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1 arrested for stabbing near fire station

A firefighter standing outside a station at West 1st Avenue and South Walnut Street Friday witnessed a stabbing and treated the victim's head injury, authorities say.

Dean Carr was on the south side of the fire station when he saw a man approach two people who were sitting in the grassy area just south of the station about 6:15 p.m., according to court documents.

Carr called 911 when a fight broke out and saw the assailant pick up two sleeping bags and walk away. He treated the man for a stab wound to the head and identified Richard A. Sala, 21, as the attacker. Spokane police had found a knife with blood on it in Sala's right front pocket, documents say.

Sala, who has previous convictions for assault, said he fought with the couple because he believes the sleeping bags belong to him, police say. He was arrested for first-degree robbery. The sleeping bags were recovered.

Two hours later, another stabbing was reported at 2305 W. Dean Ave. Suspect Kenneth W. Middleton, 32, was arrested for first-degree assault for allegedly attacking a man who was arguing with the man's own wife.

Both men appeared in Superior Court on Monday.

Mother probed for baby’s skull fracture

Spokane police are investigating a mother for possible assault charges after her baby suffered a skull fracture when she dropped him while boarding an STA bus.

A bus passenger saw the woman drop the 7-month-old boy as she tried to board in the 1300 block of East Sprague Avenue outside the Union Gospel Mission women's shelter on Aug. 9.

The witness said the boy cried a little bit and appeared lethargic as his mother picked up him and got on the bus and was “swaying and staggering,” according to a search warrant filed recently to obtain the woman's medical records.

The witness thought the woman was on drugs and said the boy was filthy, according to the warrant.

Police contacted the woman as she sat on a bench at the STA Plaza, where she said she was on Xanax and another drug she couldn't identify. The officer was “extremely concerned about her ability to care for the baby,” whom he said didn't appear to have been washed for some time.

“The baby appeared to be in good health other than the poor hygiene,” according to the search warrant.

The woman was arrested on a warrant for driving while suspended while the child was taken by Child Protective Services.

The baby's foster mother alerted police two days later to a lump on the boy's head, which an emergency room doctor said was a skull fracture. Police investigating possible assault charges have seized the mother's medical records to try to determine her level of impairment when she dropped the boy.

UI officials met w/ Benoit before slaying

University of Idaho officials met with Kathryn “Katy” Benoit on the day she was killed and cautioned her to remain vigilant and keep in contact with the Moscow Police Department, according to the university.

In a news release, UI President M. Duane Nellis also announced that he has directed university attorneys to seek court approval for the release of personnel information from former professor Ernesto Bustamante, who shot Benoit 11 times on Monday outside her Moscow apartment.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 26: Vigil honors slain UI student

Aug. 24: Family: Slain student had complained about suspect

Victim’s friends ID’d professor to 911

Hundreds of students, staff and friends gathered in Friendship Square in downtown Moscow Idaho to honor slain U/I grad student Katy Benoit on Thursday. (SR photo/Christopher Anderson)

By JESSIE L. BONNER,Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — In the immediate aftermath of a brutal killing on their back porch, the roommates of a slain Idaho graduate student told a 911 operator that they could think of only one person who could have fired the fatal shots — a university professor whom their friend had recently dated.

Meghan Walker-Smith and Emma Gregory were heard on the 911 recording released Thursday telling a dispatcher that Katy Benoit (left) had been involved with a University of Idaho professor named Ernesto Bustamante, (right) who police say alternately referred to himself as a “psychopathic killer” and “the beast.”

Benoit's roommates told the dispatcher Bustamante had just been asked to leave the school. The operator asked the two, who could both be heard speaking on the call, whether Bustamante's departure was because of Benoit, one roommate replied, “Yeah.”

“He just got asked to leave the university,” she said. “That's why I'm assuming this would happen.”

Read the rest of the story on the 911 call by clicking the link below.

Friends of Benoit held a candlelight vigil in her honor Thursday night in Moscow. Read the story here.

Family: Murder victim filed UI complaint

A Moscow police officer uses a video camera in a room rented by Ernesto Bustamante at the University Inn-Best Western in Moscow, Idaho, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Geoff Crimmins)

BOISE — A college professor who alternately referred to himself as a “psychopathic killer” and “the beast” committed suicide after killing a graduate student he had recently dated, police said in newly revealed court documents.

Meanwhile, Katy Benoit’s family said  Wednesday that the psychology student had become increasingly alarmed about Ernesto A. Bustamante’s behavior and had taken steps to get away from the man who police say eventually killed her.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story here.

Man accused of injuring police dog

A Spokane man was arrested on suspicion of injuring a police dog after during a domestic violence arrest call last weekend.

 Gerry R. Elerding, 39, is accused of violently fighting with Spokane police K-9 Leo as police responded to a report of an assault and no-contact order violation at an apartment in the 1300 block of South Adams Street about 4 a.m. on Saturday.

An officer forced the door open at the home and found Elerding's ex-girlfriend but could not locate the suspect, so he requested assistance from a police dog.

K-9 Leo entered the basement, and police heard him yelp “as if he had been hurt,” according to court documents.

Officers found Leo moving toward the basement stairs with his leg caught in his partially pulled off harness, documents say.

Police say the secured harness had never before come off “nor has Leo ever left a suspect during a fight or capture.” Leo has been involved in nearly 30 violent captures, according to police.

Elerding remains in jail on a state Department of Corrections probation hold, as well as $1,900 bail for charges of violating a no-contact order and harming a police dog.

He has previous convictions for drugs, eluding police and, just in June, violating a domestic violence no-contact order.
  

Cops: Man attacks son-in-law w/ knife

An ongoing dispute between a man and his son-in-law culminated a knife attack at a north Spokane home Friday, police say.

Vernon Ray Zielinski, 57, was arrested for first-degree assault after his son-in-law, Tad Howard, and witnesses said Zielinski stabbed him in the hand as Howard tried to fight off the attack.

Family members told police that Zielinski had threatened Howard before and once wrote him a letter saying he wanted to “cut him into little pieces” and mail him to his mother, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Three young children witnessed the attack about 1:30 p.m., Spokane police said.

Felon arrested for kidnapping, threats

A Spokane man released from prison in March is accused of kidnapping his girlfriend and threatening to kill her.

Duane L. Comeslast, 32, is charged with felony kidnapping, harassment and car theft after his girlfriend told police he forced her into her Jeep Cherokee at 2130 E. North Crescent Ave. and drove toward Upriver Drive, where he told her “he was going to kill her and throw her body in the river where no one would find it,” according to court documents.

The woman told police she acted complaint and asked Comeslast to talk her to East Longfellow Avenue and North Florida Street to use the bathroom, knowing she had friends near the park.

She got out of the Jeep and Comeslast recognized her uncle's car and tried to drag her back to the Jeep, but she was able to break free, according to court documents.

Police arrived at her uncle's home at 4111 E. Longfellow and discovered the alleged victim with bruises and swollen lip. Comeslast was arrested and held in Benton County on a parole violation until he was transferred to the Spokane County Jail to face charges.

He appeared in Superiro Court Tuesday and remains in jail on $75,000 bond. Comeslast has previous convictions for domestic violence assault.

Comeslast and his family were featured in this 1995 article about his younger brother's arrest on murder charges.

Woman with trail of dead husbands dies

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — An elderly grandmother who left a trail of five dead husbands in five states over decades has died, leaving a longer trail of questions for survivors of her spouses that might never be answered.

  Betty Neumar, 79, died late Sunday or early Monday in a hospital in Louisiana after an illness, her son-in-law Terry Sanders told The Associated Press.

“She was tough country girl and fought through a lot of pain,” said Sanders, who has been married 38 years to Neumar's daughter.

Authorities in North Carolina said they planned to look into her death. She was free on $300,000 bond on three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder in the 1986 death of her fourth husband, Harold Gentry. Her trial was postponed numerous times since her arrest in 2008.

“We're going to make sure we examine the death certificate,” said Sheriff Rick Burris of Stanly County, N.C.

Read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Mitch Weiss by clicking the link below.

  

Man accused of killing girlfriend’s cat

A 21-year-old Spokane man is accused of killing his girlfriend's cat.

Corey C. Fries was arrested Saturday after his girlfriend of 1 1/2 years told police he'd held the cat to the floor about two weeks ago and hit it in the head with a walking cane, killing it.

Fries told the woman “that she needed to tell people that her cat ran away,” according to court documents.

Spokane police learned of the cat's death after responding to the couple's home at 3024 E. 30th Ave., Saturday for a domestic dispute. Fries was arrested for misdemeanor assault and reportedly admitted to killing the cat, police said, though he denied hitting it with a cane.

Fries appeared on a first-degree animal cruelty charge today in Spokane County Superior Court, where his bail was set at $5,000.

Repeat girlfriend beater gets 33 months

A Coeur d'Alene man with a history of domestic violence was sentenced this week to 2 1/2 years for the the attempted strangulation of his girlfriend.

David B. Moen, 41, is to serve 33 months in prison and will not be credited for 257 days already served in jail.

Moen was sentenced by 1st District Judge Fred Gibler for attempted strangulation and felony domestic violence for a Sept. 12 assault on his then-girlfriend. Moen choked the woman, hit her head against a hall and punched and kicked her in the head several times, according to the Kootenai County Prosceutor's Office.

Moen's extensive criminal history includes five felony convictions and 17 misdemeanor convictions. He was convicted of domestic violence assault in 2002 for an incident with another ex-girlfriend, according to news archives.

Moen was on federal probation for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine when he was arrested last year.

In a prepared statement, Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh praised the 33-month sentence for the repeat offender.

“His conduct reveals his inability, at this time, after many convictions, to comply with society's rules…Following his incarceration, we hope his federal probation will continue so that sufficient incentives are in place to convince Mr. Moen to avoid further violation,” McHugh said.

Brute Gets 33 Months In Prison

A 41-year-old Coeur d'Alene man with and extensive criminal record has been sentenced to a fixed prison term of 33 months for attempted strangulation and felony domestic violence against a former girlfriend. David B. Moen wasn't given credit for the 257 days he's already served awaiting sentencing in the brutal attack against his former girlfriend last Sept. 12. Moen choked the woman, banged her head against a wall, and punched and kicked her in the head. Judge Fred Gibler handled the sentencing. You can read the rest of the news release from Prosecutor Barry McHugh's office here.

Man admits to stalking, bomb charges

A man who tried to blow up his wife with a homemade bomb after transporting the device from Omak, Washington, to Kamiah, Idaho, in 2009 has pleaded guilty to three federal felonies.

Levi Wayne Mendenhall, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison and three years probation after pleading guilty Tuesday in Coeur d'Alene to stalking, transporting explosives with intent to kill, injure, or intimidate, and use of explosive material during the commission of a federal felony.

Mendenhall  constructed the device using a three-inch plastic pipe filled with explosive powder, razor blades and BBs after buying the components at stores in northeastern Washington, according to the Idaho U.S. Attorney's Office.

He wired the device to a battery and placed it inside a box, then set the device to trigger an explosion when and items was removed from the box. He placed the box on the hood of a car outside his estranged wife's home. The homeowner found the box and called authorities after she saw wires.

The Spokane County bomb squad safely disarmed the device.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms nd Explosives recovered explosive powder matching the device and a receipt for two of the bomb components at Mendenhall's home in Omak. They also found video of him buying the components at four Washington stores, and located Mendenhall's fingerprint on the outside of the box that held the bomb.

Mendenhall is to be sentenced Aug. 2 before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge in Coeur d'Alene

“Women who end domestic relationships must be free from violence and fear of violence,” U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said in a prepared statement. “This defendant's conduct endangered many lives. His guilty plea ensures that he will not present a danger to his now ex-wife or any other person for a long time.”
  

Armed man surrenders to pepper spray

A domestic violence suspect arrested after a standoff in north Spokane on Saturday made statements about “shooting it out with police” and “suicide by cop,” police said today.

James Michael Vandyke, 41, is to appear in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon on a second-degree assault charge after police used pepper spray to force him from a home in the 5500 block of North Greenwood Boulevard on Saturday.

Officers arrived to find Vandyke forcibly holding his wife while clutching a gun. He refused to drop the gun and went inside before allowing his wife and others to leave. The standoff last several hours.

After Vandyke exited because of the pepper spray, police found two loaded .40 caliber handguns and a loaded assault rifle on the living room floor.

In a news release issued today, Officer Teresa Fuller said police “have responded to several of these types of incidents in the last couple of months.”

“They are highly unpredictable and, as we’ve seen in jurisdictions around the country recently, can end in citizens and/or officers seriously injured or worse,” Fuller wrote. “Officers of the Spokane Police Department rely on expert training and state of the arts tools they have to try and resolve the incidents as peacefully as possible.”

Not all law enforcement officials carry pepper spray. Spokane County sheriff's officials say it comes down to personal preference.

Man sentenced in love triangle stabbing

A man who stabbed his lover's estranged husband was released from jail after pleading guilty to a felony assault charge.

Dumont P. Whitt, 35, was sentenced to 2.25 months in jail Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court but credited for time already served and good behavior in jail.

He pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree assault for a stabbing Dec. 28 at a home at 2415 E. 1st Ave.

Spokane police initially believed Whitt may have stabbed Robert D. McQueen in self defense after McQueen confronted Whitt  and McQueen's wife, Alicia McQueen, but Whitt was arrested about a week after the incident.

McQueen was hospitalized with critical injuries from several stab wounds but has since improved and was arrested on a trespassing charge.
  

Police: Man attacked officers with bat

A man was arrested after charging at two Spokane police officers with a baseball bat early Saturday morning.

Michael A. Bernal, 29, was arrested after Officers James Erickson and James Christensen responded to the 200 block of East Crown Avenue at 1:57 a.m. for a 911 hang-up call. A dispatcher had called back, and a woman told the dispatcher she could not speak freely.

When officers knocked on the door, Bernal allegedly “whipped the door open, armed himself with a baseball bat and then swung it at the officers, almost hitting them both,” police said in a news release.

Police said Bernal refused to drop the bat. As he charged at officers with the bat, the woman, whom police did not identify, grabbed him around the waist. Police said he then threw the bat at the officers, broke free and yelled, “Bring it on!”

All three ended up on the ground when they tried to arrest him. During the struggle, Bernal grabbed one of their flashlights in “another apparent attempt to assault the officers,” police said.

Officers Bernal on two counts of second-degree assault. They determined there was no crime committed between Bernal and woman.

Electronic bracelets for stalkers?

OLYMPIA — Requiring stalkers to wear electronic monitoring bracelets could have saved the life of a Tacoma teacher, a House panel was told Monday.

The parents of Jennifer Paulson pleaded with the House Judiciary Committee to approve HB 1180, a bill that would allow judges to require electronic monitoring devices be worn by people under an anti-harassment order for stalking.

Paulson was shot to death by Jed Waits as she tried to enter the Tacoma elementary school where she taught special education. Waits was under a court order to stay away from Paulson and the school, but  had been arrested for violating it on Feb. 19, 2010 and was at the school entrance a week later when she arrived.

Waits shot her and fled. Paulson died at the school and Waits died later that day in shootout with Pierce County sheriff's deputies.

Stalkers should have to wear a monitoring device that would alert their victims when they are within a certain distance, Paulson's mother Nancy Heisler said. It may not have prevented her daughter's death “but it could have given her a chance.”

“She did all the right things,” Heisler said, adding that Waits was not a former boyfriend, just someone Jennifer met years earlier in college and who became obsessed. “She was just kind to this man. How many more mothers have to lose their daughters?”

Rich Bartholomew, a representative for the state Bar Association, argued that monitors shouldn't be required when a protection order is first issued, because that's a civil proceeding and sometimes occurs without the defendant present. If a person violates a protective order, that's a criminal proceeding and the appropriate setting to order electronic monitoring, he said.

The committee was also asked to develop clearer rules for courts to end “permanent” domestic violence orders. Victims of abuse urged the panel to make it more difficult to set aside a protection order, but some family law attorneys argued that a chance to have the protection order changed or revoked is the best way to get abusers to work to change their behavior.

Officers in Sunday’s fatal shooting ID’d

The police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a domestic violence suspect Sunday were identified Friday as Sgt. Dave Overhoff and Officer Chris McMurtrey.

McMurtrey, 31, has been with the Spokane Police Department for two years; Overhoff, 48, is an 18-year veteran.

Investigators have not said who fired the shots that killed Kenneth R. Dennis, who police say was shot after he “almost stabbed one of the officers,” according to a search warrant filed in Spokane County District Court.

That officer was interviewed Friday morning, said Trooper Troy Briggs, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, which is leading the multi-agency investigation.

“It’ll probably be Monday until we release (his name),” Briggs said.

Dennis’ family said the officers burst into the home and did not identify themselves.

Read my full story here.

Mead man sentenced for wife’s murder

A Mead man who killed his wife in front of their son was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison.

Jeffrey N. Canino, 47, received 180 months in prison in a sentence recommend by Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor John Love and imposed by Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke.

Canino pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder for the Dec. 2, 2009, stabbing death of 43-year-old Michelle Canino at the family’s home at 4518 E. Woodglen Road.

Canino, who says he doesn’t remember the incident, was concerned about losing his job at a car dealership, according to past reports, and the couple’s son, who was 11 at the time, told police Canino said his wife had indicated she wanted a divorce.

Canino remains at the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to state prison. 

Past coverage:

Dec. 22: Man guilty in wife's murder

Dec. 23, 2009: Bond, charge reduce in Mead murder

Dec. 8, 2009: Canino on meds for depression

Armed woman arrested in police standoff

A woman armed with a handgun and accused of threatening her husband was arrested after a police standoff early this morning in northwest Spokane.

Rhonda R. Thompson, 49, was described by her husband as extremely agitated and combative” when officers arrived near 2500 W. Houston about 3:30 a.m.

The man said Thompson was highly intoxicated and was threatening him with a handgun, police said.

Police spent more than an hour trying to get Thompson out of the home. She was arrested without incident, and a firearm was found in her bedroom.

She's due in Superior Court this afternoon on a felony harassment charge.

“Domestic violence calls for service are consistently dangerous and unpredictable. Most parties are emotionally involved and require the patience of responding officers to diffuse the situations,” according to a police news release.  “Fortunately, in this morning's incident, both the involved parties and the officers safely walked away from a potentially life threatening situation.”

Valley felon arrested with firearm

A Spokane Valley man was arrested Saturday after police investigating domestic violence allegations found him with a handgun. Rashad K. Harper, 29, was arrested for felon in possession of a firearm after police detained him near a convenience store.

His girlfriend had called 911 about 4:40 p.m. and said he'd damaged the windshield of her car during an argument at their apartment in 10800 block of East Third, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

The woman said Harper had access to a gun, and officers learned he had a Washington Department of Corrections warrant out for his arrest.

Police found a Tech 9 semi-automatic gun in his jacket sleeve and two loaded 10-round pistol magazines in his inside jacket pocket. Harper, who has previous domestic violence convictions, also had a loaded 30-round ammo magazine in his pants pocket.

Mead man pleads guilty in wife’s slaying

Jeffrey N. Canino pleaded guilty today to second-degree murder for the Dec. 2, 2009, slaying of his wife, 43-year-old Michelle Canino.

As part of the plea, Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor John Love agreed to drop a two-year weapon enhancement.

He recommended that Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke sentence Canino, 47, to 15 years in prison at hearing scheduled for Jan. 21.

Canino provided no explanation for his actions.

Read Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 23, 2009: Bond, charge reduce in Mead murder

Dec. 8, 2009: Canino on meds for depression

Dec. 8, 2009: Victim may have sought divorce

Dec. 5, 2009: Family stunned by slaying

Victim’s ex gets 9 mos. for hit-and-run

A man who left his former girlfriend for dead along the Pullman-Albion Road last November has been sentenced to nine months in jail after entering an Alford plea earlier this month.

Richard Pasma, apologized to the family of Kristen Grindley before being sentenced, turning to face them and saying, “I know you don’t think I’m sorry, but I am really sorry.”

His mother testified that Pasma and his family have prayed daily for Kristen’s health since she was found on the road on Nov. 11, 2009.  She suffered multiple skull fractures, broken bones, bruises and cuts. She left a rehabilitation center in Spokane after months of therapy.

Read more on KHQ.com.

Man accused of assaulting deputies

Two Spokane County deputies received injuries Tuesday in a dispute that led to the arrest of a 44-year-old Spokane Valley man.

Steven W. Prater was arrested at 13924 E. Mallon Ave., in Spokane Valley, where two deputies responded to a domestic violence call about 8:07 p.m. Prater refused to talk to them and walked away, then refused commands to stop and resisted arrested, according to probable cause affidavit.

Prater “told deputies he wanted to fight” and hit two, deputies Petersen and Bohanek, in the face, according to the affidavit, which was filed to support two counts of third-degree assault, and single counts of fourth-degree assault, third-degree malicious mischief and resisting arrest against Prater.

Three residents witnessed the scuffle and described Prater as combative and said he’d broken a door prior to police arrival, deputies said.

Prater remained in jail on $20,000 bond late Wednesday after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court.

Woman accused of assault, kidnapping

A Spokane woman accused of kidnapping her girlfriend at knife point last weekend remains in jail on $10,000 bond.

Emily J. Lystad, 25, was arrested Saturday after her girlfriend, Serena King, told police Lystad assaulted her at Irv’s bar, 415 W. Sprague Ave., and drove her to a cabin in Worley, Idaho, while threatening her with a knife.

Lystad then drove King to their home at 10714 E. Augusta Ave., in Spokane Valley, where the couple have lived for about a month, according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Lystad choked and hit King after tying her to their bed “with ropes that were tied to the bed frame,” according to the affidavit.

A roommate helped untie King and noticed bruises on her face, deputies said. Lystad was arrested at 312 W. 8th and reportedly admitted to deputies that she’d assaulted King and forced her into her car at knife point. Deputies described her as “remorseful.”

“Lystad admitted to saying she wanted King dead if she could not be with her,” according to the affidavit.

Lystad appeared in Superior Court Monday on first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault charges. Her arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 16.

Cemetery owners’ dispute leads to gunfire

A domestic dispute between two cemetery owners erupted in gunfire Sunday in Moses Lake, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office announced today. 

Mark L. Benson, 55, is charged with attempted first-degree murder after his wife, Susan L. Benson, said he fired several rounds, striking her left shoulder, as she fled in her car.

Susan Benson, also 55, remains hospitalized today with a non-life threatening gunshot wound, according to the Sheriff’s Office. She called 911 about 6:30 p.m. Sunday and said she was fleeing her husband after being shot and was going to drive herself to Samaritan Hospital, the Sheriff’s Office said.

She’d been working at the Moses Lake Cemetery, which the couple owns, when Mark Benson arrived and wanted to talk about their pending divorce and whether their marriage could be saved, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Susan Benson said she left the cemetery, located about eight miles east of Moses Lake on Road 2, without saying anything but was followed by Mark Benson, who fired several shots.

Mark Benson called 911 and advised of his location. He was arrested without incident and remains in the Grant County Jail.

Woman sues under domestic violence law

MOSES LAKE, Wash. (AP) — An Eastern Washington woman has filed suit against her former employer, claiming the company failed to provide time off to deal with a domestic violence case and ultimately fired her.

Attorney Eric Gutierrez of Columbia Legal Services says this is the first case under the state’s 2008 Domestic Violence Leave Act. The law requires employers to give employees reasonable time off to attend court and ensure their family’s safety if they are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

The woman, who filed suit under the pseudonym “Jane Doe,” filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Grant Count Superior Court against Genie Industries Inc., which is based in Redmond but has a manufacturing facility in Moses Lake.

Company officials did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

Family: Murder-suicide suspect was unstable

The man who fatally shot his ex-fiancée and her 9-year-old son in Spokane Valley this week had been suicidal in the past and owned several guns, new court documents say.

Jan R. DeMeerleer’s brother-in-law, John F. Schweitzer, told police DeMeerleer (pictured) “is bipolar and you never know what he is going to do,” according to a warrant used to search DeMeerleer’s home at 8324 E. Briant Lane on Sunday.

“Schweitzer said that he knows Jan DeMeerleer has been suicidal in the past,” according to the warrant prepared by Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Michael Drapeau and filed this week in District Court. “Schweitzer told (detectives) that if DeMeerleer has not committed suicide ‘he soon will.’”

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

July 20: Credit union to match donations after slaying

July 20: Homicide victim had overcome much

July 19: Suspect found dead after 2 killed, 1 injured

Homicidal rampage leaves layers of tragedy

Tragedy struck Rebecca Schiering early and often in life.

The Spokane Valley woman struggled with drug addiction and abuse for years but picked herself up, escaping the crime-addled father of her twin boys.

That part of her life was a distant memory when he was killed in a drug-related robbery four years ago.  But despite her best efforts, tragedy struck the 36-year-old and her children again this weekend.

Police say her ex-fiancé, a seemingly stable mechanical engineer who once embraced her children as his own, ended her life in a violent rampage that also killed one of her 9-year-old twin boys and left her teenage son with knife wounds to his neck.

The second twin, who is autistic, was not harmed in the attack and is staying with family.

“Her children were her inspiration,” said Schiering’s aunt, Bonnie Bickler, who traveled to Spokane from Billings.

She said the boys, like the rest of the family, are struggling.

 “We’re just trying to get our arms around it,” Bickler said. “It’s just so hard to deal with.”

Police believe Jan R. DeMeerleer (left), 39, shot Schiering and 9-year-old Phillip Schiering in the woman’s duplex at 622 N. Ella Road before trying to cut the teen, who called 911 about 3 a.m.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

July 19: Suspect found dead after 2 killed, 1 injured

Police: Knife-point kidnapping closes U.S. 95

An estranged Spokane couple shut down U.S Highway 95 near Athol today after police say the man held the woman hostage at knife point.

Damien L. Bunch, 27, (right) was arrested after police investigating a crash about 7:15 a.m. found him holding Deanna Lafrombois, 29, at knife point inside a car at milepost 444, the State Police reported.

Police were able to rescue Lafrombois after about 30 minutes spent negotiating with Bunch. Lafrombois was taken to Kootenai Medical Center with knife wounds.

Bunch faces charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and possession of methamphetamine. He’s already on probation in Spokane County after pleading guilty to harassment in December. He was credited for 58 days served in jail.

In February, Bunch and Lafrombois petitioned for divorce, according to news archives.

Bunch also has convictions in Spokane for domestic violence harassment and first-degree criminal trespass from 2007.