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Four Accused of Arson in Franklin County Haystack FiresFour people accused of using lighters and accelerant to torch haystacks, pasture land and an abandoned structure in north Franklin County face May 21 trials.[Names redacted] on all have pleaded innocent in Franklin County Superior Court for their alleged roles in the March fires.

The four suspects were arrested March 24 after a Franklin County fire official reported seeing a suspicious SUV driving away from the scene of a blaze that crews were fighting. A similar red SUV had been seen leaving multiple fires two days earlier.

According to court documents, Franklin County sheriff’s Deputy George Rapp was at the Connell Police Department with police Sgt. Brad Quinton when they got the call about another fire and possible suspects in the area.

The two stopped the [redacted] on Blanton Road and, as Rapp was walking up to talk with the occupants, saw through the windows a bottle of lighter fluid sitting on tools and miscellaneous items in the back, documents said. Rapp also reported seeing a 12-inch lighter on the seat between the two rear passengers.

[Redacted], the front seat passenger, allegedly told Rapp the group had been at a barbecue on Blanton and Pepiot roads, but she couldn’t say exactly where or give a name.

Another passenger agreed to let Rapp look at the bottom of his shoes and took one off so he could check it out closer, court documents said.

Rapp got the owner’s permission to take a picture of the sole, then shared it with sheriff’s Cpl. Josh Bunten, who confirmed it was a positive match to prints from a March 23 fire on Moon Road, documents said. Those prints reportedly led from the road to the point of ignition on a haystack, and all around it, possibly to spray accelerant.

Back at the sheriff’s office, Rapp interviewed [redacted]. The suspect admitted to starting or aiding in numerous fires in a few days, court documents said.

Rapp said the other suspects all gave similar admissions, or said they were at least at the locations where fires were started, during their own interviews with deputies or detectives, documents said.

The fires include a haystack March 22 near Eltopia West and Hooper roads, another that same day near Moon and Paradise roads, the abandoned structure March 23 on Joyce and Blanton roads and the haystack at Blanton and Pepiot.

[Redacted], 36, is in custody on $20,000 for three counts of second-degree arson.

Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny recently told the court that [redacted], during his voluntary statement to law enforcement, was “trying to take the entire responsibility” for setting the fires, but the other suspects have more responsibility than he claims.

They’re also being looked at for five arson fires in Grant County and four in Adams County, all involving haystacks, Jenny said. In all, the damage exceeds hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

[Redacted] was a suspect in a series of fires a year ago but there was not enough evidence to charge him, said the prosecutor. He argued to keep [redacted] locked up, saying the suspect “clearly is a danger to the community” and could be a flight risk if he is looking at charges in the other two counties.

Defense attorney Albert Lin told the court that his client has connections to the area and has been in Othello for 11/2 years, preceded by two years in the Tri-Cities.

“I certainly understand the gravity of what’s involved here,” Lin said, but [redacted] is presumed innocent during the court process despite any statements he might have previously made.

[Redacted], 33, also faces three counts of second-degree arson. The Othello woman remains in Franklin County jail on $25,000 bail.

[Redacted], 31, and [redacted], 24, each have one count of second-degree arson. The two are from Eltopia.

[Redacted]’s bail is set at $5,000.

[Redacted]’s attorney, Christine Bennett, asked to have him released during a court appearance, saying he has no prior felonies and his dad should be able to bring him to future hearings. However, Judge Vic VanderSchoor said he felt some bail was appropriate.  [His bail was set at $1,000.00.]

It is believed there is no connection between these cases and the Halloween night fires in north Franklin County.

In that case, [redacted] caused extensive damage when he torched several large haystacks and an open field using flammable liquids. Three of the haystacks were burned to the ground.

[Redacted] of Othello was sentenced in January to three months in jail after pleading guilty to second-degree arson.

He said he blacked out from excessive drinking and could not remember starting the fires, but his muddy shoes matched prints at one of the scenes and his shirt had burn marks on it.

 

Franklin County Superior Court: 2 plead innocent in child care scam

A Pasco mother and daughter are accused of scamming the state out of thousands of dollars by filing false documents for child care subsidies.

[Redacted] and [Redacted] pleaded innocent last week in Franklin County Superior Court.

The mother is charged with first-degree theft by welfare fraud, second-degree perjury and false verification for public assistance, all felonies.

Some court documents have her name as [Redacted]

Her daughter faces two charges of false verification of public assistance and one count of second-degree perjury.

Both women are scheduled for March 12 trials, and have been released on their personal recognizance in the meantime. The women live at the same [Redacted] address.

The charges were filed in November after criminal investigator John Paquette reviewed the [Redacted]’s files and looked into their claims. Paquette works in the state Department of Social and Health Services’ Office of Fraud and Accountability.

Court documents show that [Redacted] received $5,451 in Working Connections Child Care payments during a 16-month period that she was not entitled to because of her actual circumstances.

Her mother allegedly got $13,000 from January 2010 through February 2011 that she shouldn’t have been paid.

According to the DSHS website, the “Working Connections Child Care program pays for child care subsidies to eligible households with parents who are working or are participating in a DSHS approved work activity and whose children meet citizenship requirements.”

The subsidy can be applied to licensed or certified child care centers and homes, as well as relatives who provide care in their own homes, the site explains.

Paquette wrote in court documents that [Redacted] failed to report that she was living with the father of her children from April 2008 to June 2011, and for 14 months during that period he brought in money while working for various employers.

The daughter also didn’t report that her boyfriend was not working between July and December 2009 and would have been able to care for their two kids, documents said.

When [Redacted] signed different forms for the state, she said the father of her children did not live in the home and gave false or misleading information about his employment and income, or his unemployment, Paquette said.

[Redacted] collected a subsidy between September 2009 and December 2010 even though she was not providing child care services for her grandchildren during that time, court documents said. Another daughter reportedly was watching the kids then.

The mother also failed to keep child care attendance sign-in and sign-out sheets for her two grandkids and another child, documents said. Those timesheets are required for DSHS clients under the Washington Administrative Code.

Kennewick man pleads guilty to sex crime involving teen

Published: November 23, 2012

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City Herald

A Kennewick man admitted that he propositioned a teen boy to perform sex acts, then asked people to get rid of evidence before police could search his home.

[Name Redacted] pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to sexual exploitation of a minor, a felony, and tampering with physical evidence, a misdemeanor.

Sentencing is tentatively set for Dec. 20.

Community corrections officers first must complete a presentencing investigation, which includes [Name Redacted]’s background and a statement from the victim, because it is a sex crime. Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra told the court that if she receives the report before that date, she will schedule an earlier hearing.

[Name Redacted] was arrested Oct. 8 by Kennewick police on the sexual exploitation charge and made an initial appearance in court the following day. He was ordered held without bail on a 72-hour investigative hold.

[Name Redacted], — arrested under the name [Name Redacted], — posted bond and was released from the jail at 9:45 p.m. Oct. 11.

He was at his Kennewick home when police picked him up on the tampering charge and booked him back into the jail at 12:26 p.m. Oct. 12. He appeared in Superior Court just 45 minutes later to enter pleas to the two charges.

The sexual exploitation stems from an Oct. 7 incident in which [Name Redacted] contacted the teen boy near Fourth Avenue and Olympia Street.

The boy said he had seen [Name Redacted], around the area, and [Name Redacted] asked if the teen wanted to make some money doing yard work, according to police and court documents. The boy said yes and agreed to go to the man’s home to see what needed to be done, documents said.

At some point, [Name Redacted], reportedly asked the boy about sex and if he’d be willing to have sex or perform sexual acts in front of a streaming web camera. [Name Redacted], offered to pay the boy $50 for each sex act on the webcam, and an additional $50 for each sexual contact he had with people off camera, court documents said.

The teen declined and was taken back to the parking lot where he met [Name Redacted], police said.

The boy claimed [Name Redacted] tried to grab his genitals, but he used a fist to knock away [Name Redacted],’s hand, documents said. The victim also told officers he was scared for his safety.

[Name Redacted] was behind bars when he called two people and told them to remove possible evidence from his house in case police executed a search warrant, both Petra and [Name Redacted] told the court at the time of his guilty plea.

[Name Redacted] had been in custody on $30,000, but now will be held without bail since he admitted to a sex crime.

He faces two years and seven months to three years and five months in prison for the sexual exploitation as charged, with up to a year in jail on the tampering.

However, his lawyer, Christine Bennett, told the court that the plea agreement included an exceptional sentence below the standard range at one year and four months in prison.

[At trial, additional charges would have been added which would have increased his range to a possible life sentence.]

Kennewick woman pleads guilty to kicking officer during arrest

Published: June 8, 2012

By Kristin M. Kraemer, Herald staff writer

A 21-year-old Kennewick woman admitted kicking an officer who was trying to arrest her when concerned citizens reported her in the middle of a street naked and high on methamphetamine.

[Name Redacted],pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault for the April 22 incident in Kennewick.

“I intentionally kicked a police officer who was trying to arrest me,” she wrote in her plea statement.

Police were called by concerned citizens about a woman they found naked and yelling in the street. The residents didn’t know [Name Redacted], but offered their help, court documents said.

When officers arrived, [Name Redacted] was trying to get inside the house, documents said.

[Name Redacted], who had ingested meth, tried to attack Officer Jason Kiel by kicking and spitting at him as he tried to arrest her.

Documents state that while being checked out at a Tri-City hospital before going to jail, she attempted to bite and spit on medical staff.

[Name Redacted] had been charged with third-degree assault. However, Deputy Prosecutor Christine Bennett said Kiel approved of the amendment to a lower charge because he was not injured and [Name Redacted] was high on drugs, Bennett wrote in court documents explaining the reduction.

“She was in a manic state at the time of the assault,” Bennett said.

[Name Redacted] does not have any felony convictions. As a part of the deal, she must agree to a drug abuse evaluation and treatment, the prosecutor said.

Her recommended sentence will be 30 days in jail with 334 days suspended. Sentencing is set for June 28.

Teen accused of giving minors alcohol, drugs

Published: March 4, 2010

By Kristin M. Kraemer, Herald staff writer

A Richland teen faces a May 17 trial on allegations that during a party he gave alcohol and drugs to minors and later made sexual advances on a semi-conscious girl.

[Name Redacted], 19, pleaded innocent Wednesday in Benton County Superior Court to two counts of distributing marijuana and methamphetamine to a person under 18 and one count each of fourth-degree assault and furnishing liquor to a minor.

The charges include aggravating allegations of sexual motivation and victim vulnerability.

Prosecutors allege that on May 2, a group of 15-year-olds were with [Name Redacted] at a party when he “provided intoxicants, including marijuana and alcohol” to the group.

Witnesses reported seeing one of the girls “passed out due to her extreme intoxication” and carried around by [Name Redacted] and others. At one point in the night, the girl was “dropped and hit her head very hard on cement,” according to court documents.

It is that same girl that prosecutors claim [Name Redacted] was seen kissing and inappropriately touching while she was semi-conscious or even unconscious. The girl also was reportedly vomiting from her condition, documents said.

[Name Redacted] was allegedly told to stop by witnesses but continued. He then “spent the night unsupervised in the same room (with the minor girls) as they all slept and/or passed out from intoxication,” Deputy Prosecutor Christine Bennett wrote in court documents.

Parents of at least two of the teens conducted home drug tests the next morning and told Richland police the tests came back positive for marijuana and trace amounts of methamphetamine, documents said.

Puppy mill hearing delayed to July 29

Published: June 11, 2009

By the Herald staff

KENNEWICK — A hearing for a Kennewick woman accused of keeping 371 dogs in deplorable conditions has been continued.

[Name Redacted] is charged with second-degree animal cruelty stemming from her puppy breeding operation at [Address Redacted].

Her Benton County District Court hearing has been continued to July 29.

She pleaded innocent to the charge last month.

Public defender Peyman Younesi and Deputy Benton County Prosecutor Christine Bennett said Wednesday that they are swamped with paperwork that’s flooded their office since the dogs were seized from [Name Redacted]’s property and placed in shelters throughout the Northwest.

“There’s a plethora of evidence still working its way to my office,” Younesi told Judge Pro Tem Jackie Shea-Brown.

[Name Redacted] was arrested in mid-May after Benton County Sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant on her property. About two weeks later, sheriff’s deputies returned to seize the American Eskimo dogs.

The dogs initially were held at the Benton County Fairgrounds but have since been taken to animal shelters across the Northwest.

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