Yakutat cold case still headed for a November trial

Nearly sixteen years since Sandra M. Perry died at Yakutat’s Glacier Bear Lodge, trial may finally be held for Robert Dean Kowalski who is now accused of her murder.

An omnibus hearing was held Monday in Juneau Superior Court in which pending motions, and evidence or constitutional issues are usually resolved before a case goes to trial.

Special prosecutor Paul Miovas says they have handed over all available evidence to public defender Eric Hedland. Miovas also signaled that evidence from a recent Montana homicide may be introduced during the Alaska trial. He referred to a criminal court rule – 404(b) – that allows for the admission of previous crimes or character evidence that is normally excluded at trial.

“I have provided all of the reports and all of the information from that. It’s the Montana case,” said Miovas. “Mr. Hedland should have all those interviews, reports, and all the supporting material for that already.”

Hedland says he does not intend to raise issues of incompetency, insanity, or diminished mental capacity as part of his defense.

A closed-door deposition of a potential witness is planned for August 3rd.

A pre-trial hearing is set for October 29th.

A jury trial is scheduled to start November 5th.

The 50-year old Kowalski was extradited from Montana and he remains held pending posting of a million dollars bail. Even if he were to make bail, he would still remain incarcerated because of a conviction stemming from a homicide in Montana four years ago.

That 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 shooting and killing 45-year-old Lorraine Kay Morin was recovered from his home. Kowalski told investigators the gun accidentally went off as he was falling backward into a chair.

In the Yakutat Glacier Bear Lodge incident, 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. The gun discharged when he got up.

Prosecutors apparently determined in 1996 that there was not enough evidence to disprove Kowalski’s claim of accidentally shooting Perry. But they changed their mind after Kowalski was convicted in the Morin case that seemed to occur under similar circumstances.