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Cold-case Yakutat murder still scheduled for March trial

Attorneys: Pre-trial issues likely to take hold

Posted: November 29, 2012 - 1:19pm  |  Updated: November 30, 2012 - 1:06am
Robert D. Kowalski, 51, appears in Juneau Superior Court on Thursday for a status hearing. Kowalski is accused of killling his girlfriend at a Yakutat lodge in 1996.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Robert D. Kowalski, 51, appears in Juneau Superior Court on Thursday for a status hearing. Kowalski is accused of killling his girlfriend at a Yakutat lodge in 1996.

A man accused of killing his then-girlfriend at a Yakutat lodge 16 years ago is still slated to stand trial in Juneau this March.

Defendant Robert D. Kowalski, 51, appeared in Juneau Superior Court for a status hearing in the case on Thursday.

No pre-trial motions have been filed in the case yet, but both prosecutors and defense say they anticipate legal issues will need to be addressed before the trial.

Judge Louis Menendez set a motion filing deadline for Dec. 17 at the request of Kowalski’s attorney, public defender Eric Hedland. The judge also scheduled time in January for a pretrial hearing to discuss evidence issues, if need be.

Assistant Attorney General Paul J. Miovas Jr., who is prosecuting the case for the state, wrote in a motion that one big pre-trial issue he expects will arise is over the admissibility of Kowalski’s prior murder conviction.

Kowalski is accused of fatally shooting Sandra M. Perry on July 21, 1996, at the Glacier Bear Lodge in Yakutat, where the couple was vacationing from Washington.

Alaska investigators at the time had ruled the death accidental and never arrested Kowalski. But the case was re-opened in January 2009 after Kowalski was charged and convicted of murdering of his girlfriend in Montana in 2008.

Kowalski claimed accidental discharge of the gun in that case, too, according to prosecutors.

Kowalski was subsequently indicted by a grand jury in Juneau in September 2011. He is charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder. Both of those are unclassified felonies that can carry up to 99 years in prison.

The upcoming trial in Juneau is scheduled to last three weeks, beginning on March 11.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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