Cold case murder trial on hold for sick judge

This photograph, which was provided to the Empire by state prosecutors and published with permission of family members, shows Sandra M. Perry in the years before she was killed at a Yakutat lodge in July 1996. Now 17 years later, her boyfriend is on trial in Juneau for murdering her. The defendant, Robert D. Kowalski, claims the fatal shooting was an accident.

A judge presiding over a murder trial in Juneau Superior Court was out sick Tuesday, cancelling court proceedings for the day.


The trial will resume as soon as the Judge Louis Menendez, who had a bad cough on Friday, is well again.

Robert D. Kowalski, 53, is on trial for murdering Sandra M. Perry, 39, at a Yakutat lodge 17 years ago. Kowalski claims the fatal shooting was an accident.

Prosecutors hope to wrap their case up by the end of the week. The defense hopes their case will only take a day or two.

Kowalski’s trial began March 17 with jury selection. It is now in its third week.

Court was not held on Monday due to the state holiday.

The next witnesses expected to testify for the state are two law enforcement officers from Montana who will testify about their investigation into the death of Lorraine Kay Morin, 45, in Flathead County, Mont. Kowalski was convicted of homicide via an Alford plea in connection to Morin’s death in March 2008.

That case prompted Alaska investigators to re-open the Yakutat case, which had been “cold” for about a decade and a half. Kowalski was never charged at the time of Perry’s shooting in July 1996. He was indicted by a Juneau grand jury on two counts of murder in September 2011.

Kowalski could be facing life in prison if convicted of murdering Perry. He is already serving a 40-year prison sentence for Morin’s death.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at


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