EVERETT — A jury deliberated for nearly two days before convicting Kyle Wheeler of second-degree manslaughter Thursday for the 2018 killing of Charles Hatem in downtown Everett.
The defendant cried as he heard his verdict read around 2:30 p.m. in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Wheeler, 43, of Lynden, had been charged with first-degree manslaughter for beating Hatem, 52, and leaving his body in the fifth-floor hallway of an apartment complex Sept. 8, 2018, at 1803 Hewitt Ave.
After four days of trial testimony this month, the jury of six men and six women was presented with the option to convict Wheeler of manslaughter in the first or second degree.
Joshua Henriot, 60, said this was the second time he’s served on a jury for a criminal trial.
“This was not fun,” he said in an interview after the trial. “It was not happy. It weighed heavily on all of us. It’s a very considered and difficult thing to come to a conclusion of this type of case.”
Henriot said a “lack of unanimous consideration” on certain aspects of the first-degree charge led the jury to agree on the lesser conviction.
Hatem, of Everett, had been staying at the apartment of Wheeler’s father when he was killed. Wheeler believed Hatem was taking advantage of his dad by not paying rent, according to charging papers.
On Sept. 8, 2018, Wheeler was visiting his father. That night, he confronted Hatem in the apartment of the Commerce Building. Wheeler and Hatem had been drinking alcohol leading up to the fight, according to trial testimony.
The next morning, a neighbor found Hatem’s body wrapped in a blanket in the hallway outside of the apartment. The neighbor called police.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy and determined Hatem’s death to be homicide. He died of head trauma. A broken bone in his throat suggested he’d been choked, too.
In the trial, defense attorney Gabriel Rothstein argued that Wheeler did not intend for Hatem to die.
Prosecutors argued Wheeler knew the risks of his actions the night he confronted Hatem.
Deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson said he appreciated the jury’s service.
“They came to a verdict we can live with,” Matheson said. “There’s no evidence that (Wheeler) intended to kill anybody.”
Hatem’s family members were thankful that the trial was finally over almost three years after their loved one was killed. Although they hoped the verdict would be guilty of manslaughter in the first degree, they felt relief that he was convicted at all.
Rachael Bowker was Hatem’s partner for 20 years and the mother of his two sons. She said the trial has been hard on her family. She hopes the verdict brings closure.
“He was the most important person for me, and I to him,” Bowker said. “I feel like I can exhale and look forward to moving on.”
Hatem will be missed by family, friends, former baseball teammates and players he coached, his partner said. Hatem was a star pitcher on the Central Washington University Wildcats baseball team in the 1980s. He pitched for the team when they advanced to the NAIA World Series in 1988. He could hit, too, and he’s on the school’s single-season leaderboards for hits, home runs, doubles, steals, innings pitched and wins.
“He didn’t deserve this,” Bowker said. “Charlie was loved by everybody he met. He wasn’t violent. I wish they could have shown the jury each of their criminal records. Kyle had an extensive history of violence.”
Wheeler had a prior felony record in Skagit County. In 2012, he was convicted of third-degree assault and second-degree malicious mischief.
Under state guidelines, Wheeler faces a range of 1¾ to 2¼ years in prison, Matheson said. Sentencing is set for Oct. 27.
Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @reporterellen