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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: bench trials

‘92 Valley murder case goes to judge

Patrick Kevin Gibson made big money robbing banks. A dozen gunpoint heists in the 1990s netted him $850,000.

He was a professional robber who didn’t need to bother with a small-time holdup at a furniture store, claims the attorney representing him in a murder trial.

Gibson, 60, was arrested in Western Washington last year in connection with the 1992 killing of Spokane Valley furniture store owner Brian Cole. The arrest came under unusual circumstances: Gibson had stopped to complain to a police officer about a speeding motorcycle.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 12: Report details Gibson's criminal history

June 11: TV host's DNA sample delays Spokane murder trial

CdA robbery linked to Spokane cold case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.
  

Spokane racist guilty of beating inmate

A Spokane white supremacist scheduled to be released from federal prison last month was convicted today in Oklahoma of assaulting another inmate.

Keegan Chance Van Tuyl, 29, likely will be sentenced at least four months from now for the charge of inflicting serious bodily harm against another inmate, a clerk for U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said today.

Friot convicted Van Tuyl after a brief bench trial today in Oklahoma City.

A grand jury indicted Van Tuyl Sept. 20 for the attack on another inmate at the federal transfer center in Oklahoma City on Dec. 1, 2010.

Van Tuyl punched the inmate several times then stomped his face several times after he fell to the floor, according to the indictment. The incident was captured on surveillance video.

In a letter to The Spokesman-Review, Van Tuyl said the inmate was a sex offender, writing “no good deed goes unpunished.” The victim's criminal convictions could not be independently confirmed.

Van Tuyl recently finished serving a sentencing in maximum security federal prison for violating his probation on a firearms conviction.

Online prison records list him as being released, but he actually was transferred to Oklahoma to face the assault charge.

A member of Van Tuyl's racist group, James D. Bacon, was involved in a similar assault while in custody in Spokane.

Jury: Lawyer stole jail phone services

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — A judge has found a Yakima defense lawyer guilty of stealing phone services from the Yakima County Jail.

Visiting Judge Brian Altman found Kimberly Grijalva guilty Monday of second-degree theft, saying he believed the lawyer knew her free phone privileges were being misused by a housemate and friend. The Yakima Herald-Republic says the theft charge is a felony.

The judge noted the volume of calls — more than 900 over a six-week period. He also found the lawyer guilty of a misdemeanor charge of introducing contraband into the jail, saying she let an inmate use her cell phone during a visit.

The lawyer has said she was unaware the private line was being used improperly and thought it was OK for an inmate to use her cell phone during a visit. She left court without comment.

Spokane prostitute charged with perjury

A Spokane prostitute is accused of lying about her identity and fabricating testimony during a bench trial last fall.

Jodi R. Macabitas, 42, alias Jodi R. Rima, appeared in court Tuesday on charges on felony charges of first-degree perjury and false swearing.

Investigators say Macabitas identified herself as Madison McBride during a possession of stolen property trial before Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque last October.

Defendant Robert Wilkening, Jr., was acquitted after testimony that included Macabitas describing a plot between two men to falsely accuse Wilkening. Investigators believe Macabitas fabricated the story.

Deputy Prosecutor Bob Sargent said in court documents that Macabitas' testimony was “crucial to the case.”

But Wilkening's lawyer, Doug Phelps, said he doesn't believe Macabitas' was crucial to Wilkening's acquittal.

“We really didn't even need that testimony,” Phelps said. Phelps said he didn't relaize the woman had lied about her identity until Sargent told him after the trial.

Prior to testifying, Macabitas provided police a phone number that Detective David Staben says belonged to someone who claims not to know the woman. After her testimony, the man said he had a friend who matched the witness's description, leading Staben to identify Macabitas as a suspect.

Her parents described her as “a homeless person involved in the drug lifestyle,” according to a probable cause affidavit. Staben contacted Macabitas at 1st and Cowley, where she identified herself as a prostitute and “admitted that she lied about everything in court,” according to the affidavit.

Macabitas remains jailed on $2,000 bond.

Jury to decide Cole Strandberg’s fate

A Spokane County jury will now decide whether Cole K. Strandberg should face the prospect of life imprisonment or indefinite commitment to a mental institution after a judge concluded he was sane in 2008 when he shot a woman with a crossbow. 

Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen was highly critical of the review of Strandberg’s case by mental health professionals at Eastern State Hospital, but found that the 24-year-old mentally ill man probably was not insane on Jan. 7, 2008, when authorities said he killed 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron.

“I cannot find… that Mr. Strandberg was insane at the time of the act,” Eitzen said. “But the question should be submitted to the jury.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 16, 2011: Strandberg trial testimony questions mental evaluations

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

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

Strandberg to Bugbee: ‘I have a wife’

Accused killer Cole K. Strandberg has done little during the two days he's spent in Judge Tari Etizen's courtroom. 

But on Monday, he made sure his marital status was clear.

 After his lawyer, Chris Bugbee, (left) asked a neuropsychologist about discussions of Strandberg's mystical world and plans by the defendant's fictitious wife for a trip to Europe, Strandberg blurted out, “I have a wife, asshole.” 

It was another bizarre moment in a court hearing set to determine if Strandberg can stand trial for January 2008 crossbow slaying of Jennifer Bergeron, or if he should be found not guilty to be reason of insanity.

“He says he was married in Las Vegas Washington, so there are no records in this world,” Dr. Craig Beaver testified on Monday. “He’ll just go to another time or his wife will come get him and take him to Europe. So (the criminal charge) just doesn’t matter.”

Strandberg has his wrists bolted to the courtroom table and his legs bolted to his chair.

On Tuesday, he wore a face mask at Bugbee's request. Strandberg had spit in the lawyer's face at the end of Monday's hearing.

Strandberg is pictured up top on Tuesday.

Past coverage:

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

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

Trial continues in YWCA ex-director’s lawsuit

Monica Walters, the former longtime Spokane YWCA executive director who’s suing the organization, is expected to continue testifying at a bench trial today in Superior Court.

The trial began last week before Judge Jerome Leveque.

Walters, who was director for 13 years, left the YWCA in February 2009. She filed a lawsuit in April 2009, alleging breach of contract, disability discrimination and privacy invasion.

Deborah Booth, president of the YWCA board at the time, released a statement in February saying Walters resigned for medical reasons:

“Everybody loves Monica, but it’s time for her to get out of the hectic crossfire of all this and get some time for herself.”

Booth retracted the statement a couple days later, saying  “my suggestion that Ms. Walters resigned for medical reasons was not accurate.” Oops!

A lawsuit by Walters’ attorney, Paul J. Burns, says the board breached Walters’ contract by interfering with her ability to manage day-to-day operations, including making hiring and firing decisions, causing “severe, medically diagnosable stress, mental anguish and emotional distress,” the lawsuit states.

Walters said that the medical condition was a disability and that the YWCA failed to accommodate it. The decision to discharge her “constitutes unlawful disability discrimination,” according to the lawsuit.

Walters’ invasion of privacy allegation stems from the YWCA’s disclosure to the media that Walters had resigned. Walters is seeking damages for economic loss, mental anguish and emotional distress.

Walters’ testimony began Thursday; no testimony was heard Friday.

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