Grisly details emerge in Vancouver double homicide

Dustin Zapel faces 2 counts of 1st-degree murder

Dustin Zapel exits a Clark County courtroom after being charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, July 17, 2017 (KOIN)
Dustin Zapel exits a Clark County courtroom after being charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, July 17, 2017 (KOIN)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Dustin Zapel, the man accused of killing 2 people and trying to kill a third, told detectives he was lying in bed when he decided to kill people, the probable cause document revealed.

Details emerged in the grisly stabbing deaths early Sunday morning in the fenced in courtyard of Central Park Place, 1900 Fort Vancouver Way, in Zapel’s first court appearance Monday morning in Clark County.

During court, the prosecutor said Zapel has a history of mental illness and competency issues as well as past criminal cases that were dismissed. His family said they believe he wasn’t taking needed medication.

The probable cause statement said:

Dustin L. Zapel in an undated photo released by Vancouver Police on July 16, 2017
Dustin L. Zapel in an undated photo released by Vancouver Police on July 16, 2017

Police were called around 1:30 a.m. after one resident, David Garner, said he heard a “scuffle and growling sounds” outside his bedroom window. He went to check and saw Zapel in the communal kitchen holding a knife. Zapel lunged at Garner, who managed to get away and back into his room.

When police arrived at the scene, they saw 2 men laying on the ground. One man, James Olsen, had been stabbed more than 20 times in the head, torso and stomach. The other man, 42-year-old Thomas West, was also stabbed multiple times.

Both men were already dead when police arrived.

An immediate search began for the 35-year-old Zapel, who was found hours later and taken into custody. After he was read his Miranda Rights, Zapel told detectives “he was lying in bed when he decided to kill people.”

The attacks appear totally unprovoked.

Zapel said he killed West first then stabbed “the other guy” — Zapel didn’t know his name — in the stomach 4 times. He said he went inside and tried to stab Garner, but he escaped.

Elmer Verdinner, a friend of the victims, told KOIN 6 News, “[West] is a very kind person, would give you the shirt off his back, would always help somebody.”

Police said the attacks were caught on surveillance cameras.

Zapel is now charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

He’s due back in court July 28 for arraignment on the murder charges. He’s held on a $3 million bail.

Where the crime occurred

Central Park Place is a low income housing and apartment complex with 123 units.

In a statement, the Board of Commissioners and staff of Vancouver Housing Authority — which oversees Central Park Place — said they “extend our condolences to the family and friends of the two victims.”

They said they’re cooperating with investigators and working with the property managers to ensure the safety of their residents.

Central Park Place, they said, helps solve a problem of housing for low-income single adults and veterans. Of the 124 units at Central Park Place, 78 are veterans referred by the VA. The rest “are disabled and/or recently homeless individuals referred by Columbia River Mental Health, Share, Community Services Northwest, the YWCA, and Clark County Health Department.”