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No charges in man’s death after struggle with girlfriend

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By Diana Hefley
Herald Writer
EVERETT -- Kelly Sanford doesn't want to dwell on how her cousin died.
She chooses to remember Richard Balch in life and his kindness and generosity.
"I know that he had great struggles, but I have great memories of him," Sanford said.
Prosecutors recently told Sanford that they won't be filing criminal charges against Balch's girlfriend in connection with the Auburn man's Jan. 12 death.
Balch, 51, collapsed after a struggle with his girlfriend in south Everett. The Snohomish County medical examiner concluded that Balch died from alcohol poisoning. He also had heart and liver disease. The struggle may have contributed to the man's death, but it wasn't the primary cause, officials ruled.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Travis Johnson reviewed the police investigation and reports from the medical examiner. He said there wasn't sufficient evidence to prove that the woman suffocated Balch.
"There was not enough to go forward with a manslaughter charge," Johnson said. "There was no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was responsible for Mr. Balch's death."
The case caught international attention after some Seattle media reported that Balch had been suffocated by his girlfriend's chest. There was nothing in the police reports to support that scenario.
Police were called the woman's mobile home off Highway 99 after Balch stopped breathing. Witnesses gave detectives conflicting stories about what happened. Multiple people at the home had been drinking heavily and smoking marijuana, according to police reports.
Balch's girlfriend initially was arrested and booked for investigation of second-degree manslaughter. She was released pending the police investigation.
The woman's blood-alcohol level tested at nearly six times the legal limit shortly after the struggle. She told detectives she didn't remember what happened.
"It very unfortunate and sad how he died," Sanford said. "I'm not going to dwell on that. I'm going to hold on to the good memories."

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463;
Story tags » EverettProsecution

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