Robert Dean Kowalski’s trial for the July 1996 death of girlfriend Sandra Perry at a Yakutat lodge has been taken off this spring’s calendar.
Kowalski’s public defender Eric Hedland has been busy with other trials and the state’s prosecutor in the case, James Fayette of the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, just took it over this month after the departure of the previous cold case prosecutor Paul Miovas. Hedland made an oral request on Wednesday to postpone the trial until late summer or early fall so that he could draft motions and continue with trial preparation. Fayette asked for a written explanation before consenting to a continuance.
Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez set the next hearing in the case for February 15th. The scheduled March 11th trial date has been vacated, or taken off the calendar.
Perry was 39-years old when she was reported killed during an accidental shooting at the Glacier Bear Lodge.
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 accident.
Troopers say that a man staying in the next room at the lodge 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.
The Alaska Bureau of Investigation’s Cold Case Unit reviewed the Yakutat incident after Kowalski was convicted in Montana of killing another girlfriend there, 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. Kowalski was sentenced to serve forty years in prison for Morin’s murder.
Previous stories in the case:
- Wayne Price thinks if there is going to be a wider healing among Natives in America, the U.S. government needs to apologize for the devastating toll the boarding schools took.
- Alaska’s economic woes are affecting all corners of the state, especially communities that were banking on an Arctic boom.
- The dead included one police officer from a local university. At least nine other people were hurt, including four police officers.
- Studies recommended relocating villages like Newtok, Kivalina and Shishmaref. But more than 10 years later they are still there, with waves getting higher and storms getting stronger.