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Wednesday, April 9, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Man in coma after beating

Seattle Times staff reporter

Stephen Wilkie had been doing pretty well for himself lately, his friends and family said.

At 27, the longtime SeaTac resident had recently landed a good job at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where his bosses and co-workers trusted him implicitly. And for the first time, he'd managed to save up enough for his own apartment, only a 15-minute walk to work.

But last Saturday morning, while taking his daily shortcut along a footpath off International Boulevard, Wilkie was jumped by three young men, who beat and bashed him unconscious and left him for dead. They didn't even bother to steal Wilkie's wallet.

Yesterday, with Wilkie languishing in what his father described as a "profound coma," hooked to a ventilator at Harborview Medical Center, his family and co-workers were left to wonder what prompted such a brutal beating of a man whose only real vice was playing tournament-level Scrabble.

And they joined King County sheriff's detectives in hoping that someone knows who his attackers are.

"We'd sure like to see the cops catch these guys, so it doesn't happen to anyone else," said Wilkie's father, Peter Wilkie of SeaTac. "It looks like he was hit with a 2-by-4."

Detectives say they don't know exactly what the three men used to pound Wilkie's face about 5:30 a.m. Saturday, on a path that leads from Wilkie's apartment building, near South 180th Street and 32nd Avenue South, to the parking lot of a restaurant on International Boulevard.

A witness apparently saw the attack and phoned police, but Wilkie was unconscious when police arrived, and couldn't provide any information.

A witness provided a rough description of the trio: three black men in their early to mid-20s, each medium height and medium build. Two of them were wearing dark clothing, one with a red hat or bandanna on his head. The third man was wearing a white, long-sleeved T-shirt with red writing on the back.

Detectives believe the men were intent on robbing Wilkie. But his father said the attackers left behind Wilkie's wallet, cellphone and handheld computer. And police aren't sure why.

Just before midnight the night before, two men with a handgun robbed a man of his wallet on International Boulevard, police said. The description the victim gave of his two muggers bore a "remarkable resemblance" to the two dark-clad men who attacked Wilkie, said King County sheriff's spokesman Kevin Fagerstrom.

Detectives hope someone with information about the muggers will call them at 206-296-7530.

Meantime, Wilkie's family and co-workers can just wait and hope.

Wilkie, who has lived in SeaTac since he was 8 and graduated from Tyee High School and Highline Community College, moved out of his parents' house for the first time when he got his apartment near the airport, his father said.

He had been working at the airport since September as a ticket-checker for ICTS, a company that contracts with the Port of Seattle and the airlines. Wilkie was one of the people who make sure passengers have their boarding passes and identification before they go through security.

Recently, his bosses trusted him enough to make him a baggage runner for Horizon Airlines, one of the people who cart luggage from the security inspectors to the people who load it on the planes.

"He is such a reliable, dependable employee," said his boss, Theresa Moffatt, general manager of ICTS. "I can't say enough good things about Stephen. Whenever we need him, he's always quick to do the job. Everybody's really shocked."

In his off time, Wilkie is an avid Scrabble player, one of about 50 members of the Seattle Scrabble Club.

If he weren't comatose, his biggest disappointment might be that he's going to miss a big tournament in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, this weekend, his father said.

Ian Ith: 206-464-2109 or iith@seattletimes.com

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