Authorities believe they know who fired the shot that killed Pierce County sheriff’s deputy Daniel McCartney.
With new ballistics evidence, prosecutors increased the charges against Frank Pawul to aggravated first-degree murder Tuesday.
If convicted of that charge, state law says he must be sentenced to life in prison without parole, or to capital punishment.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist told reporters outside court that his office has 30 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty and that the defense can ask for that period to be extended.
Pawul, 32, had already pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and unlawful gun possession and was being held on $5 million bail.
Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered him held without bail Tuesday after he also pleaded not guilty to the aggravated murder charge and to conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery.
McCartney was shot Jan. 7 after responding to a home invasion at a well-known drug house in Frederickson and died at the hospital early the next morning.
Investigators had been unsure whether Pawul or his partner, Henry Michael Carden, fired the shot that killed the deputy.
Carden, 35, was found dead at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
While he was hiding shortly after the shooting, Pawul allegedly sent a text message to his girlfriend and getaway driver that said, “So hank killed a cop and himself,” according to charging papers.
Ballistics test results show the fatal bullet was fired by a handgun about 175 feet away from McCartney “and along a path of items that can be tied to” Pawul, the Sheriff’s Department announced Tuesday.
Further tests are being conducted at the Washington State Patrol crime lab.
Also charged in McCartney’s death is Brenda Troyer, 52, and Samantha Dawn Jones, 29. Both women have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.
Prosecutors contend the women dropped Pawul and Carden off near the Frederickson mobile home and knew about their plans to rob the residents at gunpoint.
Text messages suggested Jones had been looking for someone who lived at the home, regarding a dispute about drugs, according to charging papers.
Jones also allegedly told police Pawul and Carden were going to talk to one of the residents about a dispute that involved her property.
Inside the home were three adults and two toddlers. One of the victims was able to climb out of a bedroom window and call 911.
McCartney responded within four minutes and radioed dispatchers moments later that shots had been fired. Back-up deputies found him with a gunshot wound to his neck. He died hours later at St. Joseph Medical Center.
McCartney is survived by his wife and three young sons.
While criminals can be sentenced to death in Washington state, the punishment can’t be carried out while Gov. Jay Inslee is in office.
He put a moratorium on capital punishment in 2014.
A bill in the state Legislature would abolish the death penalty altogether and replace it with life without parole.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653