Sheriff: Man stabbed to death during fight in south Whatcom County

A Whatcom County man accused of killing another man by stabbing him multiple times Sunday morning, March 22, remains in Whatcom County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

William Ralph Smith, 45, faces a charge of second-degree murder while armed with a deadly weapon for stabbing Jeremy Derek McClellan, 25, of Skagit County during a party at Smith’s home in the 300 block of Pacific Highway, in south Whatcom County.

Smith — with the word “evil” tattooed on his right arm — made his first appearance in court Monday, March 23. His voice became shaky as Superior Court Commissioner Martha Gross read him the charge and its maximum sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

Smith and McClellan got in a fight early Sunday between 6 and 6:30 a.m, Sheriff Bill Elfo said. Deputies responded shortly after and found McClellan bleeding at the front door. By the time firefighters arrived, he was dead.

Elfo was not immediately sure what led to the altercation.

Prosecuting attorney David Graham read a probable cause statement against Smith at his first appearance Monday. The statement detailed the injuries to McClellan: multiple stab wounds to his back and neck that were inflicted by both a knife and the sharp edge of a glass bottle.

Detectives interviewed Smith after the incident. According to the charges, Smith told detectives McClellan was wielding an ax, and the wounds on McClellan’s back occurred when he repeatedly fell on top of a broken bottle.

Detectives later found a blood-stained knife in Smith’s home. Smith said the blood had “inadvertently” dripped onto the knife while he was cleaning his home.

There is a mobile home and a trailer at the property, and McClellan had been staying there recently, according to Elfo. Drugs and alcohol were most likely involved in the incident, he said.

Smith has multiple felony convictions on his record. He previously lived in Clear Lake, Calif., and was convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine in 2005 before he moved to Mount Vernon.

In November 2013, he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to deliver marijuana and conspiracy to possess methamphetamine in Skagit County.

On March 21, one day before McClellan’s death, Smith posted $10,000 bail and was released from Whatcom County Jail. Smith had been arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, and attempted theft in the third degree.

Smith’s landlord had called police to report an issue with Smith on March 14, according to charging papers from that case. The next day, a sheriff’s deputy checked on the Pacific Highway property after responding to a nearby car accident and found a stolen Toyota Tundra.

Smith said he was trying to pull the Tundra out of a ditch with his white pickup truck. Inside the white pickup truck, the deputy found four types of medication — including seven methadone pills — which Smith described as “anti-anxiety pills,” charging papers said.

McClellan also had a felony history in Skagit County. He lived in Anacortes and Burlington, according to court papers. In March 2013, a Skagit County deputy attempted to detain McClellan for failure to register as a sex offender. The deputy eventually found .02 grams of heroin in his pocket, and McClellan pleaded guilty to possession of heroin. He was sentenced to one year in Skagit County Jail.

Other convictions on McClellan’s record include two counts of identity theft, theft of a motor vehicle, a controlled substance violation and second-degree burglary, all of which he was convicted of in 2012.