The investigation into what caused a fatal boating accident on the Columbia River in early August has been hampered by uncooperative witnesses, court documents show.
While one man has been charged with ignoring interview requests and telling his wife not to talk, prosecutors still don’t have lab results to determine if someone should be held responsible for a Richland man’s death.
Tests on blood drawn from people suspected of being under the influence typically get turned around within a month. However, officials said there is a backlog at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, which is delaying a decision in this case.
Brandon M. Martin, 34, was knocked unconscious after he fell overboard on the evening of Aug. 6. He had been on one of two boats that were returning to the shore together after a day on the water.
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One person reported that the boats came too close together, causing one to swerve and Martin to be thrown off, along with a 10-year-old boy and another adult. None of them was wearing a life jacket.
While the boy and other adult were pulled to safety, Martin could not be found. The Richland man’s body was recovered four days later after it surfaced in the middle of the river near the blue bridge.
Investigators believe Cory D. Wilcox, 41, was driving the boat that Martin was on, and they suspect Wilcox was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
When Franklin County marine patrol deputies arrived at the dock a short time after Martin’s disappearance, they found Wilcox drinking an alcoholic beverage, according to court documents.
Officials say people on the two boats all downplayed the involvement of alcohol.
As of Friday, Wilcox faces no charges in connection with Martin’s death.
Also on their boat was Gordy A. Reid Jr. and his wife, Teresa, documents said.
Franklin County Detective Steve Warren and Deputy Mark Boyer went to the couple’s Kennewick home one week later to request a formal interview with both of them.
Teresa Reid said she didn’t have anything more to tell them, “that her cousin was dead and nothing further could be done,” court documents said.
Boyer reportedly told Teresa Reid she was a witness to the incident and could be charged if she refused to cooperate. Warren said he explained to her that they needed cooperation to know whether to pursue a homicide investigation or close it.
Warren said that when he assured the mother that her children wouldn’t be interviewed at this point, she agreed to come to the sheriff’s office and talk.
That’s when her husband, Gordy Reid, pulled up, documents said. He appeared upset, his stance was stiff and his words were short, Warren wrote.
The husband and wife went inside their house for several minutes, then Gordy Reid returned and said neither of them would be giving a statement, court documents said.
I asked him if he was refusing to give a formal, sober interview to me and he stated yes. I asked if he was advising his wife to not give a formal interview to me and he stated yes.
Franklin County Detective Steve Warren
“I asked him if he was refusing to give a formal, sober interview to me and he stated yes,” Warren wrote in the documents for Reid’s criminal case. “I asked if he was advising his wife to not give a formal interview to me and he stated yes.”
“I explained to him that the night of the incident there were several different stories told to the police and that I was just there to try and get a clear and concise image of the events of that evening,” he added.
Reid continued to be “defiant and argumentative” and, when told he can be charged for willfully failing to cooperate, said he didn’t care and “was going to do exactly as the family of the deceased wants, and that was not to make any statements at all,” court documents said.
Reid also told authorities that it was his final decision, and he would continue to advise his wife not to talk, documents said. Warren said he told Reid he wasn’t a suspect, but was believed to be a witness to something very serious.
“Gordy Reid changed his tone some by stating that the victim’s mother is in his house right now and she doesn’t want them to cooperate at all,” the detective wrote. “He stated that they are all friends or family and the victim’s mother thinks it was just an accident and doesn’t want anyone to get into trouble.”
Gordy Reid changed his tone some by stating that the victim’s mother is in his house right now and she doesn’t want them to cooperate at all. He stated that they are all friends or family and the victim’s mother thinks it was just an accident and doesn’t want anyone to get into trouble.
Franklin County Detective Steve Warren
Reid said he and Teresa would stop by the sheriff’s office in two days and give a statement, but repeated that they were refusing to come in immediately.
The detective said he told Reid he was sorry about his decision, but wished him a good day as he and Boyer left.
That was Aug. 14. The couple had not stopped by the office or had any further contact as of Aug. 17, Warren said.
Reid, 37, was arrested later Aug. 17 and initially ordered held on $35,000 bail. He is out of custody after posting bond.
Since then, Reid has pleaded innocent in Franklin County Superior Court to first-degree rendering criminal assistance and tampering with a witness, both felonies, and obstructing a law enforcement officer, a gross misdemeanor. His trial is Nov. 15.
Reid was given permission in late August to attend Martin’s funeral in Seattle. Because he was going to be around witnesses he’d previously been ordered not to contact, Reid was told to avoid discussing the boating accident or the incident that led to his arrest, according to a court order.
Warren has sent all reports from his department to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office. He said it remains a “very open case,” but the main holdup is the lab results on Martin and the other boaters.
It may be at least one to two more weeks before those results come in, Warren said.