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Jan. 21, 2022

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Castle Rock man on trial for attempted murder in Clark County takes plea deal

By , Columbian staff writer

A Castle Rock man who, two weeks ago, was on trial for first-degree attempted murder, robbery and assault, was sentenced Tuesday to more than two years in prison after taking a plea deal midtrial.

Mark Laurila, 52, entered a Newton plea to second-degree assault Oct. 25, after four days of trial in Clark County Superior Court. The plea allows a defendant to acknowledge that a jury could find him guilty of that crime but not admit to guilt; it is treated as a guilty plea. 

Judge Nancy Retsinas and the jury had already heard testimony from numerous witnesses, including the victim, 49-year-old Lauren Higgins of Longview.

According to court records, Higgins was giving Laurila a ride near La Center on Sept. 10, 2020, when Laurila stabbed him in the throat. Higgins suffered numerous lacerations to his upper body and throat. One laceration was deep enough that first responders could see his trachea.

Laurila’s court-appointed attorneys said he was hoping to be exonerated of all charges and that he was never trying to kill Higgins.

“As the court heard throughout trial, there’s probably not clean hands on all parties on all sides,” defense attorney Philip Ard said. “That’s not necessarily to say that somebody deserves to be stabbed in the throat, but I do think that impairment was a big part of it.”

Before ordering the agreed-upon sentence of 25½ months, Retsinas said the plea agreement seemed appropriate considering the days of trial testimony she’d heard.

Clark County sheriff’s deputies had responded shortly before 5 a.m. to Northwest 41st Avenue and Pekin Ferry Road after a resident called 911 to report that a man showed up at their home, bleeding profusely from stab wounds, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Deputies found the bleeding man, identified as Higgins, in the front yard. They provided aid until medical personnel arrived, the affidavit says.

Higgins was able to speak and told deputies he was attacked by an acquaintance named Mark, who was later identified by authorities as Laurila, court records state. Higgins said Laurila had contacted him and asked for help finding his girlfriend and car.

The two met up and planned to look for Laurila’s car and then go to ilani casino. Higgins drove them in his Chevrolet Silverado on a “back road” and stopped to urinate. Laurila began yelling at Higgins about needing to find his car and girlfriend, and then attacked him, according to the affidavit.

Higgins said Laurila pulled out a knife and stabbed him repeatedly. Laurila then jumped into Higgins’ pickup and sped off, court records state.

Cowlitz County law enforcement located Laurila in Higgins’ pickup later that morning in Kelso.