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Month: June 2014

“The Last Kind Words Saloon” by Larry McMurtry

The Last Kind Words Saloon” by Larry McMurtry

c.2014, Liveright
$24.95 / $27.95 Canada
199 pages



Every good thing must come to an end.

In some cases, that’s a surprising relief: you can only have just so much fun.

In other cases, though, the end comes quietly, slowly, so that few actually realize it until it’s already crept away. That includes friendships and ways of life, and in “The Last Kind Words Saloon” by Larry McMurtry, it’s almost closin’ time.

Every cowboy in Texas knew that Charlie Goodnight possessed exceptional hearing and vision: Charlie could see and hear anything on the plains, but that didn’t stop him from going into a partnership with a showy Englishman who had no sense.

It was odd, but it wasn’t all bad. When Lord Ernle had a little accident, Charlie ended up with land, cattle, and a half-done mansion on the ridge near Long Grass – which was “nearly in Kansas, but not quite… nearly in New Mexico, too, but not quite… might be in Texas.”

Finally, Charlie’s wife, Mary, got the house she wanted. And when the exotic beauty everybody thought was Ernle’s concubine moved in, Mary got the woman-friend she wanted, too.

The mansion – and the man who planned it – had been the talk of Long Grass. Doc Holliday hoped he might perform dental surgery on the staff who’d arrived on the Englishman’s behalf, and make a little money. Wyatt Earp didn’t say much about the bagpipers, the Englishman’s butcher, or his chef – but then again, Wyatt was a man of few words anyhow.

Maybe he was thinking about his wife, Jessie. Sometimes, she seemed to hate him. And sometimes, it was the other way around.

With nothing to do in Long Grass but drink, the commotion the Englishman brought was welcome – for a time. So was the job that Doc and Wyatt took in Denver, but that didn’t work out, either. They’d heard that Tombstone, Arizona was looking for lawmen and, since Wyatt’s brothers were looking for jobs, it seemed right to head southwest…

Here’s why I always like novels by author Larry McMurtry: they’re told so casually. The story is easy; it moseys in little slices of humor and relaxed discomfort, and the characters are even-tempered. The horrifying blood-and-torture violence – and there’s always plenty of that – is written lovingly but offhanded, as though McMurtry is reciting a menu and, by the way, would you shut the door, please?

“The Last Kind Words Saloon” follows this storytelling method, but this novel seemed almost like a one-off. It’s short, first of all: at just under 200 pages, it’s almost a novelette. It meanders a little more than most McMurtry books and there are interesting plotlines that die all too soon.

And yet – who could resist a tale of friendship that’s so Lonesome-Dove-like? Who could turn away a novel that seems to quietly close the Old West by bringing its biggest characters together with some of McMurtry’s?

I know I couldn’t, and if you like good storytelling, then you’ll want to read it, too. “The Last Kind Words Saloon” is a book you won’t want to end.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Parks Board ready to start new program


Of the Keizertimes

The funding amount isn’t what was hoped for.

No matter: members of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board are ready to start their new matching grant program.

In the midst of trying to get more money for the program – which will in essence allow the Parks Board to partner with community members and double funds – board members finalized the application forms. The hope is for completed forms to start being submitted prior to monthly Parks Board meetings, which take place the second Tuesday of each month. The next meeting is on July 8.

Meetings usually start at 6 p.m. in council chambers at Keizer Civic Center, though the July meeting will take place in the McNary High School cafeteria.

With the new program, groups or organizations will submit applications to Debbie Lockhart at city hall (930 Chemawa Road) for projects and indicate what they are willing to put into the project, both in terms of materials and labor. Parks Board members will go through the applications and choose the top ones, matching funding requests.

As an example, if a group is willing to put in $500 towards cleaning up a park and the application is accepted, Parks Board members could put $500 worth in materials towards the project.

In recent years the Parks Board has had an annual fund of $20,000. This year that amount was cut to $10,000. During the Keizer City Council budget discussion, the amount was bumped up to $14,000.

“I fought really hard for $10,000 (extra) and got $4,000,” councilor Marlene Quinn told Parks Board members at this month’s meeting. “By midyear if we haven’t used the contingency fund, I will fight for the rest. This isn’t over.”

Brandon Smith, chair of the Parks Board, noted the up-and-down financial battle.

“We’ll see how the program works,” Smith said. “I would like to start doing this by the first meeting in July.”

Parks Board members unanimously approved the double-sided application form. The form asks for information such as the name of the individual or organization applying, the project director’s name, the project name, the proposed park site and if the project is identified in the current Parks Master Plan.

There is also a section asking about the estimated project start and completion date, project budget, type of project and if a recognition sign will be required. The biggest space is for a project description.

The back side of the form explains the matching grant program and lays out the rules and criteria of the program.

Lady Celts hosting first camp under new coach

Derick Handley, former girls basketball coach at McKay High School, took the reins of the McNary High School Lady Celt program in April. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Derick Handley, former girls basketball coach at McKay High School, took the reins of the McNary High School Lady Celt program in April. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School girls basketball program is hosting a camp for hopeful future Celtics July 1-3. It will double as an opportunity for athletes and their families to meet the Lady Celts’ new head coach, Derick Handley.

“We’ll be looking for the next Madi Hingston or Sydney Hunter, and there’s going to be lots of hands-on time with current players and coaches,” Handley said.

The camp is open to all girls in kindergarten through eighth grade and will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. Cost of the camp is $45 per camper and includes a shirt. Two can register for $80. Registration forms are available at the McNary office, 595 Chemawa Road N., and can be completed on the first day of camp provided space is available.

Handley replaces Paul Pickerell who led the program for two years before accepting a job coaching golf at Corban University in March. Handley joins the Celtics having led the McKay High School program for four years and providing a much-needed shot in the arm to a fading Royal Scot program.

“My first year, we only had 16 girls try out. Last year we had more than 50,” Handley said.

Handley, who lives in Keizer with wife Allison and 5-month-old son Emerson, will also be teaching English and social studies at McNary, which will give prospective players extra facetime with the coach. He’s hoping that presence will impact the number of girls trying out for the sport.

“Last year, we only had two teams (junior varsity and varsity), and that’s a problem. We should have three, but’s that’s also partly our responsibility to make happen. It means reaching out to the youth leagues and being part of what they’re doing while inviting them to be part of what we’re doing,” Handley said.

He’s already planning a Future Celtic Night when visiting youth players will have their own bleacher section.

In the meantime, he’s gunning full bore with the current crop of Lady Celts. Much of the varsity roster is in a summer ball league where its record is currently 13-2. They won a tournament at Liberty High School last week.

“We started an incoming freshman, a sophomore and three juniors and won the tournament,” Handley said. “What we have right now is balance. Madi and Sydney are both great players, but we’ve got Kaelie Flores and Reina Strand on the floor doing great things. There’s not going to be one name at the top of the scoring lists. I hope to have several players averaging double digits,” Handley said.

If there’s one area where he’d like to see them put in some work, it’s in the girls’ self-confidence.

“They see a team like South Salem (High School) and they know they’re good, but they tell themselves they’re not that good,” he said. “We can be just as good as them, and I think we might have as much potential Division I talent as they do.”

Beyond the court, Handley wants the Celtic athletes to learn teamwork and selflessness among the other lessons sports can impart.

“I was an okay student in high school, but my motivation was baseball and basketball. I was the first person in my family to go to college and, quite honestly, I don’t think I would have had the skills or motivation to do it without the athletic piece. That’s what I hope they learn as part of the program,” Handley said.

Needed: a new van

One Treasure Church is helping Keizer resident Charlie Cheney purchase a new wheelchair-accessible van with a flea sale June 28 and 29 at the Cheney home on Manzanita Street Northeast. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
One Treasure Church is helping Keizer resident Charlie Cheney purchase a new wheelchair-accessible van with a flea sale June 28 and 29 at the Cheney home on Manzanita Street Northeast. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Charlie Cheney needs a new van. One look at how he fits into the current one, a mid-1990s Ford Econoline, is probably all it would take for anyone to agree.

Charlie needs to tilt his chair back to about a 60-degree angle to clear his head under the roof of the van just to get inside. Once there, he’s only able to right himself to about 45 degrees, giving his face only about two inches of clearance from the interior ceiling. He’s ridden like this since he was 14 years old.

“If we’d ever have an accident, I’m not as secure as I could be,” Cheney said.

This weekend One Treasure Church is hosting an epic flea sale in hopes of raising the final portion of the $60,000 it will cost to get him a new one. The sale will be held June 28 and 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cheney home, 1219 Manzanita Street N.E., in Keizer.

Charlie, 27, was born with a neuromuscular disease called spinal muscular atrophy that causes an ever-increasing weakness in his muscles. The condition has confined him to a wheelchair since age 13 when he had a metal rod inserted in his spine to correct scoliosis.

Charlie is a substitute teacher and tutor with the Salem-Keizer School District and an active member of his church. His mother, Ruth, drives him to many of his jobs and volunteer activities. They were headed out again last year when the chair lift broke. It was temporarily fixed, but the need for a new van has become more and more pressing since then.

“We asked the members of our congregation to pray for us and that led them to taking up the offering during Christmas Eve service and putting it into a fund for a new van,” he said.

To date, about $15,000 has been raised to put toward the cost of a new van with modifications.

A new vehicle – likely a minivan – would have a ramp instead of a lift and a lower floor to accommodate Charlie sitting fully upright.

Oregon’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services has agreed to pay for the the cost of the modifications, about $30,000, but the Cheneys, and now One Treasure Church, are obliged to cover the cost of the van.

“Some people have asked why we need a new van, but it’s something you want to get a lot of life out of if you’re going to do all the necessary modifications,” Ruth said.

Charlie himself could easily be a poster child of the differently abled. After graduating from McNary High School in 2005, he attended Corban University where he planned to major in architecture. At least until one day sitting in a history class.

“I was in class, and I realized I wanted to help people to know history better,” he said.

Charlie returned after getting his degree to obtain teaching credentials and he’s currently working on adding English for Speakers of Other Languages certifications. He’d like to learn Spanish.

As part of the district’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program he now tutors students who are likely to be the first in their families to attend college.

While the wheelchair might seem like an impediment to teacher-student bonding, it’s usually more of a boon.

“Sometimes it takes a little while, but at soon as they start they move quickly. It’s a big plus,” Charlie said. “The students give me the benefit of the doubt and the trust is built faster than with ordinary people. It happens outside the classroom, too.”

Extra motivation to help out might not be needed at this point but, if it is, think of the new van as a way to help Charlie change the world. Few people, healthy or differently abled, would be better ambassadors.

Donations can be made to the Cheney van fund during the flea sale.

No more Honey at MHS

John Honey
John Honey (File photo)

Of the Keizertimes

With 30 years experience as a teacher and administrator, there’s not a whole lot that keeps John Honey up at night when it comes to the day-to-day operations of a high school.

That’s changed in recent weeks knowing he’s to become the planning principal for Salem-Keizer’s new Career Technical Education School.

“It’s rejuvenating a bit. I love and enjoy the community and students at McNary, but there’s not a whole lot that’s surprising. I don’t lie awake and wonder what will happen tomorrow here, but with this new opportunity, I’m already lying awake at night coming up with questions we haven’t asked yet,” Honey said.

The CTE school will be tasked to work with local industry representatives to graduate students prepared for high-demand, high-wage jobs.

Honey was reassigned from North Salem High School to McNary in 2010 and will continue as McNary’s principal through the first semester of the 2014-15 school year when his replacement will take the reins. He’ll continue working from an office at McNary on the CTE planning at least through the end of the school year.

“Our assistant principal Sue Smith retired this year, so the plan is to replace her with an associate principal who will move into my office when I transition out. Then, the district will hire a new assistant principal,” Honey said.

The plan is to make the new hire for an associate principal as soon as possible.

Honey will remain a leader in the effort to install a new turf field at MHS, but the change pushes up the window.

“We were planning on trying to have everything ready to go in April, but I’m hoping we can move that up to February. I think it’s within reason to have all of our funding and large in-kind donations squared away. That will mean it’s just a matter of small issues after that,” he said.

One of the biggest additions to McNary in Honey’s time with the Celtics was an Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training program that will enter its third year this fall.

“Last year, we started working toward JROTC students earning dual credit in that program and I hope that continues,” Honey said.

If all goes according to plan, it means students enrolled in JROTC electives might be able to earn a small amount of additional credit in other subjects like science, social studies or physical education while part of the JROTC program.

Honey also hopes to see students, faculty and staff doing their part to return the favors done by members of the community at large.

“When I got here, I felt like McNary did a great job of accepting help from the community, but I’d like see McNary reach out to the community more, and not just with an open hand,” he said.

He cited numerous ways in which students have volunteered in community efforts from eradicating weeds in local parks to assisting during the Iris Festival.

“The one thing I hope people don’t think is that I’m walking away from McNary due to frustration. The one thing I haven’t done in my career is open a new school. Getting the opportunity to try something new at the end of a career is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Honey said.

Volcanoes in third after see-saw week

Volcano Andrew Leenhouts fires off a pitch in the early going of a game with Everett Monday, June 23. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Volcano Andrew Leenhouts fires off a pitch in the early going of a game with Everett Monday, June 23. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

For the Keizertimes

June 18: Volcanoes 8, Hillsboro 6

Salem-Keizer overcame a 5-2 Hillsboro lead to spoil the Hops’ home opener and even its record at 3-3.

Trailing by three runs after four innings, the Volcanoes scored three runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.

After a rough pitching start by Drew Leenhouts, Cameron McVey struck out seven in 3-2/3 innings, and Eury Sanchez pitched two innings to get his second win. Ian Gardeck had his first save. John Pedrotty was the losing pitcher in relief.

The Volcanoes got their fifth-inning runs on two singles, a double, a stolen base and an error.

Travious Relaford and Geno Escalante drove in two hits each for the Volcanoes, and Leo Rojas and Shilo McCall had two hits apiece.

June 19: Hillsboro 4, Volcanoes 3

This was close all the way, with Hillsboro starter Ryan Doran striking out seven in his 5-2/3 innings and getting the win.

Salem-Keizer never led except for scoring the first run of the game before the Hops batted. Tyler Hollick doubled and scored on a single by Relaford.

Volcanoes starter Jose Reyes was the losing pitcher, with Kirk Singer and Armando Paniagua pitching scoreless innings in relief.

June 20: Hillsboro 2, Volcanoes 1

The Hops’ Elvin Soto singled Justin Gonzalez home in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Hillsboro the rubber game of the series.

Salem-Keizer’s only run came on a fourth-inning home run by Johneshwy Fargas, the first of his professional career and one of his three hits. No Hillsboro player had that many, but Hillsboro outhit the Volcanoes 9-8.

Jake McCasland was the losing pitcher in relief, and Dustin Loggins was the winner, also in relief.

June 21: Volcanoes 3, Everett 2

Craig Massoni delivered his third walk-off hit of the season, a bases-loaded single that scored Johneshwy Fargas to break a 2-2 tie.

The AquaSox led 2-0 until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Fernando Pujadas singled with the bases loaded to drive in Ryan Jones. Everett kept the 2-1 lead until the Volcano ninth.

Jones led off the Salem-Keizer ninth by reaching first base on an error. Pujadas tripled to score him for the second time. An error put Fargas on first, Geno Escalante was hit by a pitch, and Christian Arroyo reached first on a force out at third. Massoni’s single followed.

Four Volcano pitchers totaled 15 strikeouts, with Ian Gardeck the winner in relief. Everett reliever Kody Kerski took the loss.

June 22: Everett 6, 

Volcanoes 2

A seventh-inning two-out error by Craig Massoni led to three of the AquaSox’s runs.

The game was scoreless until the sixth inning, when Salem-Keizer scored the first run. A double by Fernando Pujadas drove in Ryan Jones, who had singled.

Volcanoes starter Jason Forjet pitched five scoreless innings with five strikeouts. In fact, Volcano pitchers totaled 10 strikeouts to Everett’s five. Each club had 10 hits and two errors.

All six AquaSox runs came in the seventh. Everett had two walks, a stolen base and two extra-base hits, including a two-run homer by Wilton Martinez. In the ninth, the Volcanoes put up their usual fight. Johneshwy Fargas walked, moved up on a wild pitch and then a walk, and scored on a balk.

Ricardo Pereira was the winning pitcher in relief.  Kirk Singer was the loser, also in relief.

June 23: Volcanoes 7, 

Everett 1

Will Callaway and Drew Leenhouts led the Volcanoes to their biggest win of the season so far.

Leenhouts, the starting and winning pitcher, allowed no runs and struck out six in his six innings.  Callaway went 4 for 4, driving in three runs and scoring two.

The big Salem-Keizer inning was the four-run fifth. Relaford, Ryan Jones and Craig Massoni loaded the bases with singles. Callaway doubled, driving home Relaford and Jones. A sacrifice fly by Leonardo Fuentes scored Massoni. Fernando Pujadas singled Callaway home.

Everett starter Jeffeson Medina was the losing pitcher.

Last lap for Keizer pool

The pool at Palma Ciea Swim Club has seen better days. The pool, which turned 50 years old this year, is currently closed and for sale. (Submitted)
The pool at Palma Ciea Swim Club has seen better days. The pool, which turned 50 years old this year, is currently closed and for sale. (Submitted)

Of the Keizertimes

Like the Ford Mustang, the Palma Ciea Swim Club in Keizer has turned 50 years old this year.

But whereas the Mustang is having an extended anniversary celebration, that’s not the case with the Keizer pool.

The Palma Ciea Swim Club is closed and is currently for sale.

Beth Thorndike, president of the pool at 900 Chemawa Road North, took over the pool three years ago but put it on the market last month.

“The pool does not support itself financially,” Thorndike said. “There are not enough members and we didn’t get enough the last two years. It was being run poorly when I stepped in. They were losing money. The finances of the pool aren’t good and we weren’t able to generate the business.”

Thorndike said anyone could take swimming lessons at the pool, with members getting discounts.

“It was significantly less expensive than the Courthouse (Athletic Club in Salem),” she said. “Our instructors were every bit as good. Swim lessons paid for themselves. We made money on swim lessons last year. We also had a swim team, which has always paid for itself.”

The problem, according to Thorndike, was not enough financial support outside of those two entities.

“There was a core of about 20 to 25 people who stayed with the pool,” she said. “The year I came on (2011), the finances had been so poorly run that they had members abandon. It can have up to 95 members. It was at that level for years. You have to maintain things and put money back into the pool, like resurfacing the pool.”

Lois Boase’s parents were charter members No. 25 and Boase herself was involved with pool leadership for 30 years, including being a board member from 2003 to 2013.

“I don’t want to overplay this, but it’s like a death,” Boase said of the pool’s closing. “Not the death of a person, but of a way of life. I have really fun memories from there. I learned to swim there. My brother was there most of the time as well. When Palma Ciea Villa started, it was its own little community. Everyone that was at the pool we went to school with. They were our neighbors. It was one big happy family.”

Boase said charter memberships were $250, plus dues of $36 a month during the season. That was big money 50 years ago.

“It was a big economic investment,” said Boase, whose time in leadership included being the board secretary for eight years. “The founders were trying to start it up. They walked from house to house. They talked to everyone about the opportunity for this neighborhood pool for their children. By golly, they pulled it off. I still have those slips of paper they showed us.”

Boase said she stayed involved with the pool for three decades for a reason.

“It was a respect for the sacrifice that my parents made for me to have that experience and to make sure that it continued so more and more children from generation after generation could experience what I got to experience,” she said.

Thorndike’s history with the pool isn’t as deep, but her connection was instantaneous – once she actually saw the pool.

“It’s a wonderful pool,” she said. “When you walk to the inside, it looks wonderful. That’s what brought me to it. I saw it and joined that day for swimming lessons. It was beautiful and clean. I hadn’t known much about the pool, but I saw a flier about it. I pulled up and saw the arboretum. I said if the pool looks like the outside, I’m leaving. But the instructors were ready to go and the pool was gorgeous, just gorgeous.”

Thorndike said she became president because she had ideas and plans, something board members at the time didn’t have.

“People weren’t excited about that by the time I came on,” she said. “Because of the problems, members were mad and they left. The current board members have worked their butts off. We were meeting every other week trying to get it going.”

Alas, Thorndike said the efforts were for naught.

“I was trying to get them to see it can’t continue,” she said. “My recommendation was we can’t open the pool again.”

Boase said all options for keeping the pool open were examined.

“If we could not sustain an adequate membership level given everything we did – and we did everything, like we brought in a small business consultant, put up beautiful signs, went door to door – if someone else can do it, God bless them. I’ll sign up,” she said.

The Palma Ciea Swim Club is listed by John L. Scott Realty, with an asking price of $74,900. Dana Burk is the realtor and can be reached at 503-409-5861. The property covers .45 acres, or 19,602 square feet. Photos on the John L. Scott site show some maintenance needs to be done, especially in regards to the removal of weeds.

Thorndike said she had been approached by a couple of people about the pool, including one who wanted to keep it as a community pool with lessons.

“I don’t know who will buy the pool,” she said. “Our thinking was the likelihood of someone buying it and keeping as a pool are pretty slim. I asked the city if they would like to take it over as a city pool. They don’t have the money. Some members will join other pools and some will probably just stop (swimming). With the costs to open the pool and the chemical, it was just prohibitively expensive.

“I would love to see it stay as a community pool,” Thorndike added. “That would be wonderful.”

Hung jury in murder trial

Judge Tom Hart declares a mistrial Wednesday morning in the Phillip Johnson murder case, due to a hung jury. Prosecutors will retry their case against Victor David Smith in September. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Judge Tom Hart declares a mistrial Wednesday morning in the Phillip Johnson murder case, due to a hung jury. Prosecutors will retry their case against Victor David Smith in September. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

The split wasn’t ending.

After more than three days of jury deliberation, no verdict was reached in the trial of Victor David Smith.

Smith was charged with murdering Keizer’s Phillip Johnson with a firearm in 2004.

The trial opened on June 17, with the final witnesses taking the stand the morning of Thursday, June 19. Closing arguments were given June 20, after which the 12-member jury began deliberations.

After not reaching a verdict last Friday afternoon, the jurors resumed deliberations at 9 a.m. Monday. With no progress reported, the schedule repeated on Tuesday.

By the end of the day Tuesday, still no verdict had been reached. After more deliberations Wednesday morning, Marion County Circuit Court Judge Tom Hart called all parties back to his courtroom shortly before 11 a.m.

“They have remained split,” Hart said. “This is after 21 hours and five minutes of deliberations. They deliberated longer than it took to try the case.”

Once Hart brought the jury back in, he mentioned the foreman had given him a note Tuesday afternoon about being split. A note with the same message led to his announcement Wednesday morning.

“You’re telling me you are irreparably split?” Hart asked, getting an affirmative response. “Then I’m  going to declare a mistrial. The suspect stays in custody. The next trial is set for Sept. 10.”

Hart informed media speaking with jurors would not be allowed to “preserve the integrity” of the matter. Prosecutor Paige Clarkson declined to comment, as did Johnson’s family, which sat in the second row during the entire trial.

Johnson was shot multiple times outside his Keizer apartment the night of July 1, 2004. Smith was arraigned last year on the single murder charge.

Smith was a prime suspect early in the case. At the time of the murder, he lived in Salem with Imani Williams, Johnson’s former girlfriend and a key figure in the saga. Much of the prosecution’s case was based on Smith being upset Williams still had strong feelings for Johnson.

The deliberations followed lengthy closing arguments for both sides. Clarkson from the Marion County District Attorney’s office opened by once again showing “The Defendant’s Prophecy,” a letter Smith had written to Williams. The letter had also led the prosecution’s opening arguments three days earlier.

“This defendant had a problem and the problem had a name: Phillip Johnson,” Clarkson said. “Phillip Johnson was the one thing that stood between him and what he loved. Phillip Johnson deserves justice. But to this defendant, Phillip Johnson was only a problem that needed to be solved. It was a problem that needed to be solved with murder.”

Clarkson pointed to evidence as showing Smith’s motive and being at the location.

“There is a lot of evidence in this case that tells you Phillip Johnson was murdered by this defendant,” she said. “We have a timeline of events of July 1, 2004. It tells you this defendant was on the way to murder Phillip Johnson. That is objective information that is completely unbiased.”

In particular, Clarkson pointed to multiple cell phone calls shortly after the murder.

“Imani Williams is calling this defendant at almost the exact time Phillip Johnson is killed,” Clarkson said. “There’s no reason for her to call (Smith) if he’s sitting next to her. She’s calling him because he’s not there…You can infer where he was. He was out shooting Phillip Johnson. He was out solving his problem.”

Olcott Thompson, Smith’s attorney, countered that the prosecution’s case left too many holes and created more than enough reasonable doubt. For example, he pointed to different details told by Sara Fandrei and Steven Chrisco, the two the prosecution stated drove Smith to Johnson’s apartment complex.

“Everyone sees the same event differently,” Thompson said. “Her story is slightly different than Mr. Chrisco’s, no question. How consistent are the stories? The problem is, the big stuff in (both) stories don’t match other things.”

Thompson said several suspects – including Chrisco, who has been in and out of prison on various charges the past 15 years – were too quickly dismissed by investigators with the Keizer Police Department.

“The state has to prove things,” Thompson said. “They’re saying, ‘Trust us; we’re the government.’ You need to make sure you get your decision right. It’s OK to let someone who is guilty go free if the state didn’t prove its case.”

On Tuesday, Thompson expanded upon that thought.

“The American system of justice is based on the state has to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. “Part of what’s built into that is a belief that it is better to let a guilty person go than to convict an innocent person. Ultimately, O.J. Simpson is the best example. Probably a lot of people thought he killed his ex-wife. But did they prove it beyond a reasonable doubt in the trial? The jury said no. Just because you believe something is not the same as the state proving it.”

Thompson said the jury being out so long didn’t necessarily play out in favor of his client.

“At this point, no,” he said. “Generally, and all generalizations are false including this one, if they come back quick it’s a state verdict. If they take longer, wherever the break point is, it’s a defense verdict. At some point, we don’t know.”

Thompson noted he’s past the point of being surprised.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” he said. “Jurors never surprise me. I’ve given up being surprised. They work at it and they get it right usually, 99 percent of the time. Sometimes it takes forever. At this point, if I start getting surprised by jurors, I’m in trouble.”

At long last, finish Chemawa

It is time for the city of Keizer to get tough with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) regarding the completiton of the Chemawa Road project that is, yet again, on hold due to utilities.

The discovery of unknown utility infrastructure is the cause of the lastest work stoppage. The neighbors and users of Chemawa Road deserve better.

ODOT, in charge of the $3.5 million project, had to stop work earlier this year after unknown utilities were discovered. The project can not proceed until those are relocated. Until that happens Chemawa Road proves to be an obstacle course for pedestrians and bicyclists and an eyesore for the homeowners affected by the deep trenches and gravel driveway entrances.

It is hard to fathom how a state agency and its contractors can be stymied by utility wires and pipes. The private sector is implored to call 8-1-1 before their dig on their property. A call to that number lets a property owner know where existing utility wires and pipes are located so they are not disturbed or damaged if they want to dig. How could the contractors not follow this simple task?

The city is at the mercy of the contractor and the companies that need to relocate their hardware. The  city’s public works department should not accept this state of affairs and demand that ODOT to complete the project, which was slated to be completed next month. The original completion date was 2012.

Regardless of which agency is the lead contractor, Keizer citizens will turn to its city government for answers and a resolution to this long-time construction project. If the delay goes on too much longer the project runs the risk of continuing into the new school year; how nice it would be to start the 2014 school year in September with a traffic light at Chemawa Road and Delight Street.

The city needs to have a better answer than it’s an ODOT project; the project is in our city and we expect our city government to be a squeaky wheel and do what it can to see the project is finished. The residents, pedestrians and bicyclists deserve nothing less.


What’s your kid doing this summer?

It’s a summer lament that’s been heard for decades from kids: “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”  If those are words heard in Keizer households, there are activities for our young ones to do this season.

Parents want to be sure their children are safe and active during the times when they are not in school or with the family. Costs and assessibility can certainly determine what a kid can do in the summer months. Fortunately there are a number of free activities available.

It doesn’t cost anything for kids to head to Chalmers Jones Park at the Keizer Civic Center to play in the splash fountain on days when it hits 75 degrees. There is no organized supervision at the fountain so parents need to be sure their kids are accompanied by a responsible guardian.

For kids who enjoy wheeled fun, the Carlson Skate Park, also at Chalmers Jones Park, is a good place to try bike and skateboard manuevers. Biking is also a big draw at Keizer Rapids Park where cyclists can hit the trails and the BMX trails.

For the little ones (age 3 to 7), the Keizer Community Library is offering Story Time each Thursday morning through Aug. 14.  The library is a good boredom-buster as well for the older kids.

The Boys and Girls Club again will host Wild Wild Rec in July and August with a set schedule at several city parks.

Even without Wild Wild Rec Keizer’s 18 parks are perfect for kids to play to their heart’s content with their fun limited by their imaginations. Most Keizer households are within walking distance of one of the parks.

Although summer is the time for kids to forget about school and homework, we think developing a series of camps to be staged at our school buildings is a good way to stave off idleness. Camps would be two- or three-day courses that teach about things kids are interested in: the stars, drawing comics, making videos, producing music—whatever kids like.

There would be no homework, no studying, no tests or quizzes, just fun things to learn. Experts in our community would be asked to donate time to conduct the camps. The curricula should be designed as low cost as possible so the camps could be extremely low- or no-cost to kids and their families.

The school buildings that sit empty in summer would be ideal locations for these camps. By summer of 2015 a community group can take on the challenge and design a series of camps to offer a wide variety of topics yet leave a very light footprint on the school building.

Such summer camps would add a dynamic element to the choices already available to Keizer kids, whether free or not.