State Briefs

Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2003

Prisoner dies in apparent suicide

PALMER - An inmate at the Mat-Su Pre-Trial Facility apparently jumped to his death early Friday.

The prisoner, 48-year-old Dennis McDonald from Wasilla, jumped from a second-story balcony at the Palmer jail about 3 a.m. and suffered massive head injuries, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Correctional officers saw McDonald climb up on the railing, but were not able to reach him. EMT personnel were not able to resuscitate him.

Police boost anti-terror patrols

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage police are beefing up patrols by 50 percent this weekend in response to national warnings of possible terrorist attacks.

The increased police presence began at 7 a.m. Friday.

Police said they will have more officers patrolling the streets for the next three days. And they say more random checks will be made on important facilities in the city.

Meanwhile, the visit of an Iranian dissident leader nearly went unnoticed by police, even though the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security said he could be targeted by Islamist terrorists.

Dr. Manoucher Ganji was in Anchorage on Friday to speak to the World Affairs Council. Ganji was the minister of education for the Shah of Iran, but fled the country after the 1979 Islamic revolution. He founded an exile group working to establish Democracy in Iran.

He told the World Affairs Council that a successful invasion of Iraq could lead to a Democratic Iran.

Police contacted a local radio station after Ganji appeared on a show. They wanted to know where he would be speaking after they heard there might be a demonstration. There was no protest.

Trial begins in killing of CG officer

UNALASKA - A trial began Friday for a man charged with murdering a U.S. Coast Guard officer on St. Paul Island.

Carl Merculief Jr. is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Chief Warrant Officer Timothy Harris on July 24, 2001, at the Long Range Navigation Station in the Pribilof Island community of 700 people.

Merculief apparently believed that the 33-year-old Harris was having an affair with his estranged wife. Harris was found dead outside the station's administrative offices.

According to charging documents, Merculief, who had been living in Anchorage, returned to St. Paul Island the day before the shootings and was served with a domestic violence restraining order by St. Paul police. He was told to have no contact with his wife.

At around 4 a.m. the next morning, Merculief and another man drove to the Coast Guard base, and Merculief went to Harris' room and shot him, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Superior Court Judge Fred Torrisi expects the trial to last about two weeks.

St. Paul City Clerk Phyllis Swetzof said the trial will be hard on the small community.

"Things get very personal in a small town. It's hard on the town, hard on the families, hard on the Coast Guard. It makes us relive it again," said Swetzof, who was among the islanders called for jury duty, but not chosen for the 12-member panel.



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