A 52-year-old South Beach woman is in jail for allegedly threatening the life of Grays Harbor County Commissioner Terry Willis, and the incident has once again spurred discussion on security at the county courthouse campus in Montesano.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Gerald Fuller charged Michelle Easterly with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in Grays Harbor District Court. District Court Judge Stephen Brown set a $25,000 bail and ordered Easterly “not to approach or communicate in any manner with Commissioner Terry Willis,” according to court records.
A hearing has been set for 1 p.m. June 12, at District Court. She was still in jail this morning.
“I feel OK as far I’m concerned,” Willis said. “What I was concerned about was the safety for the other people at the County Administration Building. This is what we call a viable threat.”
Undersheriff Rick Scott said detectives have also forwarded the case dealing with the specific threats against Willis to the Prosecutor’s Office.
On May 23, the Sheriff’s Office received a tip that Easterly has purchased a firearm and that she was “intending to go to the county building in Montesano to shoot Commissioner Terry Willis,” according to charging documents.
Earlier that week, Undersheriff Scott said he had been tipped off that Easterly had been on her way to the courthouse to shoot Willis “when she nearly had an automobile accident and decided not to travel to the courthouse.” Apparently, this time, Easterly was heading to Montesano again.
Undersheriff Scott said Easterly has had contact with the county commissioners’ office before and has been frustrated because her concerns about noise issues and trespassing were not being met.
A police sergeant found Easterly at her home, where she was “upset, yelling, screaming and crying.” She denied making any threats, the charging documents state, and denied having a gun. But the sergeant saw ammunition for a 9 mm pistol and located and seized the gun.
Easterly was previously convicted of a burglary in Spokane and is prohibited from possessing a firearm, the charging documents state.
“We took the suspect into protective custody and she was evaluated by a mental health professional,” Scott said, noting the counselor cleared her to be charged.
Scott said none of the commissioners were in their office at the time of the threat and he had the secretary turn off the light to the office and lock the door. No lock down procedures elsewhere in the building were initiated.
Commissioner Willis said the county is now reviewing its lock down procedures to see if anyone else should have been made aware of the incident, especially other offices in the building. One idea, Willis said, is to use the county’s existing telephonic warning system to send out alerts to warn employees and the surrounding business community about any potential threats.
“When we go into lock down, there may be a business across the street who may want to take their own precautions,” Willis said.
Security has been a major issue since the March 9 attacks on Superior Court Judge Dave Edwards and Deputy Polly Davin at the county courthouse. Several security measures have since been implemented at the courthouse, but Willis says more should be done elsewhere at the county campus.