SPU student convicted in death at vacation home, faces 23-year term
Oscar A. Alden, 25, of Snohomish, was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder in the June 9, 2013, shooting death of Tom J. Maks, 34, in the driveway of a vacation home.
The Wenatchee World
WATERVILLE, Douglas County — A jury found a Snohomish man guilty Tuesday in the 2013 killing of a Lake Tapps man in a driveway at Sun Cove, Douglas County.
Oscar A. Alden, 25, was convicted of second-degree murder in the June 9, 2013, shooting death of Tom J. Maks, 34, who disrupted a gathering of Alden’s friends at the Sun Cove vacation home.
Alden admitted shooting Maks in the head, saying he did so to defend himself and his friends.
“Somehow I suspect if it had worked out a different way, Oscar would not be here, and it would be Tom sitting in that chair,” Alden’s attorney Max Harrison told the jury in closing statements Tuesday, pointing to Alden’s seat at the defense table.
But the 10-woman, two-man jury found Alden guilty after 4½hours of deliberation. Sentencing is set for Aug. 11, and Alden faces from 15 to 23 years in prison.
The day of the shooting, sheriff’s deputies arrived about 4 a.m. to find Maks dead in the driveway in the 100 block of Emerson Drive in Sun Cove, about six miles north of Daroga State Park. He was wearing only his underwear.
Alden and his friends, who had been staying in the house to celebrate a birthday, said Maks had behaved in an intimidating manner the previous day and invaded the vacationers’ house to terrorize them early that morning.
The house was owned by the parents of one of Alden’s friends; Maks was their next-door neighbor at the resort, staying in a house owned by his family in Fife.
In statements to police and in testimony, Alden said Maks had been overpowered in a fight with one of Alden’s friends, but appeared to be lunging to attack when Alden shot him. Deputy prosecutor Gordon Edgar told the jury that testimony from Alden’s friends, who witnessed the killing, did not support his claim.
“Tom was unarmed, nearly naked, beaten into submission, lying motionless on the ground,” Edgar said. “There was not a fight in progress, and there was no lunge.”
Harrison said Alden acted in the belief that Maks was carrying a gun, since his friends had seen one in Maks’ waistband when he first broke into the house about 3:40 a.m. And he said a forensic assessment of Maks’ body showed that he was not in the all-fours position other witnesses described when he was shot.
Alden and his group — largely alumni of Snohomish High School — testified they first encountered Maks at Sun Cove on June 8, when he came over and offered to exchange marijuana for eight .45-caliber bullets.
Alden and at least two friends had brought handguns along on the trip, and one friend took Maks up on the trade. Later, Alden’s group discovered Maks rooting through their luggage in search of prescription drugs.
Even so, one of Alden’s friends invited Maks along when the group traveled that night to a Chelan bar, with Alden acting as one of the designated drivers. The group later left quickly after the birthday celebrant, Dayton Wiseman, of Mukilteo, drunkenly stripped off his shirt and began running through Woodin Avenue traffic. They left Maks behind at the bar, and later called an ambulance to treat Wiseman for apparent alcohol poisoning.
Maks returned to the Sun Cove house after 3 a.m. June 9, when the occupants were asleep, and entered through a sliding door. Furious over being left behind, Maks pushed over the reclining chair where Alden was sleeping, punched another friend in the stomach and threatened to castrate him, and threatened to throw others from the house’s upper balcony. During Maks’ assault on Alden, a handgun fell from his waistband and Maks quickly retrieved it.
The group convinced Maks to leave the house and called police. Maks returned to the house within 10 minutes, this time without the gun, and again confronted members of Alden’s group, stripping down to his underwear in the driveway to show he was unarmed.
The ambulance summoned to treat Wiseman was already on scene, and the EMTs radioed for deputies to respond to the disturbance.
A friend yelled at Alden to get his gun. “I thought, ‘OK, the cops are coming, I can get my gun and hold this crazy guy at gunpoint,’ ” he later told deputies.
Alden and another man, Andrew Ross, of Marysville, retrieved handguns from their vehicles. Meanwhile, friend Raymond Roberts, of Everett, punched Maks to the ground, then pinned and continued to strike him until Maks apparently ceased struggling.
Witnesses said Alden approached Maks while he was crouched on all fours and shot him. Medical examiner Dr. Gina Fino said the bullet from Alden’s 9-mm Sig Sauer pistol entered Maks’ upper right forehead and exited just in front of his left ear, then embedded itself in his left arm. He also had a bullet wound to his left smallest finger.
Defense forensic consultant Dr. John Butt testified the finger wound was evidence Maks’ left hand was up near the side of his head when he was shot, not pressed to the ground in a crouch. Harrison said that supported Alden’s statement that he saw Maks move as if to attack.
“The left arm of Tom Maks was raised to a 90-degree angle from the body,” Harrison said. “Had to be. It is a fact. Cannot be otherwise. ... No, he wasn’t lunging, but Oscar thought he was.”
Alden, a pre-med student at Seattle Pacific University, has no criminal history. His mother is a nurse; his father, a Seattle physician, died in 2003. He’d been free on $250,000 bail until the Tuesday verdict, when he was booked again into the Okanogan County Jail.
Maks, a former real-estate agent and divorced father of two, had no felony record in Washington.
He had been seen behaving erratically elsewhere throughout the weekend. Police interviews with witnesses indicate he fired a gun from a friend’s front porch against his host’s wishes and threw a wad of marijuana on the counter at a nearby business, loudly inviting a female employee to get high with him. The jury did not hear those statements.
“I understand that Tom created a lot of this chaos and confusion,” Edgar told the jury, “but Oscar owed Tom more. He owed everyone more. Not only is his own life forever changed, but so are those of the people who watched him walk up and shoot someone.”
Maks’ former wife, Andrea Schaumburg-Maks, of Tacoma, did not attend the trial. In an email after the verdict, she wrote: “I am relieved to be able to tell Tom’s daughters that their daddy’s killer is locked up.”
Information in this article, originally published July 30, 2014, was corrected July 31, 2014 A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the slaying of Tom Maks happened in Okanogan County. The slaying was in Douglas County.