Police say gambling man left girls alone in truck for 5 hours

by: Richard Thompson Updated:

FIFE, Wash. - A Yelm man is under arrest after Fife police said he left his two daughters, ages 4 and 5, alone in a parked semi-truck while he gambled at the Emerald Queen Casino for more than five hours.

The girls were found in the cab of the truck parked in a gravel parking lot at the Royal Coachman Inn across the street from the casino on Highway 99. 

Mark Woodske, a guest at the motel, told KIRO 7 he first heard two horns from the truck honking Wednesday around 10:30 or 11 a.m. 

Woodske said he looked inside the truck and saw the two girls, but at first thought they must be there with a parent.

“And I figured someone was in there sleeping, someone just needed a rest, and the girls were playing around. But no one got them to stop [honking the horns],” said Woodske.

 When Woodske heard the horns honking again around 4 p.m., he and his girlfriend went to the truck again to check it out.

“So I said, ‘Go over and knock on the cab, maybe he’s sleeping, go pound on the cab,’”  Woodske said. “She came back, (said there was) no response and I said ‘Go call the police’.”

Fife police responded, and as officers investigated, the girls’ father, 34-year-old Terry Jonason, came running from the Emerald Queen Casino directly across the street.

 Jonason was arrested and booked on charges of two counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment. He pleaded not guilty during an appearance in Fife Municipal Court Thursday afternoon and was ordered held on $5,000 bail. 

 Jonason also faces a hold from the Washington State Department of Corrections in connection with a 2009 conviction for possession of stolen property.

The girls were in good condition, but showed signs they had been left alone and unattended for several hours, according to Fife police Lt. Tom Thompson.

 “They’d been in there a while. They’d soiled their pants,” said Thompson.

 Both girls were released to the custody of their grandmother who lives in Spanaway and were expected to be reunited with their mother on Thursday.

Thompson said Jonason is a driver for his father’s trucking company based in Spanaway and was in Fife for repairs to his truck.

When Jonason was unable to get the truck into the shop for the repairs, he decided to go spend some time gambling at the casino, Thompson said. 

 “He claimed that he’d only been there for about an hour, which is still an hour too long as far as I’m concerned,” said Thompson.   

Woodske, who was visiting Fife from Vancouver, B.C., said he has kids as well, and was shocked a father would leave girls that young alone for such a long time. 

 “A 4-year-old (and) a 5-year-old? You don’t do that,” said Woodske.