A Sitka woman charged with altering evidence that could have helped officials convict her boss of murder went on trial today in Juneau Superior Court.
Prosecutors allege Ann Lowe washed clothes reeking of fuel that could have been used to burn a boat, after police told her not to wash them.
The clothes belonged to Bob Meyer, a Sitka and Juneau businessman indicted on charges of murdering his wife and daughter in 1996. Lowe, who worked for Meyer, married him before he killed himself prior to going to trial on the charges.
Lowe, 54, faces a charge of tampering with physical evidence, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Meyer told investigators he, his previous wife Dianna, 49, and their 17-year-old daughter Christine, were on a boating trip in early June 1996 when his pleasure boat Marjo somehow caught fire in Salisbury Sound near Sitka.
He said his wife and daughter got into the Marjo's 24-foot skiff, but disappeared when he went to look for the family's dogs. Their bodies were never found.
Juneau District Attorney Rick Svobodny told the jury today that Lowe washed Meyer's clothes, which reeked of fuel, after a Sitka police officer directed her not to.
Svobodny said the clothes had a petroleum product on them, but not hydrocarbons, which the clothes would have picked up if Meyer had walked through a smoky area. He said washing also can destroy blood.
Svobodny said Dianna Meyer, who co-owned the family business Southeast Marine, was going to divorce Bob Meyer. Svobodny said Meyer and Lowe, who had just been divorced, were having an affair.
``Robert Meyer murdered his wife and murdered his daughter sometime between June 2 and June 4, 1996,'' Svobodny said. ``He did that on a trip from Sitka and burned his boat to cover it up.''
Shortly after returning to shore after the incident, Meyer called Lowe, who managed Southeast Marine, at her home and before he called the Coast Guard or police, Svobodny said.
Lowe urged Meyer to call the Coast Guard, which he did. He then went over to Lowe's house, took a shower, changed his clothes and lay down to rest. Lowe told investigators she put his clothes in the washing machine because they smelled of fuel.
But defense attorney Thomas Nave said Lowe started washing the clothes before police spoke to her. He said Lowe told police the clothes were in the washing machine.
Nave said police then told her: ``You might not want to wash them yet.''
When police later returned to Lowe's house to get the clothes, Lowe's daughter, Melody Aitken, was washing the clothes again because they still reeked. Police hadn't asked Aitken not to wash the clothes, Nave said.
pnMeyer became a quadriplegic following a car accident near Seattle in August 1997, and was indicted on murder charges in March 1998. The same grand jury indicted Lowe on an evidence-tampering charge.
Shortly afterward, Lowe and Meyer married. Meyer died in October 1998, before being tried, in an apparent suicide when he went off a Sitka dock in his wheelchair.