3. What Happened to Carla Shaffer? The Stabbing Incident – December 2005 

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What Happened to Carla Shaffer? The Stabbing Incident – December 2005 

According to reports from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office (SJCSO), on the frosty morning of December 14 of that year, Carla Shaffer, completely nude and covered in blood, stumbled into the yard of Rick Boucher. She called Rick by his first name and then murmured something he was unable to understand. Shocked, Rick took Carla into the house, where his wife Theresa wrapped Carla in a blanket and he called 911. Emergency medical personnel began to arrive ten to fifteen minutes later.

Carla muttered something about being afraid that he would get her. When Theresa Boucher began to pray out loud, Carla insisted that she stop, and asked Theresa if she knew about the “mind-control people.”

One of the emergency personnel first on the scene described Carla as being in an “altered mental state” and reported that she repeatedly asked the medical personnel not to move her. When asked why, Carla stated that someone was on their way. At one point she said that this person would be flying in and that someone was using mind control on her. After being transferred to an ambulance, Carla remained incoherent and was unable to be interviewed. A statement from another Fire Department first responder who dressed Carla’s wounds reads, “She only mumbled and was not conversational in any way. I did not hear her make any statements that I could understand.” Still another responder reported, “At no time did she tell me what had caused her injuries.”

SJCSO Sergeant Vierthaler was also not able to interview Carla in her confused state. She became so agitated that medical personnel deemed it necessary to restrain her and partially sedate her with Versed. Carla was transported by ambulance to the Orcas airport and then flown by Airlift Northwest to St. Joseph Hospital (now called PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center) in Bellingham, a short distance across the water by helicopter.

The SJCSO officers arranged for Bellingham police officer Rick Baker to meet Carla’s helicopter. Officer Baker reported that on arrival, Carla was still unable to speak coherently and so he did not learn anything more about what had happened to her.

Meanwhile, back on Orcas, the police and Richard Boucher found Carla’s car, a Volvo station wagon, a short distance away from the Boucher residence. The driver’s door was open and the engine was off, but the key was still in the ignition, and the interior was splotched with blood and dotted with what were described as small red seeds. Officers impounded the car, had it taken to a secure garage for inspection, and took the ignition key to be tested for latent prints.

SJCSO officers quickly drove to Carla’s home at #18 Opal Commons. As they approached, they noted more of the red seeds in the parking area, and a small amount of blood on the entrance gate and latch. At the foot of the front porch was a pile of towels or rags with what appeared to be blood all over them. Drops of blood were apparent on the lowest porch step, and the doorknob also had a smear of blood. Sergeant Vierthaler reported that when officers opened the front door and announced themselves, they were very surprised to be greeted by Carla’s neighbor, Deborah Martyn.

Deborah Martyn had been a friend of Carla for many years. According to the statement Martyn gave to police, on the morning of December 14, another neighbor, Molly Roberts, had suggested that Martyn clean up the mess in Carla’s house as an act to help Carla.

As described in Molly Roberts’s statement to the police, when Roberts was preparing to leave for work, she had noticed that the doors to Carla’s house and sleeping cottage were open. Carla and her car were gone. When Roberts peeked inside Carla’s main house, she noticed broken glass and blood on the floor. At first, Roberts assumed that Carla’s cat had been injured and Carla had taken her pet to the vet. But then, because Roberts was a nurse and aware of Carla’s medical condition, she thought Carla may have had an esophageal bleed and gone for help. Because she needed to get to work, Roberts suggested that Deborah Martyn help Carla by cleaning up her house.

The officers immediately told Martyn to stop cleaning and come to the station to make a full report of everything she’d done. At the police station, Deborah Martyn completed a detailed handwritten description of everything she had done, including a drawing of how all objects in the kitchen had been positioned when she arrived in Carla’s house.

In her statement, Deborah Martyn described that she found blood smears in multiple places. On the floor in the kitchen was a pool of red liquid surrounding some broken jars as well as one unbroken one full of oats, lids, several knives, and the scattered red seeds. At first, Martyn thought the red liquid might be syrup or beet juice, but later suspected it was blood. She recognized the red seeds as lentils, which Carla believed had healing properties.

The oven door was open, with spatters of blood inside and out, and a smear of blood was on a stove control knob. A window had been broken, with cracks radiating from a small hole. In a follow-up interview, Martyn stated that she thought Carla might have climbed to reach the jars and then fallen. She had no idea that Carla’s home would be considered as a possible crime scene by the police, because on that morning, she had no idea what had happened to Carla. By cleaning up, she believed she was doing her friend a favor.

The officers from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office secured Carla’s house and asked for the assistance of the Washington State Patrol (WSP) forensics department to process the scene. When those technical experts arrived, they spent considerable time taking photos, fingerprints, and other samples.

The WSP Crime Laboratory report on the fingerprint processing contains a detailed list of all the places fingerprints were taken, both from Carla’s car and Carla’s home. This sentence appears after each item on the list:

No latent impressions of value for identification purposes were developed.

In other words, the impressions collected by the forensics professionals were not good enough to be used for identification purposes. This is not uncommon in forensics; many surfaces do not retain fingerprints well, and often prints are too incomplete or smeared to be usable.

In one of the official records, Sheriff Cumming of San Juan County indicated that the blood spatters in Carla’s home were consistent with self-inflicted wounds.

Figure 1 in Appendix A shows a summary report of the events of December 14, 2005 from Deputy Clever.

On December 14 and subsequent days, the SJCSO officers interviewed everyone on the island who might have information about what had happened to Carla. A summary report of interviews by Detective Buchanan conducted on December 15, 2005 (Figure 2 in Appendix A), the day after the incident, indicates that neighbor Deborah Martyn stated that she believed that Carla may have inflicted the injuries to herself as the result of health issues and that “something chemically went freaky.” In the same report, another Orcas resident explained:

… due to SHAFFER’s battle with her health, she may be capable of hurting herself.

Another report by Detective Buchanan (Figure 3 in Appendix A) contains a statement from Deborah Rudometkin, a longtime friend of Carla’s, in which Rudometkin stated that she felt concern for Carla, who had related to Rudometkin incredible tales of sexual abuse by her father. According to Rudometkin, Carla told her that her (Carla’s) father had been abducted by aliens and both she and her father had been genetically altered, and that her father wanted to have sex with her because he needed to have sex with a fellow alien.

Rudometkin noticed that Carla had been “extremely euphoric” for the last few days and had recently had “all kinds of spiritual breakthroughs.” Carla also told her that she had been crying on the floor four times a day recently and that she “had learned so much.” She also said that Carla had difficulty focusing on any single thought, and that Carla had seemed obsessed with red lentils. When the detective asked if Rudometkin believed that Carla could have inflicted the injuries upon herself, Rudometkin responded that she believed it was possible. According to several people interviewed by authorities, Carla seemed to be having manic swings in her moods.

While interviews and investigations were taking place on Orcas Island, Carla was in St. Joseph’s hospital in Bellingham. SJCSO Deputy Brent Johnson summarized his experiences on the day of the “attack” and then his subsequent visits with Carla and family in the hospital, in a six-page report. (Figures 4.1 through 4.6 in Appendix A.)

On the first page, Johnson summarizes the events of December 14, affirming what others had already said. On page 2 (Figure 4.2), Johnson stated that the Bellingham police officer (Baker) who met Carla on arrival at the airport said he tried to talk to the victim, but she could not speak coherently. Later Baker was told that Carla had said “I don’t know what happen…happen at home…don’t know who did it.” SJCSO Deputy Johnson stated that Carla made it very clear to hospital staff that she had not been sexually assaulted. Then the hospital required the officers to get a search warrant before they would allow anyone to speak to Carla.

Carla’s daughter Karina stated to Johnson that Carla had told her no one on the island was in danger from who did it and the Sheriff’s office would not be able to arrest the person that had done this to her. Karina said her mother told her that the person was from the spirit world.

When Deputy Johnson was allowed to interview Carla in the hospital, he reported that Carla told him that she had become hot while sleeping in her “cottage” and so had taken her clothes off and placed them next to her bed. During the night she had to use the bathroom, so she got up and ran to her house naked, despite the fact that the December night was frigid.

At this point, Johnson reported that Carla said “someone grabbed me, as I ran into the house…I didn’t see it’s (sic) face.” When questioned further, Carla told Johnson that she didn’t “physically feel his hands” and that she “did not believe it was a physical person” but believed it was a “struggle between Light and Dark” and that she heard a “spirit voice.” When asked if the voice sounded familiar, she said “It was not a human voice.” Carla said that “the Light kept telling her to look at the Light,” that “it was the supernatural doing the attacking and talking,” that “It was a spiritual fight only targeting me.” She told Deputy Johnson that she didn’t think they could get this person because he was not of this world. (See Figure 4.3.)

On the fourth page of Deputy Johnson’s summary report (Figure 4.4), Johnson stated that Carla told him that she believed the “attack” was a test because she had recently been obtaining a bigger understanding of humanity. When questioned about the knives found on her kitchen floor, Carla said they were hers and that she had been kneeling on the floor when she was stabbed and had also been hit in the face with a jar of red beans. She stated she was alone during the “attack.” She told Johnson that the Light told her to go to the car and run to Boucher’s place and warn him not to let anyone in.

Further, in Deputy Johnson’s summary report (Figure 4.4), Johnson stated that he “observed no defensive wounds” or grab marks on Carla, and that he also noted that Carla’s surgeon told him “she found no defensive wounds on Carla.” Although the surgeon went on to say that Carla’s injury to her rib and lung would take some strength to do, Deputy Johnson notes (Figure 4.5) that when Carla became agitated in the ICU, it “required 8 people to restrain her.”

Carla later called Johnson and told him that she had not tried to take her life. She stuck to her story of a fight with a spirit and said that she would not protect anyone, that she would tell if she knew who did this to her.

Carla Shaffer’s Hospitalization and Release – December 2005 

Carla’s injuries included more than 20 stab wounds. Most were shallower than one centimeter (0.39 inches) deep, which is the radius (halfway across) a U.S. penny. EMTs also noted that Carla had two broken teeth and injuries to her abdomen and a fractured rib and injuries just below her eyebrows. Carla repeatedly stated she was wounded by a “less dense entity.” Records show that she was judged by medical experts to be “gravely disabled” (a psychiatric term indicating the patient is unable to completely care for herself).

A Department of Mental Health professional can detain a person experiencing a mental health crisis for a 72-hour psychiatric hold (not including holidays and weekends). After recovering from her injuries at St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham, Washington, Carla was transferred on December 21, 2005 to a mental health facility in Sedro-Woolley, southeast of Bellingham.

During her stay in the hospital, Carla repeatedly denied any attempt to harm herself or commit suicide, but told those treating her that her wounds came from a “spiritual struggle with something trying to steal her light” and saying “an energetic” was responsible. She offered no explanation about why the stabbing incident occurred, other than to say that she was a new energy healer and agent for good. (This statement may be been linked to her usage and promotion of the Rife machine.)

After a 72-hour psychiatric hold, the patient must appear before a judge, who will determine that the individual be committed to a psychiatric center for fourteen more days or be released for the next ninety days on what is called a Lesser Restrictive Order (LRO). Carla’s stay at the Sedro-Woolley mental health facility was lengthened due to Christmas holidays, and her appearance before a judge was scheduled for December 28, 2005.

On December 27, Jim Shaffer-Bauck called Deputy Johnson and claimed that he had visited Carla (his ex-wife) in the mental health facility in Sedro-Woolley. He said that Carla’s story about what had happened on December 14 had not changed. Later, on January 4th, 2006as described in Deputy Johnson’s summary report (Figure 4.6), Jim called Deputy Johnson wanting an update. When Johnson wouldn’t give him one, Jim called Detective Buchanan and asked him for information on the case. Jim stated that he didn’t believe that Carla had done this to herself and he didn’t believe that a spirit could do this.

In his report, Deputy Johnson wrote this note:

Carla didn’t want to talk to her ex husband while she was in the hospital, so it is not known if they have any kind of relationship (friends).

During her stay at the mental health facility, Carla had put her long-time friends Markus Naugle and his wife Laura Wheelock (now deceased) on her list of visitors. Laura and Carla had been close for years. When speaking to our investigator, Markus described Carla as creative, brilliant, and although always guided by her Baha’i faith, Carla looked for truth across all religions.

Markus Naugle is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and had been off-island doing disaster recovery work elsewhere when Carla’s stabbing incident occurred on Orcas. Markus reported that when he and Laura went to visit Carla in Sedro-Woolley, Carla did not look healthy, but she was not on medication at that time and presented as being lucid and in control. She was able to convince the authorities that she was sane enough to be released.

Although Carla stuck to her story of a fight with a spirit, she seemed otherwise competent, and the court released her on December 28 on a 90-day “less restrictive treatment” order. According to the rules, Carla was supposed to check in periodically with a clinic in San Juan County. As she seemed too frail to care for herself, Markus and Laura kindly took Carla into their home on Orcas.

If a specific mental health professional was assigned to keep track of Carla or she was supposed to meet a specific schedule, Markus and Laura were not given that information. Their understanding was that Carla had been released “to herself.” Records indicate that while in the care of the medical establishment, Carla refused all psychiatric medications, and the staff honored her wish to remain medication-free.

Markus Naugle told our investigator that in the days after her release in late December 2005, Carla, who in previous years had been very fashionable, had the appearance of a homeless person. During Carla’s brief stay with him and Laura, Markus described Carla as having “manic energy, cycling in a schizophrenic sort of way.” He said she “seemed super altered.” Carla told him she wanted to be called Nahmine Attar, a Persian name she associated with her Baha’i faith.

Carla began to go on lengthy walks, or so she told Markus and Laura when she disappeared for long periods of time. As an experienced EMT, Markus suspected that Carla was not physically capable of taking long hikes in the areas she described, and on returning, Carla did not appear as if she’d been exercising. Markus began to suspect that Carla was hiding in the brush near his home and watching him and Laura. When he confronted Carla about this, she became angry and defensive and called her friends Clay Philbrick and Deborah Martyn to take her back to her own house in Opal Commons.

Here’s what Deborah Martyn told our investigator during a phone interview about this time period:

About two days before she (Carla) died, I picked her up from Markus and Laura’s house and brought her to her house. I was trying to cater to her needs and desires. I saw some mail by her phone. It was an appointment to see a psychologist, or psychiatrist. She was already late, so I whipped her into town.

She didn’t protest, just went along. They had to reschedule because she got there with only 5-10 minutes left of her appt time. It was an office upstairs where counselors saw people.

When our investigator asked if Martyn knew whether the appointment was a condition of Carla’s release, Martyn replied:

I’m not sure. It was after her release. Carla had this way to talk around things. If she had told us about her appointment, we would have been there on time. But she didn’t tell us about it. This was sure a whacked-up way of letting someone loose after a breakdown. There are holes in the system for people with mental health issues. It’s not the best. I believe counseling must have been a condition of her release; I don’t know for sure, but it makes sense. On the surface level she was coherent, talking about her garden and wanting to organize her stuff. Two days before her death she wanted organic bedding.

She was very fragile. Mundane planning about the future was therapeutic for her. Our intent was to keep things gentle and nurturing. After the first night she disappeared, we were gentle with her; she said she felt like going for a walk. She was shattered; I could sense it. That’s why we were so gentle.

Her rescheduled counseling appointment was for after she died.

When our investigator asked if Martyn knew whether Carla was taking medication, Martyn replied:

I never saw any medications.

The police records get a little muddled a few days after that, because Carla disappeared twice in quick succession from her house. In Deputy Johnson’s report (Figure 4.6), he wrote that he was told “on 01/04/05 (this is a typographical error, it was on 01/04/06) Carla had left the home and her friends didn’t know where she was for a few hours.” In a later summary report (Figure 6.1), Deputy Clever wrote that Martyn and Philbrick called the Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Taylor responded, but by the time Taylor arrived, Carla had returned to her bed. Although Martyn, Philbrick, and Taylor all tried to wake Carla, she was “just absolutely stiff and unresponsive, like stone.” Philbrick and Martyn asked Deputy Taylor to just leave Carla alone and let her sleep. Deputy Taylor agreed, inasmuch as Shaffer was clearly breathing and did not appear to be in distress.

Carla later told Deborah Martyn that she had felt “like going for a walk” the night before. When Carla again disappeared after dark the next day, January 5, her caretakers thought she might have gone for a walk again. They waited for a while to see if she would return, then searched for her in the dark hours of the early morning, and not finding her, called for help at first light on January 6.

Carla Shaffer’s Death – January 2006 

Around one a.m. of January 6, 2006, Carla again went missing from her house. Martyn and Philbrick conducted a local search and hoped Carla would return, as she had earlier. When they were unable to find her, they notified the authorities and other friends. It’s impossible now to discover who called whom and when; it’s a small community and some residents called others to enlist their help. Many of the residents of Orcas Island, including Aaravindha and Ashayrah, volunteered to participate. A widespread search was begun, with some volunteers organized into search groups by Fire Department personnel.

In SJCSO Deputy Zerby’s report (Figure 5, Appendix A) of the events on January 5 and 6, 2006, he begins by summarizing the earlier investigation of the stabbing incident as indicating that Carla Shaffer “was suffering from some form of mental illness including hallucinations, and had been treated for physical injuries, self-inflicted.”

In the early afternoon of January 6, Carla’s body was discovered in a pond a short walking distance from her house. This was the sad conclusion to the life of Carla Jean Shaffer. Some acquaintances suspected Carla may have committed suicide, but no note or other indication of that intention was ever found. Nobody can know what thoughts and images filled Carla’s mind when she walked into that pond. A police investigation concluded there was no sign of another person at her house or at the pond.

Carla may well have died from hypothermia. It was early January, and although the historical records vary a bit, they show the temperature was in the low fifties (F) or forties during the early morning hours of January 6, 2006, that it was cloudy and very damp, with humidity at 88% and dew point at 48-50 degrees F. The wind was blowing, with gusts up to 25 miles per hour. A lightly dressed person can easily become hypothermic under those conditions.

Carla wore no shoes or coat. Nobody knows how many hours she wandered around in that state. Her sweater was found neatly folded at the edge of the pond. It’s not uncommon for a victim in the last stages of hypothermia to feel so hot that they remove their clothes; this is a phenomenon known as “paradoxical undressing.”

In the early stages of hypothermia, blood vessels constrict to lessen heat loss from the skin (vasoconstriction). Eventually, however, the body’s vasoconstriction effort fails, causing blood to rush from the body’s core to the extremities. This results in a hot flash that makes victims, who in this most severe stage are already disoriented, feel as though they’re burning up. So, they take off their clothes. Many victims of winter storms are found partially undressed in the snow.

Carla was also debilitated from the effects of her long-term hepatitis C, and had experienced hot flashes before. She had completely undressed and run naked into a frosty December morning just weeks earlier, during her wounding event on December 14, 2005. She told authorities she removed her clothes then because she became too hot while sleeping.

According to the research, “paradoxical undressing” often occurs immediately before “terminal burrowing,” in which the hypothermia victim crawls into a tightly closed area or burrows into snow.

Because of these strange reactions, victims of hypothermia have been mistaken as victims of crimes. Some investigators have erroneously believed that a person who is naked and deceased is a victim of sexual assault and murder.

Did Carla walk into the water on this January night in the last stage of hypothermia, feeling as if she needed to cool off? If she was not hypothermic when she entered the pond, she would have very quickly become so in the cold water. Did she intend to drown herself? Did she believe some supernatural entity, a “less-dense being” or a force of darkness, was telling her to go into the water, or that a supernatural being was convincing her that was the way to win the struggle between Light and Dark?

Did Carla intend to commit suicide and end her battle with hepatitis C? If so, she told no one and left no note.

Nobody knows why Carla ended up in that pond. There were no witnesses.

With no sign of any other person involved and no suicide note or evidence of foul play, officials had no other option than to rule that Carla’s death was an accidental drowning. But incidents that happened later proved that some on Orcas Island refused to accept that as the truth.

Deputy Clever interviewed Clay Philbrick about Carla’s disappearance and subsequent death. Like Carla, Philbrick believed in otherworldly beings, and he shared his theory that Carla’s use of the Rife machine had caused a disturbance in the time/space continuum and five beings slipped through but had no intention of staying. They were only here to retrieve one of their fellow beings who had come through before and had wanted to stay. That being was allegedly the one who stabbed Shaffer. (See Figures 6.1 and 6.2, Appendix A.)

Most Orcas residents accepted the authorities’ ruling of “accidental drowning,” but a few refused to believe that Carla Shaffer had committed suicide or drowned by accident. They didn’t want to believe that this was a tragic case of a woman experiencing a psychotic break. They wanted to hold someone else responsible for Carla’s stabbing and subsequent death.

The investigation into this case showed that gossip runs unchecked on Orcas, and wild speculations can quickly ripple across the entire island.

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