Year in Review July-December 2018

Jan 02, 2019



Phamily, smiles, and service


When Nhi Pham exited the back offices and entered the waiting room at her dental clinic, Mukilteo Dental Center, she was shocked and a little concerned to see her entire staff and many Mukilteo residents filling up the room.

“The last time I was pulled up front by my staff, I was pranked,” Pham said. “They told me the police were arresting one of my employees. I was like, ‘What is going on?’”

But these Mukilteo residents weren’t just any residents.

The handful of people in the waiting room were past Mukilteo Citizens of the Year who were there to tell Pham that she was named Mukilteo’s Citizen of the Year for 2018.

Quickly, the concern and shock turned to disbelief and a large smile.

“To be chosen to represent Mukilteo like this, I can’t even express it,” Pham said. “It just blows me away.”


Suspects arrested in Beverly Park Road killing


Two suspects have been arrested in connection with a vicious killing after a dead body was found off Beverly Park Road last Tuesday, July 3.

Officers from the Mukilteo Police Department responded to a report of a body just after 10 a.m. where they found the victim, Ezekiel M. Kelly, a 22-year-old man from Everett.

According to court documents, Kelly’s t-shirt was covered in blood, and there were loops of packing tape around his neck, which a detective on the scene believed was used like a leash to pull the body.

Next to his body were two .22 caliber shell casings, and a detective found an 8-inch blade that had dry blood on it.

According to court documents, Kelly had 27 total stab wounds in his chest, side, back, arm, and face.

Authorities believe the case is connected to a murder that took place earlier last week, where a man, Mohamed H. Adan, 21, was shot seven times and was found in a blackberry bush near Blue Stilly Park in Arlington.


SWAT incident occurred over $200


A man arrested for a domestic violence incident that resulted in heavy SWAT and police presence in Mukilteo last week told officers he is schizophrenic and, because of that, will go into “homicidal rages.”

Police arrived at a house on the 5800 block of 94th Street Southwest late Wednesday evening to find the suspect’s mother, 59, and her boyfriend outside holding paper towels on her arms and neck to stop bleeding.

According to court records, the suspect, 20, had arrived home from vacation on Monday, July 9, and his mother was laying down ground rules for him.

The suspect reportedly texted his mother that he wanted his $200 in Social Security money, but she told him the money was being saved for a later date.

The suspect then allegedly went upstairs and yelled at his mother, which turned physical when he began punching her in the face and slamming her head against a bed frame.

The mother tried calling 911, but the suspect allegedly took the phone out of her hand and broke it.

The suspect allegedly began trying to stab her, resulting in knife lacerations on her neck and forearms. She also had defensive wounds on her hands from when she tried to grab the knife from him.

She was able to escape the room and run outside where her boyfriend called 911.  She was transported to Evergreen Hospital.

Police arrived at the house just before 10 p.m. Wednesday, and were on-scene until roughly 7 a.m. Thursday.




2nd Anna Bui fundraiser raises over $50,000 to help students study abroad


With the help of generous community members, the second annual Anna Bui World of Hope Scholarship Fundraiser raised more than $50,000 to help University of Washington Bothell students study abroad.

In the wake of the 2016 shooting in Mukilteo that killed Anna Bui along with Jordan Ebner and Jake Long, Bui’s family wished to keep her name and legacy alive.

Anna Bui had recently come back from traveling across the world, and her sister, Anny, said it was the happiest Anna had ever been.

As a result, Anny and her brother David approached the University of Washington Bothell about finding a way to create a scholarship in Anna’s name so students could travel the world.

“Anny and David came to me about two years ago and asked if we could help them figure out how to make a scholarship in Anna’s name to help students,” said Sean Marsh, assistant vice chancellor at UW Bothell. “They didn’t really know much about how that would work, or what that would look like, all they asked was to help them figure it out because they thought it would help bring some happiness and hope to a time of tragedy.”


Council to approve all severance and separation agreements for city staff

While listening to a second quarter finance update from Mukilteo Finance Director Michelle Meyer, Councilmember Scott Whelpley brought forward information he found through public records showing the city spending more for ex-city employees’ severance than city policy dictates.

After discussing the city’s use of vacancy savings, Whelpley told his fellow councilmembers he was upset regarding severance, and wanted to change policy so severance agreements come before the council.

“One of the issues I have is when it comes down to severance,” he said. “Where is that money coming from?”

Whelpley said there is no line item in the budget that shows how much the city has paid in severance, and that he didn’t understand how the city was paying so much in severance and separation agreements with past employees.

Whelpley said he did a public records request through the city for documents pertaining to severance and separation with four former city employees, including Sen. Marko Liias who served as Mukilteo’s Policy Analyst from 2014 until December of last year, when the council moved to eliminate his position. He gave copies of the records to the other councilmembers.

Whelpley noted the city’s policy was to pay severance for two months or until the employee got new work, and that they were to be paid monthly in accordance with the city’s payroll.

Records show Liias and three other former employees received lump-sum payments, and that Liias and former Mukilteo Human Resources Manager Julie Good received three months of severance instead of two.


Mukilteo ferry terminal project delayed again


Those waiting for the new ferry terminal in Mukilteo are going to have to wait even longer.

According to Washington State Ferries spokesman Ian Sterling, the project recently received five bids for the construction of terminal buildings and other key components of the project.

Sterling said all five of the bids came in well over the estimated budget created by their team of engineers. The five contractors were notified Tuesday, Aug. 7, that their bids were declined.

“The lowest bid came in about $8 million over our internal estimate,” Sterling said. “The next closest was about $18 million over.”

According to Sterling, the internal “engineers’ estimate” for the project was roughly $65 million. A key reason for the high bids is an increase in the cost of steel due to tariffs implemented by the Trump administration.

“Steel prices are rapidly rising,” Sterling said. “That’s the primary reason (the bids were over budget), but there are other reasons as well.”


Council votes no confidence in mayor’s leadership


At the tail end of Monday’s Mukilteo City Council meeting, Councilmember Anna Rohrbough voiced her displeasure with the city’s leadership and led a vote of no confidence in Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson.

Rohrbough asked Gregerson for an update regarding a receipt from state Sen. Marko Liias, the former Mukilteo’s policy analyst.

Liias took a class at the University of Washington and received $6,355 as part of tuition reimbursement in his severance agreement after his termination in December 2017.

According to the city’s policy, in order for employees to receive tuition reimbursement, they must give a receipt and show a passing grade. In Liias’ severance paperwork, there is no receipt or transcript showing he passed the class.

After the mayor said she hadn’t talked to Liias about this, Rohrbough questioned when Gregerson was going to take responsibility for the misappropriation of funds in severance agreements with past city employees, including Liias, which was brought to the council’s attention by Councilmember Scott Whelpley at the Aug. 6 meeting.

She also wanted Gregerson to apologize to Management Services Director Steve Edin for seemingly blaming him for the way Liias’ severance agreement was worded.

Gregerson apologized for how that moment was interpreted, and Rohrbough said she was tired of seeing the mayor blame others and not taking responsibility for her actions.

“This isn’t where I wanted to be,” Rohrbough said. “You have continually blamed directors and staff.”

Rohrbough made a motion for a vote of no confidence in Gregerson’s leadership.


Teachers and district reach tentative salary agreement


After months-long negotiations and threats of a strike, it appears Mukilteo teachers will be getting the raise they have been fighting for.

The Mukilteo School District and the Mukilteo Education Association (MEA) reached a tentative agreement on a new salary contract Wednesday, Aug. 15.

MEA members had given their bargaining team the authority to strike any time after Aug. 15 if no agreement was in place, but ultimately that wasn’t necessary.

The contract will now go before MEA members for ratification at their Aug. 29 meeting.


Lighthouse Festival could be on last legs


There’s arguably nothing that Mukilteo residents look forward to each year more than the annual Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival.

This year’s will be the 53rd installment of one of Mukilteo’s longest traditions. It may also be its last.

Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce President Julie Martin says the festival has been on a financial downward spiral the last three years.

“There are two major factors that have contributed to the financial deficit of the Lighthouse Festival: dramatically increasing costs of the logistical needs of the festival, and declining business sponsorship,” she said. “In past years, businesses sponsored the community involvement and exposure. The last two years, many of our previous sponsors and those we have approached have indicated that it is a hardship for them to staff a booth all weekend, that they have to pay overtime, etc.”




Body discovered at Lighthouse Park


Police and fire presence at Lighthouse Park was heavier than normal last Wednesday, Aug. 29, after the body of a woman was discovered floating in the water near the boat docks.

The victim, an unnamed 88-year-old woman from Edmonds, was discovered at 11:13 a.m., and police and fire responded to the scene around 11:20.

According to the Mukilteo Police Department's Crime Prevention Officer, Myron Travis, boaters west of the boat docks found the body clothed in a burgundy top, burgundy pants, a white shirt, and a black fleece vest, and then called 911.

First responders used a rescue boat to bring the woman to shore around noon.


Shooting scare causes evacuation at Goddard


A night filled with school spirit and competition between two rival schools quickly turned into a night of chaos when reported gunfire caused the evacuation of Goddard Stadium during the Kamiak-Mariner football game.

According to the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, officers responded to Mariner High School just before 9 p.m. for reports of a fight between juveniles in the school’s parking lot. The altercation then moved off campus to 4th Avenue West, where the gunfire happened.

Mariner's school resource officer responded to the fight, and heard five to six shots fired nearby. No one was injured by the reported gunfire.

The game was cancelled with just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and the stadium was quickly evacuated.

Safety measures revamped for Goddard games


After a shooting scare forced the cancellation of the Kamiak-Mariner football game, as well as the evacuation of Goddard Stadium, the Mukilteo School District and local law enforcement agencies have increased safety measures for games played at Mariner High School.

Goddard Stadium, located at Mariner, is the home field for both Mariner and Kamiak.

During the Sept. 14 game between the rival schools, an altercation in the Mariner parking lot nearly turned fatal.

The combatants left the school grounds, and went onto 4th Avenue West where multiple gunshots were fired from a moving car. The Mariner school resource officer reported hearing five to six shots.

Word quickly spread, the game was cancelled with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and the stadium was evacuated.


Happy anniversary, Mukilteo Library!


The Mukilteo Library marked 20 years in its new location with an anniversary celebration on Saturday, Sept. 22.

One of the most common stomping grounds for seniors, students, and, really, Mukilteo residents of any age, the Mukilteo Library (4675 Harbour Pinte Blvd.) opened its doors in 1998 and hasn’t looked back.

City Council President Steve Schmalz and Councilmembers Bob Champion and Anna Rohrbough attended the small event, which had cake, past newspaper clippings from The Beacon and other publications that covered events at the library, and harp music, as well as dancing performances by North Seattle Chinese Dancers.

Jane Crawford, managing librarian for the Mukilteo Library, said the dancers use the library’s conference rooms for rehearsal.

Crawford spoke briefly to the small crowd, thanking them for attending the celebration and for showing their appreciation of the library.

“It’s a really well-loved library,” she said. “Mukilteo is a really close-knit community, and everyone is welcome here.”




New FAA environmental study released


A new draft environmental assessment study for the airport terminal at Paine Field was released this past Saturday, and it appears everything is in order for commercial flights to start next year.

The study, released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Sept. 29, showed no major issues need to be addressed, and the 30,000-square-foot terminal should open for flights in early 2019. The terminal had initially been slated to open this fall.

Snohomish County owns Paine Field, but Propeller Airports signed a lease to design, build, and operate the terminal.

The new study was necessary due to an increase in the projected number of daily flights from Paine Field.

The last environmental assessment, done in 2012, examined the impacts of a maximum of 12 flights per day. There are now three airlines, Alaska, United, and Southwest, that will combine for 24 daily flights (19.5 daytime and 4.5 nighttime).


Convicted murderer gets life without parole


A man involved in two murders this past summer in Mukilteo and Arlington was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Because Anthony Hernandez-Cano, 18, plead guilty in August to two counts of aggravated murder, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Cano lived in Mukilteo with his girlfriend, Lendsay Meza, 21, who was also arrested in connection with the two killings. Another male, Hassani Hamadi Hassani, 20, was arrested for the murder in Mukilteo.

On July 3, officers from the Mukilteo Police Department responded to a report of a body just after 10 a.m., where they found the victim, Ezekiel M. Kelly, a 22-year-old man from Everett. His body was discovered off Beverly Park Road on Pacific Place.

Kelly’s T-shirt was covered in blood, and there were loops of packing tape around his neck.

Next to his body were two .22 caliber shell casings, and a detective found an 8-inch blade that had dry blood on it.

Kelly had been stabbed 27 times, and shot in the head.

Officers soon discovered Kelly’s death was related to that of Mohamed H. Adan, 21, whose body was found July 1 at Blue Stilly Park in Arlington.

After his arrest, Cano admitted to killing Adan.


Council to get outside legal help regarding alleged misappropriations by mayor


The Mukilteo City Council, at a special meeting Oct. 29, voted to obtain outside legal help to look into alleged misappropriation of funds by Mayor Jennifer Gregerson in past severance agreements.

The vote passed 4-3 after about an hour of discussion.

Council President Steve Schmalz, Council Vice President Christine Cook, and Councilmembers Anna Rohrbough and Scott Whelpley voted in favor of the motion, which sets aside $10,000 for legal services. Councilmembers Bob Champion, Richard Emery and Sarah Kneller opposed it.

Schmalz brought the idea of retaining outside legal counsel after past discussions involving separation and severance agreements between Gregerson and past employees.

Through public records requests, Whelpley discovered Gregerson signed off on agreements with multiple former city employees awarded more severance than they were allowed, according to their employment agreement.

He also found that some past employees received their payments in one lump sum, as opposed to being paid in agreement with the city’s payroll.





Man who raped unconscious ex-Mariner student gets 34 months


Alyssa Mae Noceda was just 18 when she died.

On Feb. 3, the former Mariner High School student was overdosing on fentanyl and Xanax and a “dab” of concentrated THC while Brian Varela, now 20, raped her at his residence at the Martha Lake Mobile Home Manor in Lynnwood.

Varela dumped her body in a plastic container – after breaking her legs to make her body fit – and planned to dispose the container in Marysville.

He also used Noceda’s fingerprint to get into her phone, and, in an attempt to cover up his crime, took a picture to make it appear she ran away..

Varela was sentenced to just 34 months in prison last week after pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter, third-degree rape, and unlawful disposal of remains, the maximum sentence he could receive due to state guidelines, as he had no prior criminal history.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese found the sentence “inadequate,” but said she was handcuffed by state sentencing guidelines.

“I’m not sure the Legislature really contemplated something like this,” Krese said.

During his court appearance, Varela made a brief statement to Krese and those in attendance, which included many of Noceda’s family and friends.

“I'm sorry for my foolish actions,” he said. “Whatever I get is what I deserve.”


More change planned for Mukilteo waterfront


The city of Mukilteo has been changing quite a bit in the last few years.

The main one by far has been with the city’s waterfront, where the new ferry terminal is currently being constructed and is expected to be finished in 2020.

Now, more change appears to be coming to the waterfront, as multiple local agencies are working to build a parking lot on Mukilteo land owned by the Tulalip Tribes.

The Port of South Whidbey, the Port of Everett and the Tulalip Tribes are working to build a parking lot on a section of land where the old tank farm used to be.

The new lot would have roughly 250 parking spots, mostly compact, with some sections meant for overnight parking. There would also be charging stations for electric cars.

Curt Gordon, a Port of South Whidbey commissioner, and Stan Reeves, the Port of South Whidbey’s executive director, gave a presentation to the Mukilteo City Council during a special meeting Monday, Nov. 26, to present the scope of the project, with the hope that the city of Mukilteo would be on board with assisting the project.


Mukilteo at the heart of newlyweds’ relationship


For the Smiths, seemingly everything in their relationship centered around Mukilteo.

The couple, who married Nov. 17 at Rosehill Community Center, were on their honeymoon in Aruba, but that didn’t stop the new Mrs. Smith from telling The Beacon about their Mukilteo relationship turned Mukilteo-themed wedding.

Angela, a Diedrich Espresso employee, met Corey, the owner of an HVAC company called Corey’s Heating and Air, and the couple had their first date at Lighthouse Park April 1, 2016.

“It was all uphill from there,” Angela said.

Angela and Corey both lived in many different towns and communities throughout their lives, but felt Mukilteo was the place they were supposed to be.

“Mukilteo is the first and only place where we both feel from the bottom of our hearts we were destined to meet and to raise our family,” Angela said. “We both fell in love with not only the town itself, but far more important to us the people that live here, our community.”



Mayor Gregerson to run for Snohomish County Council


Mukilteo’s mayor is looking to succeed a former Mukilteo mayor.

On Thursday, Nov. 29, Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson announced her candidacy for Snohomish County Council for District 2, which includes Mukilteo, Everett and portions of unincorporated Snohomish County.

The election for that seat will take place as part of the Nov. 5, 2019 general election, and if elected, Gregerson would give up the remaining two years of her four-year term. A new mayor would likely be elected in a special election, the first of which usually occurs in February.

Gregerson, the first female mayor in Mukilteo’s history, was first elected mayor in 2013. Prior to that, she was a Mukilteo City Councilmember from 2004 to 2013. She grew up in Mukilteo, and graduated from Kamiak High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in French from New York University, and a master’s in urban planning from the University of Washington.

Eyman files for bankruptcy


Mukilteo resident Tim Eyman, the well-known conservative political activist, has filed for bankruptcy, citing his lengthy, ongoing battle with State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Eyman is perhaps best known statewide for his repeated attempts at getting measures on the state ballot that would reduce car tab fees to $30.

Last year, Ferguson’s office filed a $2.1 million lawsuit against Eyman, alleging improper use of over $300,000 in contributions made to political committees, concealment of contributions totaling nearly $500,000, and misleading reporting. The lawsuit also accuses Citizen Solutions, a for-profit signature-gathering firm that Eyman has used, of participating in a scheme to conceal money it funneled to Eyman.

In 2012, a Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaint was filed, alleging Eyman didn’t report that he shifted money which had been donated to I-1185, an initiative that concerned tax and fee increases imposed by state government, into I-517’s campaign. I-517 sought to reform Washington’s initiative and referendum process.

Money can move between one committee to another under Washington state law, but it must be disclosed in PDC reports. Ferguson claims Eyman concealed this information.

In addition to the multimillion dollar fine, Ferguson is also seeking a lifetime ban for Eyman on participating in or directing financial transactions for any political committees going forward.


Would-be school shooter pleads guilty


The former ACES High School student with detailed plans to carry out a school shooting pled guilty last Thursday in Snohomish County Superior Court to attempted premeditated murder, possession of an explosive device and robbery.

Joshua O’Connor, 18, could face up to 28-and-a-half years in prison based on state guidelines, but his attorney expects to ask for a lesser sentence during O’Connor’s sentencing hearing Feb. 6.

O’Connor was arrested Feb. 13 after his grandmother called the police on him.

The night before his arrest, O’Connor returned home late on a cold night wearing a T-shirt and no jacket, while holding a guitar case. When his grandmother asked him why he didn’t have a jacket, he said it was in the guitar case.

After O’Connor left for school, his grandmother checked his room and found an AR-15-style rifle in the guitar case, as well as his journal, where she discovered he planned a school shooting at ACES.


Construction in Picnic Point to continue


The battle over the construction of houses in Picnic Point took a big turn over the last week, as residents blocked trucks with their cars, one car was towed, and a judge granted a temporary stay of construction before concluding logging could continue.

That judge issued her decision Tuesday, Dec. 11, which will allow for logging on the Frognal Estates project to continue.

The project, which will put in over 100 houses in Picnic Point behind Regatta Estates on 58th Place West off 136th Place Southwest, has been discussed at length for over a decade. Crews arrived early last week to start logging.

The city of Mukilteo has discussed annexation in the past, including annexing the Picnic Point area. The project is taking place near Picnic Point Elementary, an elementary school in the Mukilteo School District.

The project was initially called Horseman's Trail, and as long as it has been discussed, residents in the area have made it very clear to Snohomish County, the state of Washington and other nearby legal municipalities that they don’t think the construction of more than 100 new houses is safe. They argue the area proposes significant risks for landslides from a mix of rain and erosion.

Representatives from Integral Northwest, an Everett-based real estate developer, met with planners from Snohomish County two weeks ago to discuss the upcoming work, and crews started work Monday, Dec. 3.

The project’s opponents have appealed it in the past, and the case made it to the state’s Court of Appeals, where judges ruled in favor of the developer earlier this spring.



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