Woodway beach attacker given 19 years

Charles Fisher maintains his innocence, requests appeal
By Brian Soergel | Feb 16, 2017
Photo by: Brian Soergel Charles Fisher did not show emotion as he was sentenced Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court.

An Edmonds man convicted of attacking a woman on a Woodway beach just south of Edmonds' popular off-leash dog park was sentenced Tuesday to 19 years for attempted murder and 7 years, 9 months-to life for attempted rape. Both sentences will be served concurrently.

A jury found Charles Frank Fisher, 59, guilty of the two charges Jan. 24 in Snohomish County Superior Court.

“I don’t question that, apart from some problems with alcohol, that you’ve been a hard-working man, a good father, a good man and a good friend to many,” Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Bowden said before announcing the sentence.

“And alcohol and drugs don’t seem to have been involved here in any way, so what caused you to act out of character may never be known or understood.”

Fisher, who maintained his innocence, did not testify during the five-day trial in January, but told the judge on Tuesday he wishes he would have.

“I’ve spent half my life coaching,” Fisher said, reading from a piece of crumpled paper. “The biggest thing I’ve learned from that in my life is respect. Giving it, receiving it, and teaching it to all my teams that I’ve coached over the years.

“I can say that I’ve been married to my wife for over 30 years, and I would never be unfaithful to her or disrespect her or (the victim), for that matter. I’m sorry to the victim for the injuries she sustained, but they weren’t done by my hand.”

Matthew Baldock, deputy prosecuting attorney, said that people fear attacks while alone, and “Mr. Fisher is the embodiment of that fear. People will be thinking about this the next time they walk along the beach in Edmonds.”

Paul Thompson, Fisher’s attorney, argued that his client’s lack of recent criminal history (he was convicted of drug possession and second-degree burglary in Chelan County in 1976), means a charge of simple assault could have been considered, which would have meant less time in jail.

Thompson said Fisher has lived most of his life in Edmonds – he has a home in Westgate – and raised four children.

“This conviction is just simply out of character for him.” Thompson said Fisher’s age also should be considered.

Despite Fisher’s lack of recent criminal history, Baldock argued that a long sentence was appropriate. As far as Fisher’s age goes, Baldock said that, “Frankly, that argument works in reverse. At the defendant’s age, he more than most should know better and should be able to appreciate the impact of his actions and the trauma that he’s caused.”

The attack

On June 26, 2016, the victim, now 42, was alone on the beach when Fisher approached her, knocking her down and punching her in the face.

After saying he wanted to have sex with her, he changed his mind and said he wanted to kill her, instead. After striking her with rocks, he then dragged her to the water, saying he was going to drown her.

She was able to escape and flag down a couple, who called 911. Police soon found Fisher, who had scrambled up a hill by the railroad tracks.

The victim, who was at Tuesday’s hearing with her husband, was taken to a hospital with abrasions, contusions and lacerations, including two black eyes, significant bruising on her body and extremities, and a gash on a knee that needed suturing.

‘Every woman’s nightmare’

In his remarks, Judge Bowden said that, if innocent, he didn’t understand why Fisher – now required to register as a sex offender – hid from police on a bank behind railroad tracks after the attack.

“I don’t know if this was planned, or simply a crime of opportunity,” he said. “The victim was simply out on a beach walk on a nice day. She didn’t know you, and you didn’t know her. The attack was unprovoked from every bit of evidence that was produced here in court.

“It is probably every woman’s nightmare to be sexually assaulted by a complete stranger. It’s a thing that people think can’t happen, particularly in a community like Edmonds. But it can, and unfortunately it did.”

Bowden also explained the reasoning behind his sentencing.

“To the extent that your children and friends lament the amount of prison time that you’re facing, or believe that you should be given a second chance, it may come as a surprise that judges really don’t have much discretion,” he said.

“The Legislature has changed things so that that discretion really rests with the prosecutor in the charging decisions they choose to make. That dictates the range in which judges must impose a sentence. There must be exceptional circumstances to go above or below that range.”

Defense attorney Thompson said that, on Fisher’s request, he will file an appeal.

Fisher’s family members – who Bowden admonished for lashing out at the victim and calling her “obviously unstable” and that “the assault or injuries could have been worse than they were,” cried and hugged each other as Bowden read the verdict.

One family member yelled out, “We love you, dad,” as Fisher was led from court in handcuffs.


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