EVERETT — The guy in the cluttered red GMC Jimmy was supposed to be a computer whiz, according to Nicole Hydara’s friend.
Hydara wondered if he was an undercover cop. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t take drugs when they were offered. His silence made Hydara uncomfortable.
Phillipa Evans-Lopez had just met this guy Anthony Garver before bumping into Hydara, an old friend, at a Walmart in south Everett.
The women chatted for a while in the parked Jimmy early June 14, 2013.
Their conversation touched on “drugs, money, credit cards, laptops,” Hydara testified Friday in a long-awaited murder trial for Garver, of Spokane, who is accused of stabbing Evans-Lopez to death in Lake Stevens.
Hydara sat in the back, behind the driver’s seat. Evans-Lopez, 20, mentioned she and Garver were about to go to her home, where she had a computer powerful enough that Garver could use it to hack gift cards, or something along those lines.
Three days later, early on a Monday, a bail bondsman found Evans-Lopez’s body in a master bedroom of the Lake Stevens home. Her hands and feet were tied to a bed with electrical cords. The killer had slashed her throat and stabbed her in the heart many times.
Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas has been overseeing a bench trial since last week. Garver, 31, is charged with first-degree murder. His case has been delayed many times due to competency concerns.
It was DNA on an electrical cord that led police to Garver, a man with a well-documented history of mental illness. He’d been convicted of felonies for death threats, possessing ammunition after being committed to a mental institution, and criminal endangerment.
Detectives believe Garver met Evans-Lopez on that Friday morning in 2013, at his favorite hangout in Everett, a McDonald’s on 41st Street.
Restaurant manager Matthew Thesenvitz testified Garver had started coming in weeks earlier, buying drinks and working on a computer. He seemed polite. Quiet. Didn’t mingle much with other people.
Security footage showed her at that McDonald’s just after midnight on June 14, 2013. Garver was in the restaurant, too. The two went to Walmart and spent about two hours shopping in the store, sheriff’s detective Brad Walvatne testified.
The Lake Stevens woman paid in cash for a bottle of Sprite, a Samsung cell phone and fingernail accessories.
In the parking lot, Hydara said Evans-Lopez showed signs of obvious drug impairment. She showed Hydara a pack of gift cards 3 inches thick. Hydara wanted in on whatever scheme Evans-Lopez had in mind, she testified. Hydara texted her over the weekend but got no reply. Hydara thought nothing of it. She was used to that kind of talk going nowhere.
Sometime in the days before Evans-Lopez was found dead, her boyfriend’s bail bondsman, Nate Hingson, showed up to pick through thousands of dollars in designer clothes, new shoes, fine liquors — and other valuables her boyfriend acquired at a time when he was trafficking in heroin. The boyfriend, Lance Cleator, was in jail on a warrant for a driving offense.
“It is not clear,” the prosecutor wrote in a trial brief, “whether (Evans-Lopez) was selling the items on Mr. Cleator’s behalf; was stealing from Mr. Cleator and selling the property for her own gain; was raising bail money for Mr. Cleator; whether Mr. Hingson was taking property to secure an outstanding bail obligation; if Mr. Hingson was using his bondsman’s Power of Attorney authority as a cover to simply steal Mr. Cleator’s property; or some combination of all these things.”
For days last week, Judge Lucas heard stories and timelines that sometimes conflicted, from people trying to recall an evening six years ago. All agreed Evans-Lopez allowed the men to take things out of the home.
Hours later, five people in two separate groups broke into the home, tempted by a big screen TV and the other things the men saw earlier, according to witness testimony. In the second group, one of the suspects testified he wasn’t even there, and one of his alleged accomplices would not identify the two men who were with him. Four others flatly told the judge they’d broken in and had never been charged with burglary.
Two of them said they entered the master bedroom to take a TV. None of them saw Evans-Lopez, and none of them saw a body on the bed, they testified.
Meanwhile, security cameras showed Evans-Lopez and Garver at another McDonald’s, in Lake Stevens, at 7:30 a.m. June 14, 2013.
Days later, when police photographed her on the bed, she hadn’t changed her clothes.
On the security footage, Garver was wearing a black hoodie and a backpack. A neighbor testified she saw a man matching that description with Evans-Lopez outside the house around 8:30 a.m.
Deputies caught up to Garver weeks later when he was working on a laptop at the McDonald’s on 41st Street. Garver denied knowing anything about the murder. In his pocket, police found found a knife. Blood stuck in the grooves came back as an apparent DNA match for the Lake Stevens woman.
The laptop belonged to Evans-Lopez’s boyfriend. A forensic examination revealed some data had been erased, according to a trial brief by the prosecution. Some of the search history showed a person had been looking for “murder in Lake Stevens,” as well as facts about jugular veins, deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter wrote.
According to Hunter, the date and time were manipulated in a way that someone with programming experience would know how to do.
The state is expected to rest sometime this week.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.