Happening nearby: Edmonds woman describes fighting off alleged attacker on local beach

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An Edmonds woman that prosecutors say was the victim of attempted rape and murder on a deserted section of beach south of the Edmonds last summer took the stand Thursday to testify in the trial of her alleged attacker, 59-year-old Charles F. Fisher of Edmonds.

The jury listened as prosecutor Matthew Baldock led the victim through more than two hours of emotional, sometimes tearful testimony, during which she methodically detailed the events leading up to the alleged attack, the attack itself, and its aftermath.

On the day of the attack — June 26, 2016 — the victim said she began with “some housecleaning” so that she could feel accomplished before taking the afternoon off for one of her favorite pursuits: sketching the scenery on Edmonds beaches while hunting for sea shells, rocks and other treasures. Carrying her art supplies, cell phone and an empty collection bag, she set off in the early afternoon.

“It was an absolutely gorgeous day,” she recalled. “Sunny with temperatures in the low 80s. Just a perfect beach day.”

Describing the beach south of the Edmonds dog park as “one of my all-time favorites,” the victim headed there to escape the crowds that had gathered at Marina Beach Park. Walking through the dog park, she left via the south gate and proceeded down the beach toward Woodway. Along the way she found some “really large clam shells,” which she photographed and texted to her husband, who was gone for a few hours on a classic motorcycle ride with friends. But her big find for the day was a complete Moon Snail shell, “the first I’d ever found after years of looking.”

She proceeded further down the beach almost to where the sandy section ended, at which point she turned to head back. Noticing the tide coming in, she picked up her pace to avoid being caught by the rising water.

She soon saw a man in the distance walking toward her. As they got closer, she noticed he was shirtless and wearing grey sweatpants. She said he appeared “fit, tan and looked clean-cut.” As they converged she realized that due to the rising tide they’d have very little room to pass on the narrow strip of sand.

“As we passed he opened up his stance to me, and it looked like he was going to hug me,” she said. “But instead he punched me very hard in the side of my head, right in the eye socket, knocking me down.”

She testified that the attacker immediately jumped on top of her and began “pummeling me relentlessly without saying a word.”

Despite her asking, “Sir, why are you doing this to me, why are you hurting me?” the attacker remained silent. She attempted to get up, but he kept knocking her down.

To get the man talking, she began asking repeatedly “what do you want,” to which the attacker finally responded, “I want to f— you.”

“At this point I realized that I was all alone, and that no one else was in sight,” she said, “and that the only way to stop the physical attack was to agree to his demand, but that only seemed to make him angrier, the attack intensified, and I started screaming.”

Angered by her screams, the attack became even more furious as he tried to suppress her screaming by choking her with his arms and hands.

Testifying that “the attack seemed to last forever,” the victim described how the attacker would periodically lower the intensity to catch his breath, but that this was always followed by increased fury. After one such pause, “he hit me with a very powerful punch, and for the first time I was concerned that I might black out. That’s when something told me that things had changed.”

Saying “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to f— you, I’m going to kill you. I’ll drown you. You won’t be able to scream then,” the attacker grabbed her and looked directly into her eyes.

“I remember so clearly the brilliant blue of his eyes staring into mine,” she said. “And as our eyes locked, he said to me very calmly and clearly, ‘So…goodbye,’ as he started dragging me into the water.”

The victim grabbed on to a rock and “held on for dear life.” She testified she was getting tired and “knew I couldn’t last much longer.”

And then, she said, something snapped.

“I just got very angry,” she said. “I thought ‘no, I’m not going to die this way,’ got a huge burst of energy, managed to slip free, and started running. I remember playing softball as a kid and being told to just run for that base and never look behind you because it will slow you down. So I ran as fast as I could down the beach and didn’t look back once.”

She began screaming for help, and her cries caught the attention of Jeff and Emily Hovde of Edmonds, who were walking on the service road that parallels the railroad tracks to the east. Jeff climbed up on the tracks, saw the victim and motioned her to climb up the railroad bed and join them. He called 911, and officers from Edmonds, Woodway and a Lynnwood K9 unit responded within a few minutes. While still on the tracks, the victim and the Hovdes observed a man coming toward them and climbing up into the heavily overgrown slope above the tracks adjacent to the dog park.

Earlier testimony from Lynnwood K9 officer Jake Hubby described arriving at the scene and being directed to the slope where witnesses said a man had disappeared into the underbrush. He deployed his dog Edson, who picked up the scent, and located and subdued Fisher partway up the slope. Edson was followed up the slope by Hubby and three other officers, who apprehended Fisher and led down from the embankment.

By this time the victim was being treated by EMT staff in an aid car, and her husband had arrived on the scene. Officers approached the victim and asked if she could tell them if Fisher was her attacker.

“They led him over to the ambulance, and I could see him clearly out the window,” she said. “He was wearing other clothes, and I wasn’t completely sure at first if he was my attacker. I asked the officers to have him take off his shirt, and as soon as I saw his chest and torso I knew he was the one who attacked me.”

The victim was next transported to the Swedish-Edmonds emergency room, where according to ER physician Dr. Gregg Miller, she was treated for multiple cuts and bruises and a severe laceration to her knee, and was evaluated for skull and neck trauma.

The trial continues on Friday, when Fisher’s defense team will cross-examine the victim. The trial is expected to last into next week.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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