VANCOUVER, Clark County — A 38-year-old man who lived at a transitional housing apartment complex in Vancouver was found guilty Wednesday of killing two of his neighbors and trying to kill another.
A Clark County Superior Court jury convicted Dustin L. Zapel of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree attempted murder the deaths of Thomas West, 42, and James Olsen, 55, on July 16, 2017. Jurors also returned a special verdict, finding that Zapel was armed with a deadly weapon when he committed the crimes, The Columbian reported.
Neither the prosecutor nor the defense attorney had denied that Zapel stabbed to death West and Olsen.
Instead, the case rested on Zapel’s state of mind. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Anna Klein said Zapel “acted with premeditation to stab two men to death and to chase after a third man and attempt to stab him. He had been thinking about what it would be like to kill someone.”
Defense attorney Jeff Sowder argued that premeditation is different than intent, and the two concepts should be considered separately. Sowder also said Zapel has a long history of mental illness.
According to court records, officers found West and Olsen’s bodies in the apartment complex’s courtyard. Surveillance cameras videotaped the act, which police said appeared to be unprovoked.