One more totem-theft case update: The alleged motive

Though as noted earlier, charges are not yet filed, a question that’s frequently discussed in comment threads (and elsewhere) is: What was the motive for the Nov. 30 theft of the West Seattle Rotary Viewpoint Park totem pole (past coverage here, newest to oldest)? We have obtained a court document which may shine a little light – it’s the “probable cause” document filed in connection with this week’s arrest – read on:

This is an exact transcription, with one exception: We have excluded names except for the ones that have already been reported in earlier stories. The narrative is written by a Seattle Police detective on the case. The document was provided by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, from the “superform” which is often available to the media on request even before charges are filed:

On 12/03/09 Terry Boden from Seattle Parks called Seattle Police and reported a Totem pole stolen from West Seattle Rotary Club Viewpoint Park … I was assigned the case on 12/04/09 and contacted Boden at 1230 hrs. He told me that he had found out that (towing company) towed (crane company) Crane out of the mud in the park on 11/30/09 at about 1900 hrs and the owner of the crane was (Crane Owner). (Crane Owner) had told him that a man named (suspect) hired him to move the Totem pole to (suspect’s) property in Black Diamond on Lake Sawyer. Boden did not know the exact address. He had contacted (suspect) and (suspect) told him he knew nothing about it. Boden gave me the names and phone numbers of the people he had contacted.

On 12/04/09 at 1320 hrs I called (crane company owner). He told me that he was hired by (suspect) to remove the Totem pole and transport it to (suspect’s) property located at (address) in Black Diamond. He said he did work for (suspect) about a year ago through (a tree service). (suspect) had contacted him about moving this Totem pole a couple weeks earlier but plans fell through. (Suspect) called (crane company owner) the morning of 11/30/09 to see if he could move it later that evening. (crane company owner) said he could do it then. (Crane company owner) told me that he met (suspect) at 1600 hrs in Kent and (suspect) accompanied him and showed him where to go to pick up the Totem pole. (crane company owner) told me that (suspect) told him that he was on an arts commission for the City of Seattle and was taking the Totem pole to his property to refurbish it. (Crane company owner) told me that he believed (suspect). He took it to (suspect’s) property and unloaded it onto the gravel area in front of his garage/shop. (suspect) wanted him to put it in the garage on the property, but the boom was too high. (Crane company owner) left (suspect) there with the Totem pole. (crane company owner) gave me a written statement.

On 12/07/09 at 0900 hrs I spoke with (towing driver). He told me that he towed out the (boom crane). He said (crane company owner) was the owner of the crane and was present while he pulled the crane out of the mud. (Towing driver) said there was an older man sitting in the passenger seat of the crane. He said the Totem pole was already loaded onto the crane/truck when he arrived.

At 1000 hrs I called (suspect) and asked him what he knew about the missing Totem pole. He told me that he did not know anything about it until someone from the Rotary Club called him and asked him about it. (Suspect) invited me to meet with him at his property located at (address) to confirm what he was telling me. He told me that he knew nothing about a stolen Totem pole. He told me that the first he heard of it was when someone from the West Seattle Rotary Club called him and asked him if he knew anything about it. At 1145 I checked (suspect’s) property and shop/garage at his invitation and did not see any sign of a totem pole. (suspect) gave me a written statement declaring he knew nothing of a stolen or missing totem pole.

After leaving (suspect’s) property I contacted (neighbors who say they are friendly with the suspect) … (Neighbor) told me that (suspect) has been talking about getting a totem pole for his property for several months. (Neighbor) said he told her that he is in negotiations with someone about getting a Totem pole. He told her that he planned to put it in the two-story stairwell of his garage/shop. (Neighbor) told me that sometime early last week she saw a large truck with outriggers deliver something at about 2230 hrs at night. She thought it was strange that this delivery was being made so late.

On 12/08/09 at 1000 hrs I called the Black Diamond permit office and got the name of the contractor on record for (suspect’s) building permit for his (address) property, which is under construction. I contacted the contractor by phone. He told me that he was aware that (suspect) had been trying to acquire a large Totem pole with wings with the intent of putting it in the two-story stairwell of his shop/garage. He told me that (suspect) did acquire a Totem pole with wings. (contractor) said it was in (suspect’s) driveway in front of his garage on Tuesday, December 1, 2009. (contractor) and some other workers helped (suspect) move it into his garage. (contractor) had never seen it before. He said it was about 19′ long and had a ten-foot wingspan. (Contractor) gave a written statement.

(2nd contractor) is a contractor who works with (contractor) on (suspect’s) property occasionally. He also gave me a written statement indicating that he saw a Totem pole with wings in (suspect’s) garage on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 and had never seen it there before.

On December 9, 2009, Officer (name) went to (suspect’s) residence located at (Palm Avenue address) to arrest (suspect) for theft. He saw (suspect) get into his car and start to drive away from his house. Officer … stopped and arrested (suspect). Officer … read (suspect) his Miranda Rights. (suspect) consulted with an attorney and eventually told us we could find the stolen Totem pole at a Senior Center in Keizer, Oregon, on a boat trailer.

I contacted Keizer Police and they did locate and recover the stolen Totem pole that was stolen from West Seattle Rotary Club Viewpoint Park.

Seattle Parks transported both Totem poles back to Seattle. I submitted the second Totem pole into evidence and took digital photos of it. I had been contacted by (manager of Renton Fred Meyer). He told me they were missing a Totem pole without wings. He had documentation with photos from when the Totem pole was dedicated in 1975. I went to Fred Meyer and matched the digital photos of the Totem pole I had submitted into evidence with the photos of the Fred Meyer Totem pole from 1975. They were very obviously the same Totem pole. There were two different faces that were visible in both the digital photos that I took and the pictures from 1975 that were an exact match. I spoke with (the man who carved the Fred Meyer Totem pole) and he told me he has never carved two that were the same.

There is probable cause to believe that (suspect) knowingly possessed the stolen wingless Totem pole from the Fred Meyer … in Renton.

Again, this is the document written in reference to the second totem pole, which was the case for which the suspect was arrested again this week (here’s our report), for investigation of possession of stolen property. He was in jail for about seven hours; at a hearing that same day, a judge granted “conditional release.”

29 Replies to "One more totem-theft case update: The alleged motive"

  • ellenater December 24, 2009 (10:44 am)

    crazzzzzzzzyyyyyy. I don’t even know where to start. Or stop for that matter.

  • Dan\'a December 24, 2009 (10:46 am)

    I am a bit confused. He basically stole it to decorate his new home? Regardless of the reason, what a selfish thing to do.

  • k December 24, 2009 (10:56 am)

    I hope that Santa leaves coal and reindeer poop in his stocking tonight! What a jerk!

    If he had a shop/garage that big he probably could have afforded to pay for a pole to be commissioned for the space. I believe that if convicted he not only should pay restitution, but he should pay all court costs, police costs, transport costs, etc. associated with his stupidity. So what if he has to sell some property to pay it off. Consequences people, consequences.

  • Babs December 24, 2009 (10:59 am)

    I cannot believe the vain ego driven audacity of this a**clown “suspect.” I sure hope there is some jail time and not a wrist slap and fine when this “suspect” meets justice. Maybe place a HUGE framed picture of the stunning restored totem pole in said “suspects” cell for a daily reminder. Great works of art disappear all over the world for the vanity private collections of people like this “suspect.” Glad everyone sleuthed deep and people were forthcoming with information. I cannot wait to welcome the Totem back, I always sneak a peak of its majestic presence with the stunning view as its backdrop when I drive down the hill.

  • WSMom December 24, 2009 (11:00 am)

    No, not his home, HIS GARAGE!!! He stole the totem poles to decorate his garage. Not only selfish but insulting!!

  • dawsonct December 24, 2009 (12:11 pm)

    If you are wealthy and corrupt enough to procure and display stolen art in your home you HIRE someone to do it for you or purchase it on the black-market! At least then you can plead ignorance of it’s provenance.
    Either he is incredibly stupid or he is incredibly audacious to think he can keep the evidence of his crime and get away with it.

    We got the Totem back, now we need to ensure he loses the rest of his gambit. What an @ss.

  • cherylc December 24, 2009 (12:12 pm)

    The thing I don’t get about this, well, besides all of it, is doesn’t he have friends from West Seattle? Did he plan never to invite any of his WS friends to his Black Diamond residence? Or he did he think they wouldn’t recognize the totem pole or tell on him? The whole thing is arrogant, but also really weird.

  • I. Ponder December 24, 2009 (12:36 pm)

    So, why did he move the totems to Keizer, Oregon? Stashing them with a friend?

    Anyone who thinks this crime is crazy should wonder the same about any crime.

    It’s almost all crazy, but nevertheless some people feel compelled to cross that line. Self-justifying behavior of some sort I think. “I need that more than they do”. “Their insurance will cover the cost”. “They’re not taking good care of it.”

    After seeing how easy it was to steal the Fred Meyer totem he may have developed an appetite. Realized he liked the other, much nicer one better. Two is a collection. He’s a “collector”.

    Though we consider him a thief, he probably considers himself a collector. He steals things he likes, but may also be a dealer. Sell some, keep some. I wonder what his profession is/was. Police detectives need to crack open his personal files and bank accounts.

    I suspect this man has been a thief for a long time. The way he involved other people, utilized trucks, avoided detection, ability to lie when confronted. PROFESSIONAL THIEF!

  • burglarbustindad December 24, 2009 (1:26 pm)

    HUBRIS comes to mind..I checked the dictionary
    No matter age, no matter neighborhood, no matter what “they” say… this guy should pay!
    Merry Christmas

  • 35this35mph December 24, 2009 (2:24 pm)

    Perhaps an old fashioned stockade at the foot of the restored totem pole. $1.00 a shot to huck a cream pie at (the defendant) or $2.00 to walk around back and give a swift kick to the seat of (defendant’s) pants?

    Frontier justice on the peninsula!

    J/K! Merry Christmas!

  • old timer December 24, 2009 (6:57 pm)

    Hey, he’s just doin’ what the ‘Big Boys’ are doin’.
    Looting the country.
    He must be a banker!

  • ln8r December 24, 2009 (10:05 pm)

    I don’t get the Salem angle either. This guy is a liar. He probably made up the story of using it in his home. He was totally planning to sell them, must have sold others, and just doesn’t want to give up how deep this thing goes. I just know it!

  • donanderson December 24, 2009 (11:17 pm)

    All this and it appears there is not enough evidence to charge the suspect with a crime (yet).

  • Rebster December 25, 2009 (12:14 am)

    So…was the Fred Meyer totem pole just not good enough because it didn’t have wings?

    If he wanted a totem pole with wings for the garage of all places what was he going to do with the first totem pole?

    He sure isn’t a good thief to tell his neighbor about it and have multiple contractors and crane operators all know about it too. Thankfully it came back in one piece!

  • Meghan December 25, 2009 (8:55 am)

    What a truly selfish, evil person. I hope he gets both jail time and a HUGE fine.

  • news nulu December 25, 2009 (9:44 am)

    What is wrong with naming this man as a “person of interest?”
    Many people already know who he is.
    What is the concern?
    Corporate media has fuzzy logic on releasing names perhaps with add rates in mind. They just do “teasers” to keep viewers on channel. They release names to beat competitors. Ratings are all.
    WSB logic is even fuzzier. There is no hard and fast policy.
    Tracy’s explanations of WSB policies are tortured in their inconsistencies.
    I guess when the big boys broadcast, WSB will follow.

    • WSB December 25, 2009 (10:41 am)

      Call it fuzzy if you want, Nulu. Those are our policies, and yup, there are exceptions. As there were every place I ever worked. He is not a “person of interest.” He is a suspect, he has been arrested, but he has not been charged. There is no compelling public-safety reason to publish his name before he is charged. The term “person of interest” is almost invariably used when police are asking for help in looking for someone in a life-safety case such as a murder but aren’t ready to call them a suspect yet. As for the “big boys,” they have not shown much interest in this since picking up on our original report, and that’s certainly their prerogative. If you consider the Seattle Times a “big boy,” our informal collaboration with them continues, and during a meeting just last week, I asked about their policy. Pretty much the same thing, and like ours, can have exceptions.

  • miws December 25, 2009 (12:04 pm)

    news nulu, throoughout the history of WSB, I have found the comments of many of the “nulu” family to be quite witty, (or at least the “first name” of the commenter), and probably just as many other comments from other “family members” to be annoying.


    Sorry, but your comment here falls in the latter category. TR has explained this policy over, and over, and even over.


    I just don’t get the mindset of some, especially those that by all appearances have been longtime readers of WSB, that harp on, and on, and even on, about how they believe said policies should somehow be different.


    Now, I don’t mean to be picking on the nulu’s here. I’ve seen plenty of others post similarly, without the nulu name. (Well, perhaps they are nulus that married into another family, or maybe they are nulu-in-laws.)


    My point is, it gets tiresome to keep seeing these dead horses being repeatedly beaten. If I were the site owner, I don’t know that I’d have the patience to deal with it. Constructive criticism is fine. It gives the person it’s directed at something to think about, and perhaps change their opinion, or in such a case as this, a site owner their policies. To keep bringing it up again and again, when it’s already been adequately addressed, seems pointless.


    Merry Christmas!


  • WM December 25, 2009 (12:12 pm)

    I wonder what the conditions of his release are?

  • LyndaB December 25, 2009 (2:24 pm)

    i just had to laugh at ‘nulu-in-laws’. why be hung up on policies (which pretty much are the same everywhere)? shoot, i’m grateful for a WS centered news source at my fingertips. i’ll be tuning in for the next update and i’m not ashamed for being drawn in!

  • Amanda December 25, 2009 (5:00 pm)

    If I understand it, the suspect was arrested, taken into custody, and booked into jail on the 22nd. He would have had a preliminary appearance either the day of his arrest or the next day at the latest. At that point, the court can order a person held or released on certain conditions. But if no charges have been filed within 72 hours after the arrest, then the suspect is no longer subject to any conditions. So at this point, there are probably no conditions on his release.

  • JanS December 26, 2009 (6:21 pm)

    Well said, miws. And if people in the community know this guy’s name, then you don’t need it posted on here – you already know!! Yes, I do, too. But I respect the people who run this news source/blog and forums. And if it’s not to someone’s liking then I suppose they can get their news someplace else, or start their own serious news source. So, yes, give it a rest. If they charge him, it’ll get posted. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that patience is a virtue? ;->

  • WM December 26, 2009 (7:37 pm)

    To the person who thinks our suspect has previous arrests for interstate theft and domestic abuse – I finally found the other search tool, and took a look at what you looked at. (And, no, I will not share where it is.) The column labeled “Type” that states IT, IT stands for Infraction Traffic, not interstate theft or trafficking or anything worse than getting a traffic ticket! And I found that the other case was dismissed. This is exactly why WSB has ethical policies that discourage publishing a suspect’s name until they are charged. Our Totem Pole suspect appears to have broken the law big time, and if he has, deserves to be punished, but that does not mean that he has a criminal history or that he is a menace to society. I’m sure his personal life will be torn apart once his name is published, but at least at that point, we will all know more about him and his motivations, not just a bunch of assumptions and surmissions.

    • WSB December 26, 2009 (10:26 pm)

      WM, you are referring to a comment that we have deleted twice for inability to obtain any information to date indicating that the suspect in this case has a criminal history. Though his name has not appeared here, “the suspect” as used in this coverage does refer to a specific person now that someone has been arrested, and so to attribute something serious like that to “the suspect” is attributing it to a certain person, so if it’s unverifiable, it goes. And regarding patience – hard to tell how long it will be till the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office gets the case. We reported on a notable (unrelated) West Seattle criminal case earlier this year in which charges were filed something like 8 months after the initial complaint and search warrant … TR

  • fuzzy nulu December 26, 2009 (8:39 pm)

    Thanks JanS.
    Good to know that you are still out there coming to the aid of WSB and trolling a few hits to your web site.
    WSB has attracted quite a non critical Greek Chorus.
    I pointed out and WSB confirms that theirs is a policy with “exceptions”.
    “Exceptions” itself is fuzzy.
    And following a “policy” that is not fully delineated is also fuzzy.
    Some of it does not seem to make sense. WSB will publish a close fully identifying picture of my child without so much as identifying themselves as WSB or gathering the childs name or asking for permission from a guardian.
    But when a contributing WSB photographer catches a medium (not fully revealing) shot of person he watched attempt make an illegal entry, WSB fuzzed the photo up to make him unidentifiable!
    It takes quite a flexible and dare I say fuzzy (again!) policy to be so accommodating.
    Just compare WSB censorship of Christopher’s photo to the manner they reported on and allowed Skyler’s bad reputation to flourish.

    WSB — “The term “person of interest” is almost invariably used when police are asking for help in looking for someone in a life-safety case such as a murder but aren’t ready to call them a suspect yet.”

    Wickipedia— “Person Of Interest” is a phrase used by law enforcement when announcing the name of someone involved in a criminal investigation who has not bee arrested or formally accused of a crime. It has no legal meaning, but it is a “catchy” term….The legal meaning of the phrase is (as of November 2004) subject to a lawsuit.”

    It is a fairly new phrase circa Richard Jewell & the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.
    WSB’s reformulation of the meaning is even newer.
    One huge difference between WSB and the Seattle Times is the editorial board or lack of it.
    I am not aware of any WSB Editorial Board or WSB Ombudsman.

    JanS inadvertently gets to the heart of the issue with, “And if people in the community know this guy’s name, then you don’t need it posted on here – you already know!! Yes, I do, too.” She is proudly proclaiming her membership to the new media elite, those haves of the new sanitized corporate news media who control the flow and timely release of the product that was once news.

    • WSB December 26, 2009 (9:32 pm)

      Nulu, as noted before, we have hashed most of your points out over and over again. But there is one thing I’d like you to clarify. What photo on this site is a photo of your child, taken by someone working for WSB, whom you say did not identify her/himself? Please let me know the story which contains that photo, which photo it is (and you are welcome to e-mail the link rather than post it here) and I will remove it. We not only identify ourselves and expect that those working for us do the same, we ask permission of event organizers, we look for point people to announce ourselves to, we talk with school representatives about whether photos/videos are allowed (in other words, do the children participating in certain events have releases on file saying it’s OK that they be photographed if the school allows photography of a certain event), and even then you will see a huge amount of shots of backs of heads on this site, involving events where school authorities say they are NOT sure they have releases from everyone. I have photographed more than a few situations where school authorities invited us, THEN said they needed to check for releases, and when they couldn’t find said releases, I never published anything about the event.
      Last but not least. Regarding structure. I am WSB editor. My husband and I are co-publishers. We pay freelance reporters, photographers, researchers and technical consultants. I don’t know of any other local SMALL news organization that has an “editorial board.” In fact, none of the organizations for which I have worked over the past 30 years had an “editorial board” – in Seattle, San Diego, Las Vegas, Solano County, Grand Junction. Market size from teens to 200+.
      Many of our stories not only report information, they include background on how we got that information, and whenever possible, links directly to the information so that people can delve deeper for themselves, if they choose. We also disclose when a business/organization we mention is a sponsor, regardless of the context (even in events calendars). We strive for transparency, maybe an overload of it in some cases, but it’s something we deeply believe in. We are far from perfect but we work hard to do the best job we can and a better one tomorrow, and beyond.

  • I. Ponder December 28, 2009 (1:36 pm)

    I hesitate to give any oxygen to this silly argument but am entertained by this quote:

    “She is proudly proclaiming her membership to the new media elite, those haves of the new sanitized corporate news media who control the flow and timely release of the product that was once news.”

    Am I understanding correctly that the West Seattle Blog is now part of the “new media elite”? If so, this may be a moment worth noting on my calendar.

    Journalism is not dead!

    • WSB December 28, 2009 (2:00 pm)

      I wouldn’t call it new media “elite.” But we are in a small (so far, but growing) group: WSB has received national attention as one of the first independent online community-collaborative neighborhood-news operations to be successful business-wise as well as traffic-wise, and I’ve been flown to several journalism conferences this year to speak; in addition, I recently was invited to join the board of the local Society of Professional Journalists, for whom I incidentally presented an ethics seminar recently.
      We don’t talk about all this much on WSB because WSB is about West Seattle, not about us.
      But later this week (provided breaking news doesn’t get in the way, because the news is ALWAYS the priority) we’re planning a year-end wrapup story which will have a bit about this among other things … And you are correct. Journalism isn’t dead. Our business is regrouping. This type of small news operation is part of that. If you’re interested in more, come to the Journalism That Matters regional conference January 7-10, at which I have the honor of being one of the kickoff “catalyst” speakers along with former mayor Norm Rice: … TR

  • scrappy nulu December 28, 2009 (1:59 pm)

    The photo of our child was from the Halloween fest in the Admiral District.
    I do not have any problems with these photos so I will not request that they be deleted.
    They were taken in a public place, just like Christopher’s “intruder shot”.
    I was attempting to illustrate the inconsistency (fuzziness) of WSB’s policy with a factual example.
    WSB must find the flexibility to cover “hard news” which should not require releases and “soft stories” that apparently do require releases. As for editorial boards, I was refering to Tracy’s “informal collaboration” with the Seattle Times.
    In her response, Tracy switches to broadcast media, which typically do not have Editorial Boards. All of them that I worked for in Los Angeles did have legal counsel and ombudsman. And I would be surprised to hear that the ones Tracy cites do not have them.
    Of course, the logical conclusion of the censorship of suspects info, a step beyond the filing of charges, would be to only release such info after conviction. That would offer the complete protection of the innocent that WSB seeks. After all, we are innocent until proven guilty.
    If such a policy were in place, we could have been spared the whole OJ, Michael J & Kobe news cycles…as they are all “not guilty”.
    Perhaps one of the ways WSB is different from all other media, is that irascible, annoying, critical individuals like myself are generally allowed to post.
    And in a way, maybe these tiresome barbs (from nulu and others) can take the place of an editorial board or ombudsman.

Sorry, comment time is over.