Suspect in alleged stabbing of Microsoft colleague pleads not guilty to attempted murder – GeekWire

Joseph Cantrell, seen through a Plexiglas partition in King County Superior Court in Seattle on Thursday, speaks with his attorney, Public Defender John Ewers, after his arraignment on attempted second-degree murder. (GeekWire Photo/Todd Bishop)

A 27-year-old engineer who joined Microsoft last year pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to a charge of attempted second-degree murder in the allegedly unprovoked, accidental stabbing of another employee the evening of Feb. 22 on a public sidewalk near the company’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters.

The charges against Joseph Richard Cantrell come amid scrutiny of a 234,000-word “life diary” discovered on his website after the attack. In it, he describes extensive drug use and frequent hallucinations, makes racist references to people he meets, and at one point says he considered killing his friends at a retreat in 2017.

Its website describes the magazine as fantastic. In the introduction, however, Cantrell calls it “the magazine of his total life and literary practice,” adding that it “should be published freely and posthumously to help mankind or whatever.”

Internet Archive records show the journal was first published publicly the day before the alleged attack, meaning the detailed records would not have been available to Microsoft when it was hired last year.

In a statement to GeekWire, Microsoft defended its practices for vetting job applicants.

“Microsoft conducts a thorough background check on all potential employees. This includes criminal history, education credentials and employment history,” a Microsoft spokesperson said Thursday in response to an inquiry about the case. “If an issue arises during any screening, there is an internal collaborative process to determine whether an offer should be finalized or cancelled.”

A public biography online at the time of Cantrell’s Microsoft application refers to “nervous breakdowns” in which he “danced and conversed with processions of rainbow ‘ghost’ women to keep me company on the occasional derivative foggy night.” He added: “By selectively disconnecting certain neurons and combining slow-motion adrenaline release, I am the first to declare that I am the strongest man alive with such mechanisms.”

Cantrell writes in his journal that he applied to Microsoft as part of its neurodiversity hiring program. Applicants to the program “participate in an extensive interview process that focuses on functionality, interview preparation and skills assessment,” according to a description on Microsoft’s website.

The location of the alleged assault at the northwest corner of Northeast Turing Street and 156th Avenue NE in Redmond. (GeekWire Photo/Todd Bishop)

The 26-year-old victim in the case did not know Cantrell and appeared to have been targeted at random, according to a Redmond police report. He underwent surgery for more than a dozen stab wounds and nerve damage to his hands. He survived and was released from Harborview Medical Center in late February, a hospital spokesman said.

The attack took place around 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 22, according to multiple witness reports cited by police.

The victim’s wife discovered something was wrong when her husband’s Apple Watch alerted her that he had fallen hard at Northeast Turing Street and 156th Avenue NE in Redmond, the scene of the attack, according to police reports. The watch then indicated that the device was in Seattle. (The victim was taken to Harborview after the attack.)

Joseph Cantrell after his arrest. (Photo by Redmond Police)

A driver in his truck at the intersection told police he saw a man dressed in black “stabbing the crap out” of another person. He and a Microsoft van driver both jumped out of their vehicles and yelled at the man to stop.

The assailant stopped and walked away. The driver from the intersection, now back in his truck, followed the man about a block and a half west before losing sight of him between two buildings.

Redmond Police detectives were able to find Cantrell after the attack by reviewing surveillance footage from his nearby apartment building and following a trail of blood on the floor. Surveillance cameras inside a nearby Microsoft building captured much of the attack on video, as described in police reports.

After obtaining a search warrant, a SWAT team arrested Cantrell at his apartment at 12:45 a.m. on February 23. Evidence found inside included several Tac-Force knives, including one with red stains believed to be blood, according to court documents.

“The defendant appears to have been prepared for this significant act of violence,” Brynn NH Jacobson, a senior deputy district attorney, wrote in charging documents. “He was equipped with a knife and gloves. He attacked the victim shortly after leaving his apartment building. He then quickly returned to his residence and tried to rid himself of evidence of his involvement.”

In King County Superior Court in Seattle Thursday morning, Cantrell’s attorney, Public Defender John Ewers, lost a motion to prevent the media from taking his client’s photo during the brief trial. Details of the case were not discussed in open court and Cantrell did not speak publicly.

Ewers entered a not guilty plea on his client’s behalf and did not dispute the prosecutor’s request to keep Cantrell in jail after the trial. The hearing was set for March 30, while the trial will begin in April.

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