Man gets 101 years for Kenai cop killing

David Forster receives maximum sentence allowed for 'execution-style slaying'

Posted: Friday, September 09, 2005

KENAI - A 35-year-old man will serve 101 years in prison for the Christmas 2003 murder of a Kenai police officer.

Superior Court Judge Donald Hopwood on Tuesday sentenced David Forster to the maximum allowable under Alaska law for what he called the "execution-style slaying" of Kenai police officer John Watson.

Forster, of Kenai, was ordered to prison for 99 years for first-degree murder and for three years on three counts of third-degree assault. Two of the assault sentences are to be served concurrently.

A jury in June convicted Forster of shooting Watson with the officer's gun. Watson had responded to a call to make a welfare check on Forster's fiancee, Crystal Hallman.

The 23-year-old woman told jurors during the trial that one moment Watson was trying to handcuff Forster and the next he was on his knees.

She testified that Forster failed to pull over when seeing Watson's flashing patrol car lights, that the two struggled in Forster's driveway and that she heard two gunshots after she went into Forster's house with his two Labrador retrievers.

Earlier in the trial, witnesses testified that Forster and Hallman had gone to Birch Ridge Golf Course in Soldotna seeking lodging. The golf course rents cottages, but only in the summer.

People there believed Hallman might be in danger because Forster's behavior seemed odd to them. They called 911 and Alaska State Troopers asked for Kenai Police assistance. Watson was sent to the Forster residence to check on Hallman's welfare.

Hallman told the jury when Forster failed to stop for Watson, he told her, "If he wants to pull me over, he can do it in my driveway."

Once in the driveway, Forster got out on the driver's side of his Ford Excursion and she got out on the passenger side, Hallman said. She then saw Watson pointing his gun at Forster and calling for backup on his radio.

Hallman said she was walking toward the front of the house, trying to get the dogs to follow, and she looked back and saw Watson trying to apprehend Forster, who was pulling away.

"Then I saw the officer on his knees and David in front of him," Hallman testified.

"David's hands were now on the officer's shoulders and he told me to go inside and take the dogs in," she said.

Hallman said she was inside the house when she heard two gunshots.

"I opened the door and saw the officer face down on the ground and David coming up the steps with (Watson's) gun," she said. "I felt very scared."

Hallman said she then took the gun from Forster and put it in a bedroom.

An autopsy later showed Watson had been shot once in the back - the bullet lodging in his Kevlar vest - and once in the back of the top of his head, a shot that killed him.

Forster then picked up a 12-gauge shotgun that was in the bedroom, according to Hallman, and fired it down into the crawl space of the house. Hallman said other police cars arrived after the shotgun was fired. Hallman left with police.

Forster remained in the house for the next four hours until finally being talked out by a friend and fellow fishing guide.

"The fatal shot was deliberately placed. The purpose was to kill," Hopwood said during sentencing. "This was not a spur-of-the-moment killing.

"He killed without hesitation," he said.

Anchorage defense attorney John Murtagh said he planned to file an appeal "at least as to the admissibility of statements" relative to the conviction.

During his opening statements at the trial, Murtagh said Forster had been in a fight with the devil, firing a shotgun blast into a bedroom wall and then stuffing a sock in the hole to keep the devil out, then stabbing his couch, again apparently in a fight with the devil.

He also said Forster carved a cross in his chest with a knife.

Statements about Satan and about the fight with the devil did not come out in witness testimony.

Kenai District Attorney June Stein said she thought Hopwood's sentence was "appropriate, very well reasoned and supported by the facts of the case."

"The (Watson) family has been looking forward to this day, as have we all," Stein said.

Kathy Watson, the officer's widow, was pleased with the sentence.

"I'm glad nothing less was given," Kathy Watson said.

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