ANCHORAGE — Seventeen years after teenager Bonnie Craig was abducted from a South Anchorage street, raped, beaten and left for dead in a creek along Turnagain Arm, a Superior Court judge on Monday handed down the sentence for Craig’s convicted killer.
Kenneth Dion, 42, was sentenced to serve 124 years for the killing, which haunted Anchorage for years. Judge Jack Smith did not issue any suspended time.
A hiker found Craig’s body face down and submerged in McHugh Creek on a chilly autumn day, Sept. 28, 1994. Years went by with few good leads, until [filtered word] found in Craig matched DNA taken from Dion in 2006, when he was convicted of a string of armed robberies in New Hampshire.
A jury convicted him for Craig’s murder in June after a 21-day trial.
Monday afternoon’s sentencing hearing began with an upbeat mood. Craig’s family, who had once again donned scarfs and ties with her picture, left Halloween cookies at the prosecution table. Spectators in the courtroom gallery chatted.
But a hush settled over the onlookers as Dion was led in, his red hair cut short and his shackled hands tattooed with the words “Lost” and “Soul.”
In a statement to the judge, Craig’s sister, Samantha Campbell, called Dion “a jagged, cold, hard, insignificant little pebble. A pebble that was tossed into a beautiful, crystal-clear, sparkling pool that represents my sister.”
“The ripple effect that you created is still felt and will never go away,” Campbell said.
“You are a heartless, soulless coward, and I hate you,” she said, glancing at Dion. “I want to thank you for being careless and getting caught ... I thank you for showing me evil, so I can look to cherish what is good.”
‘I didn’t do it!’
Craig’s mother, Karen Foster, said losing her daughter was “like I had my guts ripped out.”
“No one can count the number of tears our family and Bonnie’s friends have shed,” Foster said. “No one can count the sleepless nights, the anxiety attacks, the bursts of anger, nor imagine the depths of depression we have suffered.”
Both Campbell and Foster said the family members’ relationships had been strained as the murder victim’s parents focused on her death.
Dion, who had remained mostly silent during the trial and sentencing, erupted with anger as prosecutor Paul Miovas detailed the convicted killer’s past assaults on women.
“That’s a lie, man,” Dion said, before his lawyer, then the judge, quieted him. Dion said he hadn’t gotten a fair trial.
There was no way Dion could be rehabilitated if he didn’t first admit to killing Craig, Miovas said.
“And I never will, because I didn’t do it!” Dion shouted at the prosecutor.
Miovas said that Dion should have been arrested after violating his probation for robberies in Alaska two years before Craig’s death.
“There’s no question this was a man that needed to be taken off the streets,” Miovas said. “If he had been, Bonnie would still be here.”
When the judge offered Dion a chance to address the court, Dion declined. “I have nothing to say. At all,” he said.
After a short break to consider what he’d heard, Judge Smith returned to explain, then hand down, his sentence.
Starting to heal
Smith said several aspects of the killing — including details of the abduction, rape and fatal beating Craig suffered — meant the case fit the legal definition of a “worst offense” when compared to other murder cases.
“The number and locations of the multiple blows to her head reflect a calculated, methodical beating, whether to overpower her or to control her or both is unknown,” Smith said. “The purpose of leaving Bonnie Craig in the creek would appear to be an attempt to either hide or destroy the evidence of both the sexual assault and the murder.”
Smith sentenced Dion to the maximum 99 years for first-degree murder and 25 years for first-degree sexual assault, based on statutes from 1994.
The judge did not order a restriction on the possibility of parole for Dion, something Miovas had requested, electing to leave the decision up to a parole board. Dion would be eligible for a parole hearing in a little more than 39 years, Smith said.
Dion was led out, and as the door closed, people in the gallery applauded.
Outside the courtroom, Miovas said he was pleased with the sentence and hoped it would allow Craig’s family to put the case behind them. Foster said she was finally getting some closure in the once-cold murder case.
“Probably from the time of the conviction on, I’ve been feeling very, very positive,” Foster said. “This is the final chapter, and he can no longer control our lives and we can start to heal. We can start to get on with our lives.”