Parents won’t be charged with crime related to child’s death |

Parents won’t be charged with crime related to child’s death

Routt County Sheriff's Office officials investigate at a home in the Stagecoach area where a Steamboat Springs police officer's 3-year-old son was killed after a gun accidentally went off.
Matt Stensland

— A grand jury for the 14th Judicial District has decided the parents of Gavin Stiles should not be charged with a crime related to the 3-year-old’s death.

Gavin shot himself with his father’s police department-issued handgun. The incident occurred July 14 at a home owned by Michael and Joni Stiles in the Stagecoach area.

Michael Stiles is a Steamboat Springs Police Department officer, who requested six months of unpaid leave following the incident.

“I referred this matter to our grand jury at its first available date to ensure that our community, through its representatives on the grand jury, participated in decisions about this incident,” District Attorney Brett Barkey said in a news release. “The grand jury concluded that it was not appropriate to charge Michael and Joni Stiles based on criminal negligence.”

The specific circumstances surrounding Gavin’s death still have not been released. Steamboat Today has filed a records request for reports related to the investigation.

Steamboat attorney Larry Combs represented Michael and Joni Stiles.

“This was just a tragic case,” Combs said. “The worst experience that parents can have. They were devastated by the accident, and they are in a recovery process, and this sort of resets that recovery process.”

The Routt County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incident and then handed the case over to the District Attorney’s Office.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to family and friends impacted by this horrific tragic accident,” Sheriff Garrett Wiggins and Undersheriff Ray Birch said in a news release. “The circumstances of Gavin’s death had a significant impact on members of the Routt County Sheriff’s Office as well as the entire community. We hope now that the closure process will begin, and those impacted most will be able to heal and move forward.”

The Sheriff’s Office stated that tragic incidents such as Gavin’s death serve as a reminder that community members need to implement necessary precautions to keep children safe. The Sheriff’s Office recommends people visit

The District Attorney’s Office has chosen to use a grand jury with several high-profile cases in recent years. Residents from Routt, Grand and Moffat counties sit on the jury.

Grand juries aid prosecutors by helping them investigate cases. They have the ability to subpoena documents as well as witnesses to testify in advance of a trial.

Grand juries meet in secret and have the power to indict people if they find probable cause that a crime was committed. They also can signal to prosecutors the strength of a particular case.

Combs said Michael and Joni Stiles were notified of the grand jury proceedings, and they voluntarily appeared.

The Stileses testified along with deputies who investigated the case.

Because grand jury proceedings are secret, Combs said he could not address anything that was discussed.

Combs said the proceedings began Thursday morning, and he was notified at about 4 p.m. that the grand jury did not come back with an indictment.

Combs said the case was one of the most difficult cases he has handled during his 46-year career.

“What worse experience could you have beyond the accident itself?” Combs said. “This was just a disruption of that recovery process.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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