Suspect in Bellingham stabbing death makes first court appearance
Bail was set at $1 million Monday afternoon for Jesse Rene Reyes, 33, who is suspected of a violent crime spree that included the stabbing death of a 71-year-old man and assaults on two other people Saturday morning in Bellingham’s Puget neighborhood.
Reyes made his first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court, where Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Eric Richey asked for and received the $1 million bail. Reyes also was instructed by Court Commissioner Pamela Englett not to contact any of the victims or their families.
“Clearly, Mr. Reyes, by what happened here on Saturday, is a danger to the community,” Richey said Monday.
Reyes is facing charges of first-degree murder, second- and fourth-degree assault and, if convicted, could face 20 years to life in prison and fines of up to $80,000, Englett said.
Richey said Reyes is suspected of using a 3-inch folding knife to stab Donald T. Alderson 37 times, resulting in Alderson’s death.
On Sunday, Whatcom Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel, in an email to The Bellingham Herald, said the cause of Alderson’s death was blood loss from stab wounds to the chest.
Alderson’s body was found on the trail behind the Haskell Business Center, just north of Meador Avenue, Richey said.
“The witnesses observed that the male who was riding his bike away from the man down was wearing a white, blood-soaked sweatshirt, had blood on his face and was wearing a black beanie,” Richey said.
Police found Reyes walking his bike near the Boys and Girls Club and arrested him near 1800 Texas St., Richey said. A folding knife with a 3-inch blade covered in what appeared to be dried blood was located by a Boys and Girls Club employee on a field where a youth flag football game had been played while police searched for the suspect.
The first assault, Richey said, occurred at the Lakeway Teriyaki restaurant in the Fred Meyer building, before Reyes reportedly fled north past Carl Cozier Elementary School. The female victim in that assault sustained minor injuries, according to a city of Bellingham press release Saturday evening.
Richey said the victim told police, and employees corroborated, that Reyes approached and begin hitting her in the head and face without provocation.
“Employees intervened, and he left,” Richey said.
Richey said the second assault victim received minor cuts and bruises to his face and suffered a brain bleed that caused him to stay at St. Joseph’s hospital overnight for observation. That assault occurred behind Carl Cozier.
Richey said several witness reported seeing the assault, and one took a picture of the suspect leaving the scene.
“The victim said that the male punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and straddled him while continuing to punch him in the face,” Richey said.
Richey said Reyes, who wore a blue- and white-striped jail jumpsuit Monday with his hands cuffed in front of him while appearing on video from Whatcom County Jail, had “a significant amount of criminal history from Texas,” including convictions for domestic violence assault, burglary and illegal possession of firearms in multiple cases from 2015 to 2016.
Despite Reyes’ convictions in Texas, Lt. Claudia Murphy said in an email Monday to The Herald that Bellingham Police have “only had minimal contact with him here in 2018 and nothing before.”
“At this point, we have no further information as to what may have set him off on his rampage on Saturday,” Murphy said.
Murphy provided the following timeline of Saturday’s events:
▪ 11:05 a.m.: Police received the first call regarding the assault of the woman in the 800 block of Lakeway Drive.
▪ 11:09 a.m.: While responding to the first call, police received a second report of another assault of a man in the area of Lincoln Street and Potter Street. The subject’s description matched the one given in the first assault.
▪ 11:20 a.m.: 911 was called about a man down on a trail near Meador Street, and a suspect matching the description of the previous assaults was seen leaving the area with blood on his clothing and hands. Alderson died from the stab injuries before officers arrived. Officers immediately “saturated the area to try and determine where he was going.”
▪ 11:48 a.m.: A patrol officer saw Reyes in Roosevelt Park, pushing his bike westbound away from him. Reyes matched the suspect’s description “completely,” and the officer radioed to other officers. The officer also realized there was a youth sporting event happening in the park and asked that the Boys and Girls Club be called to go into lockdown. Adults in charge of the sporting event noted the law enforcement presence and asked parents and kids to go to the south side of the building, away from police activity on the north side.
▪ 11:51 a.m.: Officers called that Reyes had been detained.
Some social media comments questioned whether parents at the flag football game in the park did not receive enough warning about the dangerous situation.
Murphy said police were aware of the game and attempted to notify organizers.
“This was a dynamic, rapidly unfolding, unpredictable situation on Saturday morning,” Murphy said. “Even as officers were looking for the suspect, steps were being taken to notify the public if the suspect had not been caught. As he was caught so quickly that notification was not needed.”