Proebstel-area man apparently killed mother, himself

KATU VIDEO from December 3, 2008

From the Columbian, December 3, 2008

Donald Wastler devoted his life to caring for his sick, aging mother. He cooked her meals, took her to doctor’s appointments and managed her affairs.

He was a loyal citizen who volunteered on several community boards, including the Proebstel Neighborhood Association.

But court records and acquaintances reveal a darker side to the 58-year-old man. They suggest he was sometimes too devoted — to the point where his behavior became paranoid, intense and controlling.

“He was mentally ill,” said Bud Van Cleve, who served alongside Wastler on the Neighborhood Association Council of Clark County, and knew him for 12 years. “There was something that wasn’t right about him — something that set him apart from the people you met on the street. He was hard to predict.”

On Monday, Donald R. Wastler snapped. Clark County sheriff’s investigators believe he shot and killed his 86-year-old mother, Evelyn D. Wastler, a pet cat and then himself.

The shootings came less than an hour after he sent an e-mail to local media and court officials, venting about a guardianship case that restricted his duties as his mother’s personal caretaker.

A Tuesday autopsy revealed Evelyn Wastler died from two gunshot wounds; Donald Wastler died from a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, said Clark County Sgt. Scott Schanaker.

Just before 5 a.m. Monday, dispatchers received an incomplete 911 call from the Wastlers’ home, 8811 N.E. 212th Ave. When Clark County sheriff’s deputies responded, they found Donald Wastler’s body in the home’s entryway. His mother’s body was in her bedroom. A handgun was recovered from the home, Schanaker said.

Cause of concern

Donald Wastler served as his mother’s full-time live-in caretaker. He didn’t have outside work and wasn’t married.

Evelyn Wastler suffered from dementia and was bedridden, according to a guardianship case filed in Clark County Superior Court.

Donald’s sister, Patricia J. Lewis, who lives in The Dalles, Ore., filed a petition on July 7 asking for the appointment of a guardian ad litem to oversee the care of their mother. In it, she raised concern about the care being provided by her brother.

Among her concerns were sanitation problems and Donald Wastler’s “dangerous medical condition,” according to the petition.

Wastler was undergoing treatment for an undisclosed mental illness, according to Van Cleve, and became explosive when he didn’t take his medication.

The petition also claimed that Donald Wastler had prevented other family members from communicating with Evelyn Wastler. In addition, the petition stated that he was living rent-free and using some of her money to take care of himself.

Evelyn Wastler owned an 8-acre property in rural east Clark County valued at $260,300. They lived on the property in a small, 30-year-old double-wide mobile home.

In his response to the petition, Donald Wastler portrayed himself as a devoted son.

“I shop, cook, pay bills, keep up the outdoor property, manage her medication, drive and accompany her to all of her doctor and dentist appointments,” his response read.

He went on to list his daily activities in detail:

“I cook for my mom every day. She gets at least one ear of corn-on-the-cob a day when it’s available,” he wrote. “If I’m out shopping or getting her medication, I’ll bring her a Tillamook cheeseburger and some barbecued pork ribs.”

He claimed he provided much of her companionship. “My goal is to keep her smiling as much as I can,” he wrote.

In an Oct. 7 agreement, Donald Wastler was appointed guardian of his mother, with a limited co-guardian who was to check on the home and report to the court any issues about care or cleanliness in the house.

But in his Monday e-mail, Wastler wrote that the claims against him in the guardianship case were unfounded.

During their investigation, detectives said they found several notes and journals in the home that were similar to the e-mail, Schanaker said.

“Just a lot of ramblings (of) ‘everybody’s out to get me,’” he said.

Combative, paranoid

The “misunderstood devotion” theme resonated with some neighbors and acquaintances. Arthur Stubbs, co-chairman of the neighborhood council, said Donald Wastler had a history of being combative and paranoid at meetings.

Stubbs said he was stunned when he heard the news.

“The first thing that came to my mind was (he thought) nobody is listening to him and he might as well take his life and, to spare his mother’s pain or embarrassment, he should take his mom,” Stubbs said.

Wastler had filed a petition for a restraining order against Stubbs in August 2007, but a judge denied the order, saying there wasn’t any evidence of harassment.

In the petition, Wastler had claimed: “Mr. Stubbs makes a habit of interrupting statements I make at NACCC meetings in an attempt to be funny or argumentative. This has gone on for several years now.”

Stubbs said he didn’t know why Wastler filed the order. He portrayed Wastler as the one who was constantly explosive and volatile at NACCC meetings.

Still, others said he was dedicated to community issues.

Wastler served on the Camp Bonneville Citizen’s Advisory Committee and was known as his neighborhood’s watchdog.

“I think his heart was in the right place and I think he meant well,” Van Cleve said. “He tried to champion for the neighborhood, but he would go overboard … One minute he was OK and the next minute he was explosive.”