Man Who Hid in West Home to Testify Wednesday Afternoon in Booth Trial

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Man Who Hid in West Home to Testify This Afternoon in Booth Trial

Prosecutors Lay Out Triple-Murder Scene in Salkum in August 2010

By Adam Pearson

apearson@chronline.com

David West Jr., 16, was lying dead between a couch and an end table near the front door of his Salkum home on Aug. 21, 2010.

His father, David West. Sr., 52, was lying dead past the opposite end of the couch in the living room, his head slumped against a wall and a single-barrel shotgun resting at his right side.

Tony E. Williams, 50, was lying dead to West. Sr.'s right in the hallway of the three-bedroom, double-wide modular home at 101 Wings Way. His legs were sprawled in a bedroom that had been converted into a home office.

A pool of blood was spread across the kitchen floor. It was smeared thin as if someone had tried cleaning it, and full of footprints. Presumably, this is where Denise R. Salts, 52, had lain after being shot in the face.

She survived.  

This is the carnage Detective Jim Kelly of the Washington State Patrol encountered hours after the shootings that morning to create a digital diagram of the crime scene.

Kelly's replication of that scene shown to the jury this morning in the murder trial of John Allen Booth Jr. in Lewis County Superior Court also showed small pools of blood puddled throughout the house. Two bullets lodged in the wall a few feet from where West Jr. died near the front door. Bullets lodged in other walls, and shell casings resting on the floor.

Booth, 32, formerly of Onalaska, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of West Jr. and Williams, one count of second-degree murder for the death of West Sr., one count of attempted first-degree murder for the shooting of Salts, one count of attempted first-degree extortion, and one count of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

The day after the shootings, Micheal Yager, of Spokane, testified that his neighbor had approached him that Sunday with Booth, explaining the defendant needed a place to stay because his wife had thrown him out their house.

Yager said Booth slept in his living room for three days until he was arrested on Wednesday.

"He watched TV and was very quiet," Yager said.

Authorities searched Yager's home, which he shared at the time with an old friend from high school, and found nothing. They returned last February and again found nothing.

A year after the shootings, Booth confided to Yager's neighbor on the phone from the Lewis County Jail that his "heater" was still in Yager's home.

The sheriff's office was listening to the phone call.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office found the 9 mm handgun last August in the attic of Yager's home. In a holster, the gun had been placed near the opening of a crawl space in the attic.

Standing on a ladder, Detective Dave Knechtel said he didn't even have to climb in the attic to find it.

Before breaking for lunch at noon, Knechtel was the fourth witness to testify after testimony began in the trial of Booth this morning.

The trial is expected to last several days; courtroom 3 of Judge Richard Brosey has been set aside from other hearings through Dec. 16 in case of unexpected delays.

This afternoon, witness John Lindberg is expected to testify.

Lindberg reportedly hid in the bathroom of the master bedroom of the West residence during the shootings.

In fact, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher on Tuesday said Booth and Ryan J. McCarthy had arrived at the West residence at approximately the same time as Lindberg hours before the shootings. They talked at the front door and Lindberg discussed how he knew Booth's father.

Shortly thereafter, the mood soured.

West Sr. had a private conversation with Booth outside and came inside asking Lindberg if he had any money.

Lindberg said he had $100.

"That ain't going to be enough," Meagher said West told him.

During opening statements Tuesday, Meagher told the jury that Booth was "taxing" West Sr. for drug- and jail-related debts that were perceived to be owed to Centralia career-criminal Robert "Robbie" S. Russell, who last December was sentenced to six years in prison for unrelated convictions.

"And he bragged about taxing people," Meagher said of Booth.

Booth had been out of prison for a few months before the shootings. He and McCarthy had befriended each other while they were cell mates.

McCarthy had been out of prison for a few weeks before the shootings.

In late September, McCarthy, 30, of Redmond, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on convictions of first-degree robbery, residential burglary and first-degree attempted extortion in connection to the murders.

Authorities believe only Booth was armed and pulled the trigger.

Defense attorney Roger Hunko, of Port Orchard, declined making an opening statement in the trial.

Booth and Russell reportedly visited West several days before the shootings to tax him for about $1,000, Meagher said witnesses will testify.

On that fatal night, West reportedly grabbed a shotgun from the master bedroom after telling Booth he'd get him his money and returned to the living room, ordering him and McCarthy to leave.

Booth drew his gun and shot West, Meagher said.

Powder burns show Booth allegedly shot Williams in the eye from close range, Meagher said.

West Jr. was also shot in the face, Meagher said. But was also put on his knees and shot "right down in the skull."

This morning, Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, who is assisting Meagher in trying the case, said the witness list is in tumult, but Salts could testify as early as Thursday.

In March, Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer chose not to seek the death penalty against Booth.

Booth already has two strikes against him according to the state's persistent-offender law, also known as "three strikes," which prosecutes violent offenders to life in prison with no chance for parole.

A conviction on any of the five counts Booth is charged with would be his third strike and thus would result in a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.

"He was collecting money for a guy named Robbie Russell," Meagher said. "It wasn't complete, he didn't get any money out of these people — he killed them instead."

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   Adam Pearson: (360) 807-8208 and twitter.com/ChronicleSirens

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