rahn ended the chase because of public safety concerns, but a sheriff's deputy was able to stop Wheeler at gunpoint on Deer Creek Road near Elk-Chattaroy after Wheeler lost control of the truck while trying to avoid a spike strip.

Wheeler told police he had taken methamphetamine earlier that day, according to court documents. He said he didn't know the truck was stolen. Police say the truck was stolen that day from a home on Sherman Road in Deer Park.

Wheeler had a Department of Corrections warrant for escape. He has several felony convictions that prohibit from possessing weapons, so he could face another felony charge for a rifle found in the truck.

Wheeler was wanted by Crime Stoppers when he rammed a sheriff’s patrol car in December 2010 while successfully eluding a deputy. Read more here.

Murder trial begins for Stark’s boyfriend

Shellye L. Stark is led into court on April 9, 2009. (SpokesmanReview archives)

A murder trial nearly five years in the making begins today in Spokane County Superior Court as jurors begin to hear the case of a California man accused of conspiring with his prostitute-turned-girlfriend to kill her husband in Spokane.

  Brian Leigh Moore, 45, (left) is accused of conspiring to murder Dale Robert Stark to access the man's assets, including a life insurance policy.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt. Moore is represented by Jeff Compton. Mark Cipolla and Larry Haskell are prosecuting.

Stark (pictured right) was shot to death on Dec. 9, 2007, by his estranged wife, Shellye Stark, in what Shellye told jurors was self defense for years of abuse, including forced prostitution.

Jurors convicted her of first-degree murder in March 2009 and she was sentenced to 51 years in prison, but her convictions were overturned because of problems with jury instructions. She's in the Spokane County Jail awaiting trial.

Prosecutors don't beleive Moore was even in the state when Dale Stark was killed, but they beleive he persuaded Shellye to commit the crime and are persuing not only a conspiracy charge against Moore but a first-degree murder charge as well.

Moore was working as a paralegal in Southern California when he met Stark, who advertised online as a traveling prostitute named Nikita Jennifer.

Moore has said his legal work focused on helping women escape prostitution and abusive relationships, but Spokane investigators believe he used that profession to manipulate women with low self-esteem and relationship problems for financial gain.

Stark shot her husband to death after her sister drove a gun down from Priest River, Idaho. Her sister crashed into a bull moose, so Stark's nephew retrieved the gun from the wreckage and gave it to Stark in the parking lot of the hospital where her sister was taken. It wasn't the last we heard from the bull moose - police say Moore, in an attempt to explain his frequent trips to Spokane after the murder, lied to his wife and told her he was working on a legal case for a driver in the area who had hit a bull moose.

A key prosecution witness is Moore and Stark’s former private investigator Ted Pulver, (pictured( who went to police with concerns about Moore. He described Moore as bragging about the plot and discussing Dale Stark’s life insurance policy in detail.

Dale Stark’s life insurance money went to his son with Shellye Stark, who then funneled money to Moore and his mother to pay her legal defense, according to the affidavit.

A 2007 yellow Pontiac Solstice convertible police say Moore and Stark bought with the money remains in police custody.

Also expected to testify is Moore's sister-in-law, who reportedly heard him discuss a big payout from the life insurance policy.

Another witness is Wendy Fox, a former secretary who Moore claims witnessed Dale Stark threaten him and Shellye Stark.

Also subpoenaed to testify was an attorney who worked with Moore, Michael Kendall. Kendall reportedly told police Moore admitted forging Kendall's signature on a Spokane Superior Court document regarding Dale Stark’s will and $400,000 life insurance policy. “Moore told Kendall that he did not reveal all of the details of his knowledge of Dale Stark’s murder because he didn’t want “Shellye Stark to look bad,'” according to court documents.

Spokane police Detective Kip Hollenbeck traveled to Orange County, Calif., in April 2009 to arrest Moore. He was found at a rental warehouse with unregistered guns and homemade silencers. The weapons netted him a 21-month federal prison sentence.

In a letter to the judge who sentenced him, Moore said the effects of his arrest and imprisonment have been “to say the least, dramatic.”

“I have lost everything, from my good name, to the respect of my son,” Moore wrote. “I can not begin to express my shame.”

It’s the second time prosecutors have pursued murder charges against Moore. They withdrew the original charges in October 2009 after a judge ruled key evidence from Pulver couldn’t be used against Moore. Pulver is allowed to testify against Moore, but he can't discuss his investigation into Shellye.

List being compiled of discredited officers

Spokane law enforcement officials for the first time are compiling a list of officers and deputies who have a record of lying or who have been discredited while doing their jobs.

The so-called “Brady list” is part of a legal requirement to notify defense lawyers of any information that could be used to challenge the credibility of investigators.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Pics show suspect in Safeway robberies

Police believe the same man robbed two Safeway stores in the Spokane area recently, and they're asking for help identifying him.  

Surveillance photos (above and below, left) released by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office today show the suspect at WalMart before detectives say he robbed the Safeway at 14020 E. Sprague Ave., in Spokane Valley on May 2.

Another photo (right) shows the robber just after he left the Shadle Park Safeway on Monday.

In the first robbery, a man described as white, in his 30s with short hair and a medium build placed a backpack at the customer service counter and ordered an employee to fill it with money. The victim was under the impression the man had a weapon in the bag, according to the sheriff's office. 

Detectives located the man's discarded clothing and tracked them to a WalMart store where he's believed to have been before the robbery.

The same man is believed to have robbed the Safeway in the Shadle Park area, 2507 W. Wellesley Ave., about 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help identify the man. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Law enforcement memorial held today

Two names were added today to the law enforcement memorial outside Spokane's Public Safety Bu9lding:

U.S. Park Ranger Margaret Anderson and Washington State Patrol trooper Tony Radulescu.  Anderson was shot to death Jan. 1 by a fugitive who later killed himself.

Radulescu was shot to death during a traffic stop Feb. 23 in Western Washington.

Their names were added as part of the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony.

Law enforcement from Spokane County and across the state gathered to remember those who have died in the line of duty.

Today's speakers included WSP Chief John Batiste and U.S. Marshal Craig Thayer.

The ceremony proceeded a law enforcement memorial breakfast. View photos of the events here and here.

Reward for tips on licensed theft suspect

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of an accused metal thief who was part of a licensed business.

Tristan M. Goiri-Christensen, 26, is wanted on a $20,000 warrant after skipping a pre-trial conference April 27. He was scheduled to begin trial Monday on theft and stolen property charges.

Goiri-Christensen is part of a band of suspected metal thieves who created a Spokane-based business, complete with licenses from the Washington Department of Revenue, to get around state laws designed to discourage theft by making it tougher for individuals to sell stolen metal to scrap yards. The state exempts licensed businesses from the mandatory 10-day waiting period for payments of over $30 on scrap metal sold to recyclers.

Goiri-Christensen and four others are accused of stealing thousands of pounds of power lines from Avista Utilities and selling the copper wire to fuel their drug habits. The stolen metal meant a massive payday in the thousands of dollars. A business license meant it came instantly. And it was easy to obtain. Read more here.

Goiri-Christensen, 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, last gave an address in the 300 block of East Rockwell 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.

Mother arrested after missing assault trial

A Spokane mother accused of fracturing her baby's skull was wanted by Crime Stoppers last week after missing her scheduled trial.

 Whitney A. Manges, 26, had a $5,000 warrant for third-degree assault and reckless endangerment when she was arrested Monday. She's due in court today.

The warrant was issued after she didn't show up for a pre-trial conference in Spokane County Superior Court on April 13. Her trial was scheduled to begin April 26.

Manges is accused of fracturing her son's skull after dropping him while trying to board a bus on Aug. 9. The boy cried and appeared lethargic after the incident at the STA station in the 1300 block of East Sprague Avenue outside the Union Gospel Mission women's shelter.

Police contacted Manges as she sat on a bench at the STA Plaza, where she said she was on Xanax and another drug she couldn't identify, according to court documents.

She wasn't charged until October and spent several weeks as a Crime Stoppers fugitive before she was arrested. She was out of jail on $1,500 bond awaiting trial when this warrant was issued.

Man gets 15 years for Valley bar shooting

A Spokane man who shot a man outside a Spokane Valley bar last November has been sentenced to about 15 years in prison.

 Aaron Phillip Williams, 31, already has a conviction for second-degree assault, so his first-degree assault conviction counts as a second strike under Washington's three-strikes law.

A conviction for a third violent crime will put him in prison for life with no chance of parole.

Williams will have plenty of time to think about that - he was sentenced last week in Spokane County Superior Court to 178 months for the shooting Nov. 20. Williams shot a man in the parking lot of Goodtymes Pub, 9214 E. Mission Ave., during a confrontation between two groups of men

A police dog found Williams hiding in a backyard koi fish pond nearby.

Williams has previous convictions for second-degree assault, unlawful possession of a firearm and harming a police dog, all in Kitsap County. He also has juvenile convictions for first-degree robbery, first-degree theft, residential burglary, second-degree burglary and obstructing law enforcement.

Murder suspect now facing meth charges

A Spokane man already jailed on a murder charge now faces two drug-dealing charges.

David C. McLaughlin, 22, is accused of selling methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school on Sept. 23 and Sept. 27.

That was more than two months before McLaughlin and Melinda R. Barrera, 31, were arrested for the shooting death of Robert A. Nelson, 46, at 1328 W. Dean Ave.

McLaughlin said he hit Nelson with a bat because Nelson had thrown a phone at Barrera and hit her in the head, detectives say.

Barrera reportedly told detectives that she loaded the gun and “somehow my finger pulled the trigger. Nelson reported his own shooting to 911 and was found dead with a phone in his hand.

Spokane police drug detectives already were familiar with the apartment building - they'd watched a confidential informant go there to buy methamphetamine from McLaughlin on at least two occasions in September, according to court documents.

McLaughlin was said to be under federal investigation, but he has only been charged in Spokane County Superior Court. He already faces a June 18 trial for the murder.

Now he also has a June 25 trial for the drug charges. Barrera also is scheduled for trial June 18. Both suspects are in the Spokane County Jail.

New details on chaplain in exposure case

A pastor and volunteer sheriff’s chaplain exposed himself to a former church member after showing up at her home in a long orange skirt and telling her he’d lost a bet, officials allege.

The Rev. Robert C. Christian, 61, turned himself into the Spokane County Jail Friday and was released. He faces a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure in Spokane Municipal Court.

Christian, who has been fired as a chaplain, initially denied the allegations when questioned by lead sheriff’s chaplain Curt Quaschnick after a police report was filed in March, according to court documents obtained Monday.

Read the rest of my story here.

2 cars seized; murder probe continues

Police today seized two cars near the scene of last week's homicide as part of an ongoing effort to find any possible evidence related to the case.

“At this point, we need anything and everything,” said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department. “We're not receiving a lot of tips.”

Police are canvassing the area of 1800 E. South Riverton today with fliers showing a car battery found where Sharlotte McGill, 55, (pictured) was fatally stabbed in an apparent attack as she walked her dog last Thursday.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information on the battery, which detectives believe may be associated with McGill's killer.

Officers found a car missing a battery while canvassing at an apartment complex right near the scene. That car is being processed for evidence, as is another car that was possibly prowled but not reported, DeRuwe said.

“We are literally going door to door and car to car,” DeRuwe said.

Detectives have checked homeless shelters and have contacted recycling centers where car batteries can be sold for scrap, DeRuwe said.

McGill, 55, (pictured) was walking her dog on a trail along with the Spokane River when a stranger jumped from the bushes about 8 a.m. Thursday and repeatedly stabbed her.

Police say the car battery found nearby was stolen in the same area within a few days of the attack and may be associated with the killer.

McGill was able to describe her attacker before she died. Police say she described him as a black man, about 30 years old with a bad eye.

Anyone with information on the battery, or who may have information on the man or may have seen someone similar is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

DeRuwe urged anyone to call, even if they're not sure of what they saw or they think police already know about their information.

As police continue to search for McGill's killer, her daughter said last week that she feels “really sorry for whoever did this.” “Because if they had a mother like I did … they wouldn’t have done this to anybody,” said Billie McKinney, 24. Read more here.

Is the Border Patrol racial profiling?

Federal agents have increased their presence in the Spokane area in what some believe is an overreaching effort to combat illegal immigration at a local level.

Officials with the U.S. Border Patrol say they’re not specifically targeting illegal immigrants and that their presence at police stops in the Spokane County area is part of an ongoing partnership with local law enforcement.

But a Seattle-based immigrant rights group alleges border patrol agents are responding to calls even when their presence is not necessary, simply because they suspect someone may be an illegal immigrant.

“Only people who are Spanish speakers or are perceived to be Spanish speakers are the ones being questioned,” said Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Read the rest of my story here.

Burglary suspect picks wrong pawn shop

A burglary suspect was arrested Tuesday after a sheriff's detective recognized him at a Spokane pawn shop.

Detective Justin Elliot was at Goldbay at 1505 N. Ash St., when he saw Christopher J. Steinbaugh enter the store and receive $115 from the owner.

Elliot recognized Steinbaugh as a suspect in a burglary being investigated by Deputy Eric Epperson. The shop's owner told Elliot that Steinbaugh had sold jewelry at the store the previous day and had come back in to receive the rest of his payment.

Elliot followed Steinbaugh from the store and called Epperson, who confirmed Steinbaugh still was wanted for burglary. Elliot also learned Steinbaugh's license was suspended. Deputies responded and arrested Steinbaugh near a home at 1211 N. Oak St.

Elliot returned to Goldbay and seized the items Steinbaugh  had sold there as possible evidence of burglary and stolen property trafficking.

The Ford Explorer Steinbaugh was driving had a stolen license plate.

Deputies responded to the Oak Street home that was associated with Steinbaugh. There, they arrested Brian R. Vavra, 35, on suspicion of threats to kill and discovered a money clip on him that matched a clip Steinbaugh had sold at Goldbay.

That led deputies to obtain a search warrant for the residence. A 7-year-old girl was taken into protective custody by CPS.  Deputies also seized suspected stolen property.

Steinbaugh, who has previous felony convictions for identity theft, was booked into jail on a residential burglary charge. He could face more charges. He was arrested in March for meth possession after a police chase.

Spokane police arrest longtime fugitive

A Crime Stoppers fugitive wanted since February has been arrested.

 John Gibson Dean, 30, was arrested at an apartment complex at 12426 E. Broadway Ave., after police developed information that he'd been staying there.

A witnesses told police Dean and Lisa M. Baxter, 25, stole her Ford Bronco and were planning to drive it to Montana.

Police contacted Baxter and she denied knowing where Dean was, but she was with Dean at the apartment when police arrived there Tuesday.

Baxter was arrested for rendering criminal assistance, and Dean was arrested on warrants for robbery and gun charges.

He faces a new bail-jumping charge after he left jail on $200,000 bond and never returned to court. He was to begin trial in March but didn't show up for a pre-trial conference in February which led to the warrant.

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. Standon pleaded guilty earlier this month and is to be sentenced June 13.

1 arrested for gunpoint motel robbery

A 35-year-old man has been charged with a gunpoint robbery at a Spokane motel that netted $150.

Shawn James Combs was arrested Tuesday for the Feb. 2 hold-up at the Select Inn Motel, 1420 W. 2nd Ave.

Combs is accused of robbing the motel owner after inquiring about a job while carrying a hammer, then returning with a handgun, according to court documents.

A man who accompanied Combs to the motel said they rode bicycles there, and Combs told him he needed to collect money from the owner. The man did not participate in the robbery but was bitten by a police K-9 after the heist and contacted by officers. He identified Combs from a photo montage, as did the motel owner.

Prosecutors summonsed Combs to court after filing charges April 9, but he didn't show up and a $100,000 warrant was issued for his arrest.

He remains in the Spokane County Jail after appearing in court today.
  

Recently released thief arrested again

A convicted thief released from jail earlier this month was arrested Saturday after a citizen spotted him break into a car.

Nicholas F. Zielke, 19, told police he didn't know why someone was trying to pick a fight with him at the Conoco gas station at North Ash Street and West Indiana Avenue, but police say two men confronted Zielke after he was spotted prowling a car.

One of the men chased Ziekle as he dropped a box stolen from the car, according to police.

Spokane police Sgt. Steve Braun noticed the men about to fight and stopped them, then arrested Ziekle.

Officer Aaron Kirby found a bag of meth in Zielke's pocket, according to court documents. Zielke then spit on Kirby, which led to a third-degree assault charge, police say.

Zielke pleaded guilty April 11 to third-degree retail theft and was credited for 25 days already spent in jail. The charge stemmed from three theft arrests at Spokane three department stores.
  

Graffiti suspect caught blue-handed

A man suspected of spray panting graffiti on more than 30 locations in downtown Spokane was arrested Tuesday. 

Brad Ruble, 28, was booked into jail for malicious mischief after Neighborhood Resource Officer Tim Ottmar arrested him downtown, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Ruble's fingers were blue when police contacted him - the same color of the paint used to put hearts on the locations.

Another suspected graffiti tagger, Lance Perkins, 25, was arrested in March for allegedly spray painting '57' on numerous locations.

57 refers to Perkins' initials 'LP' on a cellphone keypad, according to court documents.

Jury indicts DSHS worker for child porn

A state social services employee arrested on child pornography charges April 17 has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Darrell J. Rogers, 51, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to two counts of distribution of child pornography. The charges carry five years to 20 years in prison and registration as a sex offender if convicted. 

Rogers, a married father with no criminal history, was allowed to leave jail a few days after his arrest after undergoing a mental health assessment.

A prosecutor said the material federal agents downloaded from Rogers, who licenses foster homes for children, is some of the worst he's encountered in his 36 years of practicing law.

Mediation set in Zehm police lawsuit

A federal judge has set a two-day mediation session to settle the $14.5 million civil suit filed against nine Spokane Police officers by the mother and estate of Otto Zehm.

U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko issued an order directing the Zehm family attorneys, City Attorney Nancy Isserlis and lawyers representing the city’s insurance carrier to meet on May 14 and 15. The parties apparently have agreed to allow U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan from Oregon to oversee those mediation sessions.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

3 busted near border w/ 58 lbs of coke

Three suspected drug smugglers have been arrested near the U.S.-Canadian border in Pend Oreille County with 58 pounds of cocaine.

Jose Daniel Gonzalez-Rodriguez, 26, and Jose Luis Alfredo Castro-Meji, 25, were booked into the Spokane County Jail early today after being arrested near Metaline Falls late Monday.

Border agents tracked down a third suspect, Jose Galicias, in the woods this afternoon, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Gonzalez-Rodriguez and Castro-Meji appeared in U.S. District Court today and were ordered to remain in jail.

Officials valued the cocaine at $585,860.

As this story explains, cocaine is often smuggled through Eastern Washington in exchange for Ecstasy and marijuana from Canada.

In October 2010, border agents found 310 pounds of Ecstasy worth more than $9.3 million near Curlew. A month before, a Canadian man caught with 71 pounds of cocaine near the international border was sentenced to about four years in prison.

In June 2010, a Canadian man arrested in Washington with 80 pounds of cocaine was sentenced to five years in prison.

Then in June 2011, two Canadian men were arrested with 159 pounds of Ecstasy that authorities allege they were trying to smuggle into the United States. Those men are awaiting trial.

Also awaiting trial is an elderly man who lived near the Canadian border in Ferry County and is accused of being a major drug trafficker.

Phone scam targets Spokane businesses

Spokane businesses are being targeted for cash in a scheme that involves someone posing as a jailer to collect bail bond money for a supposedly arrested employee.

At least three businesses today reported phone calls from a man claiming to be a sheriff's corrections deputy seeking bail money for an employee jailed for a drunken driving crash, said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The son of the owner of Dewey's Burgers and Brews on North Division Street was at the bank trying to withdraw money when a bank employee grew suspicious of the scenario, Chamberlin said.

Earlier today, a man claiming to be James Sullivan with a sheriff's personnel number of 6331 tried to get $1,600 from another local business owner. The man told the owner he couldn't give the owner the employee's name because of privacy laws but said he could provide a general description and that if he guessed the name, he would confirm if he or she was in custody.

The owner offered a name and the man confirmed and said he was in jail for drunken driving and for the crash and needed $16,000 to get out, or a $1,600 payment through a bail bond company.

The owner withdrew $2,000 and the man stayed on the phone for more than an hour as the owner went to a WalMart to send the money in two $800 money orders. The man requested one be sent to Nichole and the other to Seth Thomas in Florida, then hung up when the owner said he would only send the money to an actual business.

Sheriff's officials confirmed no employee by the name of James Sullivan exists. Corrections deputies are not authorized to contact people to set up bond agreements.

Anyone who is targeted by the scam is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
  

Passed-out driver nets 6 felony charges

A report of a driver passed out in a running Honda with its trunk open and windows fogged up led to the arrest of a 28-year-old man on six felony charges early Saturday, police said today.

Randy Lee Jensen, Jr., could not tell if he was OK and if he knew where he was parked when deputies contacted him in the area of 6000 E. 9th Ave. about 4 a.m., according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

A homeowner called police to report the vehicle parked in his driveway. He said he didn't know who it belonged to but believed the driver was passed out.

Turns out the Honda had been reported stolen April 22, and Jensen had a warrant for driving on a suspended license.

Deputies found a clear plastic bag with Oxycodone in Jensen's right front jeans pocket. They also found several vehicle registrations, credit cards, driver's licenses, gift cards and military IDs that did not belong to Jensen, the sheriff's office said.

The items were stolen in several vehicle prowlings. Jensen had a shaved key in the ignition, along with a key chain with other shaved keys.

He was booked into jail on six felony identity and theft related charges, as well as the misdemeanor driving warrant. He remains there on $15,750 bond after appearing in court Monday. That includes $5,000 bond for an unrelated car theft case from January.

8 Spokanites charged in heroin ring

Eight Spokane residents face federal charges for a heroin distribution ring that authorities allege supplied at least 100 grams of the drug.

The charges in U.S. District Court allege the group distributed heroin in Spokane from last April to this February.

Authorities sealed an affidavit supporting the charges out of concerns for the safety of a confidential informant, according to court documents.

Further details on the case were not available, but arrested in the last two weeks have been:  Gary Erwin Douglass, 57; Charles R. Wallace, 41; Samuel William Wright, 36; Julie A. Rice-Lewis, 38; and James Clayton Lindsay, 57.

Frisco Ayala, 32, Chad Benefield, age unavailable, and Brian L. Sellers, 35, also are charged.

Sellers was arrested with 84 grams of heroin last May after a road rage incident on U.S. Highway 395.
  

2 homicide victims killed each other

A fight over an old car near a remote Pend Oreille County lake led to a rare double homicide in which investigators believe the victims killed each other.

No arrests are expected in the homicides of Richard “Richie” R. Hill, 18, and Steven Quinn Divine, 22, early Sunday because investigators believe each is responsible for the others death, officials said Monday.

“One of the victims had a knife, the other had a gun. And the results are they are both deceased,” said Thomas Metzger, Pend Oreille County coroner and prosecutor.

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Serial burglar leads to 7 more arrests

Investigators arrested seven people while searching three locations last week connected to suspected serial burglar Dean M. Blackford.

The properties at 1928 W. Glass Ave., 12607 N. Freya, and 7722 N. Altamontwere identified after detectives talked to Blackford about his burglary ring.

Large amounts of stolen property, from motorcycles to guns to Oxy-Acetylene tanks were located. Detectives seized more than 3 1/2 ounces of meth and some marijuana.

The investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected.

Arrested at the locations for meth possession were Steven R. Vandinter, 41; Lindsey M. Pearson, 22; Kevin M. Heaton, 35; Randy E. Hewson, 25; and Danica M. Wood, 27.

Michael Thorne, 36, was arrested on six felony warrants.

Jesse T.J. Gust, 26, was arrested on a warrant for arson. Gust was identified as a suspect in the arson fire of a truck that was part of a love triangle involving meth addicts.

A man first identified as suspect, Jesse J. Icard, was cleared of wrongdoing and his charges have been dismissed. Witnesses appear to have mistaken Icard for Gust, according to new court documents.

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