Mr. Bill and Miz Mona

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Moose Pass Journal/ Dillingham Police Case Files - June 18, 2011

Bill Says: We are having the start of a beautiful Summer Solstice weekend. Mostly clear blue skies with a random assortment of puffy white clouds and warm temperatures of 60-64 degrees. The festival is already up and running. The highway is a mess with traffic. I've donated my chocolate chip cookies and was scheduled for two hours of working the massive grills they have running for 12-hours today and 6 hours tomorrow. Our church service tomorrow is from the bandstand and tonight we have our first worship team practice inside the new church. Well, now to the police cases-

Approximately 5 or maybe it was 7 years before I arrived in Dillingham, ( memory is slipping and I did warn you of this), an interesting case occurred in the city. A man's body was found in the bushes adjacent the airport. The police chief at the time was apparently not the investigative type and ruled it a suicide. The critters had done a fair share of munching on the remains and it appeared the body may have been there for possibly a year or more. There were pieces of single man's pup tent, which sort of protected the body from the elements and misc property items, including a wallet, which identified the remains as a local. The man had been reported missing by his wife. Strangely enough, there was no weapon found and the local autopsy ruled a .22 caliber bullet had entered the man's brain from the right side. A police report was filed, all which contained a single page and some photographs of the crime scene and the body. It was filed away. The wife of the man still lived in Dillingham and an officer delivered the sad news of the demise of the missing man.

Years later, when Chief Gray took over and was going through the files to see which ones he could toss and make room for new cases in the limited space in his file cabinets he had lining one wall in his office. He found this case and being an investigative person, he decided to put it aside as a pet project. He had about half-a dozen of these. When I came along he had learned the missing man was a former Green Beret, who had served honorably in Viet Nam and upon discharge was on record for having difficulty with PTSD. He also picked up rumors of how the man was involved locally with the old cocaine trade in town and had possibly been a source for a San Diego, California cocaine supplier- later known as cartels. But once he was reported to have committed suicide, the DEA unit in Anchorage had apparently closed out their case on him.

Knowing I had worked investigations in the US Air Force, Chief Gray had me look through the narrow file and see what I might be able to add. I was quite busy at the time with my own share of cases, but this was the Chief asking and I did my share. What bothered both of us was the lousy investigative report filed by the then Chief of Police, the shabby autopsy done locally and of course the lack of a weapon. And then we had a break!

I was dispatched to HUD housing, where about 50 houses were constructed for the lower income families. The dispatcher had advised me to meet with the mother, ( I don't remember the family names), for a found firearm. I was to learn how her two sons were digging tunnels under an old tree stump for their trucks, when they came across a medium sized parcel. Being of course curious, the kids worked to open the parcel; a plastic tarp, tied with clothesline sized rope, around several wrappings of oil cloth. Inside they discovered a mostly rusted pistol.. Thankfully, the mother appeared and she took the weapon away before the boys could play soldier or Cowboy & Indians, because the pistol was still loaded. Though it was doubtful it would fire, as there WAS a lot of rust.

Later, I came back to finger print the mother and both kids to eliminate their prints from the ones I found on the weapon. Acting on procedure, I examined the weapon, photographed it and took some evidence off of it in the way of several hairs mixed in with the rust and what appeared to be speckles of dried blood. This was a Ruger High Standard semi-automatic pistol, sort of resembling a German Luger in style and it fired a .22 caliber bullet. Oddly enough, it also had groves in the barrel to hold a suppressor or what can also be called a silencer. I thought this to be very strange, as at this time I knew these grooved weapons were only used by the military. I was able to remove the magazine and 4-bullets it carried. I also, after some cleaning - after finger printing every exposed area free of rust, felt real strange about this handgun. I also found a legible serial number. The next day I called the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm people, (ATF) and gave them the serial number. I also briefed the chief on the weapon being found and how it was buried. We still hadn't linked it to the old suicide case, but thought it might've been involved in some old burglary cases where firearms were stolen. There were several gun collectors who had purchased retired military weapons, but I didn't know if we had any of these collectors in the Dillingham area.

A week later we received a message from the ATF over the computer concerning the weapon. It had been purchased from the manufacturer by the US Army and soon after sent to Viet Nam, where it was used by 5th Special Forces Group. I knew then that the weapon was used by the Green Beret for the apprehending of North Vietnamese officers. The Green Beret would use the small caliber weapon to shoot the enemy in the knee ( made them easier to handle), and then carry them off for later transport back to US bases for interrogation. My crew had flown such missions and usually the enemy officer was pretty doped up on morphine. The weapon was later shipped back to the USA, ( can't remember the dates now), and eventually stored at Fort Richardson, Alaska. Then it found it's way to Dillingham, to be used by the local National Guard unit and stored in the unit's armory. The unit eventually disbanded and at one point the armory was broken into and the weapon, along with others was stolen.

I talked things over with the Chief and going on what we had learned about the Green Beret connection, we took a chance and I made a visit on the victim's wife. I wanted to obtain some photos of the victim, which were never placed in the original report. Strangely enough, I found her to be first surprised and then extremely nervous, making my antennas shoot up. She eventually provided me with some photos and luckily, one of these showed the two of them at the beach in Hawaii playing volleyball.

The victim, 31 or 32 years old at the reported time of death, had a certain tattoo on his right shoulder. ( Don't remember what it was now). I had to smile, for the victim's body discovered in the bushes had no such tattoo and luckily, that part of his body had been consumed by the critters. The Chief became extremely excited when I returned with the photos. We then put the word out concerning the firearm, which I now sent to the FBI for complete processing and their fingerprinting experts. It was a month or so later, right smack in the middle of the fishing season, when we learned through our sources of how our supposed victim had indeed purchased a stolen High Standard pistol for the sum of $200, using cocaine as the purchasing agent instead of actual cash. I notified the FBI to restrict their fingerprinting to this prior serviceman to hurry things up and another month later, right when we were combating the fishing strike, we received word the man's fingerprints were on the pistol magazine and one partial print on a single bullet. A lot of people wipe the guns down but often forget the magazine and ammo. But as to why he had buried the weapon and not just tossed it into the ocean still confuses me. The Chief then served a search warrant on the wife's banking account. By this time she had left town and we didn't have enough evidence to stop her. But her account showed large deposits into her account coming from California, ( don't remember the town). She had a plane ticket for the same area though. We now had enough to put out homicide warrants for the man and his wife. But as to who the true victim was, we never did find out. We did presume the former soldier looked for someone his size and facial features, someone who had come to town for a summer job and was murdered to fulfill our soldier's scheme. We notified the DEA, who finally reported to us the suspect was in severe trouble with a drug cartel in San Diego was stealing funds and this was probably why he had faked his death. The DEA re-opened their case. The Chief and I were pretty sure the cartel would learn of this and our suspect would be on the run again, unless picked up on our warrant. Since I never heard of an arrest being made I strongly believe the cartel found him first.  As to why she had remained in Dillingham... all I knew was that she was a school teacher and a very popular one. She may have remained to keep the pretense up, but we found evidence she continued to visit Hawaii every summer and during winter school breaks.

When we closed down the department in September of 1981, when everything turned sour and I was the lone police officer left to deal with all those clowns, the case was still in the OPEN case files again.  You just never know what might get dug up under a tree stump and what it might lead to!





1 comment:

  1. I LOVE YOU APPA!!!!

    from: Darci

    ReplyDelete