SOUTH BEND — In Superior Court in September and October, Pacific County prosecutors secured convictions in cases involving two men who threatened their victims with sharp objects, a man who held a woman captive inside her home, and two meth dealers.
Michael J. Moriarty, 76, of Long Beach, was found guilty of second-degree assault following his trial in mid-September. The charges stem from a June 12 incident at Cape Disappointment State park, in which Moriarty attempted to stab a woman in the face during an altercation over the victim’s dog.
According to a press release from prosecutor Mark McClain, police officers and park rangers responded to the Beards Hollow on June 12, after a woman told emergency dispatchers that she had been stabbed. At the scene, the distraught woman was crying and bleeding from her ring finger.
The woman told police that the incident started when she let her dog run loose briefly while she was preparing for a hike. When she heard her dog barking, she looked up and found Moriarty brandishing a knife and threatening to kill it.
According to the press release, Moriarty tried to stab the woman in the face when she attempted to pull him away from her dog. She blocked her face with her hand, leading to the injury on her finger. The woman pushed Moriarty away and fled to her car to call 911.
The roughly 55-pound dog, which is believed to be a pit bull or terrier mix, was not harmed during the incident.
At trial, Moriarty claimed that he used the knife in self-defense, after the dog “came out of nowhere” and frightened him. He also denied stabbing the woman, and testified that she had assaulted him. Moriarty speculated that perhaps she had been injured while hitting and pushing him.
“Mr. Moriarty had also hinted to the officers that she may have cut herself and hid a knife in her car,” McClain said in the press release.
There were no witnesses to the incident, but follow-up interviews and examinations led investigators to be skeptical of Moriarty’s version of events, McClain said in an Oct. 1 phone interview.
“If you listen to her 911 call, she was hysterical,” McClain said. “… He didn’t have a single red mark on him. It just didn’t make sense.” McClain added that he met the dog, and did not believe it to be aggressive.
The dog “looks intimidating, but is just a sweet little dog,” McClain said. The victim told investigators that the animal was mild-tempered enough that it was allowed to roam freely at a senior facility where she used to work.
Moriarty is out on bail, pending a sentencing hearing that is set for Oct. 23. He will likely be sentenced to somewhere between three and nine months in county jail, followed by 12 months of probation.
A South Bend man who attacked a family member’s vehicle with an ax accepted a plea-deal that allowed him to avoid serving a life-sentence.
David S. Woods, 46, pleaded guilty to first-degree malicious mischief while armed with a deadly weapon, and possession of methamphetamine in Pacific County Superior Court on Sept. 25. He was sentenced to 69 months in prison, followed by 12 months of community custody. He was also ordered not to have any contact with the victim of his offense. He will be required to complete drug treatment while in prison.
During a verbal altercation earlier this year, Woods grabbed an ax out of the bed of a family member’s truck, Prosecutor McClain said on Oct. 1. As the driver pulled away, Woods used the ax to smash in the passenger-side window.
McClain said that property crimes alone do not normally warrant such long sentences. However, Woods has two previous “strike offenses” on his record — one for second-degree assault by strangulation in Washington, and the other for third-degree robbery in Oregon. So, if Woods had been found guilty at trial, he might have been sentenced to life.
McClain said that the plea bargain was a good resolution because Woods’ offenses were serious, but not serious enough to lock him up for the rest of his life. His victims had also expressed a strong preference for a long sentence, paired with a drug-treatment requirement, in lieu of a life-sentence.
Tegan Tipler, 35, of Raymond, on Oct. 2 pleaded guilty to attempting to elude a pursuing police officer, possession with intent to deliver meth and violation of a domestic violence no-contact order.
According to McClain, Tipler was arrested after a sheriff’s deputy noticed that he had an active restraining order against his passenger. When the deputy tried to pull him over, Tipler fled on foot, leaving his girlfriend, cell phone and stash of methamphetamine in the vehicle.
Tipler denied that he had been in the car, but when deputies served a search warrant on the car, they found meth and information on Tipler’s phone that indicated he was in the area to sell methamphetamine.
“While both Mr. Tipler’s mother and girlfriend asserted it was not Mr. Tipler driving, the information contained on the phone, and statements he made in jail calls, revealed another story,” McClain said.
Tipler was sentenced to 5 years in prison followed by 12 months of probation. He must also complete drug treatment.
Michael Fenton, 32, of Spokane on Oct. 2 was convicted of second-degree kidnapping and intimidating a witness. He was sentenced to 42 months in prison followed by 18 months of probation.
Long Beach Police responded to the report of a sexual assault and learned that the victim had invited Fenton, her former high school friend, to her home. According to the victim, Fenton took the woman’s cell and sent a text message to her husband saying that she planned to end the marriage and did not want him to come home. Fenton then threatened the victim and her children in order to keep them captive in the home. Fenton also changed the locks. T
he victim said Fenton was on a meth binge and did not sleep for several days. When he finally fell asleep, she contacted her mother, who told the victim’s husband what had really happened. He returned home and was able to convince Fenton leave. The couple then called the police.
“While the facts of this case were troubling, there was evidence of the assault, and the victim fully participated in the investigation and prosecution. She was supportive to the agreed resolution,” McClain said.
Cody Williams, 24, of Raymond, on Oct. 2 was sentenced to 15 months in prison followed by 12 months of probation, following his conviction for meth possession with intent to deliver.
According to McClain, Williams was arrested after he sold meth to a confidential informant who was working with the Pacific County Drug Task Force. Police pulled over Williams and two friends — who both had outstanding warrants — after receiving a tip that they were transporting drugs. When officers questioned the two friends during the traffic stop, both said Williams had drugs in his backpack. Inside the backpack, officers found two baggies, each containing more than an ounce of meth. Williams claimed he was holding them for a friend who had a warrant.
The co-defendants’ case is still pending.