Criminal cases moving forward

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

The wheels of justice continue to spin in some high-profile cases that strike at the heart of the Plateau.

In the case of Buckley's first murder in a century, Paula Jennifer Marshall remains behind bars in Tacoma, where she has sat for nearly a year. She was incarcerated Feb. 2, 2007, charged with first-degree murder.

She is accused of shooting Chris Smith multiple times in the parking lot of Buckley's White Horse Sports Bar. Smith was killed about 9:45 p.m. Feb. 1 and, after she was initially taken to the Buckley jail, Marshall was transferred to the Tacoma facility.

Marshall is scheduled for a jury trial April 16.

The next step in her legal road comes today, Wednesday, when the court has scheduled a “status conference hearing.” The hearing provides the opportunity for attorneys for both sides, as well as the judge, to stay abreast of all details surrounding the case.

The prosecutor in the case is Ed Murphy. Marshall is now represented by Bryan Hershman; he came on board in the fall, replacing Marshall's original attorney, which caused a delay in the proceedings.

According to police accounts, Marshall and Smith had an on-again, off-again relationship that had produced a young son. It is alleged Marshall waited for Smith in the White Horse parking lot, then opened fire from close range. Police recovered 13 shell casings.

It didn't take authorities long to locate Marshall, who was taken into custody at her home in unincorporated Pierce County, between Buckley and Bonney Lake.

Aside from the first-degree murder charge, Marshall is charged with theft of a firearm and two counts of second-degree assault. It is alleged she took a gun from her parents' home; the weapon was found in her vehicle at the time of her arrest. The assault charges stem from her alleged shooting of Smith and the allegation that she also pointed her weapon at a woman who was walking in the parking lot with Smith at the time of the shooting.

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One man has been sentenced to federal prison and another awaits sentencing, the result of their guilty pleas following a spring 2007 drug raid in Enumclaw.

It was December 2006 when federal drug investigators began keeping an eye on rural property near the Enumclaw Expo Center, convinced that a residence on 284th Avenue was home to a large-scale marijuana-growing operation. On May 2, agents of the regional High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force entered the home and found 1,472 live marijuana plants. About half were ready for harvest and the remainder were in various stages of maturity.

Charging papers outlined how agents found “an enormous marijuana grow operation,” along with equipment and supplies associated with growing and selling. Agents also found Chinh Tan Le and Hai Van Nguyen, who happened to be in a bathroom mixing a batch of fertilizer at the time of the morning raid.

Le pleaded guilty Aug. 6 to a charge of manufacturing marijuana and was sentenced Nov. 9 to 23 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. He appeared in U.S. District Court in front of Judge John C. Cooghenour, who whittled time off the 30-month recommendation issued by U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan.

Following his arrest, Le admitted to staying at the house for two nights. He said he had been hired in Canada and acknowledged he had been trained to care for marijuana plants.

Nguyen confirmed Le had been at the Enumclaw house for just two days and Sullivan agreed that Le should be considered a “minor participant.”

Le was hired to tend to plants and assist Nguyen with the cultivation of the crop.

Nguyen pleaded guilty Aug. 22 and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 15.

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The name of a former White River High School volleyball coach was splashed across news pages and television screens last week.

While Lenny Llanos is well-known in regional volleyball circles and coached girls who still attend White River, last week's criminal charges apparently had no connection to the district.

Llanos, 35, who last guided the Hornets in 2004, was charged with third-degree rape of a child, third-degree child molestation and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.

According to charging papers, the mother of a 15-year-old girl notified Puyallup police Dec. 2, stating a belief that her daughter had been having sexual contact with Llanos. During a session with a forensic interviewer, the girl told of an Oct. 29 encounter while Llanos was driving the girl home from practice. She said her coach admitted he had fantasized about her and initiated sexual contact.

The two had routinely exchanged text messages which were sexual in nature, she said, although volleyball terms were used.

Talking with a police detective, Llanos denied having any sexual contact with the girl, but admitted to making “poor choices” and acknowledged some of his text messages were “sexual in nature.”

Llanos pleaded not guilty to all charges and, after posting bail, was released.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at

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