BELLINGHAM - The criminal prosecution of a man arrested for robbing a Bellingham Target store in December could end after he suffered severe, debilitating injuries when he attempted to hang himself in jail.
On Dec. 18, Larry J. Schabert, 52, allegedly taped two employees' hands and feet together and held them at knifepoint inside the Bellis Fair mall store's business office before fleeing with cash from its safe.
Bellingham police arrested him while he was waiting for a cab at a grocery store near the mall. He admitted to the robbery, according to charging documents filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.
In an affidavit filed in Superior Court Wednesday, Jan. 5, Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran reported that Schabert partially severed his spinal cord when he attempted to hang himself inside his cell in the Whatcom County Jail Dec. 21.
Schabert fashioned a noose out of a bed sheet that he braided into a rope, attached it to a smoke detector in the cell and attempted to kill himself, according to the affidavit.
However, the makeshift rope broke under his weight and became dislodged from the smoke detector, according to the affidavit.
Another inmate alerted jail staff, who responded and provided Schabert emergency medical aid, said Wendy Jones, chief corrections deputy for the jail. He was transported to St. Joseph hospital and then to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he remains.
Medical staff at Harborview informed Jones that Schabert possibly would remain a quadriplegic, according to McEachran's affidavit.
Schabert has little sensation in his limbs, has not shown progress in rehabilitation, and cannot care for or feed himself. He also suffered brain damage and has minimal ability to communicate, according to the affidavit.
On Wednesday, Judge Steven Mura signed a court order that allows Schabert to remain at Harborview and directs its staff to notify Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo if he is physically able to attend court hearings.
McEachran said he would monitor Schabert's treatment throughout the next several weeks. If he does not make enough progress, McEachran said he would consider dismissing Schabert's charges.
Schabert is facing two counts of first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree kidnapping. Each charge has a deadly weapons enhancement, which lengthens a potential prison sentence.
McEachran said housing and caring for a quadriplegic in the jail would be extremely expensive, and he questioned whether he would be able to put Schabert on trial if the man couldn't move, communicate well or comprehend what was happening.
"He had very serious repercussions in this case," McEachran said. "We certainly are very, very concerned with costs."According to charging documents:
Schabert had served time in prison in Arizona for robbery but was out for about a year before the Target robbery.
He told police he was living at the Lighthouse Mission in Bellingham and needed money to move out.
He was barred from the Target store on Aug. 13 for being disruptive and unruly, but store security footage showed him sitting in the store's food service area, which is near its cash registers, in the two weeks preceding the robbery.
At about 1 p.m. Dec. 18, he approached an employee in the parking lot, identified her by name and said he needed to speak to her privately.
He then said he had a knife and a gun and needed access to the store's safe. As they went inside the store, they ran into another employee, and Schabert ordered him to come with them.
After they entered the business office, Schabert told the male employee to get down on the floor and began taping his hands and feet. He ordered the female employee to open the store's safe and load cash into his bag. He taped her hands and feet and then fled the store.
The female employee was able to free her hands and use her radio to call for help. Bellingham police were notified of the robbery and began setting up a perimeter around the mall.
Dispatchers broadcast a description of Schabert to the Whatcom Transportation Authority and to taxi cab companies, and said witnesses reported seeing him leave the area on a bicycle.
A cab company reported that a man had just called for a cab at a nearby grocery store and needed to transport a bicycle.Officers responded and saw two men on bicycles near the cab. One was Schabert; he was arrested and had the cash wrapped in bill wrappers around his waistband and a knife with a 6-inch blade.
After he was arrested, Schabert asked officers, "How did you guys catch me so fast?"