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(March 27) Providence declined partnership because VGH remained inpatient hospital Prov. last summer thought VGH better as an ‘outpatient hospital’ By Polly Keary, Editor Providence Regional Medical Center was not interested in a partnership with Valley General Hospital last summer if VGH remained an inpatient hospital. A series of emails acquired in a public records request earlier this month shows that, when Providence and Valley General seriously discussed a possible partnership last summer, the deal would only happen if VGH decided to end inpatient care. The conversation began between Providence CEO Dave Brooks and Valley General interim CEO Michael Fraser at the end of May last year. In early June, Brooks requested detailed information about VGH, including information on debt, inpatient and outpatient care, finances, retirement plans of employees, taxes and more. June 21, Fraser referenced an earlier conversation about impatient care at the hospital. “I have been an advocate for maintaining inpatient beds at VGH,” he wrote in an email to Brooks. “Some of that is because I feel that an Emergency Department without an inpatient capacity is really high level urgent care. The practical application of that is ambulances will bypass the hospital and take patients to what they

perceive the highest level of care.” Fraser went on to say that he’d thought of a “compromise.” VGH could just keep observational beds open, he suggested. “It would allow the ambulances to come here most of the time and for the hospital to take care of a good many of the urgent problems,” he said. After commenting on the possible ramifications of such a move, he said, “I know that you are not convinced that VGH can continue to support inpatient care and that other alternatives should be considered.” Brooks replied that the idea had merit, and a few days later gave Brooks a “heads up” that Providence would that week begin promoting the medical building that the Providence organization planned to build at North Kelsey. “Even though our VGH/Prov discussions are reenergizing, please know that our plans for the replacement have in some form or another been in the works for a few years and solidified over the last half year as our direction was clearer,” he said. Fraser met with leaders at Providence, including Brooks, Aug. 7. The following day he wrote a memo to VGH’s board of directors. He wrote that Brooks had said that inpatient admissions were declining, and that it was due in part to a trend in healthcare moving away from inpatient care. What Brooks expected to see in coming years was a move on the part of smaller hospitals to become “outpatient hospitals” that offer an array of hospital services with the exception of inpatient beds. Instead, he said, the inpatient beds would be replaced with

observation beds. About 9-14% of the inpatient beds in Providence Everett and Seattle were on observation status, he said. “Providence feels that Valley General Hospital would function well as an ‘outpatient hospital,’” Fraser wrote, saying that anti-trust laws might prevent Providence from participating in the discussion about ending inpatient care. “The commitment to this would have need to occur if there was to be further discussions with Providence,” Fraser wrote. “I know Providence does not want to be perceived as closing inpatient beds in Monroe.” If VGH did decide to become an outpatient hospital, Brooks envisioned a partnership ensuing, and the hospital would then be named Providence Regional Medical Center Monroe Campus. They would fund the operations of the hospital. And they would consider expanding some services such as hospice. Fraser ended the memo saying that he in turn had expressed an expectation that Providence would do more for poor patients. “I indicated to them that Medicaid, traditional Medicare and uninsured patients were not accepted at their Monroe clinic,” he wrote. Providence leaders responded that Providence does a great deal of uncompensated care and suggested that it was hard for new patients to gain access to the busy clinic. “While I did not state it at the time, when Collette Reams was working on the new Medicaid information system for the Emergency Department, the clinic manager from Providence Monroe was very clear that they were not accepting new Medicaid patients,” Fraser

wrote, saying that he felt Providence representatives understood that the VGH board of commissioners would want to see them demonstrate greater commitment to the poor of the valley. Brooks later suggested that Fraser and commissioners tour the Mill Creek Swedish campus to learn about the “advanced and robust ‘outpatient’ approach” there. Aug. 15, Brooks sent a formal letter to Fraser, making it clear that Providence was only interested in an outpatient hospital. “Providence has no interest in acquiring, leasing or otherwise operating its acute care hospital services,” he wrote. “We understand our position may result in the district pursuing other options and we respect such a decision.” Last week, Tom Brennan, Chief Strategy Officer at Providence, said that Providence essentially just wanted to learn what VGH wanted to do. “Our position was, you need to decide what you want to do,” said Brennan. “If they came to the conclusion they didn’t want to operate a hospital, we would talk about how to use the physical assets in the community, but we weren’t in a position to operate another hospital.” A lot of care that once was performed on an inpatient basis is now outpatient, he said. “As we look at where health care is going, the definition of a hospital is changing,” he said. “A lot of care is outpatient.” Providence never tried to dictate VGH’s course of action, he said. “It’s not our position to decide what the hospital and its commissioner want to operate,” he said, but if VGH did decide to

cease inpatient care, Providence would have taken the building on and made a “long-term commitment,” he said. Talks came to an end in September because of VGH’s desire to continue inpatient care, according to a brief in an employee newsletter published shortly thereafter.

Bullying a difficult problem in Sky Valley schools (Jan. 29)

More than 100 people crowded into the gazebo at Riverside Park in Sultan Sunday

evening to show solidarity against bullying and to express support for a 13-year-old who attempted suicide recently. Photo by Jim Scolman

By Polly Keary, Editor More than 1,200 people have joined a Facebook page started just a week ago by a Sultan teen to raise the issue of bullying after a loved one, a Sultan Middle School student, attempted suicide. On the page, dozens of comments from all over the state indicated that bullying is a problem at many schools, including those in the Sky Valley. According to Sky Valley students, educators and parents, bullying today follows age-old patterns of singling out children who are disadvantaged, physically different from the majority in some way, or from minority demographics. Schools in recent years have taken new measures to combat bullying, and today more resources than ever are available to kids in and out of school. But as the case in Sultan makes very clear, the problem remains serious, and difficult to address. Who gets bullied and how When Miranda Zucati, a senior at Monroe High School, was named Miss Plus America Teen Ambassador last year, she used the title as a platform to talk to other kids nationwide about teen suicide. She chose that message because she had a loved one who battled suicidal thoughts as a teen. To Zucati, the issue of teen suicide and bullying are closely linked. “I’ve been bullied,” she said. “I know that it is something that plays

a huge factor in teen suicide.” She had endured bullying because of her weight, to the extent that she stopped attending Monroe High School for a year and took classes at home instead. Zucati said that it had started for her in middle school. “I used to not want to go to school,” she said. “I would come home every day crying.” In the eighth grade, involvement in sports improved her situation. “But once I got to high school, it started all over and I feel like it was worse,” she said. “It tore me apart.” Once a girl stole her backpack and cell phone, and got caught when she used the phone to take pictures and send them to her email. Some kids left cruel messages on her Facebook page, forcing her to block some users from her site. Taunts were a daily occurrence. Finally, she called her mother crying from the bathroom and said she wanted to drop out. Ultimately, she left the school and spent her junior year studying at home through the Washington Virtual Academy. This year, buoyed by her national pageant title, Zucati returned to Monroe High School. But other kids continue to experience harassment in middle and high school. And according to students and parents, the kids who are harassed tend to be those who, for some reason, don’t fit into the mainstream. Holly Tiege has two daughters in Monroe High School who have no

social problems at school, as they are both fairly typical in their development and interests. But her fifth-grade son has had a different experience. He has been harassed because his mother is gay. And he also has some special needs. “He has kind of like Asperger’s,” said Tiege. “He has high anxiety and he lacks some social skills.” While most of the kids at school are very supportive, the young man struggles with social rejection and subtle acts of cruelty from some. “On the playground there’s quite a bit, mostly in the form of exclusion from activities,” said Tiege. “They say ‘We don’t want to play with you because you’re weird,’ and they call him a nerd, because he’s in the chess club and the choir and wants to play the flute.” One woman said her 11-year-old is targeted for his learning disability in the Sultan School District. People who don’t fit into a clique tend to be the ones who get bullied, said Cierra Mattern, 14, president of the ASB at Park Place MIddle School. While she said she doesn’t think bullying is at crisis level in her school, she said it does happen. “I see teasing around the school; some of it can get out of hand,” she said. “People are nice to people until they think they are weird, and don’t fit into a category.” Often it’s kids from homes with less money who are targeted, or kids who are street-involved, she said. And sometimes there is some

tension between ethnic groups, too, she added. While in middle and high school in Sultan, one recent student said, she was openly harassed. “At 15, I remember during class I’d walk down the row of desks and get called nasty names and be laughed at,” said Kendra Howard, now 20. But bullying is often far more insidious than that. The anonymity of the internet has created opportunities to hurt kids without consequence. “It gives the bully a way to feel more safe,” said Mattern. “They can post in a post, saying ‘I hate it when people do this,’ and you know who they are talking about.” And kids gossip about each other, sometimes hurtfully, some said. “I remember my best friend spreading a rumor that I was pregnant and then got an abortion,” Howard said in a Facebook post on the topic. Bullying can include spreading cruel rumors, pointedly excluding kids from activities or groups; prank calls; hurtful social media posts; cruel remarks; staring as a group; ridicule; avoiding a child in places such as the lunch room or on the bus; pushing; using homophobic, racist or demeaning slurs; taunting a child over things like weight or poverty; physically intimidating a child; demanding possessions or money and physical threat or assault. Impacts of bullying on children The impact of bullying on kids can be far-reaching, said former special education teacher Annie Redd, now a marriage and family

therapist with a practice in Monroe. “Kids who are bullied miss school a lot, grades decline, and loss of friends may occur from a lack of interest in social activities,” she said. “Emotionally, kids feel helpless, a decreased self esteem, increased anxiety and/or depression. Physical symptoms include sleep issues like nightmares or extreme tiredness from lack of sleep and headaches and stomachaches occur to get out of going to school or school activities where they are being bullied. Extreme results of kids being bullied may be running away from home, harming oneself, and talking of suicide.” The statistics are sobering. In the United States, about 16 percent of kids report being bullied and about 20 percent bully others, with bullying behavior peaking at about the 7th grade level, according to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In a study of about 15,000 middle school students, victims of bullying tended to be lonelier and have poorer school attendance rates; kids miss about 160,000 school days a year out of fear of bullying, according to an ABC News study. Tiege said that is a reality in her own home. “It’s to where my son doesn’t want to go to school,” she said. “He’ll try to get sick so he has to get picked up. It can be quite disabling. It’s disruptive to his educational experience.” Bullied kids grow up to be bullied adults, too; one study showed that 40 percent of bullied kids continued to experience harassment into adulthood in college and in the workplace, and that bullied kids have difficulty later in life establishing boundaries and standing up for themselves.

More alarmingly, there is a strong correlation between bullying and teen suicide. About half of all bulled kids report thinking of suicide, and about half of all youth suicide attempts are related to bullying. In all, about 4,400 children die of suicide every year, and though studies show that mental health issues factor greatly in those cases, bullying is a factor in about half. Sometimes bullied kids in turn become bullies themselves. And of 15 shooters in the school shootings of the 1990s, 12 had a history of having been bullied. Outcomes for children who bully are serious, as well. One study showed that one in four children who bullied others had a prison record by the age of 30. And although recent studies show that bullies, counter to conventional wisdom, usually have normal to high self-esteem and large social groups, a significant fraction in later life tend toward risky behaviors such as drugs and crime. What schools are doing In recent years in Sky Valley schools, students and faculty alike have made efforts to combat bullying. A group of high school students in the Monroe School District raised money to bring in an anti-bullying program called “The Power of One,” and the district has brought in “Rachel’s Challenge” and other anti-bullying and suicide prevention programs to the schools. Rachel’s Challenge has been a popular repeat program in Sultan, too. “We have done it at the high school a number of years and the middle school this year,” said Sultan Superintendent Dan Chaplik, who encouraged anyone with concerns about student safety to contact him at the district office. “This is an all-of-us issue.”

In Monroe and Sultan schools, students have several ways to ask for help. The school districts use SafeSchoolsAlert, a tip reporting system that allows people to report concerns via phone, text, email or on a website. For numbers and links, PAGES/safety.html for Monroe and ssd/ssd.cfm?id=197 for Sultan schools. Monroe kids also can fill out an anonymous form and drop it in a box. Through those avenues, or just by going to the office, children can ask for help with a specific situation, or just make the staff aware that something is going on and ask for more vigilance. The Monroe School District has a compliance officer whose job it is to address every report. “All reports are taken very seriously and fully investigated,” said district spokesperson Rosemary O’Neil. “Sometimes it’s two friends that have had a falling out, and sometimes it’s more serious, and families are involved as school staff try to mediate.” Consequences for kids who bully in either district, according to school policy pages, can range from counseling to discipline to law enforcement referrals. “The culture we try to create is not bullying, and when it does happen we try to deal with it,” said Chaplik. Reviews on the efforts of schools are mixed. Some angry parents reported that they felt staff at either district ignored their concerns. Parents in both districts also reported good experiences.

“The staff, when they know about it, are very responsive,” said Tiege. But enforcing bullying laws can be very difficult, even impossible. Much bullying is very hard to prove. “It’s extremely difficult in the absence of documentation that there’s a problem,” said Tiege. “The district wants to help, but it’s not provable. You can’t prove that someone said something to another child unless someone overheard it.” And studies have shown that educators on the whole aren’t very good at identifying and intervening in bullying situations. Children are often reluctant to report bullying, too. “Usually, teachers, they teach you confront the bully, but you find one in five who will actually do it,” said Mattern, who is currently in the eighth grade. And, she added, while anti-bullying rallies and films are effective in the short term, if not sustained, the impact soon fades. “The next week they fall back into the same routine,” she said. What parents can do Children with involved, observant parents have an advantage, experts say. Signs that a child is being bullied may include having belongings, especially those of value, go missing; frequent complaints of illness and requests to stay home or come home early; a lack of a social life and friends; a sudden drop in grades; anxiety; frequent crying; sleep disturbances and nightmares; and physical problems such as

sleeplessness, stomachaches and headaches. Parents who notice those things should make every effort to find out what is going on. If a parent learns that a child is being harassed at school, there are several ways to help, said therapist Annie Redd. “If a child is being bullied, provide them with the adult support they need to help them feel safe: school administration, teachers, counselors at the school itself. Be an advocate for your child if need be, to help the bullying stop not only for your child, but others who feel helpless.” Repairing your child’s confidence and sense of self worth is key. “Find a mental health professional for therapy and support to increase self esteem, strong personal identity and boundaries, and repair the anxiety and/or depression due to the bullying,” said Redd. Many experts recommend advising kids to “walk, talk and squawk.” That involves walking away from situations rather than engaging, as bullies tend to enjoy getting a reaction, and telling the bullies to stop, as bullies frequently choose victims who won’t defend themselves. To “squawk” means to alert trusted adults about the problem, whether it be a teacher, pastor, parent or mentor. There are a variety of educational opportunities for children who are having consistent problems with bullies when intervention is not successful, ranging from alternative schools like Leaders in Learning and the Sky Valley Educational Center, to homeschool and online options, to switching schools or even districts.

And, Redd added, community action matters, too. “Help the victims gain strength and hopefulness through safety committee groups or campaigns against bullying,” she suggested. Rallying In both Sultan and Monroe, the community is involved. In Monroe, a public information session on school safety, including safety from bullying, was planned for Monday. In Sultan, more than 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil Sunday evening to express support for the student, who is still seriously ill from his suicide attempt, and to stand up against bullying. And the Sultan School District will keep looking for ways to create a culture in which bullying doesn’t happen, said Superintendent Dan Chaplik. For now, though, students and staff are still stunned and saddened, he said. “Our thoughts are with the young man and the family,” he said. “There are a lot of students and staff who are hurting right now.”

DelBene meets Monroe seniors to talk about food programs (Feb. 8)

U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene visits Nora Snyder, 84, in her Old Owen Road home. Snyder, a former Boeing mechanic, depends on Meals on Wheels to get by. Photo by Polly Keary

DelBene reads signatures collected on a greeting by Rosemary Herrick at the East County Senior Center, where seniors gather each weekday for lunch, another service

funded by Senior Services of Snohomish County. Photo by Holly Glen Gearhart.

By Polly Keary, Editor Less than a month into her first term as U.S. Representative for the 1st District, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene Friday accepted an invitation from Snohomish County Senior Services to tag along with Meals on Wheels in order to see the value of food programs for the elderly. DelBene visited two homes in Monroe with Meals on Wheels, and at both, program participants said they didn’t know how they’d get by without the program. Nora Snyder, 84, has no shortage of gumption. She went to work as a mechanic for Boeing in the early 1950s and worked her way up to head mechanic in her 27-year career there. She’s smart, too. As a mechanic, she earned thousands of bonus dollars for making successful suggestions to improve efficiency. And she’s tough; she recently fell out of bed and got a black eye, which she declared was “funny,” over the protestations of her daughter and caregiver Patricia Falstitch, who insisted that it was not funny at all. “Oh, I thought it was,” said Snyder, laughing. A heart attack ended her career while she was still in her 50s, but she owned her home on Old Owen, where she’s lived for 44 years, so she wasn’t as vulnerable as some seniors. However, her Boeing pension isn’t much by today’s standards, and she gets just $16 a month in food assistance from DSHS.

So the seven frozen meals and the occasional supplemental box including crackers and other non-perishable snack foods she gets from Meals on Wheels, a food program in which meals are brought directly to seniors’ homes, are a “godsend,” she said. “It’s a wonderful service,” said Snyder to DelBene. “I don’t know what we’d do without it.” It’s hard on her pride sometimes, said her daughter, Patricia Falstitch, who is Snyder’s caregiver. Asking for help doesn’t come easy. But on days when the meals run out, they sometimes get by on fried egg sandwiches. Seniors enrolled in the program, which is funded by the 1965 Older Americans Act, used to get 10 meals a week. But expenses rose and funding didn’t. Now seniors get seven meals each week, and for the first time the program isn’t able to serve all comers. There are now about 65 people on a waiting list, said Martha Peppones, director of Senior Services of Snohomish County. The meals came just in time for Lynn, a senior who lives on the third floor of the Morning Run Apartments, and who, because she uses a walker, can’t get out much. “My food stamps come on the fourth,” she said. “I’m hoping we can get through till then.” She is cheerful, a diehard Seahawks fan with a quick laugh, but her circumstances are difficult. On a bakers rack near the kitchen, there are a few bananas and apples, a couple of packs of Top Ramen and a two large Tupperware containers, one with a little cereal in it. The rest of the rack was empty. “At the end of the month, we scrape by,” said Lynn. She’s very

careful with her Meals on Wheels dinners, but sometimes when there’s nothing else she has to eat two in one day, which leaves her short at the end of the week. But it’s not just the food that sustains Lynn. It’s the company of the driver, who clients often greet by name. Sometimes he is the only visit a senior gets in a week, and clients are very fond of him. And he sometimes is a lifeline for seniors, reporting on situations of concern when he notices them. Meals on Wheels delivers meals to about 25 homes in the Sky Valley, but those aren’t the only seniors who get food support from Senior Services. Just after noon, DelBene visited the East County Senior Center, where about 30 seniors were gathered for lunch, which is provided for $2.50. “This is a congregation site,” said Jacob McGee, program director at the senior center. Congregation sites are places where meals can be served in a setting in which seniors can gather and meet because isolation is a hazard for many seniors. At Village Apartments West, an apartment complex for seniors on fixed incomes, seniors explained to DelBene what the food programs mean to them. One man pointed out that poor nutrition has been shown to be a factor in Alzheimer’s Disease, and Peppones noted that nutrition factors in with many other health issues. “For the cost of one day in the hospital, we can provide a person with a year’s worth of meals,” she said. Cutting programs like the Older Americans Act can cost money in the long run, DelBene observed as she sat around a table with

about 10 seniors at the apartment complex. “We don’t always do a good job looking at the return on our investment,” she said. “We don’t see that the money we save in the short term can cost us more in the long term.” But the Older Americans Act is due to be reauthorized, and that’s why Senior Services invited DelBene to see the impact of their programs. The program doesn’t cost much–it’s what Peppones calls “budget dust”–and it’s been continuously reauthorized since 1965. But the biggest threat to the program right now is sequestration. If the federal government doesn’t take steps to undo a legal requirement calling for $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years because of the failure of a committee to identify a plan to reduce the deficit by that amount within 10 years, the budget cuts will go into effect soon. The cuts will be divided between defense and other “discretionary” spending, and it could result in an eight percent cut to Senior Services. “That will eliminate 10,000 meals in the county,” said Peppones. “We’d potentially have to take people off the program.”

Predator or prey?: Sultan woman faces sentencing in molestation case

Caitlin Ferry, 23, of Sultan, had a hard time making friends and faced a great deal of social rejection because of a developmental disability and other issues, her mother said last week. Photo courtesy of Kelly Ferry

Sometimes appearing prayerful, other times seeming catatonic, Ferry enters a plea of

guilty to two counts of sex crimes against children in court last week. Photo by Jim Scolman

By Polly Keary, Editor Before a judge in Snohomish County Superior Court last Wednesday, Caitlin Ferry, 23, in a tiny voice said that she was guilty of molesting the son of her former boyfriend. With that, she avoided a trial that could have cost her decades in prison. Next month, she will be back in court, where a judge will decide how much jail time to give her. In order to do that, he will have to decide to what degree Ferry was a predator, and to what degree she was prey. The answer to that question is by no means clear. The crime On Jan. 4 of this year, Enrique Sánchez-León, 39, of Snohomish, was arrested for a crime that horrified seasoned investigators. Acting on information from two sisters, ages 5 and 8, who told their parents that Sánchez-León had abused them, police raided his home and found a massive array of computer equipment, including more than 60 hard drives, 30 computers and a server rack with 14 more hard drives. Also in the D Street apartment were pieces of video and camera equipment. On the hard drives were thousands of graphic images of what police called “violent sexual assault, child pornography and sexual exploitation of minors.” Among his victims were the two little girls, another girl, 3, and a girl

of 16. For his crimes, Sánchez-León was sentenced this year to 35 years in prison. Among the photos found were several of Sánchez-León’s own son, posing nude with Ferry. According to prosecutor Adam Cornell, the photos were of Ferry exploiting the child. Ferry herself, according to police documents, admitted that intimate parts of her body had been in contact with the child, then 7. According to Enrique Sánchez-León, writing to the Monroe Monitor from prison, they were intended not as pornography, but as art. According to Ferry’s mother, Kelly Ferry of Sultan, Caitlin was told they were intended to be artistic. She might have been relatively easy to convince, or at least to persuade. Ferry is somewhat developmentally disabled, and has a history of being easily persuaded to compromise herself in order to win attention and affection. Troubled youth Kelly Ferry’s voice, during a long conversation, was drawn tight with pain, and she often broke into the kind of disbelieving laughter that indicates abject despair. “Caitlin has been challenged her whole life,” said Kelly. “She started out behind. She couldn’t talk until she was four. She’s been in special needs programs since she was three.”

Her school years, Kelly said, were often hellish. Ferry was overweight, developmentally delayed, and had trouble with incontinence. “According to her brother, she was mercilessly tormented in school,” she said. “She was just a huge target from the fourth grade on. She had significant clinical depression in school when they tested her. We tried to get her a counselor, but she stonewalled them.” Ferry, however, had a sweet and affectionate nature that she has maintained all her life, said her mother. She wanted to love people, and she wanted to be loved, and that caused her to make some very bad decisions. “I was raised that everyone is a human being and I passed that on to her and I’m kind of regretting it,” said Kelly. “I didn’t pass on discernment.” She was sexually assaulted as a child several times, once by a relative, once by a non-related adult, and once by a classmate in middle school. When she got older, she learned that saying “yes” to people would get her approval. So she said “yes” to some unwise things. “She would connect with guys on dating sites and she would let them convince her to send inappropriate photos of herself,” Kelly said. She brought home “strays,” often kids quite a bit younger than her, closer to her developmental age, kids in their early teens. Those kids frequently used her, her mother said. So when Ferry got into a relationship with Sánchez-León, even though he was 16 years her senior, her mother thought it was a

godsend for her lonely daughter; someone to love her after years of hurtful experiences with classmates, romantic interests, and friends. “He was part of the family” Sánchez-León seemed stable, and although an immigrant, his English was good. He had a job. He loved photography, and never went anywhere without a camera. He was friendly, and appeared to love his son very much. “This is one of the worst parts,” said Ferry. “I strongly encouraged the relationship. If they had an argument, I would side with Enrique. We encouraged them to get married. We paid for him to get his immigration straightened out. They (Enrique and his son) were part of our family. We never had any inkling. No one in our family did.” They were only puzzled at his interest in Ferry, but to all appearances, he was kind and gentle with her and cared for her a great deal. He did ask her to marry him, and she agreed. According to Kelly, Ferry loved the man’s son as if he were her own. They were engaged for about six months, then Ferry broke up with Enrique. Shortly after that, Kelly and her family got a horrible shock. Sánchez-León defends Caitlin When Sánchez-León was arrested, he confessed to his crimes. He had been molesting several children for years. What he had done to them was sickening. “We were completely and utterly astounded and devastated,” said Kelly. “It was a huge, huge betrayal.”

One thing to which Sánchez-León would not confess is molesting his own son, or involving Ferry. To the charge of molesting his son, he took an Alford plea, a relatively uncommon plea that means the defendant maintains innocence, but recognizes that a jury would likely find otherwise, and thereby accepting the penalty for the crime in exchange for a lower sentence. And in a letter from prison, he insists Ferry was not involved in his crimes. “I am not writing to be deceitful or to claim to be innocent, this letter is not about me but about a true innocent victim of my shameful actions,” he wrote. “Caitlin Mae Ferry has been accused and hated for being wrongly indicted to molest my son [sic]. They are using to accuse her a few pictures I took, asking both of them, on my intent to make an artistic portrait of the people I love.” He went on to claim that Ferry and his son were very close and that Ferry loved the boy like a mother. “I can tell you for sure without any doubt that she will rather die for my son at any time,” he wrote. “I believe she molested that kid” Prosecutor Adam Cornell had quite a different take on the photos. In a legal document, he said that the contact between the two was not at all appropriate, and insisted he wouldn’t have charged her with one count of sexual molestation of a child and one count of sexual exploitation of a minor if he didn’t think she was guilty. “If I thought she was engaged in art I wouldn’t have charged it,” he said. “But I believe she molested that kid.” However, he is not asking the judge to impose a penalty nearly as

severe as that given to Sanchez-Leon. He will ask for an eight-year sentence, with all but six months suspended. He is asking that she be jailed for six months (of which she will get credit for time served. She was free on bail until taking a job with children at the Evergreen State Fair this summer, a violation of her conditions of release for which she was returned to jail.) Ferry was given an evaluation to determine whether she was a good candidate for sexual offender counseling, and she was identified as such. So he will also ask that the judge make that treatment a condition of her release. Judge Kurtz, who will impose sentence Nov. 19, is free to disregard the prosecutor’s request and impose a sentence much more severe. Conversely, he could take into account Ferry’s disability, an issue the prosecutor said has not been raised so far during this legal proceeding. The possibility of a harsher sentence terrifies her mother, who said that Ferry herself is in deep denial about the unpleasant truths about her future. Regardless of her sentence, her future will be difficult, said her mother. She will have to register and be labeled as a sex offender for the rest of her life. She had wanted to work with children or be a massage therapist, both careers that are closed to sex offenders. She will, her mother said, be a pariah, and virtually unemployable. Now Kelly’s hopes for her daughter are very modest. “The best-case scenario is if someone was willing to hire her and give her a real shot. I’d like to see her marry a nice man; someone that treats her well. I’d like her to have an independent life,” said

Caitlin’s mother. “She’s not going to have the life she wanted.”

Coal trains on track to increase rail traffic (Jan. 8)

A rise in coal production to the east could mean a big increase in mile-long coal trains traveling through Monroe and the Sky Valley in the next few years. Photo by Callum Black

By Polly Keary, Editor Monroe already gets 23 trains through town per day. Within a couple of years, that number could be 32, and rising every year thereafter. And the new trains could be more than mile long

each, all carrying coal. And that is worrying mayors and transportation groups around Washington, including the Highway 2 Safety Coalition. Getting coal to the coast “I found out about the coal trains about a year ago,” said Fred Walser, chairman of the Highway 2 Safety Coalition. “I went to a SCCIT (Snohomish County Committee on Improved Transportation) meeting and Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling gave a talk at length about how the coal trains would impact Snohomish County in a big way.” Coal production is increasing in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, and Asia is increasing fuel consumption. So coalmining companies are working hard to expand their access to the northwest ports. It could be a while yet; the coalmining companies still have to get export permits. Not only that, but the only port currently handling coal is in British Columbia. So coalmining interests are trying to get approval to back expansions of ports in Longview and Cherry Point near Anacortes, both in Washington, which will also take some time. The permitting process alone could take a year or more; right now the process is just beginning. Coalmining operators are asking that the only impacts that permitting agencies should evaluate are those regarding the project sites. But many other interest groups, including environmentalists and the citizenry of the communities through which the trains will pass, are calling for the agencies to consider the impacts that will occur between the mines and the

ports. The cities of the Sky Valley will be among those communities affected should the trains increase. Trains to increase year by year   A map of the routes the trains will travel if proposed coal export permits are granted reveals that they will come into the state near Spokane, travel along the Columbia Basin to the mouth of the Columbia River, and then proceed through the most heavily populated areas of Washington, hitting ports in Longview, Anacortes and British Columbia before doubling back and proceeding along the U.S. 2 corridor to loop back to Wyoming and Montana. The first year, train traffic is expected to increase by nine trains per day. The second year, that will double to 18 trains, then double again to 36 in the third year, said Walser. Those numbers are far from certain. BNSF Chief Executive Officer Matthew Rose has said that he thinks there will be no more than 16 coal trains through the Columbia Basin each day. But according to a study done for the Western Organization of Resource Councils, there could eventually be as many as 60 new trains per day headed for west coast ports.   Crossings, sidings and crashes   But even an increase of nine very long coal trains could impact

Monroe and the Sky Valley dramatically, said Walser. When trains have to pass each other, one of them pulls off onto a siding. “Monroe has a major siding, and coal trains are a mile long, which means that when two trains pass, it’s going to block every street in town,” Walser said. “That means emergency vehicles can’t cross, and that’s going to be a serious problem.” Monroe is also one of just a few Snohomish County towns that are entirely bisected by their railroad lines. That means near-immediate downtown gridlock when a long train passes through. The more trains, the more gridlock; with a long train requiring crossing closures of about five minutes, delays could increase by 45 minutes per day. Another factor about which citizen groups are concerned is that of coal dust. Coal cars are not covered. According to some statistics, each car loses about a pound of coal dust per mile traveled. And sometimes trains break down. In early December, for example, a train broke down in Mount Vernon, cutting off three streets, one of them the town’s main arterial, for 45 minutes. The arterial was ultimately closed for 48 hours while BNSF repaired the track. Railroad disasters are rare but they do happen, as well. Last year alone, 18 coal trains derailed in the United States, one of them in Mesa, Wash. in July. Recently the city of The Dalles, Ore. passed a resolution expressing concern about the trains. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn estimates that coal trains could increase Seattle train crossing delays by as much as three hours per day in the next 13 years, and in November

said he would work with other cities to oppose coal exports. And Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling is working to organize awareness and opposition to the trains. Potential solutions   Walser, however, said that he isn’t opposed to coal trains on principal. “I’m very much in favor of jobs,” he said. The train increases could mean a lot of jobs on the ports, especially as the ports are expanded, though few of those jobs would benefit Sky Valley citizens. Rather, he said, there needs to be intelligent discussion. That would include a discussion on traffic. Walser believes that one measure that could keep traffic moving and give emergency vehicles a way across town would be to create an overpass at the Lewis Street train crossing. “It was done in Everett on Pacific Avenue years ago, if you recall,” said Walser. “Pacific went down the hill and the railroad was at the bottom and traffic was forever disrupted, so they built an overpass.” Lewis Street also has a grade, he said, which would make an overpass more feasible. State and federal grants were used for the Everett project, he said.

“Why not in Monroe?” he said. State grants might be hard to get, though. Already, WSDOT estimates that the state needs to invest about $2 billion into its current rail infrastructure, and that’s before the traffic increase. And there are other types of trains likely to increase soon, including water and oil trains. The railroads themselves likely won’t share much in the cost. Federal regulations can only charge railroads a maximum of five percent of the cost of safety and traffic improvements to crossings. Potential funding sources could include an increase in state spending, federal grants, and public-private partnerships, says the current WSDOT rail freight study. Meanwhile, Monroe is due to update the list of improvements needed to the town’s transportation infrastructure; Walser suggested the city consider putting crossing improvement on the list. Ultimately, he said, the time to address the problem is now. “Before the trains manifest, let’s do some real planning,” he said. “I believe that our legislators and transportation groups need to start a conversation. And it is way past time when the state, the cities and the feds, in partnership with BNSF, sit down and figure out how to move train traffic in our state.”

Polly Keary News Portfolio  

Five news stories from 2012-2013

Polly Keary News Portfolio  

Five news stories from 2012-2013