Connections and coincidences in cold case coming to court

A newly-seated judge – who successfully defended a Yakutat lodge operator from murder charges years ago – will preside over a separate case of another alleged homicide at a nearby lodge that very same year.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez has been the assigned the case of Robert D. Kowalski, who is now in a Montana prison awaiting extradition to Alaska.

Kowalski was never charged in the death of Sandra M. Perry at Yakutat’s Glacier Bear Lodge in July of 1996. Prosecutors say they did not have enough evidence then to counter Kowalski’s claims that it was an accidental shooting.

After Kowalski was convicted of killing another woman in Montana in 2008, Alaska cold case investigators took another look at the Yakutat incident. A Juneau grand jury last Friday returned with a bill of indictment charging Kowalski with first and second degree murder in connection with Perry’s death.

Court documents indicate that Paul Miovas, an attorney from the Office of Special Prosecutions who’s assigned to cold cases, will prosecute the case. No attorney has been named for Kowalski’s defense yet. A $1,000,000 warrant was issued for Kowalski until extradition proceedings formally get underway.

Louis Menendez just started working on the bench in September. While he worked as a defense attorney, one of Menendez’s clients was Donald Richmond, operator of the Harlequin Lodge in Yakutat. Richmond was accused of murdering his cook Rick Watson in December of 1996. Archived news reports indicate a Juneau jury hung during the first trial in 1997 and Richmond was acquitted during a retrial.

Walter Carpeneti, now the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court who administered the judicial oath to Menendez last month, presided over both of the Richmond trials.

The Harlequin Lodge was renamed the Bayview Lodge after the shooting.