A man accused of killing his mother’s boyfriend on the Fourth of July in Steilacoom is no longer charged with murder after the Pierce County Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death to be “undetermined.”
Stephen Gale, 52, died in the yard of his home on Lafayette Street after a barbecue there. Days later, his girlfriend’s son, 23-year-old Tyler James Thiel, was charged with second-degree murder in the death.
On Aug. 28, in a motion to dismiss the murder charge, Deputy Prosecutor Jared Ausserer wrote that Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark could not say “with any degree of medical certainty” that the death was a homicide.
Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend agreed to dismiss the charge without prejudice, which means prosecutors have the option to refile charges later.
The News Tribune learned of the dismissal this week.
Thiel had been scheduled for a court hearing this month, and had a trial scheduled to start in January — both of which have been canceled.
According to charging papers:
Gale and Thiel had a fight at the home, and Thiel’s mother called 911 to say Gale was “down and hurt.” Officers arrived and gave Gale CPR, but he died at the scene.
Police arrested Thiel in Puyallup the next morning, and noted he had blood on his hands and clothes. Thiel told investigators he’d argued with Gale because Thiel wanted to leave the home and his mother wanted him to stay.
Gale had been alive when he left him in the yard, Thiel said.
“Aside from the temporal relationship between the physical altercation and death, there is no resulting injury that caused the death,” Ausserer wrote in his motion to dismiss.
“Instead, Dr. Clark opines that death was caused by either loss of blood, which there is no way (to) determine, or a heart attack.”
A heart attack is the likely cause, the prosecutor wrote, given that Gale’s heart had 75 percent blockage.
Clark said at the time Thiel was charged that Gale had extensive blunt force injuries, but that his report would take several weeks to complete.
Thiel has a prior conviction for fourth-degree assault after he pushed his mother during an argument about a mental health appointment.