Ridgefield man gets 15 years in stabbing

Fandrich attacked man, 70, outside Cascade Park Starbucks

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

A Ridgefield man was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for stabbing a 70-year-old man in a random attack March 11 outside a Starbucks coffee shop in Vancouver's Cascade Park.

Scott C. Fandrich, 56, expressed remorse Friday for the stabbing, which he committed after he stopped taking his antipsychotic medications. He pleaded guilty Friday in Clark County Superior Court to second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault.

"I didn't know; I wasn't in my right mind," Fandrich said. "I feel for what he's gone through that day. I hope the best for him. Please, forgive me for what I did."

The victim, Jerry Kush of Battle Ground, nearly died from stab wounds to his neck, abdomen and the side of his chest. Fandrich also stabbed Vancouver resident Jerry Nehnevaj as that man attempted to rescue Kush. On Friday, the now 71-year-old victim credited Nehnevaj with saving his life.

"He (Fandrich) picked me out," Kush said Friday. "I don't know why he picked me out."

Turning to Fandrich, Kush said: "You took a lot from me, buddy, and I didn't deserve that. I was trying to be nice to you, and you tried to kill me."

Kush said he continues to deal with the ramifications of the attack, including nightmares, a fear of strangers, depression and $222,000 in medical bills. He said he has to take medication for an injury to the carotid artery for the rest of his life. His insurance providers, Medicare and Moda Health, so far have denied his claims for the medical care, he said.

Plea deal rejected

Judge Barbara Johnson rejected a plea deal between the prosecution and defense attorneys for a sentence of 144 months. The standard range for the crime, with a dangerous weapon enhancement, was 144 to 219 months.

Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino said the deal maintained the original charges filed against Fandrich but gave him credit for his history of mental health problems and his lack of previous felony history.

Johnson said the plea bargain didn't go far enough to protect the public.

She sentenced him to 182 months in prison and 36 months of probation. He'll be required to seek mental health treatment and anger management classes after his release and is prohibited from making contact with Kush for a period of 100 years.

"We can't put the physical condition back together, but hopefully, this will protect the public and provide Mr. Fandrich with the help he needs," Johnson said.

Fandrich's attorney, Jack Peterson, said charges in his case were delayed because of concerns about his client's mental health. Fandrich was in mental health court in 2012 after a self-inflicted gunshot wound. At the time, his family told law enforcement that Fandrich had never sought a mental health diagnosis because he feared he would lose his concealed handgun permit, according to a Clark County sheriff's incident report requested by The Columbian. He was given medications for his psychotic condition, which may be schizophrenia, but went off them shortly before the March 11 attack, Peterson said.

In April, Western State Hospital found Fandrich competent to aid in his own defense in the case, which is the legal standard for mental competency in criminal cases. Peterson said Fandrich is competent when he routinely takes his medications, but he was not on medications at the time of the attack.

Kush said that he was smoking and having coffee with two friends at the coffee shop, 11502 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., when Fandrich approached their table. He apparently had overheard the group discussing cars. Fandrich asked Kush if he would take a look at a car he was considering for purchase; he said it was parked outside, Kush said. At first, Kush said he cordially declined but then agreed after Fandrich persisted. Once outside, Fandrich asked Kush to join him on a test drive. Kush said he and his friends were alarmed by Fandrich's behavior, so Kush refused. He said tried to walk away, but Fandrich followed him.

He told Fandrich: "I'm getting ready to leave, and I wish you would, too."

Account disputed

Fandrich responded by stabbing him in the abdomen, Kush said. Fandrich toppled him to the ground and stabbed him repeatedly. Nehnevaj, now 50, was stabbed in the right leg as he tried to intervene.

Kush was hospitalized for nine days at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center during which he required five blood transfusions and two emergency trauma surgeries. His wife, Sharon Kush, said in a previous interview with The Columbian that on the night of the attack she thought her husband would die. She called his grandchildren to his bedside at the hospital to say their goodbyes.

A probable-cause affidavit issued by Vancouver police investigators initially indicated Fandrich attacked Jerry Kush after they had a conversation about religion.

Hamza A. Shariati, 21, told police that he met Fandrich at the coffee shop to discuss religion, according to the affidavit. During the conversation, Shariati said, Kush approached the table and chatted with them about religion and cars, the document states. Shariati also told police that Fandrich had spoken in the past about "his willingness to die for Islam."

However, according to Kush, he never approached Fandrich's table, and they never talked about religion before the attack.

The attack happened at one of the busiest intersections in Clark County. Multiple passers-by helped to detain Fandrich, including a man who obtained a shovel and wielded it to persuade him to stay put until police arrived.

"It seems like such an ordinary place to have something so bizarre happen," Johnson said.