Jury convicts Tacoma man in death of his boss

Herald news services

TACOMA — A 24-year-old man could face the death penalty after he was convicted of shooting his boss four times in the back of the head.

Prosecutors said Covell Thomas killed Richard Geist, 26, in March 1998, and stole $5,000 from him. Thomas worked for Geist’s cleaning business.

Jurors convicted Thomas on Tuesday and will return to Pierce County Superior Court on Nov. 14 to decide whether to give Thomas the death penalty or life in prison.

Thomas’ lawyers admitted that he had planned to rob his boss, but said there was no evidence that Thomas planned to kill him or followed through.

Edward Rembert, accused of being an accomplice, will stand trial for aggravated first-degree murder. But because he was only 17 at the time, he will not face the death penalty if convicted.

Thomas’ and Geist’s families wept in the courtroom as the verdict was read.

"He was a good baby. He was a good boy, and he was a good man," Geist’s grandmother said.

Geist’s aunt said she was relieved by the verdict.

"There’s going to be some closure for my sister and her family," she said. "But I’m not relieved that my nephew is gone."

Both women asked not to be identified.

  • Fire chief resigning: Seattle Fire Chief James Sewell announced Wednesday that he will resign in mid-January to pursue a career in church service. Mayor Paul Schell praised Sewell for the work he has done since joining the fire department in 1997. "Running a fire department the size of Seattle’s, in a city as complex and diverse as ours, is an extremely demanding job," Schell said. A seminary student since March, Sewell will begin a pastoral internship in late January. He’s applied to serve at Canyon Hills Community Church in Bothell. Schell said he plans to name an interim chief and conduct a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.

  • U.S. courthouse to be named for near-forgotten hero: The federal courthouse in Seattle will be named after William Kenzo Nakamura, a one-time internment-camp detainee who went on to win the Medal of Honor in World War II. Nakamura was killed by a sniper on July 4, 1944, after twice saving his platoon in a battle near Castellina, Italy. His commanding officer nominated him for the Medal of Honor, but it wasn’t awarded until this spring, 56 years after the fact. Born in Seattle, Nakamura was moved with his family to an internment camp in Idaho after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the military and became a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in American military history, made up almost entirely of Japanese-Americans. The courthouse-naming legislation approved Wednesday by the U.S. Senate was sponsored by Washington’s congressional delegation and the two Medal of Honor winners in the Senate: Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska. The measure had already passed the House. It now goes to President Clinton to be signed into law.

  • Post office lacks critical facilities: In terms of starting their new jobs, 40 people ready to go to work at Covington’s first post office may just have to hold it. Officials hope to open the $5 million building shortly after Thanksgiving, but the toilets don’t work. The federal government has not received permission from two local landowners to run pipes to the sewer line along Kent-Kangley Road. The building’s opening, originally planned for early last month, will be delayed until the government receives permission, expected by next week, Swanson said. Brian Comfort, a lawyer for one of the landowner families, said the family is concerned because an agreement could limit what it can build on the property. "We wouldn’t be in negotiations with them if they weren’t willing to work with us," Swanson said.

  • Donor gives vehicle video cameras to police: An anonymous donation has made it possible for Port Angeles to place video cameras in four city police cars. The camcorders cost about $6,000 each and are expected to be installed within the next couple of weeks, according to Jack Lowell, crime prevention officer for the Port Angeles Police Department. The cameras, which have night-vision capability, will record traffic stops and drunken-driving sobriety tests and will also be available to document crime scenes.

  • Garbage hauling to resume as Vancouver strike continues: After five weeks, it’s time to take out the garbage, city officials and union leaders have decided. Under an agreement approved Tuesday by the Labor Relations Board, garbage hauling and street cleaning were added to a list of essential services and thus will be resumed while a strike by municipal workers continues. City officials are eager to clear leaves that have clogged street gutters and drains, posing a flood risk and safety hazard, city spokeswoman Catherine Clement said. The agreement between the city and the Canadian Union of Public Employees allows about 200 of the 1,700 members of CUPE Local 1004, which represents outside workers, to return to work, Clement said. The rest of Local 1004 remains off the job as members honor the picket lines of CUPE Local 15, which represents the inside workers.

  • Weyerhaeuser negotiates with Indians on logging: Weyerhaeuser Canada Ltd. has reached agreement with the Skeetchestn Indian Band to begin logging on a large area at Heller Creek. The two sides have been negotiating since band leaders announced last month that they would not permit a "precedent-setting, massive clearcut" in the Deadman Creek watershed. A Weyerhaeuser spokesman said logging is continuing at the area, about 25 miles northwest of Kamloops on the Bonaparte Plateau, and logs are being sent to Weyerhaeuser’s Kamloops mill. Kamloops Forest District manager Tony Buckley said Monday the band agreed to accept some logging pending further talks on preserving other areas and on avoiding damage to Deadman Creek.
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