Stephanie Schendel / The (Centralia) Chronicle
The state has agreed to pay a $3 million settlement to the families of the victims in the 2010 Lewis County triple-homicide committed by an ex-convict who was supposed to be under strict supervision by the Department of Corrections.
The two men convicted in connection with the shootings, John Allen Booth Jr. and Ryan J. McCarthy, were both recently released convicts whose oversight by the Department of Corrections befire the Aug. 21, 2010, homicides was horribly lax, according to the attorney for the victims’ families.
“After the shootings occurred, there was a lot of attention brought to the fact that they were felons that were supposed to be supervised,” said Nathan Roberts, the Tacoma-based attorney from Connelly Law Offices, who represented the families in the claim for damages.
Roberts described the supervision of Booth and McCarthy as “the worst we’ve ever seen,” explaining that the corrections officer had gone months without checking in with either offender.
“The DOC had not done any of the field checks or drug tests that were required with either offender,” he said.
The Department of Corrections launched its own internal investigation after the homicides, said Chad Lewis, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections. The investigation ended in the firing of the corrections officer, Seth Skipworth, 34, who was based in Tacoma and was responsible for the supervision of Booth and McCarthy.
Upon their release from prison, both Booth and McCarthy were considered to be higher-risk, violent offenders who were likely to reoffend, Roberts said.
“The officer simply was not doing his job,” Roberts said.
Booth was released from prison the December before the Salkum homicides after serving five years of an appeal-reduced seven-year sentence for assault, for bludgeoning a man’s head with a crowbar in Centralia in 2004. Booth has a long history of violent crime in Lewis County dating back to his early teen years.
Booth, a native of Onalaska, Lewis County, was found guilty in 2011 for the murders of David “DJ” West Jr., 16, of Salkum; Tony E. Williams, 50, of Mineral, Lewis County; and David West Sr., 52, of Salkum; in addition to attempted murder for the shooting of Denise R. Salts, now 53, of Randle, which is also in Lewis County. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The murders occurred at the West residence at 101 Wings Way, off Equine Drive in the Salkum area.
McCarthy was sentenced on Sept. 28 to 14 years in prison on convictions of first-degree robbery, residential burglary and first-degree attempted extortion in connection to the murders. He admitted to being at the West residence but maintained he had nothing to do with the shootings.
Roberts said the law firm filed a claim for damages against the state in August of last year. After several months of negotiation about the amount, the settlement offer was accepted last week, he said. While it is a somber moment for the families, it brought some closure to their wounds.
“They are very happy with the settlement,” he said.
While the settlement is not an admission of formal guilt, Roberts said, it serves as an acknowledgement of the missteps taken by the DOC. The money will go to the families of the three victims who died, and to Salts, who pleaded guilty in January to drug paraphernalia possession and was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Roberts would not disclose what the financial split would be between the families.
“The heinous murders that John Allen Booth Jr. committed caused unbearable heartache for multiple families,” Lewis said in a DOC press-release statement. “We hope these settlements help his victims’ families with their loss. We are also glad that we were able to reach an agreement with the victims’ families to avoid costly litigation.”