Whatcom woman allegedly hid a wanted felon in a crawl space in her closet

Here’s what the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office does

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office enforces the law in the unincorporated areas of Whatcom County as well as on the county's waterways.
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The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office enforces the law in the unincorporated areas of Whatcom County as well as on the county's waterways.

A Maple Falls woman turned herself in Thursday, July 11, after she allegedly aided a man wanted for an outstanding felony warrant avoid sheriff’s deputies and was found with multiple firearms, including a shotgun that had been cut down and had its markings destroyed.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office booked Debbie Lou Johnson, 58, into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of second-degree rendering criminal assistance, altering the identifying marks on a firearm, making a false statement to a public officer, unlawful firearm and possession of a controlled substance.

According to a sheriff’s office press release Friday, July 12, deputies spotted Wayne Bisbee, whom they knew had a felony arrest warrant, flee a vehicle parked in the driveway in the 8500 block of Ginko Drive at approximately 9 p.m. on July 2. Bisbee was wanted on an outstanding warrant from the Washington Department of Corrections for a community custody violation.

Deputies reportedly spoke to Johnson, who was the homeowner and denied that either of her stepsons were inside the home.

Deputies applied for an got a search warrant for the home and a motorhome that was on the property, and according to the release, they found numerous suspected narcotics and paraphernalia during the search. That prompted them to get a second search warrant that included narcotics.

During the search, the release stated, deputies with the help of a police dog, located Bisbee hiding in a crawlspace in a bedroom closet. The opening had been cut into the floor of the closet and covered with a piece of plywood, and several boxes and heavy items were placed on top of the trap door.

According to jail records, Bisbee was booked on suspicion of the Department of Corrections detainer and third-degree driving with a suspended license on July 3.

Johnson later admitted that she had placed the items over the trap door to conceal Bisbee, according to release, and that she’d also lied to deputies about knowing Bisbee was in the house.

While searching the house, deputies also found a small amount of heroin and methamphetamine along with a large safe in the back bedroom that contained multiple firearms, the release stated. One of the guns was a short-barreled shotgun that had been cut down to 12 inches, six inches shorter than the legal limit, and had the serial number and identifiable markings destroyed.

Johnson was not originally booked, the release said, due to her being the primary caregiver of another resident at the house. After making other arrangements, Johnson turned herself in and was booked on Thursday.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.