CRIME WATCH FOLLOWUP: Hit-run death suspect released from jail

(Victim’s photo, as displayed at April 27 vigil)

Today was the charging deadline for the 37-year-old man arrested in Puyallup last week on suspicion he was the hit-run driver who killed 81-year-old Tommy Joe Garrett at 15th/Roxbury last month. Tonight, after the online court file showed no sign of charges, we checked the King County Jail register – and it showed that the suspect had been released from jail just after 9 pm tonight. We sought comment from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; spokesperson Casey McNerthney explains: “Prosecutors submitted the certification of determination of probable cause by police investigators. The court did not find probable cause for the criminal charge. Probable cause for a criminal charge is different than finding probable cause at a first appearance – there is a lower standard for probable cause at a first appearance hearing.”

Could the same suspect still be charged in the future, if there was different/more evidence, for example? McNerthney says, “Prosecutors can review additional and/or clarifying information from police investigators anytime within the statute of limitations.” In the document for last week’s initial court hearing, King County Sheriff’s Office detectives had said they traced the vehicle involved in the hit-run (which belongs to the suspect’s mother) – and then its driver – through security cameras and cell-phone records. We’ll continue following up.

51 Replies to "CRIME WATCH FOLLOWUP: Hit-run death suspect released from jail"

  • Pauline May 21, 2024 (1:03 am)

    This makes me angry! Crime is April 22, 10pm at white center/ released only 1 month later!!!! Weeks past until May 17. Evidence is there! He stated parking the car at Port Orchard, a family home. Intentionally covering it with a tarp!!! Businesses saw a male and there is a footage…and there’s cellphone records…what more evidence you need…he had possession of the car. It wasn’t even stolen! 

    • Curious George May 21, 2024 (7:07 am)

      We need to find out who these Judges are and remember this at election time.  I presume there names are a mater of public record?

  • Marcus May 21, 2024 (2:59 am)

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.  

  • Joe May 21, 2024 (4:45 am)

    Sad, but unfortunately not surprising. 

  • Mike May 21, 2024 (4:58 am)

    Who is the judge that made this decision?

  • Cardriver May 21, 2024 (5:05 am)

    Pauline. So, if a family member or friend asked to leave a car at your home you’d immediately call 911 as you are certain it would have been involved in a crime 

    • Eric1 May 21, 2024 (11:16 am)

      Wow can I dig a person sized hole in your yard and refill it one night?  Simply put it isn’t normal and unless I am willing to help you bury a body, nobody else is leaving a car under a tarp in my yard without me looking at it first.  After I see a person sized dent and or blood, I would give them the option of calling the police before I did.  This is probably why nobody would leave a crime scene car with me because they know that honesty and integrity is something I value.  However, since they were willing to kill someone and drive away, they probably learned honesty and integrity is from the same relatives that would allow you to put a car under a tarp in their yard no questions asked. 

  • miws May 21, 2024 (6:39 am)

    Oh, but we can’t have too high of standards on vehicular homicide, because that would be a WAR ON CARS!!! —Mike 

  • PSPS May 21, 2024 (6:59 am)

    Probable cause is a pretty low bar, even after arraignment. If the prosecutors can’t meet even that, any subsequent prosecution would never be successful. The prosecutors have more work to do before they have a case and, if they can do that, they can re-file charges.

    • EJ May 21, 2024 (5:15 pm)

      Arraignment doesn’t come until after charges are filed? I think you mean second appearance, which is different. And again, prosecutors aren’t detectives. They can request additional information, but they have no influence on how quickly that information is turned over by the assigned detective. Those are two very separate agencies. Charges must be filed within 72 hours of arrest, so there is very little the prosecutor could have done at this point.

  • bill May 21, 2024 (7:04 am)

    Hold off with the pitchforks and torches just yet. The judge basically told the prosecutors and police to do their jobs better. If the evidence is this weak the guy ain’t gonna be convicted.        

    • EJ May 21, 2024 (5:11 pm)

      Point of clarification: prosecutors don’t investigate crimes. At this stage of the proceedings they have a certification of determination of probable cause drafted by the assigned detective, and any associated police reports and witness statements. The prosecutor provides the judge with the cert and a request for bail. Not sure what you think the prosecutor could have done differently.

    • We can hold judges accountable May 22, 2024 (11:34 am)

      Judge in KC doesn’t decide guilt or innocence atp. The only job the judge had in this appearance was to gauge whether the evidence thus far was enough for cause to get search warrants. The fact that the judge denied that shows a lack of good judgement. The car was never reported stolen before or after the hit and run. And if the alleged driver is claiming they weren’t driving (despite offering a confession) then why did they move the car and keep it hidden? “Someone else was driving but once I got it back with a missing license plate I moved it and never applied for a replacement plate.

      1. Anyone who disagrees can fight with themselves about it. 
  • Lola May 21, 2024 (7:18 am)

    He hid the vehicle, what is our world coming to!!!!   Please tell me this is not the outcome for this poor gentleman who was run down?  Please Vote out these people who!!!!!

  • Jeepney May 21, 2024 (7:19 am)

    This is called Due Process, hopefully enough evidence can be obtained.

  • Ann May 21, 2024 (7:44 am)

    Judges are elected officials.  The public should know which judge made this decision. 

    • k May 21, 2024 (9:42 am)

      The judge had to make this decision based on the work done by police and prosecutors, which was insufficient.  This decision was not made in a vacuum, and they do not get as much discretion as people think they do.

      • EJ May 21, 2024 (4:59 pm)

        Prosecutors aren’t investigators. They only have to work with what the assigned detective provides them with.

        • K May 21, 2024 (7:26 pm)

          They’re not, but they still have a job to do before appearing before the judge.  They are both doing work, even if it’s not the same work.  

          • EJ May 21, 2024 (8:48 pm)

            So what would you have proposed they have done differently here? Prosecutors can’t magically gin up facts when the probable cause documents are lacking.

  • justme May 21, 2024 (7:49 am)

    Unfortunately, saying he wasn’t driving the car and his phone was in someone else’s possession leaves the proof wide open for now.

  • Cid May 21, 2024 (7:59 am)

    I must be missing something here. It sounded like good police work.  Surely there was something…damage on the car? How sad to think the victim’s family has to endure this. 

  • Actually Mike May 21, 2024 (8:05 am)

    WTF, Your Honor?? Sure sounds like plenty of probable cause based on KCSO news release from May 17. What does it take to get a dangerous criminal off the streets around here?

    • CarDriver May 21, 2024 (9:53 am)

      Would you-and other judge/jury/executioners like to see the law changed so that suspects are guilty until proven innocent?? That bravado works until YOU are the one charged with something 

      • Go ahead May 22, 2024 (11:27 am)

        I’ll never be accused of a dui or hit and run so I’m not worried. If a family member is accused of doing it then they should face whatever happens. If I make a choice to commit a crime then I have to face the consequence. Maybe if people like you held guilty people accountable instead of advocating for loopholes there would be justice and a deterrent to these crimes in the future. 

        • k May 22, 2024 (3:30 pm)

          Assuming you’ll never be accused just because you haven’t committed a crime is a function of privilege.  Innocent people are accused of all kinds of things.  

  • flimflam May 21, 2024 (9:37 am)

    Ugh, how terrible and insulting to the family and friends of the deceased. 

  • Greg May 21, 2024 (9:53 am)

    I would love to see WSB publish the name of the judges who make the decisions. They are elected public officials,, The voting public should see the names of the judges so informed decisions come election time can be made.

    • WSB May 21, 2024 (10:11 am)

      I asked the KCPAO when working on all this late last night. Haven’t heard back. Also, to everyone with the “vote them out” comment, as we reported last week, there will be more than 50 King County Superior Court judge positions on this year’s ballot … and not a single one has more than one candidate. – TR

      • EJ May 21, 2024 (4:52 pm)

        Judge Jill Klinge.

    • CarDriver May 21, 2024 (11:05 am)

      Greg/other commentators here . Please educate us on what the actual laws on the books actually say No candidates means either the pay is too low or nobody has interest in being the target of anonymous armchair legal scholars who seem to know everything but for some strange reason they don’t want to run for anything themselves to prove their abilities 

    • Pete May 21, 2024 (11:22 am)

      I don’t think the judge is the one who bungled this…

      • Ally May 21, 2024 (8:53 pm)

        Unless you’re suggesting the KCSO is planting evidence or violating due process I can’t see how this isn’t on the judge. What would be a reason it wouldn’t be on the judge making a bad judgement?

  • Admiral-2009 May 21, 2024 (10:11 am)

    This is the definition of insanity, the person purposely hid the vehicle because they knew they had hit someone.  I certainly hope that the victims family and friends are not victimized again by the failed justice system!

  • Alki resident May 21, 2024 (10:12 am)

    Oh good they let him out. I’d hate to see him sit in there and think about how he changed an entire family’s life. Now he can go do it again. Brilliant 

  • Everyone that is complaining about lack of evidence… May 21, 2024 (12:26 pm)

    The judge doesn’t decide the alleged driver’s guilt or innocence so it’s not up to them to say if the evidence would convict, that’s for prosecutors to prove. All this judge had to do was gauge if the evidence was enough to say this alleged driver was driving at the time. Whichever judge decided the evidence wasn’t enough is grossly overreaching. The car was never reported stolen before the hit and run so it was not in possession of someone who was not supposed to have it. The car was also not reported stolen after the hit and run. Alleged driver’s phone pinged in a close location to the hit and run and the car’s license plate was found near the scene. That is probable cause. There is zero reasons an impartial judge wouldn’t see probable cause.Recall elections will be planned because this kind of corruption or bias from a judge needs to go. 

    • WS Res May 21, 2024 (1:15 pm)

      So you were in court and witnessed the proceeding? Do tell!

      • Albert Einstein May 21, 2024 (8:49 pm)

        Judge ruled there wasn’t enough probable cause. Weird.. what does being in court or not have to do with the ruling? Either you think the judge thought there was probable cause and decided to rule against it for giggles or the judge made a terrible call. It’s weird you’re attacking people pointing out failures in the judicial system. 

    • EJ May 21, 2024 (4:54 pm)

      That is not how any of this works. Please read the appropriate statutes and criminal court rules.

  • Steph May 21, 2024 (1:10 pm)

    How about charging the owner of the car? Like the parents of the recent mass shootings were charged and sent to jail? Maybe then the real killer will step up and confess…..

    • EJ May 21, 2024 (4:56 pm)

      Is there evidence here the vehicle’s owner knew he was going to go run someone over? No? Then this is apples and oranges when comparing it to the Crumbly case.

  • k May 21, 2024 (1:29 pm)

    I hope everyone reads this and learns a valuable lesson about how quickly armchair lawyering can so sideways and how foolish one can look when they let it do so.  The judge’s job is to determine if the evidence presented by the prosecutor meets a given threshold to charge a defendant with the specific charge the prosecutor is requesting.  You know they were investigating him for hit-and-run but do you even know which criminal statute they were actually seeking to charge him under?  There a few possibilities, and each has a different criteria. And just because the evidence exists, that doesn’t mean it was properly presented to the judge.  Police investigators and prosecutors are fallible, you know.  But good luck with your recall campaign, buddy.

  • Person May 21, 2024 (1:48 pm)

    We know nothing. Maybe the owner was proven to be out of town.

  • josh May 21, 2024 (2:11 pm)

    As I mentioned on the arrest thread: you all will be appalled at whatever justice is brought to bear on this case.  A murder committed with a car is just not as big a deal as a murder committed by any other means.

  • Arbor Heights Resident May 21, 2024 (2:22 pm)

    So many lawyers, judges and detectives in this comment section! So happy you can all take time out of your busy days investigating and prosecuting criminals yo inform a layperson like myself. The professionals involved in this case could learn a thing or two if they read the WSB comment section. 

  • ACG May 21, 2024 (4:31 pm)

    My condolences to Tommy Joe’s friends and family. I am praying that justice will still be served for Tommy Joe. I’m so very sorry for your loss. 

  • Rhonda May 21, 2024 (9:07 pm)

    It’s VERY, very hard to catch and convict those who commit hit and runs in this state, which is why so many who hit decide to run.

  • Jay May 21, 2024 (11:20 pm)

    If you wanted to get away with murder, all you’d have to do is use a car.

  • Dog Whisperer May 23, 2024 (5:37 am)

    It might be time for us to do something. Maybe. 

  • K May 27, 2024 (10:50 am)

    If the suspect in this case is who I think he is, he was arrested again on Thursday and charged with something slightly different.  Hopefully it is the same person.  Tommy Joe didn’t need to die that way and his family deserves closure. Arraignment is set for a week from today.

    • WSB May 27, 2024 (10:57 am)

      Yeah, that’s him. Just downloaded the court docs, thanks for the tip, will write up shortly. Won’t be able to get prosecutor comments before tomorrow on this unusual twist of events – also interesting that they were able to take him into custody so quickly – TR

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