Crime

Blood, hammer found at home of Thurston County murder suspect

James E. Stidd, left, appears Friday with his attorney John Hansen via video in Thurston County Superior Court in Olympia. In the foreground is Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson.
James E. Stidd, left, appears Friday with his attorney John Hansen via video in Thurston County Superior Court in Olympia. In the foreground is Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson. toverman@theolympian.com

Detectives reportedly found spattered blood and a hammer with blond hairs around it in a garage belonging to James E. Stidd, the Thurston County man suspected of killing a missing Olympia woman.

Stidd, 66, appeared Friday afternoon in Thurston County Superior Court, and Judge Erik Price set bail at $2 million. Price also found probable cause for four felony charges: the second-degree murder charge and four counts of unlawful possession of a firearm.

“The allegations, to call them horrific is an understatement,” Price said.

The Washington State Patrol arrested Stidd early Thursday morning near Ritzville in Eastern Washington — and there is some indication that he may have left the state before he was apprehended, Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson said.

Detectives are still looking for Gail J. Doyle, 60, in multiple places outside of Thurston County. Doyle was reported missing by family members June 4, and was last seen with Stidd at an Olympia bar on June 2.

Although Doyle is still missing, Jackson said there is enough evidence to charge Stidd in her death.

Doyle’s friends and family members sat in the front row of the courtroom Friday during Stidd’s hearing. Stidd wasn’t present, but appeared via video conferencing from the Thurston County Jail.

Family members didn’t speak, but Terrie Noble of Violent Crime Victim Services read a statement on their behalf. The statement thanked the Olympia community for helping to search for Doyle and urged people to reach out to their loved ones.

When asked how the family is doing, Noble responded, “Under the circumstances, the best they can.”

A warrant for Stidd’s arrest was issued Wednesday after detectives found evidence at his Longhorn Loop home, south of the Olympia Regional Airport, linking him to Doyle’s disappearance.

When Olympia police officers arrived at the home, they found a note hanging on the front door that indicated Stidd had gone on vacation and would be gone for several days. Inside, officers and crime scene technicians located several bloody areas on the garage floor, according to court documents. The splatter indicated that a “blood source” had been hit with force.

A hammer was found on a work bench in the garage. The head tested positive for blood and was wrapped in several blond hairs, according to court documents.

Officers also found a pressure washer that had been purchased June 4, two days after Doyle disappeared. Investigators believe the pressure washer was used to clean the garage floor, according to court documents.

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.

Ben Muir bmuir@theolympian.com

The bed of a Chevrolet pickup truck found in the garage also tested positive for blood. Detectives found a receipt for Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center, dated June 4, in the truck. They learned that Stidd had likely dropped off bottles of cleaner and bleach.

Evidence from the home has been sent to the Washington State Patrol crime lab for analysis, according to court documents.

Stidd became a person of interest in the case after detectives learned that he and Doyle had been seen together at Boulevard Tavern in Olympia the night she disappeared. Stidd was contacted by a detective and said that he had been with Doyle that night. He told the detective they had argued about a criminal case involving Doyle’s son, who had allegedly used Stidd’s credit card to purchase several things from a hardware store without Stidd’s permission.

Stidd said he had dropped Doyle off near Aztec Bowling on Martin Way.

An Olympia police officer went to Stidd’s Longhorn Loop home June 4 to interview him again. He reported that Stidd’s vehicle was in the driveway, but Stidd didn’t answer the front door when the officer knocked.

The officer looked through a window and saw Stidd changing some bed sheets. When Stidd saw the officer standing in the window, he closed the shades, came to the door, and asked the officer to speak with him outside. Eventually, Stidd allowed the officer to enter the home, and they spoke at the kitchen table. Stidd told the officer that he was planning to leave town for the Ukraine, but changed the destination to North Carolina later in the conversation.

The officer described Stidd’s actions as “out of the ordinary, suspicious and evasive,” according to court documents. The officer also noticed a wound on Stidd’s hand, consistent with him having punched someone, according to court documents.

When detectives spoke to Doyle’s family and friends, they learned that Stidd was a family friend, and he had recently returned from an extended trip to Ukraine. Doyle’s daughter said that after Stidd’s return, he had called her several times asking to meet her. The daughter said Stidd made her feel uncomfortable, as he had consistently pursued romantic relationships with her, Doyle and Doyle’s sister.

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 involving a woman who was then his wife. The wife said she and Stidd 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 persuaded Stidd to come outside, according to court documents. Deputies retrieved three rifles, including an assault rifle, from the home.

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

Stidd is in custody at the Thurston County jail, and will be arraigned June 21 in Thurston County Superior Court.

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445, @Amelia_Oly

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