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, after a trial of nearly two weeks in length. Kitts sobbed openly, as did his wife and other family members; his father-in-law, Mark Dykstra, says that this has been an extreme experience…kitts 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, his DNA would naturally be in the home. 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. Weeping profusely after the verdict was announced, Kitts also thanked the jury from across the attorney’s desk. Yesterday’s acquittal leaves prosecutors with no suspects in the 16 year-old murder, as both main suspects in the incident have now been found “not guilty.”
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Long-time Kelso teacher and local mental health care advocate Bernie Altman is now in critical condition at PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Center, after being attacked and stabbed at his home in Kelso. Kelso Police report that they were called to 1000 North 20th yesterday evening for a welfare check on the homeowner, and they found that the 92 year-old Altman had been severely injured. They say that Altman had been beaten and stabbed, and that his son, David Jack Altman, 52, is the attacker. Bernie Altman was taken to Saint John Medical Center, and then was transferred to Vancouver with injuries described as “life-threatening.” David Altman was arrested by Kelso Police; it’s claimed that Altman assaulted an officer during the arrest. He’s now being held without bail on a single count of attempted first-degree murder. For many years, Altman and his wife were advocates for retirees and for mental health services in the local area, chairing the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health. In recent months, Altman had stepped away from those activities, while he acted as a caretaker for his wife. The motive for the attack is unknown at this time.
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A machine recount confirms that Teresa Purcell has displaced incumbent JD Rosetti in the November General Election race for Position #1 in the 19th Legislative District. The final tally released by the Washington Secretary of State shows Purcell with 6,411 votes, while Rosetti received 6,361 votes, a final margin of 50 votes, out of more than 26,500 votes that were cast. Purcell will now face Republican Jim Walsh in the General Election. Walsh was the top vote-getter in the Primary, but it’s noted that Purcell and Rosetti split the Democratic vote, and this seat has been in Democrat hands for many years.
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It’s being reported that the little girl that went under the water at Paradise Point State Park has died. Sakura Marie Hern, 5, of Tualatin had been pulled from the East Fork of the Lewis River last Saturday afternoon. She had been at the park with family, and was reported as missing shortly after 2 pm. Others at the park helped get the girl out of the water and then started CPR. The girl was eventually taken to Randall Children’s Hospital, but doctors said that there would be little chance of recovery. Hern was removed from life support yesterday morning, and she passed away a short time later, surrounded by family. A Celebration of Life is being planned for Sunday, and a GoFundMe account is being set up to help the family with expenses.
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The Red Cross is providing temporary housing and other assistance to a family that was displaced yesterday morning when a fire destroyed their RV. About 12:30 yesterday afternoon, Woodland Fire was called to the 1000 block of A Street in Woodland, where an RV fire was reported at the Woodland Shores RV Park. Two adults and a child were displaced by the fire, but other details have not been released. There’s no word yet on the cause of the fire, nor is there a dollar estimate on damage.
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Three people are under arrest after action by the Street Crimes Unit earlier in the week. On Tuesday, detectives served a search warrant at 264 Colorado Street in Longview, where they claim to have found heroin and methamphetamine. Bobby R. Rather, 48, is now being charged with possession of meth and possession of heroin. Maria L. Saenz, 49, is in custody for possession of meth with intent to deliver within a school zone, and possession of heroin, and Matthew S. Sund, 27, is being held for alleged possession of meth. This is part of an on-going investigation by the SCU.
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A Mass Casualty Drill is planned for today in Wahkiakum County, going from 10 am until 5 pm, and they’re in need of “victims” for the event. The Wahkiakum County Department of Emergency Management says that they’re setting up for a major event, looking for as many as 125 people to aid in the event. Volunteers will be made up with gunshot wounds, broken bones, burns and other injuries, and then they will be given scripts and and instructions for the events. They say that there will be loud noises, “yelling” and a simulated fire/collapse situation. Local law enforcement, emergency medical services, mental health professionals and school district emergency response staff will be involved. Call Wahkiakum County at 795-7876 for more information.
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There’s some street work going on around the area that you need to know about, starting with a street closure in Longview. As part of the water line replacement that’s going on next to Lake Sacajawea, the City of Longview is closing 17th Avenue at Nichols Boulevard, as the installation and restoration work spans 17th. A detour will be posted; local access will be maintained from Cypress Street. 17th is scheduled to re-open on Monday.
Cowlitz County plans to do some striping work in the areas around Kalama and Woodland over the weekend, while the West Side Highway Paving Project has been completed ahead of schedule. Work is now under way on the Pacific Way Slide Repair Project, and should continue into October.
The City of Kelso plans to do striping work all across the city, starting at 7 am on Sunday.
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While state officials work to close the gap that allowed a hacker to get into the Washington Fish and Wildlife licensing system, the state is announcing that there will be “free fishing days” across the state through next Tuesday. Sales of hunting and fishing licenses were suspended earlier this week, after it was discovered that someone had hacked into the license system, stealing personal information. While the state Office of Cyber Security works on the system vulnerability, WDFW says that NO license will be needed to fish or gather shellfish anywhere in the state, through next Tuesday, the 30th. No vehicle pass will be needed at WDFW access sites, but you will still need to observe fishing seasons, size limits, bag limits and water closures. All of the rules will go back into effect on Wednesday, the 31st. Go to the WDFW web page, or check with your local outfitter for more information.
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“Putt With a Purpose“ this Friday at the 2nd annual Charity Care Challenge Golf Tournament, a benefit for Community Home Health and Hospice. This is a four-person scramble being played at Three Rivers in Kelso. Get signed up on the Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce web page.
There’s a Blood Drive going on this Friday at St. John Medical Center. The Bloodworks NW Bloodmobile will be parked on 15th Avenue, taking donations between 11:30 am and 5:30 pm. There will be a break from 11:30 to 12:30 pm. Call 888-398-7888 to set up a donation appointment.
The “Get Hooked” Fall Salmon Derby runs Friday and Saturday, based out of the Elochoman Slough Marina in Cathlamet. This is a scholarship fundraiser for the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce, with prizes awarded in four groups, men, women, youth and kids. Weigh-in is from 2 to 8 pm each day. Get tickets at several locations in Cathlamet.
The Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers will be in Longview on Friday, displaying their newest totem pole at Longview United Methodist Church. The totem pole will be on display from 10:30 am to 1 pm. Longview United Methodist is located at 2851 30th Avenue in Longview.
You’ll hear about some “very bad days” at Friday night’s Story Slam, being put on by Storyteller’s Network at Stageworks Northwest Longview Theatre. The theme for the Story Slam is “My Worst (blank)”, and will get started at 7pm. You’re invited to share a first-person account of “your worst whatever” in five minutes. Call 431-5332 for more information.
The 52nd annual Cowlitz Prairie Threshing Bee happens this weekend outside of Toledo. This takes place at 155 Buckley Road, off of Buckley Road, just past the airport. Gates open at 8 am each day, and will run through 4 pm on Sunday.
With a gorgeous sunrise behind them in the east, the first of more than a thousand teams are taking off from Timberline Lodge early this morning, kicking off the 35th annual Hood-to-Coast Relay. 12-member teams are making their way from Mount Hood to Seaside, and you could see some of those teams if you get onto the back roads through Columbia and Clatsop Counties. The race course turns off of Highway 30 in St. Helens, and then will use several back roads to get to Mist and Highway 202 to the coast. A highlight of this year’s race will be the entry of comedian Kevin Hart, who is participating with his “Run with Hart” collaboration with Nike. The Portland-to-Coast Walk will also be going on at the same time, with four hundred teams taking off from the east bank of the Willamette River, also making their way to Seaside. If you are heading into Columbia County this weekend, be aware that these walkers, runners and support teams will be on these back roads.
“Unique is What We Seek, Bizarre is What We Are,” that’s the theme for the 42nd annual Unique Tin Car Show, which goes on this Saturday at the Cowlitz County Fairgrounds. Hundreds of classic, custom and vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles will be on display, along with the Miss Unique Tin Pin-Up Contest, a beer garden, a swap meet and live entertainment. After the show, the annual cruise on 15th Avenue in Longview will run from 6 to 9 pm. A permit is required, and you can only get those at the Unique Tin event. Registration opens at noon on Friday, and the show opens at 9 am on Saturday.
The Kelso High School Theater Department is putting on a fundraising car wash this Saturday, going from 11am to 4pm at the Kelso Taco Time. Proceeds will help support upcoming programs and productions at the high school.
If you’re looking to preserve some of the bounty out of the family garden, the Columbia County Extension Service is putting on a Home Canning class. The class will run from 9 am to 1 pm at the Columbia Soil and Conservation District building, located just outside of St. Helens on Millard Road. Class size is limited, so you’ll need to call 503-397-3462 to register.
The Cowlitz Community Farmers Market continues on Saturday, offering fresh produce, baked goods, honey and more from 9 am until 2 pm on Saturdays and Tuesdays in the 7th Avenue parking lot, across from the County Fairgrounds.
The Winlock Improvement Network and the Winlock Lions are hosting a Farmers Market that will run each Saturday through September 24th, starting this Saturday at the corner of State Route 505 and Highway 603.
The Saturday Farmer’s Market in Clatskanie goes from 10 am until 2 pm at Cope’s Park on the Clatskanie River.
The Ryderwood Old-Timer’s Reunion Potluck Picnic is set for this Sunday, starting at noon on Sunday at the Ryderwood Community Buliding. At 1 pm, a narrated portion of the 1926 film on the Long-Bell mill will be shown, focusing on the Ryderwood portion of the film. Call 360-295-3217for more information.
The Kelso Bridge Market is at a new venue this year, at the Three Rivers Mall. Hours are 10 am to 3 pm on Sunday next to the southwest entry to the Mall.
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