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:
- Gov. Bill Walker put a hold on an administrative order he issued in February, saying he needed more stakeholder feedback.
- Hundreds of people gathered Thursday at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve to celebrate the opening of a newly completed Huna Tribal House and the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary. But not everyone could make it. Tribal members and elected officials were stuck at the Juneau International Airport.
- "We’re all expecting to see this fiscal contraction and a reduction in economic indicators. But the reality is that what’s going on at the state level hasn’t hit the communities yet. It hasn’t hit Juneau yet," local analyst Meilani Schijvens says.
- Scattered throughout Alaska are hundreds of pieces of land that have been transferred to Alaska Native Corporations by the federal government.Some came with contamination. Getting them cleaned up has been a decades long process, and a new report catalogs those contaminated sites, but leaves some questions about who will orchestrate cleanup – and when.