Paroled murderer sought in Anchorage woman's death

Suspect, convicted of murder 26 years ago, was working in victim's yard the day she died

Posted: Friday, June 26, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A man convicted of murder 26 years ago is being sought as a "person of interest" in the death of an Anchorage woman.

The body of Elisa Orcutt, 47, was found Tuesday morning in her home on a street off west International Airport Road.

Police want to question Kenneth Arnold Wahl, 45, who worked in Orcutt's yard Friday, the last day she was seen alive.

Wahl was convicted of murder in 1983 in the stabbing death of a junior high school counselor.

Police spent Tuesday night at Orcutt's residence. On Wednesday, they were not ready to say how Orcutt died.

"They're not releasing that because there's only two people that know: the killer and the victim," said police spokeswoman Anita Shell.

The home is owned by Elisa and Douglas Orcutt, 56. Douglas Orcutt, a longtime ramp service agent at Alaska Airlines, was appointed to a seat on the state Workers' Compensation Board in December 2007, according to a state press release.

He filed for divorce in November and the case was set for a hearing at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Elisa Orcutt did not appear. Police were summoned to the home and found her dead.

Shell said Wahl had been doing work for Elisa Orcutt. She said she didn't know if Orcutt's husband was still living at the home.

Neighbors said the people in the home were generally quiet and private. A few doors down, Dennis Marascola, 59, pointed to a small, white pickup camper resting on pallets across the street and said Wahl had been living there since spring.

"He told me he was going to do some work for me," Marascola said.

The last time he saw Wahl was a few days earlier, he said. Wahl smoked cigarettes and appeared unkempt, like he was homeless, but was doing odd jobs around the yard with the camper. He came over to borrow tools and seemed harmless, Marascola said.

Wahl is originally from Dillingham. In 1983, Wahl, then 19, had already been convicted of a series of burglaries in Dillingham and was a runaway from a court-ordered Akeela House drug treatment program. Police said he had an extensive history of drug and alcohol abuse and had spent time at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute because he threatened to kill himself with a knife.

On Jan. 16, 1983, a junior high school counselor, Edward "Larry" Delany 40, was found dead on the floor of his blood-spattered apartment. Wahl, whom he had just met the night before, came home with him for a casual sexual encounter then slashed him with a knife about 40 times the next day, authorities said.

Wahl pleaded no contest to first-degree murder. Superior Court Judge Victor Carlson sentenced him to 99 years.

Wahl protested that he had a deal with the state guaranteeing him no more than 30 years and asked to withdraw his plea. The judge refused but Wahl won an appeal. In 1985, Wahl was re-sentenced to serve 45 years, meaning he could have been eligible for parole after serving 15.

Carlson said Wednesday he remembered the murder, though not the defendant.

"He didn't make that big an impression on me other than that the incident made a big impression on me," Carlson said. "Anytime that somebody is killed in that manner and that circumstance, it brings up the hair on the back of one's neck."

Department of Corrections spokesman Richard Schmitz said Wahl most recently was put on probation Dec. 3, but has repeated arrests for probation violations going back to November 2001. Most of them appeared to be for relatively minor violations, such as walking away from a halfway house or failing to pay his rent, he said.

According to Alaska State Troopers, Wahl has an active felony warrant out for his arrest on another parole violation.

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