A 44-year-old Federal Way man was charged Thursday with premeditated first-degree murder, accused of fatally shooting and dismembering his roommate and attempting to cover up the crime, according to King County prosecutors.

Nicholas Van Cleave was arrested Monday afternoon after family members of Richard Lavietes, 41, contacted Federal Way police, entered the men’s apartment with a spare key and found two large garbage bags filled with what appeared to be human remains, charging papers say.

Court records do not yet indicate which attorney is representing Van Cleave, who remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned May 19.

A woman called 911 Monday morning and requested police conduct a welfare check on Lavietes, her co-worker, who hadn’t shown up for work, according to the charges. She told the dispatcher she was concerned for Lavietes’ safety because he had taken a gun away from his roommate, whom she described as mentally unstable, the charges say.

A police officer went to a complex of town houses in the 1300 block of Southwest Campus Drive, knocked on Lavietes’ door and got no answer. He didn’t see anything suspicious or notice any activity inside the unit, so he left, the charges say.

A relative called 911 from outside the town house that afternoon and requested a second welfare check, telling a dispatcher he had a key to the unit and was worried Lavietes, who he hadn’t heard from in two days, might have been injured by his roommate, charging papers say.


Another police officer responded and agreed to stand by while Lavietes’ family members went inside to look for him. One relative told the officer she had been texting Lavietes the night before when he abruptly stopped replying, the charges say.

When the family entered the apartment, Van Cleave told them Lavietes had gone camping with friends two days earlier and attempted to block them from going upstairs, charging papers say. Van Cleave then went outside to smoke a cigarette and the officer stood with him.

Lavietes’ family members came downstairs and told the officer they had found blood and two large garbage bags that appeared to contain human remains in the master bathroom, the charges say.

Neighbors told police they had heard repeated banging noises coming from the town house early Monday morning and heard a shower running that afternoon, the charges say.

During the investigation, police learned Lavietes and Van Cleave were longtime friends and former co-workers. Lavietes invited Van Cleave to live with him a year ago because Van Cleave had trouble holding down a job due to physical and mental health conditions, according to the charges. Lavietes recently told a family member Van Cleave was suffering from a mental health problem and thought people were after him, the charges say.

Another relative told detectives that Lavietes told her Van Cleave had brought home a gun last week, and that Lavietes had taken the gun and told Van Cleave he needed to move out, according to charging papers.


A detective reviewed a police report from March 31 and learned a patrol officer had responded to a report of a man hiding in the bushes at the same complex. The man, identified as Van Cleave, had a 9 mm handgun and told the officer he was hiding because people were looking for him, the charges say. The officer allowed Van Cleave to keep the gun after confirming he was the registered owner.

During a search of the town house, police found a handgun, a knife, a hatchet and other evidence, the charges say.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Lavietes was shot five times in the back of the head at close range, according to the charges, which say Lavietes was dismembered after he was killed.