Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Bethel records 1st armed robbery of a business

BETHEL - The city of Bethel has recorded an unfortunate first - an armed robbery of a business.

A masked man walked into the back of Swanson's Grocery store Thursday wielding a handgun and forced an employee to open a safe. The robber made off with cash and checks.

Chief Howard Morris said there have been armed robberies of individuals before but never a business. He's eager to see the crime solved.

"It's a hot investigation right now," he said Monday.

Bethel is a regional hub for southwest Alaska about 400 miles west of Anchorage. It's a service center for 56 villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and is home to nearly 6,000 people.

The armed intruder entered the back door of the grocery store and confronted a female employee in the office. Morris, citing investigative reasons, would not comment on whether the robber spoke to the employee.

"The witness could pretty much tell it was a male," Morris said.

The man wore a dark ski mask and dark, bulky winter clothing. He was about 5-feet-8 inches tall and carried what appeared to be a semiautomatic handgun.

Morris would not comment on whether the woman was threatened, other than to say anyone facing an armed intruder would be.

KYUK Radio reported that the robber took about $30,000. Morris would not comment on the amount.

The department has 18 officers, including two investigators, and handles about 18,000 calls per year. Morris said the robbery is a priority.

"Anytime you have a crime involving the threat of violence, we definitely take it seriously," he said.

Police have a number of leads they are following, Morris said.

Valdez woman says she committed 50 burglaries

VALDEZ - A Valdez woman startled the courtroom of District Court Judge Joel Bolger when she admitted committing "50 to 55" daylight burglaries in Valdez in the past year in search of prescription drugs.

Valdez police had been tracking Pauli Beck, 26, for several months and put together a case that included 10 burglaries. Her admission earlier this month that she had committed the high number of burglaries surprised them.

Beck had pleaded "no contest" to a single count of first-degree burglary, a felony, and was given a suspended 90-day jail term.

She was placed on probation for three years on the condition that she cooperate with Valdez police officers. She also was required to enroll in a substance abuse program.

According to police Chief Joe Michaud, Beck has made an effort to identify the homes she stole from so officers could inform the residents and close the cases.

Police say there's no evidence that she ever forced her way into a home but simply walked through an unlocked door when residents were away.

Unlocked homes and keys left in vehicles are commonplace in Valdez, said the police chief.

"We want to live in Mayberry, and we are pretty much Mayberry," he told the Valdez Star, referring to a 1960s television sitcom involving a small, southern town and its kindly sheriff.

Because there was no forced entry and nothing of value was taken, except for drugs, many homeowners apparently were not aware they had been victims.

The drugs taken included powerful painkillers such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, Neurontin and others.

Two die in separate snowmobile accidents

ANCHORAGE - Two Alaskans died over the weekend in separate snowmobile accidents.

Forrest A. West, 17, Sterling, died Saturday after the snowmobile he was driving hit a moose.

Alaska State Troopers said West was driving on the shoulder of Otter Trail in Sterling when he hit the adult moose. West was treated by paramedics at the scene but died at Central Peninsula General Hospital.

The injured moose was found a short distance away and shot. The meat was donated to charity.

Troopers Sunday afternoon found the body of Leo Tom, 24, of Stebbins.

Stebbins is a village of about 600 people on the northwest coast of St. Michael Island about 120 miles southeast of Nome.

Tom was a passenger on a snowmobile driven by Theodore Bordeaux, 26. They left Stebbins on Friday night on a trip to Kotlik and broke through ice.

Bordeaux was found Saturday night. He told searchers that he had last seen Tom clinging to a large piece of ice.

Man shot to death in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man was found shot to death at a mobile home park, the city's 16th homicide.

Bernardo "Nano" Navarette, 39, died of multiple gunshot wounds Monday at Manoog's Isle Trailer Park on the city's southeast side.

Police responded after taking a call of "shots fired" at 9:21 a.m. and found Navarette dead.

A nearby elementary school, Northern Lights ABC School, was locked down until police determined that there was no threat to children and staff.

Detectives interviewed witnesses but said no one was in custody for the shooting.

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