Crime

Bellingham man get 3 years for veterinary clinic stabbings

A Bellingham man must spend three years in prison for going on a stabbing spree at two animal hospitals that he blamed for the death of his cat.

One of Charles Anthony Smith’s cats got sick in fall 2014. Smith first took the cat to Fountain Veterinary Hospital until he learned another clinic, Maplewood Animal Hospital, specializes in the kind of urinary problems the cat was having.

Two days later on Oct. 8, the cat died at Maplewood. Smith buried the cat.

The next morning he drove his white pickup to the clinic at 2869 W. Maplewood Ave. and waited in the lobby until 8:15 a.m. Smith went up to one of the veterinarians, a 27-year-old woman, and stabbed at her. He cut her thumb and left her with a small wound to her upper chest.

She tore the knife away from Smith, a 406-pound man. He whipped out a second knife and waved it at front desk workers as he fled the building. He told them they “better get the (expletive) out of there,” according to charging papers.

Ten minutes later, the pickup arrived at the Fountain clinic, 2430 Meridian St., and Smith walked inside to the front desk. He said nothing before he stabbed an employee, a 47-year-old woman, in the neck, according to police. The puncture wound near her trachea wasn’t critical.

Smith fled in the pickup. Police pulled him over at 8:44 a.m. on East Bakerview Road. He claimed he was on the way to the police station to turn himself in. He said he’d been upset about the death of his cat, so he “wanted to hurt people like he had been hurt,” according to the charges.

“Certainly, he was very emotional about the loss of his cat,” said his public defender, Shoshana Paige.

Soon after the arrest, Paige read the police reports to Smith. The mere mention of the cat brought him spontaneously to tears, she said.

Smith pleaded guilty in June to two counts of assault in the second degree and two counts of unlawful display of a weapon. Paige and the deputy prosecutor, Jeffrey Sawyer, reached a plea deal suggesting a sentence of three years behind bars plus mental health treatment.

A victims’ advocate read letters from the animal hospital employees at a sentencing hearing this week in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Deborra Garrett.

The Maplewood stabbing victim did not treat Smith’s cat. She did, however, deliver the news of the cat’s death to him. She tried to console him, she wrote. After the attack she quit her job and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Aside from traffic offenses, Smith had no criminal history in Washington state. He addressed the judge in court Wednesday, July 22. He said he’d never attacked anyone in his life.

“Never even thought about it,” Smith said. “Never used no deadly weapons. I spent 28 years in the state of Washington, and managed to stay out of trouble, never getting arrested or going to jail, and my cats and my birds was pretty much my family.”

Three other cats and seven parakeets were recovered in October from Smith’s home, an RV parked in the 5200 block of Guide Meridian.

Smith expressed remorse for the attack but also tried to justify his actions. He said one of the employees had been “thin-skinned,” and when he raised his voice one time, she and other employees “took it upon themselves to take my cat’s life to punish me.” He claimed they deceived him when they told him they would care for the cat, and that they didn’t do enough.

“It’s just been a nightmare for me,” Smith said, “and I’m sure also with the employees. But like I said, I apologize.”

He said he would serve his sentence and when he got another cat, he hoped it wouldn’t get sick so he wouldn’t have to deal with a veterinary hospital again.

In the courtroom, a group of four victims and supporters closed their eyes, shook their heads and fought back tears while Smith spoke.

Garrett approved the three-year sentence. In her ruling, she emphasized the need for Smith to get a mental health evaluation and treatment.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog and follow him on Twitter at @bhamcaleb.

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