Laura Pierce

Earthquake, tsunami reportedly didn’t impact City of Tamba, Kent’s sister city

As earthquake aftershocks and the threat of nuclear meltdowns continue to rock the Japanese island of Honshu, Kent's sister city of Tamba appears to have ridden out the storm intact. Minako Fushida, a resident of Tamba who hosted this reporter in 2008, reported Friday that they were safe. "I and my mom are living very far from the center point of the earthquake," she said in an e-mail. My family is fine." Watching the devastation unfold on television, she added, "we are really shocked."


Thai Chili Restaurant owner in Kent going on medical mission to Guatemala: See slide show of past mission

Nina Saisombut, owner of Thai Chili Restaurant in Kent, is part of medical team that provides free dental care to Guatemala. She's departing this month for another mission, and people can donate to her cause.


Emotional service for Kent Police officer Rob McCuistion, who was killed in traffic accident: Story and slide show

"Honor guard!" "Present arms!" So went a farewell from the Kent Police community to one of its own Saturday, in the sunny confines of the First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Kent. Several hundred of the late officer Robin McCuistion's friends and colleagues came to pay their respects to the man who had a been a husband, dad, police officer, business owner and all-around giving guy. "We come here to celebrate Rob's life," said Pastor Dan Behrens. "Even more importantly, we come here to celebrate the life that Rob was part of." McCuistion, 53, left that life in the most unexpected of ways: driving home on Kersey Way Southeast in Auburn in the early hours of Feb. 24, his car left the roadway, went down an embankment and struck a tree. He died at the scene. Given the icy conditions that night, it's thought the weather may have been a factor in the accident, although investigators are still piecing together what happened.


Already hard-core volunteer for MDA, Kent woman to volunteer at March 9 VIP Lockup at ShoWare

Amber Morse may have a form of Muscular Dystrophy, but she’s not letting it run her life. Proof that attitude is everything, the 27-year-old Kent woman has ice-skated, gone on airplanes, taken a trip to Hawaii and ridden a train. All the while operating from a wheelchair.

Charlie’s big snow day: Kent youngster battling Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, brain cancer, gets his first-ever sled ride

For many youngsters in Kent, Earthworks Park Feb. 24 was the place to be. It was the day of the big snow, and the park’s hilly topography was perfect for high-speed runs, with a nice big pool of mud at the bottom. Charlie Edgmon, 7, was one of those kids feeling the need for speed. The only difference being that he was maybe even more excited than the rest of them. It was his first time ever riding a sled.

Valley/UW alliance meeting raised some questions: Editor’s Note

Last week I sat in on a meeting about the new strategic alliance that’s being vetted between Valley Medical Center and the University of Washington School of Medicine. If you haven’t heard about this concept yet, you should - and over the next few months, unless you have been living under a rock, you probably will. Under this proposal, Valley Medical Center would join forces with the UW, as a way to expand the health care Valley provides to South King County. Valley wouldn’t give up its name, employees or identity, but it would get more of the specialized medical services that the UW can provide. And the UW, which already has clinics in South King County, would add south King County as part of its service area. Overall, I think this is a good idea. We live in an era where smaller public hospital districts – like the one operating Valley – are getting eaten up by bigger health organizations. They’re losing their identity and vision in this gobbling-up process. Under the alliance proposed by VMC and UW, our local hospital wouldn’t be losing those things. In fact, it would gain things that should keep it au courant with the bigger health-care providers coming into the region. Enough said. There are people lining up to say these things – and they’re saying them better than me, if that informational video by Valley, which shows apparently dozens of supporters saying this idea is great, is any indicator. But what I did find worrisome at last week’s meeting, was the response audience members got, when it came to who would run the thing.

Mentorship progam a gift for Kent students – and volunteers

Every Friday morning, Scott Skinner goes to Scenic Hill Elementary knowing he’s got a friend waiting, just for him. But rather than playing Four Square or the other things typical sixth-graders do, Scott’s friend does something else. She shows him how to be successful. Scott, 12, is the recipient of a mentor – a grownup who spends time with him each week, to help him get the most out of school. Thanks to the Communities in Schools of Kent organization, Ann Hagensen for the past two years has been helping Scott navigate the tricky shoals of being a teenage student. As a volunteer, Ann helps Scott understand some of the basic elements of being a good student: to connect and have fun with other kids, to be organized, to follow directions.

Big snow comes to Kent: See the slide show – and send us your pictures!

Thursday was a big day of snow for folks in Kent, who got out and about, whether it was walking with their youngsters, sledding down hills, or taking their dogs out for an airing. See what people were up to in our slide show of scenes from around Kent. And share your photos with us! We'll post what we get on our Web site for all to see. Just e-mail your images to

Could this idea for downtown Kent really fly? Editor’s Note

There’s a buzz on the downtown streets of Kent. Really – and it’s even about an insect. The Kent Downtown Partnership is in the early stages of putting together an arts idea that wouldn’t cost the city anything, but perhaps could put Kent on the map for something unusual. Dragonflies. Yes, you heard me right. The KDP is hoping to run a proposal past our local arts commission to have handcrafted dragonflies grace our downtown merchants’ buildings. Crafted by welding students at Green River Community College and funded by any merchant wanting to purchase one for a nominal fee, these brightly colored insects would be rendered from recycled metal and could be gracing more storefronts.

Kent businesswoman Allen-Carston announces intent to run for City Council

A Kent businesswoman is throwing her hat into the local political arena. Gwen Allen-Carston, well-known in Kent business circles, is running for a seat on the Kent City Council.

Update – Cause determined in Kent house fire: See the slide show

A single-family residence on the 1300 block of Southeast 230th Street in Kent was appearing to be a total loss following a fire shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday. Two people had escaped the blaze, and firefighters had located another person in the home, a woman, who appeared unharmed, according to Kent Fire Capt. Kyle Ohashi, the public-information officer at the scene.

State Sen. Joe Fain may be new to Legislature, but he’s busy

For freshman Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn, representing the 47th District), Olympia has been all about a learning curve. As the ranking minority member on the Senate Transportation Committee and a member of the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, that’s not to imply he’s been sitting around, though. Not by a long shot.

Kent Technology Expo draws thousands: See the video

The ShoWare Center may have been crowded Feb. 3, but the crying cut through the noise like a knife. It was a baby needing to be fed. Only instead of food, this baby needed a touch to the lips by a “bottle” equipped with a computer chip. Programmed to cry every few hours for sleep, food and having its nappies changed, this baby is a small part of a technological revolution taking hold in Kent schools and connecting with students on just about every learning topic.

Note to readers on Denny’s shooting – we don’t live in the Old West: Editor’s Note

I don’t make a habit writing columns about news stories I am covering. But this week I made an exception, in the case of the Denny’s shooting lawsuit. It’s our front-page story, and it’s a statement about a lot of things: the utter randomness of a criminal act, a survivor’s hopes, and Denny’s statement that it was not responsible for the bullets that flew that night. These were things I expected to hear – by their nature, lawsuits have at least two sides, if not more. The thing that surprised me? The reaction by some of our readers. They weren’t just disgruntled Denny’s was being sued – they were close to outraged.

Kent resident Stefano Langone moves on in ‘American Idol’: See the original audition tape!

He overcame a life-threatening car accident that landed him in a wheelchair and left scars on his arms and legs. It could have either broken his spirit - or made him hungrier to live life to the fullest. Kent resident Stefano Langone chose the latter route. The 21-year-old Kentwood High School graduate is now about to take that drive to succeed all the way to Hollywood.

Denny’s lawsuit: Kent man receiving settlement says he’s ready to move on – and move out

Steven Toleana has a lot to think about these days. The Kent man, who survived a 2007 shooting at Denny's restaurant in Kent, learned this week that he'll be seeing the lion's share of a $13 million settlement from Denny's insurance carrier. "I'm glad it's over," said Toleana, of the two-year legal effort by his attorney Ron Perey, that ended this week with a jury verdict in his favor, as well as the settlement.

Kent Denny’s shooting lawsuit results in $46 million verdict, a state record

A lawsuit over a shooting at Denny's Restaurant in Kent has resulted in a $46.4 million verdict, a state record for a personal-injury case. The jury returned after four days of deliberation Monday to announce its decision, in the Seattle courtroom of Judge Laura Middaugh. The lion's share of that amount - $46,348,262 - will be going to Kent resident Steve Tolenoa, 31, rendered a quadriplegic during a 2007 shooting spree at the restaurant, and who has been residing in an Auburn assisted-living facility since the shooting, confined to a wheelchair and a bed. In addition, two other Denny's customers from that night also were awarded smaller cash awards: Lisa Beltran-Walker, who was shot in the knee, and her husband Carl Walker, for emotional distress and medical bills. Beltran-Walker has physically recovered from the shooting.

Year of the Rabbit celebrated at Great Wall Mall in Kent: Slide Show

It was party time Feb. 5 in Kent, as the Great Wall Mall celebrated the new Year of the Rabbit with a cultural arts festival. The Asian-influenced mall was the focal point for a variety of individual dancers and troupes, including a Vietnamese lion dance team (Au Lac Vovinam out of White Center), as well as dancers on the central stage in front of the Ranch 99 Market, whose repertoires included Korean and Chinese dances.

Kent’s Got Talent? You bet! See the video of first Kent talent show

Organize a show and they will come. Kent's first community-wide talent show was a bona fide success last week, drawing a healthy crowd and a full slate of performers - with talents that many in Kent probably didn't know they had. The first-ever Kent's Got Talent Jan. 29 drew more than 140 audience members to the Kent Senior Activity Center.

Holocaust survivor Magda Schaloum meets with Kent students, shares her experiences

To those who have ever doubted there was a Holocaust, Magda Schaloum has news for them. It happened. Every terror, every faded photograph, every recollection whispered in a tear-roughened voice. “Unfortunately, even today there are people who say the Holocaust never happened,” said Schaloum, now in her 80s,but buoyant with life. To describe those years of dehumanizing treatment and fear is her way to countering the lies that the Holocaust never was. “I think it is my obligation,” she told the gymnasium of