Evidence dump will delay jury trial in Yakutat homicide cold case

The start of a jury trial in the case of Robert Dean Kowalski, accused of a Yakutat homicide seventeen years ago, has been moved to the first full week in November.

A previous start date of this month or August was earlier set after previous delays and postponements.

James Fayette from the Alaska Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals said during a recent hearing in Juneau Superior Court that another delay was necessary. He had just notified Kowalski’s attorney about a batch of original evidence that his paralegal had just discovered. They include autopsy photos from the original case in 1996, an original witness list, weapons analysis from the crime lab, and the handwritten notes from the original state trooper investigator. Although it wasn’t openly discussed in court, Fayette likely saved himself from a whole host of sanctions and discipline had he waited until later to reveal the existence of that evidence.

It’s already in the hands of Kowalski’s public defender Eric Hedland, but since it amounts to a huge discovery dump on the eve of trial, Fayette proposed moving proceedings back at least several more months. He said a victim in the case did not have any objections to the November 4th start.

Kowalski is being charged with the death of his girlfriend in July 1996. Sandra Perry was 39-years old when she was reported killed during an accidental shooting at the Glacier Bear Lodge.

Kowalski, who was 35-years old at the time, was never charged then for Perry’s death. The prosecutor assigned to the case apparently determined that there was not enough evidence 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. Kowalski said he tripped onto the bed, 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 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 death.

After charges were filed in the Yakutat case in late 2011, Kowalski was extradited to Alaska. Now 52-years old, he’s been held at the Cook Inlet Pretrial Facility and Lemon Creek Correctional Center with bail set at $1,000,000. He’s serving his time for the Montana case while he awaits trial on first and second degree murder charges in the Yakutat case.