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Judge orders Mateu trial to Juneau
KETCHIKAN - Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins on Thursday reversed her earlier decision and ruled that the third murder trial of 19-year-old Jose "Che" Mateu will be moved to Juneau.
Collins said she was not convinced a fair trial could be held in Ketchikan. Mateu's attorneys said they will appeal the ruling.
Mateu is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the January 2000 shooting death of his father, Jose R. Mateu. The elder Mateu was shot in the back of the head at his home on Jan. 13, 2000.
The state has tried the case twice in Ketchikan. Both trials resulted in hung juries.
Judge Collins said she was concerned by comments made by several prospective jurors in Ketchikan who said they could not stop people outside the courthouse from sharing their opinions on the case.
Collins said that on two occasions during the second trial signs urging jurors to convict the defendant were placed in the courthouse and on a vehicle along the highway.
She said she also was concerned by comments made by two potential jurors.
One said it was wrong to hold a third trial in Ketchikan. The court had ruled earlier that the new jury should not hear that Mateu was being tried for a third time.
A second potential juror, who was moments from being sworn in, told the court he could not serve because the defendant reminded him of his son and he could not imagine his son going through numerous trials.
Collins on Thursday also approved a defense motion to postpone the trial until April 1, when a defense expert witness would be available to testify.
Third trial in double homicide concludes
KENAI - Closing arguments wrapped up Friday in the third trial of Billy D. Smith, accused in the 1994 murders of two Kenai Peninsula residents.
Smith, tried in Anchorage, is charged in the March 27, 1994, murders of Harold Enzler, 39, of Nikiski, and Nancy Bellamy, 42, of Homer.
The state's case is based on a taped confession by Smith to investigators in August 1997. He said he lured Enzler and Bellamy to Escape Route Road near Nikiski, shot them, cut up their bodies and dumped them in Cook Inlet. Smith also told investigators he dismantled the truck in which they were killed and buried its parts in numerous locations around the Kenai Peninsula.
In two earlier trials, Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link declared mistrials. The first, in Kenai in September, was halted when a witness testified he had taken a lie detector test as part of a plea arrangement to reduce charges relating to his own involvement in the crime. A second trial in Anchorage in October resulted in a hung jury.
The Anchorage jury did convict Smith of three counts of tampering with physical evidence - the bodies of Enzler and Bellamy and the truck.
During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney John Wolfe replayed several excerpts from that confession, including Smith's statement, "I shot 'em both."
"I suggest these are the words of a cold-blooded killer," said Wolfe.
Wolfe said Smith believed Bellamy was working with police to convict Smith of distributing drugs on the peninsula.
Smith confessed while in custody on cocaine possession charges. Defense attorney Robert Herz said Smith told police he would help them with other drug trade investigations in exchange for his release.
Herz told jurors that because Smith was withdrawing from his heroin addiction, "He would tell police anything to get out of jail to get his fix of heroin."
House approves Greely rail extension
JUNEAU - A resolution supporting a 70-mile rail extension to Fort Greely passed the House on Friday.
Rep. Bob Lynn, an Anchorage Republican, said the rail link would aid in supplying a proposed missile defense system at Fort Greely and in any future proposals to extend the railroad to Canada. The measure passed 36-1.
Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat, voted against the measure. Gara said the rail link could cost up to $560 million and the state should seek more federal funds. It should not be built unless studies prove it would produce more revenues than the cost of construction, Gara added.
The nonbinding resolution now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Palmer man flees police, shoots himself
ANCHORAGE - A Palmer man shot and killed himself after fleeing from Anchorage police Thursday night, officers said.
David K. Hayes, 29, was pronounced dead at Providence Alaska Medical Center.
According to the police, officers were called to Skipper's Seafood 'N Chowder House on Dimond Boulevard shortly after 6 p.m., when managers reported that a man who had previously passed bad checks was in the restaurant.
Two patrol officers saw Hayes sitting in the restaurant eating a meal. Computer databases indicated Hayes also had an outstanding felony warrant for theft.
The officers told Hayes he was under arrest, and one officer attempted to grab him by the left arm. Hayes pulled away, pushed the other officer out of the way and ran out the front door, officers said.
The officers chased Hayes through the parking lot, across Dimond Boulevard and into the Dimond Center parking lot.
The officers said they lost sight of Hayes after he ran up a hill and over elevated railroad tracks.
They pursued him to near 87th Avenue and King Street, heard a shot and spotted Hayes mortally wounded.