Spokane prosecutors dismissed murder charges against 39-year-old Cristina Stiles, who was accused of killing her child’s father inside his Spokane Valley apartment.
Deputy prosecutor Andrea Duggan said the state didn’t have sufficient evidence for trial. The trial had been fast-tracked at Stiles’ behest.
“The state cannot in good faith hold the defendant pursuant to the filed information,” Duggan wrote. Prosecutors can re-file charges.
“There’s no evidence that she was in the apartment. There continues to be no evidence,” said Stiles’ attorney, Thomas Krzyminski.
Duggan did not return calls Monday.
With no witnesses, no murder weapon, no DNA and no clear way to link Stiles to the crime scene, detectives instead mostly relied on circumstantial evidence to establish probable cause.
Prosecutors alleged Stiles plotted to kill Fowler, 34, a week before he was to have his first unsupervised visit with their young daughter. They said she also concealed evidence, such as selling a laptop, buying a special type of ammunition no longer in production, and switching phones with her son days after they suspect Fowler was killed.
Fowler was discovered dead in his apartment living room on Feb. 18, 2016, by his parents Dan and Patty Fowler. Detectives believe he was shot first through the right cheek, causing him to fall onto the couch and slump over on the left side. He was then shot in the chest.
His parents suspected he had been dead for at least a week.
Stiles was taken into custody in August, after detectives flew to Jacksonville, Florida, where the woman had been living for several months while her son attended college. Stiles previously lived in Coeur d’Alene, where she ran a speech therapy clinic called Blooming Minds.
Krzyminski said the sequence of shots that killed Fowler was under debate, as was the position of the shooter. Initial analysis showed detectives assumed the shooter would have been much shorter than Fowler, based on the bullets’ trajectory. Court records show Stiles is 5-foot-2, compared to Fowler at 6-foot-1.
Mark Gregory, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, said prosecutors had asked for additional forensic testing before they were comfortable going to trial.
“You only get one shot on the case,” he said. “They didn’t want to have any issues.”
The news didn’t come as shock for Fowler’s parents, who have talked at length to media about their issues with the investigation. Reached by phone Monday, Dan Fowler said he heard from prosecutors just days before the charges were dropped.
He was unsure if Stiles had already returned to Florida.
“It’s like a kick in the gut,” he said. “But what can you do?”
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