What we can learn from these unearthed mugshots from the 1940s

Published on kiro7.com November 2017

Nearly 75 years after their incarceration, a stack of inmates’ mugshots surfaced in a box of forgotten vintage black-and-white photographs at a cluttered Centralia antique store.

Underneath each card’s punch hole, once thread through something like an office binder or filing cabinet, a man stands with a sign around his neck that reads, “Washington State Reformatory.” The crimes the men committed are typed on the back of each mugshot.

>> See all the mugshots here

When taking a look at the back of the photographs, some sentences for what could now be considered petty crimes seem quite long — digging for clams, entering a laundromat while drunk — while others seem too short for crimes that could now possibly fit under class A felonies.

A trip to Seattle ended in arrest 

When the two young men traveled the west coast from Los Angles to Seattle in 1940, they paid their way by cashing a series of worthless checks totaling $1,200 — a value of nearly $20,000 today.

Herbet Ratliff, 23 at the time, and his partner bought three cars with their trail of checks, but their journey came to a screeching halt at a resort near Lake Sammamish when they were arrested.

When facing a King County judge, Ratliff was handed a 20-year sentence in Washington State Reformatory (WSR) in Monroe.

During Ratliff’s time, Washington State Reformatory — currently operating under the name Monroe Correctional Complex — housed felons with the intention of providing industrial training and military discipline. But idleness among inmates became a huge problem during this decade, mostly due to inadequately trained employees.

A supervisor talked to The Seattle Times in 1942, acknowledging that these difficulties were negatively impacting their roughly 3,000 inmates.

“Five or six years of enforced idleness will ruin any individual,” Dr. Richard McGee said in the article. “They soon fall into lethargy that damages them and makes it difficult for them to work when work is offered.”

It’s unclear what Ratliff worked on, or didn’t work on, while serving time. But what we do know is that Ratliff received 15 years more than what the maximum sentence for a forgery charge under current Washington State law currently lists.

Other mugshots reveals more unbalanced penalties

Other inmates found in this stack of unearthed mugshots also served more time, or less, before the laws were revised.

  • For example, grand larceny, now theft, could come with a 15-year sentence. Many people served time for property crimes that now rarely result in jail time.


  • Public intoxication, now treated under behavioral health services, could get someone arrested if they were using profanity under the influence.


  • The crime of seduction, under 1909 criminal code in Washington, largely involved men having sex with chaste women. Some court cases show that men were engaging in non-consensual sex; sometimes, it involved teen girls.


The bulk of these sentences and laws were changed in a state criminal code overhaul in 1976.
With unbalanced penalties, lawmakers, justices and prosecutors wrote about the need for change in a review journal years before the code was enacted.

“The inadequacies in the existing criminal code have had profound detrimental effects on the quality and reputation of law enforcement and criminal justice in Washington,” former state Senator Perry Woodall wrote.

“The glaring inadequacies in the present criminal code create a critical lack of public confidence not only in the code itself, but also in the police, prosecutors and courts.”

So how did this change impact incarceration leading up to today?

As state laws evolved from the overhaul over the last 40 years, incarceration in Washington state only increased. Washington’s up-tick coincides with national numbers, such as when an emphasis on drug crimes began in the 1980s, dramatically increasing the prison population for decades. It’s stabilized over the last few years.

According to the latest Department of Corrections numbers, 17,500 people make up the prison population today; among those are mostly middle-aged white men serving for violent crimes. But reform advocates point out that the state — in line with national trends — still has racial disparities in its inmate population. While nearly 70 percent of Washington state’s inmates are white, the imprisonment rate for black people is higher when looking at arrests per 100,000 people.

Most of those serving in state receive a sentence for over ten years. Washington state saw a decrease in inmates in 2010 after a decade of reducing sentences for drug crimes, but this also coincides with nearly 3,200 inmates being set free erroneously.

But in this shift, the emphasis of crimes committed turned to violent crimes, such as murder, rape and assault.


With the amount of violent offenders incarcerated, Tom McBride, a spokesman for the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, has said, “It’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t deserve to be there.”

How do reform advocates want to move forward?

Even with some of the lowest incarceration numbers in the country, housing inmates comes at a high cost: $36,000 for each inmate annually. To relieve that fiscal burden, that’s where advocates – and some state and city leaders – argue a different approach in putting more money in prevention and treatment versus paying for a lengthy sentence.

Members of criminal justice reform group The Sentencing Project say large prison population mostly comes down to the time given to inmates.

When asked if another criminal code re-write — like the one in 1976 — is due, executive director Mark Mauer said probably not.

“I think it’s unlikely a new code would reverse the trends we’re seeing,” Mark Mauer said. “It may or may not be a good time to review and think about a re-write, amending parts of it, but I think that should be determined on its own merits.”

Mauer says that change, in part, comes from rethinking the amount of time given to inmates.

To change the trends, Mauer’s group believes it largely comes down substantial revisions in how people are sentenced. His group advocates for the elimination of minimum sentences and cutting back on excessive lengthy sentences.

Passport to fly domestically? What Washington residents need to know

Published October 2017 on kiro7.com; more than 2,000 engagements on social 

Standard license; Washington DOL file photo

For years, Washington residents have expressed confusion over whether their driver’s licenses will get them through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in the near future.

The concerns stem from a complicated federal law passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to bring better security at airports, and Washington state is still working to get into compliance. So what does this mean for residents?

Simply, read the first four answers to learn exactly what you need to get on a plane. Then continue reading the Q&A about the REAL ID act and how Washington is working toward a fix.

1. I’m a Washington resident with a Washington state license, what do I need to get on a domestic flight right now? 

Just your driver’s license, either standard or enhanced.

2. What do I need to get on a domestic flight next year? 

Again, just your driver’s license, either standard or enhanced.

3. When do rules change?

Enforcement for the new law starts in 2020, according to an extension granted to the Washington State Department of Licensing on Wednesday.

After enforcement starts in 2020, the state’s standard licenses will not be accepted by TSA. Read why below.

However, TSA will accept Washington’s enhanced driver’s licenses. Many residents in state already have these. If you need one, here’s how to apply

If you’re not interested in an enhanced license you, you can still board with other documentation — such as a passport, permanent resident card or military ID.

4. Will people be turned away after October 2020?

People using a standard licenses without additional documentation will not be allowed to pass TSA. Enhanced driver’s licenses will be permitted to enter.

Continue reading Passport to fly domestically? What Washington residents need to know

Where did ash fall in Western Washington? This map will show you

Published Sept. 2017 on kiro7.com

Throughout the Puget Sound region on Tuesday morning, residents found ash on their cars and around their homes as wildfires burned more than 150,000 acres in Washington state.

KIRO 7 asked people to submit zip codes for areas in which they saw ash falling. Our digital team took hundreds of submitted zip codes and put them in the below map to give an idea on which areas saw the most ash fall.

How to read this map: In dark red areas, the number of reports was as high as 78, and in lighter red areas, there were fewer reports. Click or tap on a zip code area to see the exact number of reports.

Scroll down to see the map and read specifics on how the data was collected. 

About the data in this map: This map is not based on a scientific measurement of ash falling. Unlike something such as rainfall, there is not a gauge in the state that measures ash.

Continue reading Where did ash fall in Western Washington? This map will show you

Live in Seattle and worried about North Korea? Read this

Published Sept. 2017 on kiro7.com

With North Korea testing missiles at an unprecedented rate, experts calculate the Seattle area could eventually be in range.

But is that a realistic worry for people on the West Coast? KIRO 7 News talked to scientists and government leaders, who explain below.

How did we get here?

Many West Coast residents feel unease with their homes being the closest in the United States to North Korea as tensions between the two countries build every week.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday again gave a doomsday warning to Kim Jong Un. And just last week, North Korea launched a missile that flew over the northern part of Japan.

File AP

2017 has been a rapid year of progress for North Korea, with its 22 missiles fired over 15 tests since February. That includes the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile, launched over the summer.

North Korea, known for being a propaganda machine, has claimed that a missile could carry a nuclear warhead. Whether that could actually happen, physicists do not yet know.

What’s the real threat to the Seattle area, if there is one? 

After two ICBM launches, analysts calculated everything west of Chicago could be in range.

“The distance from North Korea to Seattle is about 5,100 miles (8,200 km),” said David Wright, a physicist and co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“We don’t know how heavy North Korea’s nuclear warheads are, and the weight affects how far a missile can carry them. However, most experts believe North Korea’s longest range missile, the Hwasong-14, may be able to carry a nuclear warhead as far as Seattle or will be able to in the near future.”


Missiles are highly inaccurate. Wright told KIRO 7 News that Kim would likely shoot at a city physically bigger than Seattle in an attempt of hitting a population center.

Continue reading Live in Seattle and worried about North Korea? Read this

Unseen photos of Mt. St. Helens eruption discovered in forgotten camera at Goodwill

Published on kiro7.com in June 2017; more than 10,000 engagements on social

A Portland woman, who finds old cameras and develops forgotten film, discovered unseen photos of the Mount St. Helen explosion. Image: Courtesy Kati Dimoff

A Portland woman who finds old cameras and develops forgotten film has discovered unseen photos of the Mount St. Helens eruption.

“I run into the big Goodwill in [Southeast Portland] and check all their film cameras for exposed, but undeveloped rolls of film,” said Kati Dimoff, who is a photographer herself. “[In May], I bought an Argus C2, which would have been produced around 1938, and it had a damaged roll of Kodachrome slide film in it.”

Dimoff dropped it off at a Portland shop that develops vintage film. When she picked it up, a message was left on her package of photographs.

“Is this from the Mount St. Helen eruption?” it read.

Thirty-seven years ago, 57 people lost their lives amid raining ash throughout Washington state in the wake of the Mount St. Helens explosion.

Journalists and residents alike captured moments of the volcano’s notorious eruption in 1980; thousands of people to this day still watch their surreal video and chilling photos the lateral blast that took out the north side of the mountain.

But Dimoff’s images show a new perspective of the plume cloud that haunted the northwest.

Continue reading Unseen photos of Mt. St. Helens eruption discovered in forgotten camera at Goodwill

Police: Workers held against their will in Bellevue brothels

NOTE: First published on kiro7.com in Jan. 2016. A KIRO 7 News crew streamed this event live on our website. I wrote this copy as information was streamed lived. 

Bellevue brothels, created by a website, held workers against their will and then trafficked them across the west coast, according to local law enforcement.


  • 12 brothels in Bellevue
  • 12 victims rescued, according to Bellevue police
  • Women were victimized in 15 U.S. states
  • At least one recent murder is related to the trafficking case
  • National prostitution website, reviewboard.net, seized in investigation

How did this happen?

King County Sheriff John Urquhart, the Bellevue police chief, and an FBI special agent held a news conference on Wednesday and announced they investigated reviewboard.net and a website called “The League.”

According to investigators, who call the case backpage.com “on steroids,” reviewboard.net facilitated prostitution and “The League” started the brothels in Bellevue.

Twelve brothels, most that operated out of high-end Bellevue apartments, have been shut down. See where the brothels in Bellevue were located in the map below; click on a “point” for the apartment name.

Police say Donald Mueller and Michael Durnal ran the ring and sold women all over the county.

Continue reading Police: Workers held against their will in Bellevue brothels

Oldest known orca spotted in ‘high spirits’ off San Juan Island

NOTE: First reported on kiro7.com on Aug. 3, 2016 (All photo credits in this story go to Heather MacIntyre.) Sadly, Researchers considered J2 Granny dead as of Jan. 2017

Estimated to be around 105 years old, J2 Granny is thought to be the oldest known living orca.

The Orca Network posted photos of Granny to its Whale Sighting Report on July 27. She was spotted near San Juan Island’s False Bay.

“We watched the J11s (J27, J31, and J39) traveling with J2 and adopted son, L87. They sure seemed to be in high spirits … And then there was that humpback that popped up surprisingly in the distance breaching over and over and over,” photographer Heather MacIntyre wrote.

The Orca Network tells KIRO 7 News that Granny is said to be around 105 years old, but there is a 12-year margin around her age meaning she could be as young as 90.

Continue reading Oldest known orca spotted in ‘high spirits’ off San Juan Island