Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Starr's defense wants Angoon trial moved

JUNEAU-The attorney for a woman charged with killing the father of her children in Angoon last summer doesn't want the trial held in the Admiralty Island community.

Denni Starr, 22, faces a second-degree murder charge in the July 26, 2003, stabbing death of Richard "Buddy" George Jr. at the home they shared. The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 20 in Angoon.

Her attorney, Steven Wells, on a conference call from Palmer for Starr's pretial hearing Tuesday, said that after talking with his client and based on his experience with big cases in small towns, "we would prefer it not be tried in Angoon," he said.

From the state's perspective, Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen told Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks it would be difficult, but possible, to hold the trial there. Wells told Weeks he wasn't prepared Tuesday to make a formal motion to change the location of the trial.

Weeks gave him 21 days to file such a motion. He also set a June 1 deadline for other pretrial motions.

Gullufsen also raised the issue of Starr's pretrial release. Starr has been under the 24-hour sight-and-sound supervision of a grandmother who lives in the Mendenhall Valley since being released on $10,000 bond last fall. He requested the judge set a night curfew. Wells said there was no showing that she needed a curfew, but Weeks ordered Starr to remain home between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Snowstorm causes traffic problems

JUNEAU-Motorists on both sides of the Douglas Bridge had trouble dealing with snowy roads Monday night and Tuesday morning, police reported.

Police reported responding to four vehicles in ditches, from Fish Creek Road at the north of Douglas Island to the Mendenhall Wetlands. Between 7:06 a.m. Monday and 12:38 a.m. Tuesday, officers dealt with six weather-related traffic incidents.

At 7:43 p.m., a witness reported a red 1990 Chevrolet leaving the scene after knocking over a yield sign at Mendenhall Loop Road and Glacier Highway near Auke Bay.

At 9:47 p.m., police responded to an accident on inbound Egan Drive at Sunny Point, where a 1995 Jeep left the roadway and struck a fence. Damage to the vehicle and the fence was estimated at $3,000.

Police responded at 7:06 p.m. to Fish Creek Road to assist the driver of a 2004 Subaru Forester that slid into a ditch. At 8:34 p.m., they assisted a driver who drove a vehicle off outbound Egan Drive near the Mendenhall Wetlands. Damage there was estimated at $2,000.

Near the same spot, at 12:25 a.m., a four-door sedan was reported to have slid into the median, but it was gone by the time officers arrived. At 12:38 a.m. police received a report that a BMW slid off North Douglas Highway.

Questions of criminal record delay plea in case

JUNEAU-A man appeared ready to resolve a first-degree sexual assault case Tuesday with a plea that would get him three years in prison, but he delayed proceedings with questions of his criminal record.

John P. Watson, 49, was indicted in August on felony charges including first- and second-degree sexual assault. Tuesday, defense attorney Steven Wells and Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner presented an agreement to Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins that would have allowed a plea of guilty to third-degree sexual assault - engaging in sexual contact with another person without the victim's knowledge.

While a first-degree sexual assault conviction would carry a sentence of up to 40 years in prison, the third-degree crime would carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Collins noted that the agreement called for three years in prison - the usual term for the crime a third felony conviction.

Watson, sitting alone at the defense table because his attorney appeared by telephone from Palmer, told the judge this would only be his second felony conviction. "I should know because I was the one who did the time," he said.

With one prior non-sexual felony conviction, the usual sentence would be two years, according to state law. Collins told Watson he should know exactly what he is doing if he chooses to enter a guilty plea and rescheduled the hearing for this afternoon.

Archdiocese names priest accused of past abuse

ANCHORAGE-The Archdiocese of Anchorage has identified the second of three priests accused of sexually molesting a child.

A woman said she was abused as a teenager by the late Rev. Robert Wells, a Redemptorist who served the archdiocese from 1974-1990 in two Kenai Peninsula parishes, church officials said Monday.

Peninsula churchgoers heard a statement from Archbishop Roger Schwietz at Sunday Mass about Wells, who died in 1992.

The woman came forward to the archdiocese's sexual misconduct committee in 1992 or 1993 after Wells died, said Sister Charlotte Davenport, chancellor of the archdiocese.

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