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Strange case of ‘missing’ Olympia teen turns into murder investigation

Sept. 4, 2022 Updated Sun., Sept. 4, 2022 at 9:01 p.m.

By Sean Robinson Tacoma News Tribune

OLYMPIA – The still developing story of Olympia teen Gabriel Davies began with fear last week: The 16-year-old athlete was reported missing, last seen in a remote area of Thurston County. After a search and public worry came relief: investigators found Davies late Thursday evening, not far from where his disappearance had been reported.

Then came shock: Davies and another teen, also 16, were arrested Friday on suspicion of second-degree murder. The victim: a 51-year-old man, was found dead at an address in Orting, a small city in eastern Pierce County,

Again and again, online reactions started with the same words: no one saw it coming. What happened? Here are the knowns and unknowns.

No charges yet

Pierce County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Davies and another 16-year-old Friday evening. Both were booked into Remann Hall, Pierce County’s juvenile detention facility, on suspicion of second-degree murder, first-degree burglary, and unlawful gun possession.

The teens have not been formally charged with those crimes – a decision will likely come Tuesday, after the holiday weekend, according to a spokesperson for the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutors will also decide whether Davies and the other individual might be charged as adults, a factor that involves harsher potential consequences.

The victim

The victim in the case, still not formally identified, is described as a 51-year-old man. Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies discovered his remains Thursday morning, in response to a requested welfare check. The man had not reported to work for four days.

Deputies entered a residence in the 21900 block of 190th Street East in Orting, and found the man dead from an apparent gunshot wound. They did not find a weapon at the scene. The victim had been dead for at least 24 hours prior to the discovery of his body on Thursday morning, said Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Sgt. Darren Moss. An exact time of death will be determined after a full investigation.

Additional property and court records from Pierce and Thurston counties tie the address to a 51-year-old man with longstanding connections to Davies as well as his mother. All of them lived at the address for several years. The man and Davies’ mother were a couple, according to statements filed by both individuals in a long-running family law case. The man and Davies’ mother filed multiple statements in support of each other.

Lost and found

Davies became the subject of intense community and media interest after his family reported him missing on Aug. 31. Authorities launched a search after his vehicle was found abandoned on Tilley Road that evening.

In an interview with the Centralia Chronicle, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza said his department had been contacted on Thursday by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department for “other investigations and interests.”

On the same day, a few hours later, Davies was found in the 13600 block of Tilley Road Southwest, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. He was located north of where deputies said they found his vehicle under “suspicious circumstances.” Detectives reportedly found items strewn about, a small amount of blood and a smashed cell phone at the scene of Davies’ vehicle.

Information from News Tribune and Olympian archives is included in this report.

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