Jury to hear Yakutat murder case in the fall

A November 5th trial date scheduled for a Montana inmate accused of murdering a woman in Yakutat over fifteen years ago.

Robert Dean Kowalski, 50, is accused of causing the death of Sandra M. Perry, 39, at Yakutat’s Glacier Bear Lodge in July, 1996.

Special prosecutor Paul Miovas expects a jury trial to last three weeks. He says it actually will be litigation of two homicides including one from another jurisidiction.

Public defender Eric Hedland has not had the opportunity to review the voluminus amounts of evidence now coming in during the discovery process. With his involvement in other high-profile or complicated cases, Hedland doesn’t believe the previously scheduled trial date of May 29th is still possible.

Kowalski appeared in the Juneau Superior Court on Thursday. He’s already serving a sentence for the death of a Montana woman in 2008.

Based on Kowalski’s incarceration and Hedland’s case load, they waived the 120-day speedy trial rule.

Kowalski is being charged with first and second degree murder. Troopers say that a man staying at the lodge near Kowalski and Perry’s room reported hearing an argument, then a gunshot, followed by silence. Kowalski told Troopers that he armed himself with a shotgun after he and Perry heard a bear outside their room. But Kowalski said he tripped onto the bed and fell on top of Perry and the gun discharged when he got up.

Kowalski was never charged for Perry’s death. The prosecutor assigned to the case apparently determined that there was not enough evidence then to disprove Kowalski’s claim of an accidental shooting.

The Alaska Bureau of Investigation’s Cold Case Unit reviewed the Yakutat incident after Kowalski was convicted in Montana of killing 45-year-old Lorraine Kay Morin in March of 2008. The Kalispell Daily Inter Lake newspaper in Montana reported that the incident included the arrest of Kowalski after a 31-hour standoff at his home that involved SWAT teams from three jurisdictions. The gun used in the shooting was recovered from his home. Kowalski told investigators the gun accidentally went off as he was falling backward into a chair.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez, who successfully defended a client accused of another shooting at another Yakutat lodge that very same year, will preside over the Kowalski trial.