Prosecutor: Vancouver, Wash. double-homicide suspect has history of mental illness

Dustin L. Zapel, 35, appeared Monday morning in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

The man accused of stabbing two men to death early Sunday at a Vancouver apartment complex has a history of mental illness and competency issues — which in the past, led to the dismissal of other criminal cases, a prosecutor said Monday.

Dustin L. Zapel, 35, appeared Monday morning in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

Court records identify one of the victims as 42-year-old Thomas West and tentatively identify the other as 55-year-old James Olsen. A third surviving victim was identified as David Garner, 51. All of the men reportedly lived at the Central Park Place Apartments.

The apartment complex is on the Portland VA Vancouver Medical Center campus, but is a transitional housing program managed and operated by the Vancouver Housing Authority.

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Deputy Prosecutor Aaron Bartlett said that Zapel has had prior felony and misdemeanor cases dismissed because of competency issues. Zapel poses an extreme danger to the community, he said, and asked the judge to set his bail at $5 million.

Judge Bernard Veljacic set bail at $3 million. Zapel will be arraigned July 28.

About 1:30 a.m., Vancouver police responded to the apartment complex, 1900 Fort Vancouver Way, for a possible stabbing. The stabbing suspect, identified as Zapel, had left the scene, however.

Garner told police he heard what sounded like a “scuffle and growling sounds” from outside his bedroom window in the courtyard. He went to check on the noise, and as he approached the communal kitchen, he saw fellow resident, Zapel, in the kitchen holding a knife, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Superior Court.

Garner said that when he spoke to Zapel, he responded with something unintelligible. Zapel then started coming toward Garner with the knife, and the man went back into his room, the affidavit said.

Upon arriving at the scene, police found West and Olsen dead in the courtyard with cuts and puncture wounds to their bodies. Video surveillance from inside and outside the complex shows Zapel stabbing Olsen multiple times in the head, torso and stomach. His body was found a short distance away from West’s body. Police said…

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