State Briefs

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2003

Man found guilty in Coast Guardsman killing on St. Paul

ST. PAUL ISLAND - A St. Paul jury on Thursday found Carl Merculief Jr. guilty of killing Timothy Harris in a jealous rage July 24, 2001.

Merculief's wife, Kari Ann Merculief, 27, was having an affair with Harris, the Coast Guard station's new commander, prosecutors said.

Merculief, 26, was found guilty of first-degree murder and nine lesser charges, amounting to eight felonies and two misdemeanors. At sentencing May 30, he could receive 99 years in prison.

Harris, 33, a 14-year veteran of the Coast Guard, had been on St. Paul, in the Bering Sea, for just three weeks when he was killed. Because the station does not have accommodations for family, his wife, Jeannette, and two young children remained in Bogalusa, La., for what was to be a one-year stint.

Merculief shot Harris five times. The slaying is believed to be the first of a Guardsman on Coast Guard property.

Holloway to retire in March

JUNEAU - Education Commissioner Shirley Holloway is retiring in March, Gov. Frank Murkowski's administration announced Thursday.

Holloway was appointed by former Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat, but had continued to serve since Murkowski took office in December. She is the last member of the Knowles cabinet to leave the administration.

Murkowski spokesman John Manly said Holloway is being considered for an appointment to the state Board of Education, which will provide nominations for a new commissioner.

Holloway is retiring March 3 after 40 years as an educator and two terms as the state's top educator.

Karen Rehfeld, currently director of education support services in the Department of Education and Early Development, will serve as acting commissioner until a permanent replacement is named.

Anchorage boy killed by teen

ANCHORAGE - A 15-year-old boy died Thursday after he was shot in the head by another teenager playing with a handgun, Anchorage police said.

The victim's sister identified the victim as Barry Wold. The shooting took place at about 2:45 p.m. Wednesday in a trailer home in Spenard.

An 18-year-old male had removed the ammunition clip from the gun and believed the weapon was unloaded as he twirled it around his finger, according to police. But a round remained in the chamber.

"We hear that in 99 percent of these things: 'I thought the gun was unloaded,' " said police Sgt. Rick Shell.

The victim's sister, Sarah Wold, 18, identified the teenager playing with the gun as her boyfriend, Ben Shipp.

Even if the police investigation concludes that the shooting was accidental, Shell said, Shipp could be charged with reckless endangerment.

It was unclear who owned the handgun.

Free credit report bills scrutinized

JUNEAU - Legislators are talking about requiring credit agencies to provide consumers with a free credit report every year.

Backers say it would help combat identity theft. Skeptics question how much good it would do and whether it would drive up the cost of other credit reporting agency services.

Six other states now require agencies to provide free credit reports to consumers, said Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat.

French said about one in 10 people now check their credit reports annually.

Troopers continue trying to identify victim of serial killer

ANCHORAGE - Alaska State Troopers are making another try at identifying a murdered woman nicknamed "Eklutna Annie," more than 20 years after her decomposed body was found buried along a power line outside Eklutna.

The woman, believed to be a white brunette in her 20s, was found on July 21, 1980. She had no identification and could not be matched to a missing persons report.

Forensic experts said the woman appeared to have been dead about a year.

In 1984, a local baker named Robert Hansen listed her among the 17 women he admitted killing in and around Anchorage. He said she was his first victim, but didn't know her name. She was a topless dancer or a prostitute, he told troopers.

Troopers are hoping someone will recognize the woman's jewelry, a silver cuff bracelet with polished stones.

Hansen, now in his 60s, is in Spring Creek prison in Seward, serving 461 years plus life.

State Sen. Stevens called to testify

ANCHORAGE - One of the fish-processing companies accused of conspiring to fix the price of salmon wants to put state Sen. Ben Stevens on the witness stand to testify in the processors' defense.

Stevens, an Anchorage Republican and a former Bristol Bay commercial fisherman, has agreed to testify in the civil lawsuit being heard in state Superior Court in Anchorage.

In an affidavit filed with the court, Stevens said he "saw no evidence of collusion" among processors and Japanese importers to depress raw salmon prices to gillnetters.

Stevens says he can offer perspective not only as a former fisherman, but as a person who once helped market Alaska seafood in Asia, where much of the Bristol Bay red salmon goes.

The fishermen's lawyers are fighting to keep Stevens off the witness stand, and to restrict what he and other fishermen friendly to the processors and importers can say.

Just before the trial began on Feb. 3, Stevens successfully petitioned the court to be excluded from the class of 4,500 fishermen, who are seeking more than $1 billion in damages for catches in 1991 to 1995.

Stevens said he couldn't accept money from the case as a lawmaker who might have to vote on reforms affecting the struggling salmon industry. He also said the industry could be ruined if fishermen, about half of whom he noted don't live in Alaska, win a big judgment.

The processors and importers contend that market demand, not collusion, determined dockside prices for Bristol Bay reds.

Lawyers for the fishermen are opposing the motion by Seattle-based Trident Seafoods Corp., the biggest Bristol Bay salmon processor, to add Stevens to their witness list after a court-imposed deadline.

The trial is expected to last through April.

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