Death penalty possible for Woodland triple murder suspect

Brent Luyster now faces 3 counts aggravated murder

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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Brent Luyster, 35, is accused of three murders near Woodland. This file photo shows his tattoos.

A former Vancouver man suspected in a triple homicide in Woodland earlier this month could potentially face the death penalty.

The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on Wednesday amended the murder charge against Brent Ward Luyster to three counts of aggravated first-degree murder with the use of a firearm. He also faces charges of attempted first-degree murder with the use of a firearm, and first- and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

A decision on whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty has not yet been reached. Deputy Prosecutor James Smith said Wednesday afternoon they have 30 days to decide.

In 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that he would suspend all executions in the state while he’s in office.

Luyster, 35, who has numerous white supremacist tattoos, is accused of fatally shooting Joseph Mark Lamar, 38, Zachary David Thompson, 36, and Janell Renee Knight, 43, on July 15 at a rural home southeast of Woodland. A fourth victim, Breanne L.A. Leigh, 31, was critically wounded. Luyster was apprehended the following day on Ocean Beach Highway, west of Longview.

State law allows prosecutors to pursue aggravated murder and capital punishment if any one of 14 factors apply to the case. An aggravating factor is any circumstance that increases the severity or culpability of a crime.

Smith said Luyster’s case falls under two aggravating circumstances: multiple victims and motivation to conceal a crime. The first aggravator applies in the deaths of all three victims, but the second only applies in Knight’s death. The decision to pursue aggravated murder, he said, is based on the severity of the case.

Luyster will be arraigned on the new charge Monday morning. His girlfriend, 27-year-old Andrea Sibley, is also expected to be arraigned Monday on a charge of first-degree rendering criminal assistance — a Class B felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Sibley is accused of being present at the time of the fatal shooting, driving Luyster away from the scene and assisting him in fleeing the area, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Both are being held in the Clark County Jail — Luyster without the possibility of bail and Sibley on $400,000 bail.

Four shot

The shooting came to light about 10:30 p.m. July 15 after Leigh — with a gunshot wound to the left side of her face — came to a convenience store in Woodland to seek help. She told Clark County sheriff’s deputies that she and three others had been shot at a residence at 4006 N.W. 417th St.

A SWAT unit responded to the house and found Lamar and Thompson’s bodies in the gravel driveway. Both men had been shot at close range in the head. Knight was found inside on the living room couch. She also died from an apparent gunshot wound to the head, the affidavit states. Officers found shell casings, likely from a .45 caliber, next to the bodies.

Thompson and Leigh were in a relationship and have children together. Lamar and Knight lived together at the Woodland residence, court records show.

Leigh was taken to a hospital where a bullet was removed from her head. She initially communicated with deputies by writing on paper and identified Luyster as the shooter. She also told authorities that Sibley was present during the shooting and was outside the house waiting in her vehicle, according to court documents.

A daylong manhunt led Cowlitz County sheriff’s deputies to Abernathy Creek Road, off Ocean Beach Highway, where they found Luyster and Sibley camping, the affidavit states.

Detectives seized Sibley’s vehicle, clothing and purse. They reportedly found what appeared to be blood stains on both of her shoes and inside her vehicle. The driver’s door window was also broken out. That glass appeared to match fragments found in the gravel driveway at the Woodland house, court records said.

Authorities have not yet disclosed a motive for the shooting.

Leigh said Thompson had posted Luyster’s bail in a pending Cowlitz County case from May, in which he is also facing charges in federal court for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Luyster is accused of pistol-whipping his former girlfriend and faces charges of assault, harassment and illegal firearm possession. His trial in that case is set for October.

His former girlfriend told police last month that Luyster had directed relatives and other people to find her and their 5-year-old son, according to court records. The woman said she believes Luyster was going to hurt or kill her and take their son.

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