Court docs: Vancouver murder suspect 'was lying in bed when he decided to kill people.'


The man accused of killing two men over the weekend in Vancouver "told us he was lying in bed when he decided to kill people," according to court documents submitted by Vancouver police.

Dressed in a suicide smock, Dustin Zapel walked into a Clark County Superior courtroom Monday morning. He is accused of killing Thomas West and James Olsen, and police say he tried to kill a third person.

"I indicated that if he were to be released he'd be a danger to the public based on the allegations," says Aaron Bartlett, a deputy prosecuting attorney with the Clark County Prosecutor's office.

Police found the two men stabbed early Sunday morning at the Central Park Place apartments, a transitional housing unit on Vancouver Way. More than half of the people there are veterans, and while it's on Veterans Affairs Property, it's run the by the Vancouver Housing Authority.

Elmer Berdinner lived across the hall from West in the apartment building and talked to him nearly every day. He says West as a good person, very quiet.

"I was very very angry, and very very upset, because Tom wouldn't hurt a flee," Berdinner said.

Police state in court documents, "Zapel told us he was lying in bed when he decided to kill people." Zapel told the officers "he went outside found Tom and stabbed him in the head and chest and bit him in the head." Officers say Zapel attacked and stabbed James Olsen "in excess of 20 times." Officers wrote the crime appears to be "completely unprovoked."

Prosecutors and the defense say Zapel has a history of mental illness, including an assault case that was dismissed because the court found him not competent to stand trial.

"There was western state hospital involvement there were competency issues that were raised in those cases, I don't really have anything to add other than that can throw a hurdle in any case, whether they're competent to proceed," Bartlett says.

Zapel's attorney, James Sowder, just got assigned the case so didn't have much to say about what he's accused of doing.

"He seemed fine. The best you can be when you're charged with two counts of murder, just talking to his attorney for the first time. I'll be talking to him this afternoon. I talked to his father. He has a history of mental health problems, and we'll be sorting those out," Sowder said.

Zapel's being held on a $3 million bond and he is due in court later this month.

Central Park Place caters to very low income residents; 78 of the 124 tenants are veterans. The rest of those living in the apartment building are disabled and/or formerly homeless.

Roy Johnson, Executive Director of the Vancouver Housing Authority, expressed condolences to the victims and their families. He said something like this is very unusual for any of the properties they manage.

"I've been with the housing authority for nine years and we've not had an incident like this at Central Park Place and I don't believe there was ever one in the history of it since it was built in 1999," Johnson said.

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