Crime

Man linked to missing Olympia woman booked on second-degree murder charge

WATCH: Thurston County Sheriff's Office press conference on missing Olympia woman

Sgt. Carla Carter of the Thurston County Sheriff's Office updates the community on the disappearance of Gail Doyle and the arrest of James E. Stidd. Stidd was booked into the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder.
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Sgt. Carla Carter of the Thurston County Sheriff's Office updates the community on the disappearance of Gail Doyle and the arrest of James E. Stidd. Stidd was booked into the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder.

James E. Stidd, the man law enforcement believes is connected to the disappearance of an Olympia woman, has been booked into the Thurston County jail on suspicion of second-degree murder.

He also was booked on four counts of unlawful possession of a firearm.

He was arrested Thursday morning in Adams County in Eastern Washington.

Sgt. Carla Carter of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said at a Thursday news conference that Gail J. Doyle still hasn’t been found, but law enforcement officers are searching for her in multiple sites outside of Thurston County. Carter said evidence collected at Stidd’s home on Wednesday “strongly connects” him to her disappearance.

“It’s a tragic circumstance for (the family),” Carter said.

Law enforcement agencies statewide began searching for Stidd on Wednesday, after Olympia police served a search warrant at his home on Longhorn Loop Southeast, south of the Olympia Regional Airport.

Carter said she couldn’t yet disclose what kind of evidence had been found at the home, but it is possible that Doyle was killed there.

Stidd was arrested on Interstate 90 after a “be on the lookout” was issued for his car, Carter said. She said there’s no reason to believe he has hurt anyone else.

The case started out as a missing-persons case with the Olympia Police Department, and detectives served a search warrant at Stidd’s home Wednesday. After finding some evidence, they turned the scene over to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office because the home is in an unincorporated portion of the county that is under the sheriff’s jurisdiction, said Thurston County Lt. Tim Rudloff.

The crime scene was processed by the Washington State Patrol.

“It’s a complicated situation involving multiple jurisdictions,” Rudloff said.

Doyle was last seen with Stidd on June 2, and was reported missing by a family member Saturday. The two were seen at the Boulevard Tavern on Pacific Avenue in Olympia, where they argued about Doyle’s son.

They left together in Stidd’s blue, four-door 1996 Honda Civic.

Olympia police detectives contacted Stidd after Doyle was reported missing. He said they argued as they drove away from the bar, and he let her out of the car at Aztec Bowling Lanes a few blocks east on Martin Way in Olympia.

Stidd suggested that was the last contact he had with Doyle, according to a sheriff’s department news release.

Washington State Patrol records show that prior to Thursday, Stidd had been arrested three times in Washington:

In 1971, he was convicted of grand larceny.

In 1980, he was convicted in Thurston County Superior Court on a second-degree assault charge after he inflicted “grievous bodily harm” on a woman. Records show he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Stidd was convicted again in Thurston County Superior Court on a fourth-degree assault, domestic violence charge. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the Longhorn Loop home after a caller reported hearing gunshots. At the time, Stidd couldn’t lawfully possess firearms because of his 1980 conviction. The victim, Stidd’s then-wife, said she and her husband had been arguing about getting a divorce. As she packed her bags, he loaded his rifle.

She said Stidd went outside and fired three rounds, and then told her that if she called anyone, there would be a “glaze of gunfire,” according to court documents. As she left, she heard another gunshot.

When a deputy responded, he called for additional units. As he was briefing them, the deputies heard another gunshot and surrounded the home. When Stidd refused to exit, the SWAT team responded, and negotiators eventually convinced Stidd to come outside, according to court documents. Deputies retrieved three rifles, including an assault rifle, from the home.

Stidd eventually pleaded guilty to the fourth-degree assault charge, and was sentenced to 70 days in jail, according to State Patrol records.

On Wednesday night, detectives on Stidd’s property were focused on a detached garage, where they attached a large, blue tarp to the side of the building. They left the scene about 10 p.m.

According to Thurston County records, Stidd has owned the property and mobile home since 2008, when he purchased it from his ex-wife. The tan-and-brown home appeared tidy from the outside, and the front yard features blooming roses, a fountain, a small wishing well and neatly trimmed grass.

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