Whitman County Undersheriff charged

Maximum penalty for felony charge includes 10 years in prison, fine of $20,000

OLIVER MCKENNA | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

LAUREN ELLENBECKER, Evergreen crime reporter

The Whitman County Undersheriff was charged with assault in the second degree by the Whitman County Superior Court on Friday and is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 31 at 10:30 a.m.

Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols said Whitman County Undersheriff Ronald Rockness pleaded not guilty to the Class B felony during his preliminary appearance Jan. 17.

Whitman County Superior Court Judge Gary Libey submitted a Form of Recusal because he believed he had connections to the defendant, Nichols said.

According to the Form of Recusal, which was filed Jan. 17, a visiting judge will be assigned to the case.

Rockness was charged for allegedly breaking his wife’s finger during an argument that occurred the night of Dec. 12. Rockness is being represented by Defense Attorney Mark Monson.

Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers received an email Dec. 13 from the victim detailing the incident. The email was forwarded to Clarkston Police Department Officer Chris Lorz.

Nichols said officers and prosecutors from different counties had to be involved to avoid a conflict of interest due to Rockness being a Whitman County employee.

According to Lorz’s investigative narrative, Lorz met with the victim Dec. 15 where she described the events that led to her injury.

The victim said she and Rockness were arguing when he attempted to “bait her into a fight,” according to Lorz’s narrative. The victim said she was walking through the kitchen with her purse when Rockness allegedly blocked her from passing him, according to the narrative.

Rockness allegedly grabbed the victim’s purse when its strap became entangled in her fingers, according to the narrative. This is when the victim thought her finger broke.  The victim said she didn’t believe Rockness wanted to injure her, rather control and intimidate her by grabbing the purse, according to the narrative.

After the incident, the victim drove herself to the Whitman Hospital emergency room at 1 a.m. The victim was told she had a spiral fracture to her right ring finger, according to the narrative.

A Domestic Violence No-Contact Order was filed Friday against Rockness.

The order prohibits Rockness from possessing firearms and contacting the defendant by any means. Rockness is also prohibited from going within 500 feet of the residence or wherever the victim resides.  Rockness cannot consume alcohol or any other substances, according to the order.

Any violation of these conditions will lead to his arrest.

According to Lorz’s narrative, he seized eight long guns and five handguns from the Rockness household.

While Lorz was interviewing the victim Dec. 15, she told him about previous incidents with Rockness, according to the narrative. She showed him video footage of altercations she had with Rockness.

According to Lorz’s narrative, the victim said Rockness was allegedly “begging to fight ” with her during an incident in September. The victim recorded Rockness pushing on the bedroom door while she was trying to keep him out, according to the narrative.

During another incident in October, Rockness allegedly knocked on the windows and doors throughout the night, according to the narrative. This occured after the victim changed the locks because Rockness said he was moving out.

The victim said Rockness moved back in with her several days after the incident, according to the narrative. She said Rockness was apologetic and he told her things would get better.

The victim described another incident in November where Rockness attempted to get her to fight him, according to the narrative. The victim showed Lorz a recording of Rockness yelling “Go f-ck yourself.”

When Rockness realized the victim was recording him, he attempted to laugh off the incident, according to the narrative.

According to the narrative, the victim said she felt that she was unable to report the incidences to the police because she was afraid she’d go to jail.

Rockness allegedly told her, “Go ahead, call the police… we’ll both be arrested,” according to the narrative.

The victim told Lorz that there have also been times where Rockness became intoxicated and mean toward her, according to the narrative.

The maximum penalty for assault in the second degree, which is a Class B felony, is 10 years in prison and a fine of $20,000.

*Additional reporting by Jayce Carral