2006 Shopping center slaying: Trial set for 1st murder in 5 years

Prosecutor claims accused killer was on '60-day odyssey'

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2007

The man accused in 2006 of Juneau's first slaying in five years was a loner-type on the run from a similar gun crime near Las Vegas, according to court records.

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Investigators have pieced together a description of what happened before and after Jason Coday was accused of walking up to Simone Kim on Aug. 4 and shooting him to death behind Fred Meyer department store.

Just two months earlier in Las Vegas, Coday was accused of wielding a sawed-off firearm in another random outburst. In court records, District Attorney Doug Gardner claims that Coday, the "soon-to-be killer," was embarked on a "60-day odyssey" when Kim was slain.

Coday's trial is scheduled to begin Monday with a hearing and jury selection. It could last as long as 15 days.

The 29-year-old is accused of shooting Kim in the face in an act of random violence. Court papers allege Coday then pumped two more rounds into Kim's body as he lay dead or dying on the ground and witnesses stood nearby.

Gardner declined to discuss the first-degree murder case so close to trial.

Coday's mother declined several written requests for comments about her son's life.

Any description coming from Coday stopped abruptly on Aug. 4 - on that evening he ended a police interrogation by simply asking for an attorney. But first, the California native told police he had recently arrived in Juneau. He said he had worked odd jobs throughout his adult life.

"I never really had one to stick with," Coday said.

The week before coming to Juneau, Coday told police, he worked in a fish processing plant in Ketchikan. Coday said he intended to work in the fishing industry in Juneau.

In court papers, Gardner focused on the time after Coday's arrival. The narrative described a man intent on violence.

Within hours of Coday's afternoon arrival on Aug. 2 on the Matanuska, he stopped at Rayco Sales on Old Dairy Road. There Coday is said to have compared two .22-caliber rifles: a Ruger 10-22 and a Marlin .22. Coday chose the Ruger and took the gun after leaving $200 in cash on the counter, according to court records. No paperwork was completed.

Later that day, Coday bought ammunition and "high capacity" magazines at Fred Meyer, using cash, Gardner wrote. The prosecution account of that day also alleges he bought a hacksaw with the .22-caliber rounds.

During interrogation Coday, told police he spent the two days before Kim's death looking for places to eat, shopping around town, and sleeping in a camp in the trees behind Fred Meyer.

Coday allegedly used a hacksaw to shorten the rifle's barrel. Police found the barrel and stock in the woods near the murder scene and Coday's camp.

Coday is registered as a felon in Nevada. That conviction stems from a crime committed in 1997, but additional information was not available. The Nevada court system holds two sealed records under Coday's name.

Coday was arrested and charged with a DUI in November 2004 in Uintah County, Utah. In January 2005, Coday was arrested in Vernal, Utah, on charges of driving with a suspended license and possession of marijuana.

Forty-five days before Kim was killed, Coday was arrested in Sandy Valley, Nev., accused of harassing a family at play in a backyard swimming pool.

Witnesses told Las Vegas police that a man carrying a sawed-off shotgun walked up to the fence and began yelling at Jacob Top as he gathered his children from an evening swim. Witnesses said the man had an ammunition belt and two knives draped across his body.

Las Vegas police said Coday harassed Top by continually asking him to fight. As Top called police, Coday paced the dunes beyond the fenced yard.

"Watching my house, (Coday) ran up and down the dune several times," Michelle Top said in court records.

Minutes later, the Tops and their neighbors heard two gunshots. Coday later told police that he fired the gun twice to scare the people because they were making fun of him. Coday fired the gun into the ground, police said.

Witnesses described Coday walking through the neighborhood with a red shotgun shell in his mouth carrying the shotgun. Ten-year-old Alex Schlimmer told police during the same incident that he saw Coday throwing rocks at a man on a tractor.

Coday walked up to Robert Skelton and asked if he had seen any cops in the area and wondered if the police would even care.

"He asked me if I thought it was strange that he was walking around with a sawed-off shotgun," Skelton said.

Coday then asked Skelton for a drink of water from a garden hose.

Police arrested Coday as he drank from the hose with the shotgun at his feet. Las Vegas police say they found Coday with 18 shotgun shells, two knives, a vial of methamphetamine, and a small amount of marijuana.

Police say Coday admitted using methamphetamine before harassing the Top family. Coday later told Las Vegas police that he sawed off the barrel with a hacksaw after he took the 12-gauge shotgun from his father.

Coday is still wanted in Las Vegas after skipping on bail in the Sandy Valley incident. A warrant was issued in July of 2006.

Coday's murder trial is scheduled to begin Monday with an evidentiary hearing on the defense motion to suppress evidence. In late April, defense Attorney David Seid asked the judge to block the use of key prosecution evidence.

Seid hoped to block the results of photo lineups used to help witnesses tie Coday to Rayco Sales, the ammunition, the hacksaw, and the murder scene.

Seid's motion also seeks to quell information gained through Coday's interrogation.

In early May, Gardner filed a response focusing on the time of Coday's arrest to support much of the key evidence.

• Greg Skinner can be reached at greg.skinner@juneau.empire.com.

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