Trial set for knife attack

Verdict could lead to life in prison

PORT ANGELES — Jury selection begins today in the trial of a woman charged with first-degree assault and attempted second-degree murder in the Oct. 8, 2019, stabbing of a wheelchair-bound Sequim man she said had groped her.

Larisa Jean Dietz, 49, of Sequim rejected a plea offer in January 2020 in connection with the knife attack on Ricky Lynn McGowan, 58, at the Sunbelt Apartments in Sequim, where Dietz lived four doors from McGowan.

The charges against Dietz include deadly-weapon enhancements and the special allegation that McGowan was a vulnerable victim.

The maximum penalty for each charge is life in prison.

McGowan, stabbed in the neck, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and listed in satisfactory condition after the incident. He has since died.

Dietz carried a pocket knife with her, according to court records.

A 10-day trial in Clallam County Superior Court is scheduled in the case. Dietz remained Sunday in the Clallam County jail on $1 million bail.

The prosecuting attorney’s office has submitted a list of 34 potential witnesses.

An apartment manager told police Dietz and McGowan were dating about six weeks before the stabbing.

Clallam County Fire District No. 3 personnel were dispatched to the supportive housing facility, managed by Serenity House of Clallam County, following a report of a man crying for help from within an apartment.

They broke into the abode and found McGowan lying on his side in a pool of blood at about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8.

Dietz’s arms were wrapped around McGowan’s neck and upper torso while she was trying to jam her hand in his mouth, Sequim Police Officer Devin McBride said in the probable cause statement.

A bloody knife was on the floor, where there was so much blood it was unclear who was injured, McBride said.

“I opened the door and she attacked me with a knife,” McGowan told police.

“She needs to go to jail.”

He had two deep tissue wounds to each side of his neck.

“She only got my neck,” McGowan said.

McBride said an upside-down cross and the word “DIE” was painted on the exterior of McGowan’s apartment door in magenta paint.

The manager said the word appeared on McGowan’s door after Dietz had been released from the Clallam County jail six weeks earlier, and after McGowan and Dietz started a romantic relationship.

Dietz had been incarcerated for fourth-degree assault-domestic violence, resisting arrest and third-degree assault for attacking a boyfriend and biting a Sequim officer, McBride said in the report. He added that Dietz had a history of paranoia, fear and domestic violence.

Forensic Evaluator-Psychologist Amy Sellers of the state Department of Social and Health Services determined that Dietz did not “present with symptoms of mental illness that severely impair her ability to provide for her needs of health and safety,” according to Sellers’ 11-page forensic mental health report.

Sellers said Dietz has a history of repeated trauma and an established diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because Dietz did not provide an account of what occurred between her and McGowan when McGowan was attacked, “one can only speculate about the symptoms Ms. Dietz could have experienced, but not identify with any degree of certainty the symptoms she did experience,” Sellers said.

Dietz suggested, but did not verbalize, that she acted in self-defense, Sellers said.

“Ms. Dietz had the capacity to engage in purposeful behavior such as retrieving and opening a knife,” Seller said.

“This is contraindicative of diminished capacity.”

Sellers said Dietz told her McGowan grabbed her crotch on the day of the assault and could not recall when it occurred or the time of day.

Dietz said she had been upset and afraid, and did not respond for fear of getting kicked out of her apartment at the Sunbelt, where she had lived for five years.

“She recalled seeing a lot of blood and being afraid but could not recall any other details from the offense,” Sellers said.

Dietz said she had a “significant history” of childhood sexual assault, violent assault as a young adult and a pattern of violent intimate relationships, according to Sellers’ report.

Dietz, who has two sons and a daughter, was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, according to the report, which also said she had a long history of alcohol abuse.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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