Installation of wiring that’s intended to help improve emergency phone communications between Cowlitz and Columbia Counties will require some lane closures on the Lewis and Clark Bridge, with the first of those events planned for this evening. Work is planned tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday night, with alternating single-lane closures from 9 pm to 5 am each night. Flaggers will control traffic in each direction. CenturyLink and Bridge Masters are doing this work; similar closures are also planned during the week of Monday, December 7th, continuing each night through Sunday, December 12th. Work on this project is expected to extend into early next year.
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Icy road conditions are thought to have been a factor in a rollover crash reported yesterday morning on I-5 at the Coweeman River Bridge. Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue reports that the elderly woman was southbound yesterday morning when her SUV slipped on the icy bridge, and she lost control. The SUV went over the median barrier, and then came to rest on its roof in the northbound lanes. Extrication tools were brought in to free the woman, who was pinned inside. A passenger was unhurt. The unidentified woman was taken to St. John Medical Center for treatment. Her injuries are not said to be serious. Names have not been released, and there’s no word yet on possible citations.
State Troopers say that charges are pending against Merilee Johnson, 18, of Kelso, after she allegedly caused a two-vehicle collision Saturday morning. They say that Johnson was southbound on I-5 at about 8:20 Saturday morning, when her Toyota pickup drifted into the median and then rolled several times. Johnson was ejected from the pickup, which continued into the northbound lanes. The pickup then collided with a northbound semi, driven by Susan Morales-Martinez, 30, of San Antonio, Texas. A passenger in that semi was injured in the crash, and was treated at St. John Medical Center. Johnson was eventually transferred to Oregon Health and Science University. She’s listed in good condition this morning. Troopers also say that Johnson was driving too fast for the conditions, and she eventually could be cited for that.
Woodland Police are looking for help in finding the person or persons who have been involved in a series of vandalism incidents over the past week or so. Between the 13th and the 15th, several people reported that they had car windows smashed, apparently done by someone wielding a small club or a large pipe. They also say that there may be an older-model Ford pickup associated with this incidents, possibly an ‘80’s model, full-size and four-wheel-drive; witnesses say that the truck is maroon in color, with a wide silver or gray stripe going down both sides. Contact Woodland Police at 360-225-6965 if you have information on this case.
Saying that yet another polygraph is needed, the sentencing of Brenda Wing of Vader is being set over again. The 28 year-old is set for sentencing in connection with guilty pleas connected to last year’s beating death of three year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner, a little boy who had been left in the care of Wing and her husband, Danny. Husband and wife eventually pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree manslaughter, third-degree assault of a child, possession of heroin and witness tampering. Sentencing of both people has been complicated by claims from the prosecutors, saying that neither Brenda nor Danny Wing have been truthful in their statements to investigators. Danny Wing was eventually sentenced to more than 34 years in prison; the standard range for Brenda Wing is 12 to 16 years, but that could be extended if it’s found that she was also untruthful with prosecutors.
Jeffrey Theodore Kroll, 45, of St. Helens is facing prosecution, as he allegedly furnished alcohol to teenage girls. The St. Helens Police Department reports that Kroll was arrested on the 17th, following an extended investigation. They say Kroll was arrested following an incident that goes back to July, where allegedly gave alcoholic beverages to a 14 year-old girl that’s not related to him. They say that this case goes over “an extended period of time,” so it’s possible that others could be involved. Call 503-397-1521 if you have information on this case.
The Holiday Season kicks off this evening down in Cathlamet, as the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce announces the opening of the 11th annual Festival of Trees Celebration. Over the past decade, local designers, business owners and other representatives have donated trees, wreathes and other specially-decorated items, which are then auctioned off by the Chamber. Donated items will be on display, starting today and going through December 14th, when they will be auctioned off. Proceeds will help to support the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce. Get more information on wahkiakumchamber.com.
The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office is reporting a development in the case regarding Kayla Croft-Payne, a Centralia-area woman who has been missing since May of 2010. Croft-Payne was 18 at the time of her disappearance, and was supposed to be on her way to a Cowlitz County location when she was last seen. The case has continued to have a major emphasis, and investigators are reporting a possible break. Lewis County Detectives now say that they have “credible information” indicating that Croft-Payne died in Cowlitz County, having had a drug overdose not long after she was last seen. They also say that her body was taken to a remote area in Northwest Oregon, where it was buried. Detectives say that extensive searches have been conducted over the past six weeks, but they haven’t found that grave. This case is still under active investigation, and they’re asking anyone with information to call the Sheriff’s Office at 577-3092. You can also leave an anonymous tip on Crime Stoppers at 577-1206, or you can also download the “CCSOTip” app for your phone, which will allow you to text tips into the Sheriff’s Office.
Longview Police are following up with the Longview School District on a student that was expelled from Mt. Solo Middle School, after that student allegedly made threats of violence. District officials say that the incident took place on Wednesday; a number of students talked with their parents after they supposedly overheard the threats being made in the school lunchroom and at the end of the school day. Those parents contacted the school principal, and an investigation was launched. School Resource Officers were at the school when classes started yesterday morning, along with increased hall monitoring and additional adult presence on campus. District officials say that they have determined that NO threat existed, and there’s no current threat to students or staff. Letters were sent home with students yesterday afternoon, along with e-mails to parents. Principal Jay Opgrande is praising the students who stepped forward and reported this incident; he says that they want to continue with a safe environment for learning, and they will take the steps necessary to protect the safety of students.
A Rainier High School student is in the Cowlitz County Juvenile Services Center, held on charges that he brought a gun to the school campus, after being expelled on Monday. Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson says that they were called to the school at about 7:30 on Wednesday, where it was reported that the 15 year-old male had been expelled on Monday. Other students reported that the teen was back on campus Tuesday morning, and was in possession of a gun. Dickerson says that no one actually saw the gun, and no threats were made. School officials contacted the boy’s father, who reported that he was missing a .22 pistol. Dickerson says that they continued to conduct interviews, and eventually gathered enough information to confirm that the teen was in possession of a pistol on school grounds. Additional information indicates that a second gun may also have been stolen. Rainier Police eventually arrested the boy, and brought him to Longview for detention. Dickerson says that they’re also following up with RPD on other possible gun thefts. The investigation continues.