Drug homicide suspect accused of threatening to kill witness

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

A Vancouver woman arrested last month on suspicion of controlled substance homicide also is accused of threatening to kill a witness who allegedly saw her sell the fatal dose.

“‘Don’t talk to the cops about the drugs, or I’ll (expletive) kill you,’” Andrea R. Thomas told her friend, according to a court affidavit.

She allegedly made the threat after Washougal police detective Zane Freschette questioned her about the Aug. 10 death of John R. Cantwell Jr., a 40-year-old Skamania County man. He died from a methamphetamine overdose.

After the police interview, Thomas called a female friend who was with her when she allegedly sold methamphetamine to Cantwell in the parking lot of Albertsons grocery store, 5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., according to court records. Thomas allegedly warned the friend that the detective would be contacting her and then made the threat.

Several minutes later, the friend called Detective Freschette and said that Thomas had called her again.

“‘I’m going (to) go to prison,’” Thomas, 42, allegedly told the witness. “Don’t talk to the cops about the drugs, or you’re gonna get hurt.”

Thomas repeated the threat against the friend at least two more times during the following six days, court records say.

On Aug. 27, the friend reported to police that Thomas disclosed that she planned to hide from police in Virginia, court records say.

Police arrested Thomas Aug. 29 at her home in Vancouver’s Marrion neighborhood on suspicion of three counts of intimidating a witness.

She was held in the Clark County Jail on $50,000 bail while police investigators built the controlled substance homicide case against her. Her bail was increased by $100,000 after the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office indicated its intention to file a controlled homicide charge.

Thomas appeared last month in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of controlled substance homicide and tampering with physical evidence.

Formal charges against her have been delayed because her attorneys, David Schultz of Camas and Louis Byrd Jr. of Vancouver, on Monday requested that Judge John Nichols combine the witness intimidation case and controlled substance homicide case into one case and assign one of the attorneys to it. Nichols on Monday scheduled a Jan. 2 hearing to consider their request.

After taking methamphetamine he allegedly bought from Thomas, Cantwell asked his friend, Wendy Taylor, to take him to his home in Carson, according to the court affidavit. On the way home, Cantwell began “acting differently” and said he’d had an “eight ball,” Taylor told Washougal police. He started convulsing and may have passed out, Taylor said in the affidavit. An eight-ball refers to an eighth of an ounce of a drug.

Once at his home, Taylor called 911 for emergency medical help. Medics found Cantwell dead in the front passenger seat of Taylor’s vehicle, the affidavit says.

Thomas allegedly admitted to police that Cantwell had given her money, but claimed that it was intended to pay her cellphone bill, court documents say.

When Washougal police obtained a warrant to search Thomas’ phone, Thomas claimed it had been stolen, the affidavit says.

A witness later said Thomas had smashed her phone with a hammer so that police couldn’t look at its contents, according to the affidavit.

Washougal police are apparently investigating the case because Thomas and Cantwell allegedly met in Washougal before completing the drug transaction in Vancouver, according to court documents. Freschette was not available Monday for an interview.