Marysville man beaten in Port Angeles dies in hospital

PORT ANGELES — When Donald G. Knechtel tried to break up a fight, his attempt at peace-making cost him his life.

According to a Port Angeles police report, witnesses observed Casey J. Balch, 21, of Sequim take off his shirt and attempt to start a fight with Knechtel’s co-worker, Clint A. Crook, outside the Front Street Alibi bar June 1.

“When Knechtel attempted to push Crook and Balch apart, Balch turned his attention to him,” cursing and then throwing a punch “which hit him in the face,” a police report said.

The force of the blow knocked Knechtel to the ground.

His head slammed on the asphalt, knocking him unconscious.

According to police, Knechtel, 48, of Marysville was taken to Olympic Medical Center, where medical personnel found he had a cranial fracture, brain swelling and hemorrhaging.

Knechtel was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where a surgeon declared Knechtel brain dead with unsurvivable injuries.

Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Trober was not surprised the injuries led to Knechtel’s death.

“He was very seriously injured, and there was a very likely possibility he would pass away,” Troberg said.

Troberg said Tuesday he expects to decide whether to file new charges against Balch “certainly by Friday.”

He said he is awaiting further information from a Port Angeles Police Department investigation into the case.

Balch pleaded not guilty Friday to first- and second-degree assault charges at his arraignment in Clallam County Superior Court.

He was released on $50,000 bond, but he must wear a bracelet that is equipped with a locating device and detects the presence of alcohol, Troberg said.

A status hearing was set for this Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge George L. Wood on Friday scheduled a three-day trial on the assault charge to begin Oct. 1.

That trial could be postponed if there are additional charges sought against Balch.

Peninsula Daily News reporter Chris Tucker can be reached at 360-452-2345 ext. 5074 or at chris.tucker@peninsuladailynews.com. Peninsula Daily News writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.

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