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Abbott charged with four counts of murder

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jason Abbott was arraigned Tuesday in Sitka Court on four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, the day after police say the 18-year-old Sitka man stabbed four people to death, including his grandparents, and injured his aunt.

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James Poulson / The Daily Sitka Sentinel
James Poulson / The Daily Sitka Sentinel

His bail was set at $1 million.

Abbott had been released after being arrested Sunday, accused of assaulting his mother, Katherine Abbott-Jack.

While Abbott was sitting in court, crime scene officials from Anchorage worked a few blocks away at the home of the defendant's grandparents, John and Alice Abbott, where the crimes occurred, trying to piece together exactly what happened Tuesday morning.

Abbott's aunt, who is identified as M.R. in court records and as Mary Ricketts by other sources, told police that shortly before noon Tuesday she heard her mother screaming and saw her run out of her house covered in blood. When Ricketts entered the house, she said she saw Jason Abbott near the bathroom, according to court documents.

Abbott chased Ricketts outside, where she fell, she told police. He stabbed her repeatedly while she screamed and begged him to stop. He didn't do so until police arrived, Ricketts and other witnesses said.

Unidentified witnesses also said they saw Alice Abbott walk down the street while bleeding heavily and asking for help, according to court records.

When police arrived, they saw Alice Abbott and Mary Ricketts covered in blood. They said Jason Abbott was on the front porch of the home holding a knife to his throat.

Sitka's Chief of Police Sheldon Schmitt said he assumed the five-inch knife Abbott held to his throat was the murder weapon.

Schmitt said Abbott was highly combative and had to be subdued by a stun gun.

A neighbor, Fred Hope, said he saw police wrestle with Abbott and then stun him. Hope said Abbott let out a loud and "desperate" scream after he was stunned, yelling, "God, help me."

Abbott fell and wounded his eye on the knife, Schmitt said. The young man was taken to the hospital and then to jail.

Abbott remained combative until some time later at the hospital, according to Schmitt.

According to court records, Abbott admitted to the emergency room doctor and a detective that he had stabbed his grandparents and an individual identified in court documents as E.A., who is identified by family and friends to be Elizabeth Abbott, his aunt.

By late afternoon, Jason Abbott was calm and resting in a jail cell separate from other inmates, Schmitt said.

Alice Abbott, his grandmother, was taken to Mount Edgecumbe Hospital and died on the operating table, court records said. Police said she had multiple wounds on her arms back, chest and abdomen, including what appeared to be "severe defensive wounds" on her right forearm.

Ricketts was taken to Sitka Community Hospital and was in stable condition as of Wednesday afternoon, Schmitt said.

A police detective who entered the Abbott's house Tuesday said he found John Abbott dead, sitting in a recliner covered in blood.

In the bathroom, the detective said, Elizabeth Abbott lay face down in a pool of blood, with a stab wound in her back. Just across from the bathroom, Charles Tate, 37, was also found dead in a similar position, face down in a pool of blood with a stab wound in his back. His relationship to the family has not been confirmed.

Police did not say what Abbott's possible motive may have been.

But court records revealed a criminal past and the fear that at least one Sitka resident felt about Abbott.

Sitka resident Kristal Hammack petitioned a Sitka court in 2004 to issue a 20-day protective order against Abbott to stay clear of her daughter. The mother said her daughter was hospitalized due to the stress of her relationship with Abbott, according to court documents.

Included in the court documents are letters apparently written by Abbott to Kristal Hammack's daughter. The letters are signed by Abbott and the signatures match those he gave during Wednesday's court appearance.

In one letter, which is partly written in rhyme, Abbott writes, "I think I wanna strangle you but I think not, maybe I'll just untangle you and let loose with our knot."

The other letter begins as a love letter but then describes Abbott's fears.

"I wanna be with you forever ..." Abbott wrote. "But with the mental problems my family is making worse, I'm afraid I might kill myself or kill someone else. I don't want to, but during traumatic times my family creates, I don't think right during them so I want you to be there for me."

Court records show that Hammack's restraining order was denied in 2004 by District Court Magistrate Bruce Horton, who presided over Abbott's arraignment on Wednesday, on grounds that there was insufficient evidence that her daughter had been a victim of domestic violence. Hammack said Wednesday she is still perplexed by the inaction of the justice system.

"I don't understand all the laws and everything, but I wonder, maybe this wouldn't have happened if they would have listened, because my letter was valid," she said.

Hammack said she repeatedly asked for help from the Sitka Police Department to keep Abbott away from her and her daughter.

"It was me being a protective parent and trying to protect my daughter, and Jason scared me," she said. "I was worried about my daughter. He had actually yelled at me and got in my face, and it scared me, and the police never did anything about it."

"I felt that Jason needed help years ago, and I don't know what type of help they tried to get him," she said. "I wonder if something would have been done, would this even have happened?"

Police arrested Abbott multiple times for underage drinking violations, according to court records.

Marita Fuller, 17, said she's been a friend of Abbott's for a number of years. She described him as "a pretty nice guy" who "seemed like a genuinely decent enough person." She added that Abbott previously had tried to imitate being a gang member and often carried a knife, "just because he tried to be hard-core like that."

She said recently, she's heard from friends that Abbott had starting acting "religious" and had shaved his head and eyebrows. He also declared that hair was "a sin."

His mother said in court records that Abbott came home early Sunday morning and woke up his family because an orange sign was in the house, and he believed that orange and red were "evil colors." Abbott told his mother that he had thrown away a set of red place mats before he screamed at her, pushed her against the wall, and then tried to punch her, police said.

He denied he ever got physical with his mother. She could not be reached Wednesday.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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