More details emerge in Bellingham man’s Thursday fighting death

Blaine man suspected of second-degree murder makes first appearance in court

Shelby James Best, 28, made his first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham, Wash., on Friday, May 3, 2019. Best is accused of second-degree murder.
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Shelby James Best, 28, made his first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham, Wash., on Friday, May 3, 2019. Best is accused of second-degree murder.

A 28-year-old Blaine man accused of killing another man in a fight in Bellingham early Thursday morning, May 2, told police the victim fell and hit his head during a slap fight, according to records filed Friday in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Shelby James Best was arrested Thursday on suspicion of second-degree murder for the death of 30-year-old Bellingham resident Joshua Paulley-Davenport. Bail was set at $1 million for Best at his first appearance Friday.

Best’s arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. on May 10.

Bellingham police were called to the 1200 block of 24th Street minutes before midnight on May 1 for the report of an aggravated assault. The victim, later identified as Paulley-Davenport, was unconscious and bleeding from the head, according to court records.

Life saving measures were performed, but Paulley-Davenport succumbed to his injuries a half-hour later, records show. Paulley-Davenport had visible injuries to his face and head, and there was blood on the walkway to the front door of the residence, court records state.

A third person who was at the house told police that all three of them were out in the Fairhaven area and went to several bars and restaurants. When the bars were closing, it was determined Best was too intoxicated to drive home, so Best would stay the night at Paulley-Davenport’s house on 24th Street, according to court records.

All three continued socializing and drinking, and at one point walked to a nearby convenience store to purchase more alcohol, records show. When the witness went to a back bedroom to prepare for bed, she told police she heard what sounded like men wrestling in the front room, according to court records. When she returned, she saw Paulley-Davenport had a swollen eye, records show.

The witness said she later heard Paulley-Davenport tell Best to leave the residence. She then heard thumping just outside the residence, court records state. Paulley-Davenport was found lying on the walkway adjacent to the front door, unresponsive and bleeding from his head, according to court records, and Best had left the residence.

Best’s vehicle was found by police in the 1100 block of McKenzie Avenue. Shortly before 5 a.m., officers saw a male, later identified as Best, getting into the vehicle, according to court records. When officers contacted Best, they saw blood on his face, neck, hands and clothing, court records show, and his knuckles on both hands also had notable abrasions and cuts.

During an interview with Bellingham police, Best admitted he and Paulley-Davenport were out together that night and that he went to Paulley-Davenport’s home, court records state. Best told police he likely caused Paulley-Davenport’s swollen left eye during a slap fight, but said Paulley-Davenport may have fallen or tripped and hit his head while they were fighting, according to court records.

Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel preliminarily reported that Paulley-Davenport sustained multiple significant impact injuries to his head, face and back, and that he had no significant injuries to his hands or knuckles, according to court records. Goldfogel indicated Paulley-Davenport’s injuries were not consistent with a fall, the records show.

Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.