When an Anchorage jury took just a few hours to find Kenneth Dion, 41, guilty on June 15 for the rape and murder of teenager Bonnie Craig nearly 17 years ago, her mother had already decided what was next.
“Now our reward money is no longer needed because he has been convicted,” Craig’s mother Karen Foster said. “So we are wanting to use it for other murder victims. It doesn’t have to be young girls.”
When Craig’s body was found, a massive public outcry resulted in hundreds of tips, and posters and bus ads posted across the city asking “Who Killed Bonnie?” Anchorage utilities bills included an extra envelope and request to the public to help raise reward money.
It took nearly a dozen years until Alaska State Troopers received a report from law enforcement officials in New Hampshire that an armed robber serving time there, Dion, had DNA that matched samples found on Craig’s body.
“It was unbelievable,” Foster said when her daughter’s murderer was convicted. “I don’t have a lot of faith in the justice system. Initially when he was identified in January 2007 I was sick. It was awful to think that now we had to go through a trial and what if he gets away with it? Right up to the last days of the trial I was just sick. It was very difficult. But now the world feels like it has been lifted off our shoulders, it is just unbelievable, a revelation.”
Dion was convicted of murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.
Foster now wants to share that emotion with other victimized families. The Family and Friends of Bonnie Craig Reward Fund has changed its name to The Homicide Reward Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit group originally formed after Craig’s murder.
The board of that fund now wants to solve other crimes involving cold case files. Once somebody gives information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the girls’ murders, the money will be allotted.
Up to $20,000 will be paid for information that leads to an arrest or conviction of people involved in the murder. Any Alaska law enforcement agency can submit an unsolved murder to the fund’s board for approval. The victim involved must be an innocent victim of a crime in Alaska.
The Homicide Reward Fund is currently offering money for information in solving the murders of Jessica Baggen, 17, of Sitka in 1996, Eileen Wafer, 14, of Haines in 1982, Shelley Connolly, 16, in 1978, and Ann Saephan, 15, in 2003. Connolly and Saephan were both from Anchorage.
“Your life does not get back to normal until you get the answers,” Foster said. “It is so wonderful to have the answers and a conviction, it is unbelievable. I keep feeling like I am on top of the world and someone needs to slap this grin off my face, it is just amazing. If we can just help other parents, family members, and friends experience this relief.”
Baggen was killed just hours after celebrating her 17th birthday. Her body was found in a patch of woods near the Indian River footbridge and Totem Park on Sawmill Creek Road in Sitka.
Baggen disappeared walking from a relative’s home on Sawmill Creek Road to her house a mile away on Barlow Street.
Baggen had been sexually assaulted, strangled, and died of asphyxiation from mud and leaves being forced into her mouth. A 35-year-old college janitor, Richard Bingham, was tried for the murder in 1997 but was found not guilty.
Wafer disappeared from her family’s residence in the Mountain View Hotel while baby-sitting her young brothers.
Her body was found along the beachfront at Portage Cove several hundred feet from the hotel near the present site of Chilkat Cruises dock.
Connolly’s body was found next to train tracks south of McHugh Creek at milepost 109 of the Seward Highway. She had been sexually assaulted. Connolly was last seen inside Chilkoot Charlie’s talking to four men.
Saephan was standing with a group of friends in the parking lot of Space Station Video Arcade on Spenard Road when an unknown person fired shots, one of which struck and killed her.
“You always feel sick,” Foster said. “As a mother of a murdered child you feel sick that the guy is getting away with murder and could be killing other kids. Even to this day I wonder ‘did Kevin Dion kill other people?’ I look at these different cases in Alaska and I check if he was in jail at the time or if he could be responsible for this case or that case.”
Anyone wishing to share information in these four cold case crimes or any other suspected crime should contact the Alaska State Troopers or other law enforcement agencies in the state.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.