Coastie murdered on St. Paul

Anchorage man charged

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2001

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of the commanding officer of the Coast Guard's communications station on St. Paul Island.

Chief Warrant Officer Timothy A. Harris, 33, was found dead outside the administrative office at the Long Range Navigation Station on Tuesday morning. Coast Guard officials said Harris had several gunshot wounds.

Carl W. Merculief Jr., 25, was charged with first-degree murder and arraigned by telephone just before midnight Tuesday, the Alaska State Troopers said this morning.

According to charging documents, Merculief had returned to St. Paul on Monday, when he was served a domestic violence restraining order by St. Paul police restricting him from having any contact with his wife.

At about 4 a.m. Tuesday, Merculief and another man drove to the Coast Guard base, where Merculief allegedly went to Harris' room and assaulted him, troopers said.

Merculief then returned to his wife's home, where he threatened to kill her and his male companion if either reported the murder to authorities, troopers said. The two were able to get away from Merculief at about 7 a.m. and they notified the St. Paul police, who notified the Coast Guard.

Harris' body was found next to the road outside the Coast Guard station. Harris apparently had been shot several times, troopers said.

The St. Paul police took Merculief into custody at about 7:30 a.m. His bail is set at $100,000 cash and court-approved third-party custody. Further charges are pending, troopers said.

Petty Officer Roger Wetherell said the slaying is the first known homicide on Coast Guard property.

"This is a sad day for the Coast Guard," he said.

The death is being investigated by the Coast Guard, troopers and the FBI.

Harris, a 17-year Coast Guard veteran, was assigned as commanding officer of the station on July 3, Wetherell said. Harris transferred from New Orleans, where he was assigned to the electronics support unit of the Coast Guard, Wetherell said.

Harris leaves a wife and two young children, who remain in New Orleans.

"As a small, humanitarian service in the lifesaving business, we're grieving the tragic, violent loss of one of our team members and offering heartfelt condolences to Mr. Harris' family," said Capt. Richard Houck, chief of staff of the 17th Coast Guard District.

The navigation station on St. Paul Island is staffed by 15 to 22 members. Coast Guard members serve one-year tours without their families because the station doesn't have housing for relatives, Wetherell said.

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