A Canadian reporter was told Wednesday she can return to her native country, but must get mental health treatment for allegedly threatening to kill her hockey player boyfriend nearly a month ago.
Tieja MacLaughlin, 25, has been in the Tri-Cities since her Jan. 18 arrest -- first with a six-day stint in the Benton County jail, then on a judge's order that she not leave the area once posting bail.
She had been charged in Benton County Superior Court with one count of felony harassment with domestic violence involving Jackson Playfair, a forward for the Tri-Cities Americans.
But Wednesday, Deputy Prosecutor Brendan Siefken amended the charge to gross misdemeanor harassment after negotiating a deal that allows MacLaughlin to go home.
She pleaded innocent to the new charge and the case will be dismissed in one year if MacLaughlin follows all of the requirements.
At the time of her arrest, MacLaughlin was a freelance news and sports reporter for two media outlets in Kelowna, B.C., according to her LinkedIn profile. She also reportedly covered the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
MacLaughlin started dating Playfair in July, though Playfair told Kennewick police it was a "rocky," on-again off-again relationship.
Playfair, 19, joined the Tri-City team Jan. 10 after a trade with the Spokane Chiefs.
During a heated phone conversation between the couple in mid-January, Playfair admitted he had cheated on MacLaughlin with another woman while in Spokane, court documents said.
She became upset, began to make threats toward Playfair and said "he would be dead" by the following night, documents said.
Playfair told authorities that MacLaughlin threatened to kill him several times during the conversation and, despite repeated requests by him to cancel a planned visit to the Tri-Cities, she still drove down to see him.
Playfair called Kennewick police early Jan. 18. Officers then spoke to MacLaughlin at a motel, and she promised to leave Playfair alone and go home. However, she allegedly sent about 20 to 25 more text messages to Playfair that day before her arrest.
MacLaughlin denied making the comments and told police that Playfair had threatened to ruin her career and her life.
MacLaughlin's mother and aunt came from Ontario, Canada, after she was charged.
Siefken explained Wednesday that he decided to reduce the charge based on a psychological evaluation that MacLaughlin recently had done, and after talking with Playfair and his family about the case.
Once back in Canada, MacLaughlin will be required to do an outpatient mental health treatment program for at least 10 sessions and send reports to the court and the prosecutor's office.
She also is not allowed to contact Playfair any more and must remain crime free for 12 months. If she does all that, a hearing is set Feb. 11, 2015, to dismiss the charge.
But, if MacLaughlin violates any of the conditions, she would be ordered back to Benton County Superior Court for a judge-only trial based on the police reports.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer