Accused teen gains Internet notoriety

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2004

Juneau's most internationally famous resident may be a teenage girl from Craig lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Rachelle Waterman, 16, was arrested Nov. 19 on adult charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the death of her mother.

Under Alaska law, a person charged with first-degree murder at 16 or 17 falls under the jurisdiction of adult court, where most records are open to the public.

Lauri Waterman's remains were found in the family's burning minivan on Prince of Wales Island the previous Sunday while her daughter was at a volleyball tournament in Anchorage and her husband, Carl "Doc" Waterman, was in Juneau.

The girl, who complained in an Internet journal about being bored with her life in a small town on an Alaska island, was described as "pale and pretty," "clever at school and a keen singer" last weekend in a United Kingdom newspaper with a circulation of more than 700,000, nine time zones away.

Her story became big news in Alaska and soon became a hot topic on the Web, thanks in large part to her online journal. The first sentence of the last entry of her Web log - her "blog" - appeared as the headline for a story in last weekend's London-based Sunday Telegraph.

"Just to let everyone know, my mother was murdered," the entry began.

That last entry from her LiveJournal.com writings attracted more than 5,000 responses before entries were removed. At the site, nothing she wrote after March is accessible, although people with other Web sites have preserved what she wrote as they react to her story.

Alaska State Troopers reported they believe Rachelle Waterman arranged with two 24-year-old men, Jason Arrant of Klawock and Brian Radel of Thorne Bay, to have her mother murdered.

Trooper Sgt. Randy McPherron, supervisor of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation in Anchorage, has said Waterman was dating Arrant and she had slept with both him and Radel.

Bail was set at $250,000 for the men and $150,000 for Waterman, who was a member of Craig High School's academic decathlon team and the school choir.

The grand jury indictment also charges Waterman with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, second-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, first-degree vehicle theft, and tampering with physical evidence.

The men face the same charges as Waterman. Additionally, they face further evidence-tampering counts. Radel also faces a charge of criminal mischief.

The teenager is one of 20 women being housed in Lemon Creek. "She is an adult in the eyes of the law," said Corrections Deputy Commissioner Portia Parker on Friday.

Waterman is in the general population, with women convicted of crimes and those awaiting trial.

Waterman signed a waiver approving placement into the general population, Parker said, adding that most prisoners sign it. Unlike states in the Lower 48, in Alaska the same state-run facilities house people convicted of felonies, misdemeanors and those awaiting trial.

Parker said that on Friday seven of the women lodged at Lemon Creek were serving sentences and 13 were awaiting trial.

Waterman is in Lemon Creek because of "population management" issues, Parker said. "We have a larger female unit in Lemon Creek."

Parker said Waterman is under a court order to have no contact with Arrant and Radel, who are being housed in different units in Ketchikan.

The case was assigned to Juneau Superior Court Judge Patrica Collins on Dec. 1 after being assigned briefly to Ketchikan Superior Court judges. Arrant's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Susan Crocker, requested a change from Judge Trevor Stephens. When Judge Michael Thompson was assigned the case, Assistant District Attorney Daniel Schally requested a change.

Collins said Monday, with Waterman in her Juneau courtroom and the prosecutor and other defendants on the telephone, that she would let stand the Feb. 3 trial scheduled for Craig, barring motions from the parties.

Rachelle Waterman's court-appointed attorney, Assistant Public Advocate Steven Wells, filed motions to change the sites for two recent high-profile cases in the Juneau area.

In defending Denni Starr, convicted in September of second-degree murder of her domestic partner in Angoon last year, he successfully argued to move the trial from the small Admiralty Island community where Starr and the victim lived.

While judges work to seat juries that haven't formed an opinion on the case, people from all over the world have been expressing opinions on Waterman.

Numerous Web sites have been running the story. The topic, and often her journal, have worked their way into Internet discussion and blogging groups. Internet news sources have linked news stories from Alaska and elsewhere. Waterman has shown up on sites including the Drudge Report, Crime 2000 and SurfWax, a site dedicated to education news.

A sited called "Daily Rotten - News You Cannot Possibly Use" linked the story, along with stories from South Africa, India, Northern Ireland, Russia and the Philippines.

Most of the reports and comments relate to the fact that she kept an online journal discussing details of her personal life. Waterman doesn't discuss a murder plot, although she talks about problems with her "female parental unit."

The total blog reflects joy, frustration and anger in her life. It claims she was grounded for getting an 89 on a test and faced computer restrictions when her mother found her Wicca books.

It posts an "ode to suicide," her disdain for being forced to play softball, and self-congratulatory excitement for making honors choir.

Most of the entries include a graphic of an blue kitten with expressions illustrating her mood.

The Sunday Telegraph said Waterman seemed "a normal, angst-ridden teenager." If she is convicted, it added, she would be able to claim notoriety "as the blogging world's first killer."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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