A former U.S. Marine must spend 12 years in prison for stabbing two men at a Bellingham apartment while having paranoid delusions, a Whatcom County judge has ruled.
Jonathan Lionel Pablik pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the second degree for stabbing a 53-year-old man three times in the neck with a butcher knife, then stabbing a 63-year-old man, who came to his friend’s defense, about 10 times in the ribs and torso.
Pablik, 25, had been invited into the apartment on Alabama Street that Saturday evening, Feb. 8. The men were playing a dice game.
Pablik joined in the game for about 20 minutes. He seemed normal. Then he heard a voice from the “other side” in his head, so he got up from the dining room table and walked into the kitchen, according to charging papers. He came back with an 8-inch butcher knife and, without warning, stabbed the younger man’s neck.
Two men smoking outside heard screams. They saw the two men fleeing out the door; with Pablik pursuing them with a knife. Three of the men managed to pin Pablik down. Police pried the blade from his hands. According to court records, Pablik told officers he wanted to kill the men because he was, in his words, “the Antichrist.”
Both stabbing victims survived. One had knife wounds to his upper neck, right shoulder and bicep; the other man’s skin had been punctured near the center of his chest and all along the left side of his ribs.
Pablik, a former section leader of the anti-armor platoon CAAT Black, was deployed twice as a teen, to Iraq and Afghanistan. On his second tour of duty, he earned a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement for valor for helping to save members of his squad when an explosive hit their Humvee.
Pablik returned home to Los Angeles in 2011. He struggled to reintegrate into civilian life, family said, but he remained ambitious, enrolling in film school and writing a script for a movie about post-traumatic stress disorder. Meanwhile his mental health deteriorated. He sojourned up the West Coast on a long hiking and biking trip to “find himself,” court documents said. Doctors later diagnosed him with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, exacerbated by PTSD.
Family reported Pablik missing in the Seattle area in May 2013. Police found him wandering outside a grocery store. Briefly he was civilly committed for mental treatment in Snohomish County; he was transferred to St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham to get better care, said his deputy public defender, Angela Anderson. He was released into Bellingham, a town in which he had no ties.
“He just kind of walked out the door, homeless, and quickly became psychotic,” Anderson said.
Officers arrested Pablik in January when a man on Queen Street said a complete stranger, identified as Pablik, walked up to him and punched him in the face for no reason, according to police. The blow broke the man’s glasses.
During stays at Western State Hospital this year, Pablik spoke about seeing how aliens had “ripped the spirit out of his body,” how he’d seen “Jesus in the flesh,” and how he saw signs and words that told him what to do, according to court records. He started taking his medication for a few days before a forensic mental evaluation, and a psychiatrist found him competent enough to stand trial in March. Once he stopped taking his pills, however, his delusions returned and he refused to work with his attorney.
Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder found Pablik competent to plead guilty Thursday, Nov. 21. The judge accepted a plea bargain, sentencing Pablik to 12 years and eight months in prison, plus mental health treatment and restitution of at least $14,300 in hospital bills.
If the stabbing had gone to trial, Anderson said, there would have been a strong case for an insanity defense. But Pablik wanted to accept responsibility.
“He wanted to plead guilty the day after he was arrested,” Anderson said. “He feels like it’s his job to protect the people of his country. To go off track the way he did, hurting people, almost killing them — it was devastating to him. He still sees himself as a Marine.”