$1M bail set for Swansonville man facing murder charge

By Nicholas Johnson of the Leader
Posted 7/28/15

A Swansonville man charged with murdering a La Push woman appeared for the first time, by video from the county jail, July 28 in Jefferson County Superior Court, where prosecutors asked that he be …

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$1M bail set for Swansonville man facing murder charge

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A Swansonville man charged with murdering a La Push woman appeared for the first time, by video from the county jail, July 28 in Jefferson County Superior Court, where prosecutors asked that he be held on $1 million bail.

“That's in light of the fact that he apparently attempted to kill himself both with a firearm and a knife,” Jefferson County Prosecutor Michael Haas told Judge Keith Harper, who agreed to the requested bail amount. “There's also some indications of a mental health disorder and therefore the state is legitimately concerned for the public safety.”

Evan Daniel Thompson, 33, is next due in court Aug. 7 for his arraignment, at which time he may enter a plea and future court dates would be set. On July 28, Judge Harper assigned Jefferson Associated Counsel to represent Thompson.

On the morning of July 23, a medevac helicopter transported Thompson to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of his head and self-inflicted cuts to his wrists before his release July 27. A .22-caliber pistol was found at the scene.

Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) deputies responded July 23 to a 5:30 a.m. call from Thompson's mother reporting Thompson had shot himself and jumped out a second-story window of the house they share at 1771 Swansonville Road in Port Ludlow, according to a report by JCSO Detective Brett Anglin.

Deputies found Thompson lying in the backyard, “yelling that he had killed his girlfriend … because she was a spy,” Anglin reported.

The body of Virginia G. Castaneda, 20, of La Push, Washington was found upstairs in Thompson's bed, according to Anglin.

The preliminary results of a July 27 autopsy of Castaneda found the cause of her death to be asphyxiation by strangulation, said Haas, who also serves as coroner.

“I can't imagine anything changing that finding,” Haas said July 27, anticipating tissue samples would support that initial conclusion.

“There's nothing to lead us to think anything other than that. This is not a case where a toxicology report will change our conclusion.”

Castaneda graduated from Forks High School in 2013. She and Thompson met in La Push and had been dating for about one year, Anglin told the Leader July 27. She was apparently working at a business in Forks.

Last week, the Quileute Tribal Council made grief counselors available to tribal members who knew Castaneda.

"We are shocked and saddened by the events surrounding the loss of Virginia Castaneda,” the Tribal Council wrote July 27 through spokesperson Jackie Jacobs. “Virginia grew up in the La Push community and we are all impacted by the enormity of this unthinkable loss. We want to send our heartfelt condolences and prayers to all family and friends.”

Tracy and Edward Thompson, who lived at the Swansonville house with their youngest son, told the Leader July 28: “We are deeply saddened for the loss of Virginia. She was truly a beautiful person. We extend our deepest sympathy to her friends and family.”

CRIME SCENE

In processing the crime scene July 23, JCSO detectives also discovered a note in the backyard in which Thompson expressed remorse for his actions, according to Anglin's report.

Thompson was sedated during transport to Harborview. He awoke the next day, July 24, and provided JCSO detectives with a one-hour interview that evening, admitting to choking Castaneda to death, according to Anglin's report.

Thompson also told detectives “many family and friends were plotting against him” and that “Castaneda had been employed by a government agency to formulate a case against him,” according to Anglin's report.

Jefferson County contracted with the King County Sheriff's Office to provide deputies to guard Thompson while at Harborview, said Steve Richmond, Jefferson County Jail superintendent.

Richmond said he expects King County to charge $1,600 for each day of guarding Thompson while hospitalized. That does not include costs related to transportation, medical care, administrative time and follow-up appointments, he said.

Thompson is on suicide watch at the Jefferson County Jail.

LEGAL CHARGES

Thompson has been charged with second-degree murder. Haas said Thompson has no prior criminal convictions, meaning a conviction in this case would, by statute, result in a sentence of somewhere between 10.25 years and 18.33 years in jail.

Haas described Thompson's criminal history as “relatively nominal but still notable.”

A Washington State Patrol criminal history report pertaining to Thompson shows no felony convictions, one gross misdemeanor and three misdemeanors.

On June 13, 2000, Thompson was found guilty of third-degree theft, a gross misdemeanor, in Jefferson County District Court.

On Aug. 22, 2013, Thompson was found guilty of second-degree criminal trespass and two counts of bail jumping, each a misdemeanor, in Jefferson County District Court.

On May 3, 2011, Thompson was charged with unlawful imprisonment, a class C felony, in Jefferson County Superior Court. On Dec. 6, 2014, that felony charge was dismissed with prejudice – meaning it would not appear on his criminal record and could not later be refiled for further prosecution – after Thompson completed a felony pretrial diversion program.

PROTECTION ORDERS

Thompson is a 2000 Chimacum High School graduate, who spent his entire life in Jefferson County. He has two children, now ages 10 and 7, with a woman who is a 2004 Chimacum High School graduate.

That woman sought protection orders in Jefferson County Superior Court against Thompson four times between November 2005 and April 2012, according to court records.

The woman wrote in court documents in 2005 that Thompson threatened suicide and she feared for her safety and the safety of her son. She also sought custody of her son, then 7 months old.

That petition was dropped when neither party appeared for a court hearing.

In February 2011, the same woman sought a new protection order, asking that Thompson not come within 500 feet of where she was living with her mother in Port Hadlock and writing that Thompson had “strangled me multiple times” and threatened to kill her if she left him, according to court documents.

At a March 2011 hearing, that order was set to last for one year. In April, the woman asked that it be dropped so Thompson could see his children, according to court records.

In November 2011, the woman sought another protection order to keep Thompson from coming within 100 feet of where she lived, not listing an address.

At a hearing later that month, that order was set to last one year. In January 2012, the woman asked that it be dropped, according to court documents.

In April 2012, the woman again sought a protection order to keep Thompson from coming within 100 feet of her or her children, as well as three others listed as members of her household.

In her three most recent petitions for protection, the woman wrote that Thompson had threatened suicide “many times” and that she had “witnessed him holding a gun to his head” while yelling at her and their daughter to “watch him kill himself.”

Throughout her petitions for protection, the woman acknowledges that Thompson had access to guns.

(Leader staff writers Patrick J. Sullivan and Allison Arthur contributed to this report. The first version of this story appeared July 23 on ptleader.com.)

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