Increased security is expected today at the Hall of Justice in Kelso, as Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Michael Evans is scheduled to hand down his decision on the re-sentencing of convicted child murderer Timothy Haag. A large crowd is expected for the hearing at 10 am, with family members and others in the community urging Evans to keep Haag in prison. Back in 1994, the then 17 year-old was sentenced to life in prison without parole, after Haag was convicted in the murder of a neighbor, 7 year-old Rachel Dillard. Two Supreme Court decisions ruled that life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders constituted cruel and unusual punishment, and those cases were sent back for resentencing. Haag’s case is the only one in this area that falls under those rulings.
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The Kelso Police Department is celebrating the addition of two new officers to the force, saying that they will help to bolster staffing. Earlier this week, it was announced that Kody Joslin and Adam Swartout had graduated from the Police Academy, and are joining the Kelso Police Department. Swartout and Joslin will now enter a three-phase local training program; once that is completed, they will be able to go out on patrol on their own. Captain Darr Kirk says that the arrival of Joslen and Swartout is badly needed, helping to alleviate staff shortages caused by recent retirements. Joslen and Swartout both are both local boys, and both have previous experience in law enforcement. Joslen was a loss prevention specialist, while Swartout served as a Marine, and as a corrections officer.
The Washington State Patrol is looking for your help in an injury hit-and-run that took place last week. Last Wednesday afternoon, November 22nd, they say that a 14 year-old boy was hit by a pickup, as the teen was walking along West Side Highway. Troopers say that the incident happened at about 5:30 pm last Wednesday, as the boy was walking southbound on the highway near the Beacon Hill Water and Sewer District offices. They say that a white Ford F250 or F350 crew cab pickup drove onto the shoulder, hitting the boy and then leaving the scene. The pickup is reported to have a rack in the rear, possibly what’s called an aluminum “headache rack.” It’s believed that the truck is a 1999 model or newer; the driver is said to be a white male in his late 30’s to early 40’s, with dark red hair and a short beard, with a bit of a heavy build. If you have any information on this incident, you’re asked to email tips to Trooper Neil Deffenbaugh; his email address is email@example.com.
The turmoil at Kelso High School got turned up another notch when rumors about an “active shooter” raced across social media. Reports about a possible shooter started showing up on Facebook shortly after 9 this morning, which led to strong reactions, including a number of parents pulling their kids out of school. Kelso Police did bring additional units to the school, but they confirmed that there was no shooter. School officials also confirm that there were no threats or weapons at the school. Classes are proceeding normally.
The sale of the Monticello Hotel in Longview is complete. Officials with Cascade Title report that the sale to Monticello Place LLC was recorded Friday, completing the sale process. People with knowledge about the sale describe the buyers as “an investment group out of Seattle.” Other details about the sale are not available until today. Discussions about the possible sale of the historic building in the Civic Circle have been ongoing for some time, and it was announced in June of 2015 that the building was “under new management.” Those involved say that this sale was a “long process.”
A Kalama-area resident reports being a victim of the “Granddad Scam,” being bilked out of several thousand dollars by someone claiming that a grandchild was in jeopardy. The victim in the crime called the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office yesterday afternoon, reporting that he got a call from someone named “Gene,” who said that the man’s granddaughter was involved in car crash in Las Vegas. The crash supposedly involved a “high-profile Mexican man,” who would let everything go if the victim bought $15,000 in gift cards, and then provided the numbers to that man. The victim says that he was only able to buy $6,000 in cards, so “Gene” told the man to wire another $19,000 to an account in Mexico. Employees at Red Canoe Credit Union spotted the scam; they prevented the man from withdrawing the money and contacted the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies called “Gene,” who reportedly identified himself as an employee with Clark County Detention. “Gene” eventually hung up on Deputies, and cancelled the phone number. No other suspect information has been developed.
About two dozen citizens showed up last night at Mark Morris High School, to share their thoughts and views on how Longview School buildings should be managed over the next 30 years. Superintendent Dan Zorn says that they need to hear from the public as this Facilities Management Plan is developed…lvschools…Zorn says that they’re dialing in on four main issues in developing this plan, critical spaces, building configurations, “important factors,” and priorities and perspectives. This effort comes after last summer’s facilities study, which showed that the district has an estimated $213 million in building upgrades, repairs and new construction. Zorn also says that there’s a lot of pressure on the district after I-1351 passed, mandating a reduction in class sizes. Last night’s session was the first of three that are planned; the second session will be on Thursday, May 12th, starting at 11:45 am at the District Administration Building on Lilac Street. The third is planned for Tuesday, May 17th at Mt. Solo Middle School, starting at 5:15 pm. If you can’t attend one of these sessions, you can go the Longview School District web page, where there’s more information from the facilities study, along with an on-line survey.
Longview Police and the State Patrol continue to investigate a fatal car crash that took place early Saturday morning in the 3100 block of Pacific Way. It’s being reported that there was one male victim, age 23, and that his car lost control before crossing the center line of the road at about 12:20 am. The Honda Civic collided head-on with a van coming in the opposite direction. They say that the 53 year-old van driver suffered minor injuries. Names of those involved have not yet been released.
North Pacific Avenue is closed in the Rocky Point area, after a landslide came down onto the roadway last night. This report came into Cowlitz County 911 at about 6:30 last night, reporting that the northbound lane was completely blocked, and that rocks were covering the southbound lane. A second caller reported that a car got stuck on the rocks in the southbound lane, but no injuries were reported. The slide has been reported to Patriot Rail and to Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, but they haven’t said if there’s any impact to rail traffic in the area. North Pacific Avenue is now closed between Cowlitz Gardens and Pacific Avenue Spur; Cowlitz County Roads plans to be out at the scene this morning, to assess the situation and to start determining their repair options. Use alternate routes to avoid delays.
Lower Columbia College – Opening at 10 am
Longview – Closed
Kelso – Closed
Castle Rock – 2 Hours Late, No AM preschool, Buses on snow routes.
Toutle Lake – Closed
Kalama – 2 Hours Late
Vernonia – 2 Hours Late
St. Helens – 2 Hours Late, Buses on snow routes
Scappoose – 2 Hours Late, Buses on snow routes.
Elementary schools start: 10:15 a.m.
Middle school start: 10:20 a.m.
Scappoose High School start: 10:35 a.m.
Sauvie Island Academy start: 10:45 a.m.
Jewell – 2 Hours Late, Buses on snow routes
NW Regional ESD: Columbia Co. – 2 Hours Late, No AM preschool
Three Rivers Christian – Closed, No preschool. Early Learning Center/childcare is also closed
EOCF Head Start/E-CAP (Woodland) – All Head Start and ECEAP classrooms closed Monday.
RiverCities Transit – LIFT providing only life-sustaining trips. Visit rctransit.org for route info.
Columbia Co. Rider Transit – 2 hour service delay. Find info on columbiacountyridertransportation.com or call 503-366-0159. Other parts of the county may have additional delays or no service until road conditions improve.