Hiker finds 2 bodies in N. Douglas

Juneau man, woman had single gunshot wounds to the head

Posted: Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Two Juneau residents - a hydroponic gardener and his female acquaintance - were found dead in the forest Sunday morning at the end of North Douglas Highway.

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Fernando Valenzuela Aranda, 52, and Bernadine Lois Wlodarczyk, 47, each sustained single gunshot wounds to the head, Juneau police Sgt. Dave Campbell said.

Aranda's wound appeared to be self-inflicted, he said.

Police would not release details about the type of firearm. Both bodies were flown to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage for autopsy. The results are expected to be released today.

"We might never know what happened or what the motives were," Campbell said. "Hopefully the results from the medical examiner's office will further establish what did happen."

A hiker found the two bodies in the woods, 300 yards past a footbridge and about 50 feet off a trail that winds north of North Douglas and runs along Peterson Creek. Another person drove into town and called police at about 11:30 a.m.

Both Aranda and Wlodarczyk were properly dressed for the weather, Campbell said. Their bodies showed signs of rigor mortis, he said.

"It looked like they had been there awhile, at least overnight," Campbell said. "They were wet. It had been raining heavily the night before. It makes it difficult to establish what happened when they've been exposed to the weather."

Aranda's family did not return a call Monday, and Wlodarczyk's family could not be contacted.

Aranda was the owner of Sprout About, a hydroponic facility that grew organic sprouts for restaurants and businesses. He opened the business in 1990 in Ketchikan. Four years ago, he moved the company to Juneau.

Aranda grew other edibles, including radishes, beans and alfalfa. In 2005, he won eight first-place ribbons at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.

"He was certainly very enthusiastic about his sprouts," said Rainbow Foods owner David Ottoson, who sold Sprout About's products.

"There aren't that many products that you can eat that are grown here," he said. "They pretty much cornered the market on sprouts. Any other sprouts that you have here, you have to ship them from Seattle. That means five days on the barge. They start out with a week's advantage in terms of freshness."

Robert Days, owner of Southeast Powersports, worked in the same building as Sprout About in the 5400 block of Shaune Drive.

"We were talking about him this morning; he wanted us to put on a trailer hitch for his van," Days said. "He said hello every morning and every afternoon. I'd usually see him sometime before lunch with his cat and his dogs. He always seemed very friendly and upbeat."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com

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