Arlington man charged with murder of friend at remote lake

He said he repeatedly stabbed Mark Stebakov, also of Arlington, in self-defense, charges say.

ARLINGTON — An Arlington man was charged with murder Wednesday for stabbing a man to death at a campsite near Baker Lake.

Alexander Vanags, 29, told police he killed his friend, also from Arlington, in self-defense, according to charging papers filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. He called 911 in the early morning Saturday from River Rock Tobacco & Fuel, off 236th Street NE, a few miles from his home in the Gleneagle neighborhood of Arlington.

Vanags told the dispatcher he’d stabbed his friend to death two or three hours earlier, at a campsite 70 miles northeast of the gas station.

The deceased man was identified as Mark Stebakov, 28, of Arlington.

On the 911 phone call, Vanags reportedly said his friend bashed his head into the ground, so he grabbed whatever he could to defend himself.

“Yeah, I stabbed him,” he said, according to the charges. “I thought he would die. I stabbed him more than once. … I’m your guy. I’m not hiding anything.”

A Stillaguamish tribal police officer arrived and saw Vanags had blood on his shirt and hands. He repeated the story, saying Stebakov “went crazy and attacked him and he begged him to stop,” according to the charges. Eventually, Vanags reported, he got the upper hand in the fight.

Later detectives noticed his boots, pants, rain pants, sweater and T-shirt had blood on them. He told them he’d left a gun on the dashboard of his Toyota Tundra and a knife on the floorboard. Through the window, the officer saw a machete with a serrated blade and a .357-caliber Ruger revolver in plain view. Police later found Stebakov’s wallet in the truck, as well as phones belonging to both men.

Vanags was treated at Cascade Valley Hospital for minor abrasions to his face, arms and hands. Detectives couldn’t find any bumps or scrapes on the back of his head.

Vanags told investigators he was sure that Stebakov was dead.

He used another one of his phones to show investigators the camp, on the north end of Baker Lake. The boomerang-shaped reservoir north of Concrete is about 9 miles long. By car, it’s only accessible from the south. The road crosses the Skagit-Whatcom county line near the southern end of the lake.

Stebakov’s body was found covered by a blanket at a campsite about 2½ miles north of where the paved road ends. Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies counted at least 10 stab wounds.

An autopsy later revealed wounds to the front and back of the body as well as the neck and head. At least three of the cuts struck arteries and proved fatal.

Stebakov bled to death, according to the Whatcom County Medical Examiner’s Office.

A detective spoke with Stebakov’s sisters. They reported Vanags had an unpredictable temper, and the two men had been in fist fights before. According to the charges, Vanags would “often get angry over the stupidest things and would start shoving Mr. Stebakov, challenging him to fight.”

Other mutual friends — who weren’t identified in court papers — described Vanags as unstable.

Vanags was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder. He was in the Whatcom County Jail, with bail set at $1 million.

An arraignment hearing is set for April 26.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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