More details emerge in St. Paul murder

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2001

ANCHORAGE - A 25-year-old man accused of fatally shooting the new Coast Guard commander on St. Paul Island believed his estranged wife was romantically involved with the officer, according to charging documents released Wednesday.

Carl W. Merculief Jr., a former St. Paul resident who had been living in Anchorage, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Chief Warrant Officer Timothy A. Harris Tuesday morning.

Harris, 33, was found dead next to the road in front of the Coast Guard's Long Range Navigation Station. Alaska State Troopers said he was shot several times.

Harris was assigned July 3 as commanding officer of the station on the remote island in the Pribilofs, in the Bering Sea about 775 miles southwest of Anchorage. He was transferred from New Orleans, where he leaves a wife and two young children.

Merculief "believed his wife was having an affair with Harris, and he was angry about that," according to charging documents.

Authorities said Merculief returned to the island Monday and was served with a domestic violence restraining order by St. Paul police, restricting him from any contact with his wife.

About 4 a.m. Tuesday, Merculief allegedly woke up a friend and asked him to go for a drive. They drove to the Coast Guard station in a truck after Merculief showed his friend a gun and said he was going to kill someone there, charging papers said. At the station, Merculief allegedly warned the man not to tell anyone or he would kill him, too.

The man told authorities he heard what sounded like a shot, followed by several more shots a few minutes later. Merculief returned to the truck and told the man he had killed Harris then pointed the gun at the man's face, again warning him not to talk, according to charging documents.

After the shooting, troopers said, Merculief returned to his wife's home and threatened to kill her and the man who had accompanied him if either reported the murder to authorities. Charging papers say Merculief punched his wife in the face and accused her of cheating on him.

Wednesday afternoon, Coast Guard investigators, the FBI and an assistant U.S. attorney reached the island after being delayed by weather. While the state filed the murder charges, federal authorities may assert jurisdiction because the shooting occurred on federal property.

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