Ervin Cox testifies how Anthony Garver stared at him when the two were housed in neighboring cells in the same jail. During the third week of Garver’s murder trial this month, Cox said that the defendant threatened to slit his throat. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Ervin Cox testifies how Anthony Garver stared at him when the two were housed in neighboring cells in the same jail. During the third week of Garver’s murder trial this month, Cox said that the defendant threatened to slit his throat. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

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As murder trial enters week 4, DNA evidence takes spotlight

Dozens of witnesses have testified in the trial of Anthony Garver, who is accused of a 2013 killing.

EVERETT — In jail, Anthony Garver told at least two inmates he stabbed Phillipa Evans-Lopez to death in 2013, according to testimony in his murder trial.

One witness was a Snohomish County Corrections deputy, Boakye Acheampong. He overheard Garver arguing with another inmate, Jonathan Crawford-Nelson, on the evening of Oct. 18, 2013.

“If you said you killed that girl, you’re a piece of (expletive),” he recalled Crawford-Nelson saying.

“I killed that girl, you mother (expletive),” Garver reportedly replied.

When the jail guard asked Garver about what he’d said, he said he’d been speaking in metaphor, according to the testimony.

Crawford-Nelson will not take the witness stand. He died a mysterious death sometime in 2016 or later. His remains were found in 2018 in Mill Creek.

Court records show Garver has a lengthy history of mental illness, manifested by grandiose delusions and threats of violence. For years after his arrest, he’d been found not competent to assist in his defense.

A judge found him competent to stand trial earlier this year.

Anthony Garver talks with his attorney at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Oct. 4. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Anthony Garver talks with his attorney at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Oct. 4. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Over the past three weeks, dozens of witnesses have testified in Garver’s first-degree murder trial, for the death of Evans-Lopez. He’s accused of tying the petite young woman’s limbs to a bed with electrical cords and stabbing her more than 20 times. DNA recovered from one of the cords was plugged into a national database. It came back as an apparant match for Garver’s genetic profile.

Ervin Cox, an inmate who was later convicted sex crimes, testified he’d been having a fairly pleasant talk with Garver — or “Gardener,” as Cox called him on the witness stand — while in a segregated cell one day in summer 2013. Garver scowled at him.

“I was wondering at the time … if he could actually see through those eyebrows of his,” Cox testified.

Garver’s mood soured suddenly, for reasons that Cox couldn’t figure out.

“He said that he had stabbed a girl 20 times,” Cox said, “and when he got to prison, he was going to cut my throat.”

Cox sent a kite, or note, to jail staff, alerting them that he feared Garver had a “death warrant” out for him.

Garver’s defense attorney Jon Scott called the ex-inmate’s memory into question. In the kite, Cox clearly claimed Garver had threatened to hurt him, but did not say Garver made a specific reference to the murder, during the death threat. In the note, Cox said Garver admitted to killing a 15-year-old girl. (Evans-Lopez was 20.) Cox conceded on the stand that the kite was more trustworthy than his recollection.

The two inmates had been talking about computer memory cards, according to Cox.

Garver knew his way around computers. He told a sheriff’s detective in July 2013 that he could code in C++, and it was the only way he made cash, outside of begging. In Everett, he’d been living off $50 to $100 a week, ever since catching a ride out of Spokane a few months earlier, he told the detective.

Detectives believe Garver met Evans-Lopez at a McDonald’s on 41st Street in Everett early June 14, 2013. One of her friends ran into both of them that night at a Walmart in Everett. The friend testified Evans-Lopez believed the man, Garver, could help her hack gift and credit cards.

A bail bondsman and his daughter found the body of Evans-Lopez on June 17, 2013, in an upstairs bedroom of her boyfriend’s rented home in Lake Stevens.

On July 2, 2013, Garver sat down at the same McDonald’s in Everett where he’d been seen on camera with Evans-Lopez. He was working on a laptop while wearing headphones. He did not notice police converging on him until they were about a table away. He was arrested and charged with murder.

On the computer, a digital forensics detective found photos of Evans-Lopez’s boyfriend, Lance Cleator, as well as evidence that someone had been searching Google for diagrams of neck veins, how to kill oneself by slitting a throat and “murder in Lake Stevens,” according to testimony last week by sheriff’s detective Tyler Quick. Someone who was using the laptop had apparently clicked on a article covering the initial news of the homicide.

He found evidence the computer’s internal clock had been manipulated. Many files had been deleted, but could still be found in so-called “free space” on the laptop, where deleted files can still be recovered if they’re not overwritten. Police believe the laptop was stolen from Cleator’s home.

Earlier, deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter expected the state could rest its case by the middle of last week, but on Monday, the state was still calling crime lab investigators to testify about the evidence recovered in 2013.

The second-to-last witness on the state’s list, forensic scientist Mariah Low, took the stand in the late afternoon Monday. She testified about her forensic analysis of electrical cords used in the killing. Some initial tests were inconclusive. Only one swab — from the cord used to bind the left wrist of Evans-Lopez — came back as a positive match for two genetic profiles: the slain woman and Garver.

The chance of a false positive, Low said, was 1 in 85 billion.

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

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