Thompson gets 15 years for murder of La Push woman

By Nicholas Johnson of the Leader
Posted 2/26/16

A Swansonville man who strangled his girlfriend to death in July 2015 has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Evan Daniel Thompson, 34, cried in a packed Jefferson County Superior Court room …

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Thompson gets 15 years for murder of La Push woman

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A Swansonville man who strangled his girlfriend to death in July 2015 has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Evan Daniel Thompson, 34, cried in a packed Jefferson County Superior Court room Feb. 26 as he expressed remorse for murdering 20-year-old Virginia Guadalupe Castaneda of La Push, Washington.

“I miss her and I love her,” he told Judge Keith Harper in court. “I am solely responsible. I pray for her family and hope one day they will forgive me. I'm so sorry.”

Thompson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Jan. 15.

Thompson graduated from Chimacum High School in 2000. Castaneda graduated from Forks High School in 2013. The two had reportedly been in a romantic relationship for about a year prior to the murder.

Both the prosecution and defense have said that Thompson was mentally ill when he strangled Castaneda to death in his bed, then attempted suicide by shooting himself, jumping out a second-story window and cutting his wrists.

An evaluation of Thompson's mental health found he was competent to stand trial, although his defense attorney, Scott Charlton, expressed concern in court about whether Thompson would receive adequate treatment while incarcerated. Thompson has been in Jefferson County Jail on $1 million bail since his arrest.

Charlton asked that the court sentence Thompson to the bottom of the standard sentencing range for his crime, which falls between 123 months and 220 months.

Shelly Black, Castaneda's grandmother, asked the court to impose the top of that range.

“Virginia will never get to go home, and neither should you,” she said in court regarding Thompson.

“I don't believe the court has the ability to do that in this particular case,” Judge Harper said of Black's request.

Prosecutor Michael Haas asked the court to impose a sentence just over the middle of that range – 180 months, or 15 years – based in part on a state Department of Corrections pre-sentencing report that recommended the same.

Judge Harper agreed, saying, “To me, that strikes the perfect balance. Ultimately, I think 15 years is appropriate.”

Acknowledging that the state corrections system's ability to offer mental health treatment to inmates is limited, Harper put a note in with Thompson's sentencing paperwork asking that Thompson undergo any necessary mental health treatment available to him while incarcerated.

Following the hearing, family, friends and fellow tribal members of Castaneda gathered outside the courthouse to form a prayer circle in honor of their lost loved one.

THE CRIME SCENE

Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) deputies responded July 23, 2015 to a 5:30 a.m. call from Thompson's mother reporting that Thompson had shot himself and jumped out a second-story window of the house they shared at 1771 Swansonville Road, just west of Port Ludlow, according to Detective Brett Anglin’s report.

Deputies found Thompson lying in the backyard, “yelling that he had killed his girlfriend … because she was a spy,” Anglin reported. Castaneda was found upstairs in Thompson’s bed, according to Anglin.

Deputies arrested Thompson and called for a medical helicopter. Thompson was airlifted 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.

While at Harborview, Thompson provided JCSO detectives with a one-hour interview July 24, in which he admitted to strangling Castaneda to death, according to Anglin’s report.

(See a full story in the Leader's March 2 issue.)

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