Witness: Murder suspect paid for drugs with bloody money

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2007

FAIRBANKS - A cocaine dealer testified he took money stained with blood during a drug transaction from the man accused of gunning down a convenience store clerk nearly 12 years ago.

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Lautaro Rubke, 33, testified Tuesday that he sold an eighth of an ounce of cocaine to Marvin Wright at about the time of the murder. Wright paid $52 in wet, crumpled bills, Rubke said.

Rubke described the drug deal in the fourth day of Wright's trial on charges of first- and second-degree murder, robbery and evidence tampering.

Wright, 38, is accused of killing Tricia Warren, 19, a mother of two at about 4 a.m. Sept. 5, 1995, at the Tesoro 7-Eleven Discount Truck Stop in south Fairbanks.

Rubke, a laborer living in Stevens Village, said he has changed his life since he sold drugs to Wright more than a decade ago from his 23rd Avenue home, also in south Fairbanks.

Wright twice appeared that morning looking for drugs, the first time with no money, Rubke said. Wright was accompanied by three people, including Shannon Boyle - who is expected to be a government witness in the trial - and a man known as Tony Baker, Rubke said.

"I practically said no, but threw them a little something anyway," Rubke said.

The group left, but later returned to Rubke's home.

"The way they were acting, they couldn't sit still," Rubke said. "I assumed that they were about to jack me. I made it quite clear that I had a weapon close by."

The second time, Wright had money and a gun, Rubke said. He wanted an eight ball, an eighth of an ounce of cocaine. He handed over money that Rubke said was stained with what looked like blood.

"I said, 'I ain't doing this,"' Rubke said. But he sold the cocaine anyway and followed Wright out the door.

Rubke knew Warren and had seen her at parties, he said. He also had shopped at the truck stop.

Warren's body was found shortly after 4 a.m. by an Alaska State Trooper looking for a newspaper. She had been shot twice in the head and the cash register had been emptied.

When Rubke learned about Warren's killing, he thought about the drug deal with Wright, he said.

"I started putting things together for myself," he said. "I had my suspicions."

When a Fairbanks police officer stopped Rubke a few weeks later for a traffic infraction, Rubke tried to point the officer in Wright's direction, he said.

He told the officer that residents of south Fairbanks thought the police department was looking in the wrong area of town for Warren's killer. At the time, Rubke said, Wright was living closer to downtown and the police department was focusing its efforts on the south side, he said.

Another 10 years passed before Rubke told Detective Peyton Merideth about the drug deal. At the time, Rubke was in jail at the Fairbanks Correctional Center. According to court records, Rubke had been charged with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct that year. The assault charge was dismissed.

Rubke received nothing from authorities in exchange for his testimony, he said.

"Someone suggested that I should step forward," Rubke said. "I came here of my own free will. I ain't going to get nothing out of it."

During cross examination, Wright's attorney, Robert Noreen, asked Rubke whether there had been animosity between Rubke and Wright.

"I ain't seen him in a long time," Rubke said. "Maybe you should ask him that."

"Sir, I'm asking you," Noreen said during one of several tense exchanges.

Rubke conceded that he could not remember the date Wright bought the drugs with the bloody money. He also did not remember whether Wright went inside Rubke's home alone or with Baker during the first visit. In other testimony Tuesday, crime scene investigator Lawrence Turner Pippin said 24 fingerprints were lifted from the convenience store in the hours after Warren was killed. None were confirmed to be Wright's.

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