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Strange Oregon Coast True Crime: Goonies House Vandal Suspect to Dramatic Coast Guard Rescue

Published 02/04/23 at 5:59 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Strange Oregon Coast True Crime: Goonies House Vandal Suspect to Dramatic Coast Guard Rescue

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(Astoria, Oregon) – For here on out, true crime tales from the Oregon coast will have a long ways to go before they can top this outrageous tale. It's one that went from outright tense drama to serious surrealism in a short time, then took another hard turn and witnessed the beginning of a new hero. There's quite a few off-the-wall twists and turns. (Photo AET1 Kyle Turcotte/U.S Coast Guard, showing the soon-to-be suspect getting rescued)

A British Columbia man living in Astoria for a good year or so had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Friday after hitting treacherous conditions aboard a boat, and then it turns out he was the suspect in an odd case of vandalism at the “Goonies House” in Astoria earlier in the week. After treatment at an Astoria hospital, he was on the run for awhile until he was again captured in Seaside.

In a way, it all begins on Friday, February 3, as the USCG is out on a training mission just offshore from the mouth of the Columbia River. Conditions were rough, a spokesman said. At 10 a.m., the USCG watchstanders in Astoria received a brief MAYDAY call from a boat somewhere in the area, but the message stopped short of revealing much.


Wild waves outside of Astoria, photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection

The caller was using the VHF marine band on the radio, so eventually crews were able to use triangulation to determine the ship's location. A crew from Station Cape Disappointment on the Washington side of the coast was able to respond, sending out a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew of the Advanced Rescue Helicopter School. Meanwhile, numerous crews that were conducting the training exercises were also diverted to respond, arriving approximately 10:40 a.m. at about six miles off the rivermouth. Video below - you can see the full video at this link

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The USCG said they discovered the 35-foot yacht Sandpiper was taking on water. With 20-ft seas and extremely high winds, the situation was clearly urgent.

Crews deployed a first-time rescue swimmer, Advanced Helicopter Rescue School 3rd Class John "Branch" Walton. It's here where the video gets quite amazing. Walton used a winch cable to get out there, but just as he was approaching, a major wave came through and knocked him under water and propelled the distressed mariner off the boat as it capsized.

Walton was under for a few seconds or so, and as he came up he saw the boat was severely damaged, even split in two. He was able to swim out to the man from the boat and rescue him, with both being lifted up into a helicopter.

“The survivor was transported to awaiting emergency medical personnel at Air Station Astoria and was in stable condition when transferred from the Coast Guard's care,” the USCG said.

He was brought to Columbia Memorial Hospital, according to Astoria Police Department.

This was not only Walton's first life saved, but also his graduation day from the Advanced Rescue Helicopter School. Hours after the incident, the new hero and his classmates had their graduation ceremony.

The USCG soon received a call that 35-year-old Jericho Labonte, from British Columbia, was a suspect in the Sandpiper being stolen just hours before.

Astoria police said Port Security Chief Matt Hansen told them they had seen him allegedly stealing the yacht from the Port of Astoria. The owner, a man out of Warrenton, soon confirmed that with authorities.

Labonte was treated at the hospital as a precaution and then released. The problem was this happened before Astoria police had realized he was the chief suspect in the stolen vessel. Labonte was quickly on the run.

In a truly bizarre twist, Astoria police also figured out Labonte was the suspect seen in a home surveillance video on Wednesday vandalizing the Goonies house, the famous home used as a location for the movie “Goonies” back in 1985.

On the video, the suspect is seen covering cameras with black tape, but he apparently missed at least one. The suspect then leaves a dead fish on the porch. Reportedly, the man came back for the fish later on – a quirk in this oddball north Oregon coast tale as yet unexplained. See the surveillance video

“At about the same time, we received calls from several citizens identifying the rescued victim as Labonte,” police said.

Concerned citizens had reported to police seeing Labonte posting video to social media of his Goonies house fish caper. Another local fisherman said the fish was a local one because he had taken Labonte out on a fishing trip earlier on Wednesday.

Labonte was on the run for a couple of hours or so, with Astoria putting out a public notice with a description. He was later picked up by authorities at a Seaside warming center, and he is now lodged in the Northwest Detention Center in Washington State.

Besides this new set of charges on the Oregon coast, Labonte is wanted in B.C. on a long list of charges. He also has a bad reputation on the north coast for stalking and harrasing people.

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Keywords: Goonies House, Coast Guard Rescue, True Crime, Oregon Coast, Washington Coast, Jericho Labonte

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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