Arlington man’s death may be manslaughter case

ARLINGTON — Detectives are investigating the death of an Arlington man as a potential case of manslaughter.

John L. Oster, 57, died May 9, a day after he was reportedly punched by a co-worker.

The alleged assault took place in the Arlington area, according to court papers filed by Snohomish County sheriff’s Major Crimes detectives.

The two men, who worked for a local telecommunications company, were on their way back from a work site in Yakima, court papers show. The co-worker, 49, had quit his job, and wanted to take a company truck back to Snohomish County. Oster was told to go with him.

The co-worker stopped at a bank, and demanded that Oster give him the company debit card.

Oster refused. The co-worker reportedly punched him multiple times in the chest and stomach.

Oster went home and began feeling ill and having breathing problems, court records show. In the middle of the night, he collapsed, and his girlfriend called 911.

Oster was taken to Cascade Valley Hospital and later Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he died.

Oster was unable to speak with detectives before his death, but he did describe the assault to emergency crews and his girlfriend, police said.

Oster’s death also is being investigated by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. They are awaiting laboratory test results before making a medical determination about the circumstances of his death.

The sheriff’s investigation is awaiting those findings, spokeswoman Shari Ireton said Wednesday.

Detectives have interviewed the co-worker, court papers show. He reportedly admitted to elbowing Oster a few times while they were riding in the truck. He denied punching Oster in the stomach.

Emergency crews told police they saw bruising on Oster’s abdomen while he was being taken to the hospital.

Oster also had recent medical problems, including stomach pain, and was in “very poor health,” court papers show. He also had a lacerated liver.

The co-worker also reportedly told police that both he and Oster had been drinking that day.

Investigators believe there is “clear evidence” of fourth-degree assault, and potential evidence of second-degree manslaughter, court papers show.

A person can be found guilty of second-degree manslaughter when they cause a person’s death as a result of criminal negligence.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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