Defendant Anthony Garver listens to his defense attorney Jon Scott before pretrial motions on Tuesday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Defendant Anthony Garver listens to his defense attorney Jon Scott before pretrial motions on Tuesday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Escapee’s trial begins in gruesome 2013 Lake Stevens killing

It will be a bench trial for Anthony Garver, who is accused of stabbing Phillipa Evans-Lopez to death.

EVERETT — A long-awaited murder trial is beginning this week for Anthony Garver, the man accused of tying a Lake Stevens woman to a bed with electrical cords and stabbing her two dozen times in 2013.

Garver, 31, waived his right to a trial by jury Friday, in a motion by his defense attorney.

Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas will oversee a bench trial and decide if Garver is guilty of first-degree murder of Phillipa Evans-Lopez, 20.

Charging papers say the defendant, who grew up in Spokane, met Evans-Lopez hours before he gagged and slaughtered her in her home in June 2013.

Garver has a history of schizophrenia and mental health struggles. His trial has been delayed six years, as Snohomish County judges repeatedly found him too mentally ill to assist in his defense. The case was dismissed outright because of Garver’s inability to stand trial in 2015, and he was civilly committed.

Then, in early 2016, Garver and another patient, Mark Alexander Adams, spent months loosening a window frame on a ground floor of Western State Hospital in Lakewood. Garver escaped from the mental health facility with Adams and used a fake name to buy a bus ticket to Spokane.

In the aftermath of the escape, Gov. Jay Inslee fired the head of the beleaguered state mental hospital. In the meantime, the media plastered Garver’s mug shot, with a vacant stare, in news articles statewide. It took days to catch him.

Anthony Garver (Lakewood Police Department via AP, File)

Anthony Garver (Lakewood Police Department via AP, File)

He entered a courtroom Tuesday looking like a different man: thinner, with his greasy dark hair cut short, wearing metal-frame glasses and a dress shirt collar poking out of a gray sweater.

In an evidence hearing, the deputy prosecutor, Matt Hunter, played a tense 2½-hour interview between Garver and the case’s lead detective, Brad Walvatne. On the recording, Garver claimed to be his younger brother, giving a 1994 birth date. He continued to insist he wasn’t Anthony Garver, even when the detective showed him a driver’s license of the brother he claimed to be.

Garver recounted taking a rideshare on Craigslist six months before the arrest, to cross the Cascades.

He said he often felt a “natural high” that let him stay up for days working on his computer.

“Have you ever been in a situation where things kind of mesh together, because you stay up for nights?” Garver asked.

He said he might have gone into Evans-Lopez’s home, but changed the subject, or denied doing anything, each time the detective asked what happened inside.

Walvatne told him his genetic profile had been found on the cords in the bedroom.

“How did your DNA get on that cord?” Walvatne asked.

“You’re lying,” Garver said.

“You’re not here by accident, Anthony.”

At one point, Garver conceded he’d been helping Evans-Lopez to move, so that could explain why his DNA was in the home. Then he changed his mind.

“I don’t think I was at the house,” he said.

Garver told the sheriff’s detective he’d never been to jail. In fact, he was convicted of making death threats in 2006; a federal crime of possessing ammunition after being committed to a mental institution in 2009; and criminal endangerment in 2010.

He was on probation with the state Department of Corrections when he was arrested July 2, 2013, at one of two McDonald’s where he’d been caught on camera weeks earlier with Evans-Lopez.

In a pocket, police found a folding knife stained with blood in the grooves. The DNA later tested as an apparent match to a sample from Evans-Lopez, according to charging papers.

“I never tied any woman up or killed her,” Garver told Walvatne in the interview room. “It’s horrible.”

“It is horrible,” Walvatne replied. “At least you recognize that.”

Charges of murder in the first degree were refiled in 2017, when prosecutors learned Garver’s release could be imminent. He was transferred back to the state mental hospital this year, under a judge’s orders to force him to take medication, if he refused it.

On intake, he “made rambling and loose statements, showing a somewhat angry silence toward staff and stating he was not mentally ill,” a doctor wrote in a mental health report.

“I’m here illegally,” Garver said, per the report. “I refuse to talk. My attorney is not my attorney. He told me I’m mentally ill. He recognized it because I did not get a haircut. I did not randomly move here. I’m getting released, so I’m not talking to you anymore.”

He showed grandiose delusions, about how he could “make a nuclear bomb that would blow up the sun and that he is a god.” Over time his condition improved, with adjustments to his medication.

A judge found him competent to stand trial in July.

On Tuesday, corrections deputies asked Judge Lucas to let them keep Garver in restraints because of past threats to harm or kill staff. Lucas denied the motion.

The courtroom gallery was empty for much of the day, except for a reporter and jail guards.

Opening statements are expected Wednesday.

Last year Evans-Lopez’s mother spoke with a Spokane publication, The Inlander, about her unanswered questions since 2013.

“(Phillipa) hasn’t been forgotten,” Kris Evans told the alt-weekly. “She was killed years ago, but in terms of the trial, that’s a whole other chapter. We’ve been waiting for years to move on, and until the trial happens, we’re not going to get the closure that we need.”

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

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