Mother sues Bellevue Square Mall over son's death

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Paula Harmes is a Puyallup mom on a mission to find the truth behind her son's mysterious Valentine's Day death in 2012.

"Thirty four year olds don't just die," Harmes said. "They don't just die and have no reason for dying."

Jacob Steinle hid Valentine's treats around the home of his children two years ago. The next evening, his brother came home to find Steinle dead on the floor in the house they shared.

The King County Medical Examiner autopsy report said the manner of death is "best classified as undetermined," but Harmes cannot accept that finding and challenged it.

"I said how did you miss a broken nose?" she said.

Four days before his death, Steinle was outside Munchbar in Bellevue Square Mall when security video shows he became involved in a confrontation with another man. The men exchange words and the other man appears amped up. He jumps in place and then heads over to Steinle, who is out of frame. Mall security say the man threw a punch at Steinle.

Harmes says that man is Dain Cilley, the emerging markets vice president of North America for Oracle. Harmes is suing him for wrongful death. Her suit also names the Kemper Foundation, which owns Bellevue Square mall, and Munchbar. The bar still exists in Las Vegas, but the franchise in Bellevue's mall never reopened after a deadly shooting in December of 2012, 10 months after Steinle was punched.

Seattle attorney Anne Bremner is representing Harmes.

"It's caught on tape. Not only that her son was brutally assaulted and that led to his death, but also that nobody did anything," Bremner said.

Harmes did something. She obtained the security footage. She convinced renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz to do a second autopsy. Spitz was involved in several famous autopsies from John F. Kennedy's to Martin Luther King's. He asked Harmes about the composition of the wall behind Steinle at the time of the punch.

The mother turned sleuth and took a stud finder to the spot where there was a divot in the wall from her son's head.

"His head bounced off a wall in reports, and that wall has a 6-inch steal beam," she said.

Dr. Werner's report found that Steinle suffered a brain injury.

"It is my opinion that Jacob Steinle's head trauma resulted in a concussive brain injury which was flowed by a seizure and his death two to three days later," the report reads.

He adds that the manner of death should be listed as homicide.

"But for the assault at the mall, Jacob Steinle would not have died," according Werner's autopsy report.

Harmes says all she wants is the truth, and she wants King County's Medical Examiner to revise it's findings.

"I feel my son was pretty much stuffed in a bag and disposed of," she said. "I want justice for my son and I want the truth be know that this happened and this happened at Bellevue Square Mall."