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Meth

Kelso police found 3.59 pounds of methamphetamine while responding to a domestic violence call at the Kelso Econo Lodge.

Courtesy Kelso Police Department

Cowlitz County Prosecutor Ryan Jurvakainen says his office should have sought a higher bail for a domestic violence suspect accused of possessing nearly four pounds of meth at a Kelso hotel on March 24.

Kelso police arrested Jimmy Penix, 58, at the Econo Lodge on North Pacific Avenue. While searching his belongings, police found roughly $30,000 worth of drugs, including 3.59 pounds of methamphetamine and 6.9 grams of heroin.

Penix, who has a criminal record including another assault charge, had his bail set at $5,000 for the new charges in March at the request of the deputy prosecuting attorney in the case. Penix’s lawyer asked that his client be released without bail on personal recognizance.

Superior Court Judge Michael Evans set bail at $5,000. Later, Judge Stephen Warning issued a no-contact order prohibiting Penix from contacting the victim until the case is resolved. Penix posted bail and was released March 26. His trial is set for July 26.

The bail “should have been higher,” Jurvakainen said. “... (but) every situation is different, and every judge makes their own decision.”

Evans could not be reached for comment Friday.

Penix initially faced charges for simple meth possession, rather than the increased charge of possession with intent to deliver that Penix received after after his bail was set. This likely played a part in the initial bail setting, Jurvakainen said.

Possession of controlled substances, a class C felony, carries a maximum sentence of five years. Possession with intent to deliver, a class B felony, raises that maximum to 10 years.

Since the prosecutor’s office doesn’t typically have police reports right away, Jurvakainen said, there “might have been an oversight on the quantity” of drugs recovered by police in the State’s recommendations.

However, Jurvakainen added Friday that “$5,000 is not uncommon. (It’s) quite often what we see imposed for drug cases.”

Social media commentators have raised their own concerns over Penix’s bail, which is much lower than a $15,000 bail he faced in 2007 for charges of a felony drug offense and eluding police.

The manager of A-Affordable bonds, where Penix consulted to pay off his bail, found Penix’s March bail to be set unusually low as well.

“In Clark County, (that) would have been 20,000 (dollars),” Jeremy Hubbard, manager of A-Affordable bonds said Friday.

Penix’s prior criminal history spans a period from 2000 to 2007, but most of his convictions are for low level drug felonies. Penix’s bail study mentions only one prior violent crime, a fourth-degree assault from 2001.

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