Accounts of her husband’s death didn’t add up, deputies say

She couldn’t keep her stories straight, and it seemed unlikely the man shot himself. So she was arrested.

TULALIP — The woman couldn’t keep her story straight.

Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies arrived shortly after midnight Thursday at a house in the 700 block of 86th Street NW. The 47-year-old woman was in the garage, tending to her husband, screaming “hold on” and “don’t leave me,” according to a deputy’s report filed in Everett District Court.

Her husband, Jason R. Birge, 47, looked “very pale,” deputies noted. He had suffered two gunshot wounds, apparently caused by one bullet, to his left arm and his chest. The deputies administered first aid and performed CPR. He died at the scene.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner determined Birge died from blood loss.

Nearby on the ground was a 9mm Derringer handgun.

The woman reportedly told police her husband shot himself.

They had been arguing in the garage, she told a Tulalip police officer. According to her statement, Birge took a gun out of his jacket pocket and fired it.

Then she allegedly changed her account, saying the gun went off inside his pocket, according to court papers.

And later, in a three-hour interview with detectives at the sheriff’s north precinct office, the woman reportedly said the gun was in a fanny pack when it discharged. She told detectives she took the fanny pack off and threw it into a shop vac.

A friend who was at the house reportedly said the woman was angry with Birge that day and that they argued “loudly and aggressively,” according to court papers. The friend said he didn’t know what they were fighting about but said the couple argued frequently, according to a deputy’s report. The friend said he eventually put his headphones on to drown out the noise, then five minutes later heard a gunshot.

The couple’s daughter told deputies she was sleeping and didn’t hear anything. Her mother woke her up, saying her father had shot himself, the daughter reported.

The deputies were unconvinced. They noticed blood on the woman’s jeans, but none on her hands, face or sweatshirt. Yet they found bloody hand prints on two doors, including one leading into the laundry room.

Furthermore, it appeared unlikely that Birge had shot himself, a deputy wrote.

“None of the versions of events that (the woman) provided would allow for the wound trajectory that (Birge) sustained,” the deputy wrote. “If (Birge) were to have caused those bullet wounds to himself, he would have had to have been extended in a manner that is wholly unnatural and inconsistent with any self-inflicted gunshot wounds I have investigated.”

After obtaining a search warrant, detectives found a fanny pack inside a shop vac. However, it had likely been there a while, and it didn’t have any bullet holes, detectives noted. Inside the fanny pack they discovered methamphetamine, heroin and drug paraphernalia, according to court papers.

The woman was booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of second-degree murder.

On Friday, public defender Gabriel Rothstein argued in Everett District Court that there wasn’t probable cause to arrest the woman. He said the emotional reaction to her husband’s death could have been the reason for her differing stories.

“Clearly my client was in an extreme state of distress,” Rothstein said. “… At this point the probable cause comes down to the cops don’t like her story.”

Deputy prosecutor Adam Sturdivant said the woman’s stories weren’t consistent with Birge’s injuries.

Judge Tam Bui concluded the evidence outweighed the public defender’s arguments. She set bail at $750,000.

The woman remained in the jail Friday afternoon. She has no previous felony convictions.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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