Struggle not primary cause of man's death
The Jan. 12 struggle may have contributed to Richard Balch's death, but it wasn't the primary cause, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office.
Balch, 51, of Auburn, died from acute alcohol intoxication, the medical examiner's office determined. Contributing factors included heart disease, liver disease and possible asphyxia.
Police have been investigating the case as a potential manslaughter. They were called to the girlfriend's mobile home off Highway 99 after Balch became unresponsive when the two got into an altercation.
Multiple people at the home had been drinking heavily and smoking marijuana, according to police reports. Witnesses gave detectives conflicting stories about what happened.
Balch's manner of death remains undetermined, the medical examiner's office said. That indicates there was not enough information to make an exact medical ruling about the circumstances.
The case caught international attention after some Seattle media reported that Balch had been suffocated by his girlfriend's chest. There is nothing in the court papers to support that scenario.
The case remains under review by Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Travis Johnson. No charges have been filed.
Balch's girlfriend, 50, initially was arrested and booked for investigation of second-degree manslaughter. She was later released pending further investigation. The Herald is not naming the woman because she has not been charged with a crime.
The woman, whose blood-alcohol level later tested at nearly six times the legal limit after the struggle, reportedly told detectives she doesn't remember what happened.
A person can be found guilty of second-degree manslaughter when they cause a person's death as a result of criminal negligence.
Reporter Diana Hefley contributed to this story.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org
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