Pair charged in cabbie's stabbing

Man accused of wielding knife could face more than 100 years in prison

Posted: Friday, February 06, 2004

A month after the slashing attack on cab driver Eric Drake, Juneau police arrested a young Juneau couple late Wednesday night and charged them in the near-fatal assault.

Aaron St. Clair Jr., 20, was charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and robbery in the Jan. 7 attack. His wife, Violet St. Clair, 18, was charged with first-degree assault and robbery.

Aaron St. Clair faces up to 134 years in prison and $1 million in fines if convicted, Juneau District Judge Peter B. Froehlich said before the standing-room-only crowd that appeared for the after-hours hearing.

His wife faces up to 40 years in prison and $500,000 in fines, the judge said.

Froehlich set bail at $500,000 for Aaron St. Clair and $100,000 for Violet St. Clair. Both suspects were returned to the Lemon Creek Correctional Center. They were not asked to enter pleas at the hearing.

Drake attended the arraignment, his hands and forearms still bandaged to hold his fingers in place as he recovers from surgical repairs.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner described the attack as "brutal" and "random" and said Aaron St. Clair was "extremely dangerous to the community.

"It was a planned attack," Gardner told the judge, alleging that the two intended to rob and assault whichever cab driver had picked them up.

At about 9 p.m. Jan 7, police learned that Drake, 37, a driver for Juneau Taxi and Tours, had been stabbed multiple times after dropping off a man and woman who robbed him at the Super 8 Motel near Egan Drive in the Mendenhall Valley. He said he was cut numerous times by the knife-wielding man, as the woman sat in the front seat watching.

Drake underwent about eight hours of surgery, six of which were spent putting his hands back together, his fiancé, Maria Miller, said.

On Jan. 15, police, working with Drake, released sketches of his attackers, as he remembered them. The sketches ran on the front page of the Empire and were posted many places in the community.

A week later, Aaron St. Clair appeared in court to answer to a summons alleging he had violated his probation for a previous crime. According to court records, Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks placed St. Clair on two years probation on Feb. 4, 2002. St. Clair was originally charged with felony second-degree burglary in the case.

His latest probation violation alleged that he failed to complete his required program through the Juneau Alcohol Safety Action Program. St. Clair left the hearing without being taken into custody.

Leaving court Thursday night, Drake said the sketches didn't look like the people he saw sitting in the courtroom. But he said he believed the police had arrested the right people when he looked into Aaron St. Clair's eyes.

Aaron St. Clair is employed part-time for Juneau Parks and Recreation, the city's personnel office confirmed Thursday. While requesting a court-appointed attorney, he told Froehlich he works as a scorekeeper for adult basketball games.

His wife said she is on call at a Mendenhall Valley fast-food restaurant. She added that she has a young child. Bartlett Regional Medical Center records show the couple had a son on July 21.

Froehlich appointed the Public Defender's Office to represent Aaron St. Clair and the Office of Public Advocacy to represent his wife. If they are released on bail, they will not be allowed to have contact with each other, he added.

Froehlich scheduled a Feb. 13 preliminary hearing to determine probable cause for the felony charges. The hearing would be canceled if they are first indicted by the grand jury, he said.

"They have no idea what they've done to our family or the community," Miller said of the suspects on her way out of court. Both she and Drake said they were disappointed a bail amount was set in the case.

They were notified of the arrests by police at 12:12 a.m. Thursday, about 20 minutes after police made the arrests, according to police reports.

Miller pulled out Juneau-Douglas High School yearbooks and found Aaron St. Clair had gone to school with her daughter.

"I've had conversations with him in my cab," she said. "I'm just sick."

Miller and Drake have set up an account at the Nugget Mall Branch of Alaska Pacific Bank to receive community donations, following the suggestion of one local social agency.

Froehlich told the St. Clairs that if convicted they would be liable for restitution to the victims.

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