PORT ANGELES — A Clallam County Superior Court jury has found a 50-year-old Sequim woman guilty of attempted murder and assault involving a bloody 2019 knife attack on a physically disabled man she had befriended.
Following a 4:30 p.m. Friday verdict in the two-week trial, a sheriff’s deputy led an impassive Larisa Jean Dietz to the courthouse’s basement jail.
There she will await a hearing at 1:30 p.m. July 9 in Clallam County Superior hearing, when Judge Simon Barnhart will set a sentencing date. Dietz did not react to the verdict nor testify on her own behalf.
After more than eight hours of deliberation over two days, the six-woman, six-man panel found her guilty of felony attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault in an attack on the late Ricky Lee McGowan, 58.
McGowan was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle following the assault, recoverring from multiple neck injuries. He died of causes unrelated to the attack.
The jury added two special-allegation verdicts to each conviction.
In one, they decided Dietz knew or should have known McGowan was vulnerable and incapable of resistance when she attacked him in the early evening hours of Oct. 8, 2019 in his tiny apartment at the Sunbelt Apartments in Sequim.
McGowan had broken his hip a month earlier and used a wheelchair or walker to get around.
The jury also determined Dietz was armed with a deadly weapon, a 2-inch folding knife she wielded to cause multiple lacerations and punctures to McGowan’s neck — 55 cm, or 21.7 inches, of wounds, including a severed jugular vein.
Dietz lived four doors away from McGowan, often buying him groceries to help him out, according to court records.
The two would would often “hang out” together and drink, Dietz’s lawyer, Karen Unger of Port Angeles said Thursday in her closing argument. They were drinking the night of the attack, according to court records.
McGowan was known to fall out of his wheelchair, inebriated, Sequim authorities said.
Unger admitted Dietz attacked McGowan, focusing on why she committed the assault.
Dietz was molested in grade school, attacked at age 13, and assaulted by five people who beat her and removed her clothing at age 24, she told mental health evaluators.
They determined she has post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder and substance abuse disorders, according to court documents.
She was determined to be mentally competent to stand trial.
Dietz had claimed that McGowan had groped her, according to court records.
“I’m not saying that Larisa didn’t use the knife on Mr. McGowan’s throat. She did. But that doesn’t make her a murderer. And that doesn’t mean she attempted to kill him,” Unger told the jury.
“It means that she’s responsible for the injuries he sustained, and you’re going to have to decide whether she intended to do it, whether her mental state prevented her from forming … [if] she lacked the capacity to form the intent, or whether you think she did something less than trying to murder someone.”
Eleven minutes elapsed between the 9-1-1 call that alerted residents of the Sunbelt Apartments to McGowan’s cries for help and emergency medical personnel attending to his wounds.
“So when you think about intent to kill, you’re being told that she intended to kill him, and yet with all the time she had with this person who was on the floor and couldn’t get away, she didn’t finish the job,” Unger said.
According to testimony, McGowan lost three units of blood in the attack— nearly a third of the blood in a human adult, according to redcrossblood.org.
Unger said the wounds were not deep and McGowan had stopped bleeding from his jugular at the Sunbelt, before he was airlifted to Seattle. No medical experts testified his wounds were life-threatening, she said.
But Michele Devlin, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, and Sarah Woolman, deputy prosecuting attorney, said Dietz was intent on murdering McGowan.
“She keeps stabbing him,” Woolman said.
Dietz did not stop at a few strikes with the knife, nor did she stop assaulting him after emergency responders rescued him.
“She tries to go at him again while they are dragging him out of that room,” Woolman said.
Emergency personnel had to force their way through McGowan’s locked door — latched shut by Dietz, according to the prosecution — to respond to McGowan’s cries for help.
Emergency personnel found Dietz’s folding knife near her on the blood-slick floor.
During her rebuttal to Unger,
During her rebuttal to Unger, Devlin slowly displayed the weapon to jury members one by one, responding to Unger suggesting the attack was not serious.
“Yeah, that’s a small blade,” Devlin told them. “It’s serrated. There’s hair and chunks of tissue on it.”
Devlin said Dietz took steps to kill McGowan when she stabbed him in the throat, screaming she was a victim only when emergency responders arrives and “she has an audience,” Devlin said, calling the attack a case of Dietz’s “misdirected rage.”
In her anger, Dietz inflicted multiple stab wounds and lacerations to the neck, forcing emergency personnel to tie off the wound at the jugular to stop the bleeding, Devlin said.
“Why else would he go to the trauma center in Seattle if his injuries were not life-threatening?” she said.
Devlin said the “horrible things” Dietz has been through may explain her behavior but don’t excuse it.
She said Dietz’s actions were “purposeful” by locking her and McGowan inside the room with the door’s deadbolt, which had her fingerprints.
“She found her knife in her purse, she opened it up, and she used it, and now she’s ashamed about it,” Devlin said.
Dietz’s criminal history will be a factor in an offender score that Barnhart will consider in sentencing her.
Over the last 18 years, Dietz has had 15 criminal cases filed against her, according to court records.
They include multiple charges of domestic violence assault. She served a year at the Washington Corrections Center for Women at Purdy on assault charges, according to court records.
On Sept. 11, 2019, a month before she attacked McGowan, Dietz was sentenced to 364 days in jail with 334 suspended, and credit for 30 days served, for fourth-degree-assault domestic violence.
That incident occurred July 12, 2019 in Sequim.
The victims were her domestic partner and a Sequim police officer, according to court records.
A witness to the incident said Dietz repeatedly hit her domestic partner and shoved him into a fence, according to a probable cause statement.
She was required to complete a certified domestic violence program by Oct. 11, three days after her attack on McGowan.
Of five appointments at Trillium Treatment Center in September, she was excused from two individual sessions, was present for a brief session, and had a urinalysis test and a domestic violence assessment at the other two, according to court records.
She minimized and justified her abusive behavior by saying she was a victim and said she was unable to control herself due to previous abuse and chronic trauma, according to the records.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at email@example.com.