Dakota Wolf, a former soldier who fatally attacked a 19-year-old Kirkland woman with a butcher knife in November 2011, pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder with a deadly weapon, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
As part of his plea deal, attorneys for Wolf – who was originally charged with first-degree murder – agreed to recommend a 20-year prison term when he is sentenced April 25 for the random knife attack that killed Scarlett Paxton, said Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. Donohoe said prosecutors had some proof issues proving premeditation in the case and so agreed to allow Wolf, now 22, to plead guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder.
Paxton and Wolf, who was 19 at the time, did not know each other.
On Nov. 18, 2011, Wolf – who had been assigned to a Stryker unit based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord – went AWOL for the sixth and final time, according to Army charging documents.
Ten days later, he called a friend’s family and asked if he could stay at their Kirkland house after he had a falling-out with his mother, according to charges filed in King County Superior Court. The homeowners agreed, and Wolf moved into a basement bedroom.
Around 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 30, Paxton and her boyfriend left their apartment complex in Juanita for an early-morning walk. About 10 minutes into the walk, Paxton became upset with her boyfriend, took his keys and began walking home alone, according to the charges.
The boyfriend continued his walk, and when he returned to the apartment complex just before 3 a.m., he found Paxton slumped over in front of their apartment, covered in blood and dead from a knife wound to her neck, the charges say. A Cutco-brand butcher knife was found near where she collapsed.
Investigators later found bloody prints and a blood trail that began in an alley behind a nearby Albertsons supermarket and led to the apartments, charging papers say.
Hours after Paxton was found, the owners of the home where Wolf was staying contacted Lewis-McChord officials and expressed concern that Wolf – who had shown intense interest in media coverage of the slaying and visited the scene at least twice after Paxton’s death – was somehow involved, the papers say.
Military officials contacted Kirkland police, who took Wolf into custody in the basement bedroom, where investigators found bloody clothing, several Cutco knives and an empty knife sheath that matched the murder weapon, charging papers say.
DNA tests revealed Paxton’s blood was on Wolf’s clothing; her blood and Wolf’s prints were also found on a rear wall of the Albertsons; and surveillance video from a nearby business showed a male who appeared to be Wolf walking in the area at the time Paxton was killed, the papers say.
Wolf served a nine-month sentence in a military jail before he received a bad-conduct discharge from the Army and was transferred to the King County Jail, where he has remained in lieu of $2 million bail since July 2012.