EVERETT — There’s no dispute that Gary Ronald Bowers struck a business partner on the head with a heavy metal tool on May 6.
What’s up in the air is whether that was assault or attempted first-degree murder.
The decision, now before a Snohomish County Superior Court jury, means a lot to the Mukilteo businessman, who could wind up spending the rest of his life behind bars.
Under the best of circumstances, Bowers, 63, would be jailed for nearly 10 years with a first-degree assault conviction. Under the worst scenario, attempted first-degree murder, his prison term would be about 22 years.
He is accused of luring a Granite Falls man to a remote spot where the two owned property together. They walked into some trees, and Bowers used a breaker bar to clobber the victim, 48, on the head.
Although bleeding heavily, the victim wrestled Bowers to the ground and then made it to his truck, where he had a pistol. He used a cellphone to call for aid and Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies while holding Bowers at gunpoint.
In court Wednesday, deputy prosecutor Helene Blume argued that the crime was premeditated and intentional. She described an elaborate plan to kill the partner and bury the body near Green Mountain north of the Mountain Loop Highway.
Then Bowers planned to drive to a cabin the victim owns in the Monte Cristo area east of Barlow Pass, she said. Bowers earlier had borrowed the key to a gate about four miles from the cabin.
He planned to leave the victim’s truck at Monte Cristo and hitchhike back to his truck near Granite Falls before driving to Eastern Washington to form an alibi, Blume said.
That plan was repeated to Bowers’ wife, two counselors and the victim, who secretly tape-recorded the conversation under a court order sought by Blume and deputies.
"It seemed like he planned everything but his exit strategy," Blume said.
She told the jury Bowers tried to get the victim to take out life insurance benefiting their partnership six months before the assault.
Defense lawyer Lennard Nahajski of Seattle acknowledged that an "unprovoked, horrible, undeserved" assault occurred. But the prosecutor failed to prove Bowers intended to kill the man, Nahajski told jurors.
He asked the jury to disregard the recording in which Bowers conceded his plan to the victim, saying "Mr. Bowers was trying to seek forgiveness" from the victim. He just told the victim what he wanted to hear, Nahajski said.
He said Bowers had been under financial pressure and simply lost his head.
"Was it a serious blow? Yes," Nahajski said. "Was it a blow intended to kill someone? No."
The jury is expected to resume deliberations today.
Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.