Other victim upset by deal

St. Clair identified as 'person of interest' in two closed cases

Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2005

One Juneau resident says he knows what robbery victim Eric Drake has gone through for a year, and he's upset with suspect Aaron St. Clair Jr.'s plea bargain.

Like Drake, James Dean "J.D." Connally reported being robbed in his cab, and believes one of his assailants was St. Clair. Police reported investigating St. Clair and another man in the crime. The second man, Blake Sanford, killed himself last fall when officers went to his home.

Connally said he was robbed in his taxi on March 17, 2003, in the Jordan Creek area across the street from the scene of St. Clair's alleged Jan. 7, 2004, slashing attack on Drake.

"They tried to kill me three ways," Connally said.

When asked if St. Clair was a "suspect" in Connally's robbery, Juneau police Capt. Tom Porter hesitated, then said St. Clair was one of the two men investigators identified as "persons of interest."

He won't be prosecuted, though.

When St. Clair agreed to plead guilty to attempted murder in Drake's case, the state dismissed the other charges - first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and tampering with evidence - and agreed that no charges would be brought against St. Clair in seven other Juneau police investigations. The 2003 taxi robbery was among them.

Porter confirmed that the other "person of interest" in the case was Sanford, who fatally shot himself in the head on Sept. 12, 2004, when police came to his home at 3212 Breese St. in the Mendenhall Valley. Police reported that they were serving a search warrant when Sanford climbed out of his bedroom and onto the roof of his two-story building with a pistol under his clothing.

Connally said he is more than upset that St. Clair won't stand trial for the robbery he survived. "You couldn't write how I feel in the newspaper."

He recalled that he was driving for Cabco when he picked up two young men in the same area where Drake picked up St. Clair and his wife, Violet St. Clair, on Riverside Drive almost 10 months later. Stopped in a parking lot near Jordan Creek, he felt a belt wrap around his throat and tighten.

He said he grabbed the belt and saw a shotgun in his face. "They beat me in the head with the butt of the shotgun."

The men escaped with $143, he said.

Now 47 and working for Juneau Taxi, he said he missed five months of work. He said he was stuck with $7,000 in doctor bills and lost an $18,000 investment in a cab he was trying to buy.

But unlike his friend and co-worker Drake, he said he doesn't have any fears about driving a cab. The robbery, he said, "made me mad more than it scared me. I've been in scraps all my life."

Among the other cases in which St. Clair can't be prosecuted, according to his plea agreement, is an armed robbery in the early hours of Sept. 20, 2003. St. Clair and Sanford were the only identified "persons of interest" in that case, Porter said.

A man dressed in dark clothing and wearing a ski mask reportedly approached the manager of the Glacier Cinema, who was walking to his car, and demanded money at gunpoint. The robber reportedly fled into the woods with an undisclosed amount of cash.

No arrest was ever made in the robbery, and the investigation has been officially closed, Porter said.

St. Clair's plea also prevents him from being prosecuted in three cases that involved sex crimes, according to police records. One included allegations of first-degree sexual assault and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Another of the cases could have led to burglary charges. One case could have led to a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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