Day one of the trial of 59-year-old Edmonds resident Charles F. Fisher, accused of the attempted rape and murder of a 41-year-old Edmonds woman on a beach in the Town of Woodway, just south of the off-leash Edmonds dog park, got underway in Snohomish County Superior Court on Tuesday.
In opening statements, prosecutor Matthew Baldock described to the jury of six women and seven men (one of them an alternate) how on June 26, 2016, the victim was enjoying a beach walk on a beautiful summer day. The excellent weather had drawn a considerable crowd to the waterfront, and she passed through the off-leash dog area and through the gate at the south end of the dog park toward the less-crowded beach areas to the south. As she walked south along the beach, the woman texted photos to her husband, including a complete moon snail shell. Reaching the end of the sandy area, she turned around to walk back north.
Baldock then told the jury that while walking back, the victim encountered a man walking toward her wearing sweat pants and no shirt. As they passed she said “hi” and without a word the man allegedly “punched her hard and knocked her down,” jumped on top of her, and in crude language told her he was going to sexually assault her. An extended fight ensued, during which Baldock said that the woman was choked, scratched, bruised and beaten. After several minutes, the attacker allegedly told her that he was no longer interested in sex, but that he was “going to kill her,” and began dragging her toward the water.
Baldock went on to say that the victim managed to twist herself free, and ran down the beach screaming for help where she was seen by Jeff and Emily Hovde of Edmonds who were walking above the beach next to the railroad tracks. After the victim climbed up the embankment toward the couple and said she’d been attacked, the Hovdes immediately called 911.
Police from Edmonds and Woodway along with a Lynnwood K-9 unit quickly arrived at the scene and began searching for the attacker. A dog park visitor, Julianne Vannoy of Shoreline, told them she saw a man climbing up the densely overgrown slope beyond the tracks. The K-9 dog was deployed, found Fisher in the underbrush, and subdued him. He was placed under arrest.
Baldock concluded his opening statement by telling the jury that subsequent forensic analyses revealed DNA on the victim matched Fisher’s, and that DNA on Fisher matched that of the victim.
Emily Hiskes of Fisher’s legal team then presented opening arguments for the defense.
She pointed out that the victim’s version is the only story that has been put forth so far, and that since no one actually saw the victim and Fisher together on the beach, there are no witnesses to corroborate her story.
She went on to cast doubt on the victim’s story by showing the jury a series of photos taken of her after the alleged attack, which indicate what Hiskes described as “minor injuries that are not consistent” with the brutal attack alleged by the prosecution.
“The description and the photos simply don’t match,” she told the jury.
She also pointed out statements made by Fisher after his arrest that indicate he was smoking marijuana and drinking with the victim and “her boyfriend” on the beach, and that the encounter included sex, raising the possibility of an alternative explanation that fits the facts at hand.
Hiskes concluded by telling the jury that “one person pointing a finger is not enough,” and that the evidence does not corroborate the prosecution’s version of the incident.
One witness was called before court adjourned for the day. Julianne Vannoy, the dog park visitor, gave testimony that essentially corroborated the version of her actions put forth by the prosecution.
Before adjourning for the day, Judge George Bowden instructed the jury to prepare for the trial to last probably through this week, and possibly into next.
Read My Edmonds News coverage of the incident from last June here.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel