Former sports editor takes two murder suspects for a ride

By T.L. Peterson Observer Staff Writer
Island Sounder


Editorís Note. Pierre LaBossiere, The Sounderís former sports editor, is now in a similar role with The Observer, of La Grande, Ore. The story below is published with permission from The Observer.

The Observer's sports editor was just trying to be a nice guy March 18.

"I didnít want to be a jerk," Pierre LaBossiere said, recalling the reason
he'd given two men -- who turned out to be suspects in a Umatilla County murder -- a ride from Catherine Creek State Park to La Grande.

The gesture ended with LaBossiere sitting in his pickup truck, hands in the air, while Oregon State Police, Union County sheriff deputies and La Grande police arrested at gunpoint Dan Arnold, also known as Daniel Ray, 41, and Howard William Stine, 32.

While Umatilla District Attorney Chris Brauer has released little
information, it is known the two men, both of Umatilla County, were being sought in connection with the death of Gary Virgil Sickles, 39, whose body was found Sunday at his home along Highway 204, about a mile from Hodgson Canyon west of Tollgate.

Brauer said in a press release Tuesday that an autopsy was planned for that day in Portland.

In a story from the Pendleton East-Oregonian, Brauer said the death
was being investigated as an apparent homicide, but released few details. He did not identify the cause of death.

He did say the people being sought as "persons of interest" were
acquaintances of Sickles.

Lt. Ray Duman of the Oregon State Police, contacted Tuesday afternoon at the La Grande patrol office, said the OSP had been helping the Umatilla Major Crime Team search for Arnold and Stine since Sunday.

LaBossiere didnít know that the two men he encountered at the park were being sought.

He had simply gone out to the popular park south of Union to do some hiking. He noted his pickup was the only one in the parking lot of the camping area as he headed out along the trail to the picnic area.

Along the way, one of the men spoke from a concealed campsite, asking LaBossiere if he had cigarettes.

"I didn't see them until they said something," LaBossiere recalled.

He didnít have cigarettes, but offered them candy bars he had with him, and then began moving away.

"The vibe I got from these guys, I couldn't explain it," he said. "They
didnít want the candy bars."

When LaBossiere returned to his pickup, the men were there with something like a bedroll.

They asked for a ride toward La Grande.

"They never acted threatening," LaBossiere said, "except when they sort of followed me along the trail for a bit. They kept calling me 'sir.'"

The Observer's sports editor since September told the men they could ride in the back of the pickup. He didn't want them in the cab. He headed back to La Grande and remembers passing police vehicles at an accident at the junction of Highway 203 and Interstate 84.

A short while later, he found himself being pulled over south of La Grande near the Forest Service station by a trooper. He remembers thinking he wasnít speeding, so perhaps it was because of the men riding in the back of the pickup.

"He came out (of his patrol car) with his gun drawn," LaBossiere said of the Oregon State Police trooper. "He was yelling at the guys. He was not looking at me. Three or four cops all showed up then."

With no idea of what was happening, LaBossiere said he wasn't going to move and just took his hands off the steering wheel, lifted them into sight, and stayed put. Later in the day, an officer told him it was good he hadn't tried to leave the pickup.

Arnold and Stine were taken away by the state police, who also took their gear from LaBossiere's pickup. After being booked in Union County, Arnold and Stine were transported to the Umatilla County Jail in Pendleton, the La Grande OSP office said this morning.

LaBossiere said the suspects' gear was almost forgotten, but when officers reached in and grabbed it, "the knife was the last thing they pulled out -- that I couldn't believe."

LaBossiere was told that the men were sought in the homicide, and that plain clothes officers had searched Catherine Creek State Park with no success.

And the coat that had hidden the knife? LaBossiere remembers that one of the men almost left it at the park, before saying, "Wait, my wife would kill me if I left this."

"The knife was under that coat," LaBossiere said.


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