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Family Mourns Entrepreneur Apparently Killed by Friend : Shooting: Tyler K. Hutchinson’s body was stored for two days in a sleeping bag before authorities were notified. A memorial service is planned for today.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A memorial will be held today for a local entrepreneur apparently killed by a friend who told police the shock of the accidental shooting prompted him to store the body in a sleeping bag for two days, authorities and family members said.

Tyler K. Hutchinson, 25, a San Clemente native, will be mourned by family and friends at a seaside park in Santa Barbara. The co-founder of Boulderblades Inc., a Newport Beach in-line skating goods company, died Sunday from a gunshot wound to the head, according to a coroner’s report.

The grief of Hutchinson’s loved ones has been deepened by the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of the successful young businessman and avid athlete. No arrests have been made, but San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s detectives are investigating the accounts given by Mark Westwick, 23, of Avila Beach, a former co-worker of Hutchinson who asserts the shooting was accidental.

“Police are investigating some inconsistencies that they have asked we not discuss,” said David Wilk, Hutchinson’s stepfather. “They’re reluctant to give us many details on all the angles they are investigating. At this point, there is no reason to think this is more than a horrible accident. But there are those strange aspects.”

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On a business trip, Hutchinson was visiting Westwick’s Avila Beach home Saturday night for an evening of baseball viewing and beer drinking, Westwick told sheriff’s detectives. Hutchinson was reportedly playing with his friend’s new semi-automatic pistol shortly after midnight Sunday when Westwick grabbed for the weapon, Westwick told investigators. The gun went off, killing Hutchinson, he said.

Gripped by shock, Westwick sat next to the body all night and then bundled it up in a sleeping bag he secreted in his garage, according to an account Westwick issued via his attorney, Melvin de la Motte of San Luis Obispo. Upset and confused, Westwick then took Hutchinson’s Toyota truck and headed to San Clemente to inform his friend’s grandparents, De la Motte said.

But Westwick made it only as far as a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, De la Motte said. Monday morning, he called his mother and arranged to meet her and De la Motte in Oxnard.

Westwick’s actions have been hard for Hutchinson’s family members to understand. Westwick and Hutchinson met when they both worked for Wilk at his novelty company, Pacific Milk Caps, a maker of POGs.

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“Mark was a dear friend of Tyler’s,” Wilk said, as he and other family members gathered in Santa Barbara for today’s memorial. “I would like to think it was all indeed an accident. I just don’t understand why he didn’t call police. It is very bothersome. It makes everything even worse. The thought that his body was just lying there. No one called 911. . . . What if they could have helped?”

Hutchinson was described by friends as a handsome, ambitious, hard-working businessman who had already begun to make his mark at a relatively young age. Logan Gulla, the co-founder of Boulderblades, said their in-line skating goods enterprise is on track to complete $15 million in sales in this its inaugural year. Twice the young company or its products have been featured on national television news shows.

“He had entrepreneurship in his genes,” Gulla said. “The personal loss here is tremendous. The corporate loss is tremendous.”

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Hutchinson was in Avila Beach for the weekend to have West-wick introduce him to a local inventor with a product proposal, Gulla said. Shortly before his death, Hutchinson called Gulla to update him on the project, and he sounded “extremely coherent,” Gulla said, adding that he was stunned by descriptions of Hutchinson playing with a pistol.

“That is extremely out of character, he’s just not that stupid,” Gulla said. “Only two people know what happened, unfortunately, and one of them is dead. The whole thing is just extremely strange.”

Wilk said he hoped a lesson could be learned from his stepson’s death.

“There’s a gun and the gun goes off,” he said. “If there is no gun, this doesn’t happen.”

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Hutchinson enjoyed golfing, skiing and volleyball, the latter a sport he fell in love with as a youngster watching matches with his stepfather, the founder in the 1970s of the Professional Beach Volleyball Tour.

The Cal State Long Beach business graduate also attended Arizona and Arizona State universities and dabbled for a time with a modeling career in Los Angeles. He graduated from San Clemente High School in 1989.

The memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. today on the grassy expanse of Shoreline Park along the coastline of Santa Barbara. The park is off the Cabrillo Boulevard exit of Highway 101, about a mile northwest of the city’s pier.

Hutchinson is survived by his parents, Terryle Wilk of Santa Barbara and Bill Hutchinson of Bullhead City, Ariz.; his stepfather, David Wilk of Santa Barbara; and his older brother, Travis Hutchinson of New York.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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