Fairbanks residents gathered Thursday to remember John Hartman. The 15-year-old was beaten to death in downtown Fairbanks 19 years ago this week, a murder that resulted in the long questioned convictions of four local men, who were freed last year under a deal with the state.
Shirley Lee, an Episcopal Priest and chair of Tanana Chiefs Conference Justice Task Force, led the group in a prayer and vigil for the unsolved murder of John Hartman.
“19 years ago around here a young boy was murdered and the lives of four young men were robbed,” Lee said.
She also spoke of the four men, Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent, George Frese, and Kevin Pease, also known as the “Fairbanks Four” who were arrested in 1997 for the murder and incarcerated until last December when they were released under conditions that they cannot sue the state or the city of Fairbanks. Lee said the state attempted to settle and quiet the case through what she believed to be an immoral agreement.
“It’s (inconceivable) to me that a confession has been made and no work has been done with it, not at the federal level, not at the state level, and not at the city level,” Lee said.
Lee said she hopes that those who gather this coming week for the Alaska Federation of Native Conference remember the case which is still unsolved.
“The boys may not be legally allowed to question or challenge it but those of us who are not involved can do so,” said Lee.
Activist and blogger behind the blog thefairbanksfour.com, April Monroe, reflected on the case saying that we are now at the 19-year mark without resolution for the murder of Hartman.
“What originally inspired so much passion and divisiveness of this case was a brutal and horrific murder of a child,” said Monroe.
Monroe hopes to see some movement in this case and feels that part of the inactivity is partly related to egos of those involved in the case initially and that going forward would take action in acknowledging the mistakes made during the wrongful conviction.
“John Hartman still needs justice and deserves it,” said Monroe.