It didn't help that everybody was too drunk to remember what happened that night outside a Lakewood tavern.
Investigators knew 51-yearold Christopher Woods had been hit in the face by one of three men who robbed him Jan. 8. They also knew he’d then been dropped to the ground and dragged by a friend who tried to help him into the car.
So it was surprising, and confusing, when the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Woods’ death as an accident due to injuries consistent with a vehicle crash.
“It’s possible (Woods’ friend) tried to move the car closer to Woods and in the process, may have run over him,” Lt. Chris Lawler said. “He doesn’t remember.”
Police did not release the name and the age of the friend because he will not be charged in connection with Woods’ death. The death has been ruled as accidental.
The three men who accosted Woods and his friend in the parking lot of the Lake City Tavern – Marvin Crockett Jr., 25; Evan Hylton, 21; and Robert Nagel, 26 – pleaded guilty April 1 to various charges related to the incident.
Officers were called to the tavern about 2:35 a.m. and tried to speak with Woods, who was lying on the ground.
His injuries initially didn’t appear life-threatening, although medical staff noted he had broken bones and “significant bruising” to his arms and upper body.
Woods was acting so aggressively that paramedics had to sedate him when they arrived to take him to the hospital.
Less than five hours later, Woods was dead and a homicide investigation was under way.
Woods’ friend first told officers a fight had broken out after one of the men threatened to slap him. During a second interview, he gave an account that matched what the trio of men later admitted to investigators.
“The case took some time to resolve itself,” Lawler said, adding the investigation hit some bumps since all the witnesses had been severely intoxicated.
According to charging papers:
Crockett, Hylton and Nagel were outside the tavern when they spotted Woods and his friend unsuccessfully trying to unlock their car door.
Nagel opened the door for them and then one of the men suggested Woods pay them for their assistance.
When Woods opened his wallet, Crockett punched Woods and his friend in the face. After Woods’ wallet fell to the ground, Crockett grabbed a wad of cash totaling about $750 before running away.
The men bought cocaine and fast food and then split the remainder of Woods’ money.
Prosecutors agreed to drop a misdemeanor assault charge against Crockett if he pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery. Hylton pleaded guilty to third-degree possession of stolen property and Nagel pleaded guilty to first-degree theft.
They are to be sentenced April 29.