When Sakara Kachina Yepa Dunlap, known to her family and friends as Sky, wanted more of her favorite treat of jellybeans as a toddler she said, “Biggy lots of peedle bees.”
“She had such a creative mind that would evolve daily,” father Michael Dunlap said in a phone interview from Seattle. “She came up with these names that just amused us all.”
Michael Dunlap was in Seattle because that creative mind was silenced early last week.
An initial police investigation called the 2007 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate’s death a suicide. Family members say a medical investigator believes the incident was homicide. The family says the medical examiner was told by neighbors that screams were heard from Sky’s apartment that night.
Sky, 22, was found at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning by boyfriend Abdul Salom when he returned to her apartment from a nightclub according to statements by Sky’s high school friend Seneca Harper.
Sky was performing in one of Harper’s theatrical productions at the time of the incident.
Salom said Harper that he found Sky hanging from the couple’s bed with a Tae Kwon Do belt around her neck. Salom said he called 911 and they told him not to cut her down. Salom did cut her down and then went to a neighbor’s and told them to call 911 again.
Calls to Salom were not returned. A male who answered a contact phone number said Salom was on another phone and would return the call.
Michael Dunlap stated he did not approve of the relationship between his daughter and Salom, nor did many of Sky’s close friends.
The Dunlaps cannot get answers from the Seattle Police Department. A SPD spokesperson said they could not comment on active investigations.
Michael is hoping to contact Governor Sean Parnell, Attorney General John Burns, and Alaska District Attorney Dave Brower for help. He must also retrieve Sky’s personal belongings and bring her body back home.
“I am on this emotional roller coaster,” Dunlap said. “All the way from Prudhoe Bay to here. I am continually on this coaster and it won’t stop. My wife woke up to a text that said Sky had hung herself, that was from Abdul Salom. She woke up that morning and the distraught nature of your child’s death has left her devastated all these days and it still continues.”
Fried Shadow Hatch had spoken with Sky recently and the two had planned to visit. She said Sky was in good spirits and couldn’t wait to visit her at college and back in Juneau this summer.
Many of Sky’s Juneau friends met at Perseverance Theatre on Saturday to remember her.
“She was one of my best, best friends,” play director Ishmael Hope said. “I bet a lot of people can say that about her. I knew her when she was a shy girl who covered her hair and wore black, the she just started blooming and friends, like Seneca, brought out that confidence in herself. She could walk the city streets and stay up late talking about all she saw.”
Others said there was never an awkward moment with Sky, she never judged and was always relaxed. They talked of her flower dresses, of the shoes she wore that were once a part of one of her character’s wardrobe in a local play.
Those gathered recounted magical moments from Sky’s theater works in Juneau including “The Woman Who Married The Bear,” “The Salmon Boy,” “Crazy Corpus,” “Romeo And Juliet,” “Real to Reel,” “King Island Christmas,” “Raven Odyssey,” “Holes,” “Skin Of Our Teeth,” “Once On This Island,” “Marisol,” “Tlingit Macbeth,” “Hair,” “Two Gentlemen Of Verona,” “Measure For Measure,” “Alice In Wonderland” and “Transformation.”
Mother Shauna Dunlap said that Sky wanted to send the message that it was safe to be anywhere and spoke of when she carried a young Sky through department stores or on walks, Sky would always hold out her arms and turn her palms up, “I could never figure out why….”
Another said, “She gave light and she received light, she was a being of light. I think that is why she was never afraid.”
Jacque Tagaban read a letter from her son, Austin, who performed with Sky in Perseverance’s STAR summer programs:
“I think of you every time I look up towards those rain clouds, or maybe even blue, clear, cloudless Sky… I remember climbing a mountain with you, that was last April, and how we powered through the snow, me in converse, you Xtratuf, extra cool, extra sweet, extra you, and purely made of all things tough. The single thing that will be hardest to remember is the way you came to be a goddess in human shape, a powerful being of the universe….. I know that souls travel in circles and I will meet yours again, someday, and when again we do meet, will you dance and sing with me through the end of time?”
Said Tagaban, “She was just such a beautiful spirit. She just has this way of reflecting love and an openness to trying anything, a real pure energy. I think of light everywhere.”
Added Shona Strauser, “She had this booming laugh, you could recognize it anywhere. When she came to see a play you knew she was in the audience or if you were out at the university and heard her laughing you would say, ‘Sky is here somewhere.’”
Perseverance Theatre artistic director Art Roach said, “She was a really beautiful, present, and alive performer, she loved being on stage. I think she had a really bright future.”
A Facebook site has been set up in the name of Sakara (Sky) Dunlap.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.