Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Where Spokane’s officer-involved homicides occurred in 2013

Five men died after confrontations with Spokane law enforcement in 2013, according to Spokesman-Review records. Investigations into the shooting by a multiagency task force ended in no recommendations for charges against any of the law officers. The five fatal shootings is up from one reported fatality during incidences with local law enforcement in 2012, according to Spokesman-Review reports.


Blue icon: Spokane Police Department was the responding agency.
Green icon: Spokane County Sheriff's Office was the responding agency.

Public safety reporters Kip Hill, Kaitlin Gillespie and others contributed to the creation of this map. Click on a map icon for more information on a specific event, and visit the Google spreadsheet it's based upon to change views of the information to your preferences. As a companion to this database, the Spokesman-Review is also publishing a list of all homicides we covered beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

Where Spokane’s homicides occurred in 2013

According to Spokesman-Review reporting, local law enforcement investigated 23 deaths as homicides in and near Spokane County in 2013. Public safety reporters Kip Hill, Kaitlin Gillespie and others kept track of each of the cases, and we're making our records available to you below.


Blue icon: Case has been resolved, either through legal procedures or the death of a suspect.
Yellow icon: A suspect (or suspect) is (are) in custody, and the case is moving through the legal process.
Red icon: No suspects have been apprehended to date.

Click on the icon to learn more about the case, and visit the Google spreadsheet for specific case details and customize the map to your preferences. As a companion to this piece, the Spokesman-Review is also publishing a list and map of the homicides involving law enforcement officers in 2013.

Body found at home of DB Cooper parachute packer

WOODINVILLE, Wash. (AP) — A homicide victim’s body has been found at a Washington state home owned by the man who packed the parachutes used by infamous airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper.

King County sheriff’s detectives responded to the Seattle suburb of Woodinville on Friday night after a woman called to say she had found her father dead. She reported that she had gone to the house to check on him because she hadn’t heard from him in several days.

The victim’s identity has not been released. But Sgt. Cindi West said Saturday that investigators have ruled the case a homicide.

Property records show the house is owned by 74-year-old Earl Cossey.

When DB Cooper hijacked a passenger jet from Portland, Ore., to Seattle in 1971, demanding $200,000 and four parachutes, it was Cossey who packed the chutes.

After asking to be flown to Mexico, Cooper jumped out somewhere near the Oregon line. Some of the cash has been found, but his fate is unknown, and investigators doubt he survived.

Spokesman-Review archives: In 2008, Cossey was quoted as saying: “They keep bringing me garbage. Every time they find squat, they bring it out and open their trunk and say, ‘Is that it?’ and I say, ‘Nope, go away.’ Then a few years later they come back.”

Reports described Cossey as a man from Woodinville, Wash., who packed the parachutes demanded by fabled airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper, after telling authorities that the chute found recently in southwestern Washington was not used in Cooper’s 1971 crime.

Ammunition found in car previously owned by homicide suspect

Detectives found a .22 caliber ammunition cartridge earlier this week inside a vehicle previously owned by Donna Perry, 60, a woman linked to the 1990 slaying of Spokane prostitutes, according to recently filed court documents.

The search warrant says Perry, previously known as Douglas, sold her 1969 white International Scout about five years ago and after several owners it ended up in the possession of a Woodland, Wash. man who planned to salvage it for parts.

Detectives offered to buy the vehicle, but the current owner declined to sell. Detectives seized the vehicle with a search warrant and towed it 20 miles to the Washington State Patrol crime lab in Vancouver for analysis.

The car had not been altered since it was owned by Perry, according to court documents. Detectives seized the unused ammo, floor mats and remaining debris lifted by tape from the car during the Dec. 17 search.

The cartridge appeared old and was buried under things on the passenger floor board, according to Detective Jim Dresback. The car had not been running for sometime and the current owner had only had it for about a year.

The ammunition was identified as the same type found inside the bodies of Yolanda Sapp, 26, Nickie Lowe, 34 and Kathleen Brisbois, 38. All three prostitutes were shot to death with a .22 caliber-gun. Their nude bodies were found in or near the Spokane River.

Detectives arrested Perry, previously known as Douglas, earlier this year after a retired detective saw her buying ammo and a pistol magazine. The detective recognized her as a felon and is prohibited from possessing firearms.

Women’s panties were discovered boxed up inside a closet at Perry’s 2006 E. Empire Avenue home during a federal search of the home for firearms.

According to court documents, Perry became a woman in 2000 during a gender reassignment surgery while in Bangkok.

Attorney blasts McGill probe

Were detectives just doing their job or did they go too far?

A Spokane attorney has accused detectives of misrepresenting facts surrounding a homicide investigation in order to obtain permission to search the belongings of the victim's daughter.

Recently unsealed court documents show Spokane police detectives seeking search warrants told a judge the daughter, Billie McKinney, 25, was an uncooperative witness who hindered the investigation into the May stabbing death of her mother, Sharlotte McGill.

She has since been cleared of any involvement.

Jeffry Finer, who is representing McKinney, released a statement Wednesday stating he would seek an explanation of the alleged misstatements from authorities, but did not specify what those misstatements were.

Authorities were looking into a possible connection between McKinney and 20-year-old Steven Lewis, who matches the physical description given by McGill just before she died. Lewis was dating the mother of troubled teenager Avondre Graham, 17, who now faces charges for McGill's murder and two separate assaults.

Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said detectives have a duty to look at anyone close to the investigation.

The story surrounding the recently released documents is sparking a lively discussion in the comment section.

Read more here.

Police find man sought for homicide questioning

A suspected drug dealer sought for questioning in the Sept. 13 shooting death of a Yakima man found dead in a downtown Spokane motel parking lot has been captured.

Kevin Heaton, 35, was taken into custody Friday at a small apartment complex in the tiny town of Metaline Falls near the Canadian border, according to the Spokane Police Department. Federal agents and the Metaline Falls town marshal assisted Spokane police in the apprehension.

Heaton was taken into custody without incident on an unrelated felony drug warrant. “They were looking to talk to him about his possible involvement on that Days Inn homicide,” said Spokane police spokeswoman Jennifer DeRuwe.

On Sept. 13, police responded to shots fired at the Days Inn hotel at 120 W. Third Ave. and found Paul A. Haney, 33, of Yakima, in the parking lot, dead from gunshot wounds.

Detectives searched three hotel rooms and found additional weapons and methamphetamine, according to a previously released statement from police.

Heaton’s record includes an April arrest for his alleged role in a burglary ring. Police found large amounts of stolen goods, including motorcycles and guns, and seized about 3  1/2 pounds of meth and marijuana in the case, which included six other arrests.

Ex con sought for questioning in downtown homicide

Kevin Heaton

Police are still searching for 35-year-old Kevin Heaton, the man identifed as a “person of interest” in last week's homicide outside a downtown Spokane motel.

Heaton should be considered “armed and dangerous,” according to Spokane police, and has an extensive criminal history that includes potential links to a drug trafficking ring targeted by authorities earlier this year.

He's wanted for questioning in the death of Paul A. Haney, 33, of Yakima, who was gunned down Thursday in the parking lot of the Days Inn motel at 120 W. Third Ave. Methamphetamine and firearms were recovered from three rooms searched by detectives at the motel, police said.

Read more about the case by clicking here for the initial coverage and here for the follow up.

Dive team discovers probable murder weapon

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office dive team recovered what is believed to be a murder weapon in the Spokane River Tuesday.

Authorities believe the AK-47 rifle was used to kill Marcus Allen Schur, who died of multiple gunshot wounds Dec. 27, 2011 in north Whitman County. His body was discovered March 25 in a shallow creek at the end of Bonnie Lake.

Through their investigation, Whitman County Sheriff’s detectives learned the weapon had been dumped off the T.J. Meenach Bridge sometime after the murder.

Robber gets 41 years for ‘92 murder

A serial bank robber and protected federal witness has been sentenced to 41 years in prison for the 1992 murder of a Spokane Valley furniture store owner.

Patrick Kevin Gibson, 60, was convicted of first-degree murder of the Nov. 7, 1992, shooting death of Brian Cole, 48, at Cole's Furniture Store on East Sprague Avenue in July after a bench trial before Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

Cole was killed during a botched robbery after the gunman said he was willing to hurt Cole's wife, who was in a scooter and witnessed the murder.

The crime went unsolved for 19 years before DNA from a fake beard left at the crime scene prompted detectives to arrest Gibson, who served 12 years in federal prison for a string of bank robberies that began in 1992.

He enrolled in the federal witness protection program after helping authorities convict his former cellmate of murdering a mother and her two children in Iowa in the early 1990s. That man, Dustin Honken, is now on federal death row.

Gibson also was convicted of robbing convenience stores and raping clerks in the late 1970s, about the same time he was shot in the face by a law enforcement official during a chase in Utah.

Gibson testified a partner in his bank robberies must have reused the beard, but Eitzen concluded he was the killer and had also robbed a children's store in Coeur d'Alene hours before the murder.

The trial began in May but was delayed when prosecutors learned “America’s Most Wanted” used the hat worn by the killer when re-enacting the murder in a 1993 episode. The trial resumed after authorities tested DNA samples from host John Walsh, a retired sheriff's detective and the actor who played the killer, Spokane County native Trevor St. John.

Eitzen sentenced Gibson on Friday to 493 months in prison. His lawyers have appealed his conviction.

Past coverage:

July 20: Gibson's bravado as robber didn't help

Suspect had victim’s obituary in his truck

Detectives search murder suspect Daniel Arteaga's home at 19329 E. Valleyway Ave., in Spokane Valley on Tuesday. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff)

Detectives found a newspaper containing murder victim Kim Schmidt's obituary when they searched the truck of her suspected killer recently.

Daniel R. Arteaga, 40, had the obituary in his GMC truck, along with .45 caliber handgun in a fanny back, cartridges and magazines, DVDs and a notebook and earrings.

Detectives seized those items Aug. 7 after Arteaga was arrested for first-degree murder. They also seized nearly 100 items from his home at 19329 E. Valleyway in Spokane Valley.

Among the times found at Arteaga's home were notebooks and at least 29 firearms, including shotguns, rifles and pistols. Arteaga has a concealed weapons permit.

He remains in jail on $1 million bond for first-degree murder. He's accused of killing Schmidt, who was found dead of a gunshot wound to her head at her home in north Spokane on Jan. 1.

Arteaga has been married for about 22 years and told detectives his wife of 22 years didn't know he'd been having an affair with Schmidt for about 6 1/2 years.

Detectives believe Schmidt's desire to end their relationship and the money he owed her may have been a factor in her murder. Schmidt and Arteaga also were named in two lawsuits, and Schmidt had told Arteaga she was romantically involved with another man.

Idaho killer returns to prison for assault

A convicted killer who left prison in 2008 is headed back there after a jury in southwest Idaho convicted him of assaulting a family member with a large knife.

Donald Leonard Houser, 39, was living in Plummer in 1995 when he shot his former girlfriend, Angela LeSarte, to death in front of Bobbie's Bar in Plummer.

LeSarte's father is former longtime Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Bernard LeSarte. She was the mother of four children.

Houser was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 1996 for second-degree murder and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. He began his five-year probation period on Oct. 30, 2008, and worked part-time on a ranch in Washington County and at a hardware store in Weiser, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He started working full-time as a self-employed mechanic in November 2010.

Houser was arrested on Aug. 22 for aggravated assault. He was sentenced in April to two to three years in state prison. He was sentenced today to two years in federal prison for violating his probation on the murder conviction. One year of his federal sentence will run concurrent to the state sentence, the other will run consecutive, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

New details revealed in Schmidt homicide

A former scuba diving instructor arrested for murder dated the victim for years and was described by her friends as violent and controlling, according to information released Wednesday.

Daniel R. Arteaga, 40, remains in the Spokane County Jail on $1 million bond after appearing before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese Wednesday on a first-degree murder charge.

Artega must surrender his passport should he post bond. Deputy Prosecutor Gayle Ervin described him as an “international traveler” whose trips which include excursions to the Caribbean and Fiji.

Read the rest of my story here.

Scuba instructor arrested for murder

Detectives search murder suspect Daniel Arteaga's home at 19329 E. Valleyway Ave., in Spokane Valley on Tuesday. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff)

A Spokane diving instructor romantically linked to a woman who was found shot to death on New Year’s Day has been arrested as a suspect in her murder.

  Daniel R. Arteaga, 40, was arrested at the Public Safety Building Tuesday after voluntarily reporting there for an interview. He is expected to appear in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon via video from the jail, where he is booked on a first-degree murder charge for the shooting death of Kimberly Schmidt.

Read the rest of my story here.

Shoddy DNA work delays sentencing

A Spokane County judge on Wednesday postponed the sentencing of a man convicted almost exclusively on DNA evidence after defense attorneys learned that tests identifying their client as the killer had been done by a crime lab technician who later was fired.

The technician’s work was so deficient that a co-worker described it as a “nightmare,” and an internal report said it could “not be trusted.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

July 27: Convicted killer to get new trial

Gun thief gets more time than murderer

A Stevens County judge on Tuesday sentenced a convicted gun thief to 125 years in prison — a term that’s about 100 years longer than the sentences handed down to three others for a murder committed using one of the stolen guns.

Superior Court Judge Pat Monasmith sentenced convicted felon Christopher G. Nichols, 27, to 125 years in prison, despite the fact that he had no role in the 2011 killing of Colville resident Gordon Feist.

Nichols wept, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 8, 2012: 2 men get 25+ years in Colville murder

Sept. 26: Two more charged in Stevens County homcide

Aug. 2: Murder suspect may claim insanity

July 21: Police think botched theft led to murder near Colville

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

Convicted killer will get new trial

A judge on Thursday granted the request for a new trial of a man convicted four years ago of the 2007 beating death of an adult bookstore owner in Spokane following the conviction two weeks ago of another man for the same crime.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Accused killer pleads guilty in gun case

A Spokane man accused of murdering a gang rival 2 1/2 years ago has admitted to unlawfully possessing the murder weapon.

Edward Lee “TD” Thomas, 26, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to felon in possession of a firearm, halting a scheduled trial.

Thomas, who has felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms, faces up to 10 years in prison when he sentenced, which is scheduled for Oct. 11. The charge stems from a Ruger mini 30 rifle found in a Nissan Altima rental car near the body of John S. Williams, 38, who was shot to death on Jan. 17, 2010, outside a party at 5405 N. Crestline St.

The gun had Thomas' fingerprints on it. He was arrested in Los Angeles in September 2010 on a second-degree murder charge and is in Spokane County Jail awaiting trial. Spokane County prosecutors dismissed the murder charge but are expected to refile when the federal gun charge is resolved.

Federal prosecutors had asked a judge to allow jurors in Thomas' gun trial to know about his gang membership and the gun's link to the murder. Thomas' lawyer objected.

Gibson’s bravado as robber didn’t help

In the end, Patrick Kevin Gibson's bravado as a professional bank robbery didn't exactly contribute to his defense in the 1992 murder of a Spokane Valley furniture store owner.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Etizen said he appeared to be bragging about his exploits and gave more detail than necessary when he testified at his murder trial last week. 

Gibson, 60, also didn't sway Etizen with his claims that the robbery at Cole's Furniture store that ended with the shooting death of Brian Cole was sloppy and likely done by someone other than the man who robbed a children's store in Coeur d'Alene three hours earlier.

Gibson suggested during testimony last week that the robbers were perhaps partners but initiated the heists separately - Eitzen rebuked that theory Thursday when she convicted him of Cole's murder and said the killer was the same man who robbed Teresa and Steve Brenner's store in Coeur d'Alene.

He also theorized that a man named Tim whom he'd hired to assist in bank robberies in Oregon and California in the early 1990s reused a disguise from one of the robberies to commit the Cole's Furniture Store robbery.

Gibson said Tim was one of two men secured a storage facility for him in the Portland area where he disguises and a police scanner to be used in the robberies. He also stored there a bank directory and a mailing list of all the police department sin the United States. He said he used the material to research potential small-town banks to rob. Gibson said he didn't know Tim's last name and Tim did not know his identity.

Gibson described the Cole robbery as “completely inept.”

“The store is supposed to be closed at 5 pm., so this was a spur of the moment crime,” Gibson said. “Both crimes, it's probably the only furniture store and kid's clothing sore that's ever been robbed in either town.”
Gibson described the “personnel” he hired out of Portland, Ore. to assist in the robberies.

“I used a total of eight males and four females for the operation, but only five of the males were involved in the bank robberies themselves. The other people were only involved in obtaining cars or acting as props so that I could stay in that town. Sometimes I had to stay right in the town. There was no way to get out.”

Gibson also described his involvement in the federal witness protection program, which occurred after he shared a federal prison cell with Iowa methamphetamine dealer Dustin Honken and told authorities that Honken had bragged about getting way with the murder of two confidential informants, a mother and her two young daughters. Honken is now on fedearl death row. Gibson said he became a protected witness in 1999.

“They do investigating for a year. Polygraph tests. It's very strenuous. You can't get into the witness protection program unless they verify you're telling the truth,” he said.

Gibson said he would tell the truth if he had killed Cole. He pointed to the fact that he's been diagnosed with stage 2 prostate cancer.

“I know I'm gong to die from cancer,” Gibson said. “I've almost always pled guilty to everything I have done. If I did this crime, I would give the Cole family some closure. I would admit to it and I would give them closure, because they need closure.”

On cross-examination, Gibson told Deputy Prosecutor Tony Hazel he “learned his lesson” about robbing small places after he robbed a Taco's John's in Portland and a gas station in Carterville, Nevada. (He and his partner also raped two clerks.) Gibson said he only targeted bank in towns with no law enforcement presence whatsoever. Coeur d'Alene had a police department so it “wouldn't qualify,” Gibson said.

Hazel pointed out that Gibson had been laid off just before Cole was murdered and was angry at society. He'd only started planning bank robberies and didn't successful rob one until December 1992. Before then, he'd only targeted small stores like gas stations.

Gibson said he wasn't proud of the robberies but he made about $840,000 in cash and more than $1 million in traveler's checks that he destroyed.

“The FBI said I was one of the most successful bank robbers going, sophisticated bank robbers operating at that time, but I regret it,” Gibson said.

After Eitzen convicted him Wednesday of first-degree murder, as the now convicted killer walked down the third floor hallways of the Spokane County Courthouse, a reporter asked him: “Patrick, did you do it?”

“No I did not,” Gibson replied. “Do I look 5-8?”

Cole's wife, Michele Cole, had described the killer as being about 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9. She said she recognized a scar on Gibson's face when she saw a picture of him in 2011. That scar is from being shot by a sheriff's deputy in Utah in 1998. The bullet went though Gibson's face.er it c

Gibson was arrested last year after his DNA was found on a piece of beard worn by Cole's killer.

His bench trial began in May but was delayed after prosecutors learned “America's Most Wanted” host John Walsh and a TV actor handled the killer's actual hat in a 1993 reenactment of the Cole murder

Authorities obtained DNA samples from Walsh, actor Trevor St. John and tried sheriff's Detective Mark Henderson and compared it to the hat. Doing so helped forensic analysts determine that the chance of the DNA on the hat not belonging to Gibson was one in 10 million.

Plea hinges on murder trial testimony

A 20-year-old woman originally charged with a death penalty eligible crime for the brutal murder of a Spokane man faces 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 years in prison if she follows a plea agreement approved today.

Breeanna C. Sims (pictured left) is to testify at the trial of accused killer Taylor J. Wolf (pictured right), which is scheduled to begin Aug. 20.

Sims, who was involved in a home-invasion robbery with her mother in 2009, pleaded guilty today to first-degree kidnapping with a firearm. Her plea agreement is sealed and hinges on her future testimony.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza today approved the plea deal negotiated by Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla and Deputy Public Defender Tom Trageser. Sims backed out of a potential plea in May.

Sims' brother, Justice E.D. Sims (pictured left), was sentenced in March to about 33 years in prison for first-degree murder and kidnapping.

The three are accused of the brutal torture slaying of Nicholas J. Thoreson (pictured right), who was found dead in the trunk of his burning Thunderbird on Forker Road April 13, 2011.

Detectives say Wolf made incriminating statements to Britney Bjork, girlfriend of jailed Hells Angel Ricky Jenks, just after his arrest in April, leading them to charge her with conspiracy to commit perjury, rendering criminal assistance and arson. Bjork is scheduled to begin trial Sept. 4.

Detectives say Wolf told Bjork he was going to shoot Thoreson but “I couldn’t do it, so me and Justice did it together,” according to court documents, which cite recorded jailhouse phone conversations. “But we had gloves on and stuff.”

All three suspects were charged with aggravated first-degree murder. The charge is eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors said from the beginning they would not be seeking that.

Justice Sims is serving his sentence at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Breeanna Sims will stay at the Spokane County Jail without bail. Her sentencing has not yet been scheduled as prosecutors await Wolf's trial.

Thoreson's family and friends attended Sims plea hearing today, including his girlfriend and toddler son.

Past coverage:

Dec. 6: Murder suspect's love letters seized

May 20, 2011: Sibling murder suspects plead not guilty

May 3, 2011: Homicide victim remembered in obituary

April 21, 2011: New details released in Forker Road homicide

‘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

Lawyer cites Pirtles’ ‘victim mentality’

A member of a Spokane family that claims police target them because of their relation to a notorious double murderer is heading to federal prison, and his lawyer says his parents' “victim mentality” is partially to blame.

Jayce Leon Elton Pirtle, Jr., 24, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Pirtle is the nephew of Blake Pirtle, who murdered two Burger King employees in Spokane Valley in 1992. Blake Pirtle's death sentence was overturned after a judge ruled law enforcement violated his civil rights during his arrest.

The Pirtles said in 2009 that police unfairly target them because of that case. They vowed to move out of Spokane. Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe says the family has a “propensity for crime” that earns law enforcement attention.

Pirtle's lawyer, Roger Peven, said Pirtle's parents' insistence that they have been unfairly targeted has not helped their son.

“The combination of parental neglect, abuse, enabling and perpetuating a victim mentality clearly has been devastating to this twenty-four-year-old's development,” Peven wrote.

Pirtle, a father with a girlfriend of seven years, had a troubled childhood that included reporting to authorities his father nearly killing his mother when he was just nine-years-old, according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer, Roger Peven.

Pirtle's father went to prison, but, Peven wrote, it's clear “that the abuse and neglect continued throughout Mr. Pirtle's youth.” Pirtle later hid stolen property and a firearm with his father in 2005, Peven wrote.

“The public is better served by addressing the neglect and violence that this young man was subjected to so that Mr. Pirtle has a better chance of being a better parent and functioning member of society,” Peven wrote. “It is clear that Mr. Pirtle is in need of some counseling or treatment to address the family issues he has encountered over the course of his life in order to get a grip on himself, be a functioning member of society, and be a parent to his children.”

Pirtle was indicted in November for a handgun, two rifles and 175 rounds of ammunition found in his apartment at 1808 E. Pacific Ave. on July 8, 2011.

The guns were stolen in a burglary.

Pirtle was arrested the day of the search on a second-degree assault charge for an alleged baseball bat beating that left a man with a permanent lip disfigurement in May 2011. He still is charged with second-degree assault in Spokane County Superior Court. He has previous convictions for second-degree assault and second-degree kidnapping.

Accused killer gives riveting testimony

In what longtime Spokane County court officials described as riveting testimony, accused killer Patrick Kevin Gibson described Thursday his years as a big-time bank robber who earned about $850,000 before heading to federal prison.

Gibson's 12-year prison sentence led him to the federal witness protection program after he ratted out cellmate Dustin Honken, an Iowa methamphetamine dealer who bragged to Gibson about getting away with the murder of a mother and her two daughters. Honken is now on federal death row. His girlfriend, Angela Johnson, also was sentenced to death for the crimes but her sentence was overturned on appeal.

Gibson, arrested last year after DNA evidence on the killer's beard was linked to him, discussed Thursday taking polygraph tests to be part of a member of the secretive program. He denied murdering Spokane Valley furniture store owner Brian Cole on Nov. 7, 1992 - saying essentially that he was a professional robber who wouldn't mess with such a sloppy heist at a place with little cash. He suggested that a partner in his bank robberies might have committed the crime using a disguise from past bank heists.

Gibson said if he killed Cole, he would confess. But prosecutors pointed out that the bank robberies began after Cole's murder, and that Gibson also robbed convenience stores in Oregon. He also did so not just for the money but for the thrill, according to testimony.

Gibson, a level 3 sex offender, is charged with first-degree murder. He made the unusual decision to have his case heard by a judge instead of a jury. Superior Court Judge Tari Etizen is to hear closing arguments on Monday.

The trial began in late May but was delayed when prosecutors discovered at the last minute that America's Most Wanted host John Walsh and a TV actor handled the actual hat worn by the killer during a taping of the show in 1993.

Police obtained a sample of Walsh's DNA, as well as the actor and the detective who handled the hat, and submitted it to the state crime lab for testing.

Gun trial linked to murder, gang rivalry

Federal prosecutors want jurors in an upcoming gun trial to know about the suspect's gang membership and the gun's link to a 2010 murder in northeast Spokane.

Edward Lee “TD” Thomas, 26, is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm for a Ruger mini 30 rifle found in a Nissan Altima rental car near the body of John S. Williams, 38, who was shot to death on Jan. 17, 2010, outside a party at 5405 N. Cresline St.

The gun had Thomas' fingerprints on it. He was arrested in Los Angeles in September 2010 on a second-degree murder charge and is in Spokane County Jail awaiting trial. Spokane County prosecutors dismissed the murder charge but will refile once Thomas' federal gun charge is resolved.

Trial on the gun charge is set to begin July 23 in U.S. District Court in downtown Spokane.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has filed a motion asking that jurors be allowed to hear testimony about the shooting. Thomas' lawyer, Bryan Whitaker, has objected and points to the fact that Thomas hasn't even been convicted of murder.

“The logic here is flawless: since John Williams was shot with a firearm, Mr. Thomas could only have shot him while in possession of a firearm,” Whitaker wrote in a response to the motion. “The fallacy of this logic is that it relies completely on Mr. Thomas being the person who shot John Williams. The jury, therefore, would be invited to convict Mr. Thomas of Felon in Possession of  Firearm because the Government believes he shot John Williams.”

Thomas is accused of shooting Williams multiple times, including a final shot to his face. Police and prosecutors say the shooting stemmed from a gang rivalry, and prosecutors want to experts to tell jurors about Thomas' ties to the Atlantic Drive Compton Crips.

Police say Thomas acquired the firearm after a dispute with Jerome Danner, a member of the Grape Street Crips. The groups were at a birthday party for Ronald L. “Heavy” Shuler when a fight broke out. Williams, who was linked to Danner, punched out a window to a car in which Thomas was before he was shot by Thomas, police say.

But Whitaker said the relationship between Thomas and Danner was not based on gang member but on the fact that they each have a child with the same woman.

“The acrimonious relationship between gangs has no bearing on issues in this case. The theory here is that gang membership is the motive for possessing a firearm. That logic would permit the admission of gang-related testimony in EVERY case involving a gang member,” Whitaker wrote.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle has not yet ruled on the motions.

Six other men were charged in connection with the homicide, including Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton, who was sentenced to five years in prison for driving Thomas from the murder. Police say Thomas went to Antonio Cook's house after the shooting and stayed there until the next day. Cook, who reportedly supplied the murder weapon, also has been charged.

Wrong man may be jailed for murder

The lead investigator in the 2007 beating death of an adult bookstore owner in Spokane now is questioning whether the wrong man was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Spokane Police Detective Tim Madsen, in new court documents, acknowledges that 41-year-old Jeramie R. Davis may have been telling the truth when he claimed that 74-year-old John G. “Jack” Allen already was dead on the floor when he arrived at the adult bookstore and made a series of return trips throughout the night to burglarize it.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

July 11: Trial opens for second suspect in same murder

March 11: DNA evidence in 2007 murder points to new man

Aug. 5: New suspect charged in porn shop owner's murder

July 28: Convicted killer hopes for freedom

July 26: DNA reveals new suspect in 2007 slaying

Couple convicted, acquitted in murder

Three witnesses put the gun in her boyfriend’s hand either during or immediately after a Spokane man was shot last December following a bizarre altercation.

But Melinda R. Barrera, 32, admitted pulling the trigger and a jury convicted Thursday her of second-degree murder while acquitting her boyfriend of all charges.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

June 22: Trial starts for couple in shooting death

May 8: Murder suspect now facing meth charges

Dec. 10: Shooting suspect recalls chaos

Convicted killer arrested in CdA stabbing

Police on Wednesday arrested a convicted killer accused of trying to kill another man in a stabbing Monday night north of Coeur d’Alene.

 James H. Kountz, 56, was arrested about 5:40 p.m. in the same wooded area near U.S. Highway 95 and Wilbur Avenue where he stabbed another transient, James R. Hoglen, 42, on Monday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Man faces 123 years in prison for guns

A convicted felon from Stevens County now faces a minimum of 123 years in prison after a jury found him guilty today of 21 felonies that were tied to the slaying last year of a Colville man.

Investigators believe was a botched burglary.The jury deliberated about three hours before finding Christopher G. Nichols, who turned 27 Thursday, guilty of nine counts of a felon in a possession of a firearm and nine counts of theft, burglary, auto theft and trafficking in stolen property in the first degree.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

March 8, 2012: 2 men get 25+ years in Colville murder

Sept. 26: Two more charged in Stevens County homcide

Aug. 2: Murder suspect may claim insanity

July 21: Police think botched theft led to murder near Colville

July 20: Slaying near Colville baffles neighbors

Assault suspect jailed on $1 mil. bond

An assault suspect charged in connection with a murder at a Spokane motel in November has been jailed on $1 million bond after police caught him returning from an out-of-state flight.

Stafone N. “Stix” Fuentes, 27, (pictured) is prohibited from traveling out of state under conditions imposed by a judge who approved a $250,000 bail after his arrest Feb. 1. Fuentes posted that bond Feb. 29.

The Spokane gang team arrested him Thursday at the Spokane International Airport as he returned from Las Vegas on a late-night flight.

Fuentes could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of second-degree assault for a wild fight Nov. 27 fight at the Quality Inn, 110 E. Third Ave., which led to the shooting death of aspiring rapper Jose J. “Junior” Solis, 21, of Moses Lake.

Another aspiring rapper, John A. “Lil Danger” Castro, 27, (pictured) was arrested just after the homicide and remains in jail on a second-degree murder charge. Castro faces life in prison if convicted under the state's three-strikes law because of his criminal history.

Fuentes' lengthy criminal history includes two convictions for strikes: second-degree assault and first-degree robbery. He also has been convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm.

He was jailed briefly last summer after news of his uncle’s murder outside a rap concert in Montana revealed to his probation officer that he’d left the state without permission.

Police still awaiting DNA in McGill murder

Police continue to investigate the stabbing death of a woman who was walking her dog near the Spokane River May 3 and say they have leads coming in frequently.

 “They are all being followed up on by a detective,” according to an email from Major Craig Meidl of the Spokane Police Department on Friday. “We are as engaged in this investigation as we have been since day one.”

Meidl said they still are awaiting results from DNA tests at the Washington State Crime Lab. He said he doesn't know why that DNA is taking longer than John Walsh's DNA sample took to process for the Patrick Gibson murder trial, but wrote that “one would also likely have to take into account current staffing levels at the DNA testing facility, backlog of current cases, types of tests to be completed, number of tests to be completed on same DNA, number of samples total to be tested.  This would just be an educated guess, as WSP has ultimate control over their schedule and how they prioritize.”

Meidl said police are intentionally not detailing all aspects of the investigation.

“We are mindful that suspects frequently watch and read the news. It would be imprudent to reveal aspects of this investigation that could potentially jeopardize the successful capture of the person involved in this,” Meidl wrote.

Sharlotte McGill, 55, died of stab wounds after she was attacked in the 1800 block of East South Riverton Avenue.

She was able to describe her attacker before she died: a black man in his 30s with a bad eye. No other details were given.

Past coverage:

May 9: Police seek public's help, but fear racial profiling

May 5: Homicide victim's daughter speaks out

May 4: Attacker fatally stabs woman

Killer in hotel trashing left prison in ‘11

A convicted killer accused of trashing a Spokane Valley motel while celebrating he and his wife's anniversary was released from prison just 15 months ago.

Danial Caleb Peters, 38, murdered Melissa Mae Wageman, 40, on  Dec. 22, 1995, after smoking crack cocaine. He told police he didn't member beating the woman to death with 4-foot pipe but awoke to find her bloody body nearby.

The circumstances are similar to what Peters' public defender, Mike Elston, said apparently happened Tuesday night at the Pheasant Hill Inn, 12415 E. Mission Ave., in Spokane Valley.

Peters “claims a drug-educed paranoid episode” led to him destroying the room he and his wife, Danielle Lea Wozniak, 27, returned to celebrate their one-year anniversary, Elston said Thursday at Peters' appearance in Spokane County Superior Court.

Wozniak told police Peters destroyed the room after they used methamphetamine.

“I want everybody to know that I'm very sorry for the drug use that I did,” Wozniak said in court Thursday.

Peters told police “that he felt people were after him” and broke a water sprinkler in an attempt to get help, according to court documents.

He said Wozniak destroyed other items like a mirrors, lamps, air conditioner and phone, but Wozniak said it was Peters. Police responded about 6 a.m. and say the duo caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the hotel, which had recently been renovated.

Water damage from the sprinklers means only 28 of the hotel’s 104 rooms usable. Peters and Wozniak were booked into jail on a felony charge of first-degree malicious mischief. They married in March, Wozniak said.

Wozniak's criminal history includes a single misdemeanor conviction two years ago. Judge Annette Plese ordered her to stay in jail unless she posts $2,500 bond.

Plese set Peters' bond at $5,000 and told him she had “really serious concerns about your criminal history.”

Peters said he has a “very good job” at a construction company that was set up through a church.
The couple was staying with Peters' mother, according to court testimony, but she told court officials they are no longer allowed there.

Peters was sentenced to 17 years in prison in February 1996, but his conviction and scores of others were overturned in 2004 because the Washington Supreme Court ruled the second-degree murder law was defective. He was re-sentenced in 2005.

Wageman met up with Peters while celebrating her 40th birthday at the Happy Time Tavern, 3506 N. Division St. She was killed at a nearby home where Peters had been staying with his his older gay lover after smoking marijuana and crack cocaine. Peters then used his lover's truck to take Wageman’s body to a friend’s house in Stevens County. Upon arrival, the friend handed Peters a phone so he could turn himself in.

Peters didn't deny killing Wageman but said he didn't remember doing so. Wageman was a single mother who was raising a son who, at the time, was an honor student and musician at Shadle Park High School.

Peters finished his sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla in January 2011 and still is completing his two-year probation term, according to the Washington Department of Corrections.