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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: then and now

Robber headed to familiar place: prison

A man sent to prison for shooting his teenage girlfriend in 2005 is headed back there after pleading guilty to second-degree robbery.

Reza Abghari, 26, was sentenced to 15 months in prison this morning by Judge Sam Cozza.

He was arrested Oct. 28 with Nedzad Mesanovic, 21, and Miroslav Veselinovic, 22, after a Spokane police officer recognized their car from a robbery report at the Zip Trip at 711 W. Hastings.

  Mesanovic (left) is scheduled to go to trial on March 1 on first-degree robbery charges.

Veselinovic took a plea deal Wednesday and was credited for 104 days served in jail.

He promised Judge Maryann Moreno she would never see him in her courtroom again and said he’d learned a lot about himself while in jail.

“Truly, I am sorry,” Veselinovic said.

Moreno asked if he thought he’d be able to find a job with felony conviction.

Veselinovic said he’s hopeful he can get his job at Wal-Mart back.

“There’s a lot of felons down there, so I think I could,” Veselinovic said.

Abghari made headlines in 2004 after he shot his then-13-year-old girlfriend while pointing what he thought was an unloaded gun at her.

That (now former) girlfriend, Tara Leena Rader, was arrested last month after deputies said she was in a car with more than 18 ounces of methamphetamine.

Read more on the October robbery here.

Disbarred lawyer captured in Mexico

He lived the high-life he’d become accustomed to in Spokane, escaping to southern Mexico and bragging about his exploits on a Web site that nearly led to his capture.

But after evading authorities for more than a decade, disbarred Spokane lawyer and developer Claude Irwin, Jr, is set to return to Spokane County to face the creditors and investors he’s accused of duping out of millions of dollars in a failed lakeside development in North Idaho.

Federal agents arrested Irwin, 62, Wednesday night as he stepped off a plane in Los Angeles, part of an international ruse arranged by the U.S. Marshals Office.

He’s awaiting extradition to Spokane County on a felony theft warrant filed in 1998, a year after he vanished and left his multimillion-dollar, 390-acre real estate development near Harrison, Idaho, Powderhorn Ridge Ranch, facing at least $3 million in unpaid judgments and claims.

“He needed to come home,” said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Eric Marks in Spokane.

Once in Spokane, Irwin be held without bail.

Irwin’s arrest came after a tipster contacted a Spokesman-Review reporter in August with questions about the case and information about Irwin’s possible location and new identity in Mexico.

The newspaper, as is customary, urged the tipster to alert law enforcement to any information regarding potential criminal matters, and – with the tipster’s permission – helped arrange for the tipster and federal marshals to contact each other.

Irwin was nearly caught in 2000 after a reporter found a web site he’d created.

The pictures above were taken from that site. Irwin labeled the top photo “Ayatolla.”

Read the rest of my story: Fugitive developer captured in international ruse

Past coverage: To catch Koyote Karlos, you’ll have to move fast

18 ounces of meth seized in traffic stop

Sheriff’s deputies seized 18 ounces of methamphetamine in a traffic stop near the Northern Quest Casino parking lot early Tuesday.

A 41-year-old Ritzville man was arrested along with a 19-year-old woman who was with him in his Mazda 626. A deputy monitoring the casino parking lot stopped the Mazda after learning its owner had a suspended license.

The owner wasn’t in the car, but driver David B. Hill was arrested after the deputy learned his license was suspended, too, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies found a small bag of meth in Hill’s pocket along with more than $1,600. In the Mazda were about 18 ounces of methamphetamine, a .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol and more than $15,000 in cash, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Passenger Tara Leena Rader of Spangle was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant and is due in Spokane County Superior Court today on one count of felony possession of a controlled substance. Hill is out of jail on bond.

Rader was featured in several Spokesman-Review stories in 2004 after she was shot in the face at close range by her then-boyfriend, Reza Abghari.

Abghari, who said he was pretending to be a gangster when he accidentally shot Rader, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and is back in jail on armed robbery charges for an alleged crime spree last fall.

Previous stories:

Teen girl wounded in accidental shooting

Injured teen faces life-threatening surgery

Man convicted in shooting

Police: ‘Ninja’ biker tried to tow away SUV

Spokane police sent to check out a vehicle prowler at a North Side apartment complex this morning discovered a man with a long criminal history trying to steal a Chevrolet Suburban by towing it away.

The call turned into a chase with man police identified as Daniel F. Humphrey, 33, who was arrested after crashing into another vehicle when he ran a red light at Rowan Avenue and Nevada Street about 5:45 a.m. The driver of the second vehicle had minor injuries.

Humphrey, described in a news release as “widely known to the police for his criminal activities,” was booked into Spokane County jail on charges of vehicular assault and attempting to elude an officer.

Police said he was driving a Jeep Cherokee and unhooked the Jeep from the Suburban before taking off on the chase near Lincoln Road and Napa Street.

Humphrey was arrested last summer after police say he eluded them twice while riding a lime green Kawasaki VX12 Ninja motorcycle with a shortened muffler that made the bike very loud.

Police ended two chases because they were too dangerous and accused Humphrey of driving more than 100 mph in a 30 mph zone. He was arrested at his home July 30, according to court documents.

Humphrey’s criminal record dates back to at least 1992 and includes 20 convictions for driving with a suspended license and four for attempting to elude police.

He also has convictions for theft, escape, burglary and drug possession.

Dragging death still unsolved

Ten months since their daughter was found dead in a Spokane street, dragged more than 13 blocks by a driver who has never been found, and the questions remain: How? Why? And, above all, who?

“I have a hard time with it, especially on Mother’s Day and her birthday,” Vicky Littell said. “I just don’t know how anyone could hit someone and drag them a mile and not know it.” 

Susette G. Werner, who would have turned 43 on Dec. 12, was struck near Cedar Street and Carlisle Avenue early Feb. 8.

Her body was found on Ash Street just north of Maxwell Avenue, where a memorial of flowers still stands. Police think she was dragged from Cedar to Northwest Boulevard, then south onto Ash, where the body was found.

But detectives have few clues, and what investigators at one point thought could be their big break has fizzled.

Read the rest of my story here.

Read a previous story here.

Big Brothers poster boy accused of attempted murder

The man accused of a shooting in downtown Coeur d’Alene is the CEO and president of a Coeur d’Alene-based independent telecommunications company.

He also was featured last Sunday in a Handle Extra feature story on the mentoring program Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Johnson credited his participation in the program from age 10 to 16 with helping him prepare for adulthood.

“It really forged my character. Don taught me that nothing is impossible. And it was great to have someone listen – even to my totally crazy dreams. He always said, ‘Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,’” said Johnson.

Johnson also was mentioned in a July 2007 story about Internet-based phone services.

At the time, Convertec was three years old and served about 100 customers. Operating out of a small office, Convertec contracts with other companies to connect calls with the public telephone network, and it uses another vendor to get phone numbers, according to the article you can read here.

Now Johnson is in Kootenai County Jail on one count of attempted murder for a downtown Coeur d’Alene shoooting that left one man critically injured.

Read my story here: 2 men shot in downtown Coeur d’Alene.

Spokane church rammed, ransacked

Here’s a report from Sara Leaming:

A 56-year-old man who investigators say was so upset over a $70 repair bill he rammed his truck into a northeast Spokane church and ransacked the inside was arrested today.

Mark T. Heitman, a parishioner of the Country Crossroads Church at 7011 N. Altamont, allegedly drove his Chevrolet pickup truck into the church building to gain entry Monday night, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said.

Nearly every window, television, computer and light fixture was smashed during the rampage, which caused thousands of dollars of damage, the church pastor said. The tirade was apparently sparked over a $70 repair bill that the church owed Heitman for some electrical work he had done.

“I tried to pay him with a check and he wouldn’t take a check, so I guess he got mad because I didn’t have any cash here at the time,” said Pastor Dan Eubank. “So I guess he decided to take (the money) another way.”

According to court records, it’s not the first time that Heitman, pictured right in 1996, has faced criminal charges for driving his truck through a building in a rage over money.

Documents show he still owes more than $40,000 in restitution and accrued interest stemming from a January 1996 incident in which the Child Support Enforcement building at 1600 W. Boone Ave. was left heavily damaged when he smashed his truck into it, telling authorities “they were taking all of his money.”

Read the rest of Sara Leaming’s story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review.

Back in the news: Sleepy car thief

It was the Spokane teenager’s chance to explain himself to the judge before he was sentenced for car theft last summer.

It took him a couple of tries.

“I don’t even know what you just said,” Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno told Cody A. Gronau in July. The judge told Gronau he seemed to have just strung a bunch of words together that sounded good but didn’t mean anything to him.

Gronau tried again: “I’ve been slacking and doing stuff I’m not supposed to do.”

Five months later, police say Gronau, now 20, tried robbing two people minutes apart near East Sitka and North Nevada Street before being taken down by a K-9 named Leonitis.

Gronau, pictured left in 1996 as a Garden Springs Elementary School first grader trying to pronounce the ‘N’ letter, was arrested Saturday about 1:30 a.m. after he ran across Francis to the south – losing his shoes in the process.

Gronau, who police say didn’t have a gun, is now in Spokane County Jail, due in court today on charges of first-degree robbery and obstructing a public servant.

He was sentenced July 28 to 90 days in jail with credit for 87 served after falling asleep in a stolen car outside the Zip Trip at 1523 W. 10th Ave. in May. (Read more here.)

Gronau’s public defender said at his felony sentencing last summer that he was in mental health court for fourth-degree assault and harassment charges and read a list of drugs he’s been prescribed.

Another charge for Oxy robbery suspect

A man charged with robbing two pharmacies is now accused of trying to flee from police before his arrest. 

Aaron M. Weyrauch, 27, (right, in 2007) appeared in Spokane County Superior Court via video Wednesday, two months after a police chase that ended in his arrest.

Weyrauch faces a felony charge of attempting to elude police along with two counts of second-degree robbery in connection with OxyContin heists Aug. 24 at the Shopko at 4515 S. Regal St., and Sept. 5 at the Rite Aid across the street, 4514 S. Regal St. (Read more here.)

His bond for the eluding charge was set at $10,000 Wednesday. He has a $30,000 bond for the robbery charges.

Police stopped Weyrauch Sept. 15 near 3rd Avenue and Crestline Street, but he sped away and abandoned his 2005 Volvo near 33rd Avenue and Grand Boulevard, according to court documents filed this week.

Weyrauch was arrested as he hid in the back of another car. With him was Dustin J. Rockstrom, 26, who also is accused of the pharmacy robberies.

Rockstrom is out of jail on $30,000 bond. Weyrauch is in jail on $30,000 bond for the robbery charges and $10,000 for the eluding charge, which was set today.

Weyrauch’s convictions include second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful imprisonment (domestic violence) and third-degree domestic violence assault, second degree possession of stolen property and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance - cocaine.

Before his criminal activity made the paper, Weyrauch (left, in 1997) was profiled in the Spokesman-Review Valley Voice as a successful skier who qualified for the Junior Olympics. A ski coach was impressed with Weyrauch’s dedication to the sport.

Read that story here.

Car chase suspect experienced in car chases

A man accused of leading police on a chase from Spokane to Post Falls this morning was arrested in March 2008 after a similar pursuit.

John D. Rovik, 29, was sentenced to 120 days in jail for attempting to elude a police officer last year.

About 4:15 a.m. today, Spokane police spotted a 2002 Buick Century driving erratically near Crestline and Sprague and chased the car on Interstate 90, where sheriff’s deputies used a spike strip to flatten the tires.

Read the rest of my story here.

Accused bank robber experienced in crime

A man accused of robbing a Spokane Valley bank last week served time in federal prison for robbing five banks on the West Side in 2005.

Christopher J. Cook, 42, drove his mother’s car to AmericanWest Bank, 15606 E. Sprague Ave., on Thursday and left with cash he demanded from an employee, according to court documents.

Cook appeared in Spokane County Superior Court via video today after detectives recognized the Suzuki he was in as the car used in the robbery and arrested him on Friday. The personalized license plate was PC, Cook’s mother’s initials.

Cook’s mother, Phyllis Cook of Bothell, told detectives her son had been “on a three-day drug binge” and identified him through surveillance video from the bank, according to court documents.

Cook’s federal probation officer and wife also identified him as the robber, according to the documents. Cook is in Spokane County Jail on $10,000 bond and a federal probation hold.

He was convicted of five counts of bank robbery and sentenced to 57 months in prison in December 2005.

He robbed five banks in Marysville, Bothell, Snohomish, Everett and Edmonds between April 12 and May 9, 2005, stealing more than $7,000.

Court documents show the method in those robberies was similar to the method used in Thursday’s crime. The robber hands the teller a note demanding money but does not display a weapon.

Cook’s federal probation transferred to Eastern Washington in April, according to federal court documents.

Robbery suspects arrested after chase

A deputy rammed the car of two suspected robbers Sunday night after they tried to turn around from a dead end road, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

Justin R. Booth, 29, (left) and Bodi C. Dotson, 19, (right) and are accused of robbing the Dalton Market, 5632 N. 15th Street, at gunpoint.

The Coeur d’Alene men drove northbound on 15th Street near Lookout Drive and Hayden View Loop, then back south on 15th until heading east on Dalton Avenue. The men tried turning around just east of 17th Street after they saw a dead end sign, but the deputy rammed their vehicle, ending the pursuit.

The car had been stolen early that day in Coeur d’Alene, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Booth’s only previous visit to jail was in 1999 on a domestic battery charge.

Dotson has no adult bookings. News archvies show he’s lived in Coeur d’Alene since he was 8 and was pictured with a Fernan Elementary School music class.

In May, he was featured in Handle Extra as one of five people at Sanders Beach who were asked, “What is the most unusual purchase you have made online?”

Dotson responded, “I bought one tire on Craigslist. It was the same as the others I have and it was cheap.”

Dotson and Booth are due in Kootenai County District Court today on charges of robbery and grant theft.

Booth, who deputies said was driving, also is charged with eluding.

Teen gets 22 years for killing girlfriend’s dad

A teenager will serve 22 years in prison for helping his girlfriend kill her father with a sword and baseball bat.

Edmund D. Washington, 19, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced today by Superior Court Judge Michael Price.

It’s the same sentence given to Jacqueline A. Wortham, 18, last month for the brutal slaying of Daniel A. Wortham, 39, on March 21, 2008.

The couple told police they waited more than 5 hours for the man to return to his home at 2617 E. Sharp Ave., from a plumbing job.

The picture above shows a different side of Washington.

Spokesman-Review photographer Dan Pelle made the photo in November 2006 as Washington, then 16, camped out with friends outside the Circuit City at the Spokane Valley Mall, waiting for the release of the PlayStation 3.

Read past coverage of the murder here.

The mother of Washington’s best friend wrote the newspaper after his arrest and said the teen was a good kid who was “fiercely protective of the people he loves.”

Read that letter here.

Feds issue ‘clarification’ in cocaine case

An order order issued Wednesday by U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno stated Canadian cocaine suspect Michael B. Yuill’s employer was being investigated “relevant to the pending charges.”

Not true, according to this document filed Friday.

“The Government did not intent to assert that the Defendant’s former employer is under investigation for the pending charges,” according to the document. “The government is aware that the recent fire at the Defendant’s former place of employment is under investigation by Canadian authorities as a suspicious fire. The Government does not have information that the Defendant’s former employer is under investigation for the drug trafficking offense charged in the present case.”

Yuill is being held without bond in the Spokane County Jail after being arrested Oct. 7 with 38 kilos of cocaine in a rented SUV. (Read more here.)

A social networking Web site for his business said Yuill is known in his hometown of Salmon Arm, B.C, as “the guy that dresses up as Shrek every Halloween,” referring to the animated character.

True, according to the local newspaper, the Salmon Arm Observer. The paper this morning emailed us the above photo of Yuill dressed as Shrek in 2005.

Fire victim owned refrigerant company

The Rathdrum man killed in a mobile home fire Sunday has been identified as Gary M. Lindgren, 65.

Lindgren died of smoke inhalation from an electrical fire caused by the misuse of extension cords, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department announced today. His neighbors called firefighters after seeing smoke from his home, 10278 N. Church Road, about 6:45 p.m.

Neighbors tried dousing the blaze with a garden house, but flames engulfed the home and Lindgren’s body was found about two hours later, the sheriff’s department said. The residence was both Lindgren’s home and office space for his refrigerant company, OZ Technology.

The company touted its air-conditioning refrigerant HC-12a as a cheaper and more effective alternative to other automobile refrigerants, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has banned it from being used for that purpose.

Read about it here.

Courthouse watch: 9.1.09

A career criminal whose defense attorney said he’d “about run himself out of rope” at his sentencing four years ago is back in the court system, accused of something police say he does for a living: burglary.

Christopher J. Cannata, 37, was scheduled to plead not guilty today to charges of second-degree burglary and possession of burglary tools. He was arrested Aug. 21 with Joseph A. Gariepy, 38, after watchful neighbors in Rockford spotted the men breaking into a storage unit.

The residents gave the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office a description of the men and their vehicle, and a deputy saw a 1997 White Chevy Lumina matching that description pass him northbound on state Highway 24 as he headed to the burglary scene.

Other deputies set up stop sticks on the highway at 32nd Avenue, which disabled a front tire. Deputies found a bolt cutter and items stolen in the burglary, including a $450 air conditioner and wood frames and oil paintings worth $200, according to a search warrant filed in Spokane County District Court.

Cannata was sentenced to prison in 2005 on charges of residential burglary and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

His mother and new wife pleaded with the judge for leniency at the time, blaming Cannata’s 19 criminal convictions on an untreated drug problem. When he sought treatment at 13, he was molested by a priest, his lawyer said, leading to a successful lawsuit.

Read the story from May 2005 here.

Spotlight: Eddie Ray Hall’s mullet

Eddie Ray Hall’s rise to fame can be traced to this article, published in 1998.

Authorities used him as an example of how much criminals cost society, estimating Hall cost about $1 million. Hall gave an extensive interview to the newspaper, and the power mullet showcased in his portrait (right) lives on in our archives.

Eleven years later, Hall is something of a legend in police and media circles. Somewhere, rumor has it, is a video montage of his mug shots set to this song by columnist Doug Clark.

In the 11 years since The Spokesman-Review detailed his criminal history, Hall (left, in 2008) has made the news dozens more times, mostly for theft, meth and burglary.

If police issued a warrant for his arrest, it typically made the newspaper.

We haven’t done a comprehensive look at Hall’s criminal history in a few years, but previous stories have set his felony convictions at “more than 20.”

Now Hall is up against federal charges.

Read Sara Leaming’s story here.

Then and now: Scott Shupe

Before Scott Shupe made news for getting busted in Oregon with four pounds of marijuana, he was spotlighted for an unusual collection: more than 300,000 marbles.

The 54-year-old Spokane man faces drug charges after he was arrested Friday with a stash he said was meant for medical marijuana patients at the dispensary he co-owns in Spokane, Change.

But Shupe (pictured above in 2005) doesn’t have a medical marijuana card in Oregon.

Even if he did, police say the four pounds he was caught with exceeds the pound and a half limit in place in Oregon and Washington. (Read my story here.)

Shupe’s legal problems are a sharp change from his last news-making feat. Read a June 2005 story on his marble collection here.

The ‘big’ in big-time criminal history

A woman with a criminal history so extensive a prosecutor told a judge she has “more experience with misdemeanor citations than all of us combined” is back in jail on a charge she knows well: theft.

Nearly eights years after Lawanda R. Hopkins-Sparks, 57, stole a Red Cross donation jar set up for victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, she faces allegations of a low-level jewelry scam at a clothing store.

Hopkins-Sparks appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday on charges of third-degree theft and first-degree trafficking in stolen property. Crime Stoppers had offered a reward for information leading to her capture two days earlier.

She’s already been convicted of third-degree theft 13 times.

Four of those convictions came in the years between her arrest for stealing a 9-11 donation jar at a Spokane Valley Texaco station in October 2001 and her arrest yesterday for an alleged theft in May at the downtown Nordstrom.

Hopkins has at least 32 criminal convictions dating back to 1981, court documents show. In a Crime Stoppers news release, Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan called Hopkins-Sparks a fugitive who “puts the ‘big’ in big-time criminal history.” (That also may reference the fact that she’s 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, according to the news release.)

Most of her convictions are for theft and stolen property, including a first-degree theft conviction in 1988 for welfare fraud.

“Most of the gaps in her criminal history are due to her being incarcerated,” said Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens, adding that Hopkins-Sparks has also failed to appear in court 14 times and has had 20 felony warrants. “She’s a huge problem in the community and incredibly likely to reoffend.” Stevens asked for $50,000 bond.

Public Defender Victoria Johnston asked that Hopkins-Sparks be released on her own recognizance, noting she has surgery scheduled at the end of the month. Hopkins-Sparks attended her video first appearance in a wheelchair.

“She learned her lesson a long time ago about failing to appear,” Johnston said. “We’re here over $111.”

That’s the value of two pieces of jewelry Hopkins-Sparks is accused of stealing, then trying to exchange for cash, all in one store visit.

Judge Ellen Kalama Clark set bond at $25,000.

While Sparks has extensive experience with non-violent crimes, she also has experience as a victim of tragedy. In 2003, a man was sentenced to 25 years for murdering her son. Read a story on that here.

Bearded woman back in court

A woman who sometimes grows a full beard as a symbol of her activism for human rights is back in the Spokane County Superior Court system after a police officer said she grabbed his left testicle.

Paula K. Reynolds-Eblacas, 42, was convicted of stalking in 2006 after a woman said she tried to end a friendship but was inundated with phone calls and others contacts by Reynolds-Eblacas.

Read Tom Clouse’s stories on that case here and here. (Reynolds-Eblacas entered an alford plea to violating a protection order and was credited for one day served in jail.)

Now Reynolds-Eblacas is facing a third-degree assault charge for an alleged attack while she was handcuffed last month.

Police were trying to transport her to a hospital for a mental evaluation when the officer “felt the pressure of Paula squeezing her fist and he thrust his hips away from her hand to break free,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

“The defendant said, ‘I was trying to grab your pant leg and your body got in the way,’” according to the affidavit.

Reynolds-Eblacas pleaded not guilty to the charge Monday.

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