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Day: June 20, 2014

Jury doesn’t reach verdict in murder case

Craig Murphy/KEIZERTIMES
Prosecutor Paige Clarkson delivers her closing arguments Friday in the murder trial of Keizer’s Phillip Johnson. A jury has not returned a verdict yet against defendant Victor David Smith.

 

By CRAIG MURPHY

Of the Keizertimes

After more than five hours of deliberation Friday, no verdict was reached in the murder trial of Phillip Johnson.

Victor David Smith was charged with murdering Keizer’s Johnson with a firearm.

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. The trial started on Tuesday, following a day for jury selection, and will continue Monday in Judge Tom Hart’s courtroom at the Marion County Courthouse. The start time for Monday is unknown, as it depends on how long jury deliberation takes.

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.

Friday’s deliberations followed lengthy closing arguments for both sides. Prosecutor Paige 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 Tuesday’s opening arguments.

“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.”

Judge Tom Hart sent the jury out to deliberate at 11:20 a.m. He called the jury back in at 4:30 p.m. and instructed the jury members to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Monday, with strict orders to not discuss the case over the weekend.

UGM Walk For Hope Saturday

Walkers take part in a past UGM Walk For Hope event. This year's event takes place Saturday, June 21. (File)
Walkers take part in a past UGM Walk For Hope event. This year’s event takes place Saturday, June 21. (File)

The Union Gospel Mission of Salem is holding Walk For Hope 2014 this Saturday, June 21.

The event starts at the downtown Salem UGM shelter at 9:30 a.m. and travels about five miles to end at the UGM’s Simonka Place in Keizer around 10:30.

There will be bounce houses, balloon art, face painting and lunch at Simonka Place. Lunch will be provided at 11:30.

UGM officials are hoping to have 400 walkers and to raise $35,000 with the event. The money will be used to provide meals and care at UGM for the summer. In the past two years, there has been an increase in services during the summer.

More information is available at UGMsalem.org/walkforhope.

Lewis Melson, Captain, USN (ret.)

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Lewis Melson, Captain, USN (ret.), passed away peacefully on June 1, 2014.

Lewis Byron Melson was born on March 1, 1914, in Salem to Roy and Etta Melson. He lived on the family farm in Keizer from 1926 to 1941.

He attended Salem High School and Oregon State University, worked for the Oregon State Highway Commission, then joined the Navy and was called to active duty in 1941. He was stationed in Charleston, S.C. where he met his wife Katherine, a WAVE from Georgia. They lived and traveled all over the world; he was commanding officer of the Naval Ship Repair Facility on Guam in the early 1960s, then worked at the Office of Naval Research in Washington, D.C. where he initiated the project that became the SEALAB program. He worked with Capt. George Bond, astronaut and diver Scott Carpenter, Jacques Cousteau, and ALVIN, the deep ocean submersible, among others. In 1966 he was the technical advisor to a task force to aid in the recovery of four hydrogen bombs lost near Palomares, Spain.

He retired from the military in 1968, then took a job as an engineering consultant for the Navy; he was sent to Frankfurt, and later Munich, Germany.

In 1975 he retired again and bought a house in Annapolis, Md., in Pendennis Mount. He began extensive work on the family genealogy and published a book, The Melson Family in America.

He also taught engineering at the Navy Academy part-time.

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He is survived by his daughter: Mary London, and her husband, Arthur; his sister: Evelyn Melson Franz of Keizer; grandchildren: Josh Adkins, Katie and Steve London of Towson, Md., Chris Melson and wife, Jaqueline of Reno, Nev., Matt and Ellie Parsons and son-in-law Jim Parsons of Crofton, Md.; five great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews including Genese Mullin (Mike) of Otter Rock, Allan Franz (Marge) of Salem, Theresa P. Henry (Tom) of Roseberg, Steve Hill (Marilyn) of Lexington, Mass. and Sharon Boyle (Glen) of Provo, Utah. 

His wife Katherine died in 1996, his brother David in 2002, his sister Ruth in 1992, son Lew in 1981 and daughter Peggy Parsons in 1998.

Should friends desire, memorial contributions may be sent to the Keizer Heritage Center, PO Box 20845, Keizer, OR, 97307, or Friends of Pioneer Cemetery, PO Box 2305, Salem, OR, 97308.

Preserve instead of develop?

To the Editor:

The news about the Herber property (on Verda Lane between Chemawa and Dearborn) going to apartments ought to make Keizer residents pause a moment.

Private use of private property for legal purposes always ought to be supported. In the case of “Cow Meadows,” perhaps it’s time once again for the community to step up to preserve a core Keizer value. As society gets more hemmed in, such open space will become increasingly precious. Once it’s gone, there is no getting it back. Perhaps the wiser minds of Keizer could find a way to create a small rural preserve for this ground, maybe adding it to Claggett Creek Park.

Or, perhaps there is a way to do a little of both—development and preservation. In the end, there may be no viable option but to develop. But the community should consider the options now, before no options are available. What do you think, Keizer?

Les Zaitz
Bates, OR

Cow pasture on Verda Lane

To the Editor:

I just voted on the Keizertimes web poll.  My realistic vote is to extend Claggett Creek Park, Although        I would prefer it remain the way it is.  As a park, the homestead could be utilized as a museum, perhaps a wedding venue, such as Log House Garden on Windsor Island Road.

So much of Keizer has changed, keeping some of it would help retain pride in my hometown.  I was born and raised in Keizer, and am still in contact with many of my classmates (McNary class of 1976) and my siblings’ classmates.  There is something very special about people reared in Keizer—I always say “It’s the water,”  but truly, I believe it’s the surrounding farmland, the connection with our roots that makes us all so very special.

My family home was the first one built in Palma Ciea; we were surrounded by cherry and filbert orchards, most of them are gone now.  Please keep Keizer Keizer.

Toni Gottfried
Bend, OR

Why not preserve Keizer history?

To the Editor:

The first 30 years of my life were spent in Keizer, until a job took me to Washington state. I still regularly visit family there and I am concerned about my hometown and what happens to it. With the exception of the inspired few who toil endlessly at the Keizer Heritage Museum, the citizens of Keizer have seemingly lost their appreciation for the history of this little community. Why is there a need for another apartment complex? There are thousands of them in the greater Salem-Keizer area. This home that will be torn down has a long rich history in the community, and is one of the few areas left as an open space. Why does every open space have to have a building plopped down on it–usually a strip mall or another apartment that sits half empty? Why not get bids to turn the house into a bed and breakfast with an attached restaurant or even just a nice restaurant by itself. I am disappointed in the editorial, Building on the cow pasture, June 13) that only expresses concern about what a seemingly inevitable apartment complex will look like. Yes, there is a lot of traffic at that intersection; why make it worse by  putting a lot of people in apartments along with their cars which will make more traffic.  Why not encourage the citizens to get behind an effort to save this home and this land as it did the oldest part of Keizer School—which is far younger than the house.  Several older homes in the area have been torn down for commercial interests and that is really a shame.

Corie Jones
Olympia, WA

Anything but boots on the ground

To the Editor:

Things are happening so fast in the Middle East right now and our options are so limited that it is difficult to see what the United States can and should do to protect its interests and the unfortunate people caught in the middle.  Too, the wrong actions on our part could very well result in bringing terrorist attacks to our own shores.

The investment that the United States has made in lives and treasure in Iraq creates a great urge to do something.  Yes, to do something but what?  Like Vietnam, our invasion of Iraq was ill-conceived and plagued by faulty intelligence together with misunderstanding of the land, the people, the culture and history!

I received a little encouragement the other day when the president announced that further aid to the Iraqi government would be conditioned on correction of the exclusionary policies that seem to have fueled the present unrest.  Pundits suggest that this is unlikely to occur or that it simply may be too late.  One thing is clear, we must not allow ourselves to be dragged back into something that we should never have become involved in the first place.

Art Burr
Keizer

An educational use for pasture?

In the 1980s we Americans were reminded by a national leader, then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill, that “All politics is local.”  A corollary of sorts to that fact is that personal opinion on local matters often trumps everything else on the advantages of selecting the right place to call “home.”

As anyone can attest from the traffic increase, Keizer is evermore frequently called “home” these days.  And, like fellow Keizer residents Maddy Kephart, who finds cows cute, as I do (even if it’s unmanly to admit it), and Debbie Crooks, who just does not want a farm scene to disappear from her daily view (she with the tenacity to stand on a corner with a sign expressing her sentiments), there’s likely a widespread wish the cows and the bucolic scene along a short stretch of Verda Lane could be preserved.

My opinion offers the argument, that’s likely endorsed by Kephart and Crooks, that Keizer, Oregon, is a fine place to live and we’d like to keep it that way.  So, saving even a small piece of Oregon’s one-time nearly-exclusive agricultural-based past would be an added plus to a place that, to begin with, has a lot of ‘specials’ to be appreciated and protected.

Keizer’s got so much going for it that the list of pluses could easily stretch to book length.  Pick any one, such as the relatively light traffic (except for some tolerably heavy use weekday mornings and evenings) but is so much more desirable and less aggravating to use than, let’s say, for two examples, just south of us, Lancaster Drive or south Commercial in Salem, that it comes up on top in any night-and-day comparison.

Then there are the shopping conveniences along Keizer’s north River Road and at Keizer Station.  We also enjoy the security and protection of a well-trained and quick-to-respond police force.  There are parks here that serve all of us as retreats from the hectic pace of modern times.  The people in Keizer are mainly friendly and helpful.  We have good fire and ambulance responders.  We live in a lovely fertile valley only an hour or two drive to a mountain or beach.

But let’s get back to the farm with its cows and grazing land on the east side of Keizer that could soon become the site of yet another large apartment complex.  For openers, who wants another apartment complex what with its concentration of humans issues and addition of traffic problems?

Now for what’s viewed as the brighter side.  It was reported by the Keizertimes’ Herb Swett that the Salem-Keizer School District’s 2014-2015 budget includes a partnership with Mountain West Career Technical Institute which will make available technical education to high school students district-wide, keeping them in school and preparing them for well-paying jobs.

How about adding to the training and education of all district high school students the opportunity to spend some learning time at a small model farm (of course, the existing farm off Verda Lane may need a makeover to achieve “model” status) to acquire skills and knowledge requisite to ownership and employment in agricultural settings (winery work, anyone?), how to plant, grow and harvest one’s own organically-grown food, environment protections, and, among any number of possible learning acquisitions on site, a green house where flower growing and floral arranging is taught?

There may be private and public grant money available for such a purpose.  There may be a whole lot of high school kids who’d stick around to graduate if they had more than the standard high school curricula and  a few technical-vocational courses in a technical institute from which to choose.  There may be an opportunity to realize much worth and value to persons of all ages in Keizer in such a community addition as this would offer.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer. His column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)

Conventional wisdom is neither

Two weeks have passed and wisdom still hasn’t arrived.  My parents’ generation has been called “The Greatest Generation.” Do you suppose wisdom enabled them to produce 30 years’ unparalleled expansion of middle class wealth and opportunity?  I can’t remember my parents being actively engaged in national or global politics, or being expected to.  Did they cause this growth or were they just lucky?

The first 20 years of their marriage were not troubled by the televised intrusion of world news—we got our first television in about 1959.  Fast forward to 2014.  The Internet not only provides live coverage of everything everywhere in the world, but you can choose coverage that reinforces your own bias.  If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing we are deafened by alarm bells.

Isaac Asimov said, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” The modern corollary might be that the world-wide Internet is spreading information faster than we can disprove it.  We as citizens have some serious challenges to face.  We can’t succeed without sharing some beliefs.

As recently as yesterday I have seen posts on Facebook claiming that the killing of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook was a government hoax.  One acquaintance posted a story from somewhere that many scientists believe that climate change as caused by human activities is a hoax.

Most of the beliefs we cling to are wrong.  The morning paper has three of the nation’s recognized experts on the testing of international students debunking some myths.  The slightly below international average test results of American students do not represent a fall from the pinnacle.  They’ve never scored at the top.  Test result differences from state to state fall within margin of error.  There are no great discrepancies.  Those small margins of difference also mean there are no “successful policies” or “best practices” to be divined from test scores.

In that same morning paper America came in 11th out of 11 in quality of health care in the included industrialized nations.  Great Britain ranked first while managing to provide universal coverage at just less than half the cost per citizen.

Wisdom has so utterly failed me that I can’t even know who should fix these problems.  The government is us.  We elected this Congress.  If we are not satisfied with the candidates from whom we had to choose, we have to find better candidates.  There are impending decisions that will affect us for years.

The Middle East is in flames.  We must know whether to intervene and then know what level of intervention is right.  We need to have leadership that can get this right.  It will require knowledge of history, religion, geography, trade, oil politics, and global finance.  Most of us don’t have time to learn this.

“It is certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.” wrote the French writer Anatole France.   Though the fact that I write in this space shows my own arrogance, I am nonetheless surprised every time at Facebook posts from people I otherwise believe reasonable.  Having strong opinions is good.  Believing that differing opinions are based on ignorance is ignorant.  It keeps our Congress from moving any legislation forward and it prevents “we, the people” from insisting that they do.

“A prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions.” – George Eliot.  That might be me.  I’m going to look up “prig,” but I suspect it may be uncomplimentary.

(Don Vowell lives in Keizer.  He gets on his soapbox regularly in the Keizertimes.)

Volcanoes fall 11-2 in season opener

The Volcanoes’ Travious Relaford takes a cut and sends a hit down the third base line. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
The Volcanoes’ Travious Relaford takes a cut and sends a hit down the third base line. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By HERB SWETT
For the Keizertimes

An 11-2 loss to the Vancouver Canadians, last year’s Northwest League champion, opened the 2014 season for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes June 13 at home before a crowd of 3,552.

Drew Leenhouts, an all-star pitcher last year, had a rough start, giving up two runs in the first inning and one in the second before settling down for the third, fourth and fifth.  He was the losing pitcher; Vancouver led all the way.

Tyler Hollick and Christian Arroyo combined for three of the Volcanoes’ four hits. Hollick hit a single and a triple and scored both Salem-Keizer runs. Arroyo had a single and drove in both runs.

In the Canadian first inning, Franklin Barreto hit a one-out infield single and scored when David Harris tripled to center field. Harris scored as Boomer Collins grounded out.

The Volcanoes responded with one run in the first. Hollick walked and reached third base on a wild pickoff attempt by starting pitcher Alberto Tirado. Arroyo brought him home with a single to right.

Jonathan Davis led off the Vancouver second with a triple to left center. Sean Hurley walked. Christian Vasquez hit into a double play that allowed Davis to score.

Errors that put Travious Relaford and Geno Escalante on base in the bottom of the second gave the Volcanoes hope of catching up, but Tirado retired the other batters.

Salem-Keizer’s other run came in the third. Hollick led off with a triple to right center and scored as Arroyo grounded out.

Starlin Suriel came in to pitch for Vancouver in the fifth, and Geno Escalante led off with a double down the left field line. Randy Ortiz reached first on a fielder’s choice that caught Escalante in a rundown between second and third. Suriel, who ended up as the winning pitcher, retired the next two batters.

Eury Sanchez took the mound for the Volcanoes in the sixth. He gave up five runs on two hits and three wild pitches. Collins led off with a double down the right field line and went to third as Seth Conner singled to left. A wild pitch got Collins home and put Conner on second. Davis moved Conner to third with a sacrifice bunt. Conner scored on a wild pitch.  Hurley and Vasquez walked, and another wild pitch moved them up. Roemon Fields reached first base on a throwing error by Relaford at third base that scored Hurley and moved Vasquez to third.

Armando Paniagua replaced Sanchez.  Fields stole second, and a throwing error by catcher Leo Rojas allowed Vasquez to score and Fields to reach third. Barreto singled to center, driving in Fields.

Andrew Case pitched the sixth and seventh innings for Vancouver.

In the Vancouver seventh, Conner grounded a single to center and went to third as Davis doubled to left. Hurley walked, loading the bases, and Ian Gardeck came in to pitch. Conner and Davis scored on wild pitches.

Mark Biggs pitched the eighth inning and Brett Baker the ninth for the Canadians.

EJ Encinosa pitched the ninth for the Volcanoes. Davis led off with a triple to right center and scored the last Vancouver run on a wild pitch. Salem-Keizer set a club record for wild pitches in a game with seven.

Asked about Leenhouts’ early-inning trouble, Volcanoes manager Gary Davenport said, “I think a lot of it was that the catcher had never caught him before.”

Leenhouts, asked whether he had made any adjustments after the first inning, said: “Not really. Early in the game, I wasn’t pitching to my strength.”

Hollick summed up the loss as “just one of those days, I think.”