Crime

$1 million bail set for man accused of killing friend with machete at Baker Lake

Alexander Vanags, right, appears on a video monitor in Whatcom County Superior Court Monday. He is facing a charge of second-degree murder for the death of an unnamed friend he was camping with near Baker Lake.
Alexander Vanags, right, appears on a video monitor in Whatcom County Superior Court Monday. He is facing a charge of second-degree murder for the death of an unnamed friend he was camping with near Baker Lake. The Bellingham Herald

Bail was maintained at $1 million for the Arlington man accused of murdering his friend at a rural campsite near Baker Lake over the weekend.

Alexander Vanags, 29, is facing a charge of second-degree murder, according to documents read aloud at his first appearance Monday afternoon in Whatcom County Superior Court. His arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday, April 26.

The victim has not yet been identified pending notification of family and confirmation of his identity after an autopsy, scheduled to happen Tuesday, according to a Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office press release and Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel.

Minutes before 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, Vanags called 911 from a gas station in Snohomish County to say that he had killed his friend near Baker Lake in self-defense, according to court records. Vanags told the dispatcher the victim was hitting his head into the ground and he grabbed what he could to defend himself, the court records state.

When asked if he stabbed the victim, Vanags said “Yeah I stabbed him, I thought I would die, I stabbed more than once,” according to court records. Vanags then allegedly told the dispatcher “I’m your guy, I’m not hiding anything.”

When Vanags was contacted by a Stillaguamish tribal police officer, he had a spot of blood on the shoulder of his t-shirt, and abrasions to his hands and face, the documents state. He also had blood on his work boots, pant legs, rain pants and sweater, the records show. Vanags then told the officer he had left a gun on the dash of his truck and a knife on the floorboard, court records state.

Vanags told the officer he and his friend went camping at Baker Lake, but his friend “went crazy and attacked him,” according to court records. Vanags told the officer he begged his friend to stop. Vanags said he eventually got the upper hand and stabbed his friend, killing him, court records state. Vanags then told the officer where their campsite was, records show.

Skagit County Sheriff’s deputies assisted Whatcom deputies in searching a remote area of the Mount Baker Wilderness for the victim. Baker Lake is in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, about 10 miles north of Concrete.

“We found the victim in a rural or wilderness campsite in the area of Baker Lake,” Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said, as previously reported by The Herald. “We found the crime scene and found the victim, who had been brutally murdered with an edged weapon of some kind.”

The victim was found at a make-shift campsite about 2.5 miles north of where the paved roadway ends, according to court records. He was covered with a blanket. Deputies noticed multiple injuries to his neck, face, back, arms, wrists and legs. There were approximately 10 separate wounds, court records state.

When an officer looked through the window of Vanags’ Toyota Tundra, which was parked at a gas station in Arlington, they saw a machete with a serrated, sawtooth edge on the passenger floorboard, and a handgun on the dash, court records state. The machete had blood on the blade, records show.

Arlington police, Stillaguamish tribal police and Snohomish sheriff’s deputies helped locate and arrest Vanags.

Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.

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