A teenager must serve more than five years behind bars for breaking into a Bellingham woman’s home at random and, while high on mushrooms and other drugs, beating her until he thought he killed her.
Wendy Zawoysky, 44, survived the random attack that morning but spoke of the devastating physical and emotional toll of the crime, ruled an attempted murder, at a sentencing hearing Tuesday, Oct. 7.
On that chilly Jan. 11 morning around 4 a.m. Zawoysky, a veterinary surgeon, heard pounding and high-pitched wailing at the front door of her home on St. Clair Street, according to charging papers. She thought it was a woman in need of help, so she cracked open the door. A 16-year-old boy she’d never seen, Jacob Allen Carmickle, pushed his way inside.
He spoke and acted oddly — that night, he’d consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms, Adderall, and beer — and more than once he told Zawoysky he needed a ride. She said OK, because she wanted to get him out of the house: Zawoysky’s young daughter was asleep upstairs. But Carmickle wouldn’t leave. He made a break for the stairs. Zawoysky grabbed at his legs. Carmickle told her he would kill her.
They fought and rolled down the stairs. Carmickle, in a drugged craze, overpowered her. He choked her, bit her and beat her head against counters. Several times he tried to snap her neck, and he tried to strangle her with a faucet hose extension. He choked her in a scissor-hold with his legs, and she passed out. Carmickle left her for dead. Zawoysky’s daughter, age 3, sat on the stairs and watched him walk out. Moments later, Zawoysky woke up dazed, covered in blood and in shock that she was alive. She dialed 911.
Outside the home, a Bellingham police dog found a wet pair of pants, with Carmickle’s school ID in one of the pockets. Police later learned Carmickle had gotten a ride from a stranger to his home on Yew Street Road. He came home naked and acting “high,” his mother told police. Officers arrested him. County Prosecutor Dave McEachran charged Carmickle, as an adult, with attempted murder.
The Bellingham Herald names minors charged in adult courts.
On Tuesday morning Carmickle, a former honor roll student at Sehome High School, pleaded guilty in juvenile court to one count of attempted murder in the second degree and, in adult Superior Court, to one count of first-degree burglary.
Zawoysky, in a soft, clear voice, explained to the judge she permanently lost some vision in her right eye, lost sensation and mobility in both thumbs from being bitten, and lost motion in her neck because of the many times Carmickle tried to snap it. She gets vertigo because of blunt force trauma that injured her inner ear.
“And I feel a continual sense of responsibility and sorrow that, really, no amount of placation can completely dissolve,” she said. “Because I opened the door.”
However, in her view, her family has suffered more than she did, as they felt so helpless standing by while she recovered.
“They didn’t have the opportunity to wake up alive, and be empowered by surviving what, at the time, did not feel survivable,” she said.
Yet Zawoysky asked Judge Charles Snyder for a sentence that’s “tempered with compassion” for everyone involved.
“Finally my hope, your Honor,” she said, “is that in some singular way, or by a multitude of small graces, that something good can be salvaged from this process.”
Chief Deputy Public Defender Starck Follis called Zawoysky’s comments “the most moving and compassionate victim impact statement I’ve heard in 30 years of criminal defense.” He asked Judge Snyder to consider a sentence that wouldn’t simply punish Carmickle, but get him help.
“As I said earlier, he’s a bright young man,” Follis said. “I know I’ve said jokingly over the past couple of months, ‘If Jacob showed up to take my daughter to the prom, I’d have no problem with it, if I didn’t know the facts about this case.’ That’s how he comes across.”
The defendant’s mother, Jenny Chakra, begged the judge for mercy.
Carmickle, now 17, read aloud one line from a written statement, “This has obviously been a nightmare for both parties — ” before he doubled over, sobbing.
He continued seconds later, through tears: “I feel like it doesn’t cut it, when I say I’m sorry. The way that I lived my life up to this was not the best choice. I don’t know why it was your house I ended up stopping at. But again, I say that I’m sorry.”
Judge Snyder approved the plea deal: Carmickle will serve time in juvenile detention until he turns 21; he plans to take high school and Running Start classes. Then he’ll begin a 14-month term in an adult prison. In all, it adds up to a total sentence of five years, eight months, plus another 18 months of probation.
Outside the courtroom Zawoysky told a reporter she felt thankful to police and others who saved her life that morning.
“I’m fortunate to be able to watch my daughter grow up, I’m fortunate to still be a contributing member of society,” she said earlier, in court. “I feel fortunate to be alive.”