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Crime News Dateline

Recent College Grad Is Found Bloody And Abandoned On Washington Road, But Who Was Responsible?

“We didn’t know if it’s an attempted murder or if it’s just a bad accident,” Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said of finding Kristen Grindley unconscious on the roadway. “All we know is that we have an injured female in the middle of the road and we have very little evidence.”

By Jill Sederstrom

It was just after 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 11, 2009 when a Washington bar owner noticed something unusual on the dark, rural roadway ahead.

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At first, Bob Cady thought it was just unwanted trash left behind, but as he got closer, he noticed that it was a woman, lying face down and covered in blood.

He quickly pulled his truck across the road to protect the unconscious woman — who was fully clothed but only wearing socks on her feet — from oncoming traffic, according to "Dateline: Secrets Uncovered," airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. 

“There’s a lady … laying in the middle of the street. She is breathing. I can hear her breathe,” he frantically told a 911 dispatcher. “You gotta get a car out here quick.”

Emergency medical technicians arrived on Albion Road minutes later to find Kristen Grindley barely clinging to life. The recent Washington State University graduate was covered from head to toe in dirt and blood.

Kristen Grindley featured in Dateline

“We didn’t know if it’s an attempted murder or if it’s just a bad accident,” Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said of the perplexing scene. “All we know is that we have an injured female in the middle of the road and we have very little evidence.”

As Kristen was being rushed to a nearby hospital and then airlifted to Spokane, her parents, Pat and Rick Grindley, were trying to come to grips with the news that their daughter had been gravely injured.

“I just remember praying like I’ve never prayed before in my life, you know, ‘Hang on, Kristen we’re coming, hang on,’” Rick recalled.

When they reached Spokane, they were ushered into an intensive care unit where they found their once-vivacious daughter unconscious and hooked up to a series of tubes and monitors.

“it’s just shocking. I mean, Kristen’s a very beautiful girl and then to see her, you know, her hair all cut and matted with blood, you know, just seeing your own child go through what that pain must have been like was just, is just impossible for us to take,” Rick said.

Kristen had been left in a coma, still struggling to survive from serious bruising on her brain.

She had road rash on her body and investigators found a long trail of blood on the asphalt where she had been found, but no car, leading authorities to believe she may have fallen or been pushed from a vehicle.

“Real simply put, we knew that somebody else knew about what happened,” Myers said.

Before she was discovered, Kristen seemingly had everything going for her. The 23-year-old — who friends described as upbeat, friendly, positive, and charismatic — had recently graduated from college and was living with her boyfriend, Richard Pasma.

Kristen and Pasma had met her senior year of college and quickly became smitten with one another.

“They were attached at the hip from the very beginning,” one friend told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.” “She wanted to marry him and have kids with him and they started planning their future.”

But not everyone saw Pasma’s appeal. Kristen’s friends said once the romance began, Kristen had started to pull away from friends she’d had for years, isolating herself with Pasma, who they described as controlling and possessive.

Her dad, Rick, described how Pasma seemingly avoided him during a visit for dad’s weekend and her sister Shannon recalled a time Kristen had called her in tears because Pasma had locked her out of his house and forced her to walk all the way back to her apartment.

Her mother, Pat, said Pasma “pretty much blew up” at her family after her parents had tried to stop him from driving after an afternoon of drinking.

Despite the concerns of those around her, Kristen moved in with Pasma in the spring of 2009 to a house just off campus.

In the weeks after Kristen was discovered bruised and bleeding on the road, she began to slowly regain consciousness, but the 23-year-old had no memory of what happened that mysterious night.

Kristen’s memory was blocked and her affection for Pasma seemed to have vanished right along with it.

She told her mother she needed to break up with “that dude” and told her she “hated” him.

Investigators reached out to Pasma the same night Kristen had been found on the roadway, but Myers wasn’t reassured by what he had to say.

“My first impressions were that he knew exactly what happened,” Myers said, adding that his over-the-top concern for Kristen seemed like a “really poor acting job.”

Pasma told authorities he and Kristen had been arguing earlier that day. The pair went out separately that night but when he got home, he said the argument continued and at around 1:30 a.m. he got in his truck to go drive around and blow off steam — traveling strangely enough along Albion Road, the same spot where Kristen’s body had been found.

However, Pasma told police that as he pulled away, he saw Kristen standing in the doorway of their home. When he returned around 2 a.m., he told police he heard someone throwing around the recycling bins and went to tell Kristen downstairs, only to realize she wasn’t there. After making that discovery, Pasma said he and Kristen’s friend went out searching for her.

Kristen’s friend told investigators that while they had been driving around Pasma repeatedly told her that he was scared Kristen could have been in the bed of his truck — an admission he hadn’t made to the sheriff’s office.

Authorities also couldn’t find any evidence that the recycling bins had been disturbed at the home.

After more than half an hour of speaking with investigators, Pasma asked for a lawyer, ending their conversation.  

The sheriff’s office also learned that Kristen had been the alleged victim in a previous domestic violence situation, when a campus police officer said they overhead Pasma slap her across the face as the pair argued at the top of an outdoor stairway on campus in April of 2009.

“Just because someone has been arrested for domestic violence prior, doesn’t necessarily mean that they're guilty of a heinous crime,” Myers said.

Investigators worked to gather more evidence, but without Kristen’s memory of what happened there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him with attempted murder as her family had wanted.

Instead, Pasma’s defense attorney Tim Esser argued that on the night in question Kristen had secretly gotten into the bed of Pasma’s truck and fell out at some point.

“Unfortunately, the person that caused Kristen Grindley’s injuries was Kristen Grindley,” he told "Dateline" correspondent Josh Mankiewicz.

He pointed to accounts from some of the couple’s friends who said Kristen had been the one who couldn’t walk away from a fight — an admission she allegedly made herself in a handwritten letter to Pasma in which she said she knew that she “had a problem.”

In the end, Pasma entered an Alford plea, which does not admit wrongdoing but acknowledges prosecutors have enough to convict, to a much lesser charge of leaving the scene of an injury accident.

He was sentenced in November of 2010 to nine months in jail as Kristen looked on.

“I hope some day Richard confronts what he did to me and gets help,” Kristen told the court. “Until he admits he has to change to get his anger under control, I fear that he will hurt others like he did to me.”

To learn more about this case and others like it, watch "Dateline: Secrets Uncovered," airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.