Man gets 6 months for covering up 2012 homicide

He lied about friend's role in fatal shooting of roommate

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A Vancouver man was sentenced Wednesday to six months in the Clark County Jail for helping to cover up a 2012 homicide near Vancouver Lake.

Less than a week after his attorney accused the state of violating his constitutional right to a speedy trial, Zachary J. Mattson, 21, pleaded guilty Wednesday to first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

He admitted to lying about convicted murderer Matthew Starr’s role in the shooting death of their mutual roommate, Joshua R. Schenk, 25, of Vancouver.

“Of course, those stories unraveled,” said Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino.

In exchange for Mattson’s guilty plea to the Class B felony, Gasperino agreed to drop misdemeanor charges of tampering with physical evidence, making a false or misleading statement, and obstructing a law enforcement officer. He also dropped an attempted possession of heroin charge from another pending case against Mattson.

“We agreed … so we could essentially put this case to rest,” Gasperino told Superior Court Judge Scott Collier. “As you know, this case has been going on for a long time.”

“We think this is a fair resolution,” he added.

Starr, 21, admitted in November to fatally shooting Schenk after they went target shooting on Lower River Road near Vancouver Lake with Starr’s two friends, Mattson and Zackery Searcy, on Feb. 29, 2012. Starr apparently wanted Schenk dead so that he could take his valuables, according to prosecutors.

Starr initially told investigators that one of the shooting party’s rifles accidentally discharged, striking Schenk, and Starr then shot Schenk in the back of the head to put him out of his misery. In November, however, he pleaded guilty to first-degree premeditated murder. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Mattson helped Starr drag Schenk’s body to a resting place about 4 or 5 feet away from the shooting location and cover it with a plastic tarp, according to court papers. He also misled investigators about what happened on the day of the murder.

Later, Mattson confessed that “he saw Matthew Starr raise the .22 rifle and shoot Schenk in the back of the head,” according to court papers. Mattson said “he was afraid to tell the truth before because Matthew Starr had threatened to kill both he and his girlfriend,” court papers say.

Mattson was arrested Jan. 4, 2013, in connection with the case and charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance, tampering with physical evidence, making a false or misleading statement, obstructing a law enforcement officer and intimidating a witness. He spent 56 days in the Clark County Jail before charges were dismissed Feb. 26, 2013, because more investigation was needed, said his attorney, Shon Bogar.

Mattson was arrested again May 21, when all but one of the charges — intimidating a witness — were refiled. Bogar filed a motion June 5 in which he argued that by refiling the exact same charges, the state had violated Mattson’s constitutional right to a speedy trial. Defendants who are in custody are entitled to a trial within 60 days of arraignment. Defendants, however, may sign a waiver of speedy trial if their attorney needs more time to prepare for trial, which is a common occurrence in felony cases.

In total, Mattson had spent 71 days in jail related to the case, as of June 5. Court records show that Mattson signed a waiver of speedy trial on Jan. 17, 2013, which also would have been his arraignment date.

Bogar maintained his argument Wednesday that Mattson’s speedy trial right may have been violated.

“This is a negotiated agreement in a case that could have gotten ugly really fast,” Bogar said.

In addition to jail time, Mattson, along with Starr and Searcy, will be required to pay restitution of $7,866 to Schenk’s family for the cost of his burial, Collier said.

Searcy, who drove Starr, Mattson and Schenk to Lower River Road on the day of the murder, pleaded guilty in May 2013 to first-degree rendering criminal assistance and was sentenced to 366 days in prison, according to court records. Bogar said Wednesday that Searcy had a criminal history, which resulted in the longer sentence.