SEATTLE — New details about an ongoing investigation into the disappearance of a woman last seen at a Seattle Mariners game are included in charging papers filed Monday against a man who accompanied her to the game and is accused of later abducting her adult son, torching her SUV and stealing diamonds from Costco.
Brett Michael Gitchel, 46 has not been charged in the disappearance and presumed death of Leticia “Leti” Martinez-Cosman, 58, but he faces a slew of other felonies for crimes allegedly committed in the days after the March 31 ballgame at T-Mobile Park. He was arrested Wednesday and remains jailed in lieu of $5 million bail.
Gitchel, who has a last known address in Orting, Pierce County, was charged Monday with attempted first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping — accused of abducting and trying to strangle Martinez-Cosman’s 24-year-old son early April 2, according to charging papers. He was also charged with second-degree arson, first-degree theft and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
Additional charges may be added if Seattle police refer additional information to prosecutors, as part of their investigation, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Gitchel’s cellphone records from the early afternoon of April 1 — about 15 hours after Martinez-Cosman was last seen alive — show he drove “into a remote, mountainous region in King County, stayed for a short period of time and then returned to Seattle, where about 12 hours later he would kidnap and assault her son and burn her vehicle,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Anderson wrote in charging papers.
Martinez-Cosman hasn’t shown up to work or had any contact with friends or family since she was seen with Gitchel at the game, Anderson wrote.
“Leticia Martinez-Cosman is still missing, and though extensive social, public and national media have drawn attention to this incident, no one has been able to provide evidence of Leticia being alive after she left the Mariners game with Brett Michael Gitchel,” he wrote in charging papers.
Disappearance from ballgame
At the game, Martinez-Cosman took a selfie with a man later identified as Gitchel and texted the photo to a friend, who then shared it with police, the charges say. The same friend who received the photo was with Martinez-Cosman when they first met Gitchel at the Seattle Costco store March 19.
Martinez-Cosman and Gitchel stayed until the game ended around 10:30 p.m., and security footage showed they walked together to a nearby parking garage and up to the third floor, the charges say.
The day after the ballgame, text messages were sent from Martinez-Cosman’s phone to a couple of her friends and her brother that were “odd and uncharacteristic” of her, even as calls to her phone went straight to voicemail, charging papers say.
“While these messages came from Leticia’s phone, the author of the messages cannot be verified,” the detective wrote in charging papers.
Her brother reported her missing April 2 after he was unable to contact his sister and learned of an incident involving his nephew nearly 12 hours earlier.
Martinez-Cosman’s 24-year-old son — who lives with his mother and has been diagnosed with intellectual disabilities — was awakened around 2 a.m. by an unknown man knocking on his bedroom door, the charges say. The man told him that his mother had been in an accident and that he would drive him to the hospital.
After driving around in the man’s SUV, the son later told police the man stopped, got in the back seat and tried to smother and strangle him from behind, according to the charges. During the ensuing fight, the son’s head repeatedly hit the horn. At some point, the man told the son “he was doing this for his mother and that this was to spare him from being committed to an institution because of his conditions,” the charges say.
The son was eventually able to get out of the SUV and call his father, who told him to call 911, the charges say. The unknown man drove off in his SUV, and the son hid in some nearby bushes but had a difficult time telling a Renton police dispatcher what had happened.
Meanwhile, several other people called 911 to report hearing a vehicle honking its horn at nearly 4 a.m. and a suspicious person hiding in the bushes, the charges say. Police arrived and found Martinez-Cosman’s son, who was visibly upset and covered in blood. He again had difficulty explaining what happened and was taken to a hospital and later driven home, the charges say.
Police later obtained a neighbor’s video-surveillance footage that showed Gitchel outside Martinez-Cosman’s house in White Center just before noon on April 1, the charges say. Cellphone records are also consistent with Gitchel returning to her house at the time Martinez-Cosman’s son was abducted, driving around South King County for two hours, then being near the Renton site where her son was strangled, according to charging papers.
After driving away, the records showed Gitchel went to the 900 block of Golf Drive South, where Seattle firefighters responded to a fully engulfed vehicle fire just before 7 a.m. April 2. The location is about 1 1/2 miles east of T-Mobile Park.
The torched vehicle was later identified as Martinez-Cosman’s Honda CRV, and investigators determined the fire had been started with an accelerant on the front passenger seat, the charges say.
Surveillance footage from a Shell gas station less than one mile south of where the burned CRV was found showed Gitchel arrive a half-hour before the fire, discard a jacket, purchase a gas canister and a lighter, and fill the canister with fuel, according to the charges.
A gas canister, consistent with the one Gitchel bought, was found in some bushes near the car fire.
The same Costco on Fourth Avenue South where Martinez-Cosman first met Gitchel last month reported to police that nearly $10,000 in diamonds were stolen April 4, the charges say. Video-surveillance footage from the store showed a man who looked like Gitchel pry open a glass jewelry case with two screwdrivers before fleeing, according to the charges. Loss prevention officers followed the man out of the store, and one of them wrote down his license plate number, which was turned over to police, the charges say.
Police later got a warrant to track Gitchel’s cellphone location, which showed him arrive at the Shoreline Costco a little after 7 p.m. Wednesday, charging papers say. Costco employees, who were aware of the Seattle theft, recognized Gitchel from photos that had been shared with them, and an off-duty sheriff’s captain working security escorted him into an office, the charges say.
Seattle police arrested Gitchel and took him to their headquarters, where he removed a Mariners wristband and hid it in his pocket before he was interviewed, according to the charges.
Gitchel initially denied knowing Martinez-Cosman or attending any sporting events but changed his story after he was shown the selfie, the charges say. He claimed she had run into another man at the end of the game and left with him, according to the charges.
Police took the man’s clothes as evidence and noted he had numerous cuts, scrapes and bruises on his hands, arms and body that appeared to be days old and saw what appeared to be blood inside his shoe, according to the charges.
Police later searched Gitchel’s car, where they found a loaded .45-caliber handgun under the front passenger seat, say the charges, which note he can’t lawfully possess firearms because of prior felony convictions.
Gitchel is scheduled to be arraigned April 24.