Monthly Archives: February 2016

Investigating death: inside the lives of coroners and dispatchers

Within four years’ time, Kitsap County’s 911 dispatch center and its morgue went from being among the most antiquated in the state to the most sophisticated. Kitsap County Central Communications moved from a toll house on Warren Avenue into an $11 million, state-of-the-art facility in West Hills in 2005. Four years later, the coroner’s office, once housed in a dilapidated house next to the jail, also moved to West Hills in a $3.6 million campus still considered among the most advanced in the state.

On Saturday, nearly 200 people came to the Kitsap Sun’s latest Story Walk at the two facilities, getting an inside look into the life of a coroner and a dispatcher.


Within the dispatch center, Brandy D’Intinosanto, its dayshift supervisor who has been with the agency more than 12 years, led tours right to the floor of dispatch, the high-tech, bulletproof hive of the county’s emergency response system. It continues to be on the cutting edge, as Kitsap was the first to allow residents to text 911, she said.

Our 911 dispatchers create 200,000 cases, or “details,” every year. They handle even more calls than that. D’Intinosanto mentioned that even if most, if not all of their generator-backed technology were to fail, they are still trained in a handwritten card system that would keep our emergency responders moving.

The tours Saturday happened to overlap with the deadliest case of domestic violence on the Kitsap peninsula in modern history, in which Mason County authorities said a man killed four people before killing himself. Kitsap County Coroner Greg Sandstrom said Saturday his office was assisting Mason County with those death investigations.

The worst violence prior to the Mason County mass shooting was in 1934, when a man bludgeoned six people to death in what would become known as the Erland’s Point Massacre. Following that case, a sheriff’s deputy is said to have let people walk through the crime scene for a quarter.

Sandstrom’s badge.


I’d like to think such a lapse in the investigative process would not occur today. The coroner’s office investigates about 350 of the total 2,000 deaths that occur in Kitsap each year. They focus on traumatic and suspicious deaths, conducting autopsies to help determine the cause of death. They also pin down the manner of death, which can be one of four things: homicide, suicide, accident or natural.

Police have the job of investigating the scene of the crime; the coroner’s office has custody of the body. Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan came along Saturday and talked of the “honor” involved in death cases — that it is never something his officers take lightly.

Sandstrom, who has been Kitsap’s elected coroner since 1998, is a former Washington State trooper and chaplain who talked Saturday of one of the office’s most paramount duties: death notifications. He and his deputies have the task of delivering the news of death to next of kin. They once did so in vehicles marked “coroner’s office,” but that changed on Sandstrom’s watch, Chief Deputy Coroner Tony Stewart told the crowd. The reason? It made a private family matter something very public when they’d arrive in someone’s driveway.

Kitsap County Coroner Greg Sandstrom (left) and Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan.
Kitsap County Coroner Greg Sandstrom (left) and Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan.

The coroner’s office contracts with a forensic pathologist to conduct autopsies. The biggest counties in Washington have medical examiners, or actual doctors hired by the county. Kitsap could convert to that system, as counties over 250,000 residents can, but there’s been no push to do so. Strachan pointed out Saturday that the medical examiner system is costly.

Thanks, everyone, who came out on Saturday. As usual, we all learned a lot. Be sure to email me at with any questions or concerns.

Also, be sure to subscribe to Bremerton Beat updates on this page and I’ll be sure to post an update when I know where the March Story Walk is going to be.


Cul-de-sac transformation on Navy Yard City’s F Street


It’s a common sight these days to find home remodels in progress all over Bremerton. 

But what about the overhaul of an entire cul-de-sac?

That’s what you’ll find at the eastern edge of F Street in Navy Yard City, where a development duo has snatched up six lots once overgrown with weeds, covered in litter and frequented by squatters.

Veteran builders Noel Larsen and John Stallings started their own company in 2013. Proserpina Construction — whose name shares that of a  Roman goddess sometimes known for rebirth or renewal — aims to construct or remodel not only individual homes, but blocks of them when such possibilities arise.

Yes, there is a house in this photo. Somewhere. Google maps.
Before the remodel: Yes, there is a house in this photo, somewhere. Image by Google Maps.

The pair say they’re helping to “control the destiny” of the street’s end, as Larsen puts it, and breathe new life into it.

“It’s recreating this end of F Street,” Stallings said. “Taking it from a low point to a high point.”

That work began with a dilapidated yet robust 1937-built white house (pictured above) that was so overrun with brambles and trees you couldn’t see it from the road.

“We thought it was a vacant lot,” joked Larsen.

The house, whose residents at one time appear to have been hoarders, had been abandoned 15 years. Once the brush and trash outside had been removed, they started on the inside. There were still signs of the home’s former coal-powered heating source. Layers of junk, from wrappers left behind by squatters on top to layers of newspapers and romance novels underneath, had to be cleared away.

“It was like an archeological dig,” Stallings said.

The home has those wonderful curved archways inside that we Bremerton residents know well. The builders added a staircase to the home — the original had a door that was maybe five feet tall — and in doing so, they actually produced another archway to match the original.

It’s a sign of the times that builders now have the financial incentive to come into Bremerton and complete such projects. But the builders say they specifically wanted to create quality housing for young families. Stallings noted that builders looking to complete a remodel on the cheap might’ve put down vinyl flooring in the kitchen; they went with tile.

The duo has just about wrapped up a remodel on the home, and is at work on a second one (pictured). They’ll build four more too, hoping to have construction complete by October. They’re also planning to place a playground on some neighboring property owned by a church, to add an amenity for the children of families they hope will live there.

Later this year, I will revisit F Street and share some photos of its completed transformation.

The first of five new homes the company will build on the street.
The first of five new homes the company will build on the street. They’ve left behind some Madrona, Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars.


Beat blast: An expanded cafe, possible methadone clinic and some ferry water-skiing

Got five minutes? This week’s Bremerton Beat Blast will get you caught up on a number of stories, including this morning’s explosion in South Kitsap, a newly expanded downtown cafe, and the time someone actually water-skied behind a state ferry.

All told:

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The latest on the South Kitsap explosion

The newly expanded Hot Java Cafe

The time someone indeed water-skied behind a ferry

Lebo Boulevard’s revamp and some Lions Park love 

A new methadone clinic proposal for Kitsap — and a recap of the past effort on FRONTLINE

Oh, and don’t forget our Story Walk this Saturday! We have 100 people signed up already.

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Students give Lions Park shoreline some love


A war has been waged along Lions Park’s nearly 2,000 feet of shoreline ever since the park was redeveloped. But no matter how hard the volunteers worked along the Port Washington Narrows, the weeds just kept coming.

The city parks department has an “adopt a shoreline” program aimed at giving volunteers their own little slice of coast to maintain. But on Friday, parks officials decided to change up the strategy a bit in what will likely put the weeds into submission for awhile.

A small army of volunteers, many of them students of the Washington Youth Academy, helped grub the parkland’s edge with Puget Sound before spreading a new coat of beauty bark along the entire coastline. Some new plants went in as well, paid for by some of the salary of the late Mike Sullivan, the former City Councilman who represented the area.

The rugged work was not only to build stamina but learn a lesson in community, Youth Academy Master Sgt. Ayesha Willis said.

“It’s showing them a different side of the world,” she said. “It’s empowering.”

Beat blast: Callow antiques, lead-less water and a sad teddy bear

I don’t want to spoil it for you but this week’s Bremerton Beat Blast concludes with a tragedy that has befallen a teddy bear. 

If you’ve got about four minutes to spare, you’ll also learn about:


A massive new antique shop on Callow Avenue, and the business’ efforts to bring back Charleston.

The permanent shuttering of a stand that sold tribal fireworks in Bremerton.

The story of the missing film reels, and efforts to get their rightful family back in touch with them.

What Bremerton’s water quality experts are doing to make sure the mistakes of Flint don’t happen here.

And yes, a teddy bear that went for a sad swim.

Questions or comments? I dig them. Write me at

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In the bushes of Bremerton, a family mystery emerges

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Last fall, a Bremerton couple made an unusual discovery within the hedge along their driveway: numerous vintage film reels in varying shapes and sizes. 

Most of the reels contain clues to their owners: “Nov. 71, Becky’s 6th birthday,” “Florida Vacation, 1959-60,” or “Ostrander Picnic 1963.” But beyond that, it’s hard to know who they belong to — unless the owner were to recognize them.

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Bremerton Police Officer Jeff Schaefer responded to the 600 block of Roosevelt Avenue last September to collect them from the curious couple. He believes they may have been discarded there by a thief who’d broken into a nearby home, but he can’t say for certain.

He’s since tried to find the owners, but has realized that without getting word out to the masses, the reels may just end up collecting dust in the department’s evidence room.

“I knew that when the reporting party turned these reels over to me, they were someone’s family treasures,” Schaefer said. 

Schaefer says the discovery was one of the most intriguing of his career.

“Ever since I took custody of them, it’s been very important to me that I do all I can to get them back to their owner,” he said.

I’ve posted more photos below in the hopes that they’ll jog someone’s memory. Schaefer hopes so too.

“It would be my hope that someone out there would recognize the names or the events printed on the reel cans and be able to claim them,” he said. “I know that I would be elated if I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of my family history like these films will for someone out there.” 

UPDATE: I am excited to announce that representatives of the family have claimed the film reels! I plan to post a more thorough update once I interview them.

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Beat blast: puppets, a buffet and a new bakery

Got a quarter? You can make it stretch for half a minute or so at the Valentinetti Puppet Museum on Fourth Street. There, a rare machine will wind to life — complete with 15 dancing puppets — as you’ll see in this latest edition of the Bremerton Beat Blast.

What else is going on?

Questions or comments? I love the feedback. Write me at

A beautiful fog rolled up the Port Washington Narrows this morning.
A beautiful fog rolled up the Port Washington Narrows this morning.

Quincy Jones still speaks fondly of his Bremerton roots

Jones on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Jones on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

You can make a convincing argument that Quincy Jones is the biggest name ever to come out of Bremerton. The legendary musician and producer spent his teenage years here, and, most notably, discovered music on the shores of Sinclair Inlet.

Though born in Chicago, Jones’ family moved to Bremerton in 1943. I always enjoy hearing him tell stories about the city, and he did so most recently on CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

In the interview, the host asked Jones — winner of 27 Grammy Awards — about the first instrument he ever played. Jones mildly exasperated Colbert by avoiding answering that question for some time, instead focusing on his “gangster” youth. But Jones does indeed get to his Bremerton days.

“What happened was … we wanted to be baby gangsters and like, rule Bremerton,” Jones said. “It was Bremerton, Washington.”

What I find delightful is he just says Bremerton, like everyone knows what he’s talking about. He quickly elaborates that it’s a city within Washington. But I think it speaks to his roots here, that even beyond his time in Seattle, Chicago and elsewhere, he would still mention our city without a state attached to it, given his familiarity and memories of the place.

He goes on to tell the story of being in an armory here where there was rumors of lemon meringue pie and ice cream cones, which he and his “gangster” friends promptly ate upon discovering them.   

“That sounds like gangster work my friend,” Colbert jokes.

They also broke into all the offices inside. He mentions a Mrs. Arends by name, and it was inside her supervisors’ office that he found a piano.

“I didn’t know human beings played instruments,” he told Colbert.

“I touched it,” he said, “And every cell in my body said this is what you’re gonna do the rest of your life.”

Though he went to Coontz Junior High School near downtown, he studied music with band teacher Ron Gillespie, future Bremerton High School principal, at Dewey Junior High School (where Mountain View Middle School sits today). He would ultimately graduate from Garfield High School in 1950, according to Sun archives.

And the rest is history.

Watch the entire interview below:

Beat Blast: 5 things to know in Bremerton this week

What will become of the Warren Avenue Bridge? On Thursday, city officials are inviting residents to come talk about the 1958-built span’s future. Get filled in on those possibilities, along with these stories, in your weekly Bremerton Beat Blast:

old KFC

Where is the newest Coffee Oasis going?

Who tendered his resignation to the city this week?

What arcade will open in Bremerton within the next month?

What new video campaign is Mayor Patty Lent pushing?

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