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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Neighbor charged in man’s death

A Spokane Valley man was charged this week with second-degree manslaughter in the death of his next-door neighbor.

Michael L. Newton, 41, is accused of killing Tim O’Neil on Dec. 2 at the home where O’Neil lived with his mother, Joyce Cantrell.

According to court documents, O’Neil, 48, taunted and challenged Newton around 11 p.m. at the house, 904 S. Edgerton. Newton told officers that he confronted O’Neil on the patio, grabbed him from behind and pulled him to the ground where O’Neil’s head hit the concrete patio, court records say.

Cantrell told officers that she heard a sound “like a pumpkin hitting the cement,” court records say. Looking out at the patio, she saw Newton drop her son head-first onto the concrete twice and kick her son in the side.

In an interview on Thursday, Cantrell said Newton stopped when she yelled at him.

Newton and Cantrell carried O’Neil into the house, put a pillow under his head and covered him with a sleeping bag for the night, court records say.

In the morning, O’Neil was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center because Cantrell could not awaken him, court documents say. He died on Dec. 4.

Cantrell said she didn’t call for help earlier because there were no signs of critical injury the night of the fight.

“Tim was breathing normal,” Cantrell said. “His heart beat was normal.”

An autopsy showed that O’Neil died of a head injury and had a fractured rib.

Newton was released from jail on Thursday after posting bail.

Newton’s wife, Tammy Newton, called the incident a “freak accident,” and said her husband should not have been charged. She said that O’Neil was drunk and belligerent that evening, and that she had seen O’Neil just previous to the alleged attack screaming and hitting the side of the home.

“They were buddies,” Tammy Newton said. “It wasn’t like he on purpose tried to harm him.”

Tammy Newton said that her husband was so distraught after O’Neal’s death that he tried to commit suicide by running into traffic. He was not injured, and his family checked him in to Sacred Heart Medical Center for psychiatric care.

“It’s devastating us as well as them,” Tammy Newton said.

Cantrell, however, said she believes the attack was deliberate.

O’Neil, a West Valley High School alumnus, was unemployed and on disability because of a heart ailment. He lived with Cantrell to help care for his stepfather, Dan Cantrell, who suffers from complications from a stroke, Cantrell said. O’Neil was formerly employed at Carnation, Foremost and Broadview dairies, and was active in the Teamsters Union, Cantrell said.

O’Neil leaves behind a daughter, Piper O’Neil, 21, of Salem, Ore.

On Thursday evening, Cantrell read from a tribute that Piper O’Neil read at her father’s funeral.

“We knew him as a hard worker, a fisherman, and a soft-spoken man who strongly defended all because he loved us,” Piper O’Neil wrote. “He gave to those in need even when he had little to give, and did not ask in return.”