State to pay $3 million to families of Salkum murder victims

The Daily News Online

August 30, 2012

The state has agreed to pay a $3 million settlement to the families of the victims in the 2010 Salkum-area triple-homicide, which was committed by an ex-convict who was supposed to be under strict state supervision.

Department of Corrections supervision of John Allen Booth Jr. and accomplice Ryan J. McCarthy was horribly lax, according to the attorney for the victims' families, reporting that the corrections officer went months without checking either offender.

Following the shootings on Aug. 21, 2010, "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.

"The DOC had not done any of the field checks or drug tests that were required with either offender," he said.

A Department of Corrections internal investigation led to the firing of the corrections officer, Seth Skipworth, 34, who was based in Tacoma and responsible for supervising Booth and McCarthy, said agency spokesman Chad Lewis.

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 in December 2009 after serving five years 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, an Onalaska native, was found guilty in 2011 for the murders of David "DJ" West Jr., 16, of Salkum; Tony E. Williams, 50, of Mineral; and David West Sr., 52, of Salkum; in addition to attempted murder for the shooting of Denise R. Salts, now 53, of Randle. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

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 his office has been negotiating a damage settlement with the state for several months and came to an agreement last week, he said. While it is a somber moment for the families, it brought them some closure, he said.

"They are very happy with the settlement," he said.

The settlement is not an admission of guilt on the state's part, Roberts said, but it serves as an acknowledgement of the DOC's missteps. 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 how the settlement money will be divided.

"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."

By Stephanie Schendel, THE DAILY NEWS

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