Battle Ground man gets 10 years for theft and groped store clerk

A Battle Ground man was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for robbing a convenience store and groping the employee last year.

Matthew D. Zook, 40, pleaded guilty March 11 in Clark County Superior Court to first-degree robbery and fourth-degree assault, each with a sexual motivation.

In a written statement, the 22-year-old said she no longer felt safe in the community or in similar work. In a pre-sentence investigation, she said that since the incident she has never left the house without her stun gun and pepper spray and has struggled to relate to people, especially at work. .

Defense attorney Josephine Townsend said Zook was diagnosed with schizophrenia when his mental health was assessed for the case.

Zook has been a registered sex offender since a 2019 conviction for third degree pedophilia. In this case, he groped an 11-year-old girl in the queue at a Vancouver Safeway. Senior Assistant District Attorney Jessica Smith said Friday that both victims were strangers and that Zook’s behavior appears to be escalating because he wielded weapons during the 2021 assault.

Zook said on Friday he regretted his actions and intended to do better in the future. The present-year inquest notes that Zook is now on medication for his mental health diagnosis.

Battle Ground Police were dispatched shortly before 9 p.m. on March 18, 2021 to the Jiffy Mart at 100 E. Main St., for a silent alarm. When officers arrived at the convenience store, they spotted a crying woman behind the locked entrance, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The woman told police she called for items for a customer when he pulled out a knife and a stun gun. The man pocketed the items he had placed on the counter before demanding to see the employee’s breasts while brandishing his weapons, the affidavit states.

Then the thief groped the employee. He fled when she informed him that the police were on their way, according to the affidavit.

The employee described her attacker as a tall, bald man wearing blue clothes and a medical mask. She also described the weapons to the officers. During her interview, the owner arrived and allowed officers to view the store’s camera footage. In the video, police could see a man threatening the employee as she described him, the affidavit states.

The employee also told police she seized the suspect’s information from his ID card for a credit transaction, which officers used to identify Zook as the thief. They found him hiding in some bushes two blocks from the Jiffy Mart, according to the affidavit.

Zook was wearing the same clothes as in the store’s video, and a knife and stun gun were in his backpack, according to the affidavit.