Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Bulletin Column: March 28, 2019


March 28, 2019

Super Moon: A "Super Moon" descends over Colfax the morning of March 20. A point when the Moon is closest to Earth, it appears 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter.

These reports are from the previous four issues of the Daily Bulletin in Colfax. They are reprinted here for the benefit of Gazette readers who reside outside of Colfax. Some accounts have been updated.


Coroner Annie Pillers March 20 issued a report on the death of Derick Paul Abshire, 33, the Lewiston trucker who was killed in an accident March 14 at the Port of Wilma. The report said Abshire sustained massive head and torso injuries when he was struck on a roadway at the Port of Wilma.

Abshire had parked his truck on the eastbound shoulder of the roadway and was struck by a truck traveling in the eastbound lane. The eastbound truck was being passed by a truck in the westbound lane.

The sheriff's report on the accident said Abshire was believed to have been placing a tarp on the trailer of the truck he was driving.

The sheriff's investigation determined Abshire somehow fell backwards into the path of the eastbound truck which was moving at a slow rate of speed. The investigation determined he was 10 feet into the roadway when he came in contact with the back of the eastbound truck, according Deputy Michael Melcher, investigating officer.

Pillers, who was called to the scene to investigate, ruled the manner of death was accidental.


Kelley Messinger of Rosalia was part of a panel discussion Wednesday at Whitman College in Walla Walla on the re-publication of "Concrete Mama," the 1981 photo book about the violent times of the state penitentiary in Walla Walla. The photo book became a Pacific Northwest Classic. Two young journalists, reporter John McCoy and photographer Ethan Hoffman, spent four months in the state penitentiary to turn out the book which was originally published by the University of Missouri in 1981.

McCoy and Hoffman were on the staff at the Walla Walla Union Bulletin at the time and left their jobs to go into the penitentiary and gather material for their book for four months.

McCoy was also among panelists who discussed the book Wednesday beginning at 7 p.m. in Olin Hall on the Whitman College campus. Hoffman is deceased.

Messinger participated because he was actually an inmate in the penitentiary at the time covered in the book. He was also a member of the prison's biker club which had a dominate role in the turmoil of the prison at that time.

Gov. Dixie Lee Ray, in 1980, signed a release for Messinger whose conviction was under appeal, and his conviction was eventually overturned in Walla Walla Superior Court in 1996. He noted irony of the pardon was Gov. Ray was a Democrat, and Messinger is a member of the Republican party and current vice chair of the GOP Central committee.

Messinger, who now operates a wholesale motorcycle parts business in Rosalia, has given talks about his prison experience at the University of Idaho and Washington State University.

Dick Morgan, a former Washington State Patrol superintendent and state Secretary of Corrections and several Whitman faculty members, will also be on the panel.

A recent book on the Walla Walla prison, "Unusual Punishment" by Christopher Murray, cites the reporting done by McCoy and Hoffman in their "Concrete Mama" book.


Colfax Officer Joe Handley Saturday at 2 p.m. responded to a report of possible gun shots being discharged in the area of the 600 block of S. Main Street. Handley located debris from discharged fireworks in the area.

--Officer Perry Tate March 20 responded to a hit-and-run report of a vehicle parked in the DSHS parking lot at about 3:30 p.m.

The 2015 Ford Escape, owned by DSHS, sustained extensive damage to its back end. Force of the hit moved the small car approximately a foot. Tate was unable to find witnesses to the accident.

--Officer Tate March 21 received a call from a Kent resident who said he had received a call from a person who told him a warrant for his arrest had been issued by the Colfax Police Department. The man said he was instructed to send cash to have the warrant removed. Tate was unable to confirm that a warrant had been issued and pointed out arrest warrants don't involve payments to police departments.


Testimony began Tuesday in the state's case against Thomas L. Culhane, 23, Camas, after an all-day session of jury selection Monday in Whitman County Superior Court. Forty-eight potential jurors were called for the selection process. Culhane has been charged with two counts of second-degree rape, assault in the second degree and furnishing liquor to minors.

The charges stem from a Pullman Police investigation of a report of the crimes which allegedly took place at an apartment on NE Valley View Road after a party Aug. 20, 2017.

Dan Le Beau, chief deputy prosecutor, filed the charges Oct. 8 of last year. He submitted a list of 18 potential witnesses to the court March 19.

Spokane defense attorney Stephen Graham, who is representing Culhane, listed nine witnesses in a report submitted Monday.


Richard Scheuerman will give a presentation.the Harvest Heritage art exhibit at the Colfax library today, March 28, at 7 p.m. It will be the last day of the Harvest Heritage exhibit which features 12 farm paintings.

Scheuerman's collection includes originals, first editions and reprints depicting harvest and related events. They are a small portion of what has been acquired by Scheuerman during research for his books.

Scheuerman is a professor emeritus of education at Seattle Pacific University. He is also a recipient of the Washington State Historical Society's Robert Gray medal for outstanding contributions to history education and the governor's award for Excellence in Teaching.


Janelle Ivory Braun, 38, Spokane, has been summoned to make a first appearance in court April 12 after a charge of first degree theft was filed against her March 19 in superior court. According to the investigation report, a Colfax resident came to the sheriff's office Nov. 14 and said she suspected Braun had been charging items on her credit card. The alleged victim, who is related to the suspect, said she suspected Braun picked up the card numbers when she had recited them to make a payment while she was with Braun. She said reports of the invalid purchases made with the card numbers began the next day.

Amount of the alleged losses on the card was eventually determined to be $5,540.


Flow for the Palouse River at Hooper topped out at more than 5,000 cubic feet per second Sunday. Flow on the USGS meter measured 4,290 cubic feet as of 8:30 Monday morning. Record flow for the river on this date is 9,000 cubic feet per second in 2016.

Reading for the USGS station on the North Fork of the Palouse River was at 3,240 cfs Monday morning. It topped 5,000 cfs just before midnight on Saturday, dropped to as low as 3,000 on Sunday and started back up over the 4,000 mark Sunday night.

High flow was marked Friday and Saturday on the Spring Flat Creek channel going into the South Fork of the Palouse and the Colfax flood channel.


Richard J. Lander, 26, Colfax, was sentenced to nine months in jail Friday after he pleaded guilty to a charge of third degree domestic violence assault. Lander was originally charged with second degree assault.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dan Le Beau told the court Lander violated a previous no-contact order Feb. 9, when he entered the residence of a former girlfriend. During the assault, Lander bit the victim's little finger and pulled out some of her hair.

In addition to recommending the nine-month sentence, Le Beau asked the court to order Lander to have no contact with the victim for five years.

The victim told the court she considered herself a survivor and not a victim. She objected to the five-year no contact order because she said she wanted Lander to establish a relationship with their infant daughter.

After ascertaining that the infant was present at the time of the assault, Judge Gary Libey ordered the nine-month jail sentence, payment of $700 fines and fees and the five-year no contact order.

He also ordered Lander to undergo a year of community supervision after his release from jail, undergo evaluation for drug use and comply with any recommended treatment.

The judge advised the victim she could petition for modification of the five-year no contact order if Lander meets conditions of the sentence and seems ready to visit his daughter.

Lander had an offender score of three with two prior convictions listed in Whitman County.


Press Secretary Jared Powell Monday issued an official statement by Fifth District Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers on the findings of the Mueller investigation which returned a finding of no collusion between the Russians and the 2016 presidential campaign in which Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"I look forward to seeing the special counsel's full report, but as more details continue to come forward, it proves what President Trump has been saying all along -- there was no collusion. As I voted in favor of earlier this month, this report should be made available to the public for all to see. My only hope now is that we can all move forward and focus on the big issues facing our country."


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