Harris arraigned on $2 million bail in death of Nicole White as mysteries swirl about case

 

By Bruce A. Smith

Jonathan D. Harris appeared before Justice Megan M. Foley in Pierce County Superior Court June 24 to answer charges that he killed Nicole White, the Orting mother of two young boys.

 Harris pleaded not guilty and was placed in Pierce County jail pending payment of his a $2 million bail. He is charged with 2nd degree manslaughter. For the past week he has been in federal custody on an unrelated weapons charge.

 The court’s gallery was packed with family, friends and media as Harris entered the chambers. He was heavily shackled and wore a full-length padded suit, believed to be bullet-proof, and Nicole’s supporters gasped audibly when he walked into view.

 Charging documents and court statements further shocked the family. Harris, 29, has numerous prior convictions, ranging from a 2008 assault to a 2011 DUI.

 In addition, White’s death was brutal. Court documents reveal that she suffered a fractured skull, a broken eye socket, several broken ribs, and numerous contusions and lacerations. Harris, too, when he was later arrested on the weapons charge, was found to have a swollen wrist, and numerous bruisers and scratches on his arms and legs.

 “He is a complete monster,” Amy Ancira later told the Mountain News. “He needs to be held fully accountable for his actions.”

 Ancira said that Harris deserves the death penalty, a sentiment widely shared by Nicole’s supporters, dozens of whom brought signs into court demanding an “Eye for an Eye.” Court officers insisted that they not display the signage before cameras, and they later held a protest rally in front of the courthouse, receiving approval from many passerbys.

 On the street most of the signs proclaimed “Justice for Nicole,” and when asked what that justice might look like, one supporter simply said, “Fry the motherf-ker.”

 But the supporters also drew attention to another disturbing dynamic in the death of Nicole White – did Harris act alone?

 Harris lives with his mother in an upscale double-wide sited at the end of a rural road in Graham, off 70th Ave. Reportedly, she was home when her son allegedly murdered Nicole. Court documents also reveal that she spotted bloody clothes and a blood stain in her home on the Sunday after the incident, but supposedly was told by her son that the family’s dogs had killed a rabbit and tracked in blood.

 Additionally, a neighbor told police she heard a woman’s scream about 4 am on the morning of June 7, which ended abruptly. Yet, she did not call 911.

 Casting more doubt on Jonathan Harris’ mother, Amy Ancira told the Mountain News that Nicole’s mother went to the Harris home on Sunday afternoon after her daughter failed to return home in Orting. Nicole’s family claims that Mrs. Harris gave them no information, denied access to Jonathan, and told Nicole’s family to leave.

 As a result, several signs in the courtroom demanded that Harris’ mother be charged as an accomplice.

 However, the Mountain News was unable to talk with the mother, and no one answered at the Harris’ home when this reporter knocked on the door.

 When asked about the mother, Sheriff’s spokesperson Ed Troyer simply said that his department is “still investigating.”

 But adding to the mystery, Jonathan Harris was captured by police because he returned to the scene where he allegedly dumped White’s body on early Sunday. Because of his DUI conviction, his vehicle has an ignition interlock which requires him to breathe into the device to start the engine.

 Why he revisited the scene is unknown, but presumably, when he returned from inspecting the body on Sunday, he blew into the interlock, which also snapped a cell phone picture of him and his surroundings. Police retrieved the cell phone picture when they arrested Harris on the weapons charge, and spent nearly two weeks matching local landscapes with the picture. On Saturday, June 20, Sheriff deputies and K-9 teams found Nicole’s badly decomposed body in a wooded ravine off the Camp One East Road on Hancock timberlands southeast of Lake Kapowsin.

 The court proceedings also had the synchronistic effect of bringing many interested parties together who were able to share their insights into how Nicole and Jonathan met, and how this death might have occurred.

 Members of Nicole’s family said that she had met Jonathan weeks earlier through an online dating service. In addition, “Kathy,” the owner of the Jeepers Country Bar and Grill, told the Mountain News that both Nicole and Harris were known as regular customers at Jeepers, and that they had met there as friends the week prior, Saturday, May 30.

 “But it was a date on the 6th,” she told the Mountain News.”

 Tracey Rutherford, a Jeepers customer toting a sign at the courthouse, said that she had spoken with Nicole at Jeepers on the 6th, confirming that Nicole and Harris were on a date.

 “I saw her standing by herself near the fire pit out back. I walked up to her and asked how it was going. She said it was a ‘first date’ and not going too good because Harris wasn’t talking to her and was hanging out with everyone else,” Rutherford said.

 Rutherford said that she and her friends stayed until closing, at 2 am, and never saw anything threatening.

 “I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary or aggressive. It was just a regular night.”

 However, the Jeepers owner did acknowledge that Harris had broken two beer bottles that night.

 “He said the first one slipped out of his hands, and the second one happened out at the fire pit, “Kathy told the Mountain News. “My security talked to Harris, but it didn’t seem like a big deal.”

 Kathy also said that Harris was well known to her and her customers, and claimed that Harris was well-known in many local taverns in the Spanaway area.

 “He’s worked at a lot of bars around here.”

 She also described Harris as a non-threatening guy.

“I’ve even driven him home once – he lives not too far from my place. I certainly wasn’t afraid he was going to kill me,” she said.

 As for Nicole and Harris, Kathy said they left together, leaving the bar at 2 am.

 “She hugged my security guy out in the parking lot, and nothing seemed out of place. If she was worried about something, if she was scared, she could have whispered something to the security guy but she didn’t.”

 But another woman at the courthouse raised other concerns. A woman who said she was a waitress at the Roy Y Bar and Grill, near Jeepers, claimed that Harris worked there as a bouncer. The waitress said that Harris frequently followed women to their cars in a menacing manner, but when she confronted Harris he claimed he was providing a measure of protection, a notion she did not believe.

 But a related issue looms for many women – how can you trust an online dating site?

 “Online dating is now the way of the world,” Tracey Rutherford said. “Everyone is doing it – but how can you be safe? What happened to Nicole is very sad, and it hits very close to home – it could have been anybody.”

 Acknowledging that Harris was not a stranger, Amy Ancira simply said, “Nicole trusted someone who could not be trusted.”

 Nicole’s family has not made any funerary plans as they have not received the body back from the coroner, and the Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed that the autopsy process is not finished.

 Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said on Q-13 that the state of decomposition was delaying the testing process, and his office wanted to wait until all findings were complete because he would increase the criminal charges to first degree murder if premeditation or planning could be determined.

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PCSD, Nicole, Steven and Gracie, signage, best

Family members Steven Ancira and Gracie Sandoval display signage at the arraignment of Jonathan Harris in the murder of Nicole White.

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PCSD, Nicole, Tracey Rutherford, sign, best,

Tracey Rutherford displaying her support for Nicole White

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 PCSD, Nicole, groups signage on street, court

Family and friends showing support for Nicole in Tacoma

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PCSD, Nicole, Amy and Melissa address media,

Amy Ancira, right, and Melissa Nieto, left, addressing the media at the Pierce County Superior Court on Wednesday, after the arraignment of Jonathan Harris in the murder of Nicole Harris

Posted in Cops and courts, Graham News, Kapowsin, Orting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jonathan Harris charged in murder of Nicole White

~

Special to the Mountain News

By Bruce A. Smith

 The Office of the Pierce County Prosecutor announced today that Jonathan Harris – the man first identified by the family as responsible for her disappearance two weeks ago – has been criminally charged in her death.

 Nicole’s body was found late Saturday in a wooded area southeast of Lake Kapowsin, off of Camp One Road East.

 The following is the press release received by the Mountain News.

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TACOMA, WA – Today, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged a Graham man in the murder of Nicole White, 28, who was missing for over two weeks. Jonathan Daniel Harris, 29, is charged with murder in the second degree and is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in room 270 of the County-City Building in Tacoma.

 “Finding Nicole was a joint effort between law enforcement and the community,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “Detectives from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI went above and beyond in their use of forensic tools to apprehend the defendant.”

 On June 6, 2015, White picked Harris up from his home and they drove to Jeepers Country Bar and Grill in Spanaway. Several hours later, witnesses saw the two leave the bar together in White’s car. She never made it home and was reported missing on June 7.

 Over the next two weeks, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and volunteers conducted an extensive search. On June 20, a K-9 from a volunteer search and rescue team found White’s body at the bottom of wooded ravine south of Lake Kapowsin. Her body was wrapped in a green tarp and was severely decomposed.

 Detectives believe that after the two left the bar, they drove back to Harris’ house. He beat White to death and wrapped her in the tarp. Harris loaded White into her car, drove to the wooded area and rolled her down the ravine. Then, he drove her car off the side of the road near his house and walked home.

 The next day, according to cell phone records and data stored on the ignition interlock device in his vehicle, Harris drove his car back to the site where he dumped White’s body.

 During a search of Harris’ home, detectives located the sweatshirt he was wearing at the bar the night White disappeared. DNA from blood on the sweatshirt was a match to White.

 The medical examiner identified White’s body and found the manner of death was a homicide.  The cause of death is pending.

 Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

PCSD, Nicole, headshot, 6. 9. 15

Nicole White, the Orting mother of two young boys, was found by police after two weeks of searching by hundreds of volunteers, family and friends.

Posted in Cops and courts, Graham News, Kapowsin | Leave a comment

Person of Interest in Nicole White case arrested

 

Nicole White Update Number 5, Monday, June 15, 2015:

 by Bruce A. Smith

John Harris, the person of interest questioned last week in the disappearance of Nicole White, has been arrested on unrelated weapons charges, according to KIRO news.

 KIRO also confirms what Nicole’s sister, Melissa Nieto, had told the Mountain News last week that Harris was a convicted felon and had arrests for assault.

 Detective Ed Troyer, the spokesperson for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, has been asked to confirm this news break but has been non-responsive throughout the day on Monday.

 KIRO is also reporting that the PCSD has suspended their independent search for Nicole today to allow their rescue dogs to rest. Again, this has not been confirmed.

 Additionally, Jeepers Bar and Grill has announced that it is hosting a fundraiser to support the Help Find Nicole effort. Jeepers will have a local country band, Broken Trail, perform live this Saturday night, and the $5 cover charge will be donated to the cause. Also, Jeepers will offer a sirloin steak dinner special for $8.

Posted in Cops and courts, Graham News, Orting, Spanaway | Leave a comment

Secrecy, confusion, and gritty determination mark the search for Nicole White

 

by Bruce A. Smith

The search for Nicole White has revealed a strange mix of decision-making and behaviors among officials, and her family and friends on how best to find the Orting mother of two, missing since Saturday June 6.

After a very public search of the Webster Hill area on Monday when Nicole’s car was found abandoned in Graham, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the county’s Search and Rescue teams have opted for a more secretive approach.

It is now known that after its search in Graham the official effort moved mid-week to the lands of Joint Base Lewis McChord.

“The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department was in charge, and they told us that they were planning to investigate several of our training areas out that way (Graham-Spanaway),” Public Affairs Officer John Norgren told the Mountain News on Friday.

However, the official search has moved again apparently, and Sheri Badger, Public Information Officer of the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management told the Mountain News that her agency’s Mobile Operations Command Center had been deployed to the joint search operations headed by the PCSD, and she expected the search to continue into the weekend.

“They are out there searching,” Badger said, but she declined to give any exact locations.

In addition, Detective Ed Troyer, spokesperson for the PCSD, emailed the Mountain News on Friday evening and said the primary search area for Nicole was now in eastern Pierce County, but he would not give any specifics.

This counters information released by several news organizations, such as the Seattle PI-online and the Chehalis Chronicle that the search for Nicole White had moved into “three cities of Washington State.”

But all of this is news to the family and friends of Nicole who have gathered at the Rainier View Christian Church on 224th St in Graham to organize their own search for their loved one.

“We haven’t heard anything,” said “Margie,” the woman who has taken on the role of managing the encampment.

“But we’re looking everywhere, and we’re not going to stop until we find her,” Margie added.

However, her group’s efforts are quite separate from the official search.

“The police are pretty ‘hush,’” Margie said. “They pretty much won’t tell us anything.”

Expanding, Margie and others from the “Help Find Nicole” group said they have been told not to join the official search and instructed not to comb through private and residential properties.

“So, we’re looking wherever people will let us. We’re mostly searching in the outskirts of where the car was found,” Margie added.

In fact, when a caravan of Help Find Nicole searchers started looking along the boundaries areas of JBLM lands in Spanaway off 8th Ave, military police descended upon them quickly and asked them to leave.

“They got on us before we even got out of our cars!” said one volunteer. “It was like a SWAT team or something.”

As a result, Margie said the group’s primary role was to “cushion” the family and provide emotional support.

They are also stockpiling water, apples, flashlights and reflective vest for the searchers who go out – giving them a rest place and bathrooms after their trek, along with providing the emotional support of those who appreciate their efforts.

“There’s lot of dead ends, and it’s hot, and people are beat up, but we need to do this,” said “Will” a young man who identified himself as a friend of Nicole’s “since high school.” Will appeared weary as he walked over the tables piled high with water and cookies after looking for his friend in the Spanaway area.

In fact, the entire group appears discouraged, although they are focused and resolute on their mission to find Nicole. When asked about what they think happened to Nicole, individuals shut the conversation down immediately.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” said Will.

Nevertheless, the effort to find Nicole seems to be growing. A former Graham resident, now living in Colorado, arranged with a local sanitary company to provide a Porta-Potty for the encampment.

In addition, Boeing has supplied numerous vests and flashlights, and Verizon has purchased cases of bottled water and apples.

“We’ll accept anything, but we need coolers, ice, and Gatorade,” said Margie. “We’re starting from nothing.”

However, one thing they aren’t asking for is financial support.

“We’re not asking for money,” Margie stressed, as a Bethel bus driver drove past, honked his horn and waved. Margie waved back and smiled, saying, “See?”

However, members of Nicole’s immediate family seem to be struggling. Two individuals whose names and phone numbers were posted on the initial set of flyers distributed to the community now refuse contact. In fact, one family member became openly hostile to a reporter asking for an update.

Further, the family does not seem to have an appointed representative who can provide either updates to the media or advocate for the volunteers.

Nicole’s father, Eddie Nieto, arrived Tuesday from his home in San Diego, and has assumed some roles of leadership, but even though cordial and open to this reporter in our initial interview he has been unresponsive subsequently.

Often the Help Find Nicole group seems to be twisting in the wind, with no liaison to the official search nor any support from the Red Cross or other community service groups.

Nevertheless, Crime Stoppers has issued a $1,000 reward for information leading to Nicole’s recovery.

As to Nicole’s fate, the PCSD’s Detective Ed Troyer is sanguine, saying in a Fox-13 interview that although he is hoping for a positive outcome he is expecting a “sinister” conclusion.

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PCSD, Nicole, Help Find signage, RVCC, 6. 13. 15

The encampment of Help Find Nicole, at the Rainier View Christian Church in Graham.

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PCSD, Nicole, Will, 6. 12. 15

Nicole’s friend Will, returning from a search.

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Editor’s Note: Over 5,000 readers have viewed the posts on the Nicole White search since our first article was posted 6. 9. 15. Thank you, and I hope the information is useful.

Posted in Cops and courts, Events, Graham News, Spanaway, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Body of missing climber spotted on Mount Rainier

 

Special to the Mountain News-WA: 

The following press announcement was released Saturday concerning the disappearance of a climber near the summit of Mount Rainier.

 

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Saturday, June 13, 2015, 2:30 pm—

The search for Kyle Bufis is being suspended today after a deceased male climber was spotted by the search helicopter near the summit of Mount Rainier.  The body is currently being retrieved by climbing rangers. Although the subject matches the description of the missing climber, confirmation rests with the Pierce County Medical Examiner.

Bufis, age 25 from Utah, was a member of an independent three person climbing team when he went missing near Liberty Saddle on Mount Rainier at approximately 9:00 pm on Thursday, June 11,  2015, after climbing the challenging Liberty Ridge route on the north flank of Mount Rainier. The other two members of the climbing team, Derek Gavelis and Mathew Wiech, descended to Camp Schurman of their own accord late the next day. Both were tired, but are in good physical condition.

Special thanks goes out to the US Army Reserve 214th Air Division and Northwest Helicopters for air support during this mission and to King County for delivery and use of their under mount helicopter avalanche beacon receiver.

Two helicopters with crews and Mount Rainier climbing rangers were involved in the search. Thirty nine park personnel were assigned over the course of the incident. 

 

 

Posted in Eatonville News, Environment, Mount Rainier, Nature | Leave a comment

Climber lost on Mount Rainer

 

By Bruce A. Smith

  A climber became separated from his group and lost Thursday night while descending from the summit of Mount Rainier.

Kyle Bufis, 23, was in the company of two mountaineering companions, according to Information Specialist Patti Wold of the National Park Service, and went missing at approximately 9 pm at about 14,000 feet, just beneath the summit. The group was reportedly buffeted by extreme weather and high winds.

 News of the incident reached park officials at approximately 5 am Friday and they dispatched climbing rangers and aerial reconnaissance. Wold reported that Bufis, became separated on the upper part of the Emmons Glacier in the Liberty Ridge area, a notoriously treacherous spot on the east side of Mount Rainier.

 Bufis’ companions, Derek Gavelis and Mathew Wiech, hiked down to Camp Schurman at 10,000 feet on their own accord Friday, and met with park climbing rangers. Officials report that both mountaineers are tired, but in good physical condition. Officials plan to debrief the climbers there.

 The NPS launched multiple air reconnaissance missions on Friday, and two rescue rangers were deployed near the summit, expecting to hike down to the spot Bufis was last seen. Weather continued to be severe, with wind gusts to 70 mph.

 However, the search for Bufis was suspended as dusk fell Friday, and will resume Saturday morning. Search efforts will focus in the vicinity of the confluence of the Winthrop and Emmons glaciers.

 

Mt Rainier, NPS photo of rescue ranger, 6. 12. 15

Picture of one of the rescue rangers surveilling the upper Emmons Glacier from the starboard door of a helicopter. Note the NPS decal on his helmet. Picture courtesy of the National Park Service

Posted in Culture, Eatonville News, Environment, Mount Rainier, Remarkable men and women, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Person of Interest” identified in the case of the missing Orting woman

 

 by Bruce A. Smith

Pierce County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Wednesday that they have identified a “person of interest” connected to the disappearance of Nicole White, the Orting mother of two missing since Saturday.

 Sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant on this individual Tuesday evening, according to PCSD spokesperson, Detective Ed Troyer, but since this person has not been charged with a crime his name is being withheld.

 However, members of Nicole’s family reported that this individual is a resident of Graham, and adamantly claimed that Nicole had a pre-existing relationship with the man, whom she was last seen leaving Jeepers Grill on Saturday night.

 Appearing distraught and disorganized, family and friends of Nicole gathered at the Safeway in Graham Wednesdays afternoon to talk, support each other, and plan how they can best discover her whereabouts.

 Leading the group was Nicole’s father, Eddie Nieto, who arrived Wednesday from his home in San Diego.

 “Nicole was a wonderful mother,” he told the Mountain News. “She was very caring, very hard working, and had an awesome personality.” He also said that Nicole had lived most of her life in the Orting area.

 At a loss of where to search for Nicole, some family members opted to return to the Webster Rd area where her car was found abandoned on Monday even though the area was widely searched by the police and Search and Rescue teams on Monday.

However,  the car had been found with the keys still in the ignition. 

In addition, other family members placed posters at businesses in Graham, and along 224th and Mountain Hwy between Webster Rd in Graham and Spanaway where the Jeepers tavern is located, just north of the Roy “Y.”

 Nieto also said that the PCSD was continuing its own search, but in a separate and undisclosed location. “They don’t want us running down there and disturbing any evidence,” he said. “But, we’re asking everyone for their support and prayers, and if anyone has any information on Nicole, please call 911 or the Sheriff’s Department.”

 To contact the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, call 253.798. 4721.

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PCSD, Nicole, family gathers, Wed, Safeway, 6. 10. 15

Family and friends of Nicole White gather in the Safeway parking lot in Graham on Wednesday to strategize how best to find their missing loved one.

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PCSD, Nicole, Jeepers sign, 6. 10. 15

Jeepers Bar and Grill, Spanaway, WA.

Posted in Cops and courts, Culture, Graham News, Orting, Spanaway, Uncategorized | 1 Comment