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Kitts Acquitted

Brian Del Kitts, 43, broke down in tears as a jury foreman announced a verdict of “not guilty” of first-degree murder in the February, 2000 murder of Shannon Cox. The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about two hours before returning the verdict. Kitts had been charged with the murder after Cox’s son, Donovan Allen, was freed after 15 years in prison; exonerated by DNA evidence that the Washington Innocence Project presented. Defense attorney Kevin Blondin made the case that as a close relative, one that visited Cox’s residence regularly. Kitts also testified that he had fired the .22 rifle that was used as the murder weapon on several occasions, so it wouldn’t be unusual for his DNA to be on that weapon. Kitts wept profusely after the verdict was announced, also thanking the jury from across the attorney’s desk. Family members say that this has been an eight-month ordeal, and they couldn’t be more pleased.

More Heat

Prepare for more high heat in the local area, as daytime highs once again go over the 90-degree mark. The Weather Service has a Heat Advisory going up at 2 pm today, and continuing through 8 pm tomorrow evening. There’s also a Red Flag Warning going up in the woods, starting at noon and going until 9 pm tomorrow night. Forecasters that these conditions will increase the risk for dehydration and heat-related illnesses, with those who work outside, the elderly, the very young and those without air conditioning. The Weather Service also warns of “significantly unstable conditions” in the woods around the area, so extreme care is needed in the woods. Humidity levels away from the coast are said to be as low as 16 percent. You’re advised to drink plenty of water, avoid the direct sun whenever you can, and exercise extra care with heat sources if you’re heading into the woods.

Burglary Arrest

Jack Dewayne Hogatt, 57, of Longview is under arrest after a burglary that was reported at a store in Kelso. Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a burglar alarm at the store in the 2000 block of Pacific Avenue, turned in at about 5:40 yesterday morning. Deputies arrived and found that the front door of the business had been smashed, and they say that someone was still inside the store. The store owner was actually able to relay the position of the suspect to the Deputy, watching via webcam. Hogatt was found next to the coolers in the back of the store, and was arrested at gunpoint. Hogatt is now being held on a second-degree burglary charge.

Foot Chase Arrest

Xanthyny David Degenstein, 26, of Longview is in the Cowlitz County Jail on a list of charges, picked up last night after a foot chase in Longview. Longview Police report that this got started at about 10:30 last night, when an officer spotted Degenstein in the area of 9th and Michigan. The chase lasted for several minutes, with Degenstein reportedly jumping fences in his effort to evade police. Officers continued to monitor the area, and they eventually caught Degenstein in an alley in the 1500 block of 9th Avenue. He’s now being held on a felony drug possession count, along with misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, making a false police report, obstructing an officer, criminal trespass, driving while suspended and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Kitts Testifies

Brian Kitts took the stand in his own defense yesterday in Cowlitz County Superior Court. Kitts is being tried for the murder of Bridgegate Apartment manager Sharon Cox back in February of 2000. The Daily News reports on yesterday’s testimony, where Kitts denied any connection to her murder. Kitts, 43, claims that his aunt was cleaning floors, and was very much alive when he last saw her. Kitts said on the stand that “I loved my Aunt Sharon very dearly.” Defense attorney Kevin Blondin also worked to get some evidence admitted into the trial, including a statement from the cellmate of Cox’s son, Donovan Allen, claiming that Allen confessed to the killing. He also tried to get details of a phone conversation between Cox and her daughter, where Cox stated that Allen was threatening to kill her. It’s expected that closing arguments will be presented today after one final defense witness goes to the stand.

Luyster Arraignment Postponed

The arraignment of the man who’s accused of killing three people and wounding a fourth at a home in Woodland is being delayed again. Brent Ward Luyster, 35, of Longview is accused of shooting two men and one woman to death back on July 15th, also wounding a second woman. During yesterday’s hearing in Clark County Superior Court, capital defense attorney Bob Yoseph raised several issues, including a possible conflict of interest in the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office. Yoseph says that an attorney in the Prosecutor’s office used to be a defense attorney, and that he represented Luyster in a previous case. The judge granted the request to move arraignment to November 8th.

Krehbiel Promoted?

It appears that the Port of Longview Commission will be making Norm Krehbiel the next CEO at the Port, but they’re delaying action until the public has time to weigh in. There were discussions at yesterday’s regular commission meeting, with at least one commissioner ready to appoint Krehbiel as the permanent CEO. Commission President Bob Bagaason said that they should wait, so that the public has time to review the proposal. It’s now planned that the Commission would take action to promote Krehbiel at a meeting that’s scheduled for September 1st.

In other action at yesterday’s meeting, the Commission also voted to contribute 49-thousand-350 dollars to the River Current Calming and Sediment Management Project for the Al Helenberg Memorial Boat Launch in Castle Rock.

Longview Preview

The Longview City Council meets tonight, starting at 6 pm with a workshop session, focused on proposed zoning code amendments that cover the siting of emergency shelters in the city. The Council set up this workshop on July 25th, after the proposed amendments were first presented. The amendments were presented to the Planning Commission, which recommended that they be passed without changes. Following the workshop, the regular meeting will start at 7 pm. The Council will hold a public hearing on a proposal to form a Transportation Benefit District in the city, with a goal of funding street and road repairs in the city. The Council will also be asked to take action on an ordinance dealing with substandard buildings and abatement procedures for dealing with those buildings. Those meetings will be open to the public, but an executive session scheduled for 8 pm will not.

Recount Plans

At 8:30 this morning, the Cowlitz County Canvassing Board will meet in open session, where a machine recount of the ballots cast in the race for second place in the 19th District, Position 1. Teresa Purcell currently leads incumbent Representative JD Rosetti by 50 votes, and with a difference of less than two-tenths of a percentage point, state law triggers an automatic recount. The other four counties in the 19th District are also assembling Canvassing Boards to conduct similar recounts. It’s planned that the vote will be certified by 2:30 pm today.

Free Parks

Starting today and going through Sunday, entry fees are being waived at all 124 National Parks in the country, including Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks in Washington, and Crater Lake in Oregon. This is in observance of the 100th anniversary of the US National Park System, started on this date by President Woodrow Wilson. In addition, no Discover Pass is needed at any Washington State Park for today only, also in honor of the National Parks Centennial. This only covers entry fees; camping and other recreation fees will remain in effect.