Missouri man gets 6 years for attempted kidnapping

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: August 23, 2013, 5:45 PM

 

A Missouri man who was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for trying to kidnap a woman July 10 in the parking lot of a Vancouver Heights Safeway store said he doesn’t remember the crime because he was intoxicated from smoking synthetic marijuana and quickly drinking 10 cans of cheap beer.

Joshua Westcott, 34, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to first-degree attempted kidnapping and harassment-death threats in exchange for the prosecutor dropping a first-degree attempted robbery charge and not filing a criminal impersonation charge (Westcott gave the name of an acquaintance — Timothy W. Parker of Arizona — at the time of his arrest).

The victim, Vicki M. Wells, 57, had just finished her shift in the grocery store’s deli at 6701 E. Mill Plain Blvd. and gone to her vehicle when the incident occurred around 1:30 p.m.

Wells said the traumatic encounter in which Westcott threatened to kill her and placed her in a choke hold has shaken her sense of security.

“I am a (nervous wreck),” Wells wrote in a victim impact statement to Judge David Gregerson. “I don’t want to go out of the house. (I) don’t go anywhere by myself, if I don’t have to.”

Gregerson said that the randomness of the crime by a stranger in a public place, which most people would consider secure, is “the kind of thing that really shakes a community.”

Westcott’s court-appointed attorney, Todd Pascoe, said Westcott’s actions stemmed from a drug problem.

“If (Wells) was here, I would apologize to her,” Westcott said.

A defense investigator, Wayne Gunderson, found the beer cans at a homeless camp, where Westcott had been staying before the incident.

Westcott had left his home in Missouri to be a with a woman and see the country, Pascoe said. When that didn’t work out, Westcott traveled to Vancouver, where he was just passing through for a short period of time.

Pascoe said Westcott had sought mental health care at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center three days before the crime and had been referred for substance-abuse treatment.

Westcott approached Wells as she sat in her vehicle and asked her from some change. When she said she didn’t have any, Westcott called her a derogatory name and attacked her, overpowering her by placing her in a choke hold.

According to Wells, he said, “ ‘Come on, let’s go. I’ll kill ya, I’ll kill ya.’ ”

She was rescued by a good Samaritan, customer Emily Kountz, said Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino. Kountz interrupted the kidnapping by asking Wells if she needed help and calling 911, which prompted Westcott to flee, Gasperino said.

He may have given Vancouver police a false name because he is wanted on a warrant in Missouri, Gasperino said.

The prosecutor said Westcott’s sentence, while “not a slap on the wrist,” is significantly lower than what he would have faced had he been convicted by a jury. Gasperino said he would have likely received at least 10 years.

Westcott also will be required to undergo three years of community supervision.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts;http://facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com.