My Favorite Stories

On Bigfoot’s Trail (The Inlander, September 3, 2014)

Here’s what I learn from these Bigfooters in the next 24 hours: Never hold a staring contest with a Sasquatch. Keep any white lights turned off and stowed away. They’re preternaturally strong, fast and clever. They have a penchant for chucking giant rocks at people when they’re feeling threatened. They can swim 100 yards without coming up for air. They prey on deer. They fish for salmon. They like peanut butter sandwiches. If you set out a snack for them on a picnic table or back porch, like a bag of apples or watermelon rind, they might leave you a gift in its place — a pile of stones or feathers or 10 dead field mice wrapped in leaves of grass. The females secrete a pleasant, cinnamony odor. The males, according to Taylor, reek of “dead dog, B.O., urine and garbage — mixed together and set on fire.” They migrate with their food supply. Like cats, their eyes glow in the dark.

Read my entire story on the cult of Bigfoot here

Not One More (The Inlander, June 19, 2014)

JUNE 20, 1994 — This is how it all ends: Four gunshots as steady as a heartbeat.

The third hits Dean Mellberg in his left shoulder, just a superficial wound. The fourth strikes square between his eyes. The blast sends his body soaring, feet splayed, straight into the air, like a stuntman’s in a movie. He spins counterclockwise and lands on his back in the grass, his left hand still gripping the stock of his rifle.

Seventy yards away, Senior Airman Andy Brown lowers his handgun, a military-issued Beretta M9. Brown gets up from where he’s kneeling and dashes for cover behind a small pickup parked across from the base hospital. “Don’t move!” he shouts.

When backup arrives, the medics rush to revive the man in the grass. They don’t know who he is or what he did. They don’t know how many lives he ended or how many people he hurt. The radio dispatcher alerts all patrols to a possible second gunman. Someone had called to report a sniper on a nearby building. Brown scans the roof, his sidearm drawn, as medics declare the gunman dead on the scene.

Read the rest of my story on the mass shooting at Fairchild Air Force Base and its survivors here

Patients and Prisoners (The Inlander, Feb. 13, 2014)

Learning to live at Eastern [State Hospital] as a forensic patient is like a grieving process, says Ross: First there’s the denial. You arrive thinking you’re an exception to the rule, that despite your maximum lifelong sentence, you’ll prove to your judge that you’ve recovered, that you’re no longer dangerous. You aren’t like those people — the chronically mentally ill. You think you’ll be out the door in less than a year.

But that doesn’t happen. So then comes the anger — at your attorney, the hospital and the criminal justice system. You bargain for your release. You petition the court every six months. You try to work the “levels system” at the hospital. And if you’re Ross, you eventually accept the inevitable truth: You may very well live under DSHS supervision for the rest of your life.

“Is it right?” Ross asks me from the other side of the conference table. “If this happened to you, is this the way you’d want to be treated? If this happened to your son, your mother, your father, your daughter, is this the way you’d want them to be treated? Would you want to be forgotten, ignored, marginalized to the point where you are literally voiceless. … Is that right?”

Read the rest of my investigation on insanity-defense patients at Washington state psychiatric hospitals here

Down to the Dollar (The Inlander, Nov, 7, 2013)

Her groceries — about $400 worth — typically don’t last until the 10th of the following month, when her food stamps kick in. So she and her two kids will start eating buttered noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Malt-O-Meal’s Blueberry Toasters by the bowlful. She bought four supersize bags of cereal last month ($4.98 each) plus three gallons of 2-percent milk ($2.68 each). She stashes the extra jugs in the freezer with the popsicles (on sale for 99¢) and corn dogs ($5.88) in her bedroom beneath an old stereo set.

“You can always eat cereal for dinner if you got milk and there’s nothing else,” she says. “It’s not nutritious and it’s by all means not a complete meal, but it gets them to bed without being hungry.”

Eidsvoog, 40, strains to speak above a whisper. Her voice is hoarse from a screaming match that morning with her son’s grandmother (his father’s mother). There’s too much tension between them, and this trailer’s too small. Eidsvoog’s all alone out here in Deer Park, in her clapboard mobile home, where the wind whistles through busted windows and the water, she suspects, isn’t safe to drink.

Food stamps are her only source of income. Now she’s bracing herself for another cut. Another thing she’ll have to do without.

Read the rest of my story on one woman affected by cuts to the food stamps program here

Megaload Mayhem (The Inlander, Aug. 13, 2013)

We’re flying 70 miles an hour down Highway 12, past Syringa, Idaho, 15 miles east of Kooskia in Cass Davis’ beat-up blue rig. Davis doesn’t have a plan — not a solid one, anyway — just a destination in mind and a dream.

“I wish we had some f—ing equipment,” says Davis.

“Yeah,” Brett Haverstick shouts from behind the wheel. He’s a 30-something dude with a scruffy orange beard and red bandana around his head. The windows are open. Above their voices, all you can hear is the whoosh and hiss of wind.

Davis is crammed in the backseat with posters and gear. He’s 49, ruddy and wired, wearing zip-off khaki-colored pants, sandals and a 10-day-old beard. He’s a self-professed “eco-communist” and, after losing his job at a Moscow food co-op a few years back, he’s been a professional activist, too.

“’Cause we could actually hold ’em up,” Davis continues. “I’d do it by my f—ing self. … I thought we were doing it.”

“I thought that was it, too,” Haverstick says.

By “equipment,” Davis has a few things in mind: Cables that he could thread through the trees and across the road for an elaborate tree-sit in the towering firs and pines along Highway 12. Or chains and concrete barrels to anchor feet to the road, so he and his comrades could go toe to toe with an incoming hauler roughly the size and shape of a wingless Airbus jumbo jet, shipping 644,000 pounds of machinery.

Read my full story on the protesters bent on stopping megaload shipments to the Canadian tar sands here.

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