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Pizza delivery driver robbed, carjacked

A pizza delivery driver was robbed and carjacked Friday in Grant County after being lured with a fake order placed through an iPhone application, officials say.

Deputies responded to the robbery in the 1200 block of Pershing Road, north of Moses Lake about 9 p.m., where a 22-year-old Pizza Hut driver said he'd been attacked at knife point by three men.

One man told him he was being robbed and demanded his money and cell phone before fleeing in his car with two others. The car was abandoned a few blocks away minutes later, according to the Grant County Sheriff's Office.

The victim was not injured but was too frightened to provide a description of the robbers other than that they were Hispanic and about 5-foot-10, the Sheriff's Office said. One wore a dark stocking cap and another man may have had a bandanna covering part of his face.

Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at (509) 754-2011, ext. 468, or e-mail crimetips@co.grant.wa.us.

Skeleton’s poor teeth could be clue to ID

Grant County detectives are asking for help identifying a man found dead with a single gunshot wound last month.

The man's skeletal remains were found Nov. 23 near O'Sullivan Dam in southeast Grant County. Detectives believe he may have been there for more than a year.  Forensic artist Natalie Murry produced a sketch of what the victim may have looked like based on an analysis by The King County Medical Examiner's Office.

The man is believed to have been white or Hispanic, about 35 years old and 5-foot-1 to 6-foot-1, according to the Grant County Sheriff's Office. His teeth were in poor condition and his two front teeth were affixed with silver dental caps. One tooth was broken beneath the cap.

The victim was wearing a Phat Farm long-sleeved shirt and short-sleeved shirt, as well as Route 66 dark denim jeans with a 28 waist size. He had an insulated, tan and orange vest and wore a black stocking cap and size 8 1/2 block shoes with Velcro closures.

"Please keep in mind the man's actual hair length and color, facial hair or skin complexion may have been different since it was not possible to determine those features," according to a news release.

Anyone with possible information on the man is asked to call Detective Kim Cook at (509) 754-2011 ext. 471, or email crimetips@co.grant.wa.us. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

Man killed in Moses Lake shooting

MOSES LAKE, Wash. (AP) — The Grant County sheriff's office says deputies who responded to a report of a disturbance Wednesday night found a man on the ground in the Larson Housing area near Moses Lake with a gunshot wound to the chest.

He died on the way to a hospital.

Detectives are interviewing a person involved in this shooting, but they aren't calling the person a suspect.

Man who shot off-duty deputy indicted

A Grant County man already serving four years for shooting an off-duty sheriff's deputy in 2008 faces up to 10 more after a federal grand jury indicted him on weapons charges Tuesday. 

Robbie Joe Marcher (left) was convicted at trial of second-degree assault, failing to summon assistance and unlawful hunting after the shooting of Deputy Earl Romig (right) on Jan. 10, 2008. 

Jurors also found Marcher showed an "egregious lack of remorse" on the assault charge, which lengthened his prison sentence, according to the Division III Court of Appeals. The court upheld the convictions May 17.

Now Marcher faces up to 10 years in federal prison under the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane. He's accused of possessing a Springfield Savage 30.06 rifle the day he shot Romig, and of possessing two shotguns, a rifle and nearly 160 rounds of ammunition four days later.

Romig was hunting coyotes and in civilian clothing when Marcher shot him in the back. He said he saw Marcher pointing his rifle at him earlier and looking at him through the scope.

A motorist found Romig with extensive injuries, but he's recovered well.

Marcher, who was hunting with his father, told police he thought Romig was a coyote.

Phone scam targets jury duty absconders

A nationwide identity theft scam is targeting citizens who may have neglected to fulfill their civic duties.

The Grant County Sheriff's Office is warning of a cam that involves a caller telling citizens a warrant has been issued for the their arrest because they failed to respond to a jury duty summons.

The caller requests Social Security numbers and birth dates to verify information.

“Give out your Social Security number and birth date, and bingo, your identity was just stolen,” Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said in a prepared statement.  “When in doubt, don’t reveal your personal information.”

Authorities called the scam "particularly insidious" because it uses intimidation by people pretending they are with the court system.

The fraud has not been reported in Grant County but has surfaced in at least 11 states, including Arizona.

The FBI and the federal court system are also warning about the scam.

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.

Cocaine, guns, $10,000 seized in Grant Co.

More than a 1 1/2 pounds of cocaine was seized last week in Grant County.

Investigators found the drugs, along with three guns, on Sept. 6 while searching two homes - one in Quincy and one in Moses Lake - and arresting four people, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.

The first search in the 300 block of E Street NE in Quincy recovered about 18 ounces of cocaine. Investigators also seized a late-model BMW convertible and a 2002 Toyota Camry.

Arrested on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver were Felix Torres Maciel, 34, of Moses Lake, and Cesar Alejandro Ayala, 36, of Quincy.

Another search in the 9000 block of Road H. 6 in Moses Lake seized more than eight ounces of cocaine, two semi-automatic handguns, a .22 caliber rifle and more than $10,000.

Suspected illegal immigrants Ricardo Pimentel Maciel, 60, and Estella Torres Maciel, 58, were arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance and alien in possession of a firearm.

Police: Woman broadcasted child sex abuse

A Grant County woman is accused of sexually abusing children over an Internet camera that was viewed by people across the county.

Pamela K. Ortega, 29, pleaded not guilty this week to four counts of first-degree rape for alleged incidents in March and April.

The investigation began in April when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children contacted the Grant County Sheriff’s Office about possible child pornography or child prostitution involving Ortega through the Internet. An anonymous tip from Europe said Ortega offered a young girl for sex.

Ortega was interviewed at her apartment at 800 S. County Road in Warden in May, where she reportedly admitted to sexually abusing two relatives and a 2-week-old boy she babysat. Ortega told police she was a methamphetamine addict who filmed herself abusing the children at the behest of people she chatted with on the Internet.

Police investigated a bestiality claim against Ortega and a Moses Lake man’s dog, but no charges have been filed.

Ortega was arrested last week and remains in the Grant County Jail.

Son, dad charged in wildlife officer attack

A Grant County teen faces five felony charges, including attempted murder, after police saw he fired shots at a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police captain Saturday.

Jose J. Garcia-Meraze (left) is charged with unlawful imprisonment for the incident at Crab Creek near Beverly after “he basically disarmed a Fish and Wildlife agent at gunpoint,” said John Turley, Grant County undersheriff.

The 18-year-old also is charged with second-degree assault, attempting to elude and alien in possession of a firearm, Turley said. His father, 60-year-old Nicolas Garcia-Godinez (right), is jailed on a second-degree assault charge for allegedly pulling a knife on another officer.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed holds on both men.

Garcia-Meraze, was fishing without a license at Crab Creek when he pulled a gun on an approaching officer and fled in a car, police reports said. The teen allegedly turn around and drove toward the officer’s marked police vehicle, firing shots and penetrating the driver’s side door with one round. An officer returned fire after the teen attempted to shoot at him a second time, police said.

Garcia-Meraze was arrested after his car stalled on state Route 28 near Ephrata, police said. Both men are in Grant County Jail.

Love triangle alleged in Grant Co. murder

The suspect in the shooting death of a Grant County man in December was secretly dating the victim’s girlfriend, court documents allege.

 David E. Nickels, 29, is in jail on $5 million bond for a first-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 29 slaying of Sage J. Munro at Munro’s home in Ephrata.

The six-month investigation took detectives to six states before Nickels was arrested this week in his hometown of Helena.

That’s where investigators say he met Munro’s girlfriend, 21-year-old Marita Messick, more than five years ago. Nickels and Messick had a child together when Messick was 15, according to court documents filed this week in Grant County Superior Court.

Read the rest of my story here.

Speed cited as factor in deputy’s fatal crash

MOSES LAKE, Wash. (AP) — The Washington State Patrol says speeding was a factor in a crash that killed a Grant County deputy sheriff in  January.

KEPR News reports that the State Patrol estimates that 52-year-old Deputy John Bernard was driving between 77 and 79 mph on a road near Ephrata with a posted limit of 55 mph. The road was wet as well.

Bernard’s vehicle skidded off a curve and went airborne for than 20 feet, and then rolled. The deputy was not responding to call at the time when he crashed. Bernard was wearing his seatbelt.

Gov. Chris Gregoire and law enforcement officers honored Bernard in a large memorial following his death. He had been with the Grant County Sheriff’s office for four years.

Past coverage: Jan. 5: Cause of deputy’s crash may be medical

Bust targets drugs, guns, illegal immigrants

A two-day gang sweep in Grant County that authorities said arrested violent criminals targeted mostly illegal immigrants and felons wanted for probation violations.

Law enforcement seized Ecstasy, methamphetamine and marijuana and suspected stolen property, including guns, and arrested 32 people, 11 of whom had previously been deported but returned to the country illegally, said John Turley, Grant County undersheriff. 

In light of a news release from the U.S. Marshals Office, Turley clarified that none of the warrants involved homicide charges, and that gang members wanted for attempted murder in Grant County have not been arrested.

Among those arrested was a teenage gang member injured in a fatal shooting in March between Mattawa and Beverly. Carlos D. Leyva, 17, was killed; the boy was shot in the ankle. He was arrested this week with an illegal shotgun, marijuana and ammo, Turley said.

The sweep arrested members of rival gangs, including a suspected leader, Arthur Frank Cardenas, 31, on a probation violation. Cardenas is pictured at left.

Pictured above, left to right and top to bottom:

Juan R. Baeza, Josue E. Trinidad, Jose Ruvio Lopez. Edgar A. Sanchez, Santiago Gonzalez Herrejon, Alfredo Garay.

Read my full story on the bust here.

Boy shot in head recovering in Spokane

A 10-year-old Grant County boy is recovering at Spokane hospital after being shot in the head in a drive-by shooting.

A bullet struck Malcolm Sanchez as he slept in his bed in a mobile home in the 8000 block of Road 10.5, three miles northwest of Royal City.

Sanchez’s mother, Alice Sanchez, called 911 frantic that her trailer had been shot up and her son struck, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday.

The boy was stabilized by medics, then flown from a Yakima hospital to Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane, where he remains in serious condition today.

A Grant County Sheriff’s Office news release called the shooting, “Another cowardly attack by delusional emotionally deficient individuals whose parentage is in question and who knowingly take advantage of the cover of darkness to accomplish sadistic retribution on an innocent child.”

Drunken wrestling turns deadly in Grant Co.

A wrestling match between two fishing buddies turned deadly this weekend in Grant County. 

The Auburn, Wash., men were drunk Sunday at Banks Lake, just off milepost 2 at state Route 155 near Coulee City, when one challenged the other to a wrestling match, officials said.

“Sometime during the altercation between the two one of them stopped breathing,” according to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

The survivor, Valeriy Blinkov, 46, called 911at 3:59 a.m. with a third companion.

Blinkov cooperated with investigators, and he was released to his family pending further investigation.

He told detectives he’d tried to persuade the victim, Anatoliy P. Mitskavich (pictured), to wait “until they were more sober,” the sheriff’s office said.

An autopsy on Mitskavich, 41, will take place today at the Forensic Institute of Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake

Hash-oil makers burned after butane ignites

Three men trying to make hash oil from marijuana in Moses Lake today ignited a flash fire that left them severely burned, authorities said.

Jeffrey A. Beavin, 30, Ray A. Jones, 28, and Sean M. Jensen, 28, all of Moses Lake were using butane to extract resin from marijuana when one lit a cigarette about 9 p.m., according to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

Butane that had accumulated in the shed, adjacent to 4421 Airway Drive NE, ignited and several injured the men.

The men were taken to Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake and then transferred to Harborview Medical Center’s burn unit in Seattle. The sheriff’s office is investigating.

Rape, incest suspect arrested after standoff

 A standoff with a Moses Lake man accused of raping a woman at knife point ended with his arrest late Wednesday after authorities pumped noxious gas into his hiding spot.

Mario Noyola Jr., 31, faces charges of first-degree rape and first-degree incest, according to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

The case began Tuesday afternoon when deputies found a 33-year-old woman dressed in a t-shirt and bath towel standing the intersection of Travis and Halsey in Moses lake.

The woman said she’s been raped at knife point in her home, but deputies didn’t find a suspect when they searched the residence. They identified Noyola through interviews.

The victim “initially allowed him into her house when he told her he had been locked out of his house and needed somewhere to stay,” the Sheriff’s Office reported.

The U.S. Marshals Office in Spokane helped Grant County detectives locate Noyola in the 1400 block of West Craig Street in Moses Lake, where he was arrested about 11 p.m. after an hours-long standoff, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

3 arrested in murder of Grant Co. teen

Two men and a juvenile have been charged with the murder of a 17-year-old in Grant County this month.

Luis A. Mejia Nunez, 20 (right); Martin Ochoa Ramos, 41 (left); and a 15-year-old boy are accused of a drive-by shooting that killed Carlos D. Leyva on March 7.

Leyva and two friends were walking in the 1700 block of Road T.5 SW, between the small towns of Mattawa and Beverly, when men inside a passing car flashed hand signs.

The car drove by again, and someone inside fired shots. One killed Leyva, another injured one of his friends in the ankle.

Nunez, of Mattawa, and the 15-year-old, also from Mattawa, were arrested Wednesday. Ramos, of Sunnyside, was arrested Thursday on a felony warrant for being an accomplice to first-degree murder.

Grant Co. teen killed in drive-by shooting

A Grant County teenager was killed Sunday in a drive-by shooting that also injured another boy in the ankle.

Carlos D. Leyva, 17, of Beverly, was shot to death about 6:18 p.m. on a road about 5 miles north of Mattawa. Investigators haven’t identified his killer but say the shooting appears to be connected to a gold or tan Nissan-type vehicle.

An unknown number of people inside that vehicle argued with Leyva and two other boys before the shooting in the 1700 block of Road T.5 SW, according to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

The three boys were walking between Mattawa and Beverly when the shooting occurred.
The second victim was treated and released at Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake. The third boy was not injured.

Neither witness is cooperating with investigators, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators aren’t sure if the shooting is part of the increase in gang violence the county has seen over the last few years, said Undersheriff John Turley.

Read about a recent homicide in Grant County, a triple murder in December: Man told police he killed for revenge

Cause of deputy’s crash may be medical

EPHRATA, Wash. (AP) — An autopsy today on the Grant County sheriff’s deputy killed in a one-car crash may indicate whether a medical condition figured in Sunday’s accident.

Undersheriff John Turley says the autopsy on Deputy John Bernard was being conducted for the county at the Forensics Institute at Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake.

Bernard (left) was not on his way to an emergency and he was wearing a seatbelt when his patrol car left a road nine miles south of Ephrata and rolled.

Turley says Bernard appeared to be in good health, but two years ago he underwent treatment for leukemia and was later hospitalized for vertigo and headaches from a blood disorder related to the chemotherapy.

A Washington State Patrol team continues to investigate the crash. Bernard had worked as a deputy in the county for the past four years.

Prior to that, he was a patrol officer for Ephrata police from 2002 to 2006. He had been a corrections officer in the county from 1997 to 2002.

Bernard was married with two sons, one of whom, Brandon, is also a Grant County sheriff’s deputy. The two are pictured above at Bradon’s graduation from the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien. The Sheriff’s Office called it “one of the most memorable days in John’s life.”

Sheriff Frank T. DeTrolio said in a news release that Bernard “was a tireless public servant whose commitment to law enforcement and serving the citizens helped make Grant County a safer place.”

Man told police he killed for revenge

A man accused of gunning down three people in a rural Eastern Washington town told police he was angry at the men for raping a friend, according to court documents filed today in Grant County Superior Court.

J. Guadalupe “Lupe” Martinez-Lopez, 24, is due in court today on three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the Monday night shooting deaths of Pedro Rivera Sanchez, 21, and two men whose identities have not been released.

Police arrested him Tuesday at a Sunnyside restaurant shortly after a gunpoint robbery at a nearby convenience store.

Grant County Sheriff’s detectives think Martinez-Lopez used the same .45 semi-automatic pistol used in the murders about 45 miles away in Mattawa near the Columbia River to rob the store of beer and money before sitting down with his girlfriend and two others for dinner Tuesday night.

Read the rest of my story here.

Man named Steele Brown involved in gunfight

If you were looking for a Wild West-like story involving a man named Steele Brown mowing down one assailant before exchanging gunfire with the others, you’re in luck.

Here’s a report from Sara Leaming:

A Grant County resident who surprised three men attempting to burglarize his home Monday night ended up in a gun-fight with the would-be thieves, and accidently ran over one suspect with his car.

According to a report from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Steele Brown, and his cousin arrived at Brown’s home six miles southwest of George, Wash., about 6:20 p.m. and found a man in a ski mask standing near a car in the driveway, and two other men trying to run.

As Brown sped past, the masked burglar attempted to open Brown’s car door, which caused the would-be thief to be run over, authorities said. As he drove on without stopping, Brown’s car was shot at by another suspect, deputies said. Brown’s cousin then returned fire from the car with his own handgun. About six rounds were exchanged between the two. No one was injured.

The three suspects remain at large, and authorities are searching for an older, gray or silver four-door Pontiac. A .22-caliber handgun, reported stolen from Othello, Wash., was also recovered at the scene.

Sheriff’s Office: Coldplay “a very enjoyable” concert

Grant County officials reported few problems at the Coldplay concert Saturday at the Gorge Amphitheatre.

More than 20,000 people attended the concert, which the Grant County Sheriff’s Office described as “a very enjoyable concert experience.”

“The biggest issue reported was a traffic delay on the incoming traffic,” according to a news release.

Sheriff’s deputies reported 21 criminal contacts and complaints and booked one person into jail on an outstanding warrant.

Here is a list of incidents reported at the concert:

2 Alcohol Offenses

1 Driving Under the Influence

1 Driving While License Suspended

1 Extra Patrol Request

9 Minor in Possession

1 Traffic Accident

1 Threat

1 Traffic Offense

2 Vehicle Prowls

2 Vandalisms