State to pay $3M settlement for killings by ex-con


CENTRALIA (AP) — Washington state has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit over the killings of three people and the wounding of a fourth by an ex-con in August 2010.

The families of the murder victims — Salkum resident DJ West, 16, his father, David West, and Tony Williams, 50, of Mineral — alleged that the Department of Corrections did a terrible job monitoring the con, even though he was supposed to be closely supervised. The DOC didn’t do any of the field checks or drug tests required of the offender, John Allen Booth Jr., or of another ex-con convicted in connection with the crimes, Ryan J. McCarthy, the families’ lawyer, Nathan Roberts, of Tacoma, told The Chronicle newspaper of Centralia.

The DOC launched an internal investigation and fired the corrections officer who was supposed to be supervising them, Seth Skipworth, 34.

“After the shootings occurred, there was a lot of attention brought to the fact that they were felons that were supposed to be supervised,” Roberts said. “The officer simply was not doing his job.”

Booth was released from prison about nine months before the killings, after serving five years of a seven-year sentence for bludgeoning a man’s head with a crowbar in Centralia in 2004. He has a long history of violent crime in Lewis County dating to his early teens. He was convicted of the killings last year and of attempted murder for the shooting of David West Sr.’s girlfriend, Denise Salts, 53, of Randle. Salts survived a gunshot to the face.

Booth is serving life without parole.

According to testimony in the case, Booth and McCarthy went to the home “tax” West Sr. for a drug debt Booth claimed to be owed, then shot the adults before pulling West Jr. out of bed and making him kneel next to his dying father.

Booth smirked and acted up throughout his trial, and drew gasps from the courtroom when he told a deputy prosecutor, “I’m thinking about shooting you.” The jury took just two hours to convict him.

McCarthy is serving a 14-year sentence for robbery, burglary and attempted extortion. He acknowledged being at the West residence when the killing occurred but maintained he had nothing to do with the shootings.

“The heinous murders that John Allen Booth Jr. committed caused unbearable heartache for multiple families,” DOC spokesman Chad Lewis said in a written statement. “We hope these settlements help his victims’ families with their loss.”