The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, June 25, 2019, Image 1

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    146TH YEAR, NO. 241 // TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2019
Life sentences
for homeless
couple convicted
of murder
Minimum of 25 years in prison
The Astorian
A homeless couple convicted in the
murder of a Newport man in 2016 was
sentenced Friday to life in prison.
Christian Wilkins and Adeena Copell
were accused of killing Howard Vinge,
71, inside his RV in September 2016.
They dumped his body
down an embankment
along U.S. Highway 30
east of Astoria and took
his RV and a sedan. The
couple abandoned the
RV after it broke down
on U.S. Highway 26 near
Hamlet and drove the car
to Arizona, where they
were arrested.
Wilkins pleaded guilty
in May to murder, sec-
ond-degree abuse of a
corpse and two counts
of unauthorized use of
a vehicle. Copell was
convicted of the same
charges in May after a
trial in Clatsop County
Circuit Court.
They will each serve a minimum of 25
years in prison.
“This is the kind of case where all of
us fear for our elderly loved ones, peo-
ple befriending them, taking advantage
of them, isolating them, and then kill-
ing them,” Judge Cindee Matyas said to
Copell. “This has been a nightmare ... It’s
an undeserving end for a man who was
engaging with his community, obviously
had a lot of family that cared for him, and
tried to be kind to strangers who are in
trouble — you and Mr. Wilkins — tried
to help you and this is a terrible way for
his kindness to be repaid.”
Vinge’s family spoke during the sen-
tencing hearings, sharing personal state-
ments with Wilkins and Copell.
Prosecutors said Wilkins shared what
seemed to be a sincere apology for what
he had done. Copell did not comment in
“It’s just been a tough three years for
our family,” Shannon Honey, Vinge’s
niece, said afterward.
Sandra Gamero-Rost, Vinge’s daugh-
ter, said despite the pain her family has
gone through, she is thankful for the peo-
ple who cared for them during the pro-
cess. She mentioned the deputy district
attorneys who prosecuted the case —
Beau Peterson and Scott McCracken —
the detective who investigated, the jurors
and the victim services coordinator.
“The community has been wonderful
and has just stepped up,” Gamero-Rost
Doug Gorsline/Columbia Land Trust
The Columbia Land Trust has raised more than $1.4 million to purchase the southern
two-thirds of South Tongue Point, a historical dredge spoil deposit on the eastern
edge of Astoria the group hopes to restore into salmon and wildlife habitat.
A salmon and
wildlife habitat
for the college
The Astorian
Edward Stratton/The Astorian
Jason Smith, left, a habitat restoration project manager with the Columbia River
Estuary Study Taskforce, takes stakeholders in the restoration of South Tongue
Point on a tour of the property from the Columbia River on Friday.
onors and other stakeholders
in the Columbia Land Trust
got a view of South Tongue
Point from the water Friday as the
group tries to fill a funding gap to
purchase the property and turn it into
salmon and wildlife habitat for Clat-
sop Community College.
The land trust approached the col-
lege about purchasing South Tongue
Point four years ago. Warrenton Fiber
had applied to clear and develop the
land, created between the mid-1940s
through the 1970s by soil dredged
from nearby rivers and islands.
“South Tongue Point represents
another piece in the broader resto-
ration picture of the entire Columbia
estuary, and the educational opportu-
nity makes it all the more valuable,”
Glenn Lamb, executive director of the
land trust, told a group of stakeholders
gathered at the college.
South Tongue Point sits on the
western edge of the Lewis and Clark
National Wildlife Refuge and near
another land trust restoration project at
Twilight Marsh. The land trust has pre-
served more than 2,100 acres on the
lower 80 miles of the Columbia River.
The land trust has raised more than
$1.4 million toward the purchase of the
southern two-thirds of South Tongue
Point and hopes to fill a final $141,000
funding gap through grants and private
donations. The land would be restored
under the direction of the Columbia
Doug Gorsline/Columbia Land Trust
Clatsop Community
Action executive
director resigns
No reason given for departure
The interior of South Tongue Point includes wetlands and timber stands.
See Tongue Point, Page A6
Glenn Lamb | executive director of the Columbia Land Trust
The Astorian
Elaine Bruce, the executive director of
Clatsop Community Action, has resigned.
No reason was given publicly for her
departure, which was effective Friday.
Bruce declined to comment on the
details behind her resig-
nation. Sarah LaCoste-
Brown, the president of
the nonprofit’s board,
said there was “no pin-
pointed reason.”
Clatsop Community
Action is a critical social
Elaine Bruce
services provider on the
North Coast, helping
low-income people with food, housing
and other basic needs.
Viviana Matthews, the nonprofit’s
deputy director, was appointed interim
executive director.
Local Coastie had rich career
A cameo in ‘The Goonies’
to the White House
The Astorian
ear the beginning of “The
Goonies” is a scene of Astoria
High School football players tossing
around a pigskin on John
Warren Field.
Among those extras was
Eric Bruner, whose foray
into football also led him
indirectly toward a 30-year
career in the Coast Guard.
Bruner, born in Longview, Wash-
ington, moved to Astoria when he was
a kindergartner. The 1985 graduate of
Astoria High School said he was orig-
inally interested in joining the Navy
and becoming a Marine. But some
See Bruce, Page A5
Astoria High School graduate Eric Bruner, seen here
with his wife, Christine, ends a 30-year Coast Guard
career this month.
Coast Guard officers helping coach the
football team convinced him to join.
Bruner went straight from high
school to the Coast Guard Academy in
New London, Connecticut, where he
earned a bachelor’s in electrical engi-
neering and the rank of ensign. His first
assignment brought him back to Asto-
ria as a deck watch officer aboard the
buoy tender Iris. He has jumped back
and forth across the coun-
try five times between office
and field assignments.
“I’ve sailed from the Ber-
ing Sea to the Gulf of Tehu-
antepec off Guatemala, and
crossed the international date line on
the West Coast,” Bruner said. “I’ve
sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to
and throughout the entire Caribbean
See Bruner, Page A5