Lesson from Nowhere: Glenn Flothe

By the time he got to the “Case of the Missing Dancers,” Sgt. Glenn Flothe had worked 17 separate homicide investigations. Those cases accounted for thirty or so deaths. Every one with a lesson learned. Taken as a whole, they spoke to the vagaries of the criminal justice system.

lesson
Sgt. Glenn Flothe


Take the three would-be robbers who kidnapped and killed a 72-year-old woman and her son. Though two were convicted of kidnapping — and received 90 year sentences — they got away with murder. A third participant escaped prosecution by testifying against the other two.

Lesson: assume nothing; get all your ducks in a row.

The “family” theme raised its head again, when a teen killed his parents after an argument about a bank overdraft. And when a man killed his roommate and dumped his body in a remote spot north of Anchorage. That last one went sideways, though, when one of the troopers didn’t pay sufficient attention to the suspect’s Miranda request for an attorney.

Lesson: Miranda can come back and bite you. 

Then there was the case where a drifter killed his landlord and his roommate, was subsequently spotted driving a van seen in the area of the killings — but released by the police. He was picked up later, of course. Near Dayton, Ohio. Then he escaped again, from a holding jail in Anchorage. Oh yeah, and this guy had an extensive criminal record.

Lesson: some bad guys are permanent offenders, with nothing to lose.

And, sadly, there was teenager who was sexually assaulted and killed in Haines… Her killer has never been found.

Lesson: never give up.

What can we say about the commercial fisherman who turned to distributing cocaine? That he and his wife were murdered over what — $10,000 in drug debts?

Lesson: drug dealing is sometimes more hazardous than commercial fishing.

lessonFinally, we hear about the three teens who killed a realtor, stole her car and went joyriding. The Alaska Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for one of three teenagers convicted of clubbing the elderly woman to death, saying the youth’s confession should not have been allowed as evidence.

Lesson: Miranda can come back and bite you. 


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Bart Dickinson: The Legal System Twists & Turns

September 21, 1988
Sitka Daily Sentinel
ANCHORAGE (AP) – A superior court judge has reversed the murder conviction of a Big Lake man, six years after his trial and nearly three years after the Court of Appeals refused to take similar action. Judge Seaborn Buckalew ordered a new trial for Keith Mux on the grounds that Mux was not told statements he made to a psychiatrist could be used against him at trial. A spokesman for the Anchorage district attorney said no decision has been made about appealing Buckalew’s order or retrying Mux, who now is jailed in Ketchikan.


True Crime Series: Sgt. Glenn Flothe Investigates


Mux was 19 years old on Feb. 27, 1982, when he was accused of killing another youth, Bart Dickinson, with a .22-caliber rifle and wounding Michael Medgard. The youths had been part of a beer and marijuana party earlier in the evening and got into a fight over damage to a pickup truck.

Prosecutors said Mux armed himself and, with several friends, sought a confrontation with the unarmed victims and shot them at a mobile home near the Big Lake airport. A jury convicted Mux of first-degree murder and attempted murder. He had no prior criminal history. Buckalew, who presided over the trial, sentenced him to the mandatory minimum of 20 years.

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Big Lake (Call of the Wild fire)

Mux’s attorneys have been trying since then to get his conviction reversed on the grounds that his trial attorney, Richard McVeigh, failed to argue self-defense or heat of passion to the jury, and failed to take usual steps to ensure a psychiatric interview, ordered by the court in connection with a bail hearing, could not be entered in evidence at trial. The interview, which included Mux’s description of the shootings, was used to undercut his trial testimony when he claimed he did not fully remember what happened.

In 1985, the state appeals court rejected Mux’s plea for a new trial. Earlier this year, Mux’s attorney, A. Lee Peterson, sought a rehearing before Buckalew. In an order dated Sept. 16, Buckalew concluded that Mux was not denied effective counsel. However, he also concluded that Mux did not knowingly waive his constitutional right against self-incrimination when he followed McVeigh’s instructions and talked to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist examined Mux to determine whether he was too dangerous to be released on bail. The doctor concluded he was not dangerous and he eventually was released.

McVeigh, now a municipal attorney, said he has mixed feelings about the ruling. “I’m glad he got a new trial,” he said. “I’m a defense counsel and I didn’t like the verdict, obviously, in the first place.” But McVeigh questioned the judge’s conclusion that he should have made sure Mux understood in detail what rights he might be giving up by talking about the crime. It was his understanding the psychiatric report would not be used at trial, McVeigh said.

April 5, 1991
Sitka Daily Sentinel
Ketchikan Man Strikes Deal On Plea in 1982 Murder KETCHIKAN (AP) — A Ketchikan man has pleaded no contest to reduced murder charges stemming from a 1982 killing in a case that has been tied up in court for almost 10 years. Keith Mux, 28, was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Bart Dickinson of Palmer in Big Lake in 1982. Mux, then 19, had been charged with killing Dickinson and wounding another man with gunfire during a fight over a broken car windshield.

The conviction had been affirmed by the state Court of Appeals and was pending before the Alaska Supreme Court. Mux has been out on bail since 1988, when Superior Court Judge S.J. Buckalew ordered that he be given a new trial on the grounds that his original lawyer was ineffective. Buckalew’s order was still pending appeal by the state.

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Superior Court Judge Thomas Jahnke, Ketchikan (1985)

Under the plea bargain, Mux would plead no contest to second-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. He would be sentenced to 20 years on the murder charge and six years for attempted murder, to be served concurrently. Mux has served about four years in jail since the 1982 incident. He would have to serve another 20 years before becoming eligible for parole. As part of the agreement, the state would drop its appeal.

Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Thomas Jahnke has not decided whether or not to accept the agreement, according to Superior Court log notes. Sentencing is scheduled for April 21.


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Bart Dickinson Killed Over Busted Windshield

February 1982 BIG LAKE — Big Lake residents have started a legal defense fund for a 19-year-old neighbor accused of murdering another young man. Keith Mux [pseudonym] turned himself in to Alaska State Troopers following the shooting of two teenagers on Feb. 27. Killed was Bart Dickinson, 17. Mike Medgar, 18, was wounded and hospitalized, but has been released.

Troopers said the shooting apparently occurred after some sort of a fight at a farewell party for Mux. A broken windshield on Mux’s pickup apparently sparked the incident. Mux remains in jail in lieu of $150,000 bond. Superior Court Judge Ralph Moody said he ordered a psychiatric evaluation to determine if Mux poses a threat to others, before he would consider reducing the bail.


True Crime Series: Sgt. Glenn Flothe Investigates


Friends said several hundred dollars already have been deposited in the National Bank of Alaska of Wasilla on Mux’s behalf. The fund “is not to condone what he may have done or to say that he is not guilty,” one said. “It’s more the financial support of a friend.”

“There’s a good deal of respect for Keith,” another told the Anchorage Times. “He’s kind of thought of as being the all-American boy out here.” But residents also acknowledged that those sentiments aren’t shared universally in the rural community about 50 miles north of Anchorage. Mux was reported to have no previous criminal record, and was described by friends and employers as reliable, honest and a good worker.

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Big Lake Airport, Big Lake AK (courtesy Dietmar Schreiber)

August 2, 1982
Daily Sitka Sentinel
Slaying PALMER (AP) — A 19-year-old Palmer youth was convicted Friday of first-degree murder for shooting to death another teenager at an airstrip at Big Lake last winter. Keith Mux also was convicted of attempted first-degree murder for wounding 18-year-old Mike Medgard with a volley of fire from a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle. Killed was 17-year-old Bart Dickinson.

Mux did not deny shooting the two, but said he was drunk and frightened and did not kill them intentionally. But after two days of deliberations, the nine-woman, three-man jury decided that Dickinson’s murder and the assault were premeditated. In his closing arguments Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Mike White told the jury a second-degree or manslaughter verdict would be “an easier thing to do, but not the proper thing to do.”

January 21, 1985
Daily Sitka Sentinel
ANCHORAGE (AP) — The Alaska Court of Appeals on Friday struck down an appeal of a Big Lake man’s convictions for murder and attempted murder, but the panel said a lower court judge gave him too long a jail sentence. Keith Mux was convicted for shooting two uninvited guests at a party he threw in February 1982 in Big Lake. Mux, then 19, was sentenced to 20 years in jail for the first-degree murder of Bart Dickinson. He was sentenced to 10 years for the attempted murder of Michael Medgard.

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Big Lake Airport, AK Map (courtesy Mat-Su Planning)

Mux’s lawyer challenged the convictions, arguing that the judge excluded relevant evidence and failed to instruct the jury on rules for crimes committed in the heat of passion, for self-defense and in defense of others. The appeals panel rejected those claims but gave Mux a break his lawyer did not request.

The panel said Superior Court Judge Seaborn J. Buckalew apparently assumed that mandatory sentences for repeat offenders required a minimum 10-year sentence for the attempted murder conviction. But the appeals panel said Mux should not have been considered a repeat offender because his murder conviction arose from the same episode as the attempted murder conviction.

The minimum sentence for a first-time offender is six years. The appeals panel rejected the 10-year sentence for attempted murder and returned the matter of sentencing to Superior Court for further consideration.


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The Sentence: Prison, Escape & Recapture

Ridgely v. State, Court of Appeals of AlaskaJuly 24, 1987 William Plumley was convicted of murder in the first degree and burglary in the first degree in the Landesman homicide. He received a maximum sentence of ninety-nine years for murder and another ten-year maximum term for burglary. The sentences were made consecutive, for a total term of 109 years.

James Ridgely was similarly convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree burglary and received maximum sentences for the offenses. He was also convicted of theft in the second degree and received an additional five-year maximum term for that offense. All three sentences were made consecutive, for a total sentence of 114 years.

Shelly Bosch was convicted of murder in the second degree and of theft in the second degree. She received a maximum term of 99 years for the murder, and a consecutive five-year term for the theft, for a total of 104 years.


True Crime Series: Sgt. Glenn Flothe Investigates


At the time of the crime, Plumley was nineteen years of age. He had no adult record but had been institutionalized as a juvenile for theft of a handgun, theft of a vehicle, and joyriding. Dr. David Coons, a psychiatrist, diagnosed Plumley as being antisocial and as a chronic substance abuser. He indicated that Plumley probably would not have committed this crime on his own, but that he could have stopped it. Although Dr. Coons did not perceive Plumley as violent, he indicated that Plumley had a significant tolerance for violence. In imposing Plumley’s sentence, Judge Moody emphasized the brutal nature of the crime and the fact that it was premeditated. He concluded that Plumley had limited prospects for rehabilitation.

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Judge Ralph Moody

Ridgely, the person who actually struck the blows that killed Mrs. Landesman, was sixteen years old at the time of the offense. He had formerly been adjudicated a delinquent for possession of marijuana, grand larceny, and unlawful entry. The psychiatric report indicates that, despite his youth, Ridgely has limited prospects for rehabilitation. Dr. Coons diagnosed Ridgely as meeting “the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder, undersocialized aggressive type….” Dr. Coons further stated, “[i]t is felt the patient has strong characteristics of an antisocial personality disorder, but his current age precludes that diagnosis.” In evaluating Ridgely’s rehabilitation potential, Dr. Coons said, “His long-term prognosis is, in my opinion, poor, regardless of what treatment he receives.”

Bosch was seventeen years of age at the time of the offense. She had previously been adjudicated a delinquent for burglary and theft. The psychiatric evaluations of Bosch indicate that she may be amenable to treatment. However, Judge Moody discounted the psychiatric evaluations. The judge concluded that Bosch was as culpable of Mrs. Landesman’s murder as Plumley and Ridgely, even though she had been convicted of murder in the second degree rather than of murder in the first degree […]

RULING We believe that the maximum sentence of ninety-nine years received by Plumley, Ridgely, and Bosch for the murder of Mrs. Landesman is sufficient to serve the sentencing goal of reaffirming societal condemnation of the crimes committed in this case.

Associated Press
Alaska Murderer, Two Other Escapees, Sought
April 18, 1986

PLEASANTON, Calif. (AP)  A woman convicted of a murder in Alaska and two other inmates are being sought after escaping from the federal prison here, authorities said.

The three apparently cut holes in the two fences that surround the Federal Correctional Institution in Alameda County and were discovered missing on Wednesday night, officials said Friday.

The U.S. Marshals Service identified one of the escapees as Shelly Bosch, 21, serving a 104-year sentence for murder. She and two teen-age youths bludgeoned an elderly woman near Anchorage, according to Alaska officials.

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Camp Parks, Federal Prison

Los Angeles Times
The State : California Escapee Seized
June 09, 1986

A 21-year-old Alaska woman, who escaped from a Northern California prison where she was serving a 104-year sentence for murder, has been captured in a suburban Atlanta motel, authorities said. Shelly Bosch of Anchorage will appear before a federal magistrate today on an escape warrant issued by California officials. “Investigations into several states led us there,” said Winford Griffin of the U.S. Marshal’s Service. “When we approached her she tried to run away but we caught her,” he said. Bosch was imprisoned for second-degree murder in the beating death of a widow, Mildred Landesman, 63, near Cantwell, Alaska. She, and two other prisoners, escaped April 16 by cutting through two fences at the Federal Correctional Institute at Camp Parks, near Pleasanton.


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Teenagers Convicted, Appeal Sentence

Daily Sitka SentinelJune 29, 1983, Sentenced ANCHORAGE (AP) William Plumley, one of three teenagers convicted of killing an elderly Honolulu Creek woman near Cantwell, was sentenced Monday to 100 years in prison. Plumley, 19, had been convicted on March 30 of murder and burglary in the death of Mildred Landesman, 63. He was the second of the three youths to be sentenced by the court. James Ridgely Jr., 17, was convicted March 18 of murder and theft. He was sentenced to 114 years imprisonment. Shelly Bosch, 18, was convicted of second-degree murder and is scheduled for sentencing July 5. Prosecutors said Plumley planned the murder.


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Daily Alaska Sentinel
Sept 9, 1985

Associated Press ANCHORAGE  – The Alaska Court of Appeals, on Friday ordered a new trial for one of three teenagers convicted of clubbing an elderly woman to death, saying the youth’s confession should not have been allowed as evidence. James Ridgely Jr. had been sentenced to 114 years in prison for his role in the August 1962 bludgeoning death of 63-year-old Mildred Landesman near Cantwell. But Ridgely, 16 at the time of the killing, may not have understood interrogators who told him he could remain silent and get a lawyer, the appeals panel said in a 2-1 ruling.

Ridgely, whose IQ was measured as 78, may have been high on LSD and had not slept before his confession, said the Opinion by Chief Judge Alexander O. Bryner. “The picture of Ridgely that emerges from the record is that of a young offender who — although obviously dangerous and profoundly antisocial — is immature, unsophisticated and severely limited in his intellectual ability,” the opinion said.

Piecing together facts from the three teenagers’ confessions, the appeals court gave this version of the killing: Ridgely and two friends, 17-year-old Shelley Bosch and 18-year-old William Plumley, were hitchhiking from Anchorage toward Fairbanks in August 1982, when they stopped near Cantwell. They found a trailer that they believed to belong to a friend’s family, broke the lock and settled in. On Aug. 21, Ridgely went to the nearby motor home of Mrs. Landesman and invited her to the trailer for lunch.

The three told police they had plotted to kill Mrs. Landesman so they could steal her car. When she entered the trailer, Bosch and Plumley distracted her and Ridgely clubbed her in the head with an ax handle. The three hid her body, stole food and money from the woman’s motor home, then drove the car and motor home away. They abandoned the motor home along the Parks Highway, then continued on to Anchorage in the car.

The next morning, police in Anchorage stopped the car and arrested Plumley for reckless driving. After checking the car’s registration, they arrested Ridgely and Bosch for joyriding. During questioning, Bosch told police of the killing. Plumley corroborated her version. When Ridgely was confronted with their statements, he confessed, then asked to see an attorney.

Defense attorneys for all three teenagers later argued that their confessions should be suppressed, but Superior Court Judge Victor Carlson suppressed only statements made by Plumley when first stopped by police. The appeals panel upheld Carlson’s ruling for Bosch’ and Plumley, saying they confessed voluntarily.

But the court said it is not certain Ridgely understood his rights to remain silent and have a lawyer during questioning. Lack of sleep and drug consumption before police interrogations put Ridgely in an “extremely agitated emotional state,” the panel said. Judge Robert G. Coats dissented, saying the lower court was correct in ruling that Ridgely’s confession was voluntary. In addition to reversing Ridgely’s conviction, the court ordered a review in the cases of Plumley and Bosch, to determine if allowing Ridgely’s confession affected their convictions. Bosch was sentenced to 104 years in prison for second-degree murder and theft. Plumley was sentenced to 109 years in prison for first-degree murder and burglary.

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State v. Ridgely
732 P.2d 550 (1987)
STATE of Alaska, Petitioner, v. James A. RIDGELY, Jr., Respondent. No. S-1197.
Supreme Court of Alaska.
February 13, 1987

Respondent James Ridgely, a 16-year-old, was one of three teenagers indicted for murder and other charges connected with the death of Mildred Landesman in August, 1982. Prior to trial, Ridgely and his alleged accomplices, 18-year-old William Plumley and 17-year-old Shelley Bosch, moved to suppress all of their statements to law enforcement officials, including a confession by Ridgely. After a hearing, the trial judge denied the motion. Ridgely and Plumley were subsequently convicted in separate trials of first degree murder, and Bosch was convicted of second degree murder. The trio appealed on several grounds, including denial of the motion to suppress.

The court of appeals reversed the trial judge’s decision as it related to Ridgely’s confession, holding that the state had not met its burden of proving that the confession was voluntary and that Ridgely had effectively waived his Miranda rights. Without reaching the other issues raised on appeal, the court of appeals reversed Ridgely’s conviction, remanded Ridgely’s case for a new trial, and remanded Plumley’s and Bosch’s cases for further proceedings to determine the admissibility of evidence derived from Ridgely’s confession. We reverse as to the voluntariness issue and remand for consideration of the remaining issues raised on appeal.

CONCLUSION
Applying the clearly erroneous standard of review to the trial judge’s findings of historical fact and drawing our own inferences from the record as to Ridgely’s state of mind, we conclude that Ridgely’s confession was voluntary.

We REVERSE and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


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Butcher, Baker – One! Day! Sale!

Yes, it’s true… Butcher, Baker is on sale! TODAY ONLY you can get the ebook version of Butcher, Baker for the low, low price of $1.99. That’s eight dollars off the regular price! Doesn’t sound like a lot? How about 80% off? Yeah, now we’re talking. THAT’S A SALE!

sale!

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Mildred Landesman Murder: Punks on LSD

THE ARRESTS At approximately 5:30 a.m. on August 22, 1982, Officer Taylor of the Anchorage Police Department observed a 1973 Buick LaSabre being driven in an erratic manner with its high-beam headlights on. The driver, William Plumley, was arrested by Taylor for driving in a reckless manner. Shelly Bosch and James Ridgely, passengers in the vehicle, were arrested for joyriding. All three were subsequently charged, inter alia, with first degree murder. Thoughts quickly turned to allegations the three were high on LSD.


True Crime Series: Sgt. Glenn Flothe Investigates


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1973 Buick LeSabre (example)


At the scene of the stop, Taylor asked Plumley to get out of the car. After observing a machete between the driver’s door and seat, Taylor asked the other occupants to exit the car. He then frisked Plumley and asked him for identification. He asked Plumley whose car he was driving. Plumley responded that the car was not his and that he had found it near Talkeetna. Taylor then arrested Plumley for reckless driving, handcuffed him and placed him in a patrol car. Plumley was not advised of his Miranda rights at this time.

Four backup officers arrived within minutes of the stop. One of these officers, Officer Feichtinger, assisted Taylor in questioning Ridgely and Bosch. Both Ridgely and Bosch were juveniles. Both were questioned about the ownership of the car and both told the officers the car had been found near Talkeetna. At this point, neither juvenile had been given Miranda warnings, nor had they been placed under arrest. Ridgely’s parents were not successfully contacted. Bosch’s parents were contacted and asked the police to take Bosch to McLaughlin Youth Center (MYC).

At some point during the questioning of Bosch, she indicated to Taylor that the three had taken LSD prior to the stop. Feichtinger was aware of that information prior to questioning Ridgely. Taylor testified Bosch was nervous and had dilated pupils. Feichtinger described Ridgely as “unconcerned” and noted he was shivering.

At the scene, Taylor ran a check on the registration of the vehicle and learned it was registered to a Mildred Landesman. There had been no report of theft by Mrs. Landesman. Ridgely and Bosch were then arrested for joyriding.

After Ridgely was arrested, Feichtinger testified he advised Ridgely of his rights and questioned Ridgely once again. Subsequently, Ridgely and Bosch were transported to MYC where they were detained at approximately 7:00 a.m. The transporting officer indicated to the MYC staff that both may have consumed LSD.


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Mildred Landesman: Clubbed in Cantwell

September 2, 1982 The body of an Anchorage woman, Mildred Landesman, was found near a roadside gravel pit at Mile 177 of the Parks Highway Aug. 22, near Cantwell. Authorities believe she was killed Saturday night, Aug. 21. A 17-year-old boy and girl were charged with first-degree murder and robbery in connection with the woman’s death. They were held at the McLaughlin Youth Center in Anchorage.


True Crime Series: Sgt. Glenn Flothe Investigates


cantwell
Cantwell, Alaska

A third suspect, William Plumley, 18, pleaded guilty to joy riding and was serving a 10-day jail sentence on that charge. He was arraigned in Anchorage District Court on a charge of burglary. His bail was set at $150,000 cash, Troopers said. He is charged in connection with the burglary of Landesman’s motor home. Troopers said additional charges may be filed against Plumley pending a presentation to the grand jury.

The three were arrested by Anchorage police officers Sunday morning after they had been stopped for a routine traffic violation. Police discovered the three were in the Landesman vehicle. According to Troopers, Landesman had been selling land in the Cantwell area for a number of years and this summer had been working from a motor home parked in a small roadside gravel pit about 10 miles south of the Igloo Service Station.

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Igloo Service Station, Cantwell, Alaska

Anyone who may have stopped to see her about buying land or who may have been camping in the area that weekend was asked to call Investigator Glenn Flothe of the Troopers’ Criminal Investigation Bureau in Anchorage at 269-5511. Troopers had been receiving some calls  about the case, according to a Trooper spokesman. Troopers found the woman’s body several hundred yards from where her motor home had been parked. The motor home itself had been ransacked and abandoned at a roadside park at Mile 170.5 of the Parks Highway.

cantwell
Cantwell in relation to Anchorage


Ridgely v. State
Court of Appeals of Alaska.
September 6, 1985.

FACTS In mid-August of 1982, Ridgely, Plumley and Bosch hitchhiked out of Anchorage toward Fairbanks. They reached a point near Cantwell (approximately Mile 177 of the Parks Highway) where they planned to stay at a trailer they believed to be owned by a friend’s family. They located the trailer, broke the lock and settled in.

The three were aware of the presence of Mildred Landesman, whose Winnebago motor home was located nearby. Mrs. Landesman was initially contacted by Ridgely in order to borrow cigarettes. The three appellants conceived a plan to steal Mrs. Landesman’s Buick LaSabre which she parked next to her motor home. Apparently, a decision was made to invite Mrs. Landesman to lunch at the trailer and distract her attention while Ridgely clubbed her over the head with a pickax handle. They would then dispose of her body. The three would consequently be free to take her car and whatever else she may have had of value in the motor home.

The plan was carried out on August 21, 1982, when Ridgely escorted Mrs. Landesman to the trailer near Cantwell. After Mrs. Landesman entered the trailer she sat down, was distracted as planned by Plumley and Bosch, and was killed by Ridgely, who clubbed her from behind. After disposing of the body, the three changed, gathered their personal items and left the trailer. Ridgely flung the weapon into the woods. The appellants proceeded to the Landesman motor home where they searched for and obtained food and money. Plumley drove the Buick and Ridgely drove the motor home to Mile 170.5 on the Parks Highway, where the motor home was abandoned. Ridgely then rode in the Buick with the others into Anchorage.


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Drugs in Alaska: Murder of Ron & Darcelle Cole

The murder of Ron and Darcelle Cole is the second installment on Sgt. Glenn Flothe’s caseload in the months before he took on the case of the Missing Dancers.

Federal and state authorities had identified Ron Cole as a major cocaine dealer. They claimed he had purchased cocaine valued at about $300,000 in a single 30-day period. On Sept. 28, 1981, Ron and his wife Darcelle were found dead of gunshot wounds in the living room of their Hillside home. Drug paraphernalia was scattered through the house.

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Hillside Neighborhood, in the shadow of the Chugach Mountains near Anchorage (credit: Fortune Magazine)


True Crime Series: Sgt. Glenn Flothe Investigates


In the ensuing days, Michael T. Smith was arrested for possession of cocaine and questioned by state troopers. The troopers advised Smith of his Miranda rights. Smith waived them. He discussed the drug charges with the troopers for approximately an hour, admitting he had been distributing cocaine, Ron Cole was his supplier, he owed Cole $15,000, and Cole maintained a list of persons who owed him for cocaine, one of whom was Smith.

cole

A trooper asked Smith if he shot Cole. Smith denied it. The trooper pressed the point. Smith’s initial request for counsel followed [with Alaska State Trooper Investigators Stearns and Chuck (Miller)]:

Smith: Can I talk to a lawyer? At this point, I think maybe you’re looking at me as a suspect, and I should talk to a lawyer. Are you looking at me as a suspect?

Trooper: Well, it … it wouldn’t be fair to you to say that we weren’t Mike.

2nd Trooper: Yeah.

Smith: Because if you are, it’s … it’s a serious charge and I think I should have counsel, if that’s where … what you’re … where you’re coming from, just tell me if you are.

The troopers reminded Smith he himself had pointed out that anyone in Cole’s list of debtors who owed him money for drugs “would certainly have reason enough to kill him,” to which Smith responded, “Yeah. I admitted my name is probably in it.”

The troopers then said: “Let’s face it, you’re a person who dealt with Ron Cole, and you’re a person who owed him a lot of money.”

STEARNS: And you signed [the rights sheet] and you’re aware … and you’re aware that it says on there any time you feel that you want counsel, that’s it, okay. So, don’t misunderstand Chuck and I. You want counsel, well … by God don’t … don’t hesitate to get yourself counsel. You want to talk to us about Ron Cole’s dealings, you want to talk to us about the murder and suspects, anybody, will [sic] talk to you. If you want a lawyer to do that, then feel free [gesturing to a nearby telephone].

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Hillside Neighborhood in the snow (Reddit)


Daily Sitka Sentinel, Sitka, Alaska, Monday, February 8, 1982

Jury Acquits Suspect In Two Murders ANCHORAGE (AP) – A man charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 28 gunshot slayings of Ron and Darcelle Cole has been acquitted. “I never did do the crime,” said John McLeod after an Anchorage jury deliberated for 18 hours and acquitted him of two counts of first-degree murder. The Coles were found in the living room of their Hillside home. Drug paraphernalia was scattered through the house.

Federal and state authorities had identified Ron Cole as a major cocaine dealer. They claimed he had purchased cocaine valued at about $300,000 in a single 30-day period before his death.

The apparent key to McLeod’s acquittal was testimony by his girlfriend, Michelle Rogovin. She said McLeod was at her Sand Lake home at the time of the killings. The prosecution’s star witness, 36-year-old welder Michael Smith, testified he shot the couple, but said McLeod encouraged him, provided the gun and waited outside the Coles’ home during the murders. Smith is scheduled for trial in April.

860 F.2d 1528, Smith Vs. Endell (1988)
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted Feb. 1, 1988.
Decided Nov. 14, 1988.

Michael Smith was convicted in the Superior Court of the State of Alaska for the murder of Ron and Darcelle Cole. He appealed to the Alaska Court of Appeals asserting, among other claims, that the Superior Court failed, in violation of rules established in Miranda v. Arizona, to suppress a confession obtained in the absence of counsel through in-custody, police-initiated interrogation after Smith had requested an attorney […]

The State argues that Smith’s post-request “failure to respond to the [troopers’] offer to use the telephone together with the fact that he resumed answering questions adequately clarified Smith’s position.” Acceptance of this argument would defeat the requirement that post-request interrogation be limited to clarification of the initial request, and that waiver may not be based upon a suspect’s response to continued interrogation.

Because this requirement was violated, the statement obtained from Smith should have been suppressed.

REVERSED.


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Order my latest book, “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE, true crime on Epicenter Press about Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.

Craig

Bernard Kwallek: Shot in the Back, Honey

June 25, 1982 Alaska State Troopers were called to Port Higgins in the shooting death of a 48-year-old Ketchikan man, Bernard Kwallek. He died of multiple gunshot wounds, Ketchikan General Hospital officials said. Troopers said the man was shot when he walked from his home 11 miles north of Ketchikan to his truck Thursday morning. Troopers declined to comment on whether any suspects were in custody or on the type of weapon used. Troopers said an autopsy of the body will be conducted in Anchorage. Kwallek was a foreman at a Ketchikan transfer and storage company.


True Crime Series: Sgt. Glenn Flothe Investigates


kwallek
Ketchikan, Alaska (downtown looking toward cruise docks)

Sitka Daily Sentinel
April 7, 1986, Sitka, Alaska

WASHINGTON (AP)—The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of a Ketchikan woman who says she was unfairly convicted of killing her husband in 1982. The justices, without comment, let stand Patricia Kwallek’s murder conviction and 30-year prison sentence.

Bernard Kwallek was fatally shot in the back as he walked from his home and out into his front yard June 24, 1982. No one saw the shooting. Prosecutors contended that Mrs. Kwallek shot her husband after an argument over family finances. She consistently has denied that, saying that her husband was shot by an unknown man.

kwallek

The day after her husband’s death, Mrs. Kwallek was interviewed by two state troopers. After being read her Miranda warnings, Mrs. Kwallek at one point said she thought she should not continue talking until her mother arrived. “I will talk when my mom gets here, she can help,” Mrs. Kwallek told the troopers. The two officers did not stop their questioning, however, and Mrs. Kwallek subsequently made comments referring to the hard financial times she and her husband were suffering.

kwallek
Port Higgins, Alaska (near the Kwallek residence)

Daily Sitka Sentinel
May 19, 1989

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) –– An Alaska woman’s murder conviction in the 1982 shooting death of her husband was reinstated Thursday by a federal appeals court, which said the verdict was not tainted by evidence of her statements to police. Patricia Kwallek of Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska was sentenced to 30 years in prison for first-degree murder in the June 1982 killing of Bernard Kwallek, shot five times with a rifle as he was leaving home for work. The prosecution said the couple had just quarreled about finances after Kwallek learned they were deeply in debt. Mrs. Kwallek denied shooting him, saying she was in the house, heard a noise and found his body when she went outside.

kwallek
Patricia “Patsy” Kwallek

Her conviction was upheld by Alaska courts on divided votes but was overturned by U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland, who found that the jury was improperly told of her statements to state troopers. Troopers who were questioning Mrs. Kwallek the day after the shooting asked her about the events and the couple’s finances, and she said several times that she didn’t want to say anything more until she talked with her mother. The questioning continued, however, and her answers were introduced as evidence, along with her requests to stop talking. Holland said the evidence was obtained in violation of Mrs. Kwallek’s constitutional right to remain silent.

But the appeals court, in a 2 – 1 decision, said any violations could not have affected the verdict. Mrs. Kwallek’s statements during questioning repeated much of what she had told troopers during an earlier interview and “added nothing that was not already known, or could not have been easily discovered by the prosecution,” said the majority opinion by Judges Alex Kozinski and Stephen Troll. It might have been preferable not to repeat to the jury Mrs. Kwallek’s requests to remain silent, but the evidence does not appear highly damaging, Kozinski and Trott said.

Her request to delay interrogation until she could speak to her mother “was perfectly plausible under the circumstances” and was unlikely to be interpreted by the jury as an awareness of guilt, the ruling said. In addition, the judges said, the evidence of guilt was strong: the murder weapon was found in the attic of the home, spent shells were found near the door, gunshot residue was found on Mrs. Kwallek’s robe in a place that was consistent with her having fired, and her explanation was “patently contrived.”

In dissent, Judge Stephen Reinhardt said the improper disclosure to the jury of Mrs. Kwallek’s request to speak to her mother, when “she knew that they (the troopers) thought she had killed her husband,” could well have been interpolated by the jury as awareness of guilt. Reinhardt also questioned the majority’s conclusion that the evidence of guilt was strong, saying the case was “founded on circumstantial evidence, conjecture, and the state’s desire to have the jury disbelieve” her story. Prosecution and defense lawyers in the case declined comment.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Order my latest book, “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE, true crime on Epicenter Press about Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.

Craig