November 7, 2008 in City

Police investigate claim against coach


The boys basketball coach at Ferris High School is on paid administrative leave after a student told police he sexually assaulted her.

Don Van Lierop was put on leave Wednesday night, said Terren Roloff, spokeswoman for Spokane Public Schools. No charges have been filed and Van Lierop has not been arrested, but the Spokane Police Department’s sexual assault unit is investigating the claim, Officer Brian Eckersley said Thursday.

“The investigation has just started,” Eckersley said.

Van Lierop, a social studies teacher, led the powerhouse Saxon boys basketball team to state championships in 2007 and 2008. He had been let go for the 2004-05 season but was rehired the next year after hiring a lawyer and filing a grievance, according to previously published reports.

Van Lierop could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Meghann M. Cuniff

Grant County

Police say man was killed over kitten

A dead kitten led to the beating death of a Grant County man, authorities said Thursday.

Deputies arrested two men and two teenagers from Coulee City and Soap Lake Wednesday evening and charged them with second-degree murder in the death of Jeff A. Smith, 49, who was found dead in his home Oct. 12.

Alexander L. Wiltfong, 18; Robert M. Wiltfong, 23; and Michael M. Loska, 20, are in the Grant County Jail on $250,000 bail set by a judge Thursday. A 15-year-old juvenile is in the juvenile center on $50,000 bail.

Officials believe the four severely beat Smith Oct. 10 after learning he’d killed a kitten one had given to him the previous day, said John Turley, Grant County undersheriff.

Deputies investigated the assault but Smith, who was drunk, declined to press charges, Turley said. Two days later, a neighbor found Smith dead in his bed at 704 Locust Street in Coulee City. Authorities believe he died as a result of head trauma from the beating.

Meghann M. Cuniff


Photo Red citation fight planned

The first car to be photographed for a Photo Red violation will likely be contested.

The registered owner listed on the citation says the Toyota Matrix was traded in at a dealership a month ago. Charles D. Spencer plans to take the steps to fight the infraction.

Since Nov. 1, about 60 official tickets have been issued.The fine is $124, but the infraction will not be reported to their insurance.

This is the second month the cameras have been capturing drivers on film. The first month, only warnings were sent out.If police continue to send out Photo Red citations at the same rate they did warnings, the program could generate approximately $848,160 per year. Original revenue projections were about $500,000 annually.

Jody Lawrence-Turner

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